Home Sweet Home

Shopping for real estate in Oakland is a fucking trip. It has always been my dream to own property, and I thought that perhaps the pandemic and the recent tech relocations might make jumping into the market a bit more palatable. Wrong. Wrong! Price levelled off for a bit, but now they’re back to break neck heights again.

What struck me about this phenomenon is that there seems to be a disconnect from the beautifully staged, well lit homes I see on Zillow and the actual neighborhood where these houses are located. I was struck by this one three bedroom house that was right off 38th and International in Fruitvale. It was painted white with magenta trim, and the interior had been tastefully updated. At $500k, it was steep but I thought I’d see how much it sold for. I liked the house, but I also felt a pang of guilt as I kept revisiting – the last time I had been in that neighborhood had been a year and a half ago, with my ex, who grew up there. He had taken me to show me the block where he grew up, and he regaled me with stories of gang members, pimps, drug addicts, and the quotidian violence of living in East Oakland in the 90s. God, the house I liked was one block away from there. It occurred to me that there was something truly gross about that – I had literally held that man in my arms as he cried about the terrors of growing up in that neighborhood. He was psychologically traumatized by it. And I was going to move there? Oh, hell no. First of all, the price was pretty steep for me – why would I pay $3k/month just to be reminded of the atrocities of humanity? Secondly, what was I going to do, live there as a single woman? No, that would be dumb. I’m not a fucking mark, and I don’t want to be one. I’m not going to go out there and be the person that I loath the most: the gentrifier. I grew up in quiet, middle class Albany, California. I have no business being in East Oakland without an escort. Sure, there’s a part of me that likes the rough and tumble, doesn’t mind a bit of grit around edges. But, insanely enough, apparently that’s en vogue now, and the rough and tumble comes with a pretty steep premium. Look, I’m not dumb. I’m not going to be a part of the problem and also be broke as fuck at the same time. That sounds terrible! In retrospect, maybe I had no business living in West Oakland throughout my 20s, but I did it because I was broke. It was what I could afford. I couldn’t afford to live in San Francisco or even Berkeley. But now I can, so I do. Sure, I hope that all the black and brown people who lived through hell in East Oakland get cashed the fuck out, and, who knows, maybe other black and brown people are buying back the neighborhood. That would be great. But a part of me knows that isn’t the case for most of these home sales.

I looked at that house again today. I saw that it had sold. I looked at the price. Original asking price: $500,000. Sale price: $611,000. That’s more than ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS over asking price. God damn! One hundred thousand dollars. When I look at the numbers, six isn’t much more than five. But when I realize that it’s a difference of one hundred thousand dollars. Damn. That is A LOT of money. Just willy nilly, one hundred thousand dollars over asking price? Seriously? That much? I liked the house because I liked the colors on the outside, but I didn’t like it for half a million dollars. But somebody bought it for one hundred thousand dollars over that? God damn. Is this just how it is in the Bay Area now? Don’t get me started with West Oakland. It’s million dollar houses for as far as the eye can see and not a grocery store in sight. And the schools – I mean, I don’t have kids, nor do I plan on having kids, but the schools alone are such a point of consternation.

What is it that people are buying into when they buy property in Oakland? Are they buying into the idea that Oakland will one day be a beautiful city, free of crime and with great schools? Are they hoping it just turns into San Francisco Lite? I wanted to buy property in Oakland because I love it for what it is – flawed, sure, but scintillating and exciting. But I can’t afford to do that – which is fine. I didn’t grow up there, so it’s not a huge loss for me. I’ll just tuck my tail between my legs and go back to the burbs to live a nice, quiet, cheap life. It’s not that bad, really. Honestly, I’m surprised that people with money don’t want that for themselves. But maybe that’s the scam, and I should stop talking about it.

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