San Francisco's housing market is so dire that this tiny home built out of desperation after the 1906 earthquake for $50 is now selling for $2.5 million. Take a look inside.

san francisco earthquake shacksCourtesy of Redfin; Wikimedia Commons; Business Insider

  • The 2,155-square-foot home at 31 Romain St. in San Francisco, California, is on the market for $2.5 million.
  • It's one of the city's 5,000 remaining "earthquake shacks" built as temporary housing units after the 1906 earthquake and fires that left 250,000 residents homeless.
  • The tiny homes, now spread across the city, usually sell in the $1 million range.
  • In a hot real estate market like San Francisco's, it's not unusual for homebuyers to cough up the price for historically relevant (see: older) homes before shelling out even more for repairs and renovations.
  • But this one has already undergone a complete renovation, rendering the $2.5 million price tag more reasonable.
  • The home's listing agent, Joanna Rose with Redfin, told Business Insider that when the owner first bought the home, it lived up to its "earthquake shack" name.
  • Now it's a contemporary masterpiece. Take a look inside.
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The peach-colored home at 31 Romain St. in San Francisco looks more than quaint.

The peach-colored home at 31 Romain St. in San Francisco looks more than quaint.

Source: Redfin

It sits in the city's Eureka Valley neighborhood, where the median real estate value is $1.59 million.

It sits in the city's Eureka Valley neighborhood, where the median real estate value is $1.59 million.

Source: Redfin

That's just slightly above San Francisco's overall median real estate value of $1,378,000.

That's just slightly above San Francisco's overall median real estate value of $1,378,000.

Source: Zillow

The home is also what's known as an "earthquake cottage," or shack.

The home is also what's known as an "earthquake cottage," or shack.

In 1906, an earthquake and a series of fires leveled 500 city blocks in San Francisco and left about 250,000 people homeless.

In 1906, an earthquake and a series of fires leveled 500 city blocks in San Francisco and left about 250,000 people homeless.

Source: Business Insider

One of the city's temporary housing solutions was building 5,000 wooden cottages at designated camps for displaced residents. Each cottage cost $50 to build, which tenants paid $2 a month toward.

One of the city's temporary housing solutions was building 5,000 wooden cottages at designated camps for displaced residents. Each cottage cost $50 to build, which tenants paid $2 a month toward.

Source: Business Insider and National Park Service

Over 16,000 people found refuge in them.

Over 16,000 people found refuge in them.

Source: Business Insider

Eventually, the homes were moved from the camps and are now scattered throughout the city.

Eventually, the homes were moved from the camps and are now scattered throughout the city.

Source: National Park Service

They blend into residential streets fairly seamlessly.

They blend into residential streets fairly seamlessly.

Source: National Park Service

And as chance would have it, another of the tiny cottages sits next to the home at 31 Romain St.

And as chance would have it, another of the tiny cottages sits next to the home at 31 Romain St.

Rose said both of them, including the earthquake cottage at 31 Romain St., are completely renovated.

Rose said both of them, including the earthquake cottage at 31 Romain St., are completely renovated.

All that remains of what was once a makeshift disaster shelter is the home's facade.

All that remains of what was once a makeshift disaster shelter is the home's facade.

You'd never think you're stepping into a century-old tiny home upon entering the foyer.

You'd never think you're stepping into a century-old tiny home upon entering the foyer.

In 2015, the home's owner nearly tripled the size of the home, expanding the original 800-square-foot shack into a 2,155-square-foot modern abode with city permits.

In 2015, the home's owner nearly tripled the size of the home, expanding the original 800-square-foot shack into a 2,155-square-foot modern abode with city permits.

He had the ceilings raised, skylights installed, an open-concept floor plan established, and modern appliances brought in.

He had the ceilings raised, skylights installed, an open-concept floor plan established, and modern appliances brought in.

Three bedrooms and three bathrooms are found in the home.

Three bedrooms and three bathrooms are found in the home.

And most notably, he had a new foundation laid in 2015, which Rose said is a huge selling point in an earthquake-prone place like San Francisco.

And most notably, he had a new foundation laid in 2015, which Rose said is a huge selling point in an earthquake-prone place like San Francisco.

"It was pretty much an entire new home besides the fact that the exterior was kept in the front up to how it was supposed to look originally," Rose said.

"It was pretty much an entire new home besides the fact that the exterior was kept in the front up to how it was supposed to look originally," Rose said.

Typically, the city's remaining earthquake shacks sell in the $1 million range, with the most expensive on record selling for $1.4 million in 2016.

Typically, the city's remaining earthquake shacks sell in the $1 million range, with the most expensive on record selling for $1.4 million in 2016.

Source: Business Insider

The owner himself shelled out only $820,000 for the home in 2013.

The owner himself shelled out only $820,000 for the home in 2013.

Source: Redfin

But those sales usually will necessitate hundreds of thousands more for renovations, which are already included in this home's $2,485,000 price tag.

But those sales usually will necessitate hundreds of thousands more for renovations, which are already included in this home's $2,485,000 price tag.

"Usually if they are original, they’re going to require a lot of work to get it up to where it should be in terms of plumbing, foundation, electrical — all of that," Rose said.

"Usually if they are original, they’re going to require a lot of work to get it up to where it should be in terms of plumbing, foundation, electrical — all of that," Rose said.

