Friday, February 27, 2009

Alameda Snapshot: Todd's Shipyard Crane

An old Crane from the former Todd Ship Yard in Alameda. Now Bay Ship. 
Have a Great Weekend

Black and White Ship Crane

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Alameda Median Sale Price Down 26% in January

The news just does not get better for housing, the National Association of Realtors reported that the national sales of existing homes unexpectedly plunged in January to the lowest level in nearly 12 years. Sales of existing homes fell 5.3 percent to an annual rate of 4.49 million last month, from 4.74 million in December.

The January number for Alameda are not any better with the median home sale price dropping to $457,000 this year. This is a drop of 26% from the prior 12-months when the median was $621,450. The national median sales price in January dropped to $170,300, down 14.8 percent from $199,800 a year earlier and from $175,000 in December.

Alameda sales between January of 2008 and 2009 remained unchanged, it was 21 sales in both years, but the total sales for the calendar year fell 20% from '07 to '08.

2008 -- 444
2007 -- 553

It has been 12-years,July 1997, since the US housing market seen sales this low. A few "Experts" don't see sales hitting bottom until later this year as prices continue to sink.

The good news for us in the West it was the only part of the country to show an increased in sales regionally.

The number of unsold homes on the market fell almost 3 percent last month to 3.6 million, the lowest inventory level in two years. But due to the slumping sales pace, it would still take 9.6 months to rid the market of all of those properties, up from 9.4 months in December.

The number of properties continue to languishing on the market and Alameda has seen very stagnate inventory levels. More home would likely be on the market would if sellers weren't so reluctant to list their properties to avoid sinking prices. NAR estimates that about 45 percent of sales nationwide are foreclosures or other distressed properties.

Two Videos -- The first on the National Housing Meltdown and the Second on NAR's release of the sales numbers

Home Buyer Workshop

Free Home Buyer Workshops
Hundreds of people have taken advantage of the City's Home Buyer Workshop. The workshops cover the complete home buying process including the following topics:

Overview of the Home Buying Process
Credit & Budgeting
Qualifying for a Loan
The City's Downpayment Assistance Program
The Loan Application/Preapproval Process
Selecting a Home
Role of the Real Estate Agent
Home Maintenance
Foreclosure Prevention
Participants interested in attending must register by calling First Home, Inc. at (888) 572-1222 ext. 110. You may also register for the workshop on-line. Click here to register. The next workshops are scheduled for:

2009 Workshops

Saturday, February 28th
Saturday, May 16th

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Tumbling Down

Yesterday, it was reported that U.S. home prices tumble at record pace with home prices off 18.5 percent in December from the prior year according to two housing indexes.

As we talked about in yesterday's post, the Federal Government’s new “Homeowner Affordability and Stability Plan” may find more people ineligible as prices fall, because homeowners may not qualify. The estimated 5 million borrowers in good standing who are current on their payments but owe from 80 percent to 105 percent of their home's value would be able to refinance into a lower interest-rate loan.

Nationally, home prices have fallen to 2003-levels, and half of the metro areas in the 20-city Case-Shiller Home Price Index have lost more than 20 percent of their values from their peaks in 2006. The Federal Housing Finance Agency also reported that prices saw their largest annual decline on record since 1991; dropped 8.2 percent from 2007 to 2008.

The Case-Shiller Report revealed that San Francisco saw home values lose more than 30 percent in December. In Alameda, those on the Island saw a 10% decrease from December 2006 to the same month in 2008. The year-over-year change was 4.3%.

December 2006 median $615,000

December 2007 median $588,000

December 2008 median $552,500

The more startling number is if you look at 24-months of median pricing and see the 20% swing from a high in September 2007 to the low in September 08. Because of the low sales volume in Alameda the swings in median can move pretty dramatically.

If you look at the Alameda 2007 median home price verse the 2008 you will see about a 7.5% decline in price. I think that this more of a reflection of the actual market, but we are seeing several individual properties with bigger declines. The next three months will give us a true feeling of the direction of the market as we enter the traditional buying season.

