REAL ESTATE- ON THE BLOCK- Contrast or clash? It's all a matter of perspective


ADDRESS: 1605 Keith Valley Road


ASKING:  $410,550

ASSESSMENT:  $565,700


SIZE:  3,595 fin. sq. ft. / 695 unfin.

LAND:  1.10 acres

CURB APPEAL:  7.5 out of 10

AGENT:  Julie Holbrook, Prudential Charlotte Ramsey- Greene, 990-1777

Readers of this column know we zealously avoid cookie-cutter houses, primarily because it's hard to find anything interesting to say about them. But 1605 Keith Valley Road couldn't be less cookie-cutter if it tried.

In some ways eccentricity can be charming, in others, frustrating, Sudoku-like. This house's undeniable uniqueness stems from the recent addition of an entire second level and the startling contrasts it created: traditional hardwood floors, wood paneling, and ceiling fans downstairs– contemporary carpet, drywall, and recessed lighting up; an oil furnace for the ground floor– a heat pump on level two. Timeworn familiarity versus sometimes-awkward modernity.

Outside the schizophrenia continues. The good news: the house sits on a one-acre-plus cul-de-sac lot in a wooded, architecturally diverse city neighborhood. The bad? It's 100 yards from the 250 Bypass. Inside, traffic noise is barely noticeable, even with all the leaves down. Outside the steady whoosh of cars would take some getting used to during hammock season. Thanks to a built-up earth barrier, the Bypass is the opposite of our grandparents' definition of good children: it's heard but not seen. 

Like most other things about the house, the lot and location are a matter of perspective: do its size and all the trees compensate for the Bypass? Is the glass half full or half empty? It all depends, of course.

The agent admits that the contrasts and quirks are not for every buyer, and we agree. It will take a certain vision and a decorator's touch to make this house a home. One indisputable fact is the amount of space: five bedrooms and four and a half baths, most of which boast high-end tile and cabinetry. With all that and an acre in the city, there's plenty of lebensraum outside and in. 

Sure, upstairs the space is sometimes wasted– most notably in the overlong family room and the Gargantuan master bathroom (complete with double vanities and a jetted tub w-a-a-y over in a corner)– but that's nothing strategic furniture placement can't fix.

The downstairs is more traditional (and evenly proportioned), with a rustic wood-paneled living room, a large den, and a west-facing sunroom with a fireplace and truly distinctive, they-don't-make-stuff-like-this-anymore slate. The kitchen has been modernized with Corian countertops and cherry cabinets, but there's a jarring note here as well: blank walls where the dishwasher, fridge, and stove ought to be. 

The house's lack of appliances reveals the fact that it's in foreclosure, but nothing conveys the heartbreak of losing a home more clearly than the bare hearth in the master bedroom. An electric fireplace, which apparently left with the former owners, represents the promise and freedom of remodeling and adding on. The plain builder-grade carpet upstairs, a glaring misstep, likely went in when money became tight. When our young century's new "f-word" finally became reality, the dreams crashed, and the bank took the house.

Most banks are understandably unwilling to invest much cash in a property where they've already lost money. Therein lies—again, depending on perspective– a problem or an opportunity. Anyone planning to move in and do no work should look elsewhere. A buyer willing to look past flaws that appear mostly cosmetic, remedied by a few thousand dollars and a month of weekends (home inspection advised, however), may get a big house in the city for a relative bargain.

On that weekend chore list? The aforementioned second-level carpet. Installed either by an amateur or a contractor in need of new glasses, its wrinkles are reminiscent of a Shar-pei; it begs for professional replacement. A do-it-yourselfer with a buddy or two can probably handle everything else: finishing a few outlets upstairs and choosing new appliances.

When the work is done and Miller time finally arrives, we hope the proud new owner will pause when the bottle contains exactly six ounces to decide: is it half full or half empty?



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