REAL ESTATE- ON THE BLOCK- Editor's house: Rugby gem needs to be revised


Address: 1900 Edgewood Lane

Neighborhood: Rugby, in Charlottesville

Asking: $519,000

Assessment: $558,300

Year Built: 1931

Size: 1,967 fin Sq. ft. / 610 unfin. Sq. ft.

Land: 0.23 acres

Agent: Tommy Brannock, Real Estate III, (434) 981-1486

Curb Appeal: 5 out of 10

One day shy of her 100th birthday, Charlotte Kohler, long-time editor of the Virginia Quarterly Review, died last September, leaving behind no immediate survivors and a quaint house on Edgewood Lane in the care of her goddaughter. Although located in a posh neighborhood within walking distance of UVA, the house has seen better days (like in the 1950s) and is in need of a renovation. But like any well-to-do lady, the house's bone structure is good. 

The spacious dining room has built-in bookshelves, and the long living room opens up to an overgrown flagstone patio and garden with a brick outdoor hearth. I'd call a demo crew to tear down the whitewashed log cabin next to the house, but with a little work, the garden could be a private retreat, perfect for indoor/outdoor parties. 

The house has a master bed and bath wing added when stairs became unwieldy for Dr. Kohler, but like all the others in the house, this bathroom needs be to be redone. So does the basement, which still sports an old Kelvinator icebox and signs on the cabinets that say "John" in four languages. At first I thought these were children's names, but no: the childless and quirky Dr. Kohler had "Johannes" and "Giovanni" pointing to the basement's WC. 

Full of nooks and crannies, this house feels ripe for exploring. In the two upstairs bedrooms— painted pink and baby blue— low ceilings match the roof's eaves. Several windows have window seats with storage underneath; one has a narrow desk with drawers.

The pink bedroom has a small rectangular room attached— the maid's quarters?— that could turn into a charming study. A small den to the rear of the foyer provides a quiet hideaway. 

Genteel and charming, stuffed to the gills with old magazines that picture green grass and cherry-cheeked children, this house still bears the character of its former owner who was born at the turn of the last century and attended Vassar before waltzing off to Europe with dreams of becoming a great American writer.

With only a few pages to show on her return home, Kohler enrolled in graduate school at UVA, and in 1936 became the first woman elected to Phi Beta Kappa. After earning her PhD, she did a teaching stint in North Carolina (Staunton's Mary Baldwin College wouldn't have her because she drank and smoked) before she was invited, in 1942, to work at the Virginia Quarterly Review.

Although originally hired because of her "war-proof" status as a woman, Kohler went on to a successful 33-year career at the prestigious literary magazine, becoming one of the first to discover such talents as Nadine Gordimer and Adrienne Rich. After her retirement in 1975, Kohler reportedly became a quiet recluse, declining interviews and invitations.  

The house's heyday was celebrated in gentler times, and it shows. It doesn't seem to have been updated in 50 years, which has some advantages (antique enamel sink and cabinets in the kitchen) as well as some drawbacks (antique appliances).

The wide pine flooring needs a good waxing, and new owners may decide to repaint the pastel bedrooms or tear down the flower-and-fowl printed wallpaper. At $519,000, the house is priced under its assessment; similar-sized places in the area are above $700,000. 

Admittedly, the house needs some work to bring it into the 21st century. But all of this shouldn't make up the $200,000 difference between this house and other renovated properties in the area. Buyers willing to get their hands dirty should take a look.




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This is a nicely written article about a house that is ridiculously overpriced. The other houses of similar size and lot size should be at $500K and this one should be at $350, considering it hasn't been updated in a half century. Come on, now. Perspective. This column is turning into a weekly version of the bubble blog. There's years worth of inventory in this area, and a half million dollar fixer-upper contributes to the problem. Tommy Brannock missed the memo this week, re: tanking economy and sales down dramatically from last year, and from the previous year, etc., and didn't pass it on to the sellers.

UVA likes buying up local property, sometimes even under a pseudonym. Why doesn't T J's U cough up the dough and turn this into the editor's quarters? I don't know this for a fact, but I'll bet the salary that the current editor (who is garnering nat'l attention for the quarterly, and the school) isn't large enough to afford a home in the city.

It would be more apt to say the comments section of this column is turning into a weekly version of the Bubble Blog's comments section: all kinds of unsupported opinions.
I write "On the Block" every other week, and I think I speak for both of the current writers when I say it is difficult enough to even find a place to tour, much less find a place that an online armchair economist like yourself will feel is fairly priced.
Mark Davison

I meant to address the above comment to "James," not "Tommy." My mistake.

Mark, appreciate your column (and Kristina's.) Think you have to expect comments. There are editorial comments all over The Hook. It's what people do.

As a devoted reader, there's information in this column that I always would like to see:

1. The MLS #
2. Dollar figure per square foot
3. Numbers of days or months on the market
4. Number of listings within a half mile radius of the property
5. Number of listings available at this price point in Charlottesville and Albemarle
6. A rating that is the OPINION of the WRITER besides curb appeal number, for instance "kitchen = 3 out of 10 since it hasn't been updated in 25 years," "Living room is 5 out of 10" since it has 20 year old floral wallpaper and original carpeting."
These last two ratings are examples, they don't have anything to do with this house.

BTW, I read the bubble blog, and I often find the comments there informative. I rely on that blog, and this column, for information that doesn't come from the local "real estate machine." Thank you for your time and efort.


Thanks for reading the column, for your suggestions, and your kind words. It is nice to hear. Before I started writing for the Hook (six months ago), "On the Block" was the first thing I would turn to in the paper (it still is, the week Kristina writes).

I think of your suggestions, while all would be nice to have, only #1 is feasible- I will speak to our editor about including it. The rest would not work because of space concerns or the time/hassle involved in getting that info.

I do have some alternatives for your other suggestions. Unfortunately there is no Zillow-type one-stop shop site that can put all info at your fingertips. Zillow is adding C-ville house by house but doesn't have it all yet. The local has some info, but Jim Duncan's new search tool on is the best thing going locally.

For #2, the numbers are there for anyone to do the math. #3 used to be tough to get, but DOM is now available on #4, MyCAAR has something within 5 miles. #5, use #6, my personal feeling is we do this through our words. If we start quantifying everything it's not much of a writer's column. It would be too subjective anyway. I think "has old appliances and floral wallpaper/needs updating" accomplishes the same thing as "3 out of 10."

The curb appeal is one I struggle with; "curb appeal" generally means how it looks from the curb but for this column I use it as an overall rating of the house inside and out. Can't think of a better way.

I dislike using the assessment as well, which often has little to do with what a house will sell for. But again, there's no better option, except a comparative market analysis by a good buyer's agent (pulling $/sf data, looking at sold comps, listed comps, accounting for local trends, nearby foreclosures, etc). It should take at least a few hours, unfortunately not all agents have the mathematic chops or willingness to do this. My buyer's agent Jim Duncan did great CMAs on all the houses I tried to buy (and the one I eventually bought).

Thanks again for reading and commenting. Don't get me wrong- I welcome comments. I just dislike unfounded opinions whose best evidence is "this house is overvalued because I say so." The Web is full of such armchair economists, but their emergence in local blogs is a recent-and annoying-phenomenon.