Underdog No More


Underdog. Isn’t that a funny word? By definition it’s the expected loser or somebody at a disadvantage. Runner up. Second best. Little guy. When I was growing up, my parents taught us to take up for the underdog. Don’t leave anyone out. Stand up for others. Pull for and encourage those that others think don’t stand a chance, in whatever arena that may be. Movies that drive home this point….Rudy, Hoosiers, Karate Kid and Remember the Titans (pardon the sports theme).   When the “little guy” wins, we all celebrate.


So what in the world could this possibly have to do with houses? During an interview earlier this year, I was asked several questions about Spartanburg and Hampton Heights. The more I talked, the more an ‘underdog theme’ developed and I realized that in a way, I feel protective over both because I have always viewed them as underdogs. In trying to paint an accurate description I found myself comparing them to others – Spartanburg to Greenville and Hampton Heights to another nearby historic neighborhood– and how we have always been overlooked. The underdogs. Before I go any further, let me be clear that this is not a knock on Greenville or the other neighborhood. They’re both great and thriving. It’s simply a ‘let us show you how great we are too’ point of view. Simply put, I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. I want to see both Spartanburg and Hampton Heights rise to their full potential and to show how both are on the cusp of something really great right now. I consider both to be diamonds in the rough, and they are both beginning to shine brightly. So, I’d like to share with you a little about how these once overlooked special places are…underdogs no more.


First, let’s talk about Spartanburg – Sparkle City – Hub City. In case you’ve been living under a rock, there are some big – let me repeat BIG – things happening in Downtown Spartanburg. There’s a banner that hangs over City Hall showing the amount of money that has been invested in downtown since 2013 and at last glance it was around $80 million. That’s kind of a lot of money. Some of the biggest projects underway right now are the AC Hotel by Marriott, the Montgomery Building, and the Aug W. Smith Building, just to name a few. In addition to all of the projects financed by private investors, the City of Spartanburg has also made major improvements to the Morgan Square area and most recently the Daniel Morgan Avenue and Magnolia Street streetscapes. Earlier this year, the Spartanburg Chamber of Commerce officially announced the formation of One Spartanburg, a comprehensive effort to raise levels of prosperity in Spartanburg County. There’s a vast network of leaders in the community who believe in and are invested in Spartanburg. They are working diligently to improve all aspects of Spartanburg and it’s already beginning to show. The time has finally come for Spartanburg to rise.


Typically on the weekends, my dogs’ morning walk takes us through downtown Spartanburg. I like to be in the know so this is my way of keeping up with what’s going on and to track the progress of all of the construction projects. In fact, about six months ago while walking the dogs I started taking pictures of several of these construction projects and the downtown area in general. (I know that’s a little weird so just be nice and pretend not to notice.) I believe that with any type of transformation it’s important to document the changes so that you can see how far you’ve come. While none of these construction projects are mine, they are in a sense, everyone’s. Everyone who is invested in Spartanburg has a stake, even if it’s only as a cheerleader. Here are just a few of those pictures or you can visit the City’s website. They have a dedicated webpage to track all of the construction projects and do a great job marketing the progress and keeping everyone informed. And if you haven’t been to Downtown Spartanburg in a while, let me be the first to invite you to visit.


Which then leads us to Hampton Heights, the only neighborhood within walking distance to all of these great new happenings in downtown Spartanburg. If you’ve followed me for any time now, you know that Hampton Heights is where I call home and where I try to work the most. I wrote a post back in December called “Why Hampton Heights” that highlights my top five reasons to live in the neighborhood. However, I wanted to delve a little deeper because my friends, Hampton Heights is a changin’.


