August 21, 2011

Rates that couldn’t possibly get any lower once more get lower

Mortgage rates hit lowest level since Eisenhower’s administration

Lani Rosales | August 19, 2011 

Low, low, low

According to the National Association of Realtors, the 3.5% decline in existing home sales is due in large part to contract cancellations from declined mortgage applications or because of appraised values coming in below the negotiated price, halting the contract.

The bright spot, however, in housing is that despite cancellations and difficult lending, mortgage rates have hit their lowest level in over 50 years.

Freddie Mac’s primary mortgage market survey this week shows 30-year fixed rate mortgages averaging 4.15%, 15-year fixed rate mortgages average 3.36%, 5/1-year adjustable rate mortgages average 3.08% and one-year adjustable rate mortgages average 2.86%.


The economy isn’t just circling the drain, it’s stuck in the strainer.  But don’t fret.  It’s the perfect time to sign a 30 year contract to borrow 3 or 4 times your annual salary just so you can paint your walls any color you want (not available in some HOAs).

Home sales numbers are dropping because of cancellations.  Homes are appraising lower than expected and loans are much more difficult to qualify for.  That means it’s a perfect time to buy!  You can get more house for less money, and you’ll have fewer people to compete against because everyone’s credit is shot.

Except yours.  Your credit is Special.

This is an open thread.  Let us know about the Special Houses you visited today.

Comments (11) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:09 am

August 20, 2011

Fremont to Palo Alto, Cupertino: We Rulez, You Droolz!

imageIt’s back to school time, and that means it’s time for another completely arbitrary ranking of our educational institutions!  US News and World Report set loose on our high schools, and have come up with the latest, greatest, most up-to-date rankings… using data from two years ago! (You’re probably valuing your house based on old prices too!) 

We also have the Newsweek numbers, which carry much less weight for two reasons: Newsweek is now just a subsidiary of The Daily Beast, and they don’t have the same concern as US News that a school needs to do well by all its students.  The Newsweek stats are skewed beyond belief toward college readiness, and only college readiness.  So let’s ignore them for now.

The top 100 schools that survived US News’ “three part” testing were given the “Gold Medal” and ranked 1 through 100 based on a “College Readiness Index,” showing how many of their students took AP or IB exams.  A few of these top schools actually scored a perfect 100, which meant every single student took at least one college-level exam.  That Quality Adjusted number is the exams actually passed, as opposed to taken.

imageTwo states couldn’t survive this rigorous data-parsing at all, so all high schools in Nebraska and Oklahoma were thrown into the trash-heap of non-Specialness!  The other 48 states plus the District of Columbia had all their high schools thrown into the Mixmaster of Mystery.  But you don’t care which school had the highest score unless you could consider sending your kids there while holding down your high-paying job at the Googleplex!  So here are the Bay Area schools that got the Gold, and the third-highest school may be a surprise.

Schools within 20 miles of Google are conveniently marked in Bay Area Blue.

Bay Area High Schools on US News & World Reports Gold Medal List

Rank School Name Quality Adjusted exams per test-taker College Readiness Index (CRI) Rank in 2009
7 Pacific Collegiate School
Santa Cruz
4.5 100 3
28 Lowell High School
San Francisco
4.8 89.6 39
36 Mission San Jose HS
3.4 85.0 60
67 Henry M. Gunn HS
Palo Alto
4.9 71.5 74
70 Monta Vista HS
3.5 70.6 73
73 Piedmont HS
3.0 70.2 64
83 Palo Alto HS
Palo Alto
3.2 67.0 Silver (54.0)
86 Campolindo HS
3.1 66.4 Silver (51.8)
89 Miramonte HS
3.2 65.4 Silver (58.9)
93 Saratoga HS
3.7 64.4 80
98 Lynbrook HS
San Jose
3.1 63.3 Silver (58.7)

imageUnfortunately, the Silver and Bronze medal schools aren’t conveniently (I mean meaninglessly) ranked.  But here are the Bay Area also-rans, because I’m sure you’re looking for your kids’ or your own school and wondering if you made this “grade” for the bragging rights.  Silver Medal schools met the same criteria as Gold, they just didn’t score as well on the CRI and thus missed the Top 100.  The cut-off for Silver is a CRI of 20.0.

