Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Some Progress in the Basement

Well, I lied...not all the demo was done.....

I forgot to have this wall to the mechanical room removed.


Now you see it, now you don't.


New Wall.
I've never built a load-bearing 2by6 wall before...
And officially I still haven't as the wall shown below does not have a 'real' footing underneath it. Its just sitting on the 4" thick slab.
There was no room to tilt up the wall so I built it in a way no real carpenter would. Besides, working alone how would I tilt up a 21' 2by6 wall?

How Not to Build a Wall
First, I laid out the bottom plate and made sure it was parallel to the center load bearing wall. I tacked it in place with the ramset.
Then using two 'cabinet jacks' I stuck the top plate roughly in place. Then I used a 'straight' 2by6 and a level to make sure it was exactly in line with the bottom plate. Then I shot the first top plate to the underside of the joists, up from below. Then I nailed the second top plate to the first.
Then I measured and cut each stud separately and nailed them in place.

I also built my first triple 2by8 header. The span table said I could get away with only a double 2by8 header (and two jack studs to span 3-2) but then how would I make up the rest of the space in the 2by6 wall?
So, I used three 2by8's (good for a span of 3-11) and two sheets of 1/2" ply. I used construction adhesive to glue all the pieces together then I nailed the heck out of it with the nail gun. Its a very heavy, solid piece.
If you notice the header is nailed directly to the double top plate...there is just enough room for the door underneath it, as long as I don't get too crazy with the shims.
Putting that bugger in place was a comedy of errors...trying to lug it up there while getting the cabinet jacks underneath it...I picked that thing up, hefted it into place at least 8 times before I got it right....

Its a good thing building the header went well as I have a sinking feeling that there are no code compliant headers over the two doorways in the 'official' load bearing wall...

After I built the wall I swear the floor above feels a ton stiffer.

Built this little wall

To fill in the open area where the kitchen was.

The doorway from the mechanical room into the other kitchen was also filled in and I mounted the units electrical sub-panel in the opening.
I also mounted most of the new electrical boxes in the walls, ceilings.
I will not keep most of the existing electrical it seems...at least the existing in the kitchen has to go...I'm hoping to re-purpose the stuff in the other rooms.

Had some important visits last week.

First up, my building inspector.
I wanted him to come out and take a look at the situation since we uncovered a lot of 'hidden conditions'. He was like, 'Ya, gotta fix all those buried junction boxes.'
He also pointed out a couple of code violations that I had missed.
Its against code for copper water pipes to touch galv gas pipes...didn't know that.
He also said that there needs to be fire stopping between the top of the furring wall and the actual exterior wall. He said that stuffing the hole with Fiberglas insulation would be okay. I also plan on filling all the joist and stud bays completely with Fiberglas insulation....so hopefully belt and suspenders fire stop wise.

The BI also did confirm that the HVAC soffits are not built correctly...

The soffit needs to be uh, enclosed on the inside completely with fire code sheet rock...
So, hurray, more demo, as I will have to yank the existing soffits down and put up the drywall then rebuild it...

Actually, I'm not sure how to do the soffit. I've been puzzling over the HVAC plans and how to implement them in the 'real world'. Right now it seems like I have more HVAC trunk line than I have space for it...
However it works I will make the soffit big enough to conceal the trunk line, plus any number of utilities like the gas lines, the main water lines, electrical, TV-phone lines...If I'm lucky I won't have to drill thru hardly any joists! Course I have to build the fricken thing....

I was also happy about what the BI said about the floor joists. You see, floor joists have specific code specified lengths they are allowed to span. Depending on the type and grade of the wood and its size.
The BI confirmed that they are Douglas Fir and that he would be very comfortable with using the #1 column in the span tables!!! That's really good cause #1 wood spans a lot farther than #3 or #2.
I couldn't get him to agree to let me use the Select Structural (the strongest modern wood grade) column. He said I would have to get a structural engineer for that.

Visit From My Structural Engineer
The next day my engineer could make it out to look over the situation. I wanted him to take a look at three places where I was not sure if I needed to add posts-beams. I wanted him to asses the lack of earthquake retrofitting, and I wanted him to tell me what he thought the joists could span.

You see I thought the joists where old growth redwood, which you can not find in span tables really..

The engineer confirmed that the wood was Doug Fir and he said that it was 'at least' as strong as a modern structural select 2by10!!! Which means now, officially my joists can span 17' with no problem. Actually the farthest span I have now is only 12'-6" so I'm feeling really good about the structure.

