Sunday afternoon and the Husband is available, so I make my list of open houses, plot our route (Wha? Me, obsessive??) The first stop is a bust - no open house sign, just a terse note stuck on the door informing agents to call first, because this home IS OCCUPIED. Okey-doke, we'll try you later.
We swing over to a couple of houses off Fairmount. The first is a very cute MacGregor bungalow, just over 800 sq ft.; they've done a lovely job of updating (and staging). The place is immaculate, and a peek at the pest report shows $13,000. They've added a little utility room in the back, and the small backyard is as pristine as the inside. What puzzles us is the large object sitting next to the back of the house. It looks for all the world like a unit for central air conditioning - and although we grew up with AC, we've never seen a house on this side of the hills with a unit. How often can they possibly use it?? We ask the agent, he hasn't a clue. Asking price: $495K.
I think there's another house one block over, so we find the for sale sign and follow it, walk in; I immediately whisper to the husband that we are in the wrong house - the gorgeous built-ins on either side of the fireplace are a clear sign that this house will cost more than $500K. But I could weep at all the shelf space. The kitchen is brand new, the closets deep and wonderful. The agent tells us that the pest report is $20K, but $15 of that is to replace the back deck, which since the yard is level, she would replace with a flagstone patio. I am afraid to look at the flyer in my hand to see the list price: $565K. Farewell, beautiful built-ins.
The third stop is near the EC Plaza BART; it looks old and tired from the outside. Inside they have refinished the wood floors and painted the main rooms, and the flyer coyly describes "retro" details. Retro means that the banquette that was built in the kitchen is still there, sparkly-flecked plastic covers and all. And the dishwasher is retro too, circa 1968, with several decades of dust inside. The husband is puzzled by two shower rods, running parallel about 10 inches apart in the main bathroom; perhaps a very skinny person was showering? The addition in the back was done on the cheap, though with permits; place and press tile, painted plywood cabinets, and the additional bathroom is dark as a tomb. The backyard is almost entirely paved, and when we round the corner, we see a giant lump of concrete that turns out to be a defunct water feature. They've added an enclosed side porch out the kitchen door, and plunked the washer and dryer there. And the location means that both the kitchen and main bathroom windows look out onto the porch and its plexiglass windows. The Husband is sure F. will think this a teardown, but wants her to check it out. He bonks his head on the too-low garage door frame, spends the rest of the afternoon whimpering about the indignity and injury bald men must endure. Asking price: $495K.
Our other stops are just drive-bys; one is near EC Del Norte, another older place; can't see the indoors, but we walk around and peek into the huge backyard - and spot another huge, defunct water feature. Somebody made a killing selling those in El Cerrito a few decades ago. I'll check this house out with F. later in the week.
We decide to explore broadening our horizons, and head to Richmond to check out a listing I saw - we find a little neighborhood called Clinton Hill, and the ex-cop Husband is surprisingly charmed. We get out of the car and walk around the block, and are pleased by the houses and their well-kept yards. And the Husband is intrigued by this listing, as the house looks big, and has one of his most favorite features...a double garage. Another one to put on my list for F.
We come home and spend some time on the City of Richmond website, checking out their crime map and stats. The Husband decides that if we are seriously interested, he'll go down to the police station and have a chat about neighborhoods.