Monday, June 22, 2009

1626 Alameda Ave....Run, Run away...

Read This:The following review is just my opinion and only my opinion I am not a professional house appraiser or inspector and I am not a structural engineer. The opinions expressed in this review are based on my own inspection of the property, the publicly available facts from aggregator sites such as Redfin and Zillow and the online permit database for the city of Alameda. I am not responsible for incorrect or missing data that appears in these sources. In fact, its probably best that you just ignore everything you read here as the lunatic ravings of an unbalanced mind.

This next house we actually saw two weekends ago but the place was just so horrible that I couldn't work up the courage to write about it until now...

1626 Alameda Ave 6 bedroom, 6 bath 4400 sq ft house that is a legal duplex on a lot not much bigger than the house for...wait for it....$1,04900 yes that's over $1mill

This house does not have a Zestimate which seems suspicious to me. I've noticed several houses that are advertising on Zillow with ridiculous prices that don't have Zestimates??? Seems mighty convenient to me no?

Here is a bad shot of the outside of the house....The place was soooooooo wrong in so many different places that my head was spinning and I couldn't take any pictures....Towards the end it was all I could do to keep smiling and not run screaming from the place...

Okay the positives: The house is a legal duplex that appears to of been one from the beginning. Its got parking for two small cars in the garage and two more in the driveway.

Okay the negatives: Wow, where to start....

  1. Attic has been converted into an illegal unit with no permits. A permit check shows not one but three complaints to the city about this illegal unit the last one being in '07. The new owner will have to most certainly deal with this. My bet is that the city makes em rip it all out and turn the space back into storage.
  2. The house has been used as a boarding house for the past many, many years with every room rented out separately. To make this work bathrooms were added in weird in a niche IN the kitchen, separated from the kitchen by just a louvered bi-fold door....There is at least 3 illegal bathrooms in this place....
  3. All the bathrooms have CARPET!!!, carpet in the bathrooms....yuck...
  4. There is an illegal 'owners unit' in the basement...substandard height, with a weird mini-kitchen-bath combo....this unit also has at least one complaint against it in the permit record.
  5. Roof needs to be replaced
  6. Not sure of the foundation.
  7. No reports done! How you gonna sell a million dollar home with no reports? No pest or house inspection....
  8. Looks like a serious mismash of original galv and new copper plumbing tacked on.
  9. This illegal 4-plex only has a 100amp service...waaaaay under powered.
  10. No backyard or front yard to speak of.


Run, run away faaaaaaaast!

It would take so many hundreds of thousands of dollars to fix this place up and make it legal and safe....its making my head spin again trying to figure this out....lets say you can convince the city to normalize the two illegal units....I'm guestimating $500,000 to have pros do the work for you...even when the place is all done its not going to sell for a million in this market...maybe $900,, to me, the place is worth no more than $400,000 and I think that that's being very generous....

The house is large and in a very nice neighborhood near Franklin park so maybe it will sell...who knows, the houses I've written about so far have not sold like hotcakes....

Sunday, June 21, 2009

1291 Caroline-Knife Catching Again...

Read This:The following review is just my opinion and only my opinion I am not a professional house appraiser or inspector and I am not a structural engineer. The opinions expressed in this review are based on my own inspection of the property, the publicly available facts from aggregator sites such as Redfin and Zillow and the online permit database for the city of Alameda. I am not responsible for incorrect or missing data that appears in these sources. In fact, its probably best that you just ignore everything you read here as the lunatic ravings of an unbalanced mind.

Here we go a here we go a here we go again...

Today's Gold Coast open home is 1291 Caroline st. A 1471sq ft 3 bed 1.5 bath high basement Queen Anne cottage on a not huge 4000 sq ft lot for the price of $789,000. The 'zestimate' for the house is $691,000....most people tend to think that the zestimates are high these guys might be a little bit optimistic.
The current owners bought the house in 2000 for $525,000 and have not put a legal penny into the place since then.

First off I have to say the realtor who has this listing is really on the ball. This house was on the front page of the Real Estate section in one of the local Alameda papers one week and then the next it was on the back page as a 'feature' and she's advertising on Craig's List. At least the homeowners are getting their place promoted intelligently...there was a steady stream of people looking at the place when we were there.

Looks great from the street I think. This house was built by the same firm that built ours...Marcuse and Remmel. Its got a nice sized front yard with good plants. The garage door is giving us hope that its got a nice big bottom floor that we can use as shop and storage space.

Walk up the stairs, which are a little wobbly...and you get a decent little front porch...According to the pest inspection there is a lot of dry-rot in this area that is going to need to be fixed.

