House of vinyl: And we don't mean music

ADDRESS: 307-A Riverside Avenue

ASKING: $ 127,900

BUILDING: 1066 sq. ft

LAND: 0.102 acres



CURB APPEAL: 3 of 10

LISTED BY: John Tansey, Real Estate III, 962-0066, 817-6072

The Charlottesville housing market continues to amaze and astound. Any Rip van Winkles who dozed off even a couple years ago would hardly recognize the place now based on the price tags attached to local properties. The upscale condos, the historic bungalows, the 1960s ranchers, and even so-called "affordable housing" properties sport prices that suggest city residents have all had their salaries doubled or tripled recently. How else to explain the $127,000 asking price on the townhouse currently for sale at 307-A Riverside Avenue?

This is a little place. Two stories, no basement, and only a teeny bit of attic storage. Upstairs offers three rooms: two bedrooms, one bath. Downstairs, three more spaces: a kitchen, a living area, and a hallway.

Actually, the living room is also the dining room– and it's practically the kitchen, too, given that the galley-like cooking space provides such a narrow passage around the full-sized gas stove and double sink that two people barely fit side by side. Too many cooks would spoil more than the broth in here! Installing mirrored sliding doors opposite a refrigerator too big for the room doesn't help either. (Open, they reveal a washer and dryer.)

Even though the roof was replaced five years ago, and the owner replaced the refrigerator and gas water heater recently, the property– now more than 30 years old– is showing its age in a multitude of ways. The approach from the street reveals disintegrating fence rails and wooden framing for a concrete walkway. There's barely a blade of grass left in the front or back yard, which have both been abandoned to dirt or native groundcovers, and the drab olive green front door could use a facelift.

Inside, the stair railing's loose, metal window tracks show wear, and even the kitchen cabinet knobs look-­ well, 30 years old. Cool air arrives via either the sliding screen door to the shaded back yard and patio, or an installed wall unit on the ground level. A second AC unit once used upstairs is stored in a closet; it conveys in "as-is" condition.

There's a plus about this house for a potential buyer with either severe allergies or new puppies: All the room carpeting has recently been taken up and replaced with sheet vinyl flooring– in the bathroom, kitchen, living room, bedrooms, everywhere!

Okay, so this place is not very pretty, inside or out. And it's on Riverside Avenue, a street hosting at least three distinct types of duplexes (including government assisted ones) before ending in a wide cul-de-sac about a quarter-mile farther north.

What could possibly suggest that it's worth $127,000?

For starters, it is located in the Woolen Mills neighborhood where diversity is part of the picture. Community meetings are sometimes held in the historic 19th century Woolen Mills Chapel just a block or two south on East Market Street. Custom-designed homes gracing the foot of Chesapeake Street are even closer. For now, Riverside Park and its access path to the Greenbelt Trail and Rivanna River are visible from the front yard, too.

The view, however, will soon change as some new single-family houses are constructed on Riverside Avenue directly opposite these four pairs of 1970s-era townhouses.

The agent believes that construction of the five new units, along with other contemporary building already taking place nearby, will boost property values all along Riverside Avenue. He also acknowledges that this is a "simple house" best suited for a single person or a couple.

To be fair, some of what's lacking here­- that is, beside space– could be addressed with a few do-it-yourself installations and repairs, and­ for warmth, at least in the winter­ some carpet or area rugs. Not having any grass to maintain can be a positive for some folks, and there's a lovely old rhododendron out front already loaded with big buds for next May.

Oh, and if it's the proximity of the Rivanna River that makes this property most appealing to someone, the owners' old kayak, currently at rest on the concrete patio in the backyard, can become part of the deal.