Albany home sells for $2.45M, setting a record for the city

1613 Sonoma Ave. in Albany which recently sold for $2.45 million, set a new record in the East Bay city. Photo: Red Oak Realty

An Albany home has sold for $2.45 million, setting what agents believe is a new record for the city.

The 2,355-square-foot, two-story California Craftsman at 1613 Sonoma Ave. has four bedrooms, two-and-a-half-bathrooms, bay views, a stone fireplace and a convenient location just two blocks from Solano Avenue with its restaurants, coffee shops and grocery stores.

The sale closed March 29 and the listing agents were Barbara Hendrickson and Rudy Gonzales of Red Oak Realty in Berkeley.

“While prices have been soaring, this sale of $2,450,000 shattered all prices in Albany,” said Hendrickson.


Entrance. Photo: Red Oak Realty

“That’s absolutely the highest price I’ve ever heard of in Albany by quite a bit,” said Todd Hodson, co-owner of Marvin Gardens Real Estate, a brokerage that focuses on properties in Berkeley, Albany, Kensington and El Cerrito. Hodson has been in the business for decades.

The next-highest recorded price for a single-family home in Albany over the last year was $1,950,000 for 940 Evelyn Ave., which sold in September 2016, according to East Bay Regional Data, the multiple listing service for the East Bay.

“We get shocked every week as to what homes go for,” Hodson said. Referring to the East Bay in general, he added: “We have seen prices ratchet up.”

Living room. Photo: Red Oak Realty

The sale illustrates how competitive home sales have become locally. For at least three years, there has been a dearth of homes on the market, both in the East Bay and the Bay Area in general. Buyers find themselves competing fiercely over the few homes available, which drives prices up.

“There’s so little inventory,” said Hodson.

For example, there were only seven homes for sale in Albany this week.

Part of this, of course, is because the city is so small, with about 19,700 people living in a 5.5-square-mile area, according to the U.S. Census. Nonetheless, it’s an example of the scarcity of properties for sale all over, agents said.

“Good houses will stay on the market 14 days or less,” said Tracy Sichterman, a real-estate agent and owner of Berkeley Hills Realty. “It is a common pattern to have two weeks of open houses and then accept multiple offers.”

Kitchen. Photo: Red Oak Realty

With regard to 1613 Sonoma, Hendrickson said there were seven offers on the house, two at the sale price. All but two of the offers were over $2 million, Hendrickson said. The home went on the market on March 1, listed at $1,685,000, meaning it sold for 45% over its asking price.

One factor that sets the property apart is its size, said Wayne Cory, a real-estate agent with the Berkeley office of Coldwell Banker.

“This house is a four-bedroom. It’s unusual to have a house this large in Albany,” he said. “If you are looking for that size of house, people are willing to pay more for that.”

Hodson concurred: “Anything over 1,500 square feet is rare in Albany. People are willing to pay a premium (for larger homes) because the cost of doing additions has skyrocketed as contractors get more busy.”

Bedroom. Photo: Red Oak Realty

Sichterman,who has 20 years’ experience in the East Bay market, described Sonoma Avenue as “the most desirable street” in Albany.

“If there is going to be a commanding high price,” it would be on that street, she said.

The house’s proximity to Solano Avenue and, in the other direction, Monterey Market is another factor adding to its desirability, Hodson said.

Along those lines, “I call it the million-dollar walk to coffee,” Hendrickson said. People are willing to pay much more to be close to amenities such as coffee shops, she said.

Bathroom. Photo: Red Oak Realty

Albany schools are highly sought after, and that is reflected in the prices of the city’s homes. Albany High School, for instance, is ranked 119th in the state in the 2016 U.S. News & World Report annual survey, with a 91% graduation rate.

The schools are the primary driver for Albany,” the home’s co-listing agent Gonzales said. “Out of the seven offers on the house, five were interested in the schools.”

However, “the buyers who prevailed loved the house for itself,” as well as the neighborhood, Hendrickson said. The schools were not a factor for them, she said. “They sincerely loved the house, the coastal oak and the location.”

“I attribute this to an extraordinary house that was meticulously maintained by the sellers,” she said. Hendrickson has close ties to the house; she was involved in its sale in 1989 when it was a small, single-story house, and has remained close to the sellers ever since. “The owners added a second story and then remodeled the kitchen in 2006, both times using the expertise of noted architect Glen Jarvis who understood the house and knew what he was doing,” she said.

According to East Bay Regional Data, the price of 1613 Sonoma is the highest sale price for a home in Albany since 1998. Two homes were listed at a higher price, but did not sell for that price. The Alameda County Assessor’s Office does not track the highest prices paid for homes.

Garden. Photo: Red Oak Realty