Even, better, he confirmed that I could remove the existing post-beam, beam no post, and the load bearing wall in line with the joist situation did not need any re-inforcing.

Which means I can get rid of this post-beam in the new master bedroom!

I can get rid of this beam hanging from the joists.

I am so freaking glad of this development...the other option would of been having to use some sort of fancy engineered beam to span the spaces and I would have to dig-pour new footings for the posts...that would of been a significant expense and a huge time suck.

I was so happy about the results that I cooked everybody a fancy dinner to celebrate.

Earth Quake Retrofitting
Not so good news here... I don't know how to do it.
My simple cook book method of figuring out how much shear walling I need says that I need 23' on each side of the house!!! Because of windows that is pretty much impossible to do....especially on the short ends of the house....

Soooooo, I'm going to have to have my engineer figure out a more clever way to get a safe amount of strength in those cripple walls...

Wow, that was a lot of words wasn't it!?!?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Halloweeeeeen From Spaaaaaaaaace!!!

Say that like 'Pigs in Space' from the old Muppet show....does anybody remember that but me?
Any who, the haunt nerd group I'm a part of sent out an alert that Google maps had updated their satellite pictures of the SF Bay area at the end of October....

Know what that means? It means you can see our Halloween decorations on the satellite photo!!

Check it out!!

See, Halloweeeeeeeeeen frooooom Spaaaaaaaaaace!!!!!!

Not sure exactly when this was taken but it must of been right at the end of October as I didn't have all that stuff out until the last week.

Why, yes I am a huge dork.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Chez Neumansky 2.0 is in Contract!!!

subtitled, ' Disclosures Smosures'

According to the Redfin Page the house was listed for sale on Nov 7th and went pending on Nov 24th!!! For the asking price of $725k!!! Wow, only on the market for 17 days!

I have to say that we were totally shocked that the place was listed for that much...then imagine our shock when it went pending for asking so fast...

We are viewing this as a vindication of our initial take on the house. When it was a rat infested, practically falling down mess and everybody thought we were nuts...this finished product was what we saw. A nice Victorian with a 3 color paint job all fixed up inside and out and pretty. Truthfully, we still wish that we could of been the ones to do it but we've moved on to bigger and better things.

Back when we were trying to decide if we should pull it off the market and do a 203k refi, get it fixed up quickly-cheaply and then put it back on the market, we never, ever projected seriously a selling price of $725k.

I'm looking at the super detailed spreadsheet now and if we had done it and put it back on the market for same amount we would of netted over $60k.....hurray....

I'm sure the current owners stand to net much, much more than that as I bet they have extremely low overhead with the 'contractors' they used.

Disclosures
If you haven't already, take a look at the Redfin page linked above...notice anything strange?
I noticed two things that I don't think I've ever seen on a Redfin page before.

In the spot where there would usually be a Zestimate it says this.

 

Home Value Estimates for 1310 PACIFIC Ave

The seller of this home has requested that home value estimates not be shown. Per MLS rules, Redfin and other public MLS-powered sites may not display any automated valuation for this home.
 
Hmmm....what's the good reason to do this? If you go to the Zillow page it still has the Zestimate..which shockingly is $721k!?!?!?! Almost the exact asking price???
 
Then there is this,

 

Sites Linking to 1310 PACIFIC Ave

The seller has requested that all public comments be removed from this listing. Per MLS rules, we are not allowed to link to blog posts about this home.
 
Hmmmmm.....could the seller possibly be trying to hide the existence of this blog? Hmmm...what's the non-shady reason for this? I can't think of one can you?
 
If you type in the address into google this blog show's up as the #3 result usually....so, its not like it can be hidden...
 
But, I don't know...is it possible that in this day and age people who are going to spend $725k on a house won't do at least a Google search?
 
In an earlier blog post I invite any possible new owners to contact me with any questions that they might have.
 
Yet, no one has? Seriously, how could you not take advantage of a resource like that? I'm not tooting my own horn here but, c'mon.
 
Our old neighbors say that the person in contract is a nephew of another one of our old neighbors who we would see everyday and say hello to....it's not like were complete strangers...
 
I do wish the new, new owners of Chez 2.0 luck.
 
After the close of escrow my consulting fee for helping you figure things out is going to be $100/hr, 3hr min.... Ha, I wish...
 
