Home of the Friendly Bargain - Page 2

After decades of obscurity, the spirited Eichlers of Concord are looking up—in the face of Mount Diablo's looming peaks
Concord Eichlers
Blaine Siler, who transformed his Rancho del Diablo fixer upper, at home with brother Kyle, getting set for a pause that refreshes.
Concord Eichlers
The Baum family (parents Matt and Camila with daughter Sydney) head out for a walk in their Rancho de los Santos neighborhood.
Concord Eichlers
A peek inside the Baums' inviting living room.

But Concord's not Silicon Valley or Marin County. It's not even Walnut Creek, where homes in Eichler's Rancho San Miguel sell for about $100,000 more than in Concord—or higher.

Ask Hunter Wimmer, perhaps their biggest booster, what makes the Concord Eichlers special, and his answer comes fast. "They're the cheapest Eichlers you can buy."

Concord, Wimmer says, has always been "kind of a family-oriented, middle-class, blue-collarish community without a lot of airs put on."

Its lower land values have done more than provide buyers with relatively inexpensive Eichlers. It has provided them with relatively intact Eichlers as well.

Concord Eichlers are not being snapped up by venture capitalists to be razed for replacement by McMansions. Dunn believes Concord may have avoided the teardown phenomenon seen elsewhere because home values were priced too low to attract the big spenders who often replace Eichlers with larger homes.

"And now the people who are buying are into modern," she says. "They want to preserve the Eichler look. All the ones that have recently sold, they've tended to bring in couples from 35 to their 40s. A lot of them are designers and artists and writers."

There are also a surprising number who sell vintage mid-century modern items, including Karl and Renee Underwood, who specialize in fashion, and Dunn, who focuses on Scandinavian jewelry.

Which is not to say there doesn't remain something, well, a little Concord about the place. Blaine Siler's was not the only doggy house to come on the market.

When Kerry Little, who grew up in a Concord Eichler in Rancho del Diablo, bought one in Rancho de los Santos with her husband in 2008, they pulled out a rotting deck to find a buried swimming pool filled with junk. Dump fees set them back $12,000. "I'm not exaggerating," she says.

Inside a shed they found handmade weapons involving poles and knives. And they heard stories that in a previous incarnation their home had served as a shrine where true-believers flocked to see an image of the Virgin Mary in a piece of furniture.

Appropriate that this would occur in a place called Rancho los Santos. "That had not escaped my mind," Little says.

The other neighborhoods too have had occasional problems over the years, including a drug house in Parkside.

"We've had some interesting neighbors, let's put it that way," says Joanne Brown, a Diablo resident since 1966. "Some of them had regular police checks on them, and if anything went wrong, that was the first place we would look at it."

"Under Bay Area standards," Wimmer says, "Concord is probably a little more Wild West than other parts of the Bay," noting that across from his house is a hand-painted red-white-and-blue pickup truck. "That's not something you're going to find in Marin or Walnut Creek."