Pricing Poll: 3200 Alma

By Dave Fratello | March 21st, 2008
You've got to love older homes to want to buy one today for top dollar.

And top dollar is exactly what the sellers are asking for 3200 Alma. The start price is $1.899m for 3br/2ba and 1500 sq. ft. Old-home lovers, come on out!

We're asking MBC readers once again to weigh in, through a pricing poll, on what the final sale price for 3200 Alma is likely to be.

Please read the story below, vote in the pricing poll and explain or support your vote in the comments. Voting closes Sunday night at 8pm.

Here at MBC, we have a well-documented soft spot for charming old Spanish homes on Alma. Specifically, we went ga-ga for Matthew Fox's home at 3116 Alma (see "Old's Cool"), only to find that he wasn't serious about selling (never cut the price, tested the market for just 2 1/2 months), and that no one was serious about buying. The listing was canceled and the home continued, presumably, as a rental.

So we were looking forward to 3200 Alma. The listing language set the stage:
This is the Spanish Charmer that everyone knows and loves. It has been updated over the years, but its authentic elegance has been carefully preserved.
So, would we join the multitudes who "know and love" this home? Nah.

Alma is quirky and authentic and cute in all the right ways, but there was no "wow" factor for us. The phrase that occurred to us over and over was "rough edges." Overgrown vines, chipped tiles, dirt here and there, a BBQ that saw better days several years ago, a tiny kitchen with old cabinets that are just painted over.

We quickly got the sense that this home hasn't been tidied up much for sale. The flaws, we guess, are supposed to be part of the charm.

Likewise for the dated, er, period tile work in the bathrooms. Impossible color combinations. (Did we really see green and purple together?) The kitchen and baths really challenged our broader commitment to the ideal of preservation. We'd take these compromises in the right circumstances, but not for a big premium.

On the plus side, the home has natural character, two small but sweet outdoor spaces, and here are some ocean views from the master (and even from the master closet – a first for us).

The owners paid $1.1m in July 2002. That means they're asking for a markup of $799k/+73% over 5 1/2 years – 13% average annual appreciation. That's certainly not unprecedented in MB over recent years, but it's on the high end.

At $1.899m, the sellers seek a remarkable $1,266/PSF, the second-highest PPSF in all of the Sand Section now. At just $1,000/PSF – still a premium price – the sale price would come down $400k. The often-optimistic Zillow thinks $1.47m is about right.

Another newer listing really undermines the price on 3200 Alma. Quite nearby – although lacking ocean views – 445 30th St. offers an older Spanish-style home with 1100 more square feet on a larger lot (2700 vs. 2150 at Alma) for just $100k more ($1.999m), and at just $769/PSF. The big differences on 30th St. are that there's adequate living space – two living rooms plus a separate dining area – and the kitchen is modern.

We wanted to like 3200 Alma more than we did, but there's no question that it has its charms. The question is: What's the right price?

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