REAL ESTATE- ON THE BLOCK- Rent<i> and</i> own: Belmont duplex offers possibilities


Address: 219 Douglas Ave

Neighborhood: North Belmont

Asking: $495,000

Assessment: $354,000

Year Built: 1900

Size: 2,227 fin. sq. ft. / 50 unfin.

Land: 0.22 acres

Agent: David Cooke, 984-7428, Real Estate III

Curb Appeal: 7 out of 10

Seeing a rental property is a whole different experience from touring a traditional owner-occupied house. Visitors have to alter usual expectations and go in with an open mind; it's often hard to shift gears to be able to evaluate a property as an investment.  

To start, the openings aren't staged. Tenants don't have an incentive to put out fresh flowers or pick up the laundry. Beer bottles and half-eaten bags of chips aren't tactfully stowed out of sight. Tenants might be hanging out while you visit. Appliances and fixtures aren't selected to finish off a room but reflect cost and function— and they're probably old.

This Douglas Avenue house is just a block away from trendy center-city Belmont speckled with Bel Rio, The Local, Belmont BBQ, Mas, La Taza, and other upscale emporia. Here are mostly older homes– and another duplex across the street. Families and young professionals dominate. 

Welcoming covered porches on both levels add to the curb appeal, as do the pale yellow exterior and vintage farmhouse vibe. The long open lot leads back to a shared alley, while a flat, expansive but neglected half lot to one side (rusting stuff abounds) screams for a trim and a volleyball net. 

The house is divided into two apartments, the one on the first level with three bedrooms, a living room, kitchen, and bath. A couple of steps end at a plaster wall blocking the rest of the original staircase. Similarly, the living room fireplace has been boarded up. Although the stairs and the fireplace don't work now, whoever converted the place had the foresight to save them in case a new owner wants to return to a single-family house.  

The vaulted ceiling in the first floor kitchen makes the space feel open and bright. The size is big enough to accommodate a dining table, which is good, because there's not much counter space. In the single bath just off the kitchen, small, high windows and a skylight make the otherwise enclosed room bright. 

The second level apartment has a separate entrance via stairs leading up to the covered porch. A wide hall runs through the center of the apartment, connecting each room and keeping things open. It's mostly carpeted, with linoleum in the kitchen and bath (there are no laundry facilities). Up here, the kitchen is an ample size, but the fridge points out of one corner and the oven sits awkwardly in another with no counters nearby for prep. Despite the funky kitchen, the apartment is light-filled and has surprisingly roomy bedrooms. 

Thanks to the minimally destructive conversion to two units, the agent is able to list the house as both residential and multi-family to attract a variety of buyers. With the current price tag, though, it might not make sense for someone to buy the place planning to return it to its original use. It would seem to make more sense financially for a new owner to live in one unit and rent out the other. 

Rather than a home, would-be buyers will see this property as an investment. Currently, both apartments are rented through the academic year, the first floor unit for $1,195, the second for $985. 

Becoming a landlord is a big responsibility that not suitable for everyone. The owner has to fix things that break. But the bonus of someone else paying a nice chunk of the mortgage might ease the pain of those desperate midnight calls about overflowing toilets. 



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