Finding a home in Oakland that is diverse and affordable : Post Missi

When they returned to the Bay Area four years ago after a 20-month stay in the Pacific Northwest, Cara and James Meredith were sure of one thing: they wanted their growing mixed-race family to live in a community that looked like them all.

“The Seattle experience really reassured us that this was something we all needed,” said Meredith, 43, an author and freelance writer.

Meredith, 54, who works in commercial loans, added: “We just knew we wanted Oakland if we could just get it.” His father, also named James, was the first black student admitted to the University of Mississippi in 1962, sparking riots by white students and residents that left two people dead. The younger Mr. Meredith spent his youth in Jackson, Missouri, and later graduated from the University of San Diego. He and Cara, who grew up in the Salem suburb of Keizer, Oregon before moving to California to teach, met online in 2009 and lived in several locations around the San Francisco Bay Area before finding – and loving – Oakland.

“We loved the rawness, the sun, and the variety,” said Mrs. Meredith. “It was important that James wasn’t the only black man or that our boys weren’t the only colored kids.”

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The Merediths knew the Oakland market and wanted to go back there, so they rented a house in the Dimond neighborhood that was big enough for their school-age sons, Canon and Theo, and later a golden doodle named Rufus. But when the owner surprised them last year with the news that she was preparing to sell the building, the couple began looking for a way to stay in the city.

The idea of ​​buying didn’t occur to the Merediths at first, in part because they had limited savings to use. “We heard a lot of stories about how intense the market was – people who only bought cash, people with a lot of resources,” Meredith said. “We figured we were probably looking for another place to rent.”

But as Ms. Meredith scanned Oakland’s rental properties, she realized that few places could offer the space a family needed and still be dog-friendly.

Since rents in the Bay Area were already high—the Merediths were paying $4,300 a month for 1,400 square feet—paying the monthly mortgage payments didn’t seem out of the question. The idea of ​​a 20 percent down payment of hundreds of thousands of dollars was daunting, however, as was the prospect of moving far beyond the area they loved just to afford a home.

“At first I think we were dazed – dazed,” Ms. Meredith said. “I’m not sure what kind we were hit, but we were hit.”

Tanja Odzak-Goppold, a broker at eXp Realty who worked with the pair, quickly debunked one myth: First-time home buyers rarely get a 20 percent discount. “In most cases, it’s more than 5 or 10 percent,” she said. “Most of my potential buyers are able to pay a monthly fee, so it’s very important for them to understand that they can usually manage a down payment as well.”

Mrs. Odzak-Goppold was also a veteran of navigating Oakland’s quirky market. Especially in popular neighborhoods, homes for sale are routinely discounted, often drastically, in order to spark bidding wars. The tactic usually works, and the rapid gentrification of the city was supercharging this reality.

The Merediths were pre-approved for a purchase price of $805,000 and knew what they wanted: a single-family home with at least two bedrooms, a nook that could be used as an office or workspace, and a backyard of some sort. And they were ready to exhaust the market in Oakland before they thought of looking anywhere else.

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