April 17, 2012

UPDATED: Two Million Dollars for a Sunnyvale House. Good Luck with That.

Recently, we took a look at a house in Midtown Palo Alto that a number of commenters thought was overbuilt for the neighborhood.  That reminded me of a similarly situated structure in Sunnyvale, so I pulled it up for nostalgia’s sake.  What a delightful surprise to discover that it’s once again for sale!  It was relisted just in time for April Fool’s Day, and at the same attractive price as it was three years ago.

1474 VALCARTIER St
Sunnyvale, CA 94087
$1,999,000

120406-valcartier-redfin

BEDS: 6
BATHS: 4.5
SQ. FT.: 4,790
$/SQ. FT.: $417
LOT SIZE: 8,000 Sq. Ft.
PROPERTY TYPE: Detached Single Family
STYLE: French
STORIES: Tri-Level
VIEW: Neighborhood
YEAR BUILT: 1991
COMMUNITY: Sunnyvale
COUNTY: Santa Clara
MLS#: 81211851
SOURCE: MLSListings
STATUS: Active
ON REDFIN: 7 days

Extraordinary six-bedroom, four and one half-bath custom estate perfect for executive lifestyle of luxury and unmatched class. Within this showcase home you will find a remodeled ONE-OF-KIND gourmet kitchen featuring best-in-class appliances with close access to the formal dining room, casual family room and truly alluring outdoor venue that is perfect for entertainment.

120406-valcartier-kitchenThis time around, they’re not letting us see the inside.  And it would need a lot of pictures, because this property has a FAR of 0.60.  That can’t even be LEGAL in Sunnyvale. 

But, this is a Custom Bahl Home!  And if you haven’t heard of Bahl Homes, they built a few tracts around Silicon Valley, including some zero lot line curiosities and the snout-house “patio homes” just around the corner from this place. Now that they’re done with building tracts, they remain as a real estate company. Fortunately for us, today’s house has its own webpage on Bahl’s site, with pictures even!  We don’t know when these were taken, though, as it’s been listed and sold many times since its construction.  Have a look at those pictures and more, after the break.

120406-valcartier-familyroom120406-valcartier-rear

And what’s this?  OMG, MAWBUL KAWLUMS!  In SUNNYVALE. 

120406-valcartier-dining[5]120406-valcartier-eating

And of COURSE we should count on Movoto to have kept the pictures up from the 2009 listing!  They also have the original listing copy:

A resplendent six-bedroom, four and one half-bath custom residence boasting a lifestyle of luxury and simple elegance. Inside this showcase home is the recently remodeled epicurean kitchen featuring best-in-class appliances with easy access to the formal dining room, casual family room and truly alluring outdoor venue that is anchored by a built-in BBQ, above ground spa and covered dining area

And, wouldn’t you know it, back in 2009 this house was bigger than it is now!  5400 square feet!  So instead of reducing the price, they’ve knocked down the area.  Maybe the extra 610 square feet are in this car parked up front (note: no car on driveway in current façade picture).

120406-valcartier-front-09120406-valcartier-living-09

Or maybe they’re in these bunus KAWLUMS in the front entryway.

120406-valcartier-entry-09[4]

Here are the rest of the old listing photos, just in case the entire MLS legal team swoops down on Movoto and sues them out of existence.

120406-valcartier-dining-09120406-valcartier-kitchen-09120406-valcartier-family-09120406-valcartier-bedroom-09120406-valcartier-masterbath-09120406-valcartier-yard-09

And now, presented as a Burbed Article for the First Time Ever, the write-up based on a series of comments I made back in December, 2008. 

Update 11:39 AM: Slightly edited below, removing or shortening a few sentences.  Also added more photos at the end as Redfin now has new pictures!


I went to visit the Two Million Dollar property in Sunnyvale CUSD today (December 2008). Remember when I said it was totally wrong for the neighborhood. You Have No Idea how wrong. 

The place was built in 1991 as a custom home by a builder who put up a few places in the neighborhood . There are step-down levels everywhere. There’s a step-down formal living room. There’s a step down sitting room in the master suite. There’s a step-down bonus area off the third floor other bonus area. There’s a step-down bar off the family room. Clearly this was a builder who got a close-out on staircase banisters.

120406-valcartier-icemachine-08We see the usual trick of re-using the granite in the kitchen on the bar, so we know somebody got another close-out. And check out the entryway! Notice something? Dat’s right! Mawbul Kawlums!

