How Much House Can You Afford?

Our survey of four price points for East Bay houses and condos offers a bird’s-eye-view of today’s market.


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Photo by OpenHomesPhotography.com

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East Bay real estate is exciting but more than a little bit agitating at the moment. In neighborhoods with limited inventory, including Alameda, Piedmont, and many parts of Oakland and Berkeley, all-cash offers are common. And be prepared to drop all contingencies and bone up on your persuasive writing skills to seal the deal.

“I sold a Victorian fixer in the East End and had 10 offers, top three all cash,” said Alameda-based real estate agent Philip Kaake of Kaake Properties. “Listed for $529,000 and sold for $637,000, no contingencies. Interesting, I had a higher offer from some people who had to move money from China, but no love letter, and the sellers chose next highest (with a counter offer) because they had this beautiful love letter. It was a family home, so passing it on to the right people meant a lot to them.”

Condos are hot, too, with Oakland buyers looking to MacArthur BART and West Oakland for quick commutes to San Francisco.

So just what can you get for your money? We searched from Richmond to Castro Valley to look at four price points on recently sold homes. Our conclusion is that, despite limited inventory and prices that may seem exorbitant by 2011 standards, there are still values to be had for homebuyers with the resources to play in this market and the patience to take the long view.

Information was obtained via Zillow, Trulia, and Redfin. Walkability and transit scores came from WalkScore.com with 100 the highest score when available; otherwise, the nearest BART station and distance are listed. School scores are based on the state Academic Performance Index, or API, which ranges from a low of 200 to a high of 1,000. Trulia provided the crime data.

 

Starter Homes

Photo by kurt lai

3212 Ettie St., Oakland

Price: $525,000

Year Built: 2003

Square Feet: 1,317

Sold: Nov. 18, 2014

This lucky homeowner scored loft living on the Emeryville border in a gentrifying, multi-use neighborhood, Clawson, with a two-bedroom, two-bath designer-inspired condo, one of four. It’s easy to see what makes this property so desirable, since it offers amenities galore, including vaulted 20-foot ceilings, skylights, full-story windows, and an open floor plan, as well as a butcher-block and granite countertops in the sleek kitchen. Additionally, polished concrete floors and radiant heat, a fireplace, patio, and gated entry lend an exclusive feel, and there is the convenience of a garage and driveway. But many buyers might find this gritty, multi-use neighborhood far too edgy for their tastes.

Walk Score: 68 or Somewhat Walkable

Transit: 51 or Good Transit, one mile from MacArthur BART and San Pablo Avenue, one block from Mandela Parkway.

Schools: Hoover Elementary (705), West Oakland Middle (575), McClymonds High (513)

Vibe: You’re not far from Brown Sugar Kitchen, Hodo Soy Beanery, or B-Side BBQ, and Bay Street is right in your back yard. But so are the sewage treatment plant and the former Oakland Army Base and a host of recycling centers.

Nearby Neighborhoods: West Oakland, Longfellow, Emeryville

Crime: Low but borders a higher-crime area with 11 violent crimes, including robbery, burglary, and theft in November and early December.

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