March 31, 2012

Is there a Grow House in your ‘hood?

120330-31st-growhouseRecently, there was a rather notable marijuana bust in San Mateo that netted 530 plants, due to a tip from a “concerned citizen.”  Every one of us probably has some kind of self-appointed concerned citizen living in our neighborhoods, and it’s thanks to people like them that we can discover there’s a pot house in an otherwise quiet, suburban subdivision.

Like this one.  Someone recently updated the Redfin record despite it not changing hands in nine years.


Check out the neighborhood, courtesy of Zillow.  This does not look like the meth district.  And the house isn’t just on the West side of El Camino, it’s on the West side of Alameda.  And on the Peninsula, West means more prestige, more appeal, and more Real.  If any part of San Mateo is going to aspire to Real Bay Areahood, this is a good place to start looking.


The local San Mateo Patch has some helpful hints on how you too can be a concerned citizen and rat your neighbors out for running a grow house.  Here’s how to tell what they’re up to:

Manheimer and Alcantara encourage the help of citizens in locating neighborhood grow sites. Each suggested some indicators that there might be an operation in your neighborhood.

"You’d hear whirring noises," says Alcantara, "because they need to have filtration inside the house. They need to get the oxygen out, and the carbon dioxide in for the plants, so they have filtration systems set up.

120330-31st-minivanYes, definitely call 911 at the first sign of a ceiling fan.  Those fiendish fixtures are a gateway appliance to high-energy lamps.  Here are some more tips from the San Mateo police:

  • Infrequent visits by individuals who stay for a couple hours and then leave.

Because everyone knows that suburban get-togethers last all the livelong day.

  • Lights in the house appear to be regulated, and on timers. Sometimes, rooms inside seem perpetually lit.

120330-31st-remodelI wonder who it was who suggested putting lights on timers (see Home Safety).

  • Initial construction and the noise that comes from that work.

Because nothing says grow house like noise from contractors.

  • A "skunky" marijuana odor, and other odors, such as those from mothballs, air fresheners or chlorine, which are used in an attempt to mask the marijuana smell.

120330-31st-cleanerIn fact, call 911 if you smell anything other than the approved chocolate chip cookie dough used during Open Houses.

  • Unusual garbage strewn across lawn. Items used for growing marijuana, such as wiring, PVC piping and nutrient containers, may be discarded and left around the house.

So that’s why we’re seeing so many nominations for the Burbed Good Housekeeping Tag of Approval.

  • Windows covered in dark plastic or newspaper.

Better have them check out the goth teen across the street for the blackout curtains, too.

  • 120330-31st-fenceExtra security, such as guard dogs, fences, or cars loitering for long periods of time.

Remember the words of Robert Frost: Bad neighbors make good fences.

Let us know about any questionable signs your neighbor is running something nefarious, or any interesting things you see when touring Open Houses.  This is an Open Thread, so open up.

Comments (10) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:04 am

March 30, 2012

A Riddle Tweeted in a Mystery inside an Enigma

Somewhere in the Great Temporary Handover of This Site, there was a Twitter account with our name on it.  Unfortunately, it must have fallen between the couch cushions when we were rearranging the boxes of light bulbs and Drano.  That’s too bad, because Burbed reader Swan has found the perfect house  for those who need to make every letter count.

Please welcome Swan to the front page as today’s guest blogger with this compelling Campbell/San Jose casa!

3226 RIDDLE Rd
San Jose, CA 95117


SQ. FT.: 1,646
$/SQ. FT.: $344
LOT SIZE: 7,956 Sq. Ft.
PROPERTY TYPE: Detached Single Family
VIEW: Neighborhood
COUNTY: Santa Clara
MLS#: 81205068
STATUS: Active
ON REDFIN: 49 days

Gorgus inside:Brit/chesfl!tstflly remdle/update in modern style * Kit w/ track li, doubl-sink, grden windo . . * Huge clasy hal ba w/ jet tub, sep stal shower, dubl-sink, sky li . .. * Lrg Ms BR w/ slid dr to nuly lanscap B-yd * Nu fenc in Mar. * Wk-In Clset * Shor * 2-pane windos * Butifl wod fl * Tiled bath/kit/dining fl * nuer stov/roof/heater/drway . . * Recnt int/ext/paint. .. much mor * Convnt loc nr Santana Row/ W-field *


Oh my…I realize we are fast paced society who wants everything in Tweets of 140 characters or less.  But this realtard takes abbreviations to a whole new level. 

