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Ole Miss Fans Explain Why Buying a Second Home in Oxford Is Useful

homes 2With new housing developments popping up around all four corners of Oxford, the second home industry is booming. With the influx of people, real estate prices have soared. Some may come for the Square, some may come for the arts and some may come for football. Lea Duncan and her husband, David, came for football.

In 2001, there were only four football games in NCAA history that lasted for six overtimes. On November 3, 2001, Ole Miss became one of them with seven overtimes against the University of Arkansas. The game lasted until 10:20 p.m., and Ole Miss fans walked out of Vault-Hemingway with a loss.

Duncan and her family loaded up in to the car to drive back home to Madison, Mississippi. Everyone piled in and fell right to sleep while Duncan drove. That was when Duncan decided it was time to buy a second home.

“We thought we had lost our minds when we bought that first one,” Duncan said. “Because we thought, ‘Gosh we are crazy, we live two hours and twenty minutes away.’ But that overtime game was what made us start looking. I was driving, and everyone else in the car was asleep and I said, ‘Okay guys, this is it. We are not doing this again. We are buying a place.’”


They initially bought an apartment on Van Buren Avenue when, “when Eli was here.” After the Duncan’s family continued to grow with grandchildren, they sold the Van Buren property and bought a condo on University Avenue between campus and the Square. And throughout the years, their second home has continued to center around football.

“Initially David said, ‘We’re just going to own this condo while Eli is here, and then we’re going to sell it,’” Duncan laughed, “and I said, ‘Oh, okay.’ It never happened.”

Though second homes add many extra bills, Duncan said that owning a home in Oxford has been “absolutely worth the cost and upkeep.”

Mr. and Mrs. Duncan
Mr. and Mrs. Duncan

“Owning a second home makes the occasions to be in Oxford more enjoyable,” Duncan said. “You have a permanent place. You can leave clothes, you can leave makeup, you feel like you have a place where friends can come over. Where we are, we can just park and walk to the Square, the Grove and the stadium. We love the ambiance of Oxford. It’s a cultural town, it’s a academic town.”

In 2005, Oxford resident Jill Gardner noticed the trend of non-Oxonians buying second homes. She saw people running around Kroger on Thursday nights getting supplies for the weekend. She heard of people cleaning the second homes for hours on Sunday instead of enjoying their stay. With that, she, along with a friend, had a business idea.

“My friend that I started the business with had a lake house, and her icemaker broke,” Gardner said. “It poured water all over the floor for about a week. She said to me, ‘If I had somebody who was checking on my house, this would have never happened.’”

After her personal experience, the two friends formed Second Home Keepers and started taking on clients during the summer of 2005.  The business was formed with the idea that the details of owning a second home would be left to them. The friends took on the maintenance of the second home and checked up on it while its owners were away. They even began to fill the refrigerator for clients so they could avoid the madness of grocery shopping before a game weekend.

homes 1

Gardner, who graduated from Ole Miss in 1987, is now the sole owner of the business, and it has prospered to 34 clients from its original three. Gardner prefers to keep the client list small so that she can provide as many services as she can.

Since starting the business about 11 years ago, Gardner has noticed a shift in not only Oxford’s real estate but also Oxford itself.

“We used to have quiet weekends in Oxford,” Gardner said. “Kids would go home to see their families, but now with second homes, families are coming to see their kids instead. I’ve noticed that the push of the weekend back to Thursday really started with all of these second homes. I’ve seen family night become on Thursday, friends on Friday and football on Saturday.”

For Duncan, Oxford is a family affair as well. Her husband David grew up in Oxford and graduated from University High School on the Ole Miss campus before attending dental school at the University of Tennessee. Duncan’s daughter, Nicole, graduated from Ole Miss in 1997 and was elected Miss Ole Miss and inducted into Hall of Fame.

For Duncan, owning a second home in Oxford is sentimental, but she thinks it “is also a great investment.” Gardner agrees that owning a home in Oxford is a great long-term investment. Not only because Oxford was a small town feel with a lot to do, but also because real estate prices continue to increase. Gardner said that if people “don’t overpay, it will go up in value.”

“We love watching the value go up,” Duncan joked. “And as long as the football team keeps winning, we’ll be happy.”


Ellen Whitaker is a student at The Meek School of Journalism and New Media. Ellen can be reached at ewhitake@go.olemiss.edu.

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