Sunday, August 15, 2010

Knife Catching 2143 Alameda 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.

Knife Catching: 2143 Alameda Ave.
Today's house has the official specs of being a 4-2 of 2234 sq ft on a nice 7500 sq ft lot being offered at $789k. Check the redfin page here or the tour site here. What I love about this place is that EVERYWHERE the realtor could they mentioned that it was 'originally built for a ships captain!!!!!' This is another place where the spec's got us all a lather but then after a closer look at the houses condition and location we've decided that this is not the house for us....(that's foreshadowing, or wait, is that just shadowing?)

The Realtor scuttlebutt on this place is that it was on the market for $200k more in '08 and the owner left it on for 100 days and refused to lower the which point it was removed and rented....With an original purchase price of $310k back in '89 you'd think that there'd be some wiggle room there in price....Unless of course, the current owner refi'd and pulled a ton of money out of the place during the height of the boom. I don't get this with some sellers...The owner will probably double their money on the place when it sells for a reasonable that not enough?

(I've been out of commission for a while with two bulged disks in my back but I'll try to not let the extreme pain I'm in effect my reviews.)

2143 Alameda Ave. looks nice from the street. With a nice sized front yard and good tree-age. Too bad they felt the need to concrete in a good portion of the front yard...
I have to say that this house does posses something that we've been lusting after for forever....yep, that turret here in the corner. Turrets just don't seem to be very common in Alameda?

View of the front yard. We liked the gates-fence and after removing the concrete and asphalt think that this would make a good Halloween yard.

Does everyone see whats plainly visible in the bottom right corner?

Here's a view down the fugly asphalt driveway that needs to go bye bye. We like that the garage is up front so that backyard space is not taken up by driveway.

View of inside of garage...tiny! If you have a very small car it would fit but not much else.

Close up view of the fabulous BRICK foundation!!!! Hurray!!!!
Trust me, it gets better later....

Just a shot of some fancy trim that I liked. I guess ship captains where wealthy men back in the day so a house built especially for one would be fancier than usual? This houses exterior does seem slightly fancier than most.

I couldn't figure if these columns where original or not but they sure look fancy! This is the left front corner of the house btw.

Here's a shot of the front gate-fence that I thought looked nice. Sorta Japanesy I guess.

Shot of the front yard tree...I'm not sure why.

Shot from across the street of the big trees in the front yard. That's an oak I think and a jacaranda planted in the sidewalk. Looks like the Oak is winning the war for sunlight.

Okay, the front porch looking back towards the yard. It was a nice porch. I don't show it here but the freaking front door is a non-original Home Despot thing that I'm sure some folks would find 'fancy'.

Through the front door theres a little entry way with the stairs. Stairs look nice with fancy woodwork that appears to be original.

Light fixture in the entryway with original uh, plaster doo-hickey...jeez I'm getting old...

Little nook off the stairs. Looks original but I can't figure out what it would of been for? Coat rack? No closets on this floor...

Turn left at the entryway and through a pocket door is this room. Its a nice size with my fav coved plaster ceilings that appear original. The wainscoting and trim were nice in this room.

The interior of the turret. The floors are pretty nice on this level with border inlays.

Turn right from the entry way and you have this formal dining room. Liked this room, Appears original with fancy paneling and trim.

and the original plaster ceiling medallion.

A not very fancy fireplace which I was sorta surprised by.

A couple of nice built-ins on either side of the fire place.

Other built in. Like how the built-ins have leaded glass.

The leaded glass window in this room matches the built-ins. This window actually extends out of the wall and projects into the side yard, which I thought was an interesting original detail.

Rant Mode On
Take a look back at the pictures from this red room. Lots of fancy trim and built-ins...notice one thing? It's all freaking painted WHITE!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Going with the whole 'successful ship captain' thing, what's the chances that he didn't spec seriously nice wood for all these fancy formal areas?
The most horrible thing though, is that it looks like there's only one badly applied coat of white paint over whats probably the original shellacked can actually see the wood grain through the paint in some places....I bet the fireplace was cool looking clinker brick...ever try to get paint of old bricks? Good F'ing luck...
ANYBODY who argues for painting original woodwork to help 'clean-up' or 'brighten' or 'modernize' a place should be shot....seriously. Don't idiot Realtors understand what a premium unpainted woodwork is? Arrrrrrrrrrrrgh!
It only takes an afternoon for some hack slopping on crappy latex paint to completely ruin the look of an old house. It takes an afternoon to put on and 100's of hours to take off.....such a crime.
Rant Mode Off

From the red room is this little hallway nook the realtor calls a pantry/laundry room....This is the ONLY way to get to the kitchen and out to the backyard from inside the house...I think this would be a horrible choke point during any kind of party, especially because of what's at the end of this room.

An illegal half bath! The only bath on this floor.

Here's a shot of the kitchen. Not particularly fancy but probably serviceable...well maybe..the kitchen is actually a pretty darn small room...So small that I have doubts that it could be made to work as a real eat in kitchen where meals are prepared for a family.
Back behind me to my left is a little staircase to the 2nd floor. So in the mornings you'd just come down to breakfast that way I guess.

