Ode to a rancher: And cheers to its diligent owners

ASKING: $249,000
SIZE: 3275 fin. sq. ft.
YEAR BUILT: 1974
ADDRESS: 6180 Midway Road
NEIGHBORHOOD: Crozet
CURB APPEAL: 5 out of a possible 10
LISTED BY: Owners Shirley and Aubrey James; call 434-823-4263 for appointment

Flat brick ranchers don't often register on this column's radar. Their uniformity and general lack of architectural ingenuity help keep our eyes on the road when we're sniffing out real estate wonders.

Nevertheless, when "For Sale by Owner" signs began popping up all over Crozet, we just had to inquire into the allure of a brick box.

Having driven past this house at least twice a day for several years, we had some insight into what we might anticipate. A couple, newly into retirement, worked consistently and diligently on the garden. Weather be damned, the two of them were out there, trimming and raking, working together, working apart, in some kind of connubial wonderland.

As the original owners, they planted the trees that now reach wide and high. A Norway Spruce in the front yard, put in at a puny two feet high, now stretches to 20 feet and beautifully blocks the brick rancher across the street. Every year at Christmas, the owners decorate this showpiece with lights all the way to the top, much to the delight of the neighborhood.

As we walked to the front porch, still-blooming geraniums caught our eye. They'd been cheery in the throes of July heat, and here they were, still happy as clams (but are clams really happy?) in November.

The well-protected southern exposure which produced those thriving summer plants made us imagine tender vegetables immune from early frosts. Hmmm, sun-warmed tomatoes into December– what could be tastier?

Inside, the layout pretty much screams "functional," but not in a bad way. The first room is the biggest and has a semi-formal air. Impeccably clean– perhaps that southern view, which lights up dust motes with a merciless impunity, is an inducement to fastidious Pledge-ing. A concealed walk-in closet behind the front door would make the transition from a blizzard to genteel tea-sipping an easy one. The laminated wood floors lend warmth to the otherwise obvious interior. The dining area sits at one end, which leads, of course, into the kitchen.

From here on, there's the family room with all the predictable accoutrements such as television, comfy furniture, and a roaring fire. And then comes a long hallway that's the flat brick rancher answer to a staircase.

Deep, deep carpeting flows from one bedroom into another in confident hues of russet and olive green. Three bedrooms– one a master with bath– are more than adequate for family living without any of the fluff– except, of course, from that carpet.

The real bonus, though, lies at the bottom of the basement stairs. Spanning the entire length of the house, the basement opens up huge possibilities, not least of which could be a roller rink. With no walls down there, one can see how much space this house actually has. It's considered unfinished, but it wouldn't take much to complete the job. To increase the heat and air flow through the house, vents have been cut into each room above so that air temperature stays constant. Laundry chores have a room of their own so that options for the big room remain endless.

Because the house sits on a rise, the basement has plenty of natural light as well as access to the sloping backyard. The gently tilted hill gives way to a small glade of perfectly kept trees. To store all the tools necessary for their impeccable garden maintenance, the owners commissioned a 12'X16' custom storage shed from an Amish company in Stuart's Draft. The adage, "A place for everything and everything in its place" came to mind as we peeked inside– and the old saw seemed appropriate not just for the shed, but also for the whole could-be-trite-but-isn't package.