Oakland’s reputation as the Northern California capital of cultural innovation and just general awesomeness has made The Town a coveted spot to build a nest. Home prices remain some of the most affordable in the super-pricey Bay Area, despite alarming (or heartening, depending on your perspective) increases over the past two years. Sitting in the heart of the Bay Area on top of a great transit system, Oakland is attracting everyone from first-time home buyers to San Francisco refugees.

Here are five suggestions from local real estate agents to glide you more gracefully into an Oakland home:

  1. Think local. “Line yourself up with local professionals, emphasis on the local and emphasis on the professional,” says Coldwell Banker realtor Tracy Tilin McKendell. “Work with a realtor that you actually like, because you might be spending a lot of time with them and writing a lot of offers.”
  2. Get into an Oakland groove. Sure, you’ve partied at First Fridays and met friends for dinner at Pican, but how well do you really know your prospective hometown? “Oakland is a great place to be. Get a little comfortable with the neighborhood,” says America Foy of Sotheby’s. Don Cruz Datanagan, ZipRealty’s District Broker for the East Bay agrees: “Don’t believe what other people tell you. Explore Oakland. See how much it has grown.”
  3. Dig into the data. “Don’t look at the asking prices, look at the sold prices,” says McKendell, noting that asking prices can be misleading. Foy recommends using Redfin.com to look at sales history and assess market trends in the neighborhoods you have targeted. “It gives you all the information that [real estate agents] have,” he says. “The first thing that I would recommend is using the right tools,” says Datanagan, plugging ZipRealty’s online tools. “Technology is a huge part of keeping up with the market.”
  4. Look at The Town through a wider lens. “Allow your realtor to make suggestions of things you hadn’t thought of to expand your possibilities,” says Tilin. “People coming from the City always want walkability, because they’re used to that.” If you’re looking for a bargain, she notes, “There are some really nice pockets below 580” that get written off because of low walk scores. There are many ways to put together a car-free commute in Oakland, even if you aren’t near a BART station. Consider making a bicycle connection (Oakland’s bike score is 57, slightly higher than its transit score), taking one of many free shuttles, or using AC Transit to make your connections. AC Transit’s Transbay service is surprisingly speedy and some of the buses are big cushy numbers equipped with free Wi-Fi. (Who needs a Google bus?)
  5. Take a deep breath. “Put on your seatbelt and grit your teeth because it might be a frustrating ride,” says Tilin. She advises, “Keep your sense of humor,” and “Don’t give up.” A low inventory of homes for sale combined with cash buyers driving up prices increases the level of difficulty for breaking into the market. “Think long term,” says Datanagan.

While you are in Oakland, if someone says, “How you doin’?” as you pass by, say “Hey!” back.  Maybe stop and chat awhile, get to know a person or two.  Before you become a part of Oakland, let Oakland become part of you.

3 Responses

  1. Allure Nobell

    Tip: have 750K to 1 million ready to spend. That’s what it takes. Major fixers are going for cash only starting at 450K. Whatever the offering price is, be ready to bid 100 -130K over the asking or you will be outbid. This has been my experience the last few months I’ve been looking.

  2. Esker

    Allure Nobell, 750K to 1 million is nowhere close to the average sale price in Oakland. For that kind of money, you must be looking in some of the most desired neighborhoods. Nothing wrong with that, but you can’t universalize from it.

    You’re right about the overbidding, though. (sigh)


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