REAL ESTATE- ON THE BLOCK- Tinker toy: Improvement projects rule the day

ADDRESS: 917 West Street


ASKING: $290,000

ASSESSMENT: $221,600


SIZE: 1,670 fin. sq. ft.

LAND: 0.152 acres

CURB APPEAL: 7 out of 10

LISTED BY: Hope Sowell, owner, 962-6634

With almost any house, it's easy to find just one more improvement project to work on. This week's property has gone through a series of renovations, and it's up to the next buyer to decide whether to keep working or if it's just right as it is. 

The last owner of the house stopped renovating after refinishing just one room. The current owner has completed most of the rest of the overhaul– installing new hardwood cherry floors, for example– but also has an unfinished pantry and a partially finished fence that's supposed to be completed before closing. There are also potential projects for a new owner, such as installing heated tiles in the master bath or separating part of the house to rent out as an apartment.

From the street, this is a clean house with a brief front lawn. The front porch has a new roof and new fiberglass columns that will resist decay. A main door with a decorative frosted-glass panel as well as a more mundane door lead from the porch to different parts of the house. 

The main door opens to the living room, which runs nearly the entire width of the house. Some of its floor space is taken up by stairs leading to the second floor, but an access panel under the stairs provides storage space. A dining room has been painted a rich burgundy color that gives it an intimate feel. 

The kitchen beside the dining room has a completely different vibe thanks to its windows, ceramic tile floor, and bright color scheme. A central island (big enough to be used as a table) has a butcher-block top that was an old desk at the UVA school of architecture. Maple cabinets and a hollow bench against one wall provide more storage, along with an unfinished pantry. A connected mud room exits to the front porch, but it's not large enough to comfortably hold the washer and dryer, which are consequently in the kitchen. (Other utilities are squirreled away throughout the house: the gas furnace in a closet off the dining room, and the hot water heater behind a door in the kitchen.)

Beyond the kitchen and dining room, a suite of rooms has been recently added to house the master bedroom, an office, and a master bath. The bedroom gets a lot of morning sunlight through a large picture window on one wall and two smaller design windows on another. Decent-sized "his and hers" closets make for a comfortable amount of storage. The nearby office has a trapdoor providing access to the crawlspace under the house. 

A claw-foot bathtub from the upstairs bathroom has been relocated to the master bathroom here, which also has a custom shower. A sun tube along with a row of glass bricks lets natural light into the bathroom, and although the current tiles are vinyl, a thermal coupling has been put in so that new ceramic tiles could be fitted for radiant heat. 

Upstairs are two more bedrooms and a remodeled bathroom– but although it has more floor space, it has only a toilet and shower now that the tub lives downstairs. With the addition of a kitchen area, the living room and these bedrooms and bath could become a separate rental unit for a new buyer needing less space and some extra income.

Outside, a deck has built-in benches and overlooks a relatively flat back yard. A basic storage shed also sits on the property– its missing window is promised before closing.

Unfortunately, for all the work one can put into the house, one must consider the surroundings. This is the 10th and Page neighborhood, and directly across the street, next to fenced parking lots guarded with barbed wire, there's a worn brick warehouse.

Moreover, the area has been known for police calls. But for at least a decade, 10th and Page has been targeted with investments by the Piedmont Housing Alliance. Even though some critics have decried the effort as gentrification, others have applauded the city's effort to help the neighborhood leave its troubled past behind while maintaining vibrant diversity and affordable housing. A new buyer of this property has a chance to join the experiment.

Each week, a brave local seller invites the Hook to provide an impartial, warts-and-all look at their real estate listing. E-mail yours today!