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  • jamesjballard

House Hunting Viewing 1

Updated: Feb 6

35 First Ave

I went to an open house for this place today. It seemed alright, but probably not the house for me at this time. But for completeness, let's take a look inside, using primarily photos from the listing. This view is facing predominantly West. The floor plan images on the listing were too low resolution for me to decipher most of the room labels and stated measurements, so measurements given here are educated guesses from counting pixels and assuming the stairs in the plan are 3 feet wide.


We enter into the entry hall, naturally, that's not too exciting. Closet space, enough floor space for a bench and maybe some end tables for accents, doors to the garage, bathroom/laundry room, and open doorway to the kitchen.


The hall bath is a half bathroom with a closet for side-by-side washer and dryer. No frills, nothing really stood out to me.

The listing had no pictures of the spacious single car garage, and I didn't think to take any either. The current owners have two cats and when we visited they were set up in the garage with food/water and a litter tray (that looked like it hadn't been cleaned for a while). Indoor/outdoor cats with the non-motorized garage door slightly ajar to allow the cats to come and go. I didn't notice them at first until I stepped close to a wall looking for outlets and got close enough to their little cat caves that the calico cat spooked, woke up and decided to go wandering. We saw her across the road when we left. The long haired black cat seemed more interested in approaching people and getting pets and eventually wandered off to inspect other people attending the open house. I did not get pictures of either cat.


The kitchen is spacious, roughly 16 feet by 14 feet with plenty of counter space and a small bay window above the kitchen sink. Predominantly South facing, that window might work for an herb garden?



More than enough space for a kitchen table, maybe a floating island for serving / extra counter space?







Here we can see the doorway into the entry hall, and in the corner behind the refrigerator is a telephone desk, in case anyone these days needs a specific place to be on the phone and take notes.





The floorplan calls this room a "Den" but it feels more like it is an enclosed section of the porch, with windows filling the walls.

It also feels a lot smaller (approximately six feet from the kitchen to the opposite wall) than what I think of as a "den" but to each their own. Much sun, and the South/West facing walls mean this should be toasty warm in the afternoons. A cozy spot to relax and watch the river through the trees.


The living room seems pretty nice, actually. Large enough to feel spacious, with windows on three walls letting in more than enough natural light to keep it from feeling too dark.



The pellet stove and hearth seem to be in good condition and provide a strong contrast to the rest of the room.

I counted at least three outlets on the far wall in this picture, at least one behind the ... hutch? The large piece of furniture in the corner. I'm going with hutch.




Let's head upstairs and save the basement for last.





The floor plan calls this a "Family Room" but the listing says four bedrooms. This was clearly the TV room though.

Three of the four bedrooms are 12x13-ish with the master bedroom closer to 12x21.



Take note of the welcome mat in the doorway of this room. A little odd, right?

The listing doesn't mention it, of course, other than not trying to hide it in the pictures. Turns out the welcome mat is hiding some damage to the carpet where cats and/or a dog have scratched it up trying to get under the closed door.



Moving on to one of the bedrooms, this one on the North East corner.

I don't have much to say about this room. It's slightly larger than the other bedroom on the North West corner (above this room in the floor plan) by trading closet space for floor space.




The most noticeable feature of this room is this spot in the carpet, between the foot of the bed and the windows, where a stain has been cut out of the carpet?


Between this and the damage in the doorway of the TV room the upstairs carpet is functional, but really asking to be replaced.



On to the master bedroom, and the final bedroom to be featured in the pictures on the listing.

Features include plentiful floor space (approximately 12x21in the highlighted area) and a skylight letting you stare that the Southern sky while lying in bed!



All the bedrooms feature plenty of electrical outlets, generally one under each window, and each room also has a coax cable outlet for TV or cable internet? Possibly a little outdated these days, but at least more current than the phone desk in the kitchen.




Astute readers may notice there are no pictures of this room, either from me or from the listing.

There was really nothing noteworthy here, and this room didn't have a bed. It was the most "moved out" room but still a few odds and ends, and the light plate by the door was themed with various sports balls. Likely a child's room. The closet did not have a door, but did have an overhead track for doors.








