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Real Estate: A Fresh Start

It's never too late to change everything.

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Who hasn't fantasized about selling most of their possessions and starting with a blank slate and a new house? In the case of Serafina and Jim Nankervis, their New Year's resolution is just an eight-block move, but it's also an opportunity. The couple, married 57 years, is buying all new furniture, picking out snazzy bedding and accessories, and surrounding themselves with a condo lifestyle that includes morning coffee by the pool, a mixed bag of neighbors and an in-town setting that's both historic and convenient.

The only trick is, they still need to sell their house.

It's not uncommon for sellers to put deposits on new residences before their current homes are sold. The Nankervises were among the first to reserve a condominium at the new Lock Lane project on Grove Avenue, a 1930s apartment complex that's being converted into condos. Their second-floor unit will have an upscale granite and stainless steel kitchen with dark wood cabinetry, two bedrooms and baths, a large living and dining area, and leafy views of the cityscape, something they've come to adore during their 25 years here.

The condo is about half the square footage of their current home, a classic Richmond brick and slate cape near Malvern Avenue that's been on the market for three months. Their real estate agent is sensitive to the problem of finding a buyer soon; she's their granddaughter Catherine Thorsen of Long & Foster, and she's helped guide them through the process of selling possessions, staging the house for optimum showings and explaining what's happening in the real estate market.

"Working with relatives is a little different," Thorsen says. "I'm emotionally involved, and I feel their anxiety — OK, their concern — for selling. I have a vested interest."

"We realize two things," Jim Nankervis says. "This is the least expensive home on the block, and we've gone through 25 years of unprecedented prosperity and the average consumer doesn't want to give that up." He expects the house to sell by the end of January and has reduced the offering price twice to attract a qualified buyer.

He points to the home's amenities, including a sunlit family room with wet bar and built-in bookshelves, a tree-filled backyard that's fully fenced and has a private terrace, a wood-burning fireplace in the living room, an eat-in kitchen, 2 1/2 baths and a finished basement that's been a music room, studio and private haven for their artistic passions.

Jim Nankervis is a jazz drummer and guitarist; Serafina is a sculptor and painter whose work has been featured in 95 exhibitions across the country. Their creative lives have flowered in Richmond, and their leisure orbit includes season tickets to performances at the Modlin Center, dinners at Edo's Squid, Can Can and Peking, and book groups, travel, diverse friends and active involvement with their large family.

"We explain ourselves as liberal thinkers living a conservative life," Jim says, "and we take a special interest in young people and the influx of newcomers to Richmond."

"They have improved the city tremendously," Serafina says, confirming her attraction to urban living and the opportunities for stimulation and involvement.

The idea of starting fresh had instant appeal to both of them, and selling their artwork, instruments and collectibles has been a part of that sequence, even though it has been emotionally wrenching at times to part with special pieces.

Their overall goals are clear: Sell the house, move when the condo is completed in the spring, establish a colorful new nest with select traces of the past and keep moving forward. "We have a spirit for life," Serafina says, "and this next change just feels right." HS



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