Bay Area Schools Ranked Silver Medal
(no rankings given, but sorted by CRI)

School Name CRI Poverty Adjusted Performance 2009 Silver Results
Acalanes HS
58.4 1.31 54.0
Redwood HS
58.1 1.22 59.5
Tamalpais HS
Mill Valley
57.0 1.02 49.1
Mountain View HS
Mountain View
54.4 1.08 52.4
Homestead HS
47.9 1.03 39.0
Amador Valley
45.1 1.05 43.1
San Ramon Valley HS
43.8 1.04 39.4
Foothill HS
43.2 1.14 42.6
George Washington HS
San Francisco
37.9 1.05 30.8
Monte Vista HS
35.4 1.21 27.7
Galileo Academy of Science & Technology, San Francisco 30.8 1.09 27.5
Lionel Wilson College Prep (Charter), Oakland 30.1 1.72
California HS
San Ramon
26.5 1.04 28.7

imageAnd I’m sure you noticed who’s missing, too.  Where’s Los Altos High?  Where’s Los Gatos?  Where’s Cupertino?  Go away Fremont, nobody expected you to show up. 

Bronze Medal schools did well on state tests (parts 1 and 2 of their filtering) but not college-readiness (taking and passing AP or IB exams). .

Bay Area Schools Ranked Bronze Medal (no rankings given)

School Name CRI Poverty Adjusted Performance 2009 Bronze?
Alameda Community Learning Center, Alameda N/A 1.24 Yes
Alameda Science & Technology Institute, Alameda N/A 1.53 No
Geyserville Educational Park HS
N/A 1.1 No
Middle College HS
San Pablo
N/A 1.21 Yes
Roseland Charter
Santa Rosa
N/A 1.06 No
Technology HS
Rohnert Park
N/A 1.15 Yes

Honorable Mention schools are the reverse of the Bronzes: they have the college readiness scores but fell down on the state test results.  There are only two California schools with Honorable Mention. Here is the Bay Area entry:

Bay Area Schools with Honorable Mention

School Name CRI Poverty Adjusted Performance 2009 HM?
Summit Preparatory Charter High, Redwood City 83.1 0.85 No

imageThis school may seem familiar to you: it’s the Bay Area charter featured in Waiting for Superman.

So getting back to that surprising Fremont showing, here’s one reason why Mission San Jose blew Monta Vista, Lynbrook, Gunn, and Paly out of the water.  Turns out Useless News and World Distort ranked the schools a lot of different ways.  Here’s one of their rankings that MSJ also did well on.

So, home prices in the Fremont Hills should be higher than Palo Alto or Cupertino?  Why or why not?

Oh, yeah, Newsweek’s Top 500 School list, as if anyone cares.  Not one Cupertino school.  Paly isn’t on the list either.  Or Lowell!  The score is made up of the graduation rate (25%), the matriculation to college rate (25%), AP tests per graduate (25%), average SAT scores (10%), average AP/IB test scores (10%), and AP classes offered (5%).  And note that again, AP tests per graduate, not per test taker.  Riiiiiight.  Because we can’t have kids not going to college in our “best” high schools.

The Newsweek Nonsense of Supposed High School Bestness: Bay Area

Rank School City Stu/Tea ratio grad rate AP/IB tests college bound % Average SAT Newsweek score
42 Henry M. Gunn Palo Alto 28 98 4.1 96 1942 1.072
61 Mission San Jose Fremont 27 99 3.5 94 1958 0.949
83 Piedmont Piedmont 12.5 100 2.2 95 1902 0.811
132 Summit Prep Charter Redwood City 26 94 4.7 100 1610 0.63
184 Analy Sebastopol 38 99 1.3 95 1743 0.535
225 Hillsdale San Mateo 27 100 2.2 99 1578 0.482
244 Mills Millbrae 23.6 96 2.1 94 1696 0.451
250 California San Ramon 30 99 0.8 97 1692 0.443
497 George Washington San Francisco 34 95 1.9 91 1441 0.092

imageHey Newsweek, I hear Paly’s lawyers will be calling you real soon, and both Monta Vista and Lynbrook are going to beat you up behind the gym after PE.  With their 16 inch laptops.

