Renting in Reno: Georgia Fisher is Deserting Dallas For The Desert, But Nevada's Market Proves a Challenge

Georgia and Matt2

Editor’s Note: Meet Georgia Fisher. She’s a talented writer, and we are just pleased as punch to have her on the CandysDirt.com team. A seasoned journalist and feature writer, Georgia is pulling up stakes and moving from Dallas to Reno, Nevada, with her surgeon fiancée, Matt. Here’s the very first installment of “Renting in Reno.” Enjoy!

By Georgia Fisher

Coming from Dallas, I had little interest in Reno real estate. Not at first, anyway.

It started with a glum sigh on the flight to Nevada from Love Field last December, when my fiancée brought me along for his big job interview. Sometimes the desert looks gorgeous from the air, like a moonscape or a giant, sediment-dragged fossil that’s been splashed here and there with gemlike water. Other times, it just makes you feel thirsty and alone. Or so says a native Texan who’s never lived more than a few hours from her mama.

Take this from the same genius who thought Las Vegas was a couple hours away — try seven and change — and that trees can’t grow in the desert. Actually, the Biggest Little City in the World has an artistic, outdoorsy soul all its own, with mild summers, countless festivals, and quick access to coveted hiking trails and ski slopes in luxurious Lake Tahoe.

Even so, if the property ads I’d found online were any indication, our home would probably be a beige-painted, beige-carpeted dwelling on a treeless lot with convenient beige gravel in place of grass.

I was wrong about that, too.

“There’s no shortage of beautiful homes,” said Reno real estate agent Paul Studebaker. “There’s a shortage of beautiful homes that are for sale.

And rentals — one of which we’d be needing — comprise more than half the houses on Reno’s market, which bottomed out famously a few years ago. In May, the city’s median sale price was up 32 percent from that of a year before, however, to $218,000.

It was through an indirect correspondence on CraigsList that we finally found our dream house — a three-bedroom, two-bath Chicago Bungalow with two studies and around 2,200 square feet that we’d kill to buy someday — in the city’s Old Southwest neighborhood.

Reno Home

Architecturally, Old Southwest is a bit like the love child of Dallas’ Kings Highway Conservation District and the M Streets, perhaps with a Park Cities auntie in the mix, thanks to its insular feel and top-flight public schools.

It’s a walkable area near trendy businesses, the Truckee River, and a natural food co-op — a place where kids zip around on scooters in a bubble of Rockwellian safety, and where at least one street sign is overgrown with ornamental vines that turn all shades of fire in autumn. The houses are often small, built with brick and full of exquisite details from a bygone era.

Ours, as luck would have it, belongs to Nancy Gilbert, a construction attorney who’s made an art of bringing distressed properties back to life. She and her husband, Tim, recently pulled off an impeccable Spanish revival, among others. And right next door to it on Joaquin Miller Drive — one of various Old Southwest streets named for writers — is their picture-perfect English Cotswold cottage.

Decor is my obsession, but something about our new landlady rocks the little perfectionist in me to sleep. She’s combed the country and the world in search of the right vintage light and window fixtures, for one, and can rattle off the home’s historical stats in a long breath.

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Had Nancy not approved us as tenants, we would’ve debated taking a place in Reno’s Mayberry neighborhood with a dated, borderline-heinous 1970s interior that stands in contrast to its stunning mountain views (at a cost of around $2,200 a month, though we saw plenty of prettier, smaller Nevada homes listed for $1,200 or less), or a high-rise, two-bedroom apartment in a so-so, seedy-after-dark part of downtown for around $1,900 a month. That one was chic inside, but it wasn’t right.

Reno, however, is just fine. Or it will be if our Dallas friends come visit.

Y’all had better.

Georgia Fisher is a freelance writer currently vacationing in Europe before taking leave of her senses and settling in Reno, Nevada. Leave a nice note or freelance writing lead for her at georgia.fisher@gmail.com.