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Unread 01-22-2013, 03:21 PM
 
6 posts, read 4,355 times
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Default Oakland Hills - Earthquakes, landslides or other concerns?

My wife and I have been looking to buy a house in Montclair, and in general we feel great about it. We love that it's more remote, but we've certainly never lived on a hill before. Is there anything we should keep in mind when buying a house? Landslides and fire warnings seem to be in all the disclosures, but I was curious what buyers do about it.

- Do people do earthquake retrofitting for added safety?
- Are people experiencing shifts in their foundation that need to be repaired?
- Are there any extra costs we should be prepared for 30 years down the line?
- Any extra inspections we should do before purchasing?
- Any preventative measures?

Last edited by resshin1716; 01-22-2013 at 03:52 PM..
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Unread 01-22-2013, 03:59 PM
 
Location: State of Alert
26,060 posts, read 11,994,617 times
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Have the inspector check to see if the house has already been seismically retrofitted. Until the big Oakland quake in the late 80's, no one worried about earthquakes. There are little temblors from time to time, which is normal in earthquake zones. After the earthquake fault under Oakland gave way, people started taking precautions.

Check with insurance companies to see if they carry flood/landslide insurance, and earthquake insurance. There's not much else you can do, except maybe avoid properties built on a hillside. The only time there have ever been landslides is during periods of torrential downpours during El Nino years. And even then, it's rare to get enough rain to destabilize hillsides. Also, hillsides only destabilize if they're bare of foliage. Montclair's hills are well-anchored with trees.

When you're house-hunting, you can stroll the neighborhood and talk to neighbors about your concerns. Congrats on moving to a nice neighborhood!
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Unread 01-22-2013, 04:36 PM
 
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I'm not sure about Montclair but a lot of the soil in the bay area has a ton of clay in it and is pretty solid. When I was little I had one hell of a time trying to dig a hole on the hill I live on.
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Unread 01-22-2013, 04:49 PM
 
Location: San Francisco
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Fires are a bigger danger.

Oakland firestorm of 1991 - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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Unread 01-22-2013, 05:52 PM
 
Location: State of Alert
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That was the only fire that the East Bay has seen in about a century, and it was determined that it was started by kids goofing around. Fires aren't a danger.
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Unread 01-22-2013, 06:55 PM
 
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Thanks Ruth. Yeah I wasn't as concerned about fires. There are yearly fire prevention inspections and regulations now, so I would hope fires aren't as big of a problem.

I was mostly concerned with smaller landslides that affect the foundation and integrity of the house vs a landslide that sends the house rolling down the hill. We've toured quite a few houses and some hang pretty precariously (or at least feel that way) and others you can actually notice the floor is crooked.

I read some other posts and some people said the insurance for landslides and earthquakes were not particularly useful since it's super expensive, the deductible is high and there's potential that "funds" wouldn't be available to you?

I feel like there have to be tons of homeowners going through this in the area, and was just curious what they do to deal with it. Or maybe I'm just looking for reassurance that I'm worrying too much?
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Unread 01-22-2013, 08:12 PM
 
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All depends...

Newer Montclair homes have massive concrete and steel foundations with multiple concrete piles typically 20 to 24' deep

The house next door could be from the 60's and no pilings.

Slides occur rarely... usually, it is because the soil becomes saturated due to a drainage problem. Broken storm and sanitary sewers and even potable water have caused slides.

I imagined anything on a slope could have issues.

Earthquake damage tends to affect older property to a greater degree than the newer with plywood shear walls, anchors and strapping.
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Unread 01-23-2013, 10:40 AM
 
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Besides earthquakes and fires, you should be aware that there has been issues with burglaries in the area:

Oakland: Hills residents weigh in on police shortage, crime - ContraCostaTimes.com
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Unread 01-23-2013, 11:05 AM
 
Location: Lafayette, CA
2,518 posts, read 1,372,959 times
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In the Oakland Hills, if you're on anything with a slant, and the home was built before 1990, you're sure to have geo issues. I must've have looked at properties from Montclair to Cabalo Hills. All of the pre-1990 homes had signs of geo issues if they were on a hill. The ground in the hills simply isn't granite like, and tends to slide.

I agree with Ultrarunner's advice. Buy newer, even if it's more expensive. Anything with deep columns in the groud as support should be okay. Anything older, avoid like the plague.
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Unread 01-23-2013, 11:07 AM
 
Location: Oakland, CA
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For a brief time after moving back to the US from Brazil, I was rented a house built on stilts off of Snake Rd and I was always paranoid about the house sliding down the hill(stupid I know)...some people can deal with living on a cliff but I moved away after a little while cause I wanted a yard and not just a balcony. The views were spectacular tho.
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