Monday, September 11, 2017

What's the Difference Between the Various Historic District Groups?

What's the difference between the various historic district groups? You'd be surprised just how many people in the city of Mobile, Alabama get very confused by groups such as the Mobile Historic Development Commission (MHDC), Historic Mobile Preservation Society (HMPS), and the Oakleigh Garden District Society (OGDS).  Then throw in a few other groups such as the Old Dauphin Way Association, the Architectural Review Board (ARB),  the Banner and Shield Program, and Restore Mobile; well, it can get pretty convoluted.
SOLD 57 South Catherine Street 2016 in the Old Dauphin Way District

The Mobile Historic Development Commission is an appointee-run group with paid city staffers.  The staffers are well-trained in historic preservation and are available to the tax payers for advice on the exteriors of their homes.  In addition, their office houses photographic records to help historic home owners pinpoint original features that may have been on their homes.  The Architectural Review Board is under the MHDC and helps keep historic district homes in their original look.  This is important to preserving historic home values, as long as the facades keep their correct time period look.  Home owners can save themselves much heartache by calling the MHDC FIRST before attempting on their own to change the facade of a historical home in one of historic districts.  You can check for historic district maps here.

SOLD 1126 Montauk Avenue 2017 in the Old Dauphin Way District

For instance, during a renovation of one of our Oakleigh Garden District homes, we were wanting to add french doors.  While they would have looked great, once we checked old photos, we were able to see that there were floor to ceiling windows there.  French doors would have been incorrect so we added the correct, original style.  The staff with the MHDC are incredibly helpful so I encourage you to give them a call before you make a critical mistake.  If a complaint is filed with the city against your facade change, you can be required to replace it by the city.
Our home we renovated at 251 South Georgia Avenue in the Oakleigh Garden District 
The Historic Mobile Preservation Society is one of the oldest preservation societies in the nation; it was founded in 1935 to prevent destruction to Mobile's historic homes throughout the city.  Today it houses the Minnie Mitchell Archives, housing many artifacts on Mobile's history and families such as photos, books, and rare maps.  It also runs the Oakleigh museum home, which dates to the 1830's.  A membership is available along with events and programs on advocacy.  They also host the very popular Historic Homes Tour in March.  This should be the first thing a historic homeowner joins.  Find out more here:

SOLD 2016 Grand Bay, AL Historic Home

The Oakleigh Garden District Society is simply the neighborhood association for the Oakleigh Garden District.  They also host events and have a membership.  People tend to get HMPS and OGDS mixed up since they are both in the same area.  Many of the districts have their own associations that are not required (like a Home Owners Association), but it will help you get involved in your neighborhood.  Some other association groups are Old Dauphinway,  De Tonti Square, and Church Street East.  In some cases, there are even individual streets that have a membership although usually to help throw a street party.  Some of these streets are North Monterey Street and North Reed Street.  Always check before you buy concerning street parties- sometimes home owners on a street got tired of hosting and the street party may be defunct.
Co-Chairs for an Oakleigh Garden District Society Fundraiser
From L to R, Christy Gustin, Martha Webb, Deb Becker

Restore Mobile and the Oakleigh Venture Revolving Fund are both revolving funds for restoring homes in Mobile.  Both groups have saved many important 1800's homes from demolition.  Presently, they offer low income potential homeowners the chance to own a completely renovated home.  Contact me to find out more.  

Finally, the Banner and Shield Program is run exclusively by the Mobile Historic Development Commission.  Historic home owners can apply two times a year, in October and April.  This is a volunteer committee that looks in depth at the facade of houses that apply.  When approved, home owners are given a name banner that includes the date the house was built, the original owner's name, the present home owner's name, as well as any later date additions.  Also there is a shield for the bottom.  My advice is to make sure you apply AFTER any extensive exterior renovations and exterior painting/power-washing is done.
Christy Gustin

As a real estate agent who specializes in selling homes in Midtown and Downtown historic districts, I am happy to help clients understand how to quickly get in touch with the proper office or what to do next.  I've served for 7 years on the Mobile Historic Development Commission, and I'm presently on the Historic Mobile Preservation Society's board.  I have over 23 years experience renovating and building homes.  Call me at 251-508-7952 or today if you need help with buying or selling a home in Mobile, Alabama.

