REAL ESTATE- ON THE BLOCK- West comes east: City neighborhood a SF treat


ADDRESS: 1024 Grove Street


ASKING: $179,000

ASSESSMENT: $164,000


SIZE: 1,125 fin. sq. ft.

LAND: 0.15 acres

CURB APPEAL: 6.5 out of 10

AGENT: Marjorie Adam, RE/MAX Assured Properties, 817-9573

The exceptionally hilly streets between Jefferson Park and Cherry Avenues seem more like San Francisco than Charlottesville– alas, without the cable cars. This week's tour brings us to the western part of Fifeville, just south of the UVA Medical Center.

This cream-colored stucco house has stood near the top of a hill at the corner of Jones Street and the one-way Grove Street for nearly 90 years. As often happens with older houses, the foundation has settled significantly. In fact, the tops of the interior doorways resemble Gumby's head.

While the doors– many original, and with original doorknobs and exterior locking mechanisms– have been cut down to fit their evolving frames, the settling is nonetheless a bit... unsettling.

The bright kitchen is an example of necessity mothering invention, and the owner has made some clever adjustments to the small space: the gas stove is narrower than most, as is the cutest dishwasher we've ever seen. When we laid eyes upon this 18-inch-wide model (the standard is 24 inches), our heart skipped a beat, and we felt a victorious thrill like the late great Steve Irwin must have felt upon capturing a rare beast on camera. Whirlopoolius narrowus awaits the adventurous buyer! 

Even the microwave gets into the efficiency game, with a built-in toaster on one side. A double-stacked washer-dryer completes the effect. The ceramic sink looks original, and cabinets are situated wherever there's room– as well as a pantry.

While the kitchen is eclectic, it clearly reflects the tastes of the owner, who has lived here about ten years. While a flipper would have installed the obligatory "granite-maple-stainless" kitchen array, we give the owner credit for her determination to make herself a comfortable place to live. At sale time, though, it's not all guaranteed to charm: the floral print wallpaper and bold colors are definitely not for everyone. As the agent puts it, the next owners may wish to "make it their own."

Aesthetics aside, one thing we like to see in a house for sale is a list of improvements. This seller's list includes replacing the roof, sewer line, and electrical panel. The windows are also new. One big negative is the laminate flooring in the back two rooms downstairs: it's starting to buckle in spots. One never can tell with older houses, but most likely there's original hardwood underneath, as in the rest of the house.

The oak planks downstairs are the standard 2.25" wide, while upstairs are rustic 3.5"-wide planks. The only room up here, though, is the bedroom. The only bathroom? Downstairs in the back. As Scooby Doo used to say, Ruh-ro, Raggy!

While taking stairs to the bathroom doesn't rival the "shoes-and-a-flashlight" routine of our outhouse-using ancestors (and, if you believe stereotypes, of our contemporaries in West Virginia), it sure isn't convenient. The agent suggests a few potential solutions, thankfully none of which involve bedpans or elaborate Rube Goldberg machines with tubes. 

First, the dining room (adjacent to the bathroom) counts as a bedroom, with the required closet and window– sleep there and make your guests walk the stairs! For more space, the owner took out the living room closet, but it could also be a bedroom.

None of this is to suggest that a family of 4.2 would be comfortable here– this house seems suited for a couple or single person. An ambitious couple with unexpected twins on the way, though, could build a room and bathroom on the second floor, as the rear of the house is currently just one story, and some of the neighboring houses appear to have undergone similar additions. 

The back door opens to a small southwest-facing porch. Thanks to the placement of the house near the corner of the lot, the yard extends 40 feet to the side (Jones Street). Keep walking, and Fifeville Park is a block away. It's downhill, and there's no need to watch out for cable cars.




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Unfortunately, Charlottesville has quite a few old homes that have from bad floor plans to obsolete floor plans and fixtures. Instead of spending a ton of money to try to bring them up to modern standards and code, it's best to tear them down and put up something that would really encourage a family to live in the city. Frankly, this sounds more like a Section 8 rental.

The thing is, this isn't a "real" city, like San Francisco. It's just a college town with a big opinion of itself and its real estate. If this house were in SF you'd have all the advantages of a big City. Since you don't have the advantages of a big city, you get that old li(n)e "close to UVA." Which really means "in the shadow of the hospital where the poor people used to live." Since they were not only poor but also black and no doubt exploited and this area used to be part of plantation lands, the hardship gets to be remembered as "historic."
Gentrification? No. Just price gouging. In this economy, and in this housing market with OVER THREE YEARS OF INVENTORY, let's get real. The assessment is just to make City some money. A buyer who spends more than $50K on this needs to trot down the street to the psychiatric wing. This is one for the bubble blog.

This owner paid $51K in 1999 for this house, according to City reacords ( Is it owner or real estate agent who thinks it's possible to make a profit of $128K? Are they aware of the percentage increase here?! ROTFL. Looks like Marjorie Adams missed the memo and couldn't send it on to her client.

There are some really great listings for San Francisco real estate over at Neighborcity that you should check out

Sold, $158k, Aug 2010