Someone may get in touch with me to point out some obvious flaw I have failed to notice on this listing, but it seems this remodeled lemon-yellow home on a corner lot at 1801 Stuart Street, might be worth a second glance.

Three bedrooms, and two baths, and a total 1,811 sq ft, a good-looking new kitchen and a tidy garden — and the price is $699,000, or $386 per square foot.

The home was built in 1906 and is a stately looker with columns flanking the front porch. There’s a detached garage and, as the listing points out, it is close to BART and Berkeley Bowl, as well as Grove Playground.

Update 16.13: Whoosh… that was quick: we highlight the home at 2pm and by 4pm is is marked as Sale Pending. We didn’t realize the extent of our influence.

Tracey Taylor

Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside, the nonprofit parent to Berkeleyside and The Oaklandside. Before launching Berkeleyside, Tracey wrote for...

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  1. EBGuy: (Thanks for the title-tracking and tax-tracking tips and…) Yup, the property is pretty substantially behind on taxes. High four figures, so far. Five figures by the end of this year. Have you any notion on the current threshold that triggers seizure/auction?

  2. is there any *free* way to check title? (Yeah, I’m a cheapskate there.)
    No worries — all the fun I have is freely available on the web. I recommend; you can sign up for a free account with them that limits the number of searches you can do per day. You can double check with the Alameda County Recorders Office website, but, unfortunately, they don’t allow you to search by parcel number, so you need at least one (former) owner’s name to try to piece together a chain of deeds (and ultimately, find the current owner). Also, they should list any liens on the property, which, I think would be important, for anyone eventually taking title to the property.

  3. EBGuy: thanks much. The link you gave for checking taxes was quite helpful. And, yes, I’m not sure what the “right” level of paranoia is with regard to a legal owner showing up (and, yes: take pictures and prove improvements and be prepared to put on dancing shoes and negotiate).

    You seem so handy with the databases — is there any *free* way to check title? (Yeah, I’m a cheapskate there.)

  4. Thomas, IANAL, so take what I say with a grain of salt. I was surprised to see that you can take title by adverse possession after only 5 years in California. There seems to be someone out there that owns (or at least thinks they own) the place, so I’m not sure it would be a good candidate. That said, check here to see if the taxes have been paid. If not, you’ve got a lease you can renew every six months (by paying the taxes) — or until the owner shows up. If you actually take care of the place (take pictures before any clean up), I’m sure you could negotiate your way out before they go the unlawful detainer route 🙂 NLA!

  5. Are you predicting “up” as people make a last ditch effort to monetize their places by renting?
    Good question. Be aware that my interest in real estate is a hobby, so I could be totally wrong. My prediction would be a rise as we hit rental roulette season and the UC students seek lower cost rentals. Those who bought at too high a price will be caught standing up (without tenants) when the music stops. Eventually the foreclosures peak and we get a “normal” market. My general perception is that there appears to be plenty of willing investors (LLC syndicates) ready to scoop up property at the courthouse steps and turn it around fairly quickly. Some, I suppose, goes back to the bank (there are REOs in Berkeley), and those seem to take longer returning to the market (and are likely to remain vacant if not already rented).

  6. EBGuy:

    I’m confused what you are suggesting will happen with the rental numbers. Are you predicting “up” as people make a last ditch effort to monetize their places by renting? Or “down” as things come off the market?

    It’s my (painfully acquired) understanding that eviction controls in Berkeley mean that a foreclosure does not, in most cases, terminate a tenancy. It’s my vague understanding that owners are not fully free to take vacant units off the market. Do you see any chance, here, that if there is a large attrition of landlords that the City will step in and compel the receivers to keep units on the market?

    Finally, slightly unrelated but only slightly: a house on my street was (supposedly) handed over (to *someone*) in a deed in lieu of foreclosure transaction. In the first week after that, someone identified themselves to me as the “property protection contractor” who would be maintaining the place – but in the many months since, that’s the last of that guy we’ve seen. Meanwhile, the place is starting to go to hell (overgrown, fallen tree, *maybe* some light-touch yard-squatting though it’s hard to be sure). The City last told me that they can’t figure out who owns the place – the deed is clearly wrong but that’s all they know. I gave some serious thought to attempting an adverse possession but, more realistically, I concluded that the probable outcome would be that *that* would bring forward a legal owner in a process that would probably cost me quite a bit in sunk costs, fines, and liabilities (maybe even jail time).

    Have you any suggestions, especially given your access and prowess with various databases, about how to remedy the situation and put a legal owner back on the hook for this place? (Or would you suggest adverse possession? 🙂

  7. Fix it up (and price it right) and they will come. On a side note, a home I’ve been tracking in my neighborhood just had a NOD filed. Owner in Stockton appears to have been foreclosed on a property in that city as well in December of last year. I have a feeling it’s going to be a long hot summer as negative cash flow landlords throw in the towel. Keep your eye on Craigslist for the number of available rentals…