I teach elementary school and have seen some odd spelling skills in my time, but some of these I 120329-riddle-kitchencan’t even decipher.  For example, "chesfl!tstflly."  What is that?

Gud thng the hous is on Ridl Rd, bc the rite up is a ridl.  Bunus:  8s in the pris. .. . & nr santa rw!


Comments (9) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:07 am

March 29, 2012

Great potential in Saratoga

120328-northampton-saratoga-chartRemember the house we featured yesterday, the “fixer” in San Francisco?  Yes, it was in hot, hot, HOT Noe Valley, so of course all the agent had to do was take pictures and slap that puppy on the MLS to let the wild overbidding start.  This low-inventory situation means less work for agents, so they can spend more time finding more excellent properties… for our front page.

Inventory isn’t low just in San Francisco.  Today’s house in Saratoga, courtesy of Burbed reader hsjb, may remind you of yesterday’s.  Grab your oven mitts, because you better be ready for the heat!

Saratoga, CA 95070


SQ. FT.: 1,880
$/SQ. FT.: $691
LOT SIZE: 9,945 Sq. Ft.
PROPERTY TYPE: Detached Single Family
STYLE: Ranch
VIEW: Mountains
COUNTY: Santa Clara
MLS#: 81207583
STATUS: Pending Without Release
ON REDFIN: 28 days

single family ranch style home in a quiet cul-de-sac with great potential!! 4 bedrooms, 2bathrooms, 3yr new red tiled roof, hardwood floors, copper plumbing, nice size yard with pool and jacuzzi, close to great schools and needs updating and reflected in the price.

Here’s what hsjb had to say when alerting us to this superb suburban synonym-for-“house”-that-starts-with-the-letter-S.

120328-northampton-livingroomOwners can’t understand why it’s not selling

The agent who took these photos really knows how to make this home look attractive enough to go check out.

He certainly does! Yet after this was sent in to Burbed, the house went pending anyway!  This is a signal to realtards everywhere: you needn’t bother with the light bulbs and Drano anymore.  These houses really do sell themselves.  All the agent needs is a camera phone.  We’ve got plenty of pictures for you, so click on through to the Open House!


Comments (18) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:14 am

March 28, 2012

* * * NO MORE OFFERS PLEASE !!! * * *

120324-sf-sold-redfinHave you heard?  The housing market is hot, hot, hot!  So many finds have that red PENDING banner smacked across the first picture because there’s so little inventory available (see chart).  That means even a Burbed-worthy home may get more love from overbidders than from, well, Burbed.  You would not believe how many homes that belong on the front page are snapped up and have their listings wiped clean off Redfin before we can even get the IP wrapper off our email.

But that’s great news for you, Burbed readers!  If the market is this hot, that means more and more crapboxes will be listed with no attempt to put any lipstick on those pigs.  And that means we are assured there’ll be plenty of prime content!  Like today’s OMG THAT’S PENDING WTF? listing from Burbed reader Petsmart Groomer.  Thanks very much for this listing that left many parts in San Francisco.

1261 Sanchez St
San Francisco, CA 94114


SQ. FT.: 885
$/SQ. FT.: $734
LOT SIZE: 1,999 Sq. Ft.
TYPE: Detached
STYLE: Cottage
COUNTY: San Francisco
MLS#: 40558309
STATUS: Pending Court Confirmation
ON REDFIN: 66 days

* * * NO MORE OFFERS PLEASE !!! * * * Cute home with full garage/workshop. Backyard and patio. Loads of potential !!! Fixer, reflected in price. ..

