A new reality in Berkeley? Multi-million dollar homes for all-cash SF buyers

1672 Lincoln St. recently sold for $2.8 million, $805,000 over its list price. Photo: MLS/Coldwell Banker

Are $2 million, newly designed luxury houses about to become the new normal in the Berkeley flats — or at least not uncommon?

An upscale, technologically enhanced house built on the foundations of a modest home at 1672 Lincoln St. just sold for $2.8 million, a cool $805,000 over asking price. Close on its heels to market is a house of very similar proportions and with a similar back story: a total fixer that was demolished and replaced with new construction and modern tech touches.

That house, at 1470 Seventh St., is in West Berkeley and the asking price is $1,995,000, exactly the same as the list price of the North Berkeley home. What it will sell for remains to be seen, but the listing agent, Sante Sandhu of the Luxe Living Real Estate Group, is referring to it “a $2 million house.”

“It’s not exactly a transparent price,” he said. “But we didn’t want to price it too low and have people bid it up. We want to let people know we are asking $2 million for this house, but our product is worth it.”


Sandhu pointed to the house on Lincoln Street as a comp. Even though it is in a totally different neighborhood, he said it is within the allowable two-mile radius for comps. He also pointed to a newly renovated house a few doors down, at 1434 Seventh St., that just sold for $1.4 million.

“The listing shows a sales price of $1,385,000, but that’s because the sellers gave back $15,000 for the buyers to install a French drain,” he said. “The sales price was $1.4 million. But the products are different: that house was an updated farm house, but ours is a modern house.”

1470 Seventh St. was a fixer purchased by a developer for $660,000 in 2017, and it was demolished down to the studs. It now has four bedrooms and 2.5 baths, with a total of 2,200 square feet of living space. It has Thermador stainless steel appliances in the kitchen, and Restoration Hardware lighting and finishes. The house also features high-tech amenities such as wall-mounted iPads, Ring, built-in Sonos speakers and Nest. “The developer really took this to the next level,” Sandhu said.

The house was listed on April 10, and about 30 people came to the open house on Saturday, he said.

“A lot of buyers are coming to Berkeley from San Francisco. They want neighbors, they want sidewalks…” — Marilyn Garcia

The house on Lincoln Street also generated a lot of interest, perhaps because it is unusual to find such a spacious, newly built (effectively) home in an established neighborhood.

“That area has changed a lot in the last decade,” said Marilyn Garcia, the selling agent. She was with Coldwell Banker when the sale went through, but is now with The Grubb Company.

“A lot of buyers are coming to Berkeley from San Francisco,” she said. “They want neighbors, they want sidewalks, and they want to live in that area.”

DJ Grubb, founder of The Grubb Company, which operates across the East Bay, mostly at the higher end of the market, echoed Garcia. He said 45% of all the homes sold by the agency are currently going to San Francisco buyers. And 38% of the Grubb Company’s sales are all-cash. Many of the San Francisco buyers are millennials moving across the bay to start a family, he said.

“They’re looking for good schools and walkability. It’s an intimate conversation we’re having with them about the quality of their life,” Grubb said. “They really want to be in a level urban environment. They’re running from the hills.”

He added that the $1.5 million a San Franciscan paid for a condo in the city will get them a nice single-family home in the East Bay.

The Lincoln Street house is in a North Berkeley neighborhood that is walkable, bike-friendly and close to transit — all of which are highly sought after by many buyers and which can put a premium on a list price. The Lincoln Street house has a Walk Score of 80 and a Bike Score of 90, and North Berkeley BART is close by.

What makes this house different from the average home that comes on the market is that it was totally re-built in 2014.

“The house was taken down to the floor joists and one wall,” Garcia said. Her clients bought the house as a two-bedroom fixer in 2012 for $675,000, and spent two years designing and building the current house.

“They had a great architect — Kathryn Rogers of Sogno Design Group — and they made choices thinking they would live in that house forever. They thought about everything hard, because they had a long view,” she said. “What they got was a really exceptional house which doesn’t exist in that area.” Garcia said her clients are moving because their circumstances changed, and they want to live with extended family.

The house now has four bedrooms and 2.5 baths, for a total of 2,150 square feet. In 2016, a finished “rec room” was added to the professionally landscaped back yard.

The house features high-end design elements such as custom built-in shelves; vaulted ceilings; a “spa-like master bath;” a professional six-burner KithenAid range; Caesarstone countertops; a walk-in pantry and more. It is also hard-wired for internet and phone throughout; and includes Nest smoke detectors and a Ring doorbell controlled from a mobile device.

When asked whether she was surprised the house sold for a little more than $805,000 over asking, Garcia said she was not.

“This house is beautifully constructed, and it’s three blocks from the North Berkeley BART,” she said. “It’s also close to the Gourmet Ghetto and to Northbrae shops.” She said she had expected offers would go “pretty far into the two’s.”

The house attracted five offers, which is a good number for a house in the $2 million range, Garcia said. The sellers took an all-cash offer, and the buyers did come from San Francisco.

“The North Berkeley area has just become so desirable,” she said. “Prices per square foot there are similar to what you would pay in Elmwood or Claremont.”

The Lincoln Street house ended up selling for a jaw-dropping $1,302 per square foot. (The average in that neighborhood is in the $700 range, according to Redfin.)

Will this sales price set a new bar for houses in the Berkeley flats? “That will be very interesting to see,” Garcia said. “The Lincoln Street house was really unusual, so I really don’t know. Time will tell.”

3 more homes for (wealthy) SF transplants who favor walkability:

11 Tanglewood Rd., Berkeley 94705

11 Tanglewood Rd. Photo: MLS/The Grubb Company

Neighborhood: Claremont
What you get: 4 beds, 3.5 baths, 3387 sq ft
What they say: “Exceptional mid-century jewel designed for one-level living by Berkeley architect John Ballantine with 74 Walk Score.”
List price: $2,289,000
More details


1035 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley 94707

1035 Shattuck Ave. Photo: MLS/Alain Pinel

Neighborhood: North Berkeley
What you get: 5 beds, 5.5 baths, 5,151 sq ft
What they say: “Designed by architect John Hudson Thomas and built in 1909 for the daughter of a sheep rancher, 1035 Shattuck is an exquisite … brown shingle home with a secluded magnificence that unfolds in dappled sunshine.”
List price: $3,495,000
More details


2216 Los Angeles Ave., Berkeley 94707

Los Angeles Ave. Photo: MLS/

Neighborhood: North Berkeley
What you get: 4 beds, 2.5 baths, 3,264 sq ft
What they say: “Grand Berkeley brown shingle from the early 1900s.”
List price: $1,849,500
More details