Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Knife Catching 2132 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.

People tell me all the time., 'Why are you so negative on the houses,...you never do a good review.' So folks here it is a house I honestly started out doing a very positive review on...until I did some fact checking.....

Today's house is 2132 San Antonio Ave. A 4 bed 3 bath 2380 sq ft house built in 1929 on a nice 7500 sq ft lot for $799k last sold in '03 for 685k. The public records show this as a 4-2.5 of 1890 sq ft.(foreshadowing)..... The Zillow page has more pics and specs and a super fab description here.

Our Realtor urged us to go over and see the place as he felt it was just what we needed. And just looking at the spec's he's right.

The listing realtor calls this a mission style house...I guess that's accurate. Given its time period I was expecting it to be a bit more Art Deco on the inside. The house shows nice from the street and it has a nice sized front yard that's a good size for Halloween (if we remove the hedges).

According to the listing agent who was showing the house, the house is a legal duplex. That front left window is the main window for a little studio apartment in that corner of the house. Which the realtor says you could rent for ~$600/month. Hey, we thought, the house is big enough without that space so we could rent it out and have some help with the mortgage....

Like a dummy I forgot to take pics of the studio but I did get a pic of the studios bath...Its got a weird twisty layout...dig that faucet mounted off center. Given the style of the hardware I'd guess this was done a while ago..maybe as war housing.

As you walk in the front door and turn left you have this nice sized room. The windows and trim in this room appear to be original. It has hardwood oak flooring that looks original and still in pretty good shape.

Next is this big dining room. Nice niche there for I guess fancy plate storage. If the owners had spent a little more time maybe buying deco inspired lighting and switch plates and such I think this house would of been more interesting to look at.

Through the double glass doors on the left is the...

Fabulous new kitchen!!!! The kitchen is quite big with what looks like very recent cabinets and such. its too bad that they went with a tiled countertop as it just looks dated now a days. The kitchen is big but weirdly proportioned. Its got this big open space in the middle that doesn't seem big enough for a table so maybe an island...which means you'll HAVE to use the dining room as a dining room...

Through the stairs up that you saw in the dining room there are two bedrooms and one bath. Here is one of the bedrooms which I guess is set up as the master... Its not super big but a usable size. The windows are newer vinyl units. I wonder if the carpet is hiding nice hardwood floors.

Here is the upstairs bath that's between the two bedrooms. No tub so no washing kids up here? This bath looks like it was done more recently than the tile countertops would have you believe...

The other bedroom upstairs. Nice view of the backyard from the windows.

I don't have a picture of the stairwell down but there are two bedrooms and two baths down from the main level also. The ceiling on this level seemed a bit low and it felt like the carpet was laid directly on the slab. These bedrooms do not appear to be original to the house. This one set up as a boys room (dig that ships wheel and impalement spike) was good sized with a large closet.

Here's the lower level bath. Also not original to the house.

The other lower bedroom is also the laundry room and has a door to the backyard. This is a smallish room which we would use as the home office and guest room.

Opposite the lower bath is a doorway that leads down a couple of steps to the utility basement. The house has modern heat, electrical, copper water piping, and newer looking galv gas lines. Which the Realtor assured me was all legal.....

The house still has its original circa 1929 concrete foundation....that's a lot better than being on brick and in my book can be okay...as long as the house is properly earthquake retrofitted. Which this house did not appear to be...I did not see any evidence of earthquake retrofit work. So, to be safe you'll need to install anchor bolts, hold downs and shear panels in this wonderful 3' high space...

Another shot of the original foundation...the problem with old foundations is the general lack of rebar...but you can drill down into it and epoxy in your hardware so its not a total lost cause. I'm not sure why someone installed newish 2by lumber in between the studs here?

Now, one of the big exciting things about this house is the backyard! Check out this cool kids paradise here. Your own private mini-park. Whatever the tree is, its big and healthy and shading the play area nicely. It was nice and cool in the trees shade and I lingered a bit...

One thing that's not so great is the fact that the neighbor on one side is one of Alameda's famous 'tear down the original super nice old house and put up a monstrosity of an apartment building that completely fills the lot with not enough parking.'

One thing that's great is that the house has central air!?!?!? Yep that's right central air. I think that this is the first house we've seen with it.

The current homeowners appear to be big into tropical plants. We where blown away by what appears to be some kind of huge mutant bird of paradise palm tree.

