Reported By Nancy Amons
If you visit just about any of the neighborhoods in Nashville that were flooded in May 2010, you'll still see a few houses standing like skeletons, with walls ripped to the bare studs.
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Recovering from a flood is a long, slow process. But in the last few months, many of the houses that have been sitting vacant for so long are sprouting new signs of life.
A year ago, scores of houses on Beech Bend Drive and Harpeth Bend Drive in Bellevue were covered with flood waters from the Harpeth River. Now, almost every house has been repaired or is in the process of being repaired.
In a few cases, investors bought homes that families walked away from, but for the most part, the original owners moved back in.
Betty Belle Nicks pointed to the top of the patio door leading to the back yard of her daughter's house on Harpeth Bend Drive.
"The water was to here," she said.
Now, Nicks is proud to show off the completely renovated home.
"We had to tear out everything, all the way to the ceiling, but we're back in, and we feel really blessed," Nicks said.
Some of her neighbors weren't so lucky.
There are still five houses in the neighborhood that haven't been touched. One has been condemned by Metro Codes. It had been gutted, but no other work had been done.
Across the city, according to Metro's figures, there are about 300 houses where no repairs are under way. The census was taken last fall after codes officials went house to house to make an inventory. The figure has not been updated and is likely to go down, given the flurry of activity that began as the weather warmed up.
There are houses in the Beech Bend Drive neighborhood, as there are in every neighborhood, that suffered flood damage, where the families who were flooded out could not or would not return.
Matthew and Tessa Ribble, who lived with their three young children on Beech Bend Drive, decided not to go back.
"The estimate was $90,000 to put it back the way we had it," Matthew Ribble said. "And that was with no furniture."
With three young children, the Ribbles had to find another house quickly. They ultimately bought a new home in the West Meade area.
The Ribbles tried to keep up the mortgage payments on both houses, but after a few months, they gave up. Their bank agreed to let them sell the Beech Bend house for less than what they owed on it -- a process called a short sale.
The Ribbles said they know their credit will take a hit.
"Of course it dings you, and of course there will be some penalties moving forward, but the relief was well worth it," Matthew Ribble said.
The good news is that almost all the flooded houses in the neighborhood that owners walked away from have been snapped up by investors. They paid rock-bottom prices, averaging $50,000 per house. That's about $100,000 less than the houses were appraised for two years ago.
Realtor Derrick Fox said 12 flood-damaged houses on Beech Bend and Harpeth Bend Drives have now been purchased. Many of those sales closed this spring.
"These flood properties are turning around, and it's only been in the last few months. We're seeing more of these properties that have closed, which is a very good sign," Fox said.
The flooded house that the Ribble family had to walk away from is an example. An investor bought it for $52,000 to renovate for a member of his family.
"It's going to be real nice," said Russell Collins, the foreman on the remodeling job.
As he worked on the house, the house next door and the house across the street were bustling with activity. Across the street, workers were cutting new plywood. Next door, the siding was being replaced for a new owner.
"You see them, one by one, starting to come back in. We're starting to see them finish them back up, put them back on the market," Collins said.
"Welcome back," Collins said with a smile.