The House Whisperer
Every home speaks to me,” says Victoria Koontz. And if anyone knows the language of homes, it’s Vicki. “I grew up in the home building business, a ‘tomboy of sorts,’” she says. As a girl, she loved spending time with her dad, a builder, visiting job sites and exploring homes under construction. “As a kid I loved to jump in the truck with my dad and go to work with him, playing in sand piles, walking on the open floor joists like a balance beam, and pounding nails into boards. I was also blessed with a beautiful, talented mother who had a flair for home decorating and fashion. Our homes were always beautiful so this must have rubbed off on me, too.”
Vicki’s work in restoring homes began during her years working as a realtor showing homes. She discovered that lots of people, especially first-time home buyers, did not have the vision to see beyond cosmetic changes and improvements. Nor could they appreciate the improved value that those improvements would bring. If a buyer passed on a prospective property that she saw as a “diamond in the rough,” she bought it for herself, made minor necessary improvements that she knew would up the value, then resold it. Those minor cosmetic changes have now evolved into major overhauls, often involving totally changing up an outdated floor plan into today’s “open concept”, adding bathrooms, laundry rooms, etc. that appeal to the wants and needs of today’s buyers. But DON’T call her a “flipper”! She doesn’t just buy any house. She takes pride in her brand, and only wants something she can restore to its former beauty or add/change to create beauty and function.
“I grew up in my dad’s family’s building business that goes back four generations. I have always been drawn to the concept of construction and remodeling. That was what first prompted my interest in selling real estate. And now, what better way to express my love of building than through creating and restoring houses that may have been neglected and then bringing them back to life.”
Vicki also seems to make fast friends with just about everyone with whom she works. Lindsay Gardner, a residential designer who purchased one of Vicki’s houses in the Lincoln Park neighborhood, had this to say: “I met Vicki and Gary through a friend back before my construction began. During the process, Vicki and I worked together (she was happy to let me select all the finishes). The process was amazingly smooth, and the house is perfect. We’ve been good friends ever since.” Another client, a couple who purchased one of Vicki’s houses, got married in the backyard after moving in and included Vicki on the guest list.
For Vicki and her business, “Restorations by Victoria,” there are no slow days. She wears many hats. “I’m a designer, realtor, bookkeeper, materials handler, clean up girl, tennis player, children’s book author, gardener, wife, mother, and grandmother,” she says. “Plus, I have my own house to look after!”
What does it take to restore houses? Vision, patience, diligence and absolute fearlessness. “In construction it’s true that if it can go wrong it will. You just have to roll with the inevitable punches. Luckily, I count on some amazing contractors and suppliers who have been with me a long time, like Joel Piper at Old City Kitchens/Knox Rail, Greg Ellenburg at Christmas Lumber and my electrician, Chip Lynch, who I have known since he played T-ball with my son! And I couldn’t do any of this without the help of my awesome husband Gary, who supports me whatever need be.”
Vicki says that she can envision one of her grandkids, who all live in Knoxville, taking the helm one day. They love spending time with her on job sites and helping out. For instance, they love busting out walls with sledgehammers or taking a load of construction trash to the dump. A couple of the older ones have already shown some restoration skills, making suggestions in floor plan changes and staging.
“I feel especially blessed and at times overwhelmed to have been given so many opportunities to acquire the homes I have restored over the past few years, especially in this HIGHLY competitive market. I really haven’t looked that hard for them; most of them have just come to me. For example, my next project will be my parents’ home my dad built in 1955 where my sisters and I grew up in Fountain City. How many people dream about going back to just walk through their childhood home one time, and I get to restore mine! This is Divine Intervention without a doubt!”
If you have a house or know of one that may have something to say to “The House Whisperer,” just let her know. She would love to make you proud of it again.
Restorations by Victoria