The house had a nice 2 level deck out back. This is just off the kitchen...well its nice till you see the termite report that is...seems like the entire deck needs to be rebuilt...

The backyard on the place is nice and large with several large mature trees. Here's a shot from the 2nd floor. See how high the fence is? The owner applied for a zoning variance to have a solid 8' high fence? Who/what where they trying to keep out? From this view you can see that the backyard neighbor is a church parking lot.

Sorry, thought I rotated this one...the yard has two ponds connected by a stream. These things didn't appear to be working they were pea soup green and I couldn't see anything living in them.

Shot under the raised deck. Lots of off season storage here.

Sideyard shot of the house showing the cool little bump-out window in the red room.

Okay back inside the house and continuing up the stairs.. There was this weird screwed in place panel that appears to be hiding something...we couldn't figure it out.

The bedroom that the realtor calls the home office.
What really impressed me about the 2nd floor of this place is that it has fancy trim also! I think the fanciest 2nd floor trim I've seen on a house. The Oak flooring up here is also pretty nice.

Full bath on 2nd floor. Obviously not original and not done with permits that I could see.

One of the back bedrooms with access to the bath. Nice closet, but the room was on the small side.

Other bedroom. This one was a good size.
Okay, take a look at those doors...wha-da-ya see?
Yep, you guessed it! Plastic, hollow with cheap brass handles!!! EVERY freaking door in this house was replaced with these monstrosities....Why god why! Originally they were probably 5 panel doors with maybe crystal knobs...

The master bedroom....Here's a shot of the turret...we've ALWAYS wanted to have a bedroom with turret....
This photo is VERY misleading as to the size of this area. That bed, not even a queen size, its a full....Ya, how many couples you know that sleep on a full size bed?

My favorite thing to hate about this house... A disco brass and glass fireplace in the bedroom...Its double sided so you can see it from the tub in the bathroom!!
That, and....its a wood burner!?!??! WTH? Who's going to carry wood up a flight of stairs to start a decrative fire? It never occured to me that a fireplace like this wouldn't be natural gas...

The master bedroom has this crazy 'dressing room' kinda thing. It appears to be literally set up for one person with a lot of clothes, shoes, jewerly. Though, see those closet rods they are right on the edge I don't even know if there'd be room to walk through here with clothes on those hangers.

What 'dressing room' wouldn't be complete without a window seat to uh, have your friends watch you try on different outfits?
Sorry, I somehow managed to not get a pic of the front of the dressing room. But really, it wouldn't work for a couple with normal amounts of clothes.

Ahhhhh, a long shot of the master bath with jetted tub and Fireplace. This set up kinda reminds me of a movie I once saw....'Brown Chicken Brown Cow'

The bathroom does have a steam shower which is a big bonus for us. So good after a cold motorcycle ride home in the winter.

Close up of the fire place just because. Brown Chicken Brown Cow...totally.

Here's the craziest thing about the bathroom...Its got a fricken green house window right in front of the sink!!! First off, an Aluminum window like this is not correct for the house Annnnnd you are totally on display for the entire world to see....
Right off to the left are windows that you can see into the house next door...
Don't you just love the soaped-up window.... Guess the renter got tired of having their junk on display when they brushed their teeth in the morning.
But, the bath was redone with permits!

The view out the window shows just how bad of shape the houses roof is in. As in, end of life replace right now.

The roof on the garage actually looks worse than the house roof.

Just for comparisions sake heres another one of those fabulous plastic hollow doors with cheap brass door hardware.

And the one and only original door in the house...This door is up to the attic. How cool is that solid brass door knob??

Up the stairs to the attic and you see this. This is one side of the attic. The original wood roof shingles are still in evidence....That means that there can be no simple reroof. The roofers are going to have to do a complete tear off, then add plywood decking and then shingle. There was a contractor there looking around and he said he thought it would be a $20k job 'at least'.

Here's the chimney....boy is it in bad shape...I didn't get a pic of it but if you look up to where the chimney meets the roof you! You can tell by the staining that water has been coming down the chimney for a while. That little dollop of mortor mid chimney...I touched it with my finger and it turned to powder!!! The home inspector doesn't mention this at all in his 'report' which I find shocking. I think that this entire chimney needs to be removed for safety reasons. That and the base of it is sinking and pulling the floor with it on the bottom level.

So many things wrong with this attic. That can light is not insulation contact rated..see how its blackening the fiberglass insulation behind it?
Can you say, 'Fire Hazard'?

Here's something that the inspector got right. This heater is not vented correctly at all. That single wall galv venting is not to be used with modern condensing heaters. Their exhaust gasses are acidic and eat it for lunch...This vent runs to the chimney...which is also a big no no as the acidic exhaust also eats mortor and brick... Also abspestos lined heater ducts in this pic.

Here's a shot of the knob and tube that is covered with insulation which has not been noted nor deemed safe by a licensed elec...not kosher.