Walk in the front door and you have this nice big front room....wait a second...its waaaaaay to big. 'Someone' removed the hallway wall and a wall separating the two front rooms....A permit check says that no work has been done on the house 'legally' since 98 when there was a reroof...the hallway wall is probably load bearing so who knows if the ceiling joists are over-spanned?..I'd bet they are... But it is a nice looking room.

With this fabulous mantle with the original tile! This is the exact twin to our mantle! Cept ours is not painted!The fire place was originally a coal burner but the chimney has been knocked down sorta...not even knocked down into the attic with the roof patched..just sorta knocked down to within a couple of feet of the roof...To the right of the fireplace is a cool built-in with a pass-thru into the kitchen.

Nother shot of the 'great room' from the other side looking back towards the front door.

The main level of the house has one bath..ugh that means parents, kids, guests all share one bath...

It appears that the bath was redone very recently. The granite counter-top and fixtures and cabinets all look pretty much brand new....also not done with permits. But hey its got double sinks!

You can walk thru the bath into the 'master bedroom' not very large and its got 4 doors! One to the bath, one to the hall 2 for closets (hey its got 2 good sized closets) and one into the next bedroom...

Nother shot of the master bedroom... The bedroom layout of the house is kinda weird. it goes bedroom, bath, bedroom, bedroom all with interconnecting doors and doors to the hallway except for the bath which has to be accessed thru one of the bedrooms.

Here is the dining room with the other side of the pass through and a nice little bay window.

Between the dining room and the kitchen is this weird little area where more walls have been removed without permits. I can't figure out what this area was originally maybe a butlers pantry or something...

The kitchen is decent sized with a decent amount of cabinets. This kitchen also appears to be redone, with the glass subway tile backsplash, the countertops and the appliances looking new but not the cabinets. The kitchen is also in an addition to the house. It looks like it was done a while ago as the framing lumber matches the original part of the house. I could live with the kitchen.

Other side of the kitchen has the fridge and pantry shelves. Not a bad setup really. The open door there matches one we had here at our house also.. unfortunately ours was so rotted we didn't deem it worth saving. But walk thru that door and you get...

The interior stairwell to the bottom floor. This is another 'period correct' stair that's dang dangerous to go down and would not ever meet modern codes. The door to the right at the bottom opens into the back yard.

Turn left at the bottom of the stairs and you have this nice laundry room. Look up, they stapled fabric to the underside of the joists to give the area a more finished look. Whats that door on the left you say? The room with the tiled floor?

Well its the 'half bath' this room doesn't even have a sink so I'm not sure if it can be officially called a half bath? But don't worry you can always walk out around the washer-dryer and wash your hands in the laundry sink.

The doorway on the right brings you into this little area. The ceiling down here is maybe 6'-6" not legal unfortunately. Also whats not legal is all the lighting and outlets in this are only allowed one overhead light and one outlet in a storage lots of electrical done without permits here...I think this was where the kids hung out.

To the right is this little home office area with its own door to the outside.

The rest of the bottom floor is broken up into two sides by the major load bearing wall...One note about this wall...the house had a partial foundation replacement at one time but the center wall is still sitting on bricks and I think both ends of the house are also? So at one time someone came in and redid the 2 long walls of the house. Don't know when it was done but it doesn't show up on the permit record...The slab down here is also not a 'real' slab its just a 1" rat slab as they are called...

The other side has the garage door you can see from the front and more storage. You can see the chimney on the left taking up space...House has a conventional water heater and forced air furnace. With the joists exposed I could see evidence of lots of wack-a-doo wiring and evidence that the house has galv water piping that looked not new.

The backyard is gorgeous...small but gorgeous. This shot shows the entire depth of the yard...

From another angle here's the patio a nice little hangout space.

Decent sized side yard on the one side.

itty-bitty sideyard from the other side.


The house was nice enough...but small. The front yard is definitely 'Halloweenable' but the backyard is just waaay to small, no room for a garden, and a koi pond...All the un-permitted structural mods gives me pause also. The layout of the bedrooms also just wouldn't work for us...unfortunately the house is just a little too small for us...if the bottom floor was full height legal living space that might change things..but right now the place only has one real bathroom...throw in the replacement of the brick foundation and putting a real slab down there and re-plumbing the house and fixing the wiring.....I just don't see how its worth $789,000

To make it work for us we'd need to dig down 2' on the bottom floor and make that legal living space...that's a $125,000 foundation job and there is no way in heck the city would let us do it....not in a million years. So for us again the house is maybe worth...nope its not worth anything to us cause we could never make it work for us.

