REAL ESTATE- ON THE BLOCK- Modest mouse: Hidden subdivision offers options


ADDRESS: 101 Greenwich Court


ASKING: $191,500

ASSESSMENT: $173,600


SIZE: 1,190 fin. sq. ft.

LAND: 0 acres

CURB APPEAL: 6 out of 10

LISTED BY: Judy Campbell, McLean Faulconer Inc., 466-6688

New subdivisions are a dime a dozen in Albemarle and Greene counties these days, springing up seemingly overnight in vast desolate swaths of stripped red clay. What's probably less apparent is new construction being tucked into every available nook and cranny of the city.

Because of the "green" angle, new developments at RiverBluff and RiversEdge have made a splash in the press, and because they're on "entrance corridors," new townhouses at "Willoughby Townes" on Fifth Street and at "Monticello Overlook" on Monticello Avenue enjoy high visibility. But every week the property transfers report sales in Brookwood subdivision, Queen Charlotte subdivision, and Melbourne Park. Who knows where these places are?

Ridgecrest is another one that has slipped in under the radar– at least our radar. While we've reviewed houses on Rives street, which runs right in front of this development down near Hogwaller, and on Carlton Avenue, not very far away, the existence of this warren of townhouses was news to us when we followed the agent's directions to 101 Greenwich Court. 

What we found when we arrived is a modest generic end unit very close to the entrance of the subdivision, with a few plantings out front to soften the one-big-window facade, and a tiny back patio. Inside, the effect is just as unexceptional: pleasant space, brighter than we expected, no frills but homey.

Why review a house with so little apparent pizzaz or charm? Well, if beauty is in the eye of the beholder, then surely value is in the pockets of young couples– or anyone, for that matter– who would like to buy a place and build some equity instead of pitching money into rent month after month with nothing to show for it at the end of the lease.

The asking price for this three-bedroom, two-bath house is $191,500, but the owners are offering a $5,000 "decorating allowance"– which they'll put to re-carpeting and painting, or which a buyer can subtract from the asking price. So taking $186,500 as the real asking price, and doing some fast math with an on-line mortgage calculator, we determine that with $16,500 down, someone could own this house for roughly $1,000/month (not including insurance and taxes)– less than the rent on most places in Charlottesville offering this sort of convenience and space.

Maybe our perceptions are overly optimistic (coming up with a $16,000 down payment may be beyond many low- to middle-income house hunters), but when the cry goes up about no affordable housing, it seems that places like this might provide some rebuttal.

Convenience is a primary consideration here. Since the subdivision is within minutes of I-64, a buyer could zip to Pantops and points east, or to Ivy and Crozet and points west, without any city traffic hassle. A short nip over to East Market via Carlton could bring a commuter downtown– with a few more lights and a good bit more congestion, but downtown pretty quickly nevertheless. CTS bus #21 passes fairly close by, and the gaggle of eclectic businesses (restaurants, groceries, laundry) at the C-ville Market location are within walking distance.

The house has a large open living room with cathedral ceiling and loft, in fact a much bigger space than the street view promises, and present in only one model in the subdivision. A small kitchen has a tiny breakfast space– big enough for a table for two– and there's a first-level master bedroom and bath – another unusual element present in only this model. Up the stairs (which start right inside the front door, a bit of an odd design), the wide loft landing leads to two bedrooms and a second full bath.

As might be expected in a house in this price range, the amenities are not luxurious: laminate kitchen counters, stock cabinets and appliances, vinyl floor coverings in kitchen and baths, and fiberglass tub surrounds (no tile anywhere). But everything seems to be in good repair, and the fact that it's on the corner probably means much more light than penetrates an interior unit. The large first-floor master bedroom has doors to the small cement patio, which admit more light, and a walk-in closet, a surprise.

Ridgecrest requires membership in a "homeowners association," which means a monthly fee, but it covers snow removal and all outside maintenance (including lawn mowing, etc.), not negligible bothers, and ones which owners of a certain age would probably be happy to have taken care of. 

The agent reports that many residents in this subdivision are interns, residents, and other employees of the UVA Medical Center, and it's easy to see why. As we argue above, people who can come up with a down payment are probably well advised to consider purchasing real estate while they're here rather than renting and leaving with nothing to show for the time spent in Charlottesville (except, of course, for their degree). 

Although the current market is not as red-hot as in the recent past, few people report losing money on real estate transactions in the area.

Taking into consideration the convenience of the location and the reasonable asking price, places like this apparently well-kept secret subdivision probably should be factored into discussions of moderate-income housing options in town.



1 comment

It's nice to see a house in the Hook that a middle-class person in this town could actually afford. Please review more houses listed for under $200K, if you can find any.