Where Are All the North and East Bay Eichlers?

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An Eichler in Walnut Creek, courtesy of Heidi Slocomb

In the final installment of our examination of the current Eichler inventory shortage, we turn our gaze northward and eastward. Inventory in Marin and the East Bay is just as squeezed as in the South Bay and Peninsula, and for some of the same reasons – an influx of buyers and a static stock of housing. But in both areas realtors we spoke to also mentioned another factor: Senior citizens who have lived in their Eichlers for decades and are in no rush to leave.

“Eichler homes are beautifully designed for people of any age,” said Catherine Munson, the legendary Marin County realtor and original Eichler owner, who got her start as part of Joe Eichler’s sales team. “There aren’t any steps in Eichler homes, and older people find that very appealing. It’s easier for them to stay in an Eichler longer than if they were in a house with flights of stairs.”

That’s not necessarily a good thing, Munson points out. “Many of them should not live alone anymore. It’s not just a question of the stairs, it’s not a question of the fact they like the radiant heating. It’s a question of older people needing to evaluate whether they are personally safe living in their home alone. Are they safe living in a location where they have no relatives for hundreds of miles?” But inertia is a powerful force, especially when you’re as comfortable as you can get in an Eichler.

Marin County hasn’t seen much, or any, new home construction for the past 10 years, Munson said. And the entire Bay Area hasn’t seen much since 2007. “Anybody who built new product would have been insane; they couldn’t finance it.”

The difficulty in buying a home right now prevents some owners from selling, explained Heidi Slocomb, an Eichler specialist with Alain Pinel Realtors in Walnut Creek. “Listing inventory is the lowest I’ve seen in 30 years. It seems like there’s just nothing,” she said.

“One thing we’re seeing is some of the sellers, if they’re trying to move to the same area, they recognize it’s difficult to buy. So that may be holding some of them back. Where are they going to go? They see the three, four, five offers, some with 30 offers. It’s ridiculous. We have a lot of seniors in this area who want to go to Rossmoor, a big retirement community. Even that inventory is slim.”

Some homeowners in the East Bay, Munson said, were upside down on their mortgages and haven’t fully recovered. “So they’ll lose a lot of money in a short sale and that’s one reason they’re saying.”

With the Bay Area’s job market one of the best in the nation, and the housing market hotter than it’s been in half a decade, it can be easy to forget the economic woes that defined the last five years. But even in this hopeful time, their effects linger.