Oh I forgot to mention... Happy Fathers Day to all the dads out there...

Monday, June 15, 2009

1627 San Jose Ave Catching Knives in the Gold Coast Pt 2

Read This:The following review is just my opinion and only my opinion I am not a professional house appraiser or inspector and I am not a structural engineer. The opinions expressed in this review are based on my own inspection of the property, the publicly available facts from aggregator sites such as Redfin and Zillow and the online permit database for the city of Alameda. I am not responsible for incorrect or missing data that appears in these sources. In fact, its probably best that you just ignore everything you read here as the lunatic ravings of an unbalanced mind.

Okay so in the spirit of the now defunct Knifecatchers blog I am going to review houses that we tour in the Gold Coast section of Alameda. Doing these posts takes a looooooooong time so I'm only going to do houses we actually tour in the gold coast.

Today's victim, house is 1627 San Jose Ave. A lovely 3 bd 2.5 bath (with no official house size or lot size listed?) house less than a block away from Franklin Park listed for $875,000 on the market for over 60 days...

First impressions are that the house has an interesting roof line and looks very craftsmany which is right for when the place was built. Its all painted one color which really takes away from the craftsmany goodness of the place. Looks pretty good from the street no?

Get closer and see the super steep driveway! Yow, pulling a car outta that is going to be tuff. But this subterranean garage gives us hope that possibly the house will have a full basement and thus workshop space for us!!!

But alas it is not so... Just a teeny-tiny garage with barely enough room for my tiny, little car and maybe the bicycles and the two motorcycles?

Over the garage is what looks like a pretty cool walkout patio...pretty cool until I looked up and saw the condition of the framing...2by6's that are way over spanned that are dry-rotted on the edges and that shows signs of obvious leaking-From the inspectors report this entire thing is going to need to be rebuilt and water-proofed correctly...

Walking to the front door and it has this super cool stained glass window...neato...touches like this let you know this was always a high-end neighborhood.

I forgot to take pictures of the front porch area but it was nice and wide with room for some chairs. Nice front door made from quarter-sawn white oak. Unfortunately its the only woodwork in the place that's not painted...

Step in from the front door and see this pretty cool looking stairway. Really cool old lights here. The carpet on the stairway was this hideous stained, green shag thing...the room with the little couch is a sitting room off the main stair area.

Turn right into the front room of the house. Good sized room with a built-in bench seat. To the right of the seat is the doorway to the front patio over the garage that I forgot to take pictures of from inside...

Something that worries me and appears to be echoed in the inspectors report...see that wiiiiide opening on the left behind the couch? Someone at sometime opened up these front rooms to make a great room and who knows if it was done correctly...

Walk forward from the front door thru a suspiciously wide opening and you enter the formal dining room. Good sized room with another cool light.

Turn left and you find the kitchen. It all appears very serviceable but definitely very 1950's....laminate counter-top in this neighborhood is wow...not going to cut it. The ceiling in this room has been dropped also with those hideous looking industrial ceiling tiles...the kitchen room is good sized with maybe some eat-in potential but it is going to have to be gutted and redone to bring it up to the standards of this neighborhood.

Off the kitchen is a little laundry room. Pretty convenient place for it...might be better used by removing the wall and making it part of the kitchen like an eating nook or something.

Walk thru the kitchen and you enter this addition to the house...slab on grade some kind of...I don't know what kind of room this is...

Walk thru the sliding glass doors (very not orig) and into the Huuuuuuuuuge backyard... oh, you got maybe 30' to the back fence....this house actually has the smallest lot on the block...not exactly a good thing.

The side yard on one side is pretty decent sized....for a dog run.

thru a door way and down a tiny narrow winding stair there is a little bit of a basement!! Not very tall and not very big but there is some room down there.

Coolest thing in the basement was this old boiler. Still working apparently. Not hooked up to the gas line correctly or vented correctly. Sure hope they have a CO detector down there. From down here you can see that all the plumbing in the house appears original...that means its all galv water pipes and threaded galv DWV'll all have to go to bring the house up to modern plumbing standards.

There were two smaller rooms off the main room this one looks like it was used for storage and the other looks like it was set up as maybe a summer kitchen at one time. The foundation walls down here appear to be concrete but I have a hard time believing that they are...

Going back up through the house and starting up the main stair to the second level we have this cool little closet on the landing. One good thing I have to say about this house is that it has a decent amount of closet space even by modern standards.