The house is on an 8000 square foot lot. Yes, a 5300 sf house on an 8000 sf lot. That’s like parking a turbo-less Porsche in 94301. The yard hasn’t much left over with a footprint this size. Forget about storing your excess appliances in the side yards, because they’re all built up. Instead, store them in one of the SIX BEDROOMS.

120406-valcartier-sitting-08This place even has (dang, I didn’t take a picture of it) a wine cellar that isn’t just step-down, it’s down 13 stairs. Builder definitely got a closeout on steps too. Here’s some features that aren’t in the official pictures.

A step-down bar off the family room, with a big ol’ honking metal cube sitting there (above). What does it do? Crush ice? Mix margaritas? Chop the dog food?

Here’s the step-down sitting area in the master bedroom (right), taken from the sleeping area. Are you tossing and turning? Well, get up and run up and down your own private staircase without waking the kids!

120406-valcartier-officeSpeaking of the kids, one of them is going to love this room, because it has an octagonal office area off in the corner.

Do you like mirrors? Sure you do! Everybody loves mirrors, because if you’re a typical Silicon Valley techno-dweeb, you’re far too busy at the office to have any time to work out, but at least you can be motivated to do something about that extra flab you’re building up. And in this house, you’ll be extra motivated, because there’s mirrored closets everywhere in the master bath.

120406-valcartier-mirrors-08Finally, did you ever wish you had a place in your house where you could just relax and enjoy a good book or a fun movie? Sure you do, and in most homes that’s called a family room! But not in this house! Because this house not only has a family room and a library, but a secret bonus space on the third floor, which has a step-down extra bonus relaxation secret secret room (below)! So if you’re worried that Hugo Weaving is coming after you, this might be a good place to hide.

This house has got Nimitz Elementary, the second worst one in the entire Cupertino School District, so demand a discount. Heck, your kids could WALK there, not that you’d allow them to attend. Best of all, this palace has HOMESTEAD HIGH. Did you hear that, everyone? HOMESTEAD HIGH! Yes, your kids can get crushed in with 2498 other lucky students and be told they’re getting a 120406-valcartier-secret-09superior education!  I said that in 2008 to be sarcastic.  The current 2011-12 enrollment at Homestead High is 2311 and is continuing to increase.

This is no ordinary house, which is why it’s being pitched by Alain Pinel instead of the boring old real estate brokers. Whoops, looks like they switched to boring old Interno this time.  This is the kind of house where you can show your neighbors how much better your are than they. Your three-story house will block their sunlight, obstruct their views, and be impossible to ignore. This is perfect for the person who wants to say, “I have arrived. I belong here. I am leaving a monument to my importance.”


Feel free to predict what price this house could possibly sell for.  Here’s a Zillow map to get you started.

120406-valcartier-zillow

The ZEstimate of this house is $1,422,700, and those little slices of lot behind the back fence are those Bahl Patio Homes that helped pay for this palace.

Update: New pictures were added to the listing after this was written.  We’ll present a few using Burbed KawlumVision, because they are otherwise truly painful to behold.

120417-valcartier-redfin-kawlums120417-valcartier-wtf-kawlum120417-valcartier-wetbar120417-valcartier-pergola

Also, there’s now a Virtual Tour, complete with Pachelbel’s Canon!  Lots more bad HDR!  So much for only two million!

Comments (67) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:03 am

67 Responses to “UPDATED: Two Million Dollars for a Sunnyvale House. Good Luck with That.”

  1. nomadic Says:

    Pics are up on Redfin now, in all of their flaming glory. You’ll see what I mean.

  2. SEA Says:

    “Apr 15, 2003 Sold (Public Records) $1,389,000″

    How long should it take to go from $1.4M to 2.0M?

  3. JSims Says:

    More like go down to 900k or less. Overpriced!

  4. AstroWallaby Says:

    #1: It’s fascinating to compare the “normal” photos up with the same scene captured in BIZARRO-VISION. The best matchup is between the photos of the entry hallway; I wonder if those are Truffula trees they swapped in place of the framed art. If that’s how the world looks when you’re on Truffula I need me a Thneed, like, NOW.

  5. Michael Boltonestater Says:

    I got sunburned looking at the pictures.

  6. SEA Says:

    Before clicking on that Redfin link, proper eye protection is recommended; otherwise photokeratitis may ensue.

  7. sfbubblebuyer Says:

    Those photos melted my retinas!

  8. Dr. Chorillo Says:

    You can buy 10 copies of this house in Las Vegas or Bakersfield for the price of this one. Rent them out and ride the profits straight to your own glorious marble palace in Sunnyvale!

