Imagine: Fannie Mae's loss can be your gain

ADDRESS: 7603 Esmont Road

ASKING: $119,900

SIZE: 2326 fin. sq. ft., 1700 unfin.

YEAR BUILT: 1900

NEIGHBORHOOD: Esmont

CURB APPEAL: 2 out of a possible 10

LISTED BY: Hock Hockensmith of Roy Wheeler Realty Co. 996-3333

Renovators, start your sanders. The rehab opportunity of the decade is waiting for you just a few miles down Route 20 in the form of Esmont's old Purvis Store.

After weeks of voyeuring around in Downtown palaces of the maybe not so famous but certainly rich, On the Block this week goes slumming.

Surprisingly, the trip to this century-old store-cum-potential-bed-and-breakfast in a wide place in Route 715 in southern Albemarle proved to be quite an adventure.

It would be fun to research the history of this interesting property. Was it built originally as a store? We turn to our infallible source, and the Magic 8-Ball replies: "All signs point to no." The 1,700-square-foot cinderblock cavern to the left of the nice front porch seems to be an addition of later vintage than the rest of the potentially charming living space.

Alas, for budding Apu's, zoning permission to operate a village Quik-E-Mart has long since expired. However, On the Block is always eager to encourage dance venues, and it's easy to imagine all sorts of hoedowns rocking the old joint late into the night.

As for the original house, visionaries will be in their element. Downstairs features a large room with pine mantel surrounding a coal-burning fireplace. There are three other rooms in addition to a very large kitchen (dishwasher, washer/dryer hookup, faux knotty pine cabinets), and two half baths (one with a shower). One of the rooms has a cedar closet; all have nice large windows. There are pine floors throughout the house.

Upstairs are five bedrooms, weirdly configured, with a mysterious interior double window overlooking the central hall. More fodder for the 8-Ball. Was this an original exterior wall (interior bead-boarding notwithstanding) before the addition of the store? "Reply hazy; ask again later."

As beautiful and even opulent as the recent in-town mansions have been, they offer no quirky surprises. Here, in a bordering-on-derelict building with tarp covering one-third of the roof, 84-Lumber paneling obscuring original old walls, and more trash and flotsam littering the yard than you'll find in most dumps, the tub in the large upstairs bathroom is... a whirlpool!

Outside, in addition to rusty bikes, car doors, piles of asphalt rubble, and old kerosene stoves, several buildings of varying potential lean and droop: storage sheds, remnants of a rustic stable, a chicken coop, a "former mobile home," and the best, a seemingly serviceable two-bay garage with carport.

An enormous, beautiful, ancient tree looms over the tin roof of the kitchen extension at the rear of the house. The agent promises "flowers, shrubs, and a garden spot." Route 715 runs smack against the front yard, but it's a tiny little road, with almost no traffic.

The house has been repossessed by Fannie Mae, who obviously lacks the imagination to see herself chilling on the pleasant second-floor porch gazing serenely at the farmer (reportedly Mr. Purvis himself) making hay in the field across the road.

But even though she doesn't personally want to tackle renovation of the old store, Fannie might be willing to lend you the money to turn this property into a village gem. Some elbow grease (well okay, truckloads of elbow grease), lots of time, imagination, and that advance from Fannie, and you're on your way to becoming an upstanding citizen of Downtown Esmont.

Is this a good idea or what? E. Ball replies, "It is decidedly so."