F. picks us up at 6:00PM on Friday night - we're going to see how many houses we can squeeze into the remaining hours of daylight.
We start with one close to home, near the Del Norte BART station. First time we've looked at a house that just really felt like an apartment. About 1000 square feet, but it feels much smaller. Bland. The kitchen is out of 70s hell, with that hellish fake oak finish, pink formica countertops, and mismatched appliances. The rooms feel small, small, small. The yard is just an alley in the back and on one side; it opens out a little on the east side, but rolls straight downhill. The Husband is intrigued by what's underneath the house, since it's built on a hill, and finds a door at the back that opens up to the foundation, and where someone got as far as framing out a room and throwing up some sheetrock. Creepy. Asking price: $490K. Seriously?
We head up into the El Cerrito hills for the second one. It's listed as a handyman special -immediately apparent as we come down the walk and see the exterior paint sluffing off in sheets, the window frames appear to be rotting. Inside they have gone to the trouble of new floors, but no paint or repair for the ginormous cracks in the plaster in the living room and one of the bedrooms. But the view is spectacular from the huge living rooms windows - we can see Mount Tam, the bridge, the city. 1700 square feet, with a huge, ancient kitchen, a dining room with a huge "window" of glass brick (why, Lord, why?) and the living room on the first floor; two bedrooms and a bath on the second. Where is the advertised third bedroom and second bath? Why, just climb carefully down the narrow, pitched stairway to the basement, pass the washer, dryer and utility sink, and there they are - in dark panelling and green linoleum-tiled floor. The curly tile tells me that this room has flooded, more than once. The bathroom has a tiny sink that hits me just above the knees. Clearly tiny people lived downstairs. The yard is huge and just loose dirt, the pest report is $19K. For some reason, the Husband thinks this one is a possibility. I shrug. Asking price: $405K.
House number 3 is in the Richmond Annex; the MLS claims many updates, and we are optimistic when we pull up. It looks immaculate. The lockbox hangs on the front door, but the key unlocks a side door, so we end up walking around the back to find the door. We are surprised to see that someone has added a utility laundry room across the entire back of the house - not a real addition, just concrete floors, bare wood walls and green corrugated ceiling panels - very puzzling. Even more so when we get inside, and wonder why the house is so dark - it's because the two bedrooms and the bathroom have windows that look out - into the utility room. Huh? Asking price: $435K.
The last house is also in the Annex, and has an old glassed-in porch and a tiny turret at the front corner of the house. I'm already in love. They've refinished the floors beautifully, and put in new windows that have a charming pattern of panes. There's two tiny bedrooms up front, with a bathroom inbetween, and then we walk into a huge kitchen with dining room and TV room (what else can you call it? There's a big wall of cabinets with an opening for a TV!), two much larger bedrooms in the back with a big bathroom and a laundry room. The yard is bit overgrown, but fixable - and it looks like a few of the interior remodeling details remain unfinished, like light fixtures. This one is bank-owned, and you must get pre-approval from Wells Fargo. The Husband's face is alight. He loves this one - sees all the rooms and knows he would not have to downsize his clutter. Asking price: $425K.
We go for cocktails after, and the Husband keeps telling F. how much he wants that house. She promises to call the other agent the next day. I have learned not to be too optimistic, so I try not to think about how perfectly an armchair and reading lamp would fit in that little circular part of the room inside the turret.