  9. madhaus Says:

    Oh my god, the new photos need some Visine. I’m going to add a couple just for posterity’s sake, even though this article now qualifies for the tl;dr tag.

  10. SEA Says:

    That “OMG another Kawlum!” photo reminds me of yesterday’s fine Kawlum.

  11. nomadic Says:

    Sheesh, you could’ve given us a little relief, madhaus, by making the arrows blue. My eyes!

  12. gallileo Says:

    This is the “Le Nose de Figaro” edition of the snout house.

    Doesn’t matter if it holds three cars–if it pokes out in front of the house, then the house is a snout-house.

  13. Sunny(vale) Jim Says:

    Where is the casino?

  14. Jaston Says:

    They’ll sell it to some newb foreigner who does know any better

  15. Petsmart groomer Says:

    Reduced to $1,749,999.

  16. Carol Says:

    “Be nice”?! Given the nature of the content written by the author of the article, this is quite an unusual statement to request of those who comment. I am afraid to know what the definition of ‘Let’s be nice to each other in the true Bay Area spirit,’ also mentioned, actually means. It is evident that it is one of sarcasm, misinformation, and lack of care for whatever damage such material might create.

    This entire posting is a mean-spirited slam, and a poorly researched one at that. I am the new owner of this home, and frankly I am appalled that someone would take the time and effort to go to these lengths to bash someone else’s home. It only adds to the ‘unwelcome welcome’ we have received in nearly every facet of our relocation to California. You should all be ashamed of yourselves. I spent a little bit of time trying to determine what your website’s purpose is, and I did not find any documentation as to your credentials, or any reason to substantiate your opinions with anything beyond, well, your opinions.

    As for the house, we are not as ‘Jaston’ says (in a racist or at the very least, elitist way; so much for ‘being nice’), “some newb foreigner who does know any better” (notice ‘Jaston’s typo as well) we have relocated here from Pennsylvania, where the real estate is not crackball crazy, and the people are not mean. If writing these horrible blogs and insulting people is what you do to make yourselves feel better about living here, then fine. Maybe you should use your efforts to actually improve the community. This is not ‘Mystery Science Theater’- this is an enormous investment, and is in fact, someone’s (my) home.

    Funny, too that you are blasting the size of the home compared to the dozens of much smaller homes we viewed prior to purchasing this house, on much smaller postage stamp yards. When we decided to move to the Bay area, we knew we were going to have to downsize- a lot, so finding this house with more square footage for the price than anything else we had carefully watched online for 6 months, was attractive to us. Having moved from a home that had similar square footage, a ½ acre lot, plus an 1800 sq ft basement that sold for $515, was bad enough. To be blasted like this is just unreal. While I have little interest in justifying my purchase to you, I wish that you would consider what your commentary might mean to other people, before or after they decide to make a home purchase. Are you really providing some sort of service or is being nasty just something you do for fun? For example, your snarky comment about how they made the house smaller- if you had actually done research (or knew as much about real estate as you purport), you would know that the finished attic area was originally included in the square footage and should not have been, which is how the square footage was reduced. Further, yes, the house was overpriced at $2 million. We bought it for $1.65 million, and thank you very much for making me feel even more sick that I have financially cleared out everything that I had, left our networks of 20 years, moved 3300 miles, to make this happen for my family, and now I have to live among the likes of people like you. Welcome to California!

    I don’t particularly like the columns either. I also don’t like the mirrors, but as a person who has owned several homes knows, those are cosmetic items that can be changed. Yes, the home is overbuilt. That is obvious. An intelligent buyer does not need your goofy red arrows or ridiculous Saturday Night Live references to see that. What we were after was a home of similar size to what we left behind, that would comfortably fit our family in a decent community. I was not willing to shell out $1.75 million to live in a tiny shoebox, Brady Bunch house with moldy oldy wallpaper and no closets, that is typically found in this price range throughout the Bay area. While, yes the opinions are simply that, your opinions, you should heed your own advice, and be nice.

  17. DreamT Says:

    “I was not willing to shell out $1.75 million to live in a tiny shoebox, Brady Bunch house with moldy oldy wallpaper and no closets, that is typically found in this price range throughout the Bay area”

    Did someone just insult my shoebox???

  18. Carol Says:

    Only if it has moldy oldy wallpaper and could have been on the opening sequence of the Brady Bunch show… otherwise, of course not.

    I can be sarcastic & satirical too, but not at someone else’s expense.

