Schools daze

ASKING:  $379,000
SQUARE FOOTAGE: Finished: 3,300; unfinished: 600
ADDRESS: 2671 Cardinal Ridge Road
NEIGHBORHOOD: Whippoorwill Hollow in Western Albemarle
CURB APPEAL: 6 out of a possible 10
LISTED BY: Charlotte Dammann of McLean Faulconer * 981-1250

We’ve looked at houses in Keswick and in Nelson County, on Carter’s Mountain and down Route 29 South. Now it’s time to turn to the “hot” part of Albemarle County: the much-coveted Meriwether Lewis school district.
Sure, the countryside is pretty, and the winding trip to town on Garth Road is still picturesque despite the McMansions that seem to be appearing overnight. But the fact is, most people buy houses out here because of the schools.
This particular three-story house is in a reasonably well-established subdivision, Whippoorwill Hollow, developed in the early ‘80s, according to the owner, by Randy Wade. The minimum lot size here is two acres; this house has almost three, and the backyard stretches down to the Mechum’s River. The canopy of oak, birch, and maple trees provides abundant shade to an unusually large wrap-around deck. Because the lot slopes in back, the deck also serves as a carport of sorts above the driveway, which circles the house, providing entry at three points, making it possible to unload groceries right at the kitchen door.
Inside, the house has been somewhat updated from its original ‘80s design. To the first-floor pedestrian living room, smallish dining room, and bland eat-in kitchen, the owners have added a huge, beautiful family room off the kitchen. This area is the heart of the house: its 20 feet of bookshelves with cabinets beneath, fireplace, and oversized French doors to the deck speak of comfort amid elegance.
Opening this wonderful room to the adjoining living room would seem to be a good idea, creating badly needed flow through space that is now chopped up and awkward– the owner admits that in all the years the family’s been in the house, they’ve rarely gone into the isolated living room.
Upstairs are four bedrooms and two baths; their appeal is the tranquil views of the front yard, with its azaleas, hollies, and dogwoods, and of the woodsy back. Unlike today’s subdivisions, neighboring houses are far enough away that privacy is not a problem. Up here, the floors, as on the first level, are all oak, another improvement on most current construction.
The basement is a bonus– it’s been turned into a self-contained living space, good for teenagers, in-laws, or visitors, with its own kitchen and the largest bathroom in the house. The interior entrance to the space is a little weird– through the utilitarian laundry area– but the apartment itself adds a lot to the appeal of the house, especially with its own outside entrance.
Other plusses are the dining room chair rail, a heat pump for efficiency, and good storage space throughout.
But when we asked the owner what she has liked best about living in the house, without hesitating a moment she replied, “the schools.” The friendly, safe neighborhood (Cardinal Ridge Road is a dead-end street) has been a blessing for her daughter, she said, but it is the school district that brought them to Whippoorwill.
So, really, it turns out, perhaps the house itself isn’t that important. It’s the old real estate truism again: location is what people will pay for– in this case, being able to send your kids to Meriwether Lewis, Henley or Jouett, and Western.
Single people or childless couples probably want to be downtown anyway.

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