Our little neighborhood has gone through many ups and downs over the years. For the full history, be sure to check out “Hampton Heights of Spartanburg: Its History, Houses, and People” by Vivian Fisher. She has done a wonderful job detailing the rich history of our historic neighborhood and has great pictures of all of the houses that line our streets. As you’ll read in her book, in the 1980’s the neighborhood had really fallen into tough times particularly due to “urban renewal” of the southside and flight of the middle class to the suburbs. Many of the homes had fallen into disrepair and a group of dedicated neighbors came together to save the neighborhood. Shortly thereafter, the Preservation Trust of Spartanburg was formed which was a non-profit dedicated to the revitalization of historic districts in the city of which Hampton Heights was (and still is). At the peak of their work, many of the homes were renovated and new homeowners moved in. However, when the housing market crashed in 2007/2008, the Trust felt the full impact and later was forced to shut its doors in 2010. Since then, property values fell and quite honestly, there was a little uncertainty about the future of Hampton Heights. Many longtime neighbors simply buckled down and waited things out. When I purchased my current home in the spring of 2015, the property values were still relatively low. However, in just two short years, things have started to change very dramatically and quickly. I believe much of this has to do with the momentum of downtown’s growth but this much I know to be true: Hampton Heights is no longer the underdog either.


I asked a neighbor/realtor to help with pulling together some statistics on sales in the neighborhood since the beginning of 2017. While this list is not all-inclusive, here’s a quick summary of the crazy demand we are seeing for homes in Hampton Heights.  Since the beginning of January, 9 homes have sold or are currently pending. Of these 9…. -6 properties had multiple offers -6 accepted offers above asking price and 3 accepted offers at full asking price -6 accepted offers in under 7 days (several in less than 3 days) (Note: This does not include properties purchased as foreclosures or investment properties before renovations. Please also note that these statistics differentiate slightly from MLS if input was not updated immediately after accepted offer. Accepted offer dates confirmed with realtors.)  Our inventory is very low so when a new property comes up for sale, it doesn’t stay on the market long. While we still have many properties that need a little TLC, we also have a lot of long time residents that have no plans of going anywhere soon. They are the core of our little community.


So what’s the point of all of this information? Hampton Heights is a hot commodity these days and I don’t say that just because I work and live here. In addition to the lucky ones who now call Hampton Heights home, I have at least four families that I can think of that have contacted me in hopes of finding a fixer upper in the neighborhood one day. I also often have realtors ask me if I know of any available properties because they have clients who really want to live here and just yesterday I heard of a realtor who was asking residents if they would be interested in selling their homes (even though the homes are not currently for sale). Say what?!


Can I just tell you how happy this makes me? There’s a crazy sense of pride when others outside of the dedicated neighbors who already live here start to realize just how special Hampton Heights is – the homes, the people, and the sense of community you’ll find here. And while I love to see our property values rising, I also hope to always keep this neighborhood affordable for working-class families.   That’s the heart of who lives here. We don’t all look alike, vote along the same party lines, or share the same faith, but we all love calling this place home and have a mutual respect for one another, or at least I hope so. In Mark 12:31, Jesus said the second greatest commandment is to ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ And love my neighbors I do.


So to wrap this up, I’d like to ask you to do a few things for me. First, if you haven’t been to Downtown Spartanburg lately, make plans now to go. You can enjoy a delicious dinner, play a game of putt-putt, and finish up with ice cream for starters. You can thank me later. Secondly, if you’re interested in living in Hampton Heights, let me or one of our awesome realtors know. I can help with renovations but they’re the experts when it comes to what properties are for sale. Third, if you don’t live here (Spartanburg or Hampton Heights) but you’ve heard or participated in making disparaging remarks about either (you know, making us look like the underdog), I’d just ask you to reconsider. I can line you up with person after person that loves one, or both of these special places, that will go toe to toe with you about all of the good things both have to offer. And last but not least, if you already have a neighborhood that you love, then I challenge you to love your neighbors well. Ask them over for dinner, go on a walk around the neighborhood, get involved in your neighborhood association, or just simply wave at them when you’re driving by. Make the effort. What a kinder, brighter, better place this world would be if we all did.


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