Here's a shot of the hallway on the middle floor..why? I don't know for completeness I guess?

Here's the master bedroom at one end of the hallway which means it faces the street. Cool fireplace and bay window with seating. Good sized room also.

Here is the master bathroom. Toilet -sink and a good sized shower stall. Not a big bathroom unfortunately and very unfortunately this appears to be added recently with no permits....

the closet though in the master bedroom is fricken huge for the era. Don't know what it was originally but it goes like 5' past the edge of the picture to the left. Shoulda made this the bathroom I'd think.

One of the small bedrooms on the middle floor. With a decent sized closet outta frame on the left.

Another one of the small bedrooms on the middle floor with a good sized closet off to the right. But the really cool thing about this room is whats through the doorway.

A cool big covered porch. This is also not original to the house I believe but it appears to be in good shape and since it faces north would probably be a good place to hang out on a hot summers day...when you're not at the pool in Franklin Park.

Making our way down the hallway on the other side of the stairs is this weird little half bath that I don't quite understand? Also not original and also not done with permits.

Just pass the little half bath is this good sized bath that looks original to me. This room is actually pretty huge by the standards of the time. Love the pink-black-green motif very 1910ish I think.

Just for fun here's a shot of one of the radiators... There is one of these in just about every room even the master closet! Open the pic and check out how fancy the metal work is! Definitely a higher end house for the time.

Check out these crazy stairs to the top floor. Way narrow and steep and too windy for modern codes and really is kinda dangerous to walk up and down. Wouldn't want to do that every day to get to a bedroom or something...

Hallway on the top floor bigger than I was thinking it was going to be.

There are actually 4 bedrooms on the top floor where apparently the owners children lived when they were I guess the stairs can be navigated reasonably safely... Here is one of the bedrooms, the closet is down on the left side of the window. The ceiling here is not drywall..its that cardboard stuff...there is also lots of evidence of the roof leaking in this ceiling. Carpet is super gross and dirty.

This is the middle bedroom. Check out the super cool wood paneling!!! Not a bad size with a good sized closet.

Another top floor bedroom.

Another top floor bedroom. Nothing spectacular here but there was more evidence of roof leakage and the ropes on the double hungs were broken...actually a lot of the double hungs on this floor had broken ropes.

I'm going to do some paraphrasing of the inspectors report and mesh it with my own inspection to give an idea of how much work this house will require to bring it up to the standard of the neighborhood.

First off its a huge house (on a tiny lot). The two main levels are good sized with the top floor as 'bonus' space. There has not been any updating of the house for a verrrrrry long basically the house needs everything and nothing...what that means is someone could move in and just clean the place and start living there but the house, in my opinion would be very unsafe especially if you put a bunch of people/weight on the top floor.

For us though, the house part is too big, the lot is too small, and there is not enough garage-shop-storage space.

From the inspectors report and my own observations here are the things the house is going to need redone...
  1. The entire foundation...Dig out the entire bottom floor and get a full height useful basement. Having done this twice before I'd say that this is going to run $150,000 at least.
  2. The roof is shot and is going to require a total tear-off and a rebuild of the roof framing (per the inspection report).
  3. The top floor is not legal living space and needs to be somehow made legit...good luck with that.
  4. Wiring on top floor is done with with zip cord!!! Inspection calls it dangerous-basically gut and redo the entire top floor and probably add a bath as there is not one up there now.
  5. Repipe the house.
  6. Rewire the house, inspection calls the current mish-mash of overloaded fuses, and knob and tube wiring unsafe.
  7. Replumb the house with cast iron DWV.
  8. Normalize all the work done without permits.
  9. Redo kitchen to bring it up to standards of the 'hood.
  10. Fix the 'major structural mods' called out in the inspection.
  11. Rebuild or replace a majority of the wood double hungs.

My laymans opinion is that its going to require at least $500,000 to bring this house up to the standards of the neighborhood. Even if this place was redone I doubht it could sell for more than $1Mill...several big places in this price range have not sold and have been sitting on the market for quite a while.

So to me...the house is worth $500,000 tops...think the seller would go for that? Doubht it....

Unfortunately some young yuppie power-couple will buy the place for their 1.5 kids Madison and Doyle and their purebred golden retreiver skipper. They'll put money into the cosmetic stuff like a new kitchen and redone floors and paint and not touch the really important stuff like the foundation and earthquake retro-fitting...actually the place has 7 bedrooms might be a better house for the waltons...'cept they could never afford it.

Okay that's my second 'knifecatchers' post next up is a nice little Marcuse and Remmel Vic at 1291 Caroline St.