When Nate and Niki Kohari started searching for a home to buy, the couple had a tall order in mind.
They liked the features of new houses but also wanted to live in a neighborhood that reminded them of the places they grew up, one with a sense of community and history.
“It’s hard to find a new house that’s in an old neighborhood,” said Niki Kohari, 32, who owns a software development business with her husband.
Then they came across Chestnut Hills, a neighborhood off of Six Forks Road that’s been around for decades. It’s about a mile north of the stores and restaurants in North Hills and walking distance to Shelley Lake. A mix of young families and retirees live on Shelley Road and nearby side streets.
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Since around 2006, builders have torn down dozens of ranch houses and small two-story houses in the area to make way for bigger, fancier homes.
Builders put the number of new houses in Chestnut Hills at about 50, the largest concentration of infill houses they know of outside the Beltline.
Closer to downtown Raleigh, it’s more common for old development to make way for new, part of the transformation of the city’s core.
Chestnut Hills is just what the Koharis wanted: a new house in an old neighborhood, and one without an inside-the-Beltline premium on its price tag.
With land scarce in the area, builders expect the infill trend in Chestnut Hills will continue.
Michael Poupard, founder of Grayson Homes, built the house the Koharis ended up in. He said he hears frequently from buyers that they’re seeking easy access to North Hills and the rest of Raleigh.
“Chestnut Hill is that little pocket that’s convenient,” he said.
The neighborhood’s older homes typically are replaced by homes of 3,000 to 3,500 square feet that sell for as much as $750,000.
Paul Baggett, owner of Allure Homes, has built about 15 houses in the neighborhood. He said builders are interested in lots where the houses haven’t been maintained and aren’t likely to draw a new buyer, even if remodeled.
Baggett thinks there may be as many as 100 houses in Chestnut Hills that builders would opt to replace because of the poor condition the houses are in. But there are also many he expects to remain as is, currently selling for between $350,000 and $400,000.
“There are a ton of great houses that will always be maintained and are attractive to young families,” he said.
Tim Thompson, owner of Raleigh Custom Homes and Raleigh Custom Realty, has built several houses in Chestnut Hills.
He said there’s a similar infill trend in North Ridge just south of Interstate 540 near the North Ridge Country Club. The lots there are more expensive, so builders haven’t snapped up as many as quickly as in Chestnut Hills, he said.
‘Progress never stops’
So far, the changes in Chestnut Hills haven’t caused the kind of pitched debate that emerged inside the Beltline around 2008 about infill housing. Neighbors then said quality houses were too often being torn down and replaced with houses that loomed over the neighborhood.
Today, the city’s development rules address infill housing, whether on teardown or vacant lots, with standards for items such as street setbacks and side wall heights.
The standards are designed to “accommodate and encourage compatible development in existing residential neighborhoods, while reinforcing the established character of the neighborhood and mitigating adverse impacts on adjacent homes,” according to the code.
The city doesn’t track the number of infill homes.
Derek Bateson, broker-in-charge at Bateson Realty, represents Grayson in Chestnut Hills. He said some neighbors are excited about how the houses could affect the value of their own homes, while others aren’t fans, especially when it comes to the noise of ongoing construction.
“I think it’s a mixed bag,” he said. “But I think your average person realizes that progress never stops.”