Home Buying in Oakland>Question Details

SGS, Other/Just Looking in San Francisco County,...

I want to find out more about up and coming areas (read cheaper, hip, safe and improving) in Oakland. If would also help if area had good transport.

Asked by SGS, San Francisco County, CA Sun Jan 3, 2010

I plan to investigate areas around Mills College (Maxwell Park, Allendale, Laurel, Upper Diamond Millsmont) and other areas including Uptown, Park Avenue, Bushrod, Temescal, and regions that border Berkley and Emeryville. I still don't know Oakland too well as I have lived in SF for awhile. If you have any tips or areas you would suggest please let me know. I would not like to spend more than 250k on a home or 300k for a duplex.

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If you're looking to upgrade to homeownership, coming from SF at that budget - Oakland's your place!

To address the areas you specificially mentioned:

The Mills College surrounds you mentioned are less expensive, you can get a single family home in your price range (not a mansion, but you could do a 2 bed/1 bath house in the $250-300K range), and my clients who live over there have found that most are fairly safe (especially if you try to stay above Foothill and don't go too far East). I do want to caution you against relying on anyone's designation of what is and isn't safe, though - crime happens EVERYWHERE, so best to be careful wherever you end up. There is good bus transportation in these areas, but no BART station super close. Many folks who live over here bus to casual carpool at Lakeshore or drive to West Oakland BART to get to the City.

Above the 580 freeway (Dimond District - which doesn't actually have an "a" in it - it's someone's name) gets safer and more desirable to many folks, but is also more expensive.

Lower Temescal and Uptown might offer some options in the price range, but most of the residential available there in that range will be smaller condo units, not as many single family homes or duplexes. until you Uptown has the best hip factor, rapidly improving (and already great) night life and shopping, and easy public transportation (several BART stations and bus access everywhere)

Park Boulevard is not in the price range. Very nice, but not in the price range. Bushrod might have some options in the price range, but I don't know that it meets your other criteria (although some areas you might call Bushrod border Lower Temescal and/or Uptown).

West Oakland on the Emerville border actually comes the closest to meeting all of the criteria you listed - cheaper, hip, safe and improving. Also has good bAgain, many of the options over there will be newer condos, but there are some single family/detached homes. If you're open to a fixer or smaller home, you'll be able to find something if you act quickly on listings in the price range and don't be seduced/distracted by the work of fiction'list prices of the short sale listings.

Drop me a line if you'd like me to set you up to receive automatic listings on a zip code specific search in the areas of interest to you. Also, consider coming over the Bridge and doing a little neighborhood tour, so you can start to see what you can get for your money in these different areas.

Happy House Hunting!

Tara-Nicholle Nelson, Broker/Owner
Tara@REThinkRealEstate.com
510.910.6713
REThinkRealEstate.com
1 vote Thank Flag Link Sun Jan 3, 2010
great response. I also have thought about what you have said in regards to Oakland or West Oakland being similar to Brooklyn some years back and of course West Oakland is much closer to central or downtown SF than Outer Sunset and some other SF Districts.
Any areas that you like in West Oakland in particular - more charm, artist and relatively safe - also not as close to large lower-income housing project. I have also been looking at Uptown, though it's rare to find homes (not condos) that are for sale in that area. I have also been looking into Bushrod and some other areas closer to Emeryville. And when I say I'm looking I mean primarily at maps when homes for sale vs. driving around, so I need to do more of that.
I also like the idea of living in an area that is undergoing a renaissancee of change and would like to be surrounded by artist and bohemians that are bringing a new direction to a neighborhood. exciting!
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Feb 5, 2010
Personally, I love West Oakland and its worth taking a drive around some of the residential Streets. In the last few years a lot of artists, musicians, people with young kids, people with dogs, people who want gardens, etc have moved here giving it a really funky and interesting Bohemian personality. There are some absolutely stunning victorians here as well as some very nice lofts and new construction, I find the architecture to be very interesting. There is definitely a strong sense of community with neighborhood co-operative gardens throughout, kids running around, and neighbors who will knock on your door to tell you that you forgot to move your car for street cleaning. West Oakland is convenient to every where in the bay area (the BART takes less then 10 minutes to downtown SF and all trains run through it), its close to Uptown so its easy to go to the Fox Theatre, Paramount, Uptown area, and Emeryville.

