REAL ESTATE- ON THE BLOCK- Sign of the times: Rent or own ‘50s era cottage




Address: 906 Martin St. 

Neighborhood: Locust Grove

Asking: $385,000

Assessment: $260,400

Year Built: 1949

Size: 2,328 fin Sq. ft. / 377 unfin. Sq. ft.

Land: 0.15 acres

Agent: Lawrence Howard, Amplified Realty, 981-3823

Curb Appeal: 6 out of 10

"It's a great time to buy and a bad time to sell," the agent marketing this house sagely notes.

Thanks to Uncle Sam, mortgage rates are artificially low. Thanks to corporate greed, materialism on Main Street, government deregulation, and whatever else we're scapegoating for the economic slowdown, Charlottesville real estate sales have dropped, and house prices have dropped or stagnated.

Banks are foreclosing on properties across America, including 1605 Keith Valley Road, profiled in this space last week. 

While 906 Martin Street has not suffered this fate, the owner is suffering from having to carry the mortgage. 

In July 2004, the current owner bought this four-bedroom cottage for $278,000— almost $20,000 above today's assessment. In March of that year, Charlottesville was ranked No. 1 by Cities Ranked & Rated, and Charlottesville real estate was steadily gaining value. But some property that was snapped up then now needs to be unloaded, fast.

Because she's paying two mortgages, the current owner of 906 Martin is offering two options to prospective residents: rent or buy.

With its central location and abundant storage, the $1,500 rent could be comfortably shared by a group of like-minded grad students who don't mind on-street parking or living adjacent to the Route 250 Bypass.

With its prettily landscaped yard and multiple bedrooms, the house could also suit a growing family. Other charming details are shuttered windows, built-in shelves, and decorative molding on bedroom doors and downstairs baseboards. 

The new occupants would move into a property that has been improved since 2004. Four years ago, the kitchen was remodeled and the attic finished as a master bedroom. The kitchen now sports a ‘50s theme, with a walk-in pantry and black-and-white tiling, fitting for a house built in 1949. 

But the downside of the Truman-era's sensibility is also evident: the outside of the house is covered in asbestos shingles. These don't present a problem unless they're damaged and the fibers are inhaled, according to the Environmental Protection Agency's website. And apparently inhalation is a low risk thanks to their good condition and their outside location. Because of the hazard and expense involved, removal is often the last option considered by homeowners. 

The owner thought it was better to put that money into remodeling the bathrooms, and she did so recently, with some lovely touches. The main-floor bathroom boasts a natural stone floor, and the downstairs bathroom is sunny with a fresh, white tub. 

But the main floor bathroom's pink marble counter doesn't jibe with the floor's neutral colors, and the shower's gold hardware looks a little dated. New owners may find the wooden counter downstairs charming or old-fashioned, depending on their taste. In any case, the owner promises to redo peeling paint.

The attic renovation is obvious. It's large, with handsome cork flooring and— oddly enough— four closets. The current use as a master bedroom will work best for those without kids, as there's no door separating the attic from the staircase. 

Another master bedroom option may lie on the main floor, a large baby-blue room overlooking Martin Street. It adjoins a smaller yellow room across from the pale mauve living room. (From the living room, the blue, yellow, and pink are all visible at once; so a more neutral paint job throughout might suit some occupants.)

Downstairs, in the walk-out basement, there's a large laundry room with two storage rooms, a bathroom, and two finished rooms off the hall. Two doors— one in the laundry room and one in a bedroom— lead to a small backyard with a bluestone hardscape and an expanse with tan pebbles (no mowing) surrounded by a four-foot wooden fence. 

For buyers looking for a temporary crash pad or a permanent home, 906 Martin offers multiple options. And it's your market.

Corrrection: The original version of this story, the one that appeared in print, gave the wrong name for the agent. Also, the line about the 2004 sales price inadvertently alleged that the price was below today's assessment, but the 2004 price was above today's assessment. Both of these errors have been corrrected in this online archive.




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