But Seriously
I think that according to Real Estate disclosure laws not disclosing this blog to potential buyers might be illegal...
 
Couldn't this blog be viewed as one big loooong in depth inspection report? I know you can't hide the existence of an inspection report, especially if its negative.
 
Actually, I think a case can be made that any of my KnifeCatching reviews  constitute a property report and should be included in the disclosure packet. Especially where I note possible serious issues like crumbling brick foundations or leaky roofs or illegal work.
 
 
 

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Nobody Speeds in Alameda!

No, I did not just get a speeding ticket in Alameda.

Everybody knows...you don't speed in Alameda. Everybody knows this. Everybody knows that the APD takes speeding seriously.

You may go 28MPH but any faster and 'THEY WILL GET YOU' Everybody knows this right?

Somehow the APD has been able to leave this lasting impression with those of us who live/work/frequent Alameda. Heck, I don't even know if they STILL enforce the speeding limit so strictly...maybe they don't have to because they've convinced us its really, really not a good idea to speed in Alameda.

As a result, we have streets that are safe for kids, safe for bicycle riding, just safer-better.
As a parent, I am very happy about that.

Here's my question.

Why don't people have the same opinion of the Alameda Building Dept???

Wouldn't it be better for our fair city if people had the same opinion on doing work without permits as they do towards speeding?

What if people knew, KNEW that they would most likely get caught and have to pay big fines if they did major remodeling without permits?

Why is there not some sort of fine-administrative judgement that can be levied against contractors who do unpermmited work? Right now, its the HO that shoulders all the burden. Shouldn't there be a fine levied against the builder also? Maybe revoke their business license.

It seems to me that right now the system is set up to encourage illegal builders to do unpermitted work.

Putting the Fear into Home Owners
Here's what I think should happen....

Outreach to Homeowners and Contractors to explain the new reality.

First off, step up code enforcement dramatically. Its human nature, people are not going to toe the line unless they feel like they are going to 'for sure' get caught and that the consequences are going to be severe.

On top of the other code enforcement fee's tack on a FINE to the homeowner for using illegal contractors.

Figure out a way to slap a fine on the contractors that work illegally in Alameda...I mean, its against the law right? Just like having too many chickens.

The Result
No more scary-shoddy-illegal work done on the island. What's that going to do to property values?
No more illegal contractors undercutting the legit guys.
More revenue to the city due to the increase in permits.
More revenue to the city due to houses being correctly valued and taxed by the assessors office.

Now before somebody can say, 'Of course you over there in the republic of CA want to increase taxes.' I'm not talking about adding any taxes. I'm talking about getting people to obey the law which will have concrete benefits to our city.

Yes, doing it illegally will be cheaper than doing it legally....BUT YOU'RE DOING IT ILLEGALLY!!

The current system is broken with illegal contractors ruining it for the legal ones.

I'm going to send this post to all the Alameda elected officials and Building Dept heads. We'll see if I hear anything back.

Friday, January 13, 2012

KnifeCatching 1235 Hawthorne St.

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.
KnifeCatching 1235 Hawthorne St.
Up for review today is 1235 Hawthorne St. which has the official specs of being a 3-3.5 of 3330sq ft on an ginormous 13,986sq ft lot built in 1950 on sale for $1.475M!?!?!? Last sold in 94 for $570k. The house has been on the market for 115 days with no price drops yet.
While I got some pics of the place, go to the Zillow or Redfin sites for the official pics/prose.
Front of the house
I have to say, this place looked pretty amazing. Its got location, location, location with it being a lagoon side house in the Gold Coast.
This review should be sub-titled 'Don Drapers after-he's-made-it house'.
From the big fancy automatic gate to the stainless steel fence the house fairly oozes money. It looks like a Bel-Air mansion to me. The house has a very large open floor plan on the main level that is just perfect for entertaining...need to impress some investors? Have a sunset cocktail party.

I am mildly impressed that the PO's are even having open houses...People who can honestly afford a $1.5M house now-a-days don't troll open houses....When I was touring the house there was a large steady stream of people who I would have to say were probably looky-loo's (like me). Probably the entire point of the open house was for the Realtor to drum up new clients. If this was my place (I wish I had that kind of money), I would not want the 99%ers tromping through the place. I'd only show it by appointment to pre-qualified buyers.
The Good
Location, Location, Location. Lagoon side home in the Gold Coast in Franklin School District.
Marble, Marble, Marble! I think every floor in the house is covered in marble.
Radiant heating!
Love all the Birdseye Maple cabinets and trim that is everywhere. Very 50's.
Its got a serious MadMen vibe.

