REAL ESTATE- ON THE BLOCK- Incoming income: Duplex could work in a down economy

Address: 614 Bolling Avenue 

Neighborhood: Belmont

Asking: $199,950

Assessment: $171,600

Year Built: 1920

Size: 1,797 fin. sq. ft.

Land: 0.13 acres

Agent: Ross L. Stevens, Stevens and Company, 296-6104, ext. 107

Curb Appeal: 8 out of 10

It's easy to see why first-time home buyers might shy away from taking on a mortgage in this uncertain economy, but interest rates are low and prices are still coming down. Because they provide an income to help with the bills, duplexes can be an appealing option. 

This Belmont farmhouse is zoned R2 (units are up and downstairs), so it's legal to rent. The upstairs tenant has a separate entrance via an external staircase. The property is being sold by the estate of the previous long-time resident, which means it feels like a home, not a rental. On the down side, buyers will not find glossy newness or much storage– there's no basement or attic, just a crawl space. 

From the porch (with swing), the front door leads directly into the living room, which shares the pretty, original pine floor with the dining room. The place is empty, so shoppers need to use their imagination to envision how these spaces would fill out. Mostly white walls reinforce the blank slate impression.

A small bedroom off the living room (carpeted, no closet) may be better classified as a den or office. The bath (shower only, no tub) shares space with an avocado washer and dryer. It's a funny setup that could stand a facelift. With stacking units and some rethinking, the space could probably accommodate a standard tub. 

The original line of the house has been extended on the first level, creating a wacky-shaped kitchen: a galley opens to a separate area with an island and range. A curved wall separating the kitchen from the master suite creates a kind of spaceship vibe, but it's more Jetsons than Starship Enterprise. Bringing the whole space back to earth could be a costly long-term project that inexperienced do-it-yourselfers may find out of their league. 

This master suite off the kitchen is a reasonable size, with a full bath with tub. This side of the spacey curved wall is a focal point. A minor facelift could bring the bathroom– with faux marble sink and stripy yellow wallpaper— into this century. White tile lining the bath and a slate floor create an attractive and functional space that is satisfactory as is.

Upstairs, a one-bedroom apartment running the length of the original house, with ‘70s-vintage paneling painted white, is just big enough for one person. Like downstairs, the design of the eat-in kitchen is a little funky (the sink seems to be in the entryway), but almost floor-to-ceiling windows provide lots of light. This apartment is on a separate natural gas line, so it's ready for a tenant, and the neighborhood should be a draw for renters. 

The level, rectangular lot is fully fenced and sports a couple of window boxes (currently empty), a clothesline, and a shed.

Ok, so it's not a place where a family would feel immediately at home, but it's a reasonable starter for folks transitioning from tenants to owners. A buyer will find a few projects here, and it may be attractive to investors looking for a low-cost and hopefully low-maintenance project. In short, as is, it's a livable space in a decent neighborhood without too many obvious drawbacks. 



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