Monday, November 7, 2016

West Mobile Lot For Sale in Popular Turtle Creek Subdivision

West Mobile, Alabama continues to grow at a record pace.  It's been fueled by schools, shopping, and restaurants along corridors such as Schillinger Road, Snow Road, and Airport Boulevard.   The growth has continued to boom well past the Mobile Airport, which lies between Schillinger Road and Snow Road.  Airport Boulevard ,which stretches from Midtown at Memorial Park all the way to the Mississippi/Alabama state line, funnels many commuters to their jobs in town or downtown from their homes in the suburbs.  After a long day at work, commuters make their homes their castles. Having your own lot in an upscale subdivision can be the way to go.  It's a way you can truly get a custom home.
See below for pictures of our great Turtlecreek subdivision lot that is at 10039 Highfield Way Lot #35, Mobile AL 36695.
Other remaining lots are very low but this one is high and level.  

 This lot is in the Hutchens Elementary/Causey Middle/Baker High school districts.  You'll find a high and level building lot in the established Phase I of popular Turtle Creek subdivision.  Homes in the area require a minimum square footage of at least 2,400 sq ft.
It's possible to walk the lot lines of this property. 
Homes in the area currently sell for the high $200,000s to mid $300,000s.  The lot is 0.35 of an acre and features some large trees in all the right places.  The lot also backs up to heavily wooded land as well, giving some privacy. This lot is offered at $45,000.  When homes sell in the $300,000 range, a lot is typically expected to be no more than 25% of the total value.  This is just 15% of the total value- a real deal!  Snap it up before it's gone!  Call Bellator listing agent Christy Gustin at 251-508-7952 or to learn more about this property.  To see more properties, check out .

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

My Preservation Story

I specialize in the historic districts.  Living in Mobile, Alabama for over 23 years, I'm very familiar with the greater Mobile and Baldwin county areas, but Midtown and Downtown are definitely my niche markets.  I've lived in Midtown for over 15 years now.  I wanted to live down here earlier but my husband preferred building new homes on acreage.  I had a plan, however! Every Sunday, the two of us began watching "Generation Renovation" and a few other old house shows. One thing led to another, and we were attending wine and cheese open house fundraisers in the Oakleigh Garden District.  It took us 2 years to decide WHERE in Midtown to be.  I figured where to live on my own, but most people don't have time to research like that.  It's vitally important to have a realtor who knows the market and the area WELL.  Sure, there are the slam dunk street party or tight knit community streets that are obviously good, but can you recognize a future good street before the prices go up?  
251 South Georgia Avenue in the Oakleigh Garden District
We bought a renovated home that needed some very slight fixing up on South Georgia Avenue in the Oakleigh Garden District.  It's a slippery slope with historic home addiction and before long, we needed to try a full scale renovation for ourselves.We did a complete renovation of a circa 1866 derelict home in De Tonti Square historic district to save it.  The roof was falling in and it didn't have long to survive.  Encouraged by the experience and having four children, we decided we needed a larger home.  So eighteen months later after plunging into buying our first historic property on South Georgia Avenue, we bought a circa 1904 home (also on South Georgia- see photo) that needed complete renovation on the same street.  

