Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Knifecatching 1200 San Antonio Ave

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 I wasn't really planning on doing a review of this house but was goaded into it be a friend...
Usually I do reviews on houses that on paper look like something we would want to own and in a price range that we can afford....this place is neither of those things.

Today's House 1200 San Antonio Ave, a 5 bed 5.5 bath mansion of 6493 sq ft on a healthy 11,325 sq ft lot! Built in 1910 on sale for a cool $1.795 MILLION!! Zillow says the current owners bought the place in 93 for $845,000...dang that seems like a lot of money back then as that's' before the dot com housing bubble... according to the permit record the only legal work the current owners did on the house was install a spa and re roof....and they're expecting to get an oh 112% increase in purchase price?!?!!?

First off, I just want to talk about the open house. We were quite surprised that the place was actually open to the public. The giant gold coast mansions are NEVER open to the common people! We knew it was going to be a madhouse at the open as the house is owned by an internationally famous opera singer. We got their at 1:15 and the place was already full of people! I got to hand it to the realty company they have the fanciest 4 sided handout I've ever seen. They also had a small army working the open with Realtors on every floor (all 4 of them) acting like docents at a museum....That's also why I didn't get any pictures of the inside....I chickened out because of all the docents everywhere and the fact that there were already like 3-4 people in every room of this 4 story mansion! One of my favorite things about the open was all the folks that came super dressed-up in their 'rich people clothes'.....'I know you, you're a checker at Safe Way!' So entertaining all around...

Here's the only picture I have of the place. Go here to see the super duper website complete with the 'ode to joy' playing in the background (gag, how upscale). Actually check out the pics it'll make my review make more sense.

First off the main floor:
In a word pretty damn impressively gorgeous. Lovely woodwork, large scale rooms designed for grand entertaining. The mantles were gorgeous, wish I coulda got a pic of them. There's a nice solarium kinda thing added on to the side of the house. The kitchen was uh, okay I guess....According to the permit history the place was completely remodeled in the mid 80's and not really touched since....What was a fancy kitchen in 84 just looks well...passe now a days..Its got the original white solid color Corian counter tops circa 84'...the cabinets where especially shoddy by today's standards, they were just painted plywood, even the doors!?!

There is a spa in the back yard that the current owners put in but between that and the 5ish car garage there really is not very much backyard....this I don't understand, to my tiny mind if I'm going to own a mansion I want to have a decent amount of land around it. The house is on a corner so they only have one neighbor with an equally big house on an equally tiny lot and the houses were so close you can see right into the neighbors house and blah who wants that?(for $1.8M)

The basement:
There are not one but two separate stair cases down to the basement. Here, they did it right. They dug out the complete footprint of the house when they redid the foundation and added ~2000 sq ft to the house (not included in the ~6k number above). In the basement they have tons of storage, a wine cellar, a really great workout room, a giant man-cave with a working fireplace. I don't know why more people don't do this when they are redoing their foundations. Ya I know it adds cost but storage sells people!

The 2nd Floor:
Okay here's where I'm probably going to draw some flack...but I was not very impressed by the top two floors. There is a grand staircase up to the 2nd floor along with a smaller 2nd stair off the kitchen...This floor had a bunch of bathrooms and big-ass bedrooms and in scale it was very impressive-any of the bedrooms could of been a master suite in a normal house.

I'm walking around and looking at everything and something is just not right I can't put my finger on it right away and then BANG, it hits me. The fit and finish of this floor is comparable to the McMansions in exclusive gated communities they put up all over the east bay hills starting in the mid 80's. When they redid these floors they tossed all the historic stuff and installed, I kid you not, what looks like off the shelf home despot stuff. ALL the doors on this floor were HOLLOW PLASTIC cross and bible doors with the cheapest feeling door handles...all the trim looked like cheap painted MDF. I mean 4" MDF baseboard in a $1.8M house!?!?! The bathrooms where redone with the height of 80's McMansion style also...gold toned fixtures (gag) and non-historically correct tile, tile everywhere. The bathrooms suffer from the same plight as the kitchen, what was considered high-class in 84 just looks tacky today.... This final bit will seem super nit-picky but all the switch and outlet covers where cheap plastic off the shelf from the depot....or what ever was around back then. Also all the non-original light fixtures all over the house looked like cheap in-stock home despot garbage....

The Top Floor:
Originally an attic was converted into living space during the super remodel of the 80's. I gotta say, this must of been one of the most amazing attics in the world before the conversion, 20' ceilings, windows, and its just humongous. It was converted into a master suite with his and hers marble baths and a nursery. Its huge, the baths are huge, the bedroom is huge, the nursery is not huge however. This floor suffers from the same blight as the 2nd floor-it looks and feels like a Danville McMansion which I find VERY off putting.

Hell, I don't know, looking at this as a non-wealthy person who knows what it costs to restore old houses in a quality way I just can't figure how its worth $1.8M. Maybe its geared towards someone who is so wealthy that they are looking at this as a fixer-upper?
There is ~$17,000 in termite work required also (I didn't see the report but this is what the realtor told me.) The permit history shows that a new roof was put on in 08 and in 85...but looking at the roof to me it looks like the roof was done in 85 so I don't know what the 08 permit was about...The shingles are odd...they look like compressed cardboard possibly impregnated with asphalt...they also all look like they are failing with the edges curling up on the majority of the shingles I could see...so factor in a re-roofing also.

What really bugs me is that everything that was touched during the big overhaul in the 80's was stripped away of its historical character...that's all the baths, the kitchen and the top two floors...and replaced with crappy McMansion, Home Despot crappiness....

I guess the current owners are smart? They bought the place soon after a major, expensive remodel was done...essentially just living in the house for 20 yrs, not doing anything to it and now they expect to get 112% of what they paid for it?

Disclaimer: All the above is just my opinion and only my opinion, so all you worshippers of the owner of this house can just suck it.


Tish said...

Criminy, I'm so old that I remember when the owner bought this house. It was a big deal when this place was for sale back then. Ok, I didn't have much useful to say other than that I feel old.

Jayne said...

There are a lot of typos in that listing, which irritates me almost as much as what the "remuddlers" did to that house.

The MadScientist said...

Hi Tish,
If you can remember waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay back to the mid eighties I don't think that that makes you old...

The MadScientist said...

Hi Jayne and thanks for commenting,
The typos, the music are bad but what really annoys me is the b.s. flowery language they are attempting to use to describe the place. Realtor's must have a special box of adjectives they unpack for houses in this price range!