  19. DreamT Says:

    Carol, if it can make you feel any better, the writer of this post happens to live a few blocks away from you, close enough to drop some flowers or (if you prefer) some more Mawbul Kawlums as a genuine sign of welcome. She’s not denigrating your neighborhood as much as satirizing her own.
    The gist of the post is that gentrification in some areas has been haphazard, and some builders are seemingly out of their mind. But then, a buyer comes by and surprises us all! Don’t take it personally. It’s a recurring theme (like many things on this *blog*)

  20. Banker East Says:

    Looks like a beautiful home to me. A lot of house for the money by California standards.

  21. very amused Says:

    The last time somebody found his new house on Burbed, he was really nice about it in the true Bay Area spirit.

    #16 is as overbuilt as the house. May the editress edit/remove some of it without notice.

  22. SEA Says:

    “We bought it for $1.65 million, and thank you very much for making me feel even more sick that I have financially cleared out everything that I had, left our networks of 20 years, moved 3300 miles, to make this happen for my family, and now I have to live among the likes of people like you. Welcome to California!”

    Too bad you didn’t visit burbed first.

    Beyond that, who spends $1.65M from 3,300 miles away, never having lived in the area? Before clearing out your financial assets, I’d have recommended renting for six months minimum–oh, that’s right, renting is expensive, but buying $1.65M properties is no big deal.

  23. nomadic Says:

    SEA, clearly $1.65M is “not a lot of money” for Ms. Carol in spite of her indignation. Most folks moving across country would be a bit more concerned with future resale value than replicating the size of their old house. I’ll admit I downsized when I moved here, even though the house still cost nearly 2x.

    Carol, for the sake of your family I sincerely hope you can embrace the vibrant communities we have in the Bay Area and come to love the area like most of us transplants do. Don’t dwell on what you left behind. There are good trade offs to be found.

  24. Carol Says:

    There are no winners or losers in this kind of banter, and while I am sure its not going to make any difference to engage in continued dialogue about this, I am having a hard time resisting- which, I suppose, is to the credit of the blog… that being said…

    I was merely stating that these are not cartoon homes. They are not paid for with monopoly money either- I guess I just took issue-not with the fact that you might have differing opinions or preferences than me, but that you had to been mean about it. I don’t like many (ok, most) of the houses in this area, but I don’t find it funny to mock them or be mean about it in a somewhat public way. If it hadn’t said “be nice, in the spirit of the bay area” on the comments section, I may have just chalked it up to someone with a lot of time on his/her hands who likes to write satirical and somewhat goofy perspectives and opinions about houses that are mostly pretty hard to resist making fun of. But it was mean-to real ppl. Whether that matters or not to anyone else, I don’t know.It did to me.

    Because I can’t seem to resist- #23, we were truly unable to rent here in the bay area, without having to move our three kids (who are in hs, ms, & ele) to different schools twice… an option that seemed worse than biting this ridiculous bullet once. When searching for a rental (that ppl make sound ‘so easy and simple, and idiot can do it’) we found FOUR rental properties with 4 bedrooms that would allow our 100lb dog–in the entire bay area…from the city all the way down to San Jose. That seemed worse than just trying to find a suitable home and just getting on with the relocation. If I were retired, or was 25 and had no kids yet, sure, I would have done just that, but I have a family that needed to be transitioned. I tried my best to accomodate them, fwiw.

    As for #24, it IS a huge amount of $$, but that is beside the point. Trying to figure out what would work for re-sale value was not my main focus (right or wrong in your opinion), since I did live in my previous area for 20 yrs. My main focus was trying to make a really difficult move work for my kids and trying to keep my family together. I know I couldn’t replicate the house, but buying a home 4X as expensive, that would have been 1/2 the size, with nearly no yard, and no basement was a hard pill to swallow. This is all info I wish I had more clearly before my husband took the job that brought him here. We thought we did our due diligence, but evidently, we didn’t understand the entire picture, especially the culture of the ppl in the area. If I could reverse it, you are darn right I would-in a heartbeat. Again, beside the point.

    FWIW, do I wish I had known about this site ahead of time? Sure, but I would not have taken the opinions on the Burbed site to heart any more than all the ppl telling me repeatedly how much I am JUST GOING TO LOVE IT OUT IN CALIFORNIA… so far, not so much. Enough about me, how do you like my dress? Oh, I mean, house… that’s right, you already told me.