12-months 2007 median price $649,000

12-months 2008 median price $600,000

Video on the Industry reports

Former Ron Goode Toyota Out of Business

Word came down on Tuesday, that Former Alameda Toyota Dealership Ron Goode now called Superior Toyota and Scion of Oakland was closing its doors just after two months of opening in its new location.

The Superior Toyota dealership opened at I880 and Hegenberger, its goal was to sell 400 cars a month.

See the video on KGO 7

Regular Real Estate Post later this morning.

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Many Are Not Here

Flickr Photo Courtesy of DCJohn

I have purposefully held off on writing about the Federal Government’s new “Homeowner Affordability and Stability Plan” until I had a chance to read all the information and understand how it would impact our fair Island.

As details of the plan came out, I did not hold out much hope that it would do anything for Alameda homeowners.  Now that I have a chance to review the fine points of the plan it is proving to be true.

Carolyn Said, a very good real estate writer, over at the San Francisco Chronicle did a really nice job of breaking down the impact for the region. The article “Few in Bay Area qualify in housing rescue plan” tells us that more than 90% of the Bay Area will not qualify.

For you to qualify for under the here are the basics:

  1. Conforming Loan – The loan amount needs to be under $417,000
  2. The value of you home can not be less than 5% of the loan amount
  3. Primary residence

According to Chron story in a review of 117 regions the Bay Area ranked last in terms of those mortgages that would qualify under the plan. According to Zillow, an online home price evaluator, Alameda’s index home price is $ 578,000. According to Money Magazine, just three years ago the median home price was $682,500. My research shows that the median home price was $600,000 for 2008 a 12% decrease.

Conforming loans in Alameda are very rare, but even if you bought a home for 400,000 and took a 100% financing you new value could not be less than $380,000. That price just does not seem realistic for a Bay Area or Alameda home.

The good news is that is appears, so far, that most Alameda homeowners are hanging on to their property. With 38 total foreclosure and short sales currently listed this represents just 0.26% of the owner-occupied homes in Alameda. It does represent 38% of the total homes for sale, so distressed properties are hitting the market.

The one part of the President’s plan a $75 billion program that tries to persuade lenders to modify loans would apply to Alameda as it would in the rest of the country. The government is trying to support struggling homeowners, including both those behind on their payments and ones who are still current with this program and the plan to pour an additional $200 billion into Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac would also provide aid.

To read a little more about the plan here are the White House links:

Executive Summary



When was our Community Built?

In writing about 2413 Buena Vista last week and the looking at the year 1942 as a demarcation for the "Historic List," I wanted to get a better feel for what that housing stock looked liked and the mix in Alameda. The only source that I had available over the weekend was the 2000 Census, so the numbers have changed with the addition on new home construction but it will get us pretty close to at least what the stock looked like nine years ago.

The Census does a pretty good job of breaking down the numbers and they separate out owner-occupied verses rental. For a baseline here are the total numbers:

Owner-Occupied: 14,491
Rental: 15,735

Not a real surprising since the first wave of housing came between 1854 and  1939. Over a third of the homes in Alameda were built during this period with 38.5% of the owner occupied and 29.3% of the rental units constructed in this 85-years. The total housing stock was built before World War II was 33.17%. 

If you push the date out to 1969 this construction  accounts for well over two-thirds of the units (68%). So for the next 30 years Alameda saw 9,576 units added to the inventory. A large portion of this development came as Harbor Bay began construction in 1978 and added 2,973 homes over the next 20-plus years.

So I guess my question to ponder is: How good a tool is the HAB list with the inventory we have?

I was really able to think about question as I walked from my home near Broadway to my favorite coffee shop near Webster. As I walked along Central I noted two things: First is you really do not know a neighborhood til you walk it;  And second what is the list suppose to do?

Central Avenue is the real reason why Measure A and The HAB List were created. Older homes, Big Box Apartments, small bungalows, bastardized Victorians into two, three, four or more units. The big lots with older homes that hide apartment buildings stacked behind the grand home. I can really see why dramatic steps were taken by the citizens.