120324-sanchez-porchHere’s a perfect example of a house that doesn’t need any effort by a listing agent.  It’s in Noe Valley, so just let the new buyer deal with any deferred maintenance.  What do you want, this place was standing when The Big One hit in 1906 and it’s still here!

This home requires Court Confirmation to sell, so buying it will require some legal advice as well.  And that’s not the realtard’s problem.  You want this house?  You should have been overbidding in January.

Now, a small amount of cleanup might be required.  Take a good look at these pictures, because the agent couldn’t even be bothered to move the smallest little distractions out of the framing.  What is up with all those bottles in the kitchen?  It doesn’t matter.  This market is HOT!

So, see if you can come up with a good story for each of these items.


The rest of the photos are to assure you of Burbed’s Good Housekeeping “Tag of Approval.”  Some of you Negative Nellies might object that the living room and bedroom do not demonstrate good housekeeping at all.  But, ah, the garage!


Comments (28) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:01 am

March 27, 2012

Who wants “mrtgage relief”?

Redwood City, CA 94061

SQ. FT.: 900
$/SQ. FT.: $667
LOT SIZE: 3,200 Sq. Ft.
VIEW: Neighborhood
COMMUNITY: Central Park
COUNTY: San Mateo
MLS#: 81202135
STATUS: Active
ON REDFIN: 66 days
Great Starter Investment! Or live in one unit and rent out other for mrtgage relief. Good West Side Location! Close to schools – shopping – transportation – and Recreation Center!

If that black SUV drove forward another foot, comic hijinx would ensue.

Personally, I love the idea that you can rent out the other for “mrtgage relief”. Doesn’t this mean that each of the units is only really 450 sqft? So you have a choice: “mrtgage relief” or actually having space to yourself. Fun choices!

I’m surprised the carport spots aren’t enclosed. That could provide additional relief!

But let’s face it, real relief is spelled “R-e-a-l B-a-y A-r-e-a”

Comments (8) -- Posted by: burbed @ 5:59 am

March 26, 2012

HDR: You’re doing it wrong in Los Gatos

120324-wiki-hdrOne of the things that keep readers engaged with this site are the atrocious listing photos that are supposed to engage potential buyers.  Now, there are a number of ways a photo can fail to attract the people who might otherwise wish to buy a home.  Some are because the agent didn’t bother cleaning up the house, or didn’t notice something in the picture that really shouldn’t have been included, or because there really is nothing attractive about the house no matter what angle you shoot from.

But there can also be photography problems on the higher end of home sales.  High Dynamic Range photography allows more differences in light and dark areas of a photo, to make a picture appear more vivid.  HDR is usually done by taking photos of the same scene at different exposures and having the images rendered together.  If you’d like to learn more about HDR, there’s a nice overview on the subject on Wikipedia, and they’ve included this image of what HDR can achieve.  Then again, the overly saturated colors and the bizarre color shifts between each palm tree make this photo a candidate for I Hate Your HDR.

The problem is when HDR isn’t done with restraint and balance, and that brings us to today’s featured home.  Many thanks to Burbed reader Tracy Tea House for this hella high definition domicile!

Los Gatos, CA 95032


BATHS: 4.5
SQ. FT.: 4,869
$/SQ. FT.: $822
LOT SIZE: 0.88 Acres
PROPERTY TYPE: Detached Single Family
STYLE: French
VIEW: Valley, City Lights
COMMUNITY: Los Gatos/Monte Sereno
COUNTY: Santa Clara
MLS#: 81203958
STATUS: Active
ON REDFIN: 52 days

Classic French Estate. Outstanding views across Silicon Valley. Extensive landscaping with patios, walkways, custom iron work, & fountains. Fabulous interior custom faux finish with gold leaf. Huge formal living room w/ floor to ceiling windows. Family room kitchen w/ cherry cabinets, slab granite, & stainless appliances. Master w/ fireplace & 2 walk-in closets. 1 bed/bath downstairs. 4 car garage.