No, I can’t walk home with you, I got band practice.

Comments (8) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:19 am

August 19, 2011

Lots of upside, if you’re down with that

We really have been neglecting Campbell for too long.  So, do you want to be a slumlord?  This place even has an address that sounds trashy!

300 DUNSTER Dr, Campbell, CA 95008


SQ. FT.: 8,656
$/SQ. FT.: $225
LOT SIZE: 0.41 Acres
COUNTY: Santa Clara
MLS#: 81019760
STATUS: Active
ON REDFIN: 448 days

Great Campbell location. No rent controll. Lots of upside. Please do not disturb the tenants.

Here’s some more information you may need before making up your mind on this beauty tucked into the quiet, bucolic Hamilton and Winchester area:

imageMulti-Family Information
  • 1 Bedroom Unit(s)
  • 2 Bedroom Unit(s)
  • # of 1 Bed 1 Bath Units: 9
  • Min Rent for a 1 Bed 1 Bath Unit: $925
  • Max Rent for a 1 Bed 1 Bath Unit: $1,175
  • # of 2 Bed 1 Bath Units: 5
  • Min Rent for a 2 Bed 1 Bath Unit: $1,150
  • Max Rent for a 2 Bed 1 Bath Unit: $1,400
  • Vacancy Factor: 5
  • Vacancy Amount: 9526
  • Existing Rental Terms: Month-to-Month Rental(s)
Financial Information
  • City Transfer Tax: No
  • Tax Amount: $23,693.32
  • Gross Rent Multiplier: 10.24
  • Laundry Income: $4,200
  • Rental Income: $186,312
  • Net Income: $132,813
  • Gross Scheduled Income: $190,512
  • Gross Annual Income: $180,986
  • Gross Annual Income Includes: Laundry
  • Gross Annual Income Includes: Rents
  • Capitalization Rate: 6.8110000000
  • All Cash or Conventional
  • Financial Information Source: Tax Return

You see?  You can make money every time your serfs tenants do their laundry!  Could anything be more awesome than that?  Now all you have to do is figure out how to make them pay you when they surf the internet or use the kitchen appliances.  I think coin-operated routers, stoves, refrigerators, and microwaves are the wave of the future!

Comments (5) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:05 am

August 18, 2011

Detached converted garage makes this the perfect home for your large family and toys

Here’s another listing from the wilds of San Jose hillbilly country, from intrepid Burbed reader Tracy!


3535 SIERRA ROAD, San Jose – North Valley, CA 95132


SQ. FT.: 2,977
$/SQ. FT.: $235
LOT SIZE: 2.67 Acres
PROPERTY TYPE: Detached Single Family
STYLE: Ranch
VIEW: Neighborhood
COMMUNITY: Berryessa
COUNTY: Santa Clara
MLS#: 81133736
STATUS: Active
ON REDFIN: 12 days

Large 4 bedroom 3 bathroom home located on large 116,000 SF lot. Room for off street parking and detached converted garage makes this the perfect home for your large family and toys. Nice patio deck with some views of the surrounding area. Tenant in property, please make appointment to see and do not disturb occupants.

Here’s what Tracy has to say about this property:

imageWow, I feel for the “tenants” AKA owners who are being foreclosed on. However, maybe they have less worries since the photography of the listing is so bad! Could the lighting be any dingier? When the main selling point is “room for off street parking,” and there are only pictures of the lot, temporary buildings and cars, I wonder how they got the kitchen shot.