Lots of windows and views!


The garage has a nice little office off the back of it with views.
Big master suite with views and a little private 'smoking balcony.'
Giant fancy display kitchen (with views).
Wet bar in the great room for entertaining.
The Bad
There were a couple of troubling things about the house that I saw. Trying to be objective and not be wowed by the pretty and the views.

Its really MadMen lite...since the house was redone with modern finishes its a little less authentic MadMen as compared to 1223 ST Charles St.

All that famous glass faces South!!! The house has no AC that I could tell....how is it not going to be a furnace in the summer time?

Check out this big double door that opens out into...

No where...

Zillion Dollar House and they couldn't even use a modern thermostat? huh?

Troubling Permit Record
I've read it, and read it and read it....I still don't understand exactly the story its telling...
There are tons of permits pulled over the past years but a lot of them were never finaled....this is curious to me...why, after paying the fee's would you not get your permits finaled? Laziness? Ineptness of the contractor? What worries me is that there was some reason why the contractors work could not pass inspection...and they gave up???

Work done with permits that were never finaled.
New windows and doors in the Sunroom.
200amp service upgrade and gas line for trellis and 2 gas logs.
The master bath remodel, interior stair replacement.
The fancy front fence and gate thing.

Work that I can not find any permits for.
Uh, the radiant heating? or is it original? Don't know, Realtor implied that is was all new.
The fabulous kitchen.
Maybe minor, but I saw a lot of electrical work that wasn't reflected in the permit record.

From the Realtors ad copy
Every aspect of this home has been upgraded and remodeled with meticulous attention to detail.
Hmmm...permit record doesn't really support that notion....at least it doesn't support the notion that the work was done legally...

Maybe one percenters don't care about those kinds of things because they will just come in and do a gut remodel anyways? At least I'd think they would care to use it as a bargaining chip in price negotiations.  

I don't think I've seen a house with so many expired permits....I would argue that, this is actually worse than doing it in secret. Now you are on the Building Dept's radar as having expired permits and here's what I know happens. You go down to the building dept to pull a permit for something and they check your record and they go...'OOohhh,..yea, we can't issue you any new permits till you close out all the old ones.' So, is the new owner buying all that liability also? What hidden conditions are going to be uncovered?

Conclusion
An amazing show place home in a fantastic location.
Price?? I don't know..this place is so far outta my league that I don't have an honest frame of reference that I can use.
Buuuut, if its open ever again y'all should tour through the place as it is pretty amazing.
This house, I think hits all the high marks for a wealthy persons residence, definitely a braggable house/location, big entertaining spaces, big master suite, big fancy kitchen...and on and on.

It's a one percenter palace.
And that's the way I see it.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

KnifeCatching 1223 ST. Charles St.

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.
 
KnifeCatching 1223 ST. Charles St.
 
Up for review today is 1223 ST. Charles St. which has the official specs of being a 2-2 of 2441sq ft on a 7686sq ft lot built in 1958 on sale for $929k on the market for 120 days with no price drops last sold in 88 for $390k.
 
As usual, pics/prose on Zillow and Redfin. The description on the Redfin site is especially awesome I think. There should be an awkward prose contest for Real Estate listings.
 
This review is subtitled, 'Don Drapers Starter House'. If you don't know what that means get yourself a copy of Madmen.
 
There are hardly any mid-century modern homes in the Gold Coast in Alameda and this past weekend there were two open!
 
Front of House.
Okay so, not the best pic..check out the shots on either of the websites above.
 
But honestly, the house looks a little fugly from the street. All you see is this massive garage and a high wall. The front yard is all ivy (low maint!).
 
You walk into that door on the left and there is a nice enclosed courtyard with a Japanese theme and a little fish pond. Its too bad the pond was looking kinda gross and I swear the area reeked of cat urine. I even asked another browser about it and he said he thought it was probably the juniper bushes.. I actually smelled each plant and it didn't appear that the stench was coming from any of them.....
 
