Appreciation: Watch the price skyrocket!


ADDRESS: 702 Meridian Street


ASKING: $184,500



SIZE: 708 finished square feet

LAND: .053 acres

CURB APPEAL: 7 out of 10

LISTED BY: Travis Wilburn of Prudential Charlotte Ramsey Realty 296-7171

The sales history of this tiny house just off Monticello Avenue provides an interesting snapshot of the local real estate market over the last 10-15 years.

In 1994 its modest 700 square feet fetched $16,500. (Fun to imagine what the previous owner must have paid!) Seven years later, in 2001, that owner sold for $69,300, more than four times his initial investment. The new owner did almost as well when she sold the house for $130,000 in 2005, nearly doubling the price in four years.

But the current owners hope to top them all– they're trying to realize a $54,500 gain in six months, with an asking price that represents an increase of 11.2 times the selling price 12 years ago.

Certainly it's true that sales figures don't tell the whole story– improvements have had to be made along the way. The heat is now provided by a free-standing gas unit in the living room and baseboard electric elsewhere. Since there's no evidence of radiators, it's possible that the house that sold for $16,500 might have had a woodstove as its primary heating system.

A house this size built in 1925 probably had indoor plumbing (nearby Clark School was built just six years later, in 1931) and cooking facilities, but they've no doubt also been updated along the way.

The current owners have erected a big fence around the place, which– while providing private quarters for a dog– also blocks the house almost entirely from view and makes what's a tiny yard to begin with practically disappear. A new owner without dogs will probably want to dismantle the fence right away– or at least move it to the edge of the yard and open the house up to view.

Because the view isn't bad. Like many compact places, this house has a cozy charm that's especially appealing on a cold winter day. The large living room, small office, one bedroom and kitchen are graced by pretty pine floors (vinyl in the kitchen) that seem to have been cared for over the years and add a rich warmth to the rooms.

The ceilings are higher than might be expected in a modest home of this vintage, and the exterior stucco seems to be in good repair. The metal roof has no problems, according to the agent, and the chimney is in good enough shape to vent the gas heating unit in the living room. (A new owner might consider one of those pretty new free-standing gas stoves– it would bump up the charm factor considerably.)

The best aspect of the house is the large, almost floor-to-ceiling windows (two over two), which– miraculously– have not been replaced with vinyl substitutes, seemingly all the rage in renovations these days. They admit lots of light and expand the small space visually in all the rooms– even providing views of mountains from the bedroom.

Mention of views raises the question of expansion, and mention of the mountains raises the idea of raising the roof– expanding upward (since there's nowhere on the ground to expand). Not being engineers, we don't know the feasibility of adding a second story, but it's certainly an idea any buyer with the means might want to explore, to capitalize on the mountain views as well as to add living space.

There's no basement, and the attic, accessed by a pull-down staircase and big enough to stand up in, has plenty of room for storage, according to the agent. There's a small pantry (with window) off the kitchen. The compact bathroom has one of the great windows over an old claw-foot tub rigged up with a shower conversion kit.

The house is well positioned for someone who wants life in the city without a car. Belmont Baptist Church is right across the street, Clark school two blocks away, and all the amenities of the Downtown Mall within easy walking distance. A CTS bus runs right up Monticello Avenue.

So even without taking the multiplier effect into account (just think, $184,500 today, $240,000 in July? 700 square feet?), the little house offers convenience and charm. Even though tiny, for someone looking for "affordable," it's an alternative in a rapidly renewing neighborhood to one of the cookie-cutter condominiums morphing from apartments all over town .