Monday, August 23, 2010

Knife Catching 1830 Alameda Ave....Needs TLC?

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 as it turns out is sorta a positive review...ya, I know, I guess it had to happen sometime...

Knife Catching 1830 Alameda Ave.
Today's house is 1830 Alameda Ave which has the official specs of 3-1.5 2516 sq ft on a 7350 sq ft lot built in 1896 on sale for $579k. The add says the house needs TLC....I wonder where the line is drawn from needing TLC to needing a total gut-rehab? Check out more pics and specs at the Harbor Bay site. This is a probate sale, which means the owner died and the heirs are going to try to squeeze as much money out of it as they can...without apparently putting a single dollar into the place. Okay so maybe the heirs don't have 2 nickels to rub together...get out there and clean the place woulda made a huge difference in peoples minds...

This house was initially interesting to us for the specs, the neighborhood, and the price. You see, the price for this place is what we paid for our current house during the height of the boom and we where curious about how they compared to each other.

Shot of the front of the house. Its a nice looking Colonial Revival place that needs some serious exterior cleaning and some serious tree reshaping/pruning. Nice little front yard, good for Halloween.

This is a pic of the roof, that is failing and leaking and destroying the plaster ceiling on the top floor.

Here's a shot of the side of the house.. Entire house needs to be pressure washed and repainted badly.

Forgot to get a shot of the little front porch but here's a shot of the entryway and staircase with closet that appears to be a later addition. Boy, did someone in the past really, really love wallpaper....

Here's a shot of the eat in kitchen that opens to the back porch. The kitchen is actually pretty good sized and would work nicely, after a total gut-rehab. They also really, really, liked vinyl flooring..which is all over the house...Kitchen was Filthy, man yuck...why not clean the place up before you show it?

Off the kitchen is this really good sized room without a closet that would make a great family room. Check out the crazy bulging ceiling thing going on here? Ghost trying to break through from the other side? This was not over any source of water on the top floor so I'm at a loss as to what this is.
I completely forgot to take pictures of the front two rooms of the house which would of been the formal parlours. Check out the Harbor Bay site for pics of those rooms...but they were good sized and the front room had a nice leaded glass window. So this main level has 3 big rooms plus an eat in kitchen.

This is the service porch off the kitchen. Its a good size with nice big windows to view the humongous back yard through.
See that edge of the door right here with the obscure glass? See that black mark on the frame? Know what that is? That, my friends is old man hand goo. That's where the previous owner touched the door to open it or close it....and never ever clean it....this room was also, filthy...around the other side of the open door is..

A little half bath! Perfect for garden parties! This was also not exactly clean.

Here's the view of the side yard from the little porch accessed by going thru the obscured glass door.

Blurry shot of the back yard..lots of overgrown trees... That fence is only the halfway point. BIG yard. Super cool after a massive amount of gardening.

View looking back at the porch with metal columns...don't see that everyday. Under the porch is a couple of stairs down and....

The basement! With a newish looking water heater. I saw this concrete and I got all excited! Wow, maybe they redid the foundation on this place sometime in the past?

Then I looked a little bit closer and saw this.... Look, there's not even any mortar between these bricks anymore! How do you think that's going to do during a major shaker?

Here's a shot where you can see that the brick is just 'capped'....which in my opinion is a really unsafe thing to do. What's happening under the cap? Is the brick totally turning to dust? You can't tell cause of the parge coat of concrete covering it. Some building experts actually think that the concrete cap actually speeds the deterioration of the brick!
There is evidence of some sort of foundation work being done... someone installed new mid-line piers and a load bearing beam in this crawl space...but, it wasn't done with permits...Sooooo, This is going to require a total foundation redo, a dig down to give you a real basement, a slab, new perimeter and interior foundation and drainage and water proofing. Doing this you'd gain ~1000sq ft of dry usable storage or shop space....or more likely illegal second unit space....

Back into the house and at the top of the stairs we have this nice 2nd floor landing. Check out the weird toilet room at the end of the hall? Also just to the right here was this big hall closet with built-ins.
The house has all its original trim-woodwork and doors!! Hurray!!! But they are all painted...Boooooooo! You can tell that originally this was a pretty fancy house.

The super rad 60's style full bath on the top floor. So, you have a full bath and a uh, 1/4 bath on the top floor plus the half bath on the main level.
Again, not exactly clean but nothing like we had to deal with.

Closer up shot of the toilet room. With the tile and stuff it looks kinda original....or at least pretty darn old. Look at the floor below the toilet, think that there's some dry-rot issues there?

One of the bedrooms...original trim and lathe/plaster in place. A not humongous room but reasonable sized with a closet. Crappy vinyl on the floor.

Nother upstairs bedroom...this one is next to the toilet room....but still all original. Seriously gross carpet on the floor.

This is the bedroom that we would call the 'master'. Its at the front of the house and while its maybe the biggest it has a decent sized closet and off of it we have this...