The description of the house says its got two master suites...its got a weird floor plan I think. It has this really large Master Bedroom and big master bath and then this little bedroom. It looks to me more like an age in place set-up where the smaller room could be for an in-home care provider or something. Also the house seems smaller than the listed sq footage?
 
The Good
In Gold Coast neighborhood on a quiet dead end street.
In Franklin School district.
All on one level...age in place?
Big 2-car garage.
The kitchen looked like it was in good shape and its actually good sized with what looked like plenty of storage.
The master bedroom and bath is of a good size. The master bath was large but seriously weirdly laid out I thought...lots of wasted space.
 
It appears to be some sort of copy of an Eichler. So, if you like that kinda thing.
 
Its got radiant heated floors. Which is great but almost none of the houses promotional material even mentions it?!?!?!? Why would you leave that out?
This is the boiler for the floors...it didn't look super new to me.
 
Lots and lots of big windows, sliding doors to the outside. You can really bring the outside in, in Eichler fashion.
 
Check out the back yard
Not exactly large space back here.
 
And the doors-windows to yard.
 
Original un-messed with midcentury modern.
 
Here's some fun details I took some quick snaps of.
 
This is the garage wall that faces the courtyard.
There is glass on the garage side. It just looked kinda cool looking out into the courtyard.
 
Check out this intercom system panel.
 
Doesn't that look super 50's?
 
Check out the wet bar and in house natural gas bbq! (on the listing page, sorry)
 
Crazy Scooby-Doo Hallway
 
This is the hallway to the garage. Its narrow and has like 37 doors. When I saw it I immediately thought of that scene in every Scooby-Doo episode. Where the bad guys are chasing the gang and everybody is running in and out of doors in a long hallway and getting all turned around? You know the one I'm talking about right?
That said, the house looks like its got a good amount of storage.
 
The Bad
Its an unmolested mid-century modern...
From touring the house and looking at the grounds and the over all level of upkeep with the place I was left with the feeling that this place was owned by elderly folks who keep it clean but didn't replace stuff when it got worn...It doesn't need to be remodeled but uh, refreshed maybe is the word for it? The original finishes are just worn after all these years.
 
My fav, Carpet in the toilet room.
 
 
I can't tell if the kitchen was redone...the permit record doesn't say anything about it and it appeared to be in better shape than the rest of the house.
 
Part of being unmolested is that the house probably has the original galv water piping and elec...which means fuses.
 
According to the permit record the roof was last done in 83. If that's true its a safe bet its going to need a new roof.
 
Problematic Radiant Heat.
Yes I love it but the problem with this old style is that they used copper pipes in concrete and after enough time the copper pipes ALWAYS spring leaks and fixing them is a major PITA.
 
Lots and Lots of Windows.
I know I said this was a positive earlier but its also a negative. It seems like almost the entire perimeter of the house is windows. When I realized that I couldn't help but think,...dang this place could fold like a wet cardboard box in a big shaker. To do that many windows/doors now a days takes special engineering which didn't exist back when this house was built.
 
Missed Marketing Opportunity
I remarked to the Realtor showing the house that the place was 'Sooooo MadMen'. She had never heard of the show!?!?!? The house seems so perfectly preserved that it looks like a set from the TV show.
Several people who where there looking at the house totally knew what I was talking about when I made that comment to them....
The show is super popular with like an entire fashion movement behind it...why would you not use that to your advantage? People who are specifically looking for a house of this era are going to be fans of the show...trust me.
 
Here's my gift to you. Before the next open, watch the show and study up on it. Have a fancy martini set out on the wet bar and drop as many MadMen references as you reasonably can when describing the place.
 
Conclusion
Very well preserved example of a midcentury modern that just probably needs some refreshing.
With a kinda weird floor plan that doesn't seem really conducive to raising a family there...house just seems a little bit small for that.
Think that this would be a great place for grandma and grandpa to have to be close to their grand kids.
Also seems like a great place for a hip same sex couple who are not planning on having any kids. You could have a lot of fun 50's themed parties here.
 
Price
$929k for whats basically a 2441sq ft low maint bachelor pad.....doesn't that seem a bit high to you? While I don't believe that the house needs $100's of thousands of work it does require some work....
Shouldn't the fact that its been on the market for 120 days be telling somebody that the price needs adjusting?
And thats the way I see it.
 

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

KnifeCatching 1441 Grand St.

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.

KnifeCatching 1441 Grand St.