Here's a shot of the elec steam unit for the shower in the master bath. I don't know if this is done right. but I couldn't see where the OPV valve drain line was run to.
See the new romex just drapped over the joists? Why didn't they replace the knob and tube when they where at it?
Also, something that I have to mention...take a look at all the insulation in these pics....see how it looks all torn up and stuff...know what thats from? Yep, you guessed it, RATS!!!!!!!!!!
I didn't see a live one when I was there but there is evidence of a massive rodent infestation. I saw A LOT of droppings. And yea, we know from RATS here at the Chez.

But, I gotta say having a staircase to the attic is pretty great...after many thousands of dollars in clean up it'd be agreat place to store stuff or maybe turn into a artists loft or something.

Jumping all the way down to the basement. Now I gotta say this place has a 'full basement' In the respect that it is the entire size of the house. Its no little b.s. utility basement like they have in craftsmans where there's just enough room for the heater, water heater and if you're lucky laundry facilites. I can't actually remember if there was an interior stair to the basement but there was an exterior doorway. Also, ceiling here is just over 6' a tad short.
This is one side of the basement.

This is the other side of the basement....check out that gi-freaking normous hole cut in the 'earthquake sheathing' for the heater return air duct....what's the shear value of that panel ya think?
BTW inspection says that the heater is at end of life. There was also a mishmash of galv water pipes in this area.

Another scary Federal Pacific breaker box that needs to be replaced ASAP. Its just dumb luck that it hasn't failed and caused a fire.

Look at that earthquake sheathing...strong work...also, look at the obvious signs of water infiltration in the siding.

Here's a picture in something that you should never ever see....or at least pay for...thats a foundation bolt in the original brick foundation!!!
This is worse than useless...this plus the ridiculous earthquake sheathing job done here makes me think that it was either a DIY thing or the HO was the victim of an unscroupulous contractor.

This is a shot of the base of the turret. Look at all the water coming in. The mortor in this area was in bad shape. The foundation in this house is original and not in great shape and needs to be completely replaced.
That 'floor' is just plywood set on the dirt.

Location, Location, Location.
This house has an interesting one respect its only 2 blocks away from the movie theater and Park St. so that's great... In another...its half a block away from the high school....I was able to talk to two neighbors who said that basically during the school year the street is a complete madhouse with kids parking their cars in the morning, then getting them for lunch and then again in the afternoon to go home. We've lived near an elementary school and it was fine...but a high school....teenagers swarming the block 3 times a day....ugh.... I forgot to ask if you could hear the schools PA system...wouldn't that be great to know that little Johnny got caught smoking in the boys room.

Speaking of elementary schools...this house is in the Haight School District which by my count is the third from the worst district...the 8th best, where we now live in the Franklin school district which is the 4th best but not far out from the top 2.

On paper the place is perfect for us its a 4-2.5 on a big lot with lots of storage...but the reality is...

$789k asking price.
-$110k for new foundation-slab and earthquake retro-fitting.
-$10k to remove Chimney
-$20k to redo roof
-$37k in termite work
-$20k to upgrade service to 200amps, replace subpanel, remove knob and tube.
-$10k to replumb house
-$50k to remodel kitchen (this is probably low but its an average figure)
-$30k to replace furnace, remediate abspestos, remove insulation and re-insulate properly.

=$287k worth of work that I think the house needs.

Which means a purchase price of only $502,000 but lets be fair, my Realtor said he thinks that the place all fixed up would only be worth $800k so assuming I just want to break even a 'fair' purchase price would be $513k......Think they'll take it?

The owner seems to think that the house is worth a lot more than I do....If they didn't pull money out there monthly loan payment probably isn't that high and can be covered by renting it out....that's probably what they'll do....Since buying the house it doesn't look like the owner has put any money into upkeep, fancy bathrooms and closets sure but upkeep....doesn't look like it...It makes me sad as that fact probably won't change, the house will be rented out and beat to hell by the renters and then eventually it will fall into such a bad state of disrepair that it won't be worth even what I think it is currently...

But really, we've decided that we don't want the house at any price due to the elementary school situation and its proximity to the high school.


L. Opine said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
L. Opine said...

I toured this house a couple of years ago and you can visually tell none of the floors is level from settling on the crumbling foundation. One of the upstairs bedrooms has an odd closet that's not original, as evidenced by the anaglypta inside of it and not outside. It's sad.

The MadScientist said...

Hello L. Opine,
Anaglypta that's what the fancy wainscoting wall paper is called I couldn't remember.
Huh, I missed the closet.....
Was the wood work all painted when you toured it?

Anonymous said...

I appreciate that you admit in your own preface that your comments are the workings of an unbalanced mind - and hardly impartial. But this house sold despite you so please give it up, and take this mean spirited commentary off your blog. You owe it to the buyer who saw through this. Former Owner

The MadScientist said...

Hi Former Owner,

Well, good for you for selling your house. Mind telling me how much it went for? I have not seen it listed in the sold section of the paper.

I am impartial in that I have no financial stake in the house selling for as much as possible, inlike EVERY SINGLE other professional involved with the sale.

Hey, seriously, if the buyer read this blog and said, 'piffle, I'll pay full price for it.' then good for you, honestly. You've found the magical greater fool.

Course we both know that the offical sale price doesn't always have to do with what a house actually sells for. No one ever knows how much money the sellers credit back to the buyers for repairs...