REAL ESTATE- ON THE BLOCK- Under control: Altamont containment actions complete

ADDRESS: 409 Altamont Street


North Downtown

ASKING: $475,000

2005 CITY ASSESSMENT: $309,000


SIZE: 1,600 fin. sq. ft., 760 unfin.

LAND: 0.12 acres

CURB APPEAL: 7.5 out of 10

LISTED BY: Jim McVay of Roy Wheeler Realty, 951-5122

Buying a house built in the 1920's is often like going into battle. You face any number of potential insurgents that can plague your undertaking, such as a metal roof that's rusting through, deflecting floor joists, mechanical systems at death's door, or plaster that's cracking up.

You may have good warning of some of these threats, while others may rear their ugly heads out of nowhere, like a one-man IED attack.

Each house this age has a unique set of probable and obvious problems that make a huge difference in when you can announce the completion of major combat (renovation) operations, and whether that "completion" really means you can leave the field of battle and enjoy some R&R.

In the case of this house, you have a major advantage. A commander has occupied this house for the past 14 years, steadily tackling problems one initiative at a time. Your intelligence report on the situation follows.

First off, logistics of moving troops and materiel to the territory are greatly facilitated by a parking pad and space for two vehicles in the alley behind the house. Even though lots in this area are compact, the small back patio has a feeling of privacy thanks to plantings around the perimeter of the sloping backyard and a section of tall fence that acts to enclose one side of the porch area. So the troops can get some peaceful downtime on the back patio.

The borders of the house have been sealed. The original double-hung windows have been repaired in places and entirely re-glazed in others, greatly reducing air infiltration. In recent major operations, the entire clapboard exterior was stripped down to bare wood, the entire roof was scraped down to bare metal, and both were professionally repainted.

Flat panels of insulation have been added to strategic areas of the full-height basement to minimize drafts. The basement houses the washer and dryer and includes one nearly finished room that could make a great bedroom for a teenager. The basement's large ductwork carries both the forced air heat and central AC.

The first floor territory is divided into a spacious living room, a kitchen, one full bath, a sunroom addition, and large front entry area that could serve as an informal dining room. The small kitchen has been fully renovated in recent years, with pretty cherry cabinets and new appliances. Handsome built-in bookshelves add storage/display space in the living room and front entry. The bathroom features a shower with a neat inset decorative stripe of super-thin green tiles.

Upstairs is one unusually large bedroom that matches the footprint of the living room below, a medium-sized bedroom, and a small bedroom with a walk-in closet. Unfortunately the master bedroom has no closet, but a long-sealed doorway to the small bedroom, which currently holds display shelves, could be reopened to create an outstanding master suite.

The single upstairs bathroom has a graceful claw-foot tub unsullied by a ceiling-mounted shower conversion. (Such contraptions are inevitably inelegant.) The cream-colored tile floor has a sophisticated pebbled surface evoking ancient cobblestones.

The main checkpoint (the front entry) has benefited from several major initiatives in recent years. The spacious front porch has been largely rebuilt, including the roof, the decking, and the steps, and the front double-door has been repainted a handsome bright blue that complements the gray-blue exterior.

A new commander will probably want to mop up some small pockets of insurgents in the interior. Layers of old flaking paint are hiding under a top coat on some of the detailed woodwork, including stair balusters, door panels, and bead-board paneling, where removal is most tedious. Among the brick basement walls is some significant mortar erosion, but that should be easily remedied as long as it's addressed before it gets much worse.

You might have to pay a bit more up front for this house than others than seem comparable at a glance, but not getting caught in a battle you don't want may be worth a lot.