Since then, we've been renovating some investment houses as well as our own home. 
It's been a great experience as I've met so many great craftsmen, who are vital to renovations. Eventually, I decided to sell real estate like I've always wanted to.  It's been a great fit and I especially love introducing first time buyers to the Midtown area.  Of course, it's all about the buyer so I can help them decide if they are up for the rigor of a historic home or what's best for their lifestyle.  The best thing may be another area and figure that out together as it's an important investment.  
  So what have I learned?  Every single one of these homes has a story and we each just become part of that.  We also become the home's caretakers.  One thing I've really enjoyed is meeting the families that once lived in the homes.  It's a joy to share what you've done as well as hear their stories of life in your home.  Be prepared as they will show up unannounced to reminisce!  We know our neighbors very well in Midtown probably due to the fact that there aren't many garages in the area and the wide, welcoming porches.  It's just not possible to go into your home without greeting and speaking to your neighbors.  Nothing is more delightful than an impromptu porch party and many of my neighbors became my good friends.  My best advice I can give is to live in the house for a while, get to know the home and what it needs before you renovate.  What will your preservation story be?  If you need help determining if Midtown or Downtown is right for you (and you are pre-approved), call me at 251-508-7952.  
Dauphin Street Home 

Monday, June 27, 2016

Grand Bay, Alabama Historic Beauty of a Homestead

Freeland General Store and the Grand Bay State Bank 
 Grand Bay, Alabama was first settled in the 1850s.  There was even some Civil War action when Yankees marched through the town in the early stages of trying to control the last port to fall, which was Mobile.  Years later, the Grand Bay Land Company began offering ten acre lots to potential homeowners, with an eye towards the homeowners being self-sufficient with satsuma and pecan groves.  Today, despite many hurricanes, many old pecan trees from the early 1900s remain.  Today, only a few of the historic buildings remain, the Freeland General Store (Above, left) and the Grand Bay State Bank(Above, right).  The old bank building is slated to be the new area library.

The 1917 Craftsman home was built for a wealthy single woman, Ms. Squires
This circa 1917 home at 10630 Mildred Avenue in Grand Bay, Alabama sits just off Saeger Road, close to the Grand Bay exit of I-10.  It's surrounded by other well-cared for historic homes still standing from Grand Bay's grand old days.  It's 3,610 square feet and features 5 bedrooms, 3 full baths for a value range price of $275,000 to $310,000.  The home features original heart pine floors and Craftsman touches from the early 1900's throughout.  The home has 1,000 square feet of mother in law suite that can also be used as part of the home or locked off separately.  There is a pool and also a large shop in the back of the property, as well as many porches to enjoy your expansive 2.2 acre property.

Kitchen of the home has many thoughful, space saving additions
The kitchen has made great use of the original Craftsman staircase that splits from the the more formal living room to the kitchen.   The countertops are black granite with well-planned white cabinets.  A pantry with cabinetry pullouts is ingeniously situated under the staircase.  Attached to the kitchen, you'll find the additionally spacious mother in law suite's kitchen.  This home is definitely a must see.  
Original Craftsman staircase continues into the fully-floored attic

This antique bedroom set could be yours with acceptable offer!  Every bedroom has a walk in closet. 

Upstairs the home has 3 full bedrooms with each having an original walk in closet, which is very unusual for a home of this age.  A sunroom fro m the enclosed upper porch makes a lovely book nook and there is a small room that can be a nursery, office, or exercise room.  There is even a walk up stair to the fully floored attic.  
Enjoy your fenced in pool or work in your large workshop. 

A pool was put in three years ago with cool deck concrete and elegant fencing.  The carport can also be utilized as a covered patio.  The seller is willing for furniture to stay with an acceptable offer; custom curtains and chandeliers all stay regardless of offer.  Grand Bay is the perfect area to relax after a short 30 minute commute to either Mobile or Mississippi Gulf Coast towns.  If you'd like to see more photos of this fabulous property please visit my business page's photo album here:  
If you'd like to view this property before it's gone, call Christy Gustin, listing agent, at 251-508-7952.
To view more of my listings as well as the entire Mobile and Baldwin County MLS, visit my company page here:  

The Beauty of Historic Home Interiors in Mobile, Alabama

Bay windows, elegant fireplace and wall moldings
Historic home interiors are guaranteed to grab the attention of most people.  These homes were built in a time when grandness was expected and the homes were the outward face of the upper class. Anytime that I post photos of my historic home listings, they tend to get a lot of attention on social media channels.

