Head for the Flats: East Bay Home Buyers Want To Walk

Head for the Flats: East Bay Home Buyers Want To Walk

Remember when homes in the Berkeley and Oakland hills commanded premium prices and multiple offers because of their quiet suburban appeal and spectacular Bay and City views? Well, a new era of buyers have been flipping that East Bay home sales trend on its head. Now the flats are where it’s at, in part, because they are so walkable.

Hot neighborhoods include Bushrod, Temescal and Rockridge – all easy walks to BART stations, bus stops, schools and booming commercial districts with farm-to-table dining, bookstores, craft brew pubs, funky and upscale shops, gourmet markets and children’s stores.

Abio Realtor Elisabeth Watson says when she moved to the Berkeley Hills 12 years ago, the flats didn’t register as desirable unless they were very close to BART. Now she’s strategizing with hopeful homebuyers faced with a highly competitive market in the flatlands of western Berkeley and Oakland.

“In a market that is already facing limited supply, different buyer demographics want the same things,” Elisabeth says. “Younger people moving from The City want a more urban feel and amenities without the parking headaches. Retired baby boomers don’t want to drive and have time to enjoy urban amenities. Easy access to the arts and theater in downtown Berkeley is a big draw.”

Nationally, more than half of millennials and 46 percent of boomers prefer walkable communities, according to a survey by the American Planning Association.

East Bay Home Sales | Walkability | East Bay Realtor

Cafes and shops along College Avenue are within easy walking distance for Rockridge residents.

We’re not saying homes in the hills aren’t attracting buyers or multiple offers. But it used to be unheard of for properties in the flats to be the center of bidding wars or draw over $1 million.

Elisabeth recently represented a buyer interested in an updated Victorian at 1815 7th St. in the Berkeley flats that was listed for $1,195,000. It sold for $1,675,000. The property's Walk Score? 91 – a walker’s paradise, close to parks, 4th Street shops and Transbay and local bus routes.

In another case, Elisabeth represented the sellers of a condo at 1730 Highland Place, which she put on the market for $595,000 last summer. It quickly sold for $850,000 and broke records for price-per-square foot. It was only 990 square feet!  But it had an impressive Walk Score of 77 for being located two blocks from UC Berkeley and the Euclid shops, minutes to downtown, “Gourmet Ghetto” along Shattuck Avenue and the Rose Garden.

Where else is it hot to be flat?

Bushrod: This north Oakland neighborhood was named the country’s hottest housing market by Redfin in January because of peak buyer interest. Bushrod’s charm includes its namesake park and easy access to Ashby and MacArthur BART stations.

Northbrae: North Berkeley’s most BARTable neighborhood sits between Berkeley’s famous “Gourmet Ghetto” and the Solano Avenue shops. But with Monterey Market and Gioa Pizza, residents don’t even have to go that far.

Berkeley's "Gourmet Ghetto" is just steps away. If only you could walk into Chez Panis without reservations ...

Temescal: One of Oakland’s oldest neighborhoods, Temescal is centered on Telegraph Avenue. Oakland’s vibrant neighborhood draws hipsters and young families to its inspiring restaurants, nearby shops, cafes and popular Farmers' Market.

Rockridge: Walk to BART, trendy restaurants and retail. The area’s popularity isn’t new, but has reached new heights. In April, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that “Rockridge Dump Receives 19 Offers, Sells for Quarter-Million Over Asking.”

East Bay Home Sales | Walkability | East Bay Realtor

This Rockridge teardown sold for $250K over asking.

East Bay Home Sales | Walkability | East Bay Realtor

The interior.

San Pablo Park: This changing part of southwest Berkeley is attracting more families, artists and musicians. The amenities include Berkeley Bowl and dynamic restaurants on San Pablo Avenue.  The playing fields, playground, tennis courts and community center draw neighbors to the park for all kinds of activities. And, of course, there’s Eugene Tssui’s Fish House, described by Berkeleyside as the “least-expected and probably the most-photographed architectural design in Berkeley.”

El Cerrito: More families are considering this part of Contra Costa County for the conveniences, including El Cerrito shopping plaza, a BART station, the Ohlone Greenway, restaurants and a revitalized portion of San Pablo Avenue.

Westbrae: The Berkeley neighborhood has easy access to Gilman Street for shopping and dining (the highly acclaimed Lalime’s and Westbrae Biergarten are here). It’s home to strollers and coffee seekers in the mornings and craft beer aficionados in the afternoons. Westbrae also boasts a beautiful community garden and the Ohlone Greenway.

If you live in the flats and are considering selling, now is the obviously time for East Bay home sales. Redfin studied how much walkability is worth when buying or selling a home and found that one Walk Score point can increase the price of a home by an average of  $3,250 or 0.9 percent.

That holds true elsewhere in East Bay home sales, even though walkability is harder to come by on the other side of the Caldecott Tunnel. Expect to sell at a higher price per square foot in foot-friendly  neighborhoods in Lafayette (the Trail area and parts of Happy Valley),  Walnut Creek (Saranap and Parkmead) and Danville (Westside).

If you want to buy, Elisabeth advises prospective homebuyers to adjust their budgets to accommodate overbidding. “I have a client who wants to spend around $1.3 million, so we are looking in the $900,000 to $1.1 million range.”

“It can seem daunting but definitely do not give up,” Elisabeth adds. “The Flats neighborhoods are a wonderful place to live.”

Live in the flats and want to know what your home is worth? Contact us. Abio agents love to talk about market trends! We’re pretty geeky that way. Abio Properties at 888-400-ABIO (2246) or hello@abioproperties.com.