OAKLAND — When a three-bedroom house went up for sale in Deep East Oakland, an area many home seekers traditionally steered clear of because of its bad crime reputation and a lack of basic amenities, the seller was bombarded with 18 offers.
The home is in Durant Manor, one of many neighborhoods clustered between Eastmont Mall on 73rd Avenue and the San Leandro border — a far cry from popular neighborhoods such as Temescal, West Oakland or Maxwell Park that typically draw homebuyers. Rob Zaborny, a 59-year-old chef who works in San Francisco, and his husband landed the winning $450,000 bid.
“We wanted something that had character, we didn’t just want a little box,” Zaborny said. “And we wanted to try to stay under a half-million dollars.”
The pair are at the vanguard of the latest incarnation of Oakland’s housing boom. As sales prices in other neighborhoods soar, middle- and upper middle-income homebuyers are setting their sights on Deep East Oakland. It’s one of the few remaining places in the Bay Area where it’s still possible to get a house for under $500,000 that doesn’t require extensive remodeling.
“It’s pretty wild because so many people have pooh-poohed East Oakland for so long,” said Peter Ashbaugh, a realtor with East Bay Modern Real Estate. “But now it’s ascending, and people are talking about it and considering it.”
Increasing demand has meant rising prices. That’s great news for existing homeowners but has had unintended consequences for others. As more owners put their properties up for sale, renters are having to move out and search for housing in one of the most expensive rental markets in the country.
“I feel bad for people because there’s no place for them to go,” said Liggia ?Rodriguez with Genesis Real Estate.
She’s the seller’s agent for a two-bedroom house where the current tenants are paying $1,000. They haven’t been able to find another place in that price range.
In the past, many homebuyers wouldn’t venture into flatland Oakland neighborhoods east of 66th Avenue and below Interstate 580. Constant news reports about shootings and other violence helped scare away prospective buyers. But now, properties in those areas are sparking bidding wars.
In January, Zillow listed its predictions for the hottest San Francisco metropolitan area neighborhoods for 2016. None of the top five were in San Francisco. The real estate website predicted the top five neighborhoods with the highest home-growth values would be in East Oakland. Three of them, Havenscourt, Arroyo Viejo and Cox, are in the Deep East flatlands.
“People are having to choose what they can afford,” Ashbaugh said. “Someone who wants a $1 million condo in Rockridge isn’t going to want to be (in East Oakland). But if you’re looking for something affordable where you can actually live and not feel broke? There are some real options.”
In the past, most people buying homes in the easternmost reaches of Oakland who planned to live there were working-class and professional African-Americans and Latinos. Today, there is a more diverse pool that increasingly includes whites and Asians.
Howard Kees, a real estate agent for 25 years and a longtime resident of the Las Palmas neighborhood near the San Leandro border, said he began noticing the changing homebuyer demographics about 18 months ago.
“I have a house pending on 82nd Avenue above MacArthur Boulevard, and half my clients were white,” Kees said. “That would have been very uncommon two years ago.”
People are flocking to Deep East Oakland from all over the Bay Area. Last weekend, Rodriguez showed a house in the Cox neighborhood off 98th Avenue to a couple who had moved from Mountain View to Hayward to escape high rents. Now they’re looking to buy in Oakland.
“I’ve just been really shocked at all of the young couples and families coming from different areas like San Francisco, San Jose, Santa Clara,” Rodriguez said.
There are buyers employed in tech. But there are also entrepreneurs, people working in the service industry, at nonprofits and in other professional occupations.
Zaborny is a longtime chef at the Hayes Street Grill, a popular restaurant in San Francisco’s Civic Center area. He is white; his husband, who preferred not to be named, is Asian.
The couple landed in the East Bay after the San Francisco flat Zaborny had been renting for 22 years was put up for sale. They couldn’t afford to purchase it.
The two had been renting a house in Oakland’s Laurel district for the past two years but couldn’t afford to buy there either. Zaborny said they put in unsuccessful bids on two houses in Fruitvale. Both got over a dozen offers and sold for more than $100,000 over asking price.
That’s when they got on the web and started researching neighborhoods further east. Zaborny said the crime stats for Durant Manor were good.
“I realize after living in Oakland that it’s very much a street-by-street thing, and that’s what we focused on,” Zaborny said. “We got out of the car, we walked around the neighborhood. You could tell folks were taking good care of their houses. That made us very comfortable.”
On Tuesday, the couple moved into their Spanish-style split-level home. Zaborny likes the fact that the house has been updated but still has some of the original fixtures. It’s also convenient to BART, which he takes to work in the city.
“The area from 98th Avenue to San Leandro is the hottest part of my district,” Oakland Councilman Larry Reid said.
He said several new housing construction projects in the pipeline will accelerate the current trend. “East Oakland is really going to change in the next three years,” Reid said.
Oakland Realtor Denise Kees (Kees’ daughter) has noticed the changes already. On Sunday mornings on her way to church, she sees white residents jogging and walking their dogs along Bancroft Avenue.
“I haven’t seen a cafe yet, but these little things catch your eye,” Kees said.
People are investing in distressed neighborhoods, which are in turn beginning to shed blight. But she said the changes are a double-edged sword. Many African-Americans who grew up in Deep East neighborhoods have been priced out.
“As a Realtor, I want to get people into homes regardless of their race or ethnicity,” Kees said. “But as a native Oaklander and a black person, it’s hard because I have friends now who want to buy and can’t.”
Fifty years ago, many of the same neighborhoods were almost all white.
In 1966, Las Palmas resident Ron McCardell was the third black owner on his block. He’s seeing things come full circle. “Now,” he says, “whites are moving back.”
Contact Tammerlin Drummond at 510-208-6468. Follow her at Twitter.com/Tammerlin.