Basic brick: Rancher ready for re-do

ADDRESS: 1021 St. Charles Avenue


ASKING: $245,000


SIZE: 2,140 fin. sq. ft., 611 unfin.

LAND: 0.186 acres

CURB APPEAL: 5 out of 10

LISTED BY: Marina Ringstrom, Real Estate III, 465-0035

Thinking outside the box is a challenge when there are three identical boxes in a row. But thinking outside the box is what's required in this brick rancher just behind Locust Avenue. There are no surprises here, but lots of potential awaiting a creative buyer.

An important note: the week we toured the house, there were only 17 houses on the market in Charlottesville between $200,00 and 250,000, according to the agent. So the house is of interest if for no other reason than its price.

But in addition, the convenient location and the amount of space for the dollar make the place worth a visit for people who want a solid, if unexciting, house with some ground around it and lots of little bedrooms for little kids.

Behind the prosaic exterior, the owners have invested in some worthwhile improvements, with sometimes jarring results. First is a giant side-by-side refrigerator. Unfortunately, it blocks the door to the wrap-around deck (but refrigerators can be moved). Then, there's a lovely granite sink immersed in a Formica countertop. The balancing act continues with ceiling fans in rooms with eight-foot ceilings. Most successful are the green fixtures in a pretty vanity sink in the bathroom. The hardwood floors are in good shape.

Considering the rickety closet doors in the tiny bedrooms, the idea of tearing down a wall here and there to create some breathing room immediately springs to mind. This seems to be a sound house begging for some innovative updates.

The owners put considerable resources into creating a master suite in the basement. Unfortunately, it still feels like a basement. But with a little revamping, the large room could be a great place for kids to play, and an additional small room to the side could be a study. The unfinished half of the basement has walk-out capability– French doors and some sheetrock could transform this storage area into a pleasant space. Outside, creating a patio under the deck would provide a nice spot, protected and private, to relax in summer. A large Rubbermaid-like storage shed that, like the fridge, blocks the light, would be easy to relocate.

Sloping down to a large maple tree, the fenced back yard might be a mowing challenge, but on the other hand, the greenery provides a nice enough vista from that potential patio, and children and dogs can romp about safely. Formal plantings of azaleas and other perennials now coming into their glory go a long way to softening the flat brick front.

Balance the availability of a place with this many square feet in the downtown area for this price, and it will be easy to give this house a second, and even a third look. Then get over to the library and check out a copy of Creative Kitchens or The Handyman's Guide to Updating Your Home, and you're good to go.