Up for review today is 1441 Grand St. which has the official specs of being a 4-2 of 2737 sq ft on a 6000sq ft lot built in 1905 on sale for $819k. Originally listed for $849k its been on the market for holy-moly 202 days!!! Last sold in 02 for $750k. Been on the market 202 days and they've only dropped the price $30k, last price drop in Oct...hmmmmm...

Somehow Zillow doesn't even know the place is for sale? You can see additional pics/prose on the redfin site for it.

The Good
First off I want to say that this house/grounds are gorgeous.
The house has a nice multi-color paint job.
Its got a pretty amazing front porch.
Check out that two story turret with curved glass windows!! The windows look originalish and you hardly ever, ever, see turrets with their curved glass windows now a days.
I have major turret envy.
The grounds appear nice and very private, almost fortress like (foreshadowing).
The house itself is huge. You can tell that when it was new it was an upscale place. Lots of fancy trim and paneling...all painted white of course. Big grand windows.
Its got a little one car garage off the side St.  
Super awesome solarium with Jacuzzi off back of house. Done with permits!!!
Right on the edge of the Franklin School District.

With my remaining battery power I snapped this picture of a funky detail that I really liked.

It looks like the little slot goes all the way through does it not? This is on the lower level of the house.

The Bad
Location, location, location....check out this satellite view.
You got churches, across the street. Big apartment buildings as neighbors. The house is on the corner of two of the busiest streets in Alameda. In fact there is a bus stop right outside the house on Santa Clara. Its LOUD inside the house...I suspect this is why its been languishing on the market for soooooo long. The 2nd story turret is a bedroom and wow its noisy....There just doesn't seem to be a good way to reduce the noise...it comes right through the old single pane windows. Most sound is transmitted into a house through the windows...so what can you do to reduce sound? Replace the ir-replaceable curved glass windows with modern double pane flat windows??? Horrible...You can buy sound deadening curtains but then you'd have to keep them closed all the time? I'm also guessing that the fortress like yards is an attempt to cut down on noise and give the HO's a modicum of privacy.

4 Bedrooms?
The specs say its a 4 bedroom but really, its a 3 with a good sized walk-in closet. On the top floor of the house are two good sized bedrooms, one medium sized bedroom (which doesn't have a closet) and a very small bedroom that would make a good sized walk-in closet. In fact, the door had a little brass plaque that read 'Office'. It would be a cozy home office also.
Brick Foundation
From what I could tell from my inspections the house is still on its full brick foundation. It looks like the front 1/3 was capped and has new pressure treated bottom plates (this does not appear in the permit record...). There is a serious B.S. quote for a foundation replacement for $31k.....make sure you look at what exactly you're getting for that money.... In my opinion the house needs a complete new modern foundation and earthquake retro-fitting and that is going to cost way, way more than $31k. Try more like $125k.
Master Bath?
Doesn't have one...can't see a good space to put one in.... I can't be the only person who really, really, really doesn't want to share a bathroom with teenagers?
Kitchen
While good sized it is seriously stuck in the 80's.

Roof
Permit record says it was reroofed in 83. To me, it looked like the roof is completely failing, at least on the little rooflet over the porch. Looking out the windows onto the roof you can see shingles that are so deteriorated that the Fiberglas backing is showing!!!

Elec/Plumbing
Nothing about this is mentioned in the record. From what I could tell the house is most likely still on galv water piping. There was a newer looking meter panel but it was locked and I couldn't see the rating. From the size of the panel and the wires coming to it I'd guess its probably a 100amp panel at most. It also looked like the original abspestos coated ducting for the heater is still being used.

Windows?
I didn't check every window in the houe but I looked at most of them. None of them opened. In fact most of them had been painted in place for so long that there wasn't even a gap between the window sash and the window frame...totally sealed! Great for keeping out drafts and noise not so great in a fire....Actually, I don't understand how it could be legal to sell a house with non-functioning windows...especially in the bedrooms...What happens if theres a fire and heaven forbid the new owners can't get out of the house? They would have to bust out the windows.....if they are lucky....who's going to be liable in a situation like that? C'mon Realtors y'all know that my favorite melodically named 'construction company' would unstick those windows for pennies.

Conclusion
I actually feel sorry for this house....it could be such a great place...if you could pick it up and plunk it down on a quiet street.

The price seems just, uh, crazy to me considering the kind of work the house needs.
It needs a new foundation, roof, master bath, kitchen remodel, service upgrade, and a repiping...that's going to be over $200k in work...