Another shot of the fenced in play area from a different angle...One reason why this play structure might of been required is that there is not a public park very near by unfortunately.

Here's a shot of the three car+ garage. This is perfect for us. All the storage and workshop space we need. We'd probably break up and remove the concrete on the far left for a veggie garden.

Original Conclusion:
'Wow', we thought, 'this house could really work for us.' Its a legal duplex that's had its mechanical systems modernized with plenty of storage on a nice big lot! There is only a couple thousand in termite report work mostly for the garage. So the house needs nothing. This is actually the first house we've seen that didn't need ~$200k worth of work. We had to really think about this. The house is generally not a style that we like but if we added the art deco touches we would like it. Its a short walk to Park St. which has lots of fun stuff to do...We should of been really excited about the place but it just kinda felt blah to the both of us...we just couldn't get excited about it. But we felt that we could recommend the place to others...There is no private master bath so you are going to have to share the bath on the top level with your kids and guests.

New Conclusion:
We saw this place on a lark so I didn't do my usual due diligence work. Then I got home and pulled up the records......

Arrgh!! the freaking Realtor LIED THROUGH HIS TEETH TO ME!!!

The permit record shows that, no, the house is not a duplex but a single family house!
That means the entire studio apartment is illegal!
That fabulous kitchen-not done with permits.
The new elec, waste lines-no permits pulled!
County records show it as a 4-2.5 so I don't know if the two bedrooms on the lower level are legal officially or not...I do know that one of the bathrooms was turned into a full bath illegally.
The bathrooms where all redone with out permits.

The new water piping, the furnace and AC and solar hot water was done with permits. The permit record also says that a fireplace insert was installed but I don't remember seeing a fireplace?

In view of all this unpermitted work I can no longer recommend this house at this price. The sellers should knock off enough to cover the costs of making it all legal...who knows what that will be...


Anonymous said...

Those are seriously happy white bird of paradise!

The MadScientist said...

So its a white bird of paradise? I didn't think that they grew as trees?

Anonymous said...

I don't know if bird of paradise is considered a bush or what - but here in Orlando they are often several feet taller than my measly 5'4". It looks like some of the scraggly lower leaves have been trimmed off of the ones at this house which may be why they kinda look like trees.

Anytime you get bird of paradise to bloom you know they are happy - my sister transplanted one two or three times to find a good spot in her back yard for it. It was probably 7' tall with a 2' diameter clump of stalks & leaves the last time she moved it. She's a rather dedicated gardener!

(and yes, I forgot to identify myself the first time)

Anonymous said...

It appears that the white bird of paradise get quite a bit larger than the usual orange/blue bird of paradise. Here is probably more info than you'll ever need -



Jessamyn said...

Although in general I understand your aesthetic, I don't see why you think this house should have an Art Deco or even Deco-ish interior. (Unless you just love Deco and it's wishful thinking!) ;^)

If you look at house plan books from the '20s, which show the kind of houses ordinary people built, there's very little indeed that could be considered Deco. Most of it is Colonial Revival, Mission Revival (which is what this is, probably originally would have had a lot of wrought-iron accessories), Dutch Colonial, and what I think of as '20s vernacular, which tends to squarish buildings with either high peaked or hipped roofs and tall narrow windows.

Most of them feature interiors with lots of traditional-looking white-enameled woodwork, and lots of tile.

The MadScientist said...

Thanks Cheryl that is a lot of info. Our neighbor has the orange-blue bird of paradise in her yard which is how I'm used to seeing them.

The MadScientist said...

Hi Jessamyn,
Well ya I do like deco stuff and the house is of the correct age for it.

What I didn't take pictures of where the door hardware which definately had a deco look.

The lights, wall plates and outlet plates where all newish home despot looking stuff. But I'd bet the original stuff probably had more of a deco feel (to match the door hardware).

But mostly the Home Despot stuff just looked kinda bland so to my way of thinking the deco stuff would of made the house look more interesting.

Dominic said...

Building use code is duplex. I have never seen the permit record myself. I wouldn't have told you the kitchen was done with permit.

The MadScientist said...

Don't know what building use code means dom.

The permit record shows that the city did a unit determination and that they determined it was a single family residence. The county-tax assessors office gets there info from the city.

As far as the kitchen goes, I asked the person showing the house if all the work was done with permits and that person replied in the affirmative.