Pocket doors, high ceilings,and transoms
  For instance, this circa 1892 Colonial Revival with Arts and Crafts-influenced home at 1054 Palmetto Street in the very popular Oakleigh Garden District garnered quite a few looks.  The owner mixed in family antiques with modern art on the walls to avoid the period museum look.  The floor plan is a side hall plan, where one enters from the front into a long side hallway that runs along the entertaining rooms:  the front parlor and the dining room, which is typically separated by a pair of sliding pocket doors.  

Can anything match the grandness of a historic home interior? 
Today's Midtown and Downtown historic home dwellers have been very savvy about utilizing the old floor plans for today.  For instance, a butler's pantry was once used by the house keeper to store linens and the homeowner's serving pieces. Today, we use them for an elegant bar set up with luxuries such as separate ice makers and wine fridges.
Butler's pantry at 1054 Palmetto was made for entertaining and perfect for bar set up.
Modern look for the kitchen fits in well with the historic nature of the home. 
Upstairs, there is usually a smaller room than the others.  This was typically the trunk room that was once used for storage, although this particular home did have closets.  Trunk rooms make perfect nurseries, playrooms to corral the children's toys, or exercise rooms.  In the past, the ladies of the home awaited other ladies visiting them or "making calls" upstairs.  A guest would be announced and the lady of the home would descend to greet her visitor. Occasionally, ladies would visit and leave a card letting the owner know she had stopped by; meanwhile, the homeowner was upstairs hiding out the entire time.
A great room to hide out from visitors! 
If you would like to view more photos of this home in the Oakleigh Garden District of Mobile, AL- please check out my Facebook album of 1054 Palmetto Street.  1054 Palmetto Photo Album
To view all my listings in one place or to see a complete Baldwin and Mobile County MLS (Zillow in our area is often incorrect),  visit
The home is well-priced at 4,191 square feet at $399,900.  4 bedrooms, 3.5 baths with plenty of room!  Call listing agent Christy Gustin- Bellator Realtor at 251-508-7952 to view.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Knocking on Doors

Today I am sitting in a model home in a community in which I once “knocked doors”.  No, I wasn’t going door to door selling vacuum cleaners!  I actually used to work as a stock broker selling stocks, bonds and the like.  Our company strongly encouraged getting out there and (literally) knocking on doors, up to 100 a day 5 days a week.  This was during an economic downturn; in fact, the market fell around 800 points the week after I passed my Series 7 exam.   There was an even greater drop in 2008 so most people I talked to were definitely gun shy as far as investing. It was grueling, usually hot as three blazes, as well as disheartening.  However, I was motivated to help everyday people prepare for the future by investing in the stock market.  I also genuinely enjoyed meeting the people who were gracious enough to spend time with me. 

My Circa 1891 Listing at 57 Catherine Street SOLD $350,000
Fast forward to 2015; I’m selling real estate in Mobile and the Eastern Shore with Bellator real estate and on the Knight Team.  With my commercial construction hubby, I’ve had 20 years experience buying and selling various personal real estate properties, and I’ve seen how it’s one of the best investments you can make.  I’ve built five custom homes and renovated five historic homes either for personal use or as an investment.  I’ve always dabbled in real estate and followed how values in the Mobile area have changed mostly for the better.  I enjoy studying real estate reports to help decide where the next hot street will be or where prices seem to be rising in an area.  Real estate is less volatile and, for the most part, it has an easier to follow market.  

Interior Shot of 1905 Government St. $145,000
I still knock on doors by stopping to speak with for sale by owners, asking owners about their houses that may not have even thought about listing their home, or letting the neighbors know about a new listing I have on their street.  Every two weeks or so, the three of us on the Knight Team fan out into a neighborhood and leave doorknockers.  Do we have time for it?  Not really, but people really appreciate that we come to them as they live busy lives. I’ve met many nice people while doing this and I’m reminded how our life experiences prepare us for our future.  The great thing is that most people love to talk about real estate rather than stocks and bonds.  My ultimate goal hasn’t changed.  I want to help people buy or sell a home, which is the most important decision one can make. 

