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Home Browsing in the Bay Area

July 12, 2014

In short, it is frustrating.   I think home shopping ANYWHERE has potential to be frustrating, but here is what I’ve seen in our casual browsing of the local real estate market.

Links to virtual tours that are really just a slideshow of the photos already found on the site.  WHY?  I don’t care that there isn’t a virtual tour, but why pretend?

Earthquake / soil / fault information is not available until you get the disclosures.  And even then, I’m not sure what you get (we didn’t get that far yet).  I am generally not freaked out about dying in an earthquake.  You are actually statistically quite likely to survive.  I am, however, freaked out about spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on a home, and having it get destroyed in an earthquake.

Every time I find an interesting home I have to check if it is in the fault zone (EVERYTHING is going to be near a fault, but I don’t want something that has a risk of surface rupture).  Or in a liquefaction zone (google this, it is freaky).  Or in a landslide zone.   SO MANY hazards!

I wish redfin and the like would just summarize for me:  how many feet from fault zone, soil type (bedrock = good, fill = liquefaction risk), and any known landslide risks.  Also, can’t they just TELL me when the floors are slanted?  You are going to make me go to the house to find out about that?

Listing price is arbitrary.  It could go for slightly more.  It could go for WAY more.  In rare cases, it may go for less.  But don’t put much weight on the list price.  This is so annoying and seems like some serious psychological manipulation to get people to pay the most possible for a house.

$1M+ for an average, nothing special home.  What?!  Why?

4 Comments leave one →
  1. July 13, 2014 4:09 pm

    Oooh liquefaction. Nasty.

    Not that we are ready to buy yet but the worst thing about house hunting here is the vast majority of houses are sold by auction (this has been the trend for I’d say at least 10 years if not more and doesn’t seem to be changing) and those that aren’t almost never list a price. It’s fairly blind.

  2. Brittany permalink
    July 14, 2014 11:10 am

    If you haven’t already one thing you can check out is the Alquist-Priolo Act maps. They are helpful for determining areas you really would want to avoid. Starting in 1972 no new structures are allowed to be built on a known active fault, and it has very specific information for where schools can be built. Often in California buying near a school built after 1972 will provide you with the safest places. I’m a geophysicist in Southern California and this is something I advise most of my friends on.

    • July 17, 2014 7:30 pm

      Yes, very aware of that map! Fault zones and any active land slides is a complete deal breaker. Also, liquefaction zones. I kind of just wish the listings would include that information without me having to go dig it up, but I guess… that is not beneficial to a seller! Sort of seems like a game of hot potato in areas where a big quake is all but inevitable. We visited the most beautiful home the other week before I realized it was in the fault zone. :/ Much of the area is also earthquake induced landslide zone. I’m not sure what to think about that (other than insurance, retrofitting… but is there still a big risk?)

      I don’t know much about geology, but I’m learning more than I ever wanted to know!

  3. July 15, 2014 2:48 pm

    It might be a benefit to get a home destroyed by an earthquake– I understand in those areas it takes forever to get permits etc. to take down a home before putting up a new one. I wonder if it goes quicker after a natural disaster. The real value out there is in the land, not the house, so rebuilding an old house after a disaster might make you come out ahead monetarily. The landslide thing is scary! And I don’t even want to know what liquefaction is.

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