Escapism: Farm it or don't-- your choice

ADDRESS: 661 Farmview Road

ASKING: $325,000

SIZE: 3784 fin. sq. ft., 864 unfin.



CURB APPEAL: 6 out of a possible 10

LISTED BY: Jim Duncan, Century 21 Manley Associates 977-7300

When is a commune not a commune? Apparently when you can pay a "homeowner's annual fee" and get out of the work.

At least that seems to be the case at "The Farm Colony" in the far reaches of Greene County. The agent explains that a large farm was transformed into an unusual sort of "subdivision" several years ago: People who buy land, build or buy houses, and move here have the option of being part of the farm community and enjoying the fruits of everyone's labors... or not.

If you don't want to do your day's work each month, you can just pay a $420 annual fee. So if this house catches your fancy, take your pick.

What sort of person will be tempted? Our first guess is a group of partiers with some extra jingle and frequent free weekends. It's just like one of those big made-for-a-crowd places at the beach that groups like to rent to get away from it all. This house has the advantage of being closer than the ocean, but it's just as big as those places, with plenty of amenities.

The disadvantage, of course, is that there's no beach but it does have mountain views and all the benefits of country life a huge wrap-around porch for kicking back in the summer, and a wet bar and fireplace in an enormous 20' x 40' living room with 30' cathedral ceiling for cocooning as the snow blows.

There are six bedrooms– the master suite on the main level, four on the second level (two on either side of a big balcony overlooking the living room), and one in the basement. If the gang needs to include more than six people to make the mortgage payments, the balcony is big enough for cots or sleeper sofas.

The four full bathrooms are interesting. The agent doesn't know who designed this place, but it's clear that whoever it was had not taken a course in space arrangement. The master suite bath, for example, spreads over three separate rooms: a WC for the toilet and bidet, another room for the sink, and a room with a privacy-fenced gravel patio just beyond a glass wall for the shower and an unusual deep whirlpool– we hesitate to say bath, because it's really more like a hot tub for one. Weird, but appealing.

In addition to the huge living room on the main level, there's a very large country kitchen (fitting if this isn't country, nothing is) and dining area with access to the porch, a pantry, and a mudroom with washer/dryer, which has a separate entrance from the driveway.

That presents one of the reasons why the house doesn't seem appropriate for a family or for older people: the difficult access resulting from its position on the side of a mountain. The steep stairs that would pose problems for oldsters mirror the lot that seems to preclude play areas for kiddies not to mention the isolated location of the whole spread.

On the other hand, if a large family has Waltonsesque dreams, this might be the ticket, what with the farm and all its paraphernalia just down the hill.

Other things deserving mention: dual zone electric heat system with central air; large storage spaces everywhere, including a walk-out basement; two- or three-car separate garage with huge attic; and fireplace in the master suite.

It's not fancy, and it's not close by. But if you and the boys have been dreaming of reviving the old frat house days, or if you and the gals have been dreaming of a weekend place to flee the little monsters, go for it.