West Oakland is not for everyone and its not perfect, but no place is. You have to be comfortable with living with all races and kinds of people because there truly are all kinds of people here. Friends always ask me if I think it is safe, and I do. There is crime but I honestly have not found it to be nearly as bad as when I lived in Hayes Valley San Francisco. Nothing bad has ever happened to me here and I am a white woman in her mid 30's who walks around the streets frequently. When I live in SF, my car was broken into frequently in SF, I was mugged at an ATM machine in the Haight, my parents pick pocketed on the Muni, etc. etc. (list is very long) so from my perspective I feel a lot more nervous about crime here then in SF.

I am not sure if your familiar with New York City, but I feel that Oakland is going in a similar direction as Brooklyn did. There was a time when Brooklyn had a terrible reputation, now its known as one of the hippest places to live in the state and people chose to move there over SOHO in Manhattan. San Francisco has lost much of the Bohemian personality that made it famous and it seems to me many of the innovative restaurants, artists, thinkers in the bay area are coming this way.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Feb 5, 2010
Hi Scott,

If you have not owned a home in Oakland in three years, you are a first time home buyer and you can get assistance from the city of Oakland. With this, you can defer payment of about 17% of the purchase price for 30 years. See the web reference below. I am registered with Oakland to help you buy after you attend their two night class.

Regards,

Marilyn White
C21
415-646-5296
Always do the right thing!
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Jan 15, 2010
Hi Scott,
Wonderful of you to share your appreciation with Trulia and our Realtor(R) community in the East Bay. In my humble opinion, we're pretty darn good! I hope that in giving good, you get good back as well.
Tara and Krista's comments about multiple offers are well-taken, and Bill implies it, too, when he says you've got to be quick. You seem to be a real thinker, and as an analytical type myself, I appreciate that. But when it comes time to strike your note and write an offer, you will have to steal your spine, be comfortable with some ambiguity, and take action! Many of the homes you will find yourself interested in do not have meaningful disclosures or inspections provided by the seller. You will be able to find out everything you need to know about the home during your inspection contingency. So don't be afraid if there are a few unknowns -- important ones even! -- as you write your offer. Go for it!!
By the way, a client of mine just wrote an offer on a property in the Laurel listed for under $120,000, that received 17 offers according to the listing agent. It's got some issues, but likely sold for $150,000 or less. We barely missed! So you CAN do it.
Best,
Todd
510.292.2013
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sat Jan 9, 2010
Hey Scott,

Thought I would chime in real quick because I didn't see anyone mention the market conditions yet (if you did, SORRY- missed it!).

Some of the areas that you mentioned are experience heavy bidding, meaning many offers are coming in on houses priced in this range. I have had multiple clients in the sub-$350k range get out-bid many times, and it is usually by someone with all cash. There is a house on 55th in North Oakland that had 10 offers as of this morning.

I am telling you this not to dissuade you from looking, but to prepare you. Educated buyers are the lucky ones. You have to know what you are against and then be smart about the offers you write.

The reason this is happening is there is just no inventory. There is talk of that changing, but until it happens, be prepared for the possibility of writing a handful of offers before having one accepted. And if you are one of the lucky ones who has an offer accepted immediately, high five!

Good luck in your search!
Web Reference: http://www.kristashouse.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Jan 6, 2010
Hi, Scott. Your thoughtful approach to this project will pay off. Berkeley and Oakland rent control ordinances are a MAJOR consideration, if you plan to rent the property out, but they do have a number of exceptions you can harness in your favor - too much to discuss here. More accurately, I should say, Berkeley and Oakland's EVICTION control ordinances have cost some of my landlord clients thousands of dollars when they have to evict even a terrible, non-paying tenant.

I'd be surprised at a non-major fixer duplex listing in Alameda at that price that didn't go for way over asking or wasn't a short sale, but you're wise to keep an eye out. Alameda doesn't have rent control per se, but they do have a rent review advisory committee that mediates rental rate increase disputes initiated by tenants.