On the plus side, I think the picture of the four Cypress trees is very artistic. I guess the agent imagines that a detached garage makes a house perfect for a large family… but I wonder what lurks behind those bushes!


Artistic?  I guess it takes a certain kind of talent to use a modern camera and manage to overexpose the yard but leave the flash off inside.  At least the date is still readable in both shots.

And props to the agent for having the date set correctly.  Remember that listing where all the pictures were from 2003?  I think it cost a few thousand more than this place, too.

Okay, do any Burbed readers know what this is all about:

Listing Information
  • Bank-Owned/REO
  • Tenant Rights

What tenant rights are involved in San Jose house rentals?  Is this like Berkeley where you’re obligated to let the tenant stay 40 years or until they die in your house, whichever comes last?  Is that why the price went down 90% in six months back in 2003?


Tenant in property.  Sounds like removal is going to be painful.

Comments (7) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:06 am

August 17, 2011

Top of the world location, location, location!

Here’s a one-of-a-kind listing from Burbed reader Petsmart Groomer, who must fondly remember the days when the Real Bay Area could run as far north as Seattle, or at least San Anselmo.

40 Wolfback Ridge Rd, Sausalito, CA  94965


SQ. FT.: –
LOT SIZE: 0.66 Acres
PROPERTY TYPE: Lots & Land, Single Family
VIEW: Bay, Bridges, City, Forest/Woods, Ocean, Panoramic, Park, Valley, Water
COMMUNITY: Sausalito
MLS#: 21107250
STATUS: Active
ON REDFIN: 149 days

This top of the world location sits at nearly 960 feet elevation w/ absolutely incredible views of San Francisco, the mouth of the SF bay & west to the Pacific Ocean, Farallon Islands & sunsets. The lot is a natural penthouse on a private road behind two gates in an exclusive community. It is a very RARE buildable view lot minutes from San Francisco. Don’t be confused-this opp. is better than it looks.

imageHere’s what PG had to say about this top of the world location:

The world has never been so low.

I think you meant the price of this OPPORTUNITY has never been so low!  Don’t be confused-this opp. is better than it looks.

See?  It even has this free bridge thrown in!  That must be worth a couple thousand for the scrap metal alone!

imageIt’s a natural penthouse on a private road behind two gates in an exclusive community!  What more could you want?

Other than really, really hope the agents with this listing would deign to take your phone calls, assuming you could ever find their unlisted number?

Comments (21) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:06 am

August 16, 2011

Beautiful drawing of a house, comes with huge sandbox

Here’s a find from Burbed reader Wendie, from the zip code that is singlehandedly responsible for keeping construction workers employed.


3798 LAGUNA Ave, Palo Alto, CA 94306


BATHS:  3.5
SQ. FT.:  2,783
$/SQ. FT.:  $898
LOT SIZE:  8,378 Sq. Ft.
PROPERTY TYPE:  Detached Single Family
STYLE:  Modern/High Tech
COMMUNITY:  Barron Park
COUNTY:  Santa Clara
MLS#:  81118659
STATUS:  Active
ON REDFIN: 107 days

Barron Park Style Home with Great Room overlooking back yard. New construction by Excellent Builder James Witt that has been building homes for over 40 years. Buyer may select 8 finishes. Completion date by end of September 2011.

imageHere’s what Wendie has to say about this property:

Wow, they are trying to sell a foundation!

Well, that’s not all you get, Wendie.  You can select 8 finishes, and we’re talking Excellent Builder James Witt that has been building homes for over 40 years.  So that’s 5 years per finish.

Hmmm.  So is Excellent Builder James Witt a person, place, or thing?  And if that has imagebeen building homes for over 40 years, wait, it’s homes, so at least he/it hasn’t been working on this one since 1971.

I do wonder just which is more unlikely, though, that this house is going to be ready in six weeks, or that the agent is going to update the virtual tour so we don’t conclude that Excellent Builder James Witt has done nothing but tear up the yard.

