Monday, August 31, 2009

the water tower house(s)

The Water Tower House
3 BR 3.5 BA Colonial, near schools, shopping and 495. Potential for waterfront access (comes with two of every animal just in case). $699k.

In my family, house-hunting is something of a tradition. From elementary school on, Saturdays meant piling into the car and driving out to some new subdivision in Olney to traipse through model houses. As a real estate agent, my mother had access to resale listings as well, meaning we didn't have to mess with open houses. This summer, after a decade of living contentedly in our house in Calverton, the tradition began again, now with my brother in tow.

This house is one of six being built at the end of Kermit Road in Montgomery Hills, behind the Seminary Place shopping center. Features include granite countertops, hardwood floors, and a lovely porch, not to mention a water tower barely twenty feet from the backyard fence. You'd think that might be a deal-breaker, but thanks to some very clever photography, the water tower is completely invisible in the online listing. Unscrupulous? Absolutely!

It's a truly attractive house, solidly built and well laid-out, not to mention in a fairly decent location. Schools, shopping and the Forest Glen metro are all more or less within walking distance. But the siting of these six houses, in the shadow of a hulking water tower and hard up against the back of a strip mall, is less than ideal. This project illustrates many of the challenges of infill development, namely what to do with inflexible site conditions. You can't move the water tower. The shopping center is likely decades away from being redeveloped. And the property is zoned for single-family homes. You have to make the three work together. I can't say that happened here, though I'm not sure if it's even possible.

Here's hoping that the family who buys this house has a sense of humor, and furthermore that the water tower is well-sealed.

The Water Tower House (The Backyard)
The water tower seen from the backyard.
The Water Tower House (View From Upstairs)
The roof of Seminary Place shopping center, seen from an upstairs bedroom.


Tom A. said...

Funny Post. The Bing map says the water tower is somehow in Rock Creek park? WTF?

Gary said...

It seems like this is beyond unscrupulous - seems like evil photoshoppery, not clever photography. All's fair in real estate I guess (no offense!)

Speaking of infill, what's the deal on this house between the townhouses just north of the CVS?

Thanks for always providing something interesting to read, Dan, keep it up!

Cilla said...

In addition to the water tower itself, prospective buyers might want to inquire about all of the antennas on the water tower. It is my understanding that various companies lease space on the towers for antennas (antennae?). One wonders if interference with cell signals or radio signals should be anticipated.

As a former real estate agent, I protest the use by the listing agent of an altered picture, if that is what was used; all is not fair in real estate!

Cyndy said...

That is some pretty unbelievable false advertising if you ask me. It's a shame that house has such horrible views from the backyard and bedrooms. That water tower pretty much dominates every view in the area.

Dan Reed said...

Gary: I assume the builder of those townhouses just wasn't able to snap up the house in the middle, though it could stick out far, far worse. That house also served as a stop on our family's house-hunting way back in like 1997. It was adorable, but very small.

Patrick said...

No photoshoppery was required for the picture. The camera was below knee height when the picture was taken. At that height, crouching or laying on the path to the front door, the house covers the water tower.
I've used this technique a number of times to remove power lines from a scenic shot.

Gary said...

These "nail houses" all remind me of the story Little House by Virginia Lee Burton (of Mike Mulligan fame) ... - here after they build the city around her house, they finally move it to the country. Now it is between a Walmart and a Home Depot :(

Patrick - now that I look closer at the "clever" pic I can see one of the cell phone antennae sticking up in the "V" between the gables. Beautiful.

Bowie Mike said...


I just read a short story on NBC 4 about homes being built in Montgomery County near water towers, and they reference this posting. Not sure if you had seen that yet.


Gary said...

Oddly enough, the house I mentioned just went on the market. Similar creative picture taking - wouldn't dream that it was in between two banks of condos.

Dan Reed said...

The house isn't too bad, especially for $349k. Or maybe it is. I don't know how much a house should be worth in a recession. And those are townhouses on either side, which don't bother me quite as much as a water tower. And it's a cutie inside, if it still looks the same as when I visited in '97.

Unknown said...

That's hilarious. We've been househunting and have seen the photos of the Kermit St place -- no water tower in sight. I tried to look up the listing today, and the photos have all disappeared, even off the MLS listing.