Recently, I was showing a gorgeous Fan house to an enthusiastic couple who had told me that ‘no off-street parking’ was the absolute deal-breaker for them in their search for the perfect home. Their budget was around $535,000 and they wanted a renovated kitchen. After spending considerable time looking in all the nooks and crannies of this particular house, I suggested we go out back and check out the alley. They looked at me like I was crazy and asked ‘Why?’ My initial thought response was “Because that’s what you do. Duh.”
Then, it occurred to me that what you see behind your house is almost as important as what you see in front. Furthermore, if you plan on parking in the back and always using the back door, it might be MORE important. So, out back we went and what did we see?
The next door neighbors had recycling bins FILLED (overflowing!) with beer cans and wine bottles. The trash cans were overflowing with old clothes, some broken furniture, and a hammock. A couple of mattresses were leaning against the falling-down fence…
Ah ha! VCU students lived next door. (Or maybe just problem drinkers) This could potentially translate to late-night parties with girls screaming for no apparent reason and having to call the cops every Saturday night? As is the case with most urban neighborhoods with multiple uses, each block has its own vibe and feel. And noise level. Buyers need to investigate what’s around the house they are interested in and not just the house itself.
The point is…when looking at a house in the Fan, look at the alley. You can learn a lot.
In the unlikely event that you’re interested….
A short list of some of the more interesting things I’ve seen in Fan alleys:
- A reproduction Louis XIV parlor chair that only needed new upholstery (2300 block of Monument Avenue).
- Giant Roccoco cement garden urns (1800 block of Hanover Avenue).
- Paintings. Lots of them. Old art projects from VCU students, and some were pretty wonderful. (Harrison and Floyd Avenue)
- Fully-functioning 8’ ladders! (1800 block of W. Grace Street)
- A large pile of Persian rugs in varying stages of decay (N. Lombardy Street alley)
- A beautiful Georgian dollhouse filled with tiny furniture and a miniature crystal chandelier (2200 block of Park Avenue)
- Too many filing cabinets to count