120324-cerro-columnsHere’s what Tracy had to say about today’s property:

We did not buy this one, because it did not have a pool.

This is a Classic French Estate.  A pool is so Hollywood.  Then again, a structure built in 2000 that’s just 131 square feet too small to qualify for the “ginormous” tag isn’t a Classic French Estate.  If it were, the city it’s in would have a name more like Les Chats.

120324-cerro-treesIf you’re into megahomes pretending to be Classic French Estates, this isn’t the worst example of the genre.  I mean, heck, it even has MAWBUL KAWLUMS, but not an excessive number of them.  That means break out the Official Burbed Red Arrow Kit, but it would have been more instructive to use them on the crappy HDR job.  First take a look at the photo atop this article, and pay careful attention to the way the sky color gently transitions from a darker to lighter tone (at least as long as there aren’t any palm trees interfering).

120324-cerro-nightContrast (ha ha) the Wikipedia shot with some from today’s house.  The one immediately above with the porch rail suggest these trees are radioactive. And this one at left not only has plants full of radium, someone set us up the bomb inside the house as well.  The fountain looks like it’s in danger of a core meltdown.  You can see the same effect in the sky above the Kawlums.

120324-cerro-livingroomIf you’re having trouble seeing that HDR luminescent glow, don’t worry.  This interior picture at right really punches it up to 11, because the sky is only sky-colored where it doesn’t actually touch a window frame.  Thus you get blue-grey blobs of color surrounded by white when you look out the window.  That is, if you can tear your eyes away from the living room furniture in HDRVision.

Remember, HDR is supposed to be used to heighten shadows and highlights, not to blow out our eyeballs.  Besides, the kind of buyers this photo would attract will be so disappointed by how colorless and flat the actual house is.

Comments (20) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:08 am

March 25, 2012

UPDATED: Trulia weighs in on Buy vs Rent by putting finger on the scale

120324-trulia-usamapTrulia has a new blog entry on the eternal Buy vs Rent question, and they have lots of meaningless aggregate data to wave around!  Here’s their Winter 2012 Rent vs Buy Index, and and it isn’t restricted to the Real Bay Area. 

Don’t be surprised that Trulia thinks signs point to Buy.  Their being in the listing information and real estate agent referral business shouldn’t have anything to do with their conclusion, right?  After all, Now is Always the Time to Buy!

120324-trulia-prr-graphRemember, the Index is the Price Rent Ratio: sales price divided by annual rent.  So, if a house in the RBA sold for $1.5 million, and rented for $4,500 a month, the rent ratio would be 1500000 / (4500 x 12).  That equation simplifies to 27.8, which sounds about right for the RBA.  Trulia considers 15-20 to be the swing zone between whether buying or renting is a better option; below 15 is buy and above 20 is rent.  We’ve written about the price rent ratio before, and 15 was always the inflection point mentioned in these articles, not 15-20.

Update 10:26 AM: The swing zone was 15-20 from other sources, but the other sites and articles counseled renting over buying unless the home you were considering was an unusually good find.  Trulia considers the rent vs. buy decision as completely balanced when the ratio is between 15-20.  That’s the thumb on the scale.

120324-trulia-logoTrulia is pushing their own agenda with this redefinition of terms by asserting a higher ratio for the buy zone.  The lack of yellow on the map above could indicate homes are more affordable, or it could show that the unlabeled color key breakpoints were chosen incorrectly.  Perhaps they simply wanted the map to match their brand color.

Now for some bad news. The Bay Area appears at #2 and #4 on Trulia’s list of least buy-friendly metro areas. It’s always a disappointment to not first on a list.


At least SF beat NYC this time, but they’re going to gripe that was because New Jersey pulled them into the Hudson like a pair of cement overshoes.  We can counter that SF has the East Bay to contend with, and San Jose has, well, East San Jose. 

Here’s a little bit more breakdown, by county, but this still doesn’t get to the city level, let alone by zip code. 


