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A Home Buyer’s Guide to the City of Berkeley, California

As a mortgage company located in the East Bay, we do our best to educate local home buyers about specific communities, neighborhoods and real estate markets in the area.

Today, we turn our attention to the storied city of Berkeley, California with an informative guide for digital home buyers.

Here are some things you should know about Berkeley if you’re planning to relocate and/or buy a home in this East Bay City.

Berkeley, California at a Glance

Berkeley is a Californian city situated on the eastern edge of San Francisco Bay, in the “East Bay” subregion. As of the last count, Berkeley had a population of around 124,000 residents.

Founded in the mid-1800s, Berkeley’s history is intertwined with the prestigious University of California, Berkeley, the oldest campus in the UC system. The city also houses the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, a renowned scientific research institution.

Beyond its academic credentials, Berkeley is known for its progressive spirit and activism. It offers a diverse cultural scene, numerous parks and green spaces, and a walkable downtown area brimming with shops, restaurants, and cafes.

The city is home to a thriving arts scene, eclectic dining options, and a strong sense of community engagement. Its distinct neighborhoods offer a mix of architectural styles, from historic Craftsman homes to modern eco-friendly designs.

Berkeley Real Estate Market Overview

The real estate market in Berkeley, California can be summed up with a single sentence:

There aren’t enough homes available to satisfy the demand from buyers, and this keeps prices high while intensifying competition among buyers.

Berkeley has high home prices even by Bay Area standards. As of spring 2024, the East Bay city had a median home value of $1,460,358, according to Zillow. During that same timeframe, the median price point for the broader Bay Area region was $1,176,322.

As usual, it’s a supply-and-demand story. Berkeley has a lot to offer his residence, which increases demand among buyers. But there aren’t nearly enough properties to go around.

According to an April 2024 report from the California Association of Realtors, Alameda County (which includes Berkeley) had the lowest housing market inventory level of any county in the state. That month, Alameda County had a 1.3-month supply of homes for sale.

Home prices within the Berkeley real estate market are currently leveling off, after a period of erratic ups and downs that affected many cities in the post-pandemic era. And if we zoom out and look at the broader historical trend, we can see an overall pattern of steady price growth in Berkeley. So it’s a strong market from an investment standpoint.

Some other market trends you should know about:

  • As you might have guessed, homes tend to sell quickly in Berkeley. Home buyers should be ready to “pounce” when the right property comes along.
  • Many homes end up selling for more than the list price, due to strong demand. In spring 2024, for example, approximately 70% of homes listed for sale in the city of Berkeley sold for more than the original list price.
  • With low supply and a consistent level of demand, the Berkeley real estate market tends to favor sellers rather than buyers. But buyers can still succeed in this market with the right approach.

Popular Neighborhoods in the Area

Berkeley has a number of neighborhoods that range from quaint to bustling. There’s something for just about everyone in this market. Here are some Berkeley neighborhoods that are popular with home buyers.

Map of neighborhoods in Berkeley, California

Above: A map of Berkeley neighborhoods from UC Berkeley School of Law.

Berkeley Hills: Nestled in the scenic hills overlooking the city, Berkeley Hills offers stunning views of the San Francisco Bay and beyond. The neighborhood is characterized by its spacious homes, winding streets, and tranquil atmosphere. Outdoor enthusiasts enjoy easy access to hiking trails in Tilden Regional Park and the Berkeley Hills Fire Trails.

Downtown Berkeley: Bustling heart of the city with a lively atmosphere. Here you’ll find UC Berkeley’s south campus, towering apartment buildings, eclectic music venues, and quirky restaurants.

Elmwood: Elmwood is a charming, walkable neighborhood characterized by its cozy cafes, boutiques, and historic movie theater. Residents enjoy easy access to the UC Berkeley campus and the Berkeley Art Museum & Pacific Film Archive. The neighborhood’s Craftsman-style homes and community-oriented atmosphere contribute to its appeal.

North Berkeley: Known for its family-friendly atmosphere, tree-lined streets, and a charming commercial district with independent shops and restaurants. This area is prized for its proximity to parks like the Berkeley Rose Garden and Codornices Park.

South Berkeley: South Berkeley offers a blend of residential areas, commercial corridors, and green spaces. The neighborhood is known for its diverse population and strong sense of community, with events like the Malcolm X Jazz Arts Festival celebrating its cultural heritage.

Southside (or South Campus): A popular spot for students, faculty, and young professionals due to its proximity to UC Berkeley. It offers a mix of residential areas, lively restaurants, bars, and cafes, alongside iconic attractions like the Greek Theatre.

Westbrae: A quiet, residential neighborhood just north and west of the North Berkeley BART station. It mainly consists of small homes, duplexes and fourplexes. Easy access to BART and the campus makes Westbrae a popular area for home buyers and renters alike.

Benefits of Living in Berkeley

The benefits of living in any one place will vary from person to person. It’s not a one-size-fits-all situation. Even so, Berkeley offers a lot of perks to its residents.

Here are some often-cited benefits of living in Berkeley, California:

  • Intellectual Hub: Home to UC Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, the city fosters a stimulating intellectual environment with access to world-class research and educational opportunities.
  • Culture Galore: Packed with museums, theaters, live music venues, and a diverse food scene, Berkeley offers a rich cultural experience for all ages and interests.
  • Walkable Urban Core: The core neighborhoods offer a walkable layout with easy access to shops, restaurants, cafes, and public transportation. This reduces the reliance on cars.
  • Beautiful Green Spaces: From scenic hiking trails in the hills to parks and gardens scattered throughout the city, Berkeley offers ample opportunities to connect with nature.
  • Progressive and Active Community: Known for its activism and social awareness, Berkeley fosters a strong sense of community engagement.
  • Proximity to San Francisco: Situated across the bay from San Francisco, Berkeley provides easy access to the city’s job market, cultural attractions, and nightlife.

Common Types of Homes (Architectural Styles)

The Berkeley real estate market offers a variety of unique and popular architectural styles, including the following.

Craftsman Bungalows: Popular from the early 1900s, these single-story homes feature wide porches with tapered columns, exposed beams, and natural materials like wood and brick. They offer a sense of coziness and are known for their functionality.

California Bungalow: A variation on the Craftsman style, these bungalows are known for their relaxed California aesthetic. They typically have low-pitched roofs, open floor plans, and patios or decks for enjoying the outdoors.

Victorian: Built during the late 1800s and early 1900s, Victorians showcase intricate detailing, often with multiple stories, bay windows, decorative trim, and shingled siding. They give some of Berkeley’s neighborhoods a historic charm.

Mediterranean Revival: Drawing inspiration from Spanish and Italian architecture, these homes feature red tile roofs, stucco exteriors, arched doorways, and wrought-iron accents.

Period Revival: Berkeley also boasts a collection of homes designed in revival styles like Tudor (half-timbered facades) and Queen Anne (asymmetrical design with towers and turrets). These offer a nod to specific historical periods.

Need mortgage financing? Bridgepoint Funding is a local mortgage broker with deep roots in the East Bay region. We offer a wide variety of mortgage options, including “jumbo loans” that are well-suited for pricey real estate markets like Berkeley.

Mike Trejo is a Bay Area mortgage broker with 20+ years of knowledge and experience.

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