And don't mind me about the spelling nitpicks - I always like to know the correct way to spell idiosyncratic local stuff, because then the locals don't know I'm not one of them!

The one expectation I'd like to manage is about looking at places out of the price range. The more desirable places definitely go for above the list price, so if you're firm on your price range, you'll want to prioritize listings a bit below your max, so you can be competitive. If you have any flexibility on your price range, though, it'll stand you in good stead.

If you email a snail mail address, I can drop you a map in the mail tomorrow. Just say the word!

Tara-Nicholle Nelson
Tara@REThinkRealEstate.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Jan 5, 2010
I love this site. Thanks for all of the responses and the insider info on Oakland. I would like to focus on value and also cashflow. Thanks for addressing. I am looking for a home that will appreciate in value and plan to rent out a room to help out with finances each month; so the home should be in safe, hip area that will become more desirable in time, though a good value now. I am willing to sink some money into it for renovations, but I don't want it to be too large of a job as I don't have much experience in this area.

I plan to check out more of the area around the Emeryville and Berkely borders though hopefully they haven't popped too much lately. I will also look more into Dimond (w/o the 'a' as I have learned ;)) I also like what i have read about Uptown, though I prefer to find a home and not a condo as I don't want to pay condo fees. Bushrod definitely seems like a contender. I have seen the crime maps, which are helpful. I also wanted to find out if a map exists which lists all of the lower-income housing blocks, so I can get a better idea of how the city is layed out in that regard. I know West and East Oakland have the most, but I'm not exactly sure where.

I am interested in the "Walk Oakland" map. thanks for offering. I do prefer to stay on foot and like to walk in a neighborhood as I have lived in SF for a number of years. I don't know much about the areas just east of Lake Merritt: Eastlake, Brooklyn, Bella Vista, San Antonio Park, but you have peaked my interest. I know I like Park Blvd. and saw a home for 330k on the Street, which isn't too much out of my price range.

I am open to Alameda for sure, though most homes are prices much more, though I saw a duplex for 370k, which seemed interesting - also no rent control in that city, which would make things a lot easier.

Thanks again for all of the responses. I need to head to Oakland soon and do some more exploring. I met with a mortgage broker on Sunday, so I should learn more about financing soon, though I am in no rush at the moment.

I also need to also learn more about rent control in Berkely and Oakland. I don't believe it exists in Emeryville and Alameda.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Jan 5, 2010
Hi Scott:

Be very aware that "safe and cheap" are very personal feelings and impressions. I did not hear you speak about "value", which I think you should consider and perhaps even focus on. Can we find you a 250K SFR, for usre we can. But is that a house that is finished, needs 50K renovation or 100K renovation?
My advice: find a good realtor, and go talk about area's, and the available SFR's in that area, so you have an idea about "value". Let me know if you want to have a NO OBLIGATION discussion? It will allow you to intervoew me, and get a ghood idea on how to go about finding that property for you.
Kind regards
Antoine (510 594 2400 x 234).
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Jan 4, 2010
Best areas as far as I'm concerned, that meet your criteria are Emeryville and Berkeley border in both North and West Oakland, Particulary close to San Pablo, or the 40th St corridor betrween MacArthur BART and Emeryville. In those areas you have to be really active and very quick but I know you can find something. Happy Hunting.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Jan 3, 2010
Hi Scott,
I'm very happy to see your post. I've lived in Oakland for over thirty years and love it. Oakland is a large city, with a lot of very different-feeling neighborhoods. Many are indeed hip, improving, etc. Honestly, I think the best thing for you to do is get the great "Walk Oakland" Map, put out by Rufus Press,, (I will gladly send you a complementary copy if you email or call me requesting it).. See the names of the neighbords and get more of a sense geographically where they all are. You're off to a good start already. Your price range will get you in some of these areas, but not others that you've mentioned. Buyers are looking for value, and there has been a lot of competition recently for homes in this price range. Some of these neighborhoods have been up and coming for a long time! Many of them are pretty well established, but are absolutely hip, exciting, vibrant, and with a good mix of old timers and new folks. The areas just east of Lake Merritt: Eastlake, Brooklyn, Bella Vista, all around Park Blvd and lower Park are great...there are neighborhood groups that meet, some good cafes and places to eat.. The Parkway Theater unfortuately closed, but efforts by the involved community are there to re-open with another good theater that caters to the the neighborhood. There is San Antonio Park and that district, moving up into Fruitvale, which has pockets you might like.

