Rising tide: Nearby renovations float this boat

ADDRESS: 1110 Page Street

NEIGHBORHOOD: 10th and Page

ASKING: $155,000

CITY ASSESSMENT: $88,900

YEAR BUILT: 1920

SIZE: 1,207 fin. square feet

LAND: .12 acres

CURB APPEAL: 7 out of 10

LISTED BY: Mildred Morris of Prudential Charlotte Ramsey Realtors 981-2599

An old real estate adage says never buy the most expensive house on the block. It's a bit tricky to apply that advice to this stucco two-story built in 1920. On the one hand, its $155,000 asking price is somewhat lower than the price of new houses around it and down at the corner of 10th Street. On the other hand, necessary repairs could boost the total cost to significantly higher than theirs.

What will a new owner have to work with? The house sits on a deep lot, unlike the new houses jammed in cheek by jowl across the street. The lot backs up to woods that the agent claims are unlikely to be developed, which is saying a lot in a city where every vacant square inch seems fair game for a condo or two.

While no structural inspection has been done, glances reveal cracks in the stucco and floors pulling away from walls (there's a distinct tilt to the second story). Right now the first floor is warmed by a gas space heater and the second by baseboard electric. The agent says the electrical and heating systems need upgrading. Under the wall-to-wall in all the rooms except the kitchen and entryway is plywood, not hardwood flooring. Too bad.

So there's a lot of work to be done. What's the potential payoff?

Obviously, that depends on the extent of the new owner's needs, imagination– and line of credit. Until recently, the house was rented, so it's possible to live in it now as is.

The front door opens to an unexpectedly large entryway with an opposite door leading to a long porch. Another door from the porch opens to the kitchen. (All the appliances in the kitchen convey.) It's easy to imagine enclosing the porch with its bright eastern exposure to create a spacious sunroom with views to the woods.

A large living room leads to a dining room of equal size, both with fireplaces now bricked in, the chimney used only to service the living room gas heater. One of the best things about these rooms– and, indeed, the whole house– is the windows, large two-over-twos that seem to stretch almost from floor to ceiling, admitting maximum light and enlarging the space significantly.

Upstairs are two good-sized and one small bedroom (suitable for a nursery or sewing room) and an old-timey bath with claw-foot tub.

Because the street is a dead-end, there's virtually no traffic, and because the new houses across the street are elevated above the street, privacy is part of the deal. Houses on either side are farther away than neighboring houses in some new subdivisions, which also contributes to a feeling of tranquility.

If money were no object, we could recommend this house to a renovator with elaborate plans, because the resulting house would not be out of place in this renewing neighborhood and the location is primo if you're a UVA type. People of limited means can live in the house now as is and make upgrades incrementally as finances allow.

What else is available in town to buyers in this range? We looked at a duplex on Rosa Terrace with some of the same virtues– dead-end street, woods in the rear, $145,000 asking price, convenience to the hospital. There are a few condos, two or three duplexes, a couple of houses in Orangedale, and a few in Belmont. Many of them seem to be in the same condition as this house– needing work. (Cynics may say that explains the price tag.)

So what would recommend this one over the others? Probably the striking renewal going on around it, which cannot help but increase the value of this parcel even without renovations. Even if the real estate hurricane drops back to a category one, the neighborhood's rising tide of renovation and rebuilding might float this boat to a higher asking price next year.

And while the new buyer is waiting for the inevitable appreciation, it's a convenient place to live, not without a certain charm, even in its not-quite-ready-for-the-Parade of Homes condition.

PHOTOS BY ROSALIND WARFIELD-BROWN