If you are looking for a realtor who cares about the decisions that affect your family, call Bellator realtor Christy Gustin of the Knight Group Team directly at 251-508-7952. 

Friday, October 2, 2015

A Rare Dauphin Street Lot For Sale

I’ve lived in Mobile, Alabama for over 22 years and this entire time that I’ve lived here, I have devoured history books about local lore and legend.  Midtown and Downtown are both steeped in interesting stories about how places and the names that go with them came to be.  It has been handy to know as a realtor very familiar with the urban cityscape, and it also honors our pioneering French and Spanish forefathers.
Home on Dauphin Street near Monterey Street

Take Dauphin Street for example.  Originally beginning at the Mobile’s river edge and fanning into the untouched live oak and palmetto-palmed wilderness beyond, this street was named to honor the young Dauphin, or prince, of France.  Over time, the bustling port city made this street the center of commerce and elegant retail businesses, and there emerged a phrase of the 1800’s “Like walking on Dauphin Street!”  This denoted an experience that was very fine indeed!   Over time, Dauphin Street continued to spread into the Midtown area and upscale homes mushroomed in the early suburbs of Mobile. The century old private school University Military School, now in existence as UMS-Wright Prep, was once in the vicinity of Ann Street and Dauphin Street and some of the grand homes along the street were built by wealthy individuals such as ship captains.  The wood moldings and staircases inside featured expensive and imported woods as well as elaborate marble fireplaces from Italy.  Successful businessmen were able to catch a streetcar on Dauphin into downtown to work or Monroe Park along the Mobile Bay. 
The Graf house to the left of the lot

50 x 220 deep lot is a quarter acre
Fast forward to the 21st century and you have a lovely opportunity to buy a rare original-sized 50 foot frontage by 220 foot deep lot on Dauphin Street for just $75,000.  This large quarter acre lot at 1810 Dauphin Street features large trees in the back all the way to the alley as well as a buffer of various trees creating privacy, if preferred, to the east of the property.  The lot was the third lot of the triple lot property of the Graf house to the west of the lot.  Today the Graf house is situated on the first of two 50 x 220 lots.   Surrounding 1810 Dauphin Street are beautiful upscale homes anywhere from 3200 sq ft to 5000 sq ft on average in a value range of $106 per sq ft or $344,000 in price.  Considering that a rule of thumb in building new construction is that your lot should only be 25% of the total cost of what you plan to build, $75,000 for a lot such as this is a bargain. 
Alley way at the back of property runs between
Carlen and Kenneth Streets

Today, Dauphin Street homeowners can still enjoy an upscale street car of sorts; the Old Shell Trolley Club for a membership of $400+ a year will pick you up right on the Dauphin Street sidewalk to take you either downtown or the Village of Spring Hill.  All throughout the year, road races run down Dauphin Street such as the Azalea Trail Run.  With the lot’s alley way access, owners are able to leave or arrive easily without being trapped by the races for several hours.  Nearby, there is the new Old Shell Road Growlers and the coming soon bakery, G's.  In addition, this past year permission was granted by the nearby Old Dauphinway Historic District to allow Dauphin Street to be used as a bike trail from Carlen Street to Downtown.  Plenty of neighborhood societies await for you to join such as Historic Houston Street, Old Dauphinway, Murphy area, etc.

Possible Plan by Dakin Street Architects

Above you'll find an architectural rendering by architect Steve Stone of Dakin Street Architects.
This lot is officially in the Midtown Historic District.   If you would like to get more information  about the 1810 Dauphin Street lot, please call your local Midtown Bellator realtor Christy Gustin at 251-508-7952.  
5-10 foot buffer of trees on the eastern property line can be left alone or cut back