REAL ESTATE- ON THE BLOCK- Price hike: Do upgrades make it all worthwhile?


Address: 220 Douglas Avenue

Neighborhood: North Belmont in Charlottesville

Asking: $359,900

Assessment: $305,500

Year Built: 1920 or earlier

Size: 1,295 fin Sq. ft. / 400 unfin. Sq. ft.

Land: 0.258 acres

Agent: Katie Corish, The New House Company , (434) 466-7707

Curb Appeal: 6 out of 10

"Magical home in ideal location," announces the copy for this 3-bedroom, 2-bath dwelling. Indeed, the location is plum– just around the corner from Belmont BBQ, from the recently-closed Crush, and (if the rezoning advocates have their way) maybe the talked-about Southern Crescent.

With a stucco-mustard yellow second floor exterior (above a brick veneer) and yellow flowering vines framing the concrete porch, the house does have a gem-like quality. But to take a place that was purchased for $275,000 in 2005 and try to sell it for $359,900 in 2009 would truly be magic. 

Since putting down the greenbacks, the owner (who now lives in North Carolina) has done some renovations that help explain the $84,900 price jump. 

For instance, the house is framed by new fencing–unpainted wooden picket in the front and a six-foot privacy fence around the substantial yard– and topped by a new 30-year roof and new gutters. The owner also put in a wooden porch out back, re-did the indoor porch/laundry room, sprang for an electrical upgrade and a 2-zone HVAC system– and remodeled the master bedroom to include two extra closets and a window seat with trunk storage. 

We're told that the bathrooms and kitchen appliances are also new. While the upstairs bath– with a pedestal sink and a red clawfoot tub– is charming, we would have upgraded the upgrades. The downstairs bathroom and the kitchen appliances are nice and obviously in move-in condition, but they're standard-issue and don't add much to the intrigue, or "magic."

The nine-foot ground floor ceilings do, making the nicely sized living room seem even more spacious. The living room leads into the kitchen, which pops with blood red walls and has an antique hutch that conveys. But the kitchen countertops are Formica, and the floors are a black and white vinyl tile reminiscent of old-school classrooms.

To the right of the kitchen is the first floor bedroom, which the current owner uses as a dining room (while offering to install doors at a buyer's request). The bedroom connects with the living room to the front; to the rear, a door leads out to the indoor porch/back deck. 

The oak floors continue up the staircase (with a wrought-iron banister), leading to an upstairs bedrooms, the comfortable and cute master bed/bath suite, and a third room the owner used as a home office. 

The house also has off-street parking– which is a huge perk as Belmont's commercial district swells with cars. There's a detached one-car garage that's electrically wired and has several windows. It's currently being used for storage, but the realtor suggests that, with the property's "R2" zoning, the garage could be remodeled into a rental cottage. It would take some work to put in a bathroom and kitchen, but as a small studio apartment, it's possible. (You'd just have to move your baby crib and snow tires the main house's attic or basement crawl space.)

It's a charming house in a coveted location. Although City records suggest a 1920 construction date, it may be older. And it's been taken into the twenty-first century with the roof, air, and plumbing.

While there are details to attend to– the kitchen, methinks?– the current owner has already done the heavy lifting, and anything else would be more aesthetic than structural. But a little more work could take this place from charming to inspiring. And we all like a little icing on the cake. 



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