5 Things You Need to Know Before Buying a House in Alameda

5 Things You Need to Know Before Buying a House in Alameda

Today, we will be talking about the five things you need to know before buying a house in Alameda. These are things you need to consider before you start your shopping and moving experience.

Kristin and I moved here independently well over a decade ago, and have stayed ever since. That’s because there are many things to love about the island city. Some of the most amazing things we fell in love with are what we’re excited to share with you today. So, without further ado, let’s dive into the list.

1. Alameda has a lot of distinct neighborhoods.

The first thing you should know about Alameda is that it’s an island city. However, despite it being an island city, it does have distinct neighborhoods. Your experience will be totally different in each of these neighborhoods. Whether it’s the West End, Bay Farm Island, or the Gold Coast, expect the experience to be unique. The houses will be slightly different, and the home sales and home density are going to be very different. Not only that, but also the walkability, or what kind of commercial districts you’re next to, will vary from neighborhood to neighborhood.

That’s precisely why we have put together an Alameda Neighborhood Guide. This guide is an in-depth analysis of what it’s like to live in each of those neighborhoods, based on our experience. We have included places to eat or drink in each of these distinct neighborhoods. If you’re interested, you can take a look at this in-depth guide HERE.

2. There are "on-island" and "off-island" agents as well as prominent listing agents.

The second thing you need to know before buying a house in Alameda has to do with real estate. When transacting in Alameda, keep in mind that it is a small island; thus, it is pretty insular. That is one of the most important things to know about the buying and selling process here.

In the agent community, there are these so-called on-island agents and off-island agents. In addition, there are a handful of prominent listing agents. This is something really important to keep in mind as a potential buyer. That’s because you’re probably going to encounter one of these top five to ten people regularly. You will see their houses, the price points they work in, and the styles that they work in.

Understanding those things from a pricing, negotiating, or disclosure standpoint will greatly help you. It will give you an edge in knowing how to write an offer and how to potentially negotiate. This, in turn, will help you be as successful in those negotiations as possible. Each agent has a style and a way of doing business here. So, if you have an agent who can help you identify those nuances, you will become much more successful in your home shopping experience.

Off-market Opportunities

As a side note, some of those relationships with those top agents can often yield off-market opportunities. However, just know that off-market opportunities are very seasonal, especially as we get to the latter part of the year. Generally, after Halloween, you would expect to see a few more of these off-market opportunities pop up. So, if you plan to shop during the holiday season, keep an eye out for those off-market houses. But, to do that, it is important to first know how to get access to that inventory. That’s where those top agents come in.

3. Alameda has two point-of-sale ordinances.

The next thing you should know before buying a home here in Alameda is that there are two point-of-sale ordinances. These two ordinances need to happen every time a home is traded from a seller to a buyer.

The first point-of-sale ordinance you need to know about is gas shut-off valves.

A gas shut-off valve is something that a plumber will install on your gas meter for fire prevention purposes. In the event of some seismic activity, it will automatically shut off the gas supply to your home, thereby reducing the risk of fire. Those run about $500 and can be done by any plumber here in town.

The second point-of-sale ordinance is about the sewer lateral.

The sewer lateral, in simple terms, is what connects the home to the city’s sewer line. You’ll actually see this ordinance throughout the East Bay. Every house or homeowner needs to comply with this ordinance. That’s why you’ll typically see a bid for this if it needs to be done in the disclosure packet before you purchase the home.

Usually, these run about $5,000 to $10,000, depending on the distance from the home to the city sewer line. If it’s not already in compliance, then the buyer who typically takes this on will need to put a deposit into escrow. Then, we’ll typically have six months to complete the work for this.

4. Insurance

Another thing you can’t wait six months to do after you close is insurance. This is the fourth thing on our list that you need to know before buying a house in Alameda.

