Real estate agent Tom von Zabern is particularly proud of his new listing on Winslow Avenue in Davis Square. But, then, he did personally redesign the property, transforming a once-squalid three-unit rental into a magnificent single family home.
Built in 1900, the house had all the hallmarks of a Depression-era illegal conversion.
“It was drab and horrible. Everything was poorly built and not to code. It functioned poorly as a multi-family,” says von Zabern, who worked with contractors Sherwood Builders to renovate and overhaul the property. “We thought of creating two townhouses, but that really didn’t work either. I tortured myself and ended up with a drawing of a single family. We decided to create one good home instead of two compromised ones.”
Apart from extending the house at the rear, the redesign honors the original Victorian exterior. The interior, however, was completely gutted.
“There really wasn’t much worth saving. I tried to imagine what the modern homebuyer wants and used feedback from homeowners to design a house for how people live now, not 110 years ago," he says.
A perennial complaint from homebuyers is that, in many homes, the kitchen is cut off from the rest of the house, isolating the cook.
“I opened up the first floor and put the kitchen in the middle. That way, the family chef is part of what’s going on in the rest of the house," says von Zabern.
Another complaint von Zabern often hears from prospective homebuyers is that bedrooms are too small. That isn’t a problem with this home, which has four sizable bedrooms, including a second-floor master suite with a private bathroom, a walk-in closet and a private deck. The third floor forms another bedroom suite with a sitting area, bathroom and a balcony.
Turning multi-families into single homes is not how developers usually work. It is far more profitable to split a house and sell as smaller units. However, this is the third multi-to-single conversion that von Zabern has worked on recently.
“Some builders think about more than making the most money out of a property. There’s the idea of leaving a legacy. There are too many bland conversions that ruin the original building just for profit. They also ruin the look of a neighborhood," he explains.
31 Winslow Ave., Somerville
Listing price: $1,290,000
Listing agent: Tom Von Zabern