A rarity: Simple affordable city living

ADDRESS: 1009 Forest Hills Avenue

ASKING: $149,900

SIZE: 955 fin. sq. ft.


NEIGHBORHOOD: Forest Hills/Cherry Avenue

CURB APPEAL: 5 of 10

LISTED BY: Alex Ix, Roy Wheeler Realty Co. 951-5177, 962-0509

These days, you can count on your fingers the number of detached houses for sale in Charlottesville for under $150,000. Forget about acreage, bedrooms, or special features. So considering that the current owners of 1009 Forest Hills Avenue are offering a grassy and fenced backyard with their two-bedroom, one-bath home, along with central air conditioning, hardwood floors, and all appliances for just under that amount, you could call this one a steal.

Situated neatly between Buford Middle School and Forest Hills Community Park-­ the backyard abuts the rear of the school property while the front view takes in two city wading pools, public basketball courts, and extensive playgrounds– some will worry the location is too close to high-traffic public spaces. But that attitude has to be tempered with what it's also really close to: the University Hospital. About 10 blocks or 10 minutes will take a pedestrian or bicyclist right down the new 10th Street connector road and into the Lee Street entrances of the new hospital and associated research buildings. Oh, and a city bus stop is at the nearby intersection, only a house or two away.

On first glance, a look at the slides and swings beckoning from under the many trees of the park out front suggests that the property is ideally suited for someone with children. But given that this house is on the small side, that might best be phrased, "someone with a child." Better yet, make it someone who likes to wave to children. A pediatrician-in-training, perhaps?

Both the house and its maple-tree shaded front porch provide a pleasant perch above the come-and-go traffic along Forest Hills Avenue, with summertime views of kids splashing about in the two shallow pools. The agent, a life-long Charlottesvillian who knows the value of a classic view, notes that when all those park trees lose their leaves, the southern mountains will be revealed in all their glory.

The inside of this compact house is simple. The front half features a decent-sized living room with good natural light and hardwood floors, with an entrance to the kitchen. In back, there's a bedroom on either side of the full bath.

That's it. Little to fuss about, little to decorate. Again, one or two med students with an eye to simple living but a solid investment opportunity come to mind– let's say guys who would like the efficiency of throwing their scrubs in the stacked washer/dryer combo in the kitchen corner while frying up some eggs or burgers for dinner. Or someone frequently on the road, or who eats at the office so often that she'd probably not mind the lack of an official dining room.

The house has been well maintained in recent years, complimenting the needs of either a first-time homeowner without a lot of handyman skills, or someone who doesn't choose to spend free time on home improvements. The gas furnace is only three years old, and there's more than half of the 10-year-warranty left on the Sears central air conditioning unit. Electrical outlets now accept three-prong plugs. Ceiling fans and the bathroom vanity are also recent additions. Even though the kitchen still features its 1950s red Formica counter, double white porcelain sink, and unpainted pine cabinetry, the room looks capable of many more years of unpretentious and sturdy service.

Storage options are plentiful: a large closet in each bedroom (behind pocket doors), a standard linen closet, a built-in china cabinet, some crawl space in both the attic and under the house, and a barn-shaped shed in the back yard. Speaking of the yard, there's little growing there but grass, the few maple trees, and a bush or two in front of the painted concrete porch and steps.

Following the adage that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, while the yard's mostly barren landscaping may strike some of us as ho-hum, to an ever-busy young professional, it could be just one more attractive feature of this low-maintenance, affordable– and steadily appreciating– piece of city property.