Look, Pacific Heights is going to have a higher rent ratio than the Outer Sunset.  Palo Alto is going to completely clean Gilroy’s clock.  Foster City will stomp Daly City, Montclair mauls Hayward, and Danville going to defeat Discovery Bay in the “mine’s bigger” sweeps.  Even when outside the RBA, we still have an idea which places would be contenders, and which are permanently assigned to LOLsville.  And it’s the Definitely Not In The RBA places that are going to have the lower ratios.

Here are some other metros that score lower on the Index.


The same rule applies within the Bay Area as well.  The not-so-Special places that are “slow-growing with high vacancy rates and land to spare” will have the best ratios.  These places also have the most foreclosures, which might explain why so many FBs are turning into renters themselves.  Too many foreclosures thus drive home prices down and rents up, resulting in a lower price rent ratio.  But in the RBA, prices are sticky because more owners can afford to wait out the price lulls.

These ratios are much lower than what we’d been seeing before.  Do you agree that prices are down and/or rents are up where you live?  Here’s what Trulia has to say about how the Index has changed recently: San Jose has been stable but San Francisco is dropping. 

Updated 11:14 AM: Added Oakland, Sacramento and Fresno to the table.  Note how the numbers don’t agree with those in the Bay Area table.  Stockton not called out separately.

Metro Winter 2011 Spring 2011 Summer 2011 Fall 2011 Winter 2012
San Jose 14.8 13.6 14.5 14.3 14.5
San Francisco 19.5 16.9 17.2 17.4 15.5
Oakland 12.8 11.0 11,9 11.7 11.6
Sacramento 11.2 10.4 10.0 11.1 9.9
Fresno 7.5 7.5 7.8 8.1 7.9

San Jose Metro also has the second lowest vacancy rate (3.9%) of the 100 regions surveyed. The “winner” is Long Island, NY, by one tenth of a percentage point. It’s also the third highest in growth in the employment rate, at 3%.  In the first two spots are Louisville, KY and Salt Lake City.  The latter is gearing up for a ginormous government data mining operation, so there may be some tech jobs!

Their  full press release on how they came up with these numbers is here.

Comments (7) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:07 am

March 24, 2012

Spring has Sprung, The Price has Riz

Hope you’re heading out to look at Open Houses now that we’ve officially entered the Spring Selling Season!  Oh, what’s that?  Spring Selling Season doesn’t start until after Easter?  Well, dang.

Why don’t you instead do some window shopping?  Here you can admire this waterfront property in Washington State while you try to find an open house a little closer to home.  Thanks to Burbed reader SEA for mentioning this one in comments yesterday.

11718 Possession Lane
Edmonds, WA 98026


Bunus: Stupid street name is stupid, too.  This is an open thread.

Comments (8) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:22 am

March 23, 2012

Tastefully remodeled bathrooms and bedrooms are intact

On 6/25/2012 Burbed received this letter:

Now, this isn’t really a take down or a cease and desist. After much heated discussion by the editorial team, we decided that the Bay Area truly is the best place in the world to live. Oh, and I decided to remove this, because I am a gentleman and I will of course help a damsel in distress. -Burbed

Comments (8) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:06 am

March 22, 2012

Centrally located in San Carlos!

Today’s luxe listing is all about location, location, location!  Many thanks to Burbed reader Overheard in San Carlos for passing along this plum place!

San Carlos, CA 94070


SQ. FT.: 2,920
$/SQ. FT.: $291
LOT SIZE: 7,350 Sq. Ft.
PROPERTY TYPE: Detached Single Family
STYLE: Mediterranean
VIEW: Neighborhood
COMMUNITY: Howard Park
COUNTY: San Mateo
MLS#: 81207068
STATUS: Pending Without Release
ON REDFIN: 25 days


120320-chestnut-floorHRS OF ENTRTNMNT INSD & OUT.

BUNUS: RM-59 ZNG = “MLTPL FAM MED DNSTY.”  Which is great, because this place already looks more like an APT HSE.



Comments (13) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:04 am