As Spring begins, so does the North Berkeley Real Estate Market

by arlene on March 23, 2010

For the past week in Berkeley, CA we’ve had gorgeous spring weather. Starting with the narcissus, we’ve had a progression of beautiful things in bloom: camellias, magnolias, daffodils, freesias and now tulips, cyclamen and a deep blue California native ceanothus. It’s thrilling to hear the buzz of bees gorging themselves on pollen as they move through the blue blossoms.


Honeybees in ceanothus

And as our gardens have come fully into flower, so is our real estate market emerging. Unlike so many other parts of the country where the phrase “glut of inventory” defines their condition, we have had many months of very few properties to show an ever-increasing number of buyers. The predictable result has been continued multiple offers. Last week I previewed a classic Berkeley home for a buyer: an Arts & Crafts style, two story home with graciously sized rooms. Three bedrooms and one bath up, one bedroom and a bath down, plus so many features that buyers seek: hardwood floors, fireplace, built-ins in the dining room, updated kitchen and baths. It also had a high walkscore, and in our area, that is extremely important. This home was within blocks of the Gourmet Ghetto, anchored by Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse restaurant, Mecca for California Cuisine, and across the street from the Cheese Board, and their fabulous pizza outlet. Before I diverge too much into a food tour of North Berkeley, let’s go back to the house for sale! It was designed by a named architect, someone only local architecture buffs would be likely to know, but it showed in some lovely details. Even with a less-than-lovely modification of a cinder-block retaining wall in front, the house had many of the key elements that buyers, especially buyers with families, are seeking these days.

Instead of showing this home to my buyer, I will need to show her ones that are having two Sunday open homes rather than just one, giving buyers a bit more time to consider such an important purchase. My buyers are living in Southern California, making the search all the more difficult. And their competition is stiff: the home in question received seven offers yesterday, and is in an accepted contract without contingencies. I can’t swear that it was an all-cash offer, but more and more lately that has been the case, even for homes such as this priced over $1 million.

Not all homes get this response, of course, but the ones that are priced well, perhaps just a tad low, are well-located and well-marketed, have been getting multiple offers for as long as I can remember. During the early months of 2009 “multiple offers” meant two or three. As last year progressed, some properties would occasionally get five or six. In these early months of 2010 some of the best homes are once again receiving six or more offers, non-contingent offers, and all cash offers. For buyers like the one to whom I showed property this weekend, that kind of competition is very discouraging. Why is Berkeley, especially North Berkeley, so much more in demand than other parts of the state, my buyer asked. That’s the subject for another post!

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