Buying a house in Oakland will always be totally crazy. Either you are buying a house that cost way less two months ago, or a house that was horrifyingly foreclosed on, or a house that has all kinds of problems, or a house that had horrible/sad things happen in it (potentially the house you're buying has all of these problems...). Additionally, you will be entering all kinds of difficult territory with regards to race, class, newcomer/oldtime resident stuff, etc., regardless of where you buy. Hopefully this entry will help you navigate this difficult terrain!

This entry is just getting started, so please hit the big EDIT button at the top of the screen to add more info :)


Oakland is roughly separated into "the hills" and "the flats." The hills are typically considered fancier than the flats and in many cases are indeed more expensive. Another relevant geographic division refers to things "above" Highway 580 and things "below." Things above 580 are typically considered fancier as well.

Check out the entire list of Oakland neighborhoods. Many neighborhood names are contentious/unclear and a lot of them have been created by real estate people and neighborhood business associations.

Sewer Laterals

In 2012 an ordinance went into effect requiring home owners selling their property, doing work worth more than $100,000 or installing a different size water meter to fix their sewer laterals. Nearby cities like Piedmont and Emeryville had already started this program, called the "Private Sewer Lateral" or PSL that requires a certificate from East Bay Municipal Utilities District (EBMUD).

See East Bay Regional Private Sewer Lateral for complete details.

External Link:

for more information see this Oakland North article or Oakland Local article

Buying a House in Oakland in 2020-21 – The Pandemic Effect

Oakland real estate sales have been fast and furious in Oakland despite the pandemic, high unemployment rates and a recession. Beside an initial slowdown in March and April 2020, when the Bay Area was first ordered to shelter in place, the housing market barely skipped a beat. In fact, year-over-year median sales prices for detached single-family homes jumped in most East Bay cities.

In February 2020, the median sales price for a detached single family home in Oakland was about $778,000. In February 2021, the median price was about $930,000. That's a 20% increase. On average, homes also sold for 14% over the list price (source), a sign of intense buyer competition and bidding wars. Even prices in historically affordable neighborhoods for first-time buyers – Maxwell Park, Millsmont, Laurel, and Eastmont Hills – climbed above $900,000. (source)

Experts cite several reasons for this hyperactive real estate market. Buyers were spurred on by exceedingly low interest rates, around 3.6%. Also, when more people realized the would be working remotely from home possibly for the long-term, they seized the opportunity to move from dense urban areas like San Francisco to more suburban areas like the Oakland hills and foothills.

The Bay Area housing market has been plagued by historically low inventory, so multiple offers and bidding wars intensified during the pandemic.

SPUR, a nonprofit public policy organization, hosted a Feb. 16 webinar about COVID-19's continued effect on the housing market, including whether homebuyers should wait for prices and competition to receded. It is available for replay here.

Links and References