Whole nother room. Now, I'm pretty sure that the Realtor is counting this as a bedroom but I'm also pretty sure you can't count something as a bedroom if it can only be accessed through another room... But, this would make a nice (but not huge) master bath.

How does this place compare with our current house?
Ours Theirs
House size: 3000sqft 2516sqft
Lot Size 3500sqft 7350sqft
'hood better
School District better
Overall Condition better (not by a lot)

So after the crash, you can get a house that's in slightly better condition that ours, but slightly smaller, in a slightly better neighborhood on twice the land for about the same money... Hmmmm actually this is sorta saying that we didn't get completely screwed when we bought this place....

The Realtor showing the place was honest and said, the place needs everything...she seemed to be advocating a total gut and rehab which I can see makes sense.

What I think should be done to the house:
1. Put the house up on blocks, blow out the old foundation, dig down to give yourself 8' clearance, put in a new slab-foundation-drainage system. This place does not have a garage so while you're at it put in a garage door and drive way to the basement to give you some parking. Ballpark $125k.
2. Do a 'sensitive' gut of the entire house. Remove all the original trim without destroying it possibly getting it dip stripped and refinished for re-installation. Also remove all nasty floor coverings back down to original wood and determine if the floors can be saved. Cost=I have no idea. So I'll do a b.s. ballpark of ~$50k at least.
3. While house is gutted update all systems. New elec, water, waste, heat. Insulate and weatherize. ~$50k at least.
4. Gut kitchen Install new midline cabinets and eat in area. cost ~$57k.
5. Complete roof tear off add new sheathing, insulation, and quality shingles ~$20k
6. Strip exterior of house of failing paint and repaint. ~$20k
7. Do some major, major landscaping of the yard. ?
8. Add master bath to existing room. ~$39k
9. Redo upstairs bath with more historically accurate fixtures. ~$16k
10. Redo half bath on main level. ~$8k
11. I have no idea about what to do with the 1/4 bath.
12. Install drywall, using 1/4" stuff to keep the coved ceilings..and paint interior. ~$20k

After doing all the above you would have a seriously gorgeous house with gleaming original woodwork on a gorgeous landscaped lot. The house would also be set up for how modern families really live... Lets see, all for my b.s. ballpark estimate of.... $405k....Considering what other similar sized houses on similar lots are selling for best guess for a reasonable sales price on this place after all of the above is done is maybe $850k at most....

So, doing some not to terribly hard math the house is worth only $445k in its current condition. Well that's not counting the landscaping and any termite-dry rot work that's going to be required...which on a place like this could be extensive and expensive... That price doesn't seem so terribly off the mark to me even though they are asking $579k.

We saw a TON of young family types looking at this place It would be nice if a nice family could buy it and fix it up and raise their kids there.....

What will probably really happen:
A real estate investor will make a super low ball all cash offer that will be excepted. Then the investor will spend as little money as possible to make the house look as nice as possible and probably destroy a major amount of the houses historical fabric in the process...and then put the house on the market for $850k and pretend it still doesnt need a $125k foundation job.


Jessamyn said...

We have a toilet room just like that in our '20s house that was shoehorned in in the '50s. But ours also had a Deco-y wall-hung sink, that took up half the space just inside the (outswinging) door, and you had to sidle past it to get to the toilet. Great design!

We just overhauled that room earlier this summer. For very little cost (less than $1000 - not much material in a small room like that!) we pulled up the rotting floorboards and the disintegrating lower half of the wallboard, insulated, put up beadboard, a surprisingly decent-looking vinyl-plank floor, non-plastic medicine cabinet, etc. Most importantly, I found a lovely sink that is only 9" deep, but wide enough to really get your hands in.

It's amazing what a difference it makes. The space went from ridiculous and scary to pleasant and useful. So it is possible to make a decent 1/2 bath out of a toilet closet.

Anonymous said...

Firefighters stamp out fire at unoccupied Alameda home
By Peter Hegarty
Staff Writer
Posted: 01/26/2011 07:25:18 AM PST
Updated: 01/26/2011 09:43:39 AM PST

ALAMEDA -- A fire at a vacant Alameda home early Wednesday morning broke out in the kitchen and caused about $400,000 in damage before it was contained, firefighters say.

No one was hurt during the fire at 1830 Alameda Ave., which a neighbor reported at 1:17 a.m. and crews fully extinguished within about an hour, Alameda fire Division Chief Matt Tunney said.

While the fire began in the kitchen at the rear of the single-family house, it remains unclear what may have sparked it, Tunney said.

The three-bedroom house, which was built in 1896, was sold in December for $580,000, according to, a real estate website. The two-story home was not occupied and the new owners were making repairs and renovations, according to investigators.

"We found tarps on the roof and other signs of work," Tunney said. "But I cannot say right now that construction caused the fire. At this point we just don't know."

The fire damaged about one-third of the house, firefighters said. The 2,516 square-foot house sits on a 7,350 square-foot lot, public records show.

Alameda dispatchers sent three engines, two trucks and an ambulance to the scene, while the Oakland Fire Department also sent crews.