Let's head down to the basement now. First off, the stairs have a small shelf-like area along the left hand side as you descend, and since the door to the basement is off the kitchen, this small area could be good for storing broom, mop, etc. out of sight but conveniently nearby.

When the refinished the basement and put up the drywall, they made the decision to put in the two 45 degree corners.

The one in this room hides the breaker box and Verizon FiOS box


Maybe they intended to put a nicer cover over the hole, but for now it's just a rectangular hole in the drywall to access the boxes


The rest of the room is largely unremarkable. The drop ceiling is just high enough that I probably won't hit my head going down the stairs too often, and could be convenient for cable management.


Like the fourth bedroom upstairs, the little Utility room was photographed neither by the listing agent, nor by me. This was a very clean space for the water heater and furnace? I really should have taken a picture. The rooms upstairs have baseboard heating and there is no central air conditioning or forced air ducts... Across the hall is a storage closet.



















The other side of the finished basement is much more interesting, in that this is where a strip of the drywall near the floor was cut out, a dehumidifier lives in this part of the room, and the back wall has a mystery plywood door!



Only one photo from the listing of this room. Note the hose running toward the door, and the cut in the drywall under the table on the left.

A clearer look at the hole in the wall.

This may be the first time I've gone to an open house with the thought that I might buy, but I'm pretty sure this is some sort of a red flag. Water damage? Mold? The basement in general had a noticeably damp smell, even in the typically dry New England winter.


But enough about the hole in the wall, we have a Mystery Door!


It didn't want to open (there's a small rope tucked into a hole in the board about level with the light switch) but I also didn't try too hard to open it.


When I stepped closer though, I noticed a sharp dip in the floor a few feet away from the door.

I placed a pen on the floor where the depression felt lowest, and where I could hear the floor drain lid wobble when I tapped it with my foot.

There's a drain in the floor, and when they finished the basement they just carpeted over it. I'm sure nothing bad could ever come from carpeting over a drain in the basement ... This does at least explain why the dehumidifier hose ran out the door instead of into a drain in the basement.



Before we move outside, and see what's behind the Mystery Door, there's still one section of the basement the listing agent didn't photograph but I did: The Unfinshed Section.


Roughly 22 feet long and 8 feet wide it's a dank, drab storage area.

On the right of the photo is a folded ping pong table. Just out of frame on the left is the opening into the finished area. Above me as I took the photo was a bare bulb but it wasn't turned on. I'm reasonably sure the switch on the wall outside this room would turn the light on, but I didn't want to flip random switches without the home owner around just in case it turned off something vital.


Onward, to the outside!


The reveal of the other side of the Mystery Door is a bit of a let down. It's the ground level exit and damaged screen door.

Also pictured the nearby insulation for the floor of the sunroom? Maybe part of the kitchen? It's hard to say without more accurate measurements.











It maybe difficult to tell from the photo, but standing with my back to the screen door this is the view of the Charles river, down the steep hill. A few years to the right is a tree that looks like it fell a few years ago after the hill eroded enough the roots couldn't support it anymore. There's a good bit of space between the foundation of the house and the drop off of the hill, but it could be a long-term concern. At least the house is up high enough that the river flooding isn't a concern.


There are more exterior photos, and even some pictures of the shed that has electricity but no insulation, but the door was stuck when I went to look inside so I don't have any more information there than the listing.


Overall the house seems fine, with a handful of cosmetic issues and some concerning issues. The dish washer reportedly doesn't work, and the summer cooling solution is single-room air conditioner window units.

There was probably water damage in the basement, but I didn't ask the leasing agent about it.

The fence around the back yard is largely intact, but clearly a couple decades old and a few slats are missing here and there.

Perhaps most puzzling are the missing gutter pipes and downspouts.

Especially in the upper right of this photo you can see the gutter running horizontally along the roof to the corner, the elbow where the water flows down, and then nothing, leaving the rain water to freefall down to the ground with nothing to direct it away from the foundation.


I could see myself living here, but I'm not sure for me it's worth the asking price plus the additional work needed.


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