REAL ESTATE- ON THE BLOCK- Affordable?: This Preston house might actually be


ADDRESS: 1205 Grady Avenue

NEIGHBORHOOD: Preston Heights

ASKING: $164,900

ASSESSMENT: $120,200


SIZE: 1,444 fin. sq. ft.

LAND: 0.118 acres

CURB APPEAL: 6 out of 10

AGENT: Mary Leavell, Keller Williams, 220-2253

Around here, affordable housing is like Bigfoot: often the subject of discussion but rarely seen– at least in terms of detached houses for sale. However, a handful of relatively cheap places in town can be found with diligent searching. This week brings us to such a house in the Preston Heights neighborhood just west of Washington Park.

The real estate agents' association is promoting a program that labels homes under $250,000 "Affordable Again," but honestly, what's truly "affordable" in a city with a median family income of just over $45,000? A monthly payment on a $250,000 house would be about half that family's monthly income. Left to be covered by the other half? Things like utility bills, car expenses, and— oh, yeah— food. 

Since the tricky mortgages that fueled the real estate boom of the first half of this decade— last seen feeding our economy's downward spiral into recession— are no longer widely available, owning a house is all but out-of-reach for Charlottesville's working class, many of whom now rent or commute from neighboring counties. Anyone desiring to live in the city without eating syrup sandwiches for every meal, then, might want to take a closer look at 1205 Grady.

This house, one of the 10 least-expensive detached homes on sale in the city, is certainly affordable for most families at its list price. But as might be expected, it's not all sunshine and roses: a convenience store, site of beer runs for locals and University students, sits right next door. The owner of this house reports that the market has recently changed hands, and she has spoken to the new owners– as well as the mayor and city police chief– to ensure the storefront does not remain a hangout.

The house's interior, though well-kept, is dated: wood paneling, ceiling tiles, and older windows give away its age. There's no laundry room or basement, although a door by the stairs opens to a garage-sized storage room on the first floor.

The seller and agent demonstrated remarkable candor in showing us the house, and refreshing realism in setting its asking price. They feel the shortcomings mentioned above are reflected in the house's price, and expect to sell to a family looking for an affordable place to live in the city– or to an enterprising (and optimistic) landlord. 

The house is unequivocally listed for sale "as-is." That said, the house appears quite livable, with one exception: the ceiling in one of the bedrooms is sagging and warrants investigation– and probably repair.

While the negatives are very real, the house has several positive aspects beyond its comparatively low price. Its three upstairs bedrooms are fairly spacious, and there's a quiet shady back yard. Children attend the highly regarded Venable and Walker schools. There's also good news for the childless: it's just a three-block walk to McGrady's Irish Pub, which in turn means a short stumble back home.

A gas furnace under a large vent in the dining room floor heats the house, and window units provide cooling. While some rooms are carpeted, the owner reports there's hardwood underneath, like the rest of the floors upstairs and down. Most inside doors are original, and the owner has done research at the library (there's one just a few blocks away on Gordon Avenue) and has seen records dating the house to 1896.

In a city known to designate structures built in the 1960s as "historic," might we be able to convince some folks that Aztecs built this place, and charge admission for guided tours? Since there are at least five people in Charlottesville/Albemarle who apparently believe $7 million-plus is a great deal for a pile of bricks, there may be gold in this idea.

Even if you can't fool some of the people some of the time, historic tours won't be necessary for financial survival in one of the few city houses listed below $200,000.



Each week, a brave local seller invites the Hook to provide an impartial, warts-and-all look at their real estate listing. E-mail yours today!



Median family income as per US Census Bureau (2004) is just over $31K.

The City website is incorrect, even tho it links to census bureau.

Whether or not talking to the C store owner will help prevent the place being a hangout is moot. That's why there's such a concept as 'caveat emptor,' and why the asking price won't be the selling price.

The median family income and the median household income are two different measures. The distinction lies in the fact that not all households are families.
For a deeper explanation, see