As I walked the 17 blocks from Park to Webster, I realized that it is not the city measures that were implemented but the mix of housing stock that allows for such a diverse and unique community. And in someways it was the craziness of 50s,60s, and 70s created this community that is diverse and unique. I still believe that the HAB list  was done backwards, that a (singular) home should be place on list by the individual merit and not one big swoop, but I will continue to ponder this question.

The Census data is below, and even further down in the post is the weekly inventory report.




Owner-occupied housing units



Built 1999 to March 2000



Built 1995 to 1998



Built 1990 to 1994



Built 1980 to 1989



Built 1970 to 1979



Built 1960 to 1969



Built 1950 to 1959



Built 1940 to 1949



Built 1939 or earlier









Renter-occupied housing units



Built 1999 to March 2000



Built 1995 to 1998



Built 1990 to 1994



Built 1980 to 1989



Built 1970 to 1979



Built 1960 to 1969



Built 1950 to 1959



Built 1940 to 1949



Built 1939 or earlier






Monday Inventory Below:


Alameda Inventory, Pulled February 22 at 9:30 AM
















Short Sale




Price Reductions



$       2,095,000


$          214,900

Friday, February 20, 2009

Alameda Snapshot: Historic Alameda High School

Today's Alameda Snapshot is of the intricate detail from the Historic Alameda High School. Have a great weekend and stay dry.

Alameda High Columns 2

Link to larger version

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Short Month Short on Sales

I write this post with some caution, because sales sometimes lag into the Multiple Listing Services, but it appears that home sales for the month of February is very slow. With more than half the month over this February is pacing to be the worse month since I started tracking this data last year.

Traditionally, December to March are very slow in the Real Estate industry and for home sales to dip is natural. The big hope is that there will be a sales pop in April like last year when sales more than double from the prior month.

In February of 2007, Alameda saw 21 home sales and up to this point in 2009 we have had seven recorded sales on the MLS. If we continue this pace it looks like the month will have a total of 11 home transactions, almost a 50% decrease from the prior year. 

If anything this must have the people in City Hall a little worried after budgeting in Measure P projections. For those of us who follow the Real Estate market it tells me that the Island is watching from the sidelines to figure out what direction the market is going.

Here are the February Sales:

Sale Date


Prop. Type

Sale Price


1305 WEBSTER ST #C102


 $  164,900.00




 $  585,000.00




 $  615,000.00


1434 PARU ST


 $  499,000.00




 $  525,000.00




 $  531,000.00




 $  870,000.00

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Crossroads of Progress and Preservation

Last Night the City Council was at the corner of Progress and Preservation as it was to consider an appeal from the Owners 2413 Buena Vista who is seeking to demo this building as part of a larger commercial project for the area. The item was pulled from the agenda at the request of the appellant.

But here is the background on the project. The Historic Advisory Board denied two items regarding this property – the removal of the home from the Alameda Historic Building List and the denial of a Certificate of Approval to Allow Demolition of the Structure – that is smack between a former car dealership and a parking lot.

I thought the most interesting part of the report was the staff evaluation.

Staff evaluated the structure and found that there has been a lack of maintenance over the years, and exterior elements and details have deteriorated because of this. In addition, some of the exterior details have been replaced or modified in a way that does not match the original. In a search through records available in the Planning and Building Department, no documentation was found that the site was identified with a historic event or person. Although an attempt can be made at rehabilitating this structure, the evaluation provided by the applicant’s engineer indicates that less than half of the original structure would remain; thus such an undertaking would result in the “defacto demolition” of the building. The result would be a replica of the original, but not the original structure itself, and would no longer be a historical resource. Therefore, staff recommended that the Historic Advisory Board remove 2413 Buena Vista Avenue from the Alameda Historic Building list.

This is where I ruffle some people’s feathers. Just because a building is old does not mean it is historic. I know that a lot of people work very hard to preserve the quality of our Island community, but here Alameda we seem to do this dance were the HAB denies a project and the Council approves (even though this one project was continued). The reason for this continuous bureaucratic cha-cha-cha is we have a very broad interpretation of historic.

