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6 Houses We Didn't Buy, January 2007

Starting in late 2003 we started looking at houses and by the end of 2006 we had gone to over 150 open houses and bid on the six houses listed below.

Bid Number 1 2 3 4 5 6
-            
Street Number 1714 1731 63 57 2118 2720
Street Name Hearst Channing Fairlawn Edgecroft McKinley MLK Jr
City Berkeley Berkeley Berkeley Kensington Berkeley Berkeley
Zip 94707 94703 94708 94707 94703 94703
-            
List Price $299,000 $425,000 $639,000 $999,999 $879,000 $500,000
Bid Price $327,000 $425,000 $600,000 $999,999 $879,000 $450,000
Successful Bid? No No No Almost Yes No
Sales Price $405,000 $526,000        
List Date 9/22/2003 1/28/2004 7/17/2006   10/16/2006 12/3/2006
Close of Escrow 11/26/2003 3/12/2004        
-            
Year Built 1904 1906 1939 1946 1904 1902
Lot Sq. Ft. 3,125 4,000 6,962 6,840 5,200 2,744
House Sq. Ft. 1,325 1,402 1,448 2,955 1961 2,678
Bedrooms 2 3 4 4 5 6
Bathrooms 1/0 2/0 3 4 4 2
Number of Units 1 1 1 3 3 2
-            
Neighborhood Great Good Great Great OK Improving
Fixer? Yes Yes Yes No No Yes
Foundation Brick Concrete Concrete Concrete Brick Brick
Pool? No No Yes! No No No
Bribe Letter? No No Yes Yes Yes Yes

Bid 1
Positives: Great location across the street from the park with a long backyard.  Cozy garden.
Negatives: An extreme fixer with no off-street parking.  We would eventually have to expand to add another bedroom and bathroom.  Not a lot of room to expand.

Bid 2
Positives: The crawl space has almost 6-foot of clearance so by excavating a few feet and pouring a concrete slab the house square footage could be doubled.  Note that this would not require a new perimeter footing.  The house was big enough without the lower space so it could be a rental unit.
Negatives: A minor fixer in a good neighborhood but not really where we want to live.  

Bid 3
Positives:
House has good initial quality, is big enough, is located in the hills and has a pool.  Sunny and bright.  
Negatives: Upkeep has been neglected for some time so the house needs a lot of little things.  Commuting would be difficult.  Additionally, the sidewalks and fences were all sliding and falling down.

Bid 4
Positives:
A stunning house that needs nothing and is a few minutes walk from Kensington Village.  We would live in the upper unit and rent the 2 lower units.  Benefits of living in Kensington, rather than Berkeley, include: no transfer tax, lower property taxes, and no rent control.  Berkeley charges a transfer tax of 1.5% which is split between the buyer and seller and has a property tax rate of 1.7% as opposed to 1.25% for Kensington.  If this house was in Berkeley, or across the canyon, the closing costs would be $7,500 higher and the property tax would be $1,417 per month versus $1,042 per month.
Negatives: The upper unit only has 2 bedrooms.  The property was on a very steep hill, so most of the land was not easily usable.  

Bid 5
Positives:
A well maintained house on a quiet street in downtown Berkeley with a large lot.  The upper unit has 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms and has been completely remodeled.  Good expansion potential by developing the attic.  The lower units are currently rented at good rates and are not subject to rent control.
Negatives: The upper unit is only 1,000 square feet, has a terrible layout, and is all electric (no gas lines come into the house).  The lower units are small, dark and dingy.  A large apartment building blocks all southern sun.  Most of the backyard is paved for parking.  The owner and the home inspection report indicated the house had a concrete foundation but after our bid was accepted I discovered it was un-reinforced brick.  The owner was only willing to give us partial credit for a new foundation so we backed out.  

Bid 6
Positives:
A lot of living space plus rental income for not a lot of money.  Close to Ashby BART, Berkeley Bowl and parks.  New athletic fields currently being built across the street.
Negatives: A small lot on a busy street in a not so good neighborhood.  The house has been poorly maintained and needs a new foundation.  Smelled like cat urine.

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