Anything goes

ASKING: $189,900
SIZE: 1,700 square feet
ADDRESS: 814 Hinton Avenue
CURB APPEAL: 6 of a possible 10
LISTED BY: Betty Duncan of Century 21 Manley 977-7300

We all know that owning downtown property these days is like holding a winning lottery ticket. And lots of people apparently have decided to cash in.
Agents report that properties sell within days of being listed– sometimes for more than the asking price. This sort of seller's market encourages creative thinking, and that’s what is needed with this 1920 Victorian on Hinton Avenue.
From the outside, the house looks promising. It’s close to the road, true, and very close to the boundary it shares with the house next door. But in limning those details, we don’t mean to be negative.
The house is almost in the dead-center of Belmont, at the “V,” in close proximity to restaurants, upholstery shops, and car repair businesses, and the street does not appear to have much– or at any rate, much fast-moving– traffic there.
It sits on two reasonably deep lots, which means there’s ample room for a garden beside or behind it (although not enough room for another structure), and out back there’s a large storage shed for keeping gardening or other equipment. Off-street parking is available, too: an alley provides access to the back yard.
The house has a metal roof, which many people love for its easy maintenance and romantic sound effects in rainstorms, and there’s a quaint little upstairs porch. Last but not least, the yard is home to three huge, gorgeous trees that provide shade and welcome green relief from the expanse of asphalt on the street.
Inside is more problematic. For one thing, the house is now an upstairs/downstairs duplex, and the conversion leaves much to be desired. Someone buying the house for this price will probably be planning to restore it to its original grandeur as an elegant downtown family home, but that’s not going to be cheap.
The architectural elements with great potential are graceful bay windows in the large front rooms upstairs and down, a beautiful staircase, hardwood floors throughout (in surprisingly good condition), plaster walls (condition not so great), and the requisite claw-foot bathtub, its feet now painted blue.
Potential problem areas are the heating system (an older gas-fired hot air model without air conditioning), the lack of attic and basement, strange windows (one in the upstairs kitchen is half size and mysteriously disappears into the wall when it is raised), and, of course, the fact that the house is currently chopped into a duplex.
All three fireplaces are boarded up, and the agent did not know whether they could be revived. With no basement, the washer is stuck in a sort of lean-to creation on the back porch, and the water heaters are tucked into closets.
But there are also many elements that make people love old houses– a gorgeous fan window over the double front door, enormous hiding/storage space under the staircase, transoms over the interior doors, and the big-columned front-porch with tidy hedge in front.
Factor in easy access to Route 20 south, the chance to be part of the exciting revitalization of Center City Belmont, and walking distance to the Downtown Mall (not to mention Spudnuts!)– it’s clear that there will probably be many imaginative, creative people who will jump at the chance to return this green and yellow frog to the handsome prince it once was.