REALESATE-ONTHE BLOCK- What's wrong? Some things the market won't bear

ADDRESS: 957 Locust Avenue


ASKING: $439,000

ASSESSMENT: $498,700


SIZE: 2,700 fin. sq. ft., 150 unfin.

LAND: 0.34 acres

CURB APPEAL: 7 out of 10

LISTED BY: Joan Esposito, Roy Wheeler Realty Co., 760-1028

Desirable location? Check. Hardwood floors? Check. Rental unit, nice lot? Check.

Interested buyers? Oops- that's one thing this week's house doesn't seem to have, but it's not for lack of trying.

The agent describes the lack of interest as "a complete mystery." She says that while over 200 agents and prospective buyers have visited the house, no one has yet stepped up to make an offer.

Nothing seems wrong with the place from the outside. Facing Locust Avenue, it's a brick Cape Cod that from the front looks too small to contain five bedrooms and three baths. However, the driveway leading around back slopes down a slight drop-off which reveals a large basement level, source of the extra space. 

The long, narrow lot boasts substantial gardens more typical of a county homestead than a parcel so close to downtown, but the greenery and the lot combine to create a secluded entrance to the separate apartment. The gardens are part of the reason why the owners have decided to sell– after 25 years in this house, they're ready for a condo with less maintenance. 

There's no foyer beyond the front door– it opens directly to the living room on the left, opposite a small closet and stairs leading to the second floor. The living room has hardwood floors, as does the rest of the house, and one of two fireplaces. Beyond the living room, the dining room has a salvaged stained glass window, double doors leading to the deck, and access to the kitchen.

The kitchen is a little on the small side. In fact– perhaps one reason offers have been slow to arrive– it seems more suited to an apartment than a large house. While it borrows space from the dining room via a counter that acts like a low wall, that doesn't mitigate the fact that there's really not much room for more than one chef. But there have been some upgrades like recently installed Corian countertops. 

Also on this level are two bedrooms and a bath. Pink trim in one of the bedrooms stands out, and the footed tub in the bathroom is an attention-grabber. However, it's only a bathtub; there's no shower on the first floor. Blue carpet on the stairs leading to the second floor may present a quandary. While it appears to have several years left in it, it's a powder blue color that may not be suited to all tastes. Of course, the hardwood beneath the carpet is always a classy option.

The two bedrooms and one bath upstairs are standard except for one odd element: an extra room has been fitted with a sink and a rod for hanging clothes. That room can become a full bath– to make a master suite– but it would entail loss of the bedroom closet. If left unchanged, it's just a master bedroom with a closet with a sink in it. 

A large basement space contains workshop benches, the heating system, and a new washer and dryer, not the most convenient arrangement. A garden shed paved with flagstones connected to the space leads outside, and the rest of the basement is a separate apartment.

Starting with its eat-in kitchen, the apartment consists of three rooms in a line. There's also a small bathroom off the middle room, but it doesn't have a proper door: privacy is provided by a curtain. While the apartment rooms have their own fireplace, the low ceilings might make the space difficult to rent and more appropriate as guests rooms or an in-law suite. The wall separating the apartment could easily be removed, opening the space to the rest of the house.

With its closet sink and lack of foyer and central air, 957 Locust Ave is a house with some issues that needs a buyer who will either tolerate them or spend the money to fix them. Even discounted over 20 percent from its initial bank appraisal of $560,000, it's having trouble finding a new owner. Is this a symptom of a slower housing market or just simple bad luck?