REAL ESTATE- ON THE BLOCK- Untypical rancher : a real steal, despite the Bypass

ADDRESS: 626 Watson Ave.


Park Street

ASKING: $296,000



SIZE: 1,902 fin. sq. ft., 240 unfin.

LAND: 0.31 acres

CURB APPEAL: 7.5 out of 10

LISTED BY: Paul Muhlberger of Real Estate III, 977-3033

This house looks like a landscaper's pride and joy, and it should, since that is the profession of the current owner.

Possibly most impressive are the fences enclosing the large backyard. Most of the several hundred feet of six-foot-high fence is made of vertical boards butted tight together, with a handsome "tooth" design along the top edge. The tall fence works well to buffer the noise of the 250 Bypass less than 150 feet from the back door.

Handsome, well-proportioned plantings surround the house and dot the front and back yards, gussying-up an otherwise bland exterior. The large back yard is divided roughly down the middle, with grass on one half and a good-sized concrete basketball court/work area on the other. The owner has also tucked a small storage shed next to the fence. Open-air eaves prevent it from getting hot or collecting moisture, but the generous roof overhang protects the inside from the elements.

A number of neat touches distinguish this house from a typical rancher. The main level is raised well above ground so the basement is only half subterranean, creating the potential for dry living space. The windows are arranged in modernist groupings that are both handsome from the exterior and provide excellent light inside.

This isn't a large house, and the rooms are all on the small side. The two main-level bedrooms share a single bathroom. A new owner who wanted one larger bedroom could combine one of them with an adjacent small space that had served as a dining room/breakfast area, but is now serving as a baby's room.

The humble kitchen is squeezed between two larger "showcase" rooms, each with a handsome fireplace. The current owners use one as a dining room and one as a family room. That's the extent of the first floor.

But there are a nice details throughout. Golden-red heart pine with a clear finish has been used extensively for trim, for one mantle, and for pretty interior wooden shutters on many of the windows. Knotty pine paneling covering all the walls in the living room (along with the oak floor throughout the house) might be too much dark wood for one room, but a large bank of windows next to the front door admit plenty of light, which helps the space feel cheerful and airy.

The kitchen is small but well designed. Stainless steel and black appliances complement white cabinets and blond wood surfaces. An unusual Ikea upper cabinet with a garage-door-style opening guarantees at least one thing that few if any other local houses can boast.

The basement has seen a lot of improvements under the current owners, and because it's dry, it could become excellent living space with a few more upgrades. The one bedroom has a curtained-off corner serving as a storage area that should be replaced with a real closet or a wardrobe. The main room is big enough to become a family room, especially with removal of sliding, rotating wooden panels demarcating one end of the room. Since the panels all hang from a single track, they would be a cinch to jettison.

The owners have added a full bathroom down here, but the walls need a new finish– like tile. Currently, the walls are covered with cement-like "quik-set," and the ridged and roughened surface of the rock-hard medium could cut a passersby who brushes against it.

This house has one other major safety issue. The stairs to the basement are much steeper than the standard angle with scary shallow treads and dangerously low headroom. Rebuilding the staircase would seem to be an immediate necessity, and that might mean having to do some semi-major work to increase the headroom to achieve the required slope.

Aside from those two issues, this house reflects the labor the current owner has invested. A new owner will be the beneficiary of his professional improvements– the fence, the shed, the yard, and the basement. With some more work in the basement, the whole place could be as attractive as the inviting first floor, making the house a steal at the current asking price, even considering its proximity to the Bypass.