Tag 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: 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: How Piedmont Brings Out the Worst in Me

By Home Girl, aka real-estate blogger Tracey Taylor).

Go to Piedmont and you feel you have entered another world. That’s if you live in Berkeley or Oakland or anywhere else where you are a mere mortal.

I suppose Piedmont is the East Bay’s equivalent to Pacific Heights. Rarefied, privileged, cocooned. The median list price here for a SFH is $1,236,000 (admittedly a tad lower than Pac Height’s $3,357,000, but you get the picture).

I saw a couple of Piedmont listings this weekend. The first was a pink chateau (above) priced at $3,295,000; the second, a 1950s one-level given a complete contemporary overhaul (below), was $745,000 less expensive, but by far the more interesting proposition in my humble opinion.

If you are the old-school type who favors traditional interiors and bourgeois accommodations, the chateau is for you. If, however, you like something a little more risque — a splash of California indoor-outdoor living, a few floor-to-ceiling windows and a handful of sumptuous bathrooms thrown in — then opt for the newer model (below).

Both homes have been on the market for 64+ days, and I would want to know why the second one, at 43 Farragut Avenue, has changed hands no less than four times in the past 11 years (beginning in 1997 — a snip at $1,250,000). But if you’re after more bang for you buck than in the Heights, these are both worth investigating.

Oh, I did visit a third open house on my tour of Piedmont:  224 Ricardo Avenue is a perfectly nice house in a perfectly nice area, but it costs $1,275,000 and, to be honest, I felt like I was slumming it. That’s the effect Piedmont has on you if you spend more than enough time there.

Above: your new neighbors should you choose to buy 43 Farragut Avenue in Piedmont.

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.

East Bay: Mid-Mod Classic with Eyes on SF Buyers

By Home Girl (aka real-estate blogger Tracey Taylor, former Redfin Sweet Digs maven, making her first guest appearance on The Front Steps. Thank you Alex!):

It doesn’t surprise me that this 3bed/3bath, 1946 house (pictured above), which comes with the distinguished Bay Area architect Walter Ratcliff‘s moniker attached, should be listed on the San Francisco MLS as well as on its East Bay equivalent.

This is the type of home that might just tempt a city dweller to cross the pond and put urban living on the back burner for a while. Set on 36,000 sq ft of wooded land, it features a great room/kitchen that opens to a patio and hot tub and a dramatic fireplace. And, of course, spectacular views of San Francisco to assuage any homesickness for those that made the leap.

But — and there is a but — the interiors look like they need some serious attention. And the big question, and possibly the reason the house hasn’t had any takers after more than 40 days on the market, is why it hasn’t been better presented. This is a house crying out for some sleek retro staging  — as you will, I’m sure, agree when you check out the listing photos.

A rash of Walter Ratcliffs hit the Berkeley market at the tail-end of last year: 2 Somerset Place, a 1920s beauty near John Hinkel Park saw its price slashed from $3.2m to $2.6m before disappearing from the MLS, and 2957 Avalon Avenue and 22 Tanglewood Road sold for $3.1m and $2.3m respectively, near asking price and no quibbling involved. But that was then.