Starting Over at 512 1st

By Dave Fratello | October 19th, 2012
Holy tilted house, Batman!
Maybe the tipoff that something drastic might happen at 512 1st was the strangely tilted photo featured in the listing last year.

It was a visual cue that something was awry with this mid-90s built contemporary.

That cue proved correct.

There was the very curious layout – 3br downstairs, the master on the third floor, living spaces sandwiched in between.

There was the odd use of the lot – a separate garage building up front on 1st St. with a guest unit/bonus room on top. A "yard" in between, but not on the sunny southern side of the lot.

And within the brazenly different building, there were quirks. One observer wrote: "[I]t does have a number of rooms with curved walls, which leave unusable corner spaces."

MBC said, "512 1st does require you to bend your mind around the current layout, or re-imagine it with some work or rearranging of the layout."

512 1st coming down this week
But there's another approach to "re-imagining," which the new owners have taken: Start over. 

When a house is absolutely too rife with mistakes to be fixable, maybe you don't try to move walls, expand this, shrink that, change the use of space, etc. You just begin anew.

The new owners wound up paying $1.799m in February this year for the lot.

It's a good and unique lot, 4000 sq. ft. with direct access to the south to the vast, grassy playing fields at the elementary school. Just a few homes have gates opening directly to the grass like this one can. The fields are a community hangout and an attraction that a better house could do a nice job welcoming for the new residents. 

Almost any house will be a better house, but still, to see the old one coming down this week was a shock and surprise.

Wondering what the "proper" land value may have been here, we first thought of the next-door-neighbor, which closed 2 years ago (Nov. 2010). That was 516 1st, which sold for $1.140m. Same 4000 sq. ft. lot, but with a little cottage on it that the new owners preserved and remodeled. (See "Reconfiguring on 1st.")

We're sure the neighbors are enjoying their little beach house, probably all the more so now that they've seen their paper equity jump by more than $600k overnight.

Right next to the school's parking lot, earlier this year a very old and small house with a 3,000 sq. ft. lot (420 1st) sold for $899k. That one's hard to measure against anything else because it's so impacted by the parking lot. But it sure looks tiny next to $1.799m.

Nearby around the South End, you also had 521 2nd, which sold earlier this year for $1.370m. The property now hosts a dated, 1960 post-and-beam house on a standard size, street-to-alley lot (2700 sq. ft.). It's looking like a remodel is not happening and it will be a new build instead. (Dave's clients bought the property.)

No one thought that $1.370m was land value at the time for 2nd, but if it was, the price by the lot square foot would translate over to 512 1st as $2.020m – then you adjust for location for 1st (busy street). If you go by what seemed the lot value probably was for 521 2nd at the time, around $1.150m or so, then the lot at 512 1st pencils out to a $1.7m-ish value before adjustment. Somewhere between those 2, the $1.799m figure doesn't look quite as alarming.

But the important point is that someone's fixing the mistakes at 512 1st by starting with a clean slate. This will be one to watch.


NOTE: As we go to post this story, the Redfin links aren't working – Redfin isn't working. We're somewhat confident Redfin will come back and the links will work. Still, this is not the first time recently we've become frustrated with Redfin. They've made recent changes that have ruined some of what we liked about the site – as a few readers have complained to MBC. It may be time for a change. Stay tuned.

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