The Belle is back but she’s showing some vulnerability

Friday, December 1, 2017, Vol. 41, No. 48

As a large number of home sales amassed, it seemed Belle Meade had her groove back, regaining her perch atop the Nashville real estate world after losing it to newly developed and gentrified areas such as the 12 South, Belmont and even the Nations, at one point.

While home sales continue to flourish in these areas, and the once lowly Nations has new construction blossoming on every corner, the Grande Dame that is Belle Meade has made a comeback and is once again the belle of the real estate ball.

But she might have lost a slipper.

There have been 82 sales in Belle Meade proper in the past 12 months compared to 53 in the 12 months prior and 46 in the 12 months preceding that period.

The price per square foot for Belle Meade sales during the past 12 months has been $317.14. It was $289 Nov. 27, 2014 to Nov. 27, 2015.

Last week, the team of Betty Finucane and daughter-in-law Elaine Finucane sold the home located at 4301 Forsythe Place for $2.56 million with the help of Nathan Matwijec, a brilliant young Realtor with Zeitlin and Company Realtors, the firm founded by Nashville icon Shirley Zeitlin.

The Finucanes have both lived in or near Belle Meade for most of their collective lives, Elaine’s being shorter than Betty’s, and they know the area and the native language.

For example, they wrote “Easy to walk to boulevard and park” when describing the house in the Multiple Listing Service. If the buyer need ask which boulevard or which park, they should move to Green Hills. I wrote the last line, the Finucanes did not.

Speaking of Finucanes, it should be noted that Betty has recovered from a recent injury and is back in full swing.

As many buyers of Belle Meade properties are tradition-oriented and appreciative of Southern architecture and construction, they noted the house was constructed using “old Carolina bricks” and “Mississippi reclaimed floors.” Additionally, the residence features a swimming pool, stone porch and a stacked stone fireplace. The times they are a changin’ some.

With 5,882 square feet in the main living space, the home includes four bedrooms, five full and two half bathrooms. It sold for $435 per square foot, not including some 800 square feet the Finucanes called “exercise/playroom in the lower level.” $2 million houses don’t have basements. They have lower levels.

Realtracs – aka Middle Tennessee Reginal Multiple Listing Service – forces Realtors to enter the public schools, and the Finucanes provided that information noting that the district is zoned for Julia Green Elementary, J.T. Moore Middle School and Hillsboro Comprehensive High School.

The seller paid $2,200,000 for the house in 2007 and sold for $2,560,000.

The data points to an upswing in the popularity of Belle Meade and its surrounding neighborhoods such as the Belle Meade Links, Belle Meade Highlands and the Belle Meade Courts, all of which border Belle Meade.

Surprisingly, 28 houses sold in Belle Meade for less than $1 million the past 12 months with only 11 selling for less than $1 million in the 12 months preceding that period.

Perhaps that could be attributed to the teardown craze.

In most geographic areas, price per square foot is higher in the houses with fewer square feet. The reason for this is kitchens, bathrooms and the lots themselves are the most costly components of a house and are needed in all construction, large or small.

As the square footage increases, those expenses are absorbed as less-costly drywall, flooring and lumber.

In Belle Meade, the opposite holds true. In houses from $1 million to $2 million, the price per square foot was $293 on 30 sales.

On houses from $2 million to $3 million, the price per square foot jumped to $343 per square foot.

On houses over $3 million or more, the price per square foot reached $412 per square foot on nine sales.

Now for the bad news.

For the 12 months prior to this, the numbers were $302 for $1 million to $2 million – slightly more than this year. In the $2 million to $3 range, the price per square foot was $358 last year and $343 this year.

In the past 12 months, three of the six sales of $2 million or more went for less than the seller had paid for the house. A speaker at a local real estate firm last week cited several sales in Belle Meade in which the owners sold for several hundred thousand less than the owner had originally paid.

One sale in the heart of Belle Meade sold for $750,000 less than the owner paid.

Oh well, it’s only money.

Richard Courtney is a real estate broker with Christianson, Patterson, Courtney, and Associates and can be reached at