But since this Barron Park Style Home with Great Room definitely won’t be ready in time for school starting next Tuesday, you could camp out in what’s left of the back yard.  I hear there’s a Great Room overlooking it.

Comments (11) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:11 am

August 15, 2011

Comes with its own Watchtower!

Here’s a fascinating find from frequent Burbed Reader and occasional Guest Editor sfbubblebuyer!  Too bad I couldn’t run this sooner, as this may have been the ideal house for watching Game of Thrones on HBO!

Please give a big, warm, Real Bay Area welcome to sfbubblebuyer, who will be telling you all about this amazing home in Redwood City!

Do you love fantasy novels and have more money than sense? Then you will will LOVE 3637 McNulty way!


3676 MCNULTY Way, Redwood City, CA 94061


BATHS: 2.5
SQ. FT.: 2,720
$/SQ. FT.: $487
LOT SIZE: 0.34 Acres
PROPERTY TYPE: Detached Single Family
STYLE: Cape Cod
VIEW: Bay, Canyon, City Lights
COMMUNITY: Farm Hills Estates
COUNTY: San Mateo
MLS#: 81127645
STATUS: Active
ON REDFIN: 53 days

Custom rebuilt to studs in 2000, oversized lot, quiet neighbor, no though fare, over 30 trees in back yard provide privacy, from the rear deck all you see are trees. Back yard is terraced down to year round creek with a Gazebo. MBR on top floor with balcony overlooking bay area, features a steam shower for 2, 2 shower heads and 7 body washers, Cat 5 wiring, surround sound to all rooms & outside.

imageThis house has it all! An over-a-million price tag! Excessive exterior lighting! Giant jetted tub! Steam shower! Granite… wait, I don’t see any granite. But wait! IT MAKES US FOR THAT WITH A GODDAMN GAZEBO WATCHTOWER!

imageThat’s right! You can be alerted to trouble (in the form of jealous rentard neighbors who want your luscious tile floors for themselves) early with a commanding view from your Gazebo! Of course, to get said commanding view, you need to cut down the 30+ trees on your lot. But with that wood you could build palisades and catapults to go with your watchtower! You’d pay back all those crummy kids who wouldn’t let you play King Of The Hill because you were so nerdy you were destined for an average tech job making not a lot of money by bay area standards!

HUZZAH! LONG LIVE THE KING (of Redwood City)! LONG LIVE THE KING (of Redwood City)!

Comments (9) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:01 am

August 14, 2011

Transient Guests Trash Short-Term Subleases

imageY Combinator isn’t all smart phone apps and hardware gizmos. One of their startups was a firm called Airbnb, for Air Bed ‘n Breakfast.  You could rent out short-term space on an air mattress or sofa, or rent out most or all of your home while you were elsewhere.

The firm had plenty of positive buzz until it got whacked with the chainsaw of crappily-handled crisis: a malicious set of renters who deliberately trashed a host’s San Francisco apartment, smashed into a locked closet, stole her jewelry and private papers, and wrote her emails every day saying how much they enjoyed her apartment., The host, who goes by EJ, blogged about the horrible experience coupled with the complete unwillingness by Airbnb to take any responsibility for this calamity, and called out the firm’s meaningless gladhanding.  While a well-funded firm with celebrity backers might be able to bat aside one plucky woman with a Blogger site, they couldn’t so easily ignore a widely-read tech journalist who would not drop the story or accept the firm’s whitewashing of the events.

imageIt’s always a great idea for a new business to take a rightfully angry customer with grounds for a tremendous lawsuit and try to intimidate them because you’re worried this could impact your funding.  You can’t buy publicity like this!

TechCrunch has been covering the Airbnb Stupidity Saga pretty thoroughly, so you can check it all out there.  Because of their coverage, another not-so-satisfied Airbnb host wrote in and he sent pictures (these are his pictures, not the other hapless host above).  Looks like he drew another Airbnb short straw and ended up with some meth-heads in his place.  This is what they did to his bathroom door.  He thinks they used an axe.

imageAnd here’s one of the many meth pipes they left all around his Oakland apartment.  As Troy the unfortunate host wrote:

In addition to valuables stolen, the thieves/addicts did thousands of dollars of bizarre damage to my rented home and left it littered with meth pipes. They were identity thieves, too and all my personal information was strewn about. Further investigation of my own led me to evidence that the people were not just thieves but were also dangerous. I too, feared for my own safety and would not stay at my house for some time.

