REAL ESTATE- ON THE BLOCK- Brick/yard: Two elements that save the day


ADDRESS: 328 7-l//2 Street SW


ASKING: $425,000

ASSESSMENT: $226,800


SIZE:  2550 fin. sq. ft.

LAND: 0.27 acres

CURB APPEAL: 8 out of 10

LISTED BY: Roger Voisinet of ReMax Realty Specialists 974-1500

Lots of clichés came to mind while we were touring this brick house near Cherry Avenue, and they all had to do with timing: "Strike while the iron is hot," and "Know when to fold 'em" are a couple. If there ever was a prime time to put this property on the market, it's right now, at the height of spring.

Which is to say, the gardens alone might be enough to persuade a buyer to clinch the deal. The profusion of texture and color was breathtaking on the day we visited, with seemingly every sort of perennial blooming its beautiful little head off. A slate patio amid the bounty looked so inviting it was hard to tear ourselves away and go inside. 

But we had to do that, of course, and that's when the day darkened.

Back around front, we could appreciate the wide porch with homey rocking chairs. Seven-and-a-half street, directly up from Cherry, is nevertheless reasonably quiet, and the neighborhood seems tranquil. Several of the houses have been renovated in the last few years as this part of town becomes more inviting thanks to its proximity to the UVA medical center, the shopping offerings on 5th street (Food Lion, Amigos, CVS), and– for energetic walkers– even the Downtown Mall.

As we stepped inside, the impression continued to be favorable: the wide entry hallway is one of the prettiest we've seen, with exposed brick walls, warm pine floors, and a ramrod-straight staircase leading to the second level. Light from the nine windows in the front door makes the floors and bricks almost glow.

The first room off the hall, a front parlor, is being used as a bedroom, but obviously a new owner can return it to its rightful use as a place for nervous suitors to wait while the young lady of the house prepares for their date. The second room off the hall is the formal living room. The rooms have picture or crown molding, hot-water baseboard heating elements, plaster walls, and fireplaces– boarded up and no longer in use. 

A room at the end of the hall is being used as a dining room since it adjoins the kitchen. A former side porch has been enclosed, leaving an exterior window in the room looking onto what's essentially now a mud room. The kitchen is rudimentary, with linoleum floor and antiquated– not antique– fixtures. Off the kitchen is is a full bathroom where the washer/dryer has been installed. This room, with free-standing shower stall that  has seen better days, has big pink tiles on the floor and an old sink.

Upstairs are four rooms– three bedrooms and a tiny room that could be a nursery or office. The current owner has configured the rooms in an odd way (what's being used as the master bedroom is not closest to the bathroom), but they could lend themselves to a pretty straight-forward redesign as master suite with dressing room and second bedroom (in addition to the nursery). The full bath up here has an old cast-iron tub (no feet).  

The agent reports that the house was built by members of the family who owned a "brick yard" on Elm Street back in the day. That seems quite reasonable, since– in addition to the garden– the primary selling point of this house is the brick. Several of the interior walls– in addition to the stunning entry hall– have been stripped of their plaster and add character and interest to many of the rooms, including the kitchen, first-floor bathroom, and enclosed porch.

And that's a good thing, because the rest of the house, despite (or perhaps because of) its antiquity, is in rough shape. The walls of the second large bedroom upstairs have been inexplicably stuccoed, and many of the doors are beat up. Because, like most houses of this vintage, there were originally no closets, boxy bump-out spaces have been created, fronted by sliding doors, the whole effect being slap-dash and rickety. 

It's not so bad, of course, that a smitten gardener couldn't move in and live happily, enjoying the gorgeous yard and focusing on the beautiful brick. But as the agent so eloquently puts it in the brochure, the house offers the "opportunity for creative changes and kitchen/bath renovations."

No one ever said cagy sellers wouldn't make great poker players.