Despite favorable interest rates, becoming a first-time buyer while trying to stick to a budget can be tough in today’s real estate market. But as two new owners at Manchester Walk in Lawrenceville recently discovered, it’s not only possible but pleasurable to work through the process to become an owner.

    Jeremy Anderson, a paramedic with a wife and two children, had been renting a townhouse while spending several months shopping for a house that would fit his budget, size requirements and school needs.

    “As someone working in public service, I don’t make a ton of money, and I thought the most I could afford was another townhouse or a really old house,” he said. “But I work 24-our shifts; I don’t have time to work on a house.”

    Anderson had become so disheartened by the fruitless search that he almost gave up, until he drove into Manchester Walk.

    “We liked the community and could tell it had a very family-oriented feel,” he said. “We liked the model, and we knew the schools were good. At first we didn’t think we could afford anything new, but within two hours, we had picked our lot and were writing up the papers.”

    Manchester’s 94 two-story plans are priced from $151,000 to $159,000. The floor plans feature between 1,645 and 1,994 square feet that incorporate four bedrooms or three bedrooms and a loft, and two-car garages on lots that average a third of an acre.

    “They offered us so many different plans, it was hard to pick!” said Anderson with a laugh. “We went with four bedrooms and an open first-floor plan that has some separation between the kitchen and dining room. We also have a mud room and a nice-sized backyard, which is fine – I don’t have time to maintain a large yard.”

    The family added several upgrades, including hardwood floors in the kitchen and dining areas, recessed lighting in the kitchen and a bit more extra space in the master bath. “But even without those upgrades, everything was very nice, and we were very happy with the home as it was,” said Anderson. “We didn’t feel that we needed to change a lot.”

    Among the standard features at Manchester Walk are hardwood floors in the foyers; electric GE ranges, microwaves and dishwashers; Hardiplank siding; laminate counter tops and stained cabinets with crown moldings; stainless steel double kitchen sinks; and electric fireplaces. The community also features a swimming pool and playground.

    Owner Zee Norman, who purchased a three-bedroom loft plan last fall, made only a few changes to her plan, going with hardwood floors throughout the main living and dining areas, brick accents around the front door and upgraded lighting in the kitchen.

    “It was all within my budget, so much so that I even got money back at closing because I had put in too much for upgrades,” said the first-time buyer. “That was great, since I was on a budget to keep it under $160,000.”

    Norman, who works as a dispatcher for a pest control company in Buckhead, shared her neighbor’s despair at ever finding a new home that would work with her financial restraints.

    “I was in a townhouse and knew I wanted something at least that size, but that was mostly another townhouse,” she said. “I also looked at houses that needed a lot of fixing up, but I didn’t want to have to gut a kitchen or take on a project that big. At Manchester Walk, I could pick my lot and get the home I wanted the way I wanted it.”

    And though both Anderson and Norman were newcomers to home-buying, both agreed that the community’s agents made things go smoothly.

    “The agents were really good about giving us the information we needed and helping us figure things out,” said Anderson. “We were over there every step of the way, asking a lot of questions – how long for this? What are you doing about this? But they were great; they held our hands through the entire process.”

    About Manchester Walk

    Price range: $151,000-$159,000

    Number of homes when completed: 94

    Styles: Two-story single-family traditional

    Square footage: 1,654-1,994

    Schools: Alcova Elementary, Dacula Middle, Dacula High

    Getting there: From downtown Atlanta, take I-85 north to Hwy. 316 north towards Lawrenceville; right on Cedars Rd.; right on Winder Hwy./Hwy. 29. Manchester Walk a mile on the right.

    Contacts: 855-770-4663; www.expohomes.us.

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