REAL ESTATE- ON THE BLOCK- Cornered: Nice lot helps small house

ADDRESS: 709 Avon Street


ASKING: $299,900



SIZE: 1,422 fin. sq. ft.

LAND: 0.21 acres

CURB APPEAL: 7.5 out of 10

LISTED BY: Mary Newton of Keller Williams Realty, 220-2200

Being on a corner has advantages. No neighbors on two sides means more privacy and unobstructed views. In this case, the lot is unusually large, so the backyard, secluded behind a seven-foot hedge, feels like the private corner of a park– and it's only a short skip away from the Downtown Mall.

The only downside is that one of the two adjacent thoroughfares is Avon, a busy street with lots of traffic noise less than 20 feet from the front porch. Luckily, the chest-high front hedge buffers the noise and provides some privacy from rubberneckers.

While this house was of middling size when it was built in 1915 (slightly larger than many of its nearby contemporaries), it's roughly half the size of today's average new home. (The current owners have a young child and are moving to get more space and looking in Waynesboro to find something larger at a comparable price.)

The lack of today's typical amenities doesn't end there. There's no bathroom on the first floor. The master bedroom, like the living room of the same dimensions directly below it, has just enough room to turn one cartwheel if there's no furniture along the wall you're headed for. Each of the two smaller bedrooms allows just enough room for passage between a full-size bed and a small dresser.

To compensate for the meager closet space in the bedrooms, the owners have converted an adjacent room into a walk-in closet/laundry room. (What better place than a closet to do the laundry?) The conversion included new side-by-side front-loading washer and dryer with cabinets above and a massive floor-to-ceiling oak storage cabinet alongside, providing much-needed shelf space. Clothes rods along two walls provide plenty of hanging space, and the room's two windows admit plenty of light.

Downstairs, there's a similar four-square floor plan comprising the living room, kitchen, a small dining room, and the entry foyer with staircase. Other than the sumptuous heart pine floors, all the rooms are essentially unadorned except for the entry foyer, which was clearly designed to make an impression on visitors. The handsome doorway includes transoms of divided light both above and to the sides that complement the panels of pink stained glass in the front door.

Inside, one's glance goes to a hanging window-frame holding four panes of stained glass, and then to the handsome right-angle staircase with intact original railings, balusters, and gingerbread trim.

Continuing the finery is the only mantle in the house over a boarded-up (unfortunately!) fireplace. Reportedly, it was recently relined to serve as the exhaust for the gas furnace below, so using the fireplace for logs may require some work.

Many of the typical trouble-spots for a house this age have already been addressed. Nearly all the windows have been replaced recently with vinyl double-hung models of the proper style, which probably saves on the heating bill. Central A/C could supposedly be added to the furnace air handler with relative ease.

As for the porch, it has been almost entirely rebuilt including new posts, railing, decking, and roof. Much of the house has been skillfully replastered and repainted, eliminating the cracks which seem to appear in old plaster walls as inevitably as weeds sprouting through old asphalt.

The bathroom benefits from a new white tile floor, a modern sink and toilet, and a shower conversion kit for the clawfoot tub. To create badly needed storage space, the owners added simple shelves in a nook above the toilet. The asphalt shingle roof is relatively new, and the exterior clapboard siding has been repainted a charming yellow, albeit on top of some badly crinkling older paint.

For those worrying that the house doesn't offer enough fixing-up opportunities, the kitchen steps up to oblige. While cheery sunlight pours into the two windows during the day, the 1960's-era cabinets and Formica countertops are downright dreary under the light from the single old overhead fixture.

The tile backsplash is the only hint of luxury, next to the basic electric range, refrigerator, and stainless steel sink. With the kitchen cabinets and appliances lined up along one wall, the workspace is smaller than it needs to be. Knocking out the wall between the dining room and kitchen might solve some of the problems.

The lot may well be this house's biggest asset, and not just because of its size. Charming flower beds along the edges of the house complement the beautiful hedges that create the tranquility of the back yard. Standing under the huge limbs of the single old oak tree, one can easily imagine planting a generous vegetable garden and spending years tending his own little corner of the world.