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After the Fire Sale

Adam L. Brinklow | June 12, 2014 | Story Real Estate

Editor's Note: This is one of many dispatches from Oakland that San Francisco magazine is publishing over the next month, all part of our June "Oakland Issue." To see the rest of the issue's contents, and to read stories as they become available online, click here.

Sorry to say it, but there are few deals left in Oakland. Last year the median home price shot up 76 percent, to an average of $432,000, and the cost of a top-end condo doubled. Single-family residences in neighborhoods like Rockridge that sold for $640,000 two years ago are now approaching the million dollar mark. On average, 5,000 new Oaklanders are joining the party every year, and developers have scrambled to meet demand by erecting 3,750 new units over the last three years, bringing Oakland’s total units to a record 173,000 at the end of last year. The fire sale may be over, but fear not, there are ways to game the market if you know where to look.

Flock to: West of Temescal
Best for: Grad students bunking in a two-bedroom house
Rent for a two-bedroom house
: $2,000
Average sale price: $450,000
Students and artists are moving en masse to the northernmost blocks of West Oakland. Aging Victorian fixers are a lucky break for bargain-hunting buyers (49 homes have sold in the last 90 days), so if you and your roommates are looking for a new place with room for all, then snag a lease while you can and enjoy the young, creative vibe.

Flock to: Glenview
Best for: Older families spreading to a more spacious home
Rent for a three-bedroom house: $3,300
Average sale price: $624,000
Your family has grown and so have your means, but you’d rather resist the polestar attraction of Rockridge to the north. Glenview is close to downtown, right on the edge of Crocker Highlands, with a view of the hills that can’t be beat. Twenties-style Craftsman bungalows provide a distinctive flavor that sets Glenview apart from its neighbors. A small but attractive restaurant district lines Park Boulevard: Italian at Bellanico, Japanese at Sushi Park, and Cuban at Our Cuban Kitchen are local faves.

Flock to: Ivy Hill
Best for: Young renters seeking a one-bedroom apartment
Rent for a one-bedroom apartment: $1,400
Average sale price: No apartment sales in the last five years.
Ivy Hill is a pleasant, walkable slice with quasi-suburban charm: Small lawns and side gardens, big trees, and tiny parks cluster a short stroll from Lake Merritt. Older buildings provide good rental stock for younger renters who want to enjoy the comforts of suburban living without the long BART trek to Contra Costa County.

Flock to: 4th and Oak Streets, Jack London Square
Best for: Empty nesters upgrading to a spacious loft
Rent for a 1,000 sq. ft. loft: $2,050
Average sale price: $500,000
This is where to go when you want to remember that Oakland is a big-league city—concrete roofs, exposed rafters, and big windows to gaze out of at the waterfront. It’s ideally situated for BART commutes, but why bother when some of the best-of-the-best Oakland bars and restaurants sit a couple of blocks away? Nido, Forge Pizza, the Night Light, and Haven are just down the street.

Flock to: Adams Point
Best for: Pandora employees hunting for a condo deal
Rent for an 800 sq. ft. condo: $2,100
Average sale price: $283,500
Within walking distance of downtown and BART, you can enjoy a view of Lake Merritt while resting assured that you are still in the middle of everything. Stacks of flashy condos appeal to the well-to-do buyer or renter, but the sunny landscape (low-rise buildings keep shade at a minimum) and tree-and-flower-filled avenues resist yuppie banality.

Flock to: Redwood Heights
Best for: New families throwing down for a starter home
Rent for a two-bedroom house: $1,800
Average sale price: $579,000
South of the hills and north of MacArthur lies a white-picket-fence neighborhood that beckons to first-time home buyers eager to leave the cramped confines of downtown (or San Francisco). More diverse than the hills, it attracts both working-class families and white-collar office types. Bonus: It’s within one of Oakland’s most coveted public school districts (Redwood Heights Elementary’s standardized test scores hover around the 90th percentile).

Originally published in the June issue of San Francisco.

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