Big House. Little House. What’s on the market in Lex right now?

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By Brian S. Powers

A renewed economy manifests itself in many ways, but often none so visible as a thriving real estate market. Lexington’s market for real estate appears to be hitting another boom, so we’ve decided to take a look at the market, from the smallest house available to the largest—comparing and contrasting the selling points of each.

778 Breathitt Avenue (hereinafter referred to as “Breathitt”) is a welcome break from the traditional “bigger is better” mindset. If you’ve been contemplating a foray into the small house movement – described as “cozy” in the online description on Lbar.com – this measures an economical 426 sq. ft. and is ranch style with one bathroom and one bedroom (this style of house is known in other markets often as a “college dorm room”). The ad description optimistically says that it “has lots of potential,” but acknowledges a need for “TLC.” $30k in cash will get you this house AND a week’s worth of McDonald’s value meals.

p18_pva photos

Photos: Fayette County PVA

At the “size of a banana republic” end of the available housing spectrum, we find 3591 Paris Pike, which has a staggering 17,000 sq. ft. of space and two hot tubs (if one conks out, you’ll have a spare). The online listing suggests that this home possesses “every amenity available.” This admission causes more than a small bit of skepticism. There’s a butler’s pantry, for example, but there is no mention of “chimpanzee butler” in the property features list. There’s a pool, but it doesn’t appear to be filled with gold coins, Scrooge McDuck-style. There’s a 20-stall barn, but no sign of sparkle ponies. It does contain an English-style pub, an elevator, a tennis court and two apartments inside the garage for those wishing to recreate Downton Abbey on American soil, only with an actually nice house. At $4.4 million, this house is just slightly cheaper than fully funding the Reading Rainbow Kickstarter campaign, so the choice is yours.

At first blush, the Paris Pike home seems to have it all (sans chimp butler, but that has already been noted) – exotic amenities, luxurious comforts, palatial living, etc. It is closer than Breathitt to the Lexington Country Club, which is only a quick 2.6 miles away by chauffeured Maybach, compared to 4.9 miles from the Breathitt address. It’s that same old chestnut about real estate that wins the day, however – location, location, location, and here is where Breathitt pays off.

For instance – what about proximity to Starbucks? The closest Venti Chai Latte is but an early morning brisk jog – 2.0 miles – from Breathitt. The caffeine fix for the Paris Pike resident –assuming a franchise wasn’t opened directly in the house itself, staffed with chimpanzee baristas – takes a weary 6.6 miles, half of that fighting traffic inside the circle.

At a distance of just 3.3 miles compared to 4.7, Breathitt also edges out Paris for a mad dash to Kroger at 3 am, hoping to find some of those orange and yellow “Manager’s Special” stickers on nearly-expired Laura’s Lean Ground Beef.

Screen Shot 2014-07-02 at 1.16.38 PMEconomics also cut in favor of Breathitt. For example, in most other sales situations, quantity purchasing is the economical way to go. Why buy twelve rolls of toilet paper for $5 when you can buy 465,000 of them at Sam’s or Costco for $15? One would think this might apply in real estate as well, but one would be wrong. The cost per square foot of the Paris Pike home is $258 (not much of a volume discount), compared to Breathitt’s bargain $15.

Enjoy mowing the lawn? You’d have plenty of relaxing lawnmower time around the 62.1 acres on Paris Pike, while your grass-cutting joy would be cut rather short at Breathitt after covering 2352 sq. ft. If the idea of mowing either of those sends you into a swoon, you can always pay someone else for upkeep. Tim Weldon of Fayette Lawn Care estimates your Breathitt property would cost $20-25 to mow, while the Paris Pike yard would be at least $40 an acre (with the math, that’s $2484 per mow), and that roughest of estimates doesn’t fully factor in all the trimming around your landscaping. Maybe it’s time to invest in a chimpanzee gardener to go with the butler and the barista.

Interested in appreciation? Zillow reports Breathitt last sold in April of 2013 for $6,500, posting a whopping 360 percent increase (if it sells at $29,900). Paris Pike last sold June 2011 for $3,014,500.

Whitney Houston sang that she believed children are the future, so no analysis is complete without checking out where the future is going to learn the perils of forgetting a #2 pencil on test day. Breathitt is zoned for Booker T. Washington Academy which is barely trumped by Paris Pike’s Russell Cave Elementary at GreatSchools.org, 2/10 to 4/10. High school is a different story, however – Breathitt’s teenagers will chew gum in class at Paul Laurence Dunbar, which receives a noteworthy 8/10, while the Paris Pike kids will commute 3.4 miles to Bryan Station for its 3/10 score.

The choices are clear – if bottom dollar and reasonable proximity to the best Lexington has to offer are your priorities, the Breathitt Bungalow is your kind of place. Besides, with the thriving nightlife and cultural renaissance Lexington is currently undergoing, you’re not going to have much time to feel cramped at home, anyway. If, however, you’d like to channel your inner Howard Hughes and let your fingernails grow to unreasonable lengths in the privacy of your own estate, the Paris Pike property might be the place to be.

This article also appears on page 18 of the July 3, 2014 print issue of Ace.

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