What a Million Dollars Buys in Berkeley

In the sizzling-hot East Bay real estate market, a million dollars gets you a remodeled “starter” home in an “upcoming” neighborhood.


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1312 Peralta Ave. was listed for sale at the asking price of $795,000.

Photo courtesy of Stuart Marson

It wasn’t long ago that the term “million-dollar home” conjured a magnificent manse accessed via a circular driveway, surrounded by mature trees and an auspicious entryway. Today, that’s as ludicrous as Dr. Evil’s ransom demands.

In the sizzling-hot East Bay real estate market, what a million dollars gets you in today’s reality currency is a remodeled “starter” home in an “upcoming” neighborhood. Fitting the bill, a recently listed 3-bedroom, 2-bathroom home in Berkeley’s Westbrae district went on the market for just under $800,000.

“I expect the selling price to end up closer to the million-dollar mark,” said listing agent Stuart Marson of Millstein & Associates. “The list price is set to instigate interest. Clearly, in today’s market, demand exceeds supply.

With its tree-lined streets, community gardens, and family-friendly city park, the small, but beautifully remodeled, early 20th-century home is in one of Berkeley’s most walk-able and bike ride-able neighborhoods, according to Redfin.

“A home just up the street from this property listed for about the same amount, and closed at over a $1 million,” Marson added. “El Cerrito is now beginning to command these types of selling prices, too. Not just the El Cerrito hills, but properties falling well below The Arlington.”

According to Redfin, Berkeley’s median home price hit rock bottom in 2011 at just over a half million. Since the market “correction,” the city’s housing market has seen a steep and steady uptick in property values, with consistent growth rates between 6 percent and 8 percent.

Good news for sellers; not so good news for renters and others being priced out of this culturally diverse neighborhood. With rising home prices, many longtime renters are finding themselves looking for new residences as sellers take advantage of lucrative timing.

“We’re seeing people moving into the proximity of where they want to be,” Marson said. “From cluster analysis, the maps show us where and when formerly overlooked neighborhoods begin to heat up. If you can’t buy in Berkeley, you might consider El Cerrito and Northeast Richmond or South and East Oakland. There’s still a semblance of affordability there.”

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