Category Archives: East Bay

Battle Royale: San Francisco Or East Bay, If You Had To Choose

Coming off the heels of my post about a modern, Swedish home currently for sale by some clients contemplating their move here to San Francisco or the East Bay, it inspired a long overdue Battle Royale (perhaps on par with SF v. NYC):
San Francisco versus East Bay (I leave the “what exactly is East Bay” interpretation up to you). If you had to choose and why. Please share in the comments below.

On the map it hardly seems fair with the East Bay being so much larger than San Francisco, but we all know size doesn’t matter right? At least “that’s what she said.”

-More Battle Royales [theFrontSteps]

East Bay: Old Style Meets New Tech in New Oakland Listing

By Home Girl:

Fresh on the block is a substantial contemporary home at 5881 Snake Avenue Road in Montclair, which stands out for being a mix of old school and state-of the-art techie.

It’s worth making a detour to see this one, because it’s certainly not run of the mill. It doesn’t fit into any of the easy categories we assign to East Bay homes, such as Craftsman, brown-shingle, or post-fire new build.

Completed this month — literally — it’s 4,000 ft of house with lots of crafty touches as well as all the latest in modern gizmos. Architect Tomm Smail of TSI Architects evidently decided he wanted a house with personality. So there are dozens of stained glass windows (by Vicki Combs at Volcano Stained Glass) and acres of custom tile (by Michelle Griffoul Studios).

Then there’s the high-tech part: a whizzbang automations system which allows you to control everything — security, music,  lighting and TV — with your cell phone. (Assuming you’ve mastered TV remotes at this point.)

The advantage of building character into a new home is that you can’t criticize it of being bland. The risk is that nobody will share your taste. Personally, while some of the decor would not be my choice, I could live with it in order to enjoy that all the square footage and the gourmet kitchen. I’m less enamored with the living room configuration: it’s very open-plan and leads straight off the front doorway. I like my fireplace lounging areas to be a little cozier.

But I think the price is fair for the market — it would have been nudging $2m a couple of years back — it’s in a convenient spot for Montclair Village, and there’s always the inherent appeal of a one-off.

Price: $1,695,000
Per sq ft: $424
Walk Score: 80/100 — Very walkable.
Related: Another newly listed, new home nearby also offers “character” (check out the pink up-lighting in the kitchen), less space, a higher price ($1,800,000) and is more car-dependent.
In brief: Will suit those who like ‘em new and original.

East Bay: Your Own Vineyard in Oakland (Yes Oakland)

By Home Girl

If you have ever flirted with the idea of having your own vineyard and harvesting a few decent cases of mellow wine every year, but a move to rural Napa or Sonoma seems too much of a leap, then have a look at this 4/3.4 updated ranch home at 5651 Colbourn Place on the Hillcrest Estate in the Oakland hills.

For its 1.5 acres do indeed include 250 Wente-Clone chardonnay vines, as well a concealed wine cellar, gardening beds, livestock pens, a chicken coop and fruit trees. This might not be the bucolic idyll, but it’s close: the nearest coffee shop is 2 miles away, there are stables down the road and the property is zoned for a horse.

The house itself won’t have you drooling — it’s a little bland and the living area is disproportionately small. But the master suite addition on an upper floor is a bonus, and given a mid-century makeover by someone with a sense of style, something could be done.

The setting’s the thing, though. Think glorious views, big skies and a sundowner cocktail on the deck before you wring one of your fowl’s necks and sling it on the BBQ.

Price: $1,398,000
Per sq ft: $519
Walk Score: 11/100
Related: House is on a cul-de-sac with neighbors; most Hillcrest Estate homes have a minimum 1-acre lot. Read this Times piece about “the pastoral beauty” of Oakland.
In brief: Is Oakland the new wine country?

East Bay: Berkeley Named Top Spot For Selling Your Home

By Home Girl, aka real-estate blogger Tracey Taylor

If you are selling your home, Berkeley is the place to be doing it, according to a piece in Forbes which ranks the ten best suburbs to sell a home. (Suburb? Ouch that hurts.) This is how they put it:

Berkeley known sometimes as a hippie haven, is becoming a hotbed for home sales. Prices in the Bay Area suburb are up 9% this year, with homes selling for a median price of $790,986. Properties are sitting on the market for 73 days on average, the lowest of any area with positive price trends within the confines of the country’s 75 largest Census-defined metro areas. Only 37% of sellers have been forced to reduce their prices, one of the lowest rates in the country.

“Only 37%” of sellers reducing their prices? Shows just how bad it is. Other California spots to make it into the Top 10 include Encinitas and Venice.

The report draws on stats from Altos Research and the really interesting angle — and one Forbes fails to mention — is provided by Altos CEO Mike Simonsen on his blog. He says this was a difficult one to call:

Their editors called and asked, “Where are the best selling suburbs for sellers right now?” It’s a tough question because the answer, really, is nowhere… By our Market Action Index, there are essentially no markets with demand levels high enough to call them “Sellers’ Markets”. We settled on identifying ten suburbs whose demand trends … simply weren’t horrible.

Of course, a Forbes ranking of “10 suburbs to sell that simply aren’t horrible” doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.

[Photo credit: http://www.cityofberkeley.info

East Bay: Doing Your Bit For Gas Prices in the Berkeley Hills

By Home Girl (aka real-estate blogger Tracey Taylor, former Redfin Sweet Digs maven).

James and Gillian Servais build “stealth homes”. Over the years the couple have designed more than twenty houses, mostly in the Berkeley and Oakland hills, and the one characteristic they all share is how well they blend into their surroundings. With their dirt-colored stucco and discreet positioning, they are the antithesis of the architecturally strident “statement” homes that some people chose to build in the aftermath of the 1991 East Bay firestorm.

The look is invariably rustic chic. Think limestone floors, hearths made from slabs of sandstone and recycled wood used for exposed beams and doors. The influences are Mediterranean and early Monterey with a dash of the Southwest.

1400 West View Drive, a 3+/2.5 with a garden, Bay views and a 2-car garage, has vaulted beamed ceilings (as in the living room, above) and hand-plastered walls. It’s not the most accessible spot: it’s reached by a private drive and parking is limited. And with its 34/100 Walk Score, it’s not for someone looking to reduce their dependence on foreign oil. But it may suit someone looking to retreat to the hills and, at $481/sq ft, the price is not unreasonable (Berkeley average being $433).

Another Servais home, at 1269 Grand View Drive, sold in April this year for $2,025,000 on a $2,495,000 asking price. Down the street, 1260 Grand View Drive — a 3,626 sq ft, 4/3.5 contemporary priced at $1,099,000 — has been languishing on the market for more than 150 days.

Price: $1,495,000
Per sq ft: $481
Walk score: 34/100
Related: Last sold in February 2006 for $1,350,000. Read article on the Servais’ own home in Diablo Magazine.
In brief: “Turbo Pueblo” living.