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REAL ESTATE- ON THE BLOCK- Cosy and close: An option <span class="Apple-tab-span"> </span>for upscale mom and dad

ADDRESS: 808 Monticello Avenue


ASKING: $359,000



SIZE: 2,315 fin. sq. ft., 130 unfin.

LAND: 0.14 acres

CURB APPEAL: 8.5 out of 10 

LISTED BY: Loring Woodriff, McLean Faulconer Inc., 466-2992

Buying an older property that needs work and renovating it to capitalize on the current demand for property in or near downtown is all the rage. And in these pages we've seen some doozies.

In one recent makeover on Montrose Avenue, the owners, in their zeal for all things new, wiped out almost every trace of the original house to create a hybrid that's neither fish nor fowl. Owners of a place on Park Street slathered on bizarre paint colors that the reviewer suggested "should never have come out of the can." 

The owners of this unobtrusive house near Clark School, however, seem to have done quite a bit right. Bathroom upgrades include a mod window of glass blocks in the shower on the main level and pretty tiling and new porcelain fixtures in the surprisingly spacious two bathrooms. All the windows were redone with high-end, high-efficiency Pella replacements instead of the distressingly more usual– and tacky– plastic option. 

In the basement, a large separate apartment has tile floors throughout, paneling that's so subtle we didn't realize it was paneling at first, and a kitchen as nice as the one upstairs. 

The house is deceptively large. It's easy to miss the place entirely while driving south along Monticello Avenue because of its tucked-away situation a bit back from the street. The modest four-columned porch with only two windows flanking the front door, and the steepish pitch of the roof disguise the fact that there's a full basement beneath– high enough above street level to allow for a window in every room– and enough room in the attic to permit a large living area (or master suite) and full bath.

Care was also taken with the systems upgrades: the oak floors on the main level and wide pine floors in the attic were restored without the high-gloss shine often chosen for durability (but which can clash with other aspects of an older place), and a new efficient gas furnace and air conditioning system were installed in 2001. 

Design details are also tasteful and appealing. Arches reminiscent of the little adobe place near Jefferson Park Avenue we reviewed a few weeks ago separate rooms on the main level, and muted southwest-ish brown and beige paint helps the rooms appear larger.

In front, a bluestone path leads from sidewalk to porch steps, and out back the yard was configured to permit two off-street parking spaces without compromising too much of the grass. (We would have left the yard alone and just parked out front, but it's not our house.)

But the kitchen, while perfectly serviceable, is not up to the design standards of the rest of the house, and a new owner may want to get busy with all the granite and concrete, stainless, and other glitz apparently required for a Charlottesville kitchen– certainly comme il faut in Belmont. Another apparent requirement these days, the rear deck, is functional if not charming, and it does provide a nice spot to have morning coffee or a before-dinner drink (or maybe even the dinner itself) and enjoy the tranquility of the backyard.

Considering the location, the high quality and extent of the upgrades and amenities, and the unusually large and bright (as opposed to dank and depressing) basement apartment, the price does not cause as sharp an intake of breath as these numbers do when they're associated with ho-hum places in other less desirable parts of town. And even in this "cooling" market, there are plenty of those sorts of places on offer.

The agent reports that the total rental income from both units of the house is currently $1,750, enough to support a mortgage of $250,000 or so if an investor could come up with a $100,000 down payment. But considering the overbuilt rental market, that's probably not the best use of this place. 

The charm of the living space and the convenience of the location make us think it might be a good buy for a two-working parent family with one or two little children who wants to put an au pair in the basement apartment and let her walk the kiddies to Clark while mom and dad walk over the Belmont bridge to work in one of the many swanky professional offices in the busy center of town.