posted by Marcy Moyer of the Intero Menlo Park office
Palo Alto is home to many Eichlers, mid century single story homes with walls of windows, tar and gravel roofs, wood siding, radiant heat, and a concept of indoor/outdoor living. In the 50’s these homes were considered modern, quintessentially Californian, or fire traps called 7 minute Eichlers because they could burn to the ground in 7 minutes or less. The mahogany walls had no fire retardant properties so the homes burned quickly if there was a fire.
Joseph Eichler was a student of famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright and learned from Wright the beauty of clean lines, a wonderful use of light, and a contemporary feel. What Eichler did that was so influential was taking these lofty architectural concepts and mass producing them for the families of young GI’s after WWII. He built large tracts of affordable homes, many in south Palo Alto. While builders like Roger Kohler (father of well known Palo Alto Architect Roger Kohler), or Barret and Hilp were building the typical 3 bedroom 1 bath cottages for the new young families, Eichler figured out that by adding a 2 bath he could have a huge leg up over the competition as well as adding great value to his inexpensive homes. Eichler had some good and some bad copiers. Kaufman and Brown Stern, and Macay also built contemporary style homes in the bay area. These homes have many similar features and some features that are better (like central heat) and some worse (like a floor plan that does not flow as well or use the inside/outside feel as well.)
I do not think that in 1952 Eichler believed his homes would be in their original condition in 2009. Having the plumbing and heating under a cement slab sitting on expansive soil has been a problem. The lack of insulation is a problem in our energy conscious society. Many of the homes have had the mahogany walls replaced with sheetrock which makes for a much more fire safe abode. However, the style of an Eichler is very pleasing to many modern buyers. The kitchen faces the living area and looks out to the back yard. This is the open great room style that is found in most new construction today. When updated, these can be wonderfully comfortable, energy efficient homes.
There is some debate as to whether an Eichler sells for less than a ranch style or cottage style home. It is not a simple question because many Eichler’s are in the flood zone in Palo Alto which will bring the price down. Also, some Palo Alto Eichler neighborhoods have voted in restrictions on building a second story in order to preserve the privacy that Eichler built into his developments. However, this restriction has a dampening effect on re-sale value.
Right now the contemporary, mid century style of an Eichler is in favor with many buyers. With modernization of the windows, heating system, roof, and finishes, these homes will probably last for many more years to come.
- Marcy Moyer – REALTOR
I am here to help you – (650) 619-9285
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