As a result, the $3 million price point for homes is getting more competitive across the Bay Area. But what buyers get can look very different depending on the city or neighborhood. Two properties listed for just shy of $3 million — one in the Berkeley hills and another on a Palo Alto cul-de-sac — show us what luxury looks like in the Bay Area, one year into the pandemic.
A historic Tudor revival mansion, built by an heiress, with panoramic views of the Bay Area
List price: $2,950,000
Size: 3,866 square feet, on a 13,285-square foot lot
Price per square foot: $763
Amenities: Terraced back patio and porch, 3-car garage, legal and vacant in-law unit, en-suite bedrooms, balconies, backyard
This English country five-bedroom property was built in 1934 for Angela Wing Roth — an East Bay socialite — who had inherited a fortune from her father, a lime manufacturer. In the years since, it’s been a legacy property for multiple generations of notables in the Bay Area “glitterati” who have lived in the home, which is tucked away on a quiet, winding road near Grizzly Peak Boulevard.
The five-bedroom, four-and-a-half bathroom property sits on nearly one-third of an acre and is a sight to see. Golden Gate Sotheby’s International Realty listing agent Herman Chan says that since the home went on the market several days ago, he’s practically been living there to keep up with the interest — showings have been through the roof.
“It’s a triple whammy,” he said. “You get a flat yard, mega-mega panoramic views, and a vacant and legal in-law unit which is very valuable in Berkeley. Plus, the history and legacy is just such a good story.”
While the average price point for Berkeley is around $1.5 million, 2021 has seen everything go into overdrive, Chan said. With more buyers pouring in, it’s driving up the prices by more than 15% on what was already very limited inventory.
He said in Berkeley, in particular, he’s seeing a lot of buyers coming from Silicon Valley who — no longer bound by going into the office — want to get out of the South Bay.
“Before this year, Berkeley wasn’t really a $3 million city,” he said. Now, “it’s starting to cross more and more into that range.”
This historic Tudor mansion is not necessarily the typical $3 million home for Berkeley — many other homes with more average appearances and smaller footprints are listed in the area for similar price points.
But Chan says it’s priced taking into account the quirks of an old, highly unique home. It’s going to need work, and that work would likely come with a big price tag, because many of its original materials are hard to find and will have to be replaced carefully to keep the larger design of the home’s character in mind.
“It’s going to be for someone who … will be the next steward of this beautiful property,” said Chan. “And we understand that there are certain drawbacks.”
A four-bedroom Eichler in a desirable Palo Alto neighborhood
List price: $2,999,000
Size: 1,867 square feet on a 6,995 square-foot lot
Price per square foot: $1,606
Amenities: New HVAC system, updated kitchen, solar panels, backyard, new flooring
This four-bedroom, two-bathroom home was built in 1956 and has an updated kitchen, formal dining room, floor-to-ceiling walls of glass and a two-car garage. The home has been popular out of the gate, with 11 showings on its first day of being on the market.
It’s an authentic “Eichler home,” featuring an open-plan living space, glass walls and many other midcentury modern architectural features.
Golden Gate Sotheby’s International Realty agent Dulcy Freeman, who listed the property, thinks it’s the location, on a quiet cul-de-sac near schools, community centers and parks, that really makes it stand out.
And while $3 million may sound like the kind of money that should get you a Tudor mansion wherever you go, in Palo Alto, that’s a standard price point for a larger single-family home these days.
“(For a) single-family home, you need to be ready to spend close to $3 million to get a piece of land with a home on it that is not a tear-down,” Freeman said. If your budget is under that amount and you’re wanting to be in Palo Alto, you’re likely looking at a townhome or one really close to the freeway, she said.
Freeman says the profile of the typical home buyer in Palo Alto has changed in the pandemic. She used to see people relocating from all over the world to work in Silicon Valley companies. Those buyers have disappeared.
But a new set of people have taken their place: from other parts of the Bay Area, especially those relocating from farther south looking to take advantage of the city’s well-known public school system.
“There’s a lot of shuffling of the deck within California,” she said. “What we’re seeing happening is the stayers — the people who love the state and want to be here,” she said.
That trend mirrors what a Chronicle analysis of U.S. Postal Service data found: the claims of a “California exodus” are mostly unfounded, and most people who moved out of San Francisco — or other Bay Area cities — moved to other ones nearby.