No bluffing: Going green down by the riverside

Address: 120 Riverbluff Circle
Neighborhood: Riverbluff in Woolen Mills
Asking: $395,000
Assessment: $278,700
Year Built: 2010
Size: 1,869 fin. sq. ft. / 924 unfin. sq. ft.
Land: 0.10 acres
Curb Appeal: 7 out of 10
Listing Agents:  Tom Raney, Nest Realty, 434-981-2608

Kermit the frog may not find it easy being green, but the folks at Lattitude38 don’t seem to share his problem. With native, drought-resistant plantings in the front yard, Insulated Concrete Forms (ICFs) in the crawl space, and annual estimated energy costs of just $1,544, the design firm's most recent entry to the local housing market is a monument to sustainable design and energy efficiency.

And it looks really cool, too.

The ultra-modern house is split into two sections, with the main entry to each located beneath an enclosed connecting breezeway. The first door opens to the larger section, the main living area of the house: the dining and living rooms, the master suite, and a serviceable, galley-style kitchen.

The kitchen, with concrete counters and stainless steel appliances along one side and a double sink set in a vast wooden counter on the other, has a pass-through to the dining and adjacent living room that goes a long way toward mitigating the cramped cooking quarters. In the dining room, a built-in buffet and cabinet provide eye-pleasing storage.

Recessed fixtures in the living room augment sunlight streaming through windows and sliding doors that open to a deck spanning the back of the house. Oriented to take advantage of the afternoon shade, the deck increases the living space significantly and offers views of a common area down the hill.

Upstairs, two bedrooms share a full hall bath while the master enjoys a more private location on the opposite side of the breezeway. Equipped with its own mini split HVAC, the master suite is completely climatized so homeowners can set the temperature without worrying about putting undue strain on either the whole-house system or their pocketbooks.

Multiple windows help increase the feeling of space, but the bedroom is on the small side for a master, as is the attached bath. A single sink and shower stall are sleek, although they lack the glitz and glamor many buyers expect these days.

Back downstairs, the second door opens to flex space. A small vestibule with built-in shelves leads to a large storage closet already roughed-in and ready to be converted to a bathroom if so desired.

Like the master directly above, this room has plentiful windows and separate climate control. Although this area is described as suitable for a rental unit, it’s difficult to envision fitting both a kitchen(ette) and a bath into the available space. It would, however, make a great guest suite, teen hideaway, or home office.

One of the many interesting features about this house is the crawl space, which is accessed via a trap door in the hall closet. A descent down a built-in ladder ends in a well-lit area containing all the mechanical systems— and a fair amount of storage.

The house is a refreshing break from other, more traditional places on the market, although it will probably appeal to less to an average purchaser and more to buyers seeking an urban chic, eco-conscious lifestyle.

Though they may risk being run out of town on a rail (or perhaps pushed aside by a Prius), even some environmentally conscious buyers might have been willing to sacrifice a few of the energy-saving features for a bit more quality: maybe swap the ICF’s for walk-in closets, double vanity sinks, or an upgrade from the ubiquitous hollow-core doors. And some might have a deeper appreciation for natural wood accents if they weren’t used in the same way in nearly every room.

There’s also the location to consider: Riverbluff Circle is accessed by driving through a neighborhood lined with houses reflecting varying states of (dis)repair. Nervous potential buyers might wonder what impact these houses, many assessed at less than half the asking price of this one, will have on their own property value.

Speaking of the asking price– at more than $100,000 over assessment, it was a bold and optimistic gambit in today’s market. But since our tour, the property has already gone under contract, so the sellers obviously understood the compelling appeal of going green.
Each week the Hook reviews a house for sale. If you are brave local seller, invite us in for a candid, warts-and-all look at your property.

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1 comment

Thanks for the write up. We are always appreciative of feedback, both positive and negative, as we are continually trying to improve the houses we design and build.

One small note on the assessment: The assessment of 279k was from December of 2010, when the house was framed up and reflects a halfway complete house. I'm sure the assessment for next year will be more in line with the asking price.