It's been a productive week; Sarah and I put 6316 Bullard on the Piedmont-side-of- Montclair into contract on Tuesday, and on the same day, I successfully helped Buyers secure 1014 Rose Avenue in Piedmont in a competitive race that had us scrambling up until the last minute.
While both had strong results, these two houses are a stark contrast in conditions: one is very large, while the other is fairly small. One has a fully-realized apartment below, while the other has an illegal unit out back. One is tucked away in a wooded neighborhood while the other is within walking distance to Piedmont Avenue with a decidedly more urban lifestyle. One is nearly pristine while the other is a "fixer" in sheep's clothing. . . .
Both had exceptional lots with inviting gardens, and this is, perhaps, what connects these two very disparate properties. The ability to live indoor/outdoor year-round is a real thing in California and why so many people flock to our fair state and stay here permanently. But larger lots also provide the ability to expand a house considerably and to dream BIG.
While Bullard needs no expansion, Rose will very likely transform over time, and the fact that the lot is 8,772 square feet allows for the house to more than double in size, for a legal ADU to take shape, to lift the house and capture the space below, to add a second story, OR to expand with single-level living. In other words, the property has LOADS of OPTIONS and in this particular case, its potential and promise are what these enthusiastic Buyers recognized and bought.
However, when paying a premium for homes - as Buyers must do in competitive scenarios - it's important to go into the purchase with our "eyes wide open." Often, this is accomplished with extensive disclosure packages that broadly detail a home's many assets and defects (Please read the disclosure package in full; it's IMPORTANT!) AND by carefully walking through the house with an experienced Realtor®, who should be pointing out red flags to consider should they exist, (Beware the Agent who wants to sell you any house at any price.) AND by asking pointed questions to the listing Agent who should provide the answers or go digging for them.
Additionally, Buyers may request the opportunity to walk through a property with licensed inspectors of their choice prior to making an offer to fill in the obvious gaps, and to better understand the working mechanics of the property, which include, but are not limited to the foundation, roof, HVAC system, chimney, plumbing, and electricity, just to name a few . . . .
With respect to Rose, although a home and pest inspection were provided, we met with an engineer prior to making an offer to better understand a 101-year-old foundation that appeared to be less than ideal. This critical information helped the Buyers create their "walk-away point;" an important component of any purchasing strategy, but also provided some reassurance as they went into battle. Armed with more information than many of their opponents quite likely had, my clients went into the negotiations with a clear understanding and a big-picture vision, and then, happily prevailed.
As a homeowner who has only ever bought the "fixer," (If you're counting, that would be seven homes.) this is a couple after my own heart, and I will wholeheartedly cheer and support their journey. (If you need "people," we've got them.) While fixers aren't for everyone, if you're up for a transformation, there are few adventures that are more rewarding than renovating a home and bringing it back to its former glory.
In the end, each prospective homeowner must decide for themselves what they value most. Having spent nearly 20 years connecting Buyers with their ideal homes, I've learned that the "value proposition" is as unique as each party involved, and certainly, a moving target for most. That being said, when it comes to your home, it's your choice, your investment and your risk so buy what meets YOUR specific goals.
Then once having made the decision, do so with a commitment to the process, with the understanding that homes are not static propositions, and that maintenance will be ongoing - FOR AS LONG AS YOU OWN THE HOME! (I am constantly fixing something.) It's the price you pay for homeownership and crafting a space that's truly your own.
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Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 18 years and has published more than 750 humorous but always informative, essays on life and real estate.