In 2010, Dmitri Belser and Tom White bought an old, dilapidated house from UC Berkeley for $17. The house is now on the market for $1.295 million, as first reported by Berkeleyside.
According to Belser, UC Berkeley sold Cheney Cottage because it wasn’t being used, and the campus wanted to repurpose the land it occupied. The cottage was built in 1902 by Warren Cheney, a real estate developer, and his wife May, an alumna and former employee of UC Berkeley. The house was later sold to the campus, Belser said.
Because the building was being sold without the land it occupied, it wasn’t considered to be worth much, according to Belser. The asking price for the home was $1. Belser and White, however, purchased it for $17.
“We weren’t sure if other people would be bidding, and we didn’t want to look cheap,” Belser said. “When I was in college, I took a class on the number 17. … Mathematically, 17 was a really cool number. (It has) a lot of interesting qualities.”
A spokesperson for UC Berkeley could not be reached for comment as of press time.
When Cheney Cottage became available, Belser and White had recently purchased a house on 62nd Street in Berkeley that they were working to restore. Once they had purchased Cheney Cottage, it was physically moved it from its original location on College Avenue to the university-owned Gill Tract in Albany because the campus needed the cottage off the property. Belser said he and White had to wait until they obtained the appropriate permits before they could move the house again — this time, onto their property on 62nd Street.
“It’s a historic house — it clearly needed a lot of restoration,” Belser said. “Even though it was in bad condition, it hadn’t been altered.”
Belser and White restored the home over the course of a year, finishing in February 2013. The other home on the 62nd Street property, the 1881-built Delaney House, was finished shortly after. According to Belser, Cheney Cottage needed a new foundation, rewiring work, plumbing and heating. The house now has a “Swiss chalet style,” Belser said.
Mary Canavan, a broker at Thornwall Properties, the real estate agency working with Belser and White, said Cheney Cottage and Delaney House are being sold as a parcel. According to Canavan, the property received four offers Tuesday night, including one accepted offer. The property has been on the market for a week and a half.
“That’s typically how long it takes to sell a house,” Canavan said. “There are too many buyers, not enough inventory.”
The price of Cheney Cottage is mid-range compared to other properties with two houses on one lot, according to Canavan. Belser confirmed that he and White have accepted an offer on the home, and if all goes well, the property will be officially sold in the next month.
“I think (Cheney Cottage is) for someone who wants to live in an old house, but they don’t want to live in a house that’s old,” Belser said. “It’s a beautiful, old house, but everything is new.”