Goldilocks gem: Everything is just right

ADDRESS: 1203 Meriwether Street

ASKING: $419,000

BUILDING: 2,080 fin. sq. ft. / 1,107 unfin.

LAND: 0.17 acre


NEIGHBORHOOD: Martha Jefferson

CURB APPEAL: 6 out of a possible 10

LISTED BY: Roger Voisinet of RE/MAX Realty Specialists 974-1500

Traditionally, we think of harbingers of warmer weather as robins or daffodils or– in a die-hard's case– the box scores from spring training. But in Charlottesville as well as other blossoming areas, as soon as the weather moderates, "For Sale" signs appear as if by magic and denote a different type of migration.

Whether a seller is moving across town or across the country, spring seems to be the time for quick property hand-offs. Now that Belmont has apparently reached its zenith, folks wanting downtown proximity swivel their heads toward nearby neighborhoods. But forget the quaint notion of finding a fixer-upper. Everything seems to have already been fixed up and priced accordingly.

In this little enclave off Little High Street between Locust Avenue and Market, the houses tend to be small and compact. This one, then, makes so little impact at first glance that it could house some nudists and nobody would notice. As it sits square and center on its allotted space, the only impression is of a five-year-old's crayon rendition of a house– the front door smack in the middle with four windows equally spaced around it. Cute, but no design cigar.

I think someone once said appearances can be deceiving. And this house is no exception. Inside, the unexciting first impression is replaced by an almost luminous allure. The pale yellow walls in each room radiate warmth. Nothing in particular catches the eye, perhaps because of the total lack of pretension.

Like a carousel, the rooms revolve around a steep central staircase. An office to the right of the front door has floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, and with its southern exposure and plant collection, is the most welcoming spot in the house. A living room (if it can really be called that) with fireplace made zero impression as we headed for the kitchen (the real living room).

The 13 x 15 family room is the biggest room in the house, with a door to a lovely little screened porch and a row of windows providing views of the back yard. Here something must be said about the d├ęcor. From the furniture selection to the paintings on the walls, the house looks perfect. Tip for sellers: such evident good taste goes a long way to giving potential buyers a view to how well the house can be lived in.

A full basement for laundry and storage is so immaculately clean (like the rest of the house) that prospective buyer mothers will wonder where the children live. The steep staircase (the second story must have been an attic at one point)– where, without the banister anyone under five and over sixty might struggle– leads to two front rooms with built-in shelving and closets and some nifty nooks, thanks to the dormer windows.

A master bedroom containing just that– a huge bed– provides views through a wall of windows to peaceful landscaping because it's situated high enough to avoid neighbors. Even in the winter, we could see only trees. Off this room, a huge walk-in closet keeps clothes tidy and accessible.

Downstairs and out onto the back porch, a good sized backyard (by city standards) begs for family time. A small flower garden, along with a vegetable spot, has been meticulously cared for. There's enough grass to keep a weekend mower happy– or grumpy. A rustic shed holds various garden tools, and a huge holly tree provides a green shield year-round. Neighboring lawns are in full view from this level, so one imagines the collective camaraderie during warm spells where the sounds of children playing mix so well with the tinkling of ice in grown ups' libations.

Goldilocks would feel right at home here, where nothing is either too big or too small– all is just right. Except, of course the price tag. But I think someone once said everything is relative.

And as this L.A.-bound reporter has quickly figured out, compared to California prices, it's a bargain.