‘Cowtown’ No More

Once derided, Sacramento now in demand as modernists flee soaring Bay Area prices
Fridays on the Homefront
Continued rising home prices in the Bay Area are causing an exodus of
homeowners. Reportedly the most common destination for these refugees is the Sacramento area. There, a Streng home, like the one above, is currently estimated
to hit the market with a $340,000 price tag. Photo: courtesy Streng Realty
Fridays on the Homefront
This Streng home in Elk Grove, near Sacramento, recently was marketed for $349,000. Photo: courtesy Streng Realty
Fridays on the Homefront
Left: Sacramento realtor Steve Streng, son of builder Jim Streng. Right: Carter Sparks, the architect behind so much Sacramento modern, including the Streng Bros. homes.
Fridays on the Homefront
A signature feature of the Streng home interior is the atrium
garden area, like the one above. Photo: courtesy Streng Realty

It was 20 years ago, as the story goes, when basketball star Chris Webber reacted in great dismay. He had just been traded to the Sacramento Kings, a weak team in a city that he branded a "cowtown."

Webber was likely not the first to take a jab at Sacramento, but in 2018, people seeking modern-style homes in California might replace those barbs with that uplifting old cigarette ad slogan: "You've come a long way, baby."

That's because six straight years of rising home prices in the Bay Area are causing an exodus from the region, and reportedly the most common destination for these refugees happens to be north to Sactown.

"It's just so expensive, and Sacramento's a great alternative!" effuses Steve Streng, a veteran realtor with as good a mid-century modern pedigree as you can find.

It should come as no surprise that Steve, son of Sacramento mid-century modern builder Jim Streng, focuses his realty business around Sacramento regional MCM properties for sale, which Steve actively brings together on his company website as well as on the Eichler Network's 'Homes for Sale.'

Sacramento is a place with as many MCM homes as anywhere outside the San Francisco Peninsula/South Bay region, thanks in large part to an architect who trained with Eichler's first design team (Anshen and Allen), Cal graduate Carter Sparks.

Beginning in 1959 and working largely with Sparks, Steve's father Jim and Jim's brother Bill partnered as Streng Bros. Homes to build more than 3,000 such houses in three dozen Streng developments in the area, mostly in Sac, nearby Carmichael, and Davis. Sparks also designed many custom Sacto homes, and houses for other regional builders, and Joe Eichler himself built 58 houses there in the mid-'50s in the South Land Park neighborhood.

"Why are people moving? Just the high prices," said Streng, speaking of the exodus from the Bay Area. "A lot of the people, they're [online] searching Sacramento."

The high prices for Bay Area homes continues unabated, as housing 'information intelligence' firm CoreLogic reported last month that home prices in San Francisco, San Mateo, and Santa Clara counties are at their highest ever. The apparent result, as documented by the real estate site Redfin.com, is that the Bay Area leads the nation in outward migration—not that the Bay has a monopoly on this phenomena.