I had a similar problem with haphazard communication from people at AirBnB. I gave them multiple opportunities to make me a happy customer to which they did but then retracted their offer after their was miscommunication among the team. Sometimes days went by without hearing from anyone, while I was fear-stricken, totally disoriented, and angry. It was almost the most absurd customer service crisis one could ever imagine. But I am one squeaky wheel, and we eventually found an agreeable solution that I was generally pleased with.

Although this all happened almost a month and a half ago, it wasn’t until this Monday that Airbnb announced that they were making some changes in their booking policies, and, incidentally, apologized to EJ for their mismanglement.

This is an open thread.  Let us know if you see any meth pipes when you look at Open Houses today.

Comments (4) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:35 am

August 13, 2011

More Deep-Sea Diving Opportunities!

If you enjoy underwater adventure, here’s plenty of good news!

Report finds increase in negative equity in Bay Area

By Eve Mitchell, Contra Costa Times
Posted: 08/09/2011 12:00:00 AM PDT, Updated: 08/09/2011 10:10:44 AM PDT

The percentage of Bay Area homeowners who are underwater — which means their mortgage is higher than the home’s value — edged up from a year ago, as the housing market continues to struggle to get out of its long slump.

Some 22.8 percent of single-family houses with mortgages were in negative-equity territory during the second quarter, up from 21.1 percent a year ago, according to a report released Tuesday by Zillow, a real estate information website.

"Negative equity is growing because you still have foreclosures happening so the housing values are still declining," said Svenja Gudell, senior economist for Zillow. "As home values decline, negative equity will increase."

imageThanks for setting us straight, Svenja!  I thought as home values decline, more and more people would just walk away and take their game pieces off the board.  Forums like this one make participants feel it’s just fine to strategically default.

Anyone have any theories why some Bay Area counties are up and some are down?  Why, for example, is Santa Clara County down but San Mateo County up in submarine living?

Wow, more than 1 out of every 5 homes in the Bay Area that have a mortgage owe more than the house is worth.  Looks like Solano County, home of Vallejo and its bankruptcy woes, got hit a bit harder than the average.

This is an open thread.

Comments (15) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:15 am

August 12, 2011

Flip This Location Fail

This new listing appears courtesy of happy-piggy over on Redfin’s Bay Area forums.  It’s definitely a flip, because the house changed ownership all of five weeks ago (as I write this).  Your challenge, dear Burbed readers, is to find as many reasons not to line this flipper’s pockets as possible.

Yes, we’re going to play What’s Wrong With This House.  See how many problems you can find!

178 LAS ASTAS Dr, Los Gatos, CA 95032


SQ. FT.: 1,354
$/SQ. FT.: $701
LOT SIZE: 7,208 Sq. Ft.
PROPERTY TYPE: Detached Single Family
STYLE: Ranch
VIEW: Neighborhood
COMMUNITY: Los Gatos/Monte Sereno
COUNTY: Santa Clara
MLS#: 81133706
STATUS: Active
ON REDFIN: 1 day


imageSo, what is that in the first picture?  Looks like the agent made a real point of minimizing something.  See what I mean?


Harder to see in the second picture (#18 on the Redfin page), but there I see something strung up there, more than enough to equip a sitar.  Let’s go to our eye in the sky to check this out.


No, I wasn’t seeing things.


YOWZA.  And here’s what happens if you look at the house on Streetview and then look straight up:


I’ll leave the rest of the hunting to you guys, but be sure to check the neighborhood out to make sure there aren’t any other issues lurking nearby.  Have fun!

Comments (15) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:05 am