The City Charter designates that “Any building that was constructed prior to 1942 shall not be demolished or removed without the approval of a certificate of approval issued by the Historical Advisory Board.” The Historical Building Code applies to all properties on the List and is based on the judgment of the evaluators.

Are you kidding me, 1942! So anything before World War II we need to add additional steps in the development process because someone thinks that a building is historic. First of all 1942 was not that long ago and second a building may never have had or no longer has any significance because of a “lack of maintenance.”

A property may be removed from the List by Board action if, in the considered opinion of the majority of the Board, a structure has been altered to such an extend as to have removed all historic value or context. This is backwards. The HAB should be adding buildings to the list based on its merit not just because a structure was built in a given time period.

The building in question was constructed in 1890 and you can see by the photos that this home is falling apart and has visible dry rot. We should be excited as a community that someone is looking to improve the area.

I hope that I am not coming across against preservation, because I am not. I worked very hard to restore my 1915 California Bungalow home, that had been bastardized in the 1950s to look like a ranch home, to a regain its charm and make it match the neighborhood and honor the tradition within it was built. What I am against is when we have rules that add unnecessary steps to a process and we seem to do this over and over again.

Sometimes when we come to the crossroads of Progress and Preservation we tend to forget the state of the building and will there be any one willing to spend the money to restore the project. These types of rules, in my opinion, do not preseve because we can not force owners to maintain the quality of the property. This home is in a commercial area, and to remove it would not be a loss to the integrity of Alameda, change the feel of the street nor is a true loss to the community. 

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

As The World Turns

I thought this was must viewing as  60 Minutes took a look at one piece of the foreclosure meltdown. 

The story focuses on a local East Bay company, World Saving. World was a small savings and loan in the San Francisco Bay area when it was purchased in 1963 for $4 million by Herbert and Marion Sandler and it was sold at the top of the market.

Golden West, which operated branches under the name World Savings Bank, was the second largest savings and loan in the United Stateswhen it was acquired by Wachovia. 60 Minutes makes the case that the collapse of Wachovia was in part do to World's lending practices, a loan product called  "Pick-A-Pay." The fall of Wachovia led it to be acquired by Wells Fargo, which in turn caused Wells to apply for TARP funds. A big mess.

Monday, February 16, 2009

President's Day Inventory Report

Happy President's Day. For those that have the day off, I hope that you enjoy the time away from your daily duties. Since it's the Holiday, I just posted the weekly Alameda Real Estate inventory and the new lisitings numbers. The MLS shows Alameda has 16 new properties on the market; three over a million dollars and two under $200,000. Have a great day.

Alameda Inventory Report
Data pulled February 15, 2009 at 3:30 PM
Total 163
94501 129
94502 34
Single Family Res.  92
Condo 42
Multi-Family 29
Short Sale 27
Foreclosure 13
Price Reductions 65
High List $2,095,000
Low List $159,900

New Lisitings for February 8 to 15, 2009
6 Callen $2,095,000 4 Bedroom, 4 Bathroom
3237 Fernside $1,095,000 4 Bedroom, 3 Bathroom
307 Anderson $1,080,000 5 Bedroom, 3 Bathroom
350 Bryant $880,000 4 Bedroom, 3 Bathroom
120 Norwich $749,000 3 Bedroom, 2 Bathroom
2323 Buena Vista $694,900 multi-family
22 Rutland $659,000 2 Bedroom, 3 Bathroom
547 King $609,000 2 Bedroom, 3 Bathroom
3227 Madison $559,000 2 Bedroom, 2 Bathroom
3230 Sterling $525,000 2 Bedroom, 1 Bathroom
537 Central $525,000 multi-family
3006 Otis $469,900 2 Bedroom, 2 Bathroom
538 Palace $435,000 multi-family
538 Haight $380,000 1 Bedroom, 1 Bathroom
1629 Foley $199,000 1 Bedroom, 1 Bathroom
1333 Webster #A212 $159,000 1 Bedroom, 1 Bathroom