  25. Carol Says:

    Sorry, one more thing-
    #19- I appreciate your comment about regentrification, something I studied quite a bit in Philadelphia in the 80s. I found out, again, FWIW, this weekend from some neighbors, that this house was actually built by the builder (Dahl, again, have your opinions about him-I knew nothing of him before coming here, of course!) as a gift to his son who had 6 kids. It was built on the last lot, and all the neighbors seem to remember it being built, so I have been hearing stories from them recently. A ranch or patio style home was not destroyed so this ‘mc mansion’ could stand boldly in its place, something that I understand is done all over the peninsula. It was built in the early 90s as a custom home. The goofy columns are still here, but the 80s wallpaper in those early pictures is long gone! Ha ha!

  26. DreamT Says:

    The 100lb dog does severely limit the options. I personally refuse to get a dog unless we have enough backyard space (say 1/2 acre instead of 6k sqf).

  27. DreamT Says:

    Carol, the house right across mine is currently being torn down and rebuilt as a custom home, preventing us from taking the short path to elementary school (lots of dust etc.) with no notice of any kind from the owner. One could hope it won’t clash too much with 99% of the rest of the street (1956 ranch houses with no mawbul kawlums), but I won’t hold my breath…

  28. SEA Says:

    “be nice, in the spirit of the bay area”

    That we are, but the spirit of the RBA is much better.

    “we found FOUR rental properties with 4 bedrooms that would allow our 100lb dog”

    I have a friend who spent a significant amount of cash to build a place with his dog in mind. The place had to have certain windows, and other design features. He did rent for about six months, but that was basically during construction.

    We have a tax adviser around these parts (read: He recommends Boxster tax), and he will tell you all the tax advantages of your children. You see, you are actually saving taxes, and housing always goes up, no matter how high your purchase price, so you have nothing to worry about.

    If it’s not about the money, and your kids and dog are happy, what’s the problem?

  29. madhaus Says:

    Wow, Carol, um, welcome to Burbed. I see that you had to find out from the neighbors what my poorly researched article could have told you, that the builder put up your home for himself.

    Okay, that aside, you seem to be personalizing a column that talks about a house. Not you, not your kids, not your husband, but a house. A house that, I should note, you didn’t own when I wrote it up four years ago. You’ve said several times that this site is “mean” to “real people.” No. This site is mean to real estate. Corporations are not people, and neither are properties. Well, we can be mean to realtards as a group, but try to avoid getting personal about their mistakes as in-duh-viduals. (But it’s so easy!)

    We did have another homeowner (a seller) who took issue with our site, but in that case, his “friend” thought it would be a hoot to send his place in for front-page treatment (without his permission, I assume). Hilarity ensued (well, not really). I will say that some of the commenters were not being nice in the true Bay Area spirit either, but we all learned a lot about trailer parks mobile homes manufactured homes and how the parks are run.

    Now, you are owed an explanation about why “be nice” is in there. I didn’t start this site, and that language was put in by Our Founder (who, just to be confusing, is called “burbed”). burbed has a somewhat different writing style than I do, and one observer noted my approach has a bit more acid than sugar. But acid does have its uses, such as stripping the sparkly, shiny marketing coat off the crapshack of Fail. And we’ve had some real slugfests in the comments, so the reminder is helpful. (Usually the nasty argument has nothing to do with the house in question, too.)

    And while it was very kind of DreamT to suggest I bring you some flowers or photos of more kawlums, I’m not sure that I, as proud owner of a tiny shoebox on a postage-stamp yard, would be worthy to enter. However, only one wall has moldy-oldy wallpaper, and since it’s a rancher, no opportunity for a Brady Bunch pose either. I only have 2 kids so the opening sequence is going to have 4 squares, not 9. Maybe we can fit some of the wacky neighbors in to make the show a little more lively.

    I’m from the East Coast too. Land is hella expensive here, and houses are smaller. The upside is you get to live more of your life outside, so you don’t need as much space. They just renovated Serra Park, if you haven’t already found it. It’s different here, but you’ll probably be happier once you get through your first winter. Oh, warning: the schools here really are a letdown compared to most places back east. We can thank Prop 13 for that.

    Anyway, you’ve had a pretty rough entry, but I think you may find some joy in this site if you give us a chance.

  30. SEA Says:

    By the way, I’m still following Owner’s “fine manufactured home,” and it probably won’t surprise many of the readers here when I point out that it still has not sold, over two years later. Yes, it’s been off the market for much of the time, and the “space rent” continues…

  31. Carol Says:

    Tough initiation indeed…!

