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Cram House’s High Price Makes Subdivision Sale Option Possible

A view from the gardens that serve as the entrance to the Cram’s Victorian era home along Jefferson Street. The garden and home were featured in Virginia’s Historic Garden Week in April 2016 after the garden had fully matured after 30 years. (Photo: News-Press.)

The Victorian-style home once occupied by beloved City of Falls Church resident Barb Cram is on the market just four months after her passing, but its lofty price tag has made the option of purchasing a parcel of its land a bit more appetizing — especially to home construction companies.

“There’s been a great deal of builder interest in the lot,” listing agent Tori McKinney, of Rock Star Realty, said.

The possibility of buying a chunk of the lot was brought into the equation by Steve Cram, Barb’s husband. He submitted a request to the City’s planning commission — which has subsequently been approved — for the lot to be subdivided, shaving off about a quarter of an acre in the rear of the home, where its driveway, detached shed and the rear of its garden is situated.

“There aren’t many lots available in this neighborhood. That’s the reality. The market reality,” Cram said.

As it stands now, the home and all 0.7 acres of land it sits on is going for $2.7 million. After two open houses in late September that, according to McKinney, welcomed in about 200 people, there has yet to be any significant bites so far.

If someone were to purchase the lot for $750,000, then it would knock down the price of the home and the remaining half acre to $1.95 million. Outside of land alone, the price would be reduced since the added solarium, or sunroom, of the home that houses its multi-purpose pool would have to be demolished to create more space for the other home to be built.

The listing prices are well above City averages. According to Redfin, the median sales price in Falls Church is $972,000. And the average days on market is 25, per Redfin, which the Cram house recently eclipsed.

McKinney wouldn’t go as far as to say selling the home is a challenge, but it is an acquired taste. Historic homes usually have to appeal to people who would rather a home with some patina over one that’s recently constructed.

THE SOLARIUM would be the one addition of the Cram’s house that would be lost if the subdivided lot is sold separately from the entire package. (Photo: Courtesy Rock Star Realty)

And she said the pool of historic homes is different to choose from locally as opposed to where she started out in the Boston metropolitan area, with the Washington, D.C. region having more row homes in it.

Despite this Beech-Lester house originally being built in 1906, the 6,200 square foot residence feels anything but. Cram talked about a four year labor of necessity in renovating the home top-to-bottom, removing everything but a couple of interior walls, a few floor joints and the flooring that forms the wrap-around back patio.

The family completely remodeled the kitchen, living and dining area by knocking down the walls separating it. They even added what they call a “ballroom” behind the common area where they would host parties, and when no one was around, put their couch and TV. In the furthest part of the house is where the solarium is located.

Elements of the original structure exist as well.

The parlor and library to the immediate left and right, respectively, of the foyer remain mostly unchanged. The five bedrooms on the second level have all been updated, though the eagle’s nest that sits on the third level had been converted into the master bedroom, and the two additions of the ballroom and solarium doubled as a private back deck for the third level.
Meanwhile, Cram described the home’s lavish garden as his wife’s labor of love. Barb, as Steve put it, said a garden takes 30 years to mature.

“And so, she spent the first couple of years preparing the soil and preparing the site for her plan. Then she began to execute the plan literally 30 years ago,” Cram said.

Everything from Guillermo’s Walk in the front with its hedges serving as archways to a bench with Devonian Age stone from 375 million years ago were a part of Barb’s vision. The dedication from her and Steve landed them as a featured home during the Historic Garden Week in Spring 2016; nearly 30 years exactly from when the couple purchased the home in 1986.
But for now, McKinney and Cram wait. And as the home hopes to attract the right buyer, Cram isn’t rushing to any kind of judgment about what’s next for him.

“I’m taking everything a day at a time — literally,” Cram said. “It’s been only four months since my wife died, and it’s been a very busy four months getting everything ready, so I take tomorrow when it comes.”