REAL ESTATE- ON THE BLOCK- Tilt! Global warming nixes backyard potential


ADDRESS: 758 Lexington Avenue


NEIGHBORHOOD: North Downtown

ASKING: $395,000

ASSESSMENT: $426,200


SIZE: 2125 fin. sq. ft. 

LAND: 0.368 acres

CURB APPEAL: 8 out of 10

LISTED BY: Bob Hughes, Summit Realty Company,  980-4534

Everyone knows global warming is bad news. But it's especially bad news for the future owner of this house, because without snowstorms (and we got just 1.5 this year), the steep backyard will be just a nuisance. In an old-fashioned winter with a blizzard or two– or even a few measly inches of snow– it's easy to imagine it could be the neighborhood's hot tobogganing spot.

The house is right at the bend where Lexington turns into Evergreen on the way up to Park Street, and all the houses on the east side before the turn have steep backyards. In a way the unfriendly terrain has been a benefit because most of the owners have left the area wild, and in summer it's shady, almost like country, atypical for a center-city neighborhood.

Practically speaking, however, it's bothersome– we nearly fell down navigating the hill after trying to take a photograph. Some terracing has been attempted, but it's a losing battle.

Inside the house, things are a little less vexing. A typical brick rancher built in the early '60s probably suited the first owner just fine: living room, dining area, kitchen, two bedrooms and bath on the main floor, an attic for storage.

Charlottesville is packed with houses like this. But as everyone knows, that configuration won't impress today's buyers, especially in North Downtown. So over the years, various owners (including the current one) have gussied the place up well beyond its original incarnation. 

Today, it has a big bump-out upstairs where the little attic used to be, accessed by a full-fledged stairway beyond a tiny slate entrance area. The original two bedrooms down a short hall on the first floor have morphed into a large one– of interesting shape– with a closet with bi-fold doors and a door to the rear deck/porch.

The full bath in the hall has been redone with new fixtures (fiberglass tub/shower, alas), granite shelves, and a tile floor. A window to the deck admits nice light, but the room is still just the original small space. A linen closet in the hall helps by making it unnecessary to store towels, etc. in the bathroom.

The kitchen is all new, of course, with granite counters– even on the ledge of a pass-through from the living room– and a "tumbled marble" backsplash which, unfortunately, has not much to do with the granite. But the appliances are nice (gas stove coming), and the requisite track lighting moves the place squarely into the 21st century. A doggie door to the back porch/deck is a cute touch here, and double windows over the sink let the owner keep track of Fido trying to navigate the hill.

In the living room (with picture window to flat front yard), part of the ceiling has been removed to allow light from a large skylight, an interesting and unexpected touch. Glass bricks separate the opening from the upstairs bedrooms, but it's fun to think how it might have played out to leave that space open with just a railing, as we saw recently in a brand new house over on Monticello Avenue. Privacy would be sacrificed, but the openness might have helped a place like this where the phrase "little brick box" comes too often to mind.

Down in the full basement, a previous owner seems to have scored a fabulous deal on barn siding, and the result is a cross between a rec room and a corral. It's dark down there on account of one side being up against the dirt on the street side of the house, but the walk-out has a little cement patio under the deck, and some windows help, too.

The utility room with washer/dryer is hidden behind one of the barn doors; another door opens to a half bath.

Up in the attic are two more bedrooms with dormer ceilings– nice– and the best part of the house without a doubt– a full bath with green– as in lime Jello!– bathtub. Thank goodness the renovators had the good humor and foresight to work around that delightful relic instead of trashing it in favor of another molded plastic onesie like downstairs. 

In general, the house has much to offer if for no other reason than it's a pretty nicely re-done stand-alone dwelling in a desirable neighborhood as opposed to another condo wedged in among 40 clones.

The yard's a problem, no question, and buyers looking for low maintenance might be freaked by the drop-off. But the vegetation seems to have achieved some sort of steady-state existence where not much has to be done.

In all, it's a tidy little place with some nice features for people who will love the location and won't mind the few quirks. It also might be good for a family who always wanted to keep a horse in the basement.


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