The owner also wanted to optimize the property's space ...

The owner also wanted to optimize the property's space ...

... which included turning the unused attic loft into a yoga studio.

... which included turning the unused attic loft into a yoga studio.

You do have to climb up a ladder to access it, and Rose said it can't be counted as a bedroom since there isn't a door or a closet, but it's a versatile space and adds a few extra square feet to the overall property.

You do have to climb up a ladder to access it, and Rose said it can't be counted as a bedroom since there isn't a door or a closet, but it's a versatile space and adds a few extra square feet to the overall property.

"People in San Francisco — all they want is as much space as possible because we’re always so limited on square footage and size here," Rose said.

"People in San Francisco — all they want is as much space as possible because we’re always so limited on square footage and size here," Rose said.

Below the loft is a bedroom that faces the street.

Below the loft is a bedroom that faces the street.

It's currently set up as a kids' room.

It's currently set up as a kids' room.

In addition to the yoga studio, there's another personal touch the owner made to the home: ...

In addition to the yoga studio, there's another personal touch the owner made to the home: ...

... the closet space in the master suite is being used to store his two bicycles.

... the closet space in the master suite is being used to store his two bicycles.

An avid cyclist, he even had a stained glass window of a bicycle installed in one of the vaulted walls, a feature that Rose said has also been a hit with visiting house hunters.

An avid cyclist, he even had a stained glass window of a bicycle installed in one of the vaulted walls, a feature that Rose said has also been a hit with visiting house hunters.

Though of course the home's future owners don't have to utilize the master closet in the same way.

Though of course the home's future owners don't have to utilize the master closet in the same way.

The master suite comes with a spa-inspired bathroom complete with a rainfall shower.

The master suite comes with a spa-inspired bathroom complete with a rainfall shower.

There's also a separate bathtub next to it.

There's also a separate bathtub next to it.

Another bedroom comes with private access via a side entrance.

Another bedroom comes with private access via a side entrance.

There's also an en-suite bathroom.

There's also an en-suite bathroom.

Both the master bedroom and the main level where the kitchen is located have terrace access to the backyard.

Both the master bedroom and the main level where the kitchen is located have terrace access to the backyard.

A spa hot tub sits feet from the balcony doors.

A spa hot tub sits feet from the balcony doors.

Rose said the listing has been an attraction for people, some merely out of curiosity — a home listing stamped with an "earthquake cottage" label will likely grab attention.

Rose said the listing has been an attraction for people, some merely out of curiosity — a home listing stamped with an "earthquake cottage" label will likely grab attention.

But Rose said she doesn't think that that label specifically makes the home, or other existing earthquake shacks like it, a hot commodity in the city's real estate market.

But Rose said she doesn't think that that label specifically makes the home, or other existing earthquake shacks like it, a hot commodity in the city's real estate market.

"There are a lot of people who look for certain architectural details, but the thing with this one is it’s been all renovated, so it doesn’t really have much of the original look to it," Rose said.

"There are a lot of people who look for certain architectural details, but the thing with this one is it’s been all renovated, so it doesn’t really have much of the original look to it," Rose said.

Rose said in general, people will seek out properties that have a more "classic San Francisco look," like from the Edwardian or Victorian design eras, more often than they will hunt down newly-constructed buildings.

Rose said in general, people will seek out properties that have a more "classic San Francisco look," like from the Edwardian or Victorian design eras, more often than they will hunt down newly-constructed buildings.

But what buyers find unattractive about those kinds of listings are the outdated features, like electrical and plumbing systems, that are more indicative of the early 1900s rather than the new millennium.

But what buyers find unattractive about those kinds of listings are the outdated features, like electrical and plumbing systems, that are more indicative of the early 1900s rather than the new millennium.

"Overall in the city, people look for the Victorian, the Edwardian, the historical kind of buildings, but they do like to see a more clean look inside — updated kitchen and baths," Rose said.

"Overall in the city, people look for the Victorian, the Edwardian, the historical kind of buildings, but they do like to see a more clean look inside — updated kitchen and baths," Rose said.

"They like that original charm, they just don’t want to have things that aren’t functioning and want things that are operable," Rose said.

"They like that original charm, they just don’t want to have things that aren’t functioning and want things that are operable," Rose said.

Rose said that when the owner bought the home in 2013, the state of the home fit that description.

Rose said that when the owner bought the home in 2013, the state of the home fit that description.

"It was just an open, tiny little 800-square-foot home," Rose said.

"It was just an open, tiny little 800-square-foot home," Rose said.

"It was much more true to the sense of an 'earthquake shack' when he bought it, and then it turned into this large, updated open floor plan," Rose said.

"It was much more true to the sense of an 'earthquake shack' when he bought it, and then it turned into this large, updated open floor plan," Rose said.

Now the property merges historical relevance with updated, modern finishes.

Now the property merges historical relevance with updated, modern finishes.

"The easiest sales for me in San Francisco are things that have somewhat of an original look, but they’ve been updated on the inside and are livable but hold those period details, the charm, the architectural finishes, maybe some original, built in," Rose said.

"The easiest sales for me in San Francisco are things that have somewhat of an original look, but they’ve been updated on the inside and are livable but hold those period details, the charm, the architectural finishes, maybe some original, built in," Rose said.
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