Two nearly identical houses across the street from us went on the market today. An artist couple had been living there, but finally they decided to sell.

I was out in our driveway putting racks on our car. I saw a couple pushing a stroller come up to the first house, and I heard a well-dressed woman, presumably the real estate agent, tell them, “We’re not quite ready to open yet. Come back in half an hour.”

When I came back from picking up some plywood, the houses were obviously open. Two or more cars a minute drove slowly down our dead end street, slowing down when they reached the two houses. The sign out in front of the first house said, “Treasure behind door #1.” I didn’t bother to see what the sign in front of the second house said.

Carol went over to look. She said that paintings done by the artists who used to live there are hanging on the walls. She overheard someone say, “…but they won’t appreciate that much because they’re on the wrong side of….” We are on the wrong side of the tracks: gardeners and artists and cab drivers and ministers live down this street; many of us are renters, and the majority of us aren’t white.

But these houses are going for less than half a million, an incredible bargain in the Bay area housing market. So the people keep coming, amazed to find houses for so little money.

Jan 19 2013