When talking about insurance, fire zones are what most people seem to think of as a big insurance risk in the East Bay. However, in Alameda, this isn’t exactly the case as it doesn’t have fire zones. Given that we’re on an island, we do have liquefaction zones and flood zones instead. Plus, the fact of the matter is that a lot of our housing stock is very old. Some houses here in Alameda were built as early as the 1920s, 1930s, or even earlier. And, as you may know, many insurance companies don’t like insuring that kind of property.

That’s why it’s important to make sure that you get quotes with these things taken into consideration. Frankly, you might want to get a couple of opinions as to what you have to pay for insurance because it can be significant in some parts of the island if you only stick with certain insurers. So, make sure that you do not buy that house or write an offer without first checking on insurance.

By the way, if you need help on this topic, don’t hesitate to ask us. We have a couple of people who have historically given us and our clients really great rates. We can definitely get that for you if you need it.

5. The city has a list of historic homes.

The fifth thing you should know before buying a home in Alameda is that it has a historic home list. This list includes every home that was built before the year 1940. It is a big list of all the homes by street name and the associated designation that they fall under.

So, a little background about this list of historic homes in Alameda. Before 1972, people were coming in and purchasing homes in the city. They were then knocking down these houses and replacing them with apartment complexes. Eventually, the residents started to catch on to this. They realized how important it was to preserve the architectural richness and history of the city. Therefore, in 1972, the Alameda Architectural Preservation Society formed and created this list of historic homes in the city.

You might be wondering why this is relevant. Well, it is relevant as it relates to buying a home in Alameda. If you’re planning to buy a house here, make sure that you check if that house is on this list. If it does, then you need to look next at the designation the house falls under. That’s because you need to understand that for you to make changes to the home, it will need to go through an additional review process by the Alameda Architectural Preservation Society . This is to ensure any changes you make will not change the architecture of the building in any substantial way.

Typically, the changes covered have to do more with the facade or the front of the home. Things like front porches, windows, stairs, grading on the lot, and any number of things can fall under this list. So, make sure you do that research.

Bonus Facts

By the way, here are some bonus facts or things you should know about before buying a house in Alameda. This has something to do somewhat with porches and city-wide activities and events.


Porch Concerts and Street Parties

If you have not yet heard, Alameda gives off this incredibly small-town vibe. Usually, people here just hang out on their front porch, as opposed to their back one. People just love hanging out on their front porches so much that porch concerts have become a thing here.


Sometimes, street and block parties are also held for art and wine fairs and car shows. Oftentimes, this would result in closing down Park Street for such events. There’s also this three-mile-long parade, which is one of the longest Fourth of July parades in the United States. It usually has 2,500 participants and up to 60,000 people in attendance as spectators.


Halloween trick-or-treating and other enjoyable activities

Halloween here is pretty huge. It attracts thousands and thousands of trick-or-treaters from all across East Bay and all over the island. That includes people from the Gold Coast, Bronze Coast, East End, and all over. There’s also Christmas Tree Lane, which is in the 3200 block of Thompson Avenue in Alameda. You can drive through here to see the best holiday lights ever. Chances are, you have probably never seen anything like it before. There are also these exciting little fun community things, some of which are impromptu, while some are planned and organized. But that’s the thing, you just get that vibe in Alameda.

We don’t ever go really anywhere on the island anymore without at least seeing one person that we know. Whether it’s us running in the morning with our dog, or we’re going to Trader Joe’s or Encinal Market, or we’re going up to Almanac Brewery for a beer, we almost always run into someone we know. And for me, that’s one of the most wonderful parts of living here—simply knowing your community. You know your neighbors and the people in your community, who all want to pour back into the community in various ways.

That’s why you should make sure that it’s something for you before you come and move here. And if you ask me, that is definitely a big selling point of this community for a lot of people.

WE hope our list of 5 Things You Need to Know Before Buying a House in Alameda has helped you.

If we can give you more context on the process of buying or selling your home, please do not hesitate to reach out. Our information is below. Also, don’t forget about the Alameda Neighborhood Guide, which you can download HERE.

Here’s to all your success!

5 Things You Need to Know Before Buying a House in Alameda

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5 Things You Need to Know Before Buying a House in Alameda

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