Crime is an issue in Oakland, and the communities and neighborhoods that have yahoo groups, neighborhood meetings, stability and connectedness are the ones that are dealing with crime the best, in my experience. When people know who the local burglar is, or communicate about suspicious behavior etc. and "connect the dots", well, that is going to be a big factor in that neighborhood being a better place to live. Finding a "safe" neigborhood is going to be exceptionally "relative"!

If you go on the City of Oakland Website,, you'll see a lot of community info, district breakdowns, community groups listed. My suggestion is try all venues to get more of a feel and more info for what is happeing in these neighborhoods throughout Oakland. This website if full of all kinds of useful info. Crime mapping is on there to. http http://:www.oaklandnet.com/

If you connect with an agent who knows Oakland well, you'll get some direction too. Feel free to contact me and we can talk in detail. I have a lot of experience in Oakland with buyers in your price range.

Good luck, and I wish you all the best!
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Jan 3, 2010
The word "cheaper" is relative, but I guess properties in the East Bay would be less expensive than any place you will find in San Francisco,

You identified good areas --- but your price range of $250-300K for a home or a duplex is not realistic unless you are looking for fixers. Even foreclosures go for higher than that.

However, if you can budget a bit higher, you may want to consider the Jack London area, too, where there are several lofts and condost, and have excellent access to public transportation, easy walk to amenities.

Are you only looking in Oakland? If you wish to expand your search, include Alameda, just across the bridge. Many folks from San Francisco and Marin counties find Alameda to be a wonderful alternative. We may not have the hills, but we have the beaches and the climate. We have theater, shopping, fine dining, bike paths. Best of all --- easy commute to the city via ferry or express bus.

Take look. Bring your bike on board the ferry, get off on the main island (the ferry is next door to Rosenblum Cellars where there is free wine tasting) then ride around the main island and on Bay Farm/Harbor Bay.

Again....your budget range will limit you to what you can find.

Engage a realtor knowledgeable in this area, and we can surely find some options or alternatives.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Jan 3, 2010
Hi Scott -

All of the areas you have expressed an interest in have a lot going for them, in my opinion. I left SF for the east bay over 10 years ago, living in Oakland and Berkeley and know the areas very well. My husband and I bought our own home in the Allendale neighborhood, and in your desired price range, it would be a good area to consider. There are a reasonable number of bus lines in the vicinity and Fruitvale BART is an easy bike ride or manageable walk away. You might also want to consider areas southeast of Lake Merritt and the Fruitvale vicinity above Foothill Blvd. North Oakland would offer many choices for you as well. If you are interested in condominium living, Emeryville has a wealth of new construction, with incentives and down payment assistance for those who qualify.

In order to advise you of what is truly realistic in terms of what you are going to get for your money, I'd need to know more about your specific needs and wants. What type of financing you use is an important factor. Can you consider "fixer" properties? If you want a larger, move-in ready, single-family home on a great street in any of these areas, the price is going to be higher than you want to pay and the competition is going to be stiff. So much depends upon what your individual circumstances and requirements are. I am working with a number of clients looking in the price range you quote, and their particular needs make a huge difference in what is actually available to them.

I am always happy to meet with you and discuss, provide referrals, and help you make decisions on how to proceed. Give me a call or send an email and you can count on a prompt, thoughtful response.
Web Reference: http://www.wendygraves.net
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Jan 3, 2010
In Oakland the west side of town is changing for the better, I think the areas around the Macarther Bart Station have some promise. As for price I don't think your going to like most of the places you see if they are priced in the 250k to 300k range. In that price point you can find a nice condo though. I would suggest taking some time to drive around Oakland on a Sunday and go to open houses to get a feel for the neighborhoods. If you would like further help I am always looking for new people to work with.
Web Reference: http://www.troystaten.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Jan 3, 2010
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