And you're still going to be living in a noisy fishbowl.

To me its probably worth $600k. But when I'd redo the foundation I'd dig out the entire basement and add probably 1000 sq ft of legal living space.

And that's the way I see it.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

KnifeCatching 1021 Fair Oaks 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.

KnifeCatching 1021 Fair Oaks Ave

Up for review today is 1021 Fair Oaks Ave which has the official specs of being a 4-2 of 3446sq ft on a 5000sq ft lot built in 1900. The house appears to be a legal duplex with two separate addresses. The 'Realtor Facts' say its a 5-3...so I'm not sure where the disconnect is...According to Zillow this property has been on the market for 100 days. It was originally priced at $925k which was reduced to $895k two weeks later. This house was last sold 04/08/08 for $970k..youch..
This was the last house I looked at and the battery on my camera was totally dead so..not a lot of pics. Check out the Zillow, Redfin pages for official pics and prose.
Google street view of front of house.
I actually like how the house looks from the front. Its got an interesting porch and an interesting roof line. There is an apartment building on one side unfortunately. Nice tree out front and a nice little yard.
The Good
In Gold Coast neighborhood in Franklin school district on a quiet side street.
Legal duplex! Live in one unit and get help with the mortgage from the other? I think that's a positive but most folks say houses like duplex's are harder to sell and they sell for less.
Big House...if the official stats of 3446 sq ft are true that's a pretty large house for the area.
Permit Record says that there was a new foundation done in '08. Not done by professional foundation contractor unfortunately....
Apparently there is a large usable attic but I couldn't get up to it to look.
House is a Marcuse and Remmel just like Chez 2.0. Still has a fair amount of original details in the front part of the house.
The kitchen was large with lots of storage and a little eat-in island.
The Bad
~$18k in termite work!
Kitchen desperately needs updating...actually, if they woulda spent two half days wiping on a gel stain and a couple of clear coats the kitchen would of looked a million times better. Four hours of work and less than $100 in materials...why would you not?
Baths need updating.
Not much of a backyard.
Bottom unit wasn't open.
Nothing in the permit record about modern electrical upgrades.
Nothing in the permit record about modern plumbing upgrades.
Nothing in permit record about these two newer looking decks.
This worries me....in Alameda a 2nd story deck HAS to be officially engineered. Unsafe-overloaded 2nd story decks have a habit of collapsing and hurting people...If I was seriously considering buying the place I would absolutely make the current owner prove its officially safe.
Nothing in the permit record about a new roof...from what I could see from the street the roof does not look new.
Conclusion
Price, price, price, lets talk about price...I know I pretty much ALWAYS say this but... I don't understand how they came up with the price of $895k...it must be based on mostly the square footage???
According to the permit record and what I could see the house needs serious updating.
New roof
mid range remodeled kitchen.
two mid range remodeled baths...
New water supply piping?
New electrical? Upgrade to 200 amps and a modern service panel?
What's going to happen when the city notices that big 2nd story deck??? Trust me, that's going to be an expensive hassle.
$895k is a lot of money for a house that still needs a lot of updating.
According to the numbers from Remodeling Magazines Cost vs. value report and my own experience that's over $100k worth of work easy...and we still haven't seen the condition of the downstairs unit?
Honestly, this seems more like a $750k max house to me...I would say that since the place has sat on the market for 100days that maybe they should consider lowering the price again?
And that's the way I see it...
One more thing....
Take a look at the Zestimate graph on the zillow page.
I don't think I've ever seen one that peaked so high for so shortly only to plunge so low...

Monday, January 9, 2012

KnifeCatching......I'm Baaaaaaaaaaaaaaack!!!!!

Mu, ha, ha, haaaaaa....
How do you spell that?

Wow, the weather was so nice this past Sunday that I went for a walk through the neighborhood and toured through four open houses!!

Shockingly enough I felt compelled to write about them...

Soooo, up soon will be reviews of 1021 Fair Oaks Ave, 1441 Grand St, 1223 ST. Charles St, and the big daddy, 1235 Hawthorne lane.

Two Victorians and two mid-century moderns.

While I'm not going to promise that I'm going to go 'review crazy' if there is a house you would like to see reviewed please drop me a note.

Realtors, this is serving as fair warning, if you want your side included in the review you best get back to me ASAP.

Mads