REAL ESTATE- ON THE BLOCK- Up-grade: Old schoolhouse an apartment alternative

Address: 5171 Advance Mills Road

Neighborhood: Miller Division in Advance Mills

Asking: $175,000

Assessment: $142,900

Year Built: 1934

Size: 870 fin sq. ft., 224 unfin.

Land: 1.38 acres

Agent: Joe Porterfield, Montague Miller & Co. 434-951-7112

Curb Appeal: 6 out of 10

Am I the only one who harbors a secret fantasy about living in an old firehouse? Repurposed buildings have a certain appeal for me and other buyers, but they're not for everyone.

This Earlysville house was one of the County's original one-room African-American schoolhouses. It's said that it served its original purpose for only a decade or so before getting purchased by a neighboring family and used on and off as rental property until the 1980s.

Today, the house perimeter is still the same as that one-room original building, so buyers looking for beefy square footage should shuffle on. It's still a single-story structure with its original metal roof. During the last loan approval process, the seller employed specialty appraisers from Richmond to certify that the roof's seams and joints remain intact, a critical process for loan approval. It has also been treated and painted. 

Inside, tells a different story, as only a few features from school days carry over: some exposed brick in the kitchen, part of the school's original flue, and generous 11-foot ceilings. 

The front door opens directly into the living room. To the right is the home's only bathroom (housing a stacked washer/dryer unit). There are just two bedrooms, and closet space is minimal. The kitchen opens to a large, bright dining area that leads out to a deck. 

Finishes are functional but far from flashy. The bath holds a one-piece fiberglass tub; the kitchen has white appliances and a laminate counter. But things are relatively new, and the place is move-in ready.

Additionally, there is outdoor living space in the form of a porch running the length of the front, and the three-quarter-length back deck overlooks a nearly level backyard. There are mountain views to the west.

On a concrete slab, a previous owner built a freestanding shop with windows and electricity. It's unfinished, but a buyer might insulate to get more use from of the space. There's also a shed.

While the attic has a floor and lighting, it isn't a space that lends itself to intensive use, as the access comes via a ladder through the master closet.

All the systems are new. With such a small envelope, with thermally-insulated tilt-sash windows, and with by 9-10 inches of soy-based insulation in the attic, it appears to  an efficient house for a family eager to limit their environmental impact.

Most buyers interested in this house will be drawn by the modest acreage and the mostly flat lot. Being farmland in the past might mean rich soil that's ready for cultivation. A drainage easement over part of the property means that water naturally runs from an adjacent property could be trapped for watering.

Interestingly, there are two lots for sale in the neighborhood for about the same price– but without a house. Another appeal of this house is its location.

It's a sneak-into-town kind of spot because the buyer can skip Rt. 29 or 250 to get to Charlottesville via Rt. 743 straight to Hydraulic. It's a quick trip in under 20 minutes.

This isn't a sprawling country house, but it may be right for a couple or single person looking for a quiet rural setting. Based on the size, buyers should view is an apartment upgrade with the added plus of land and mountain views. 



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