    #28- I didn’t say I was looking for a house that would SUIT my 100lb dog, I was looking for a rental that would ACCEPT my 100 lb dog in the interim. Can you imagine that conversation? “Um, yeah kids, we know you will be leaving everything you know, all your friends, family, contacts, school, but not only do you need to get rid of 1/2 of your stuff so we can jam ourselves into a house 1/2 the size for 4X the cost, but oh yeah, the dog can’t come with us. Sorry. Oh yeah you will have to switch schools twice, once we figure out how to buy a house out there in ‘crackballcrazyrealestateland’. Pack your bags, you’ll love the produce out there-oh and the WEATHER IS AMAZING- you are GONNA love it!”

    Come on!

    Yes, you are correct, having a happy, stable family is THE most important thing in my life. Right or wrong in your book, it is more important than the taxes, re-sale, etc. I am not naive enough to think its just about that, nor do I ignore the finances-we had to find something we could afford and would suit our needs, thats what I meant.

    #27- Big fat ugly bummer about the construction in your face- and not talking to neighbors about it beforehand is just plain sucky. Eeek, doesn’t sound neighborly to me at all! I do have a real question though, and I prob shouldn’t ask it until I have more time to research the tax structure out here (on my list!) but doesn’t having a newer, more expensive house in your community help the tax base? Doesn’t that person who builds the monstrosity wind up paying MUCH MUCH more in taxes, I mean, proportionately? I may be opening myself up here for attack on my lack of knowledge of CA tax, but it seems that would be the case. I am seriously trying to understand why just newer or perhaps just bigger, is the thing that ppl seem to despise around here. Is there a reason ppl want all the houses to look the same? I am asking a serious question, btw. (Blocking views or encroaching, those are other issues, I just mean bigger or newer, in my question.)

    Fwiw, I met a bunch of neighbors at our yard sale this past weekend. (yeah, I know I should have sold it before moving, but didn’t have chance)Most were really nice, and although I wondered why it took 2 months to meet them, I was grateful. However, it did strike me as odd that while I know my big monstrosity of a house is bigger than the others, why ppl found it acceptable to say rude things to my face about it when just meeting me, was really odd. One guy walked up and said, “Oh look the Taj Mahal is open for business.” I felt like smacking him in the face, and saying, “How about laying off those donuts there big guy? Looks like you have a few extra lbs lying around there.” Of course I didn’t. I tried to explain how we moved here and tried to get something somewhat close to what we left behind in PA. Blah blah blah. I guess I will spend my time adjusting here in California attempting to validate my purchase. That’s odd to me, and probably a waste of my energy anyway. I suppose that may be what prompted me to stir this pot and write a response to this post. I am just trying to wade thru the cultural differences here- I don’t understand the being mean piece, really I don’t.

    As for madhaus (very clever name, btw!)I too have a special place in my heart for snarky, acidic satire. Obviously, you are an educated, well-spoken writer, and I appreciated your comment on the site being about real estate, and not real people. Point was well taken until you mentioned how you wouldn’t be ‘worthy’ of coming to my house with the columns, etc…that was very personal indeed, and you have never met me and don’t know me at all. So, yes, a tough entry for me- having the biggest investment of my life ridiculed on the internet for the whole world to see- it didn’t scream welcome to California-but then not much has even whispered that. I know someone posted that I need to look forward, and that person is correct…this just hit at a time when I was struggling to try to adjust to this different world and I just thought it would bear mentioning that while you can be anonymous in your comments, you are still firing them squarely at a real person. Thanks for the forum, and webmaster, I am glad that you have allowed my posts through. Maybe someday I’ll write something for your site about moving here…could be an interesting column, not the mahble kind, the newsworthy kind.

  32. DreamT Says:

    “Doesn’t that person who builds the monstrosity wind up paying MUCH MUCH more in taxes, I mean, proportionately?”
    I don’t believe improving the “improvements” (see the tax bill) bumps up the overall appraisal the way a sale would. Also the house sqf is only about a 1/3 of the entire tax bill for this type of lot.

    “why just newer or perhaps just bigger, is the thing that ppl seem to despise around here.”
    The bay area generally looks down on flashy. Building a big columny house among ranchers is flashy. If you find that snobbish, well it’s the appanage of the self-styled intellectuals… or rather, they’re probably just jealous.
    Some houses are also tasteless, or combine expensive and cheap, and deserve to be mocked. The Taj Mahal comment in person does sound mean and unwelcome.

    “Is there a reason ppl want all the houses to look the same?”
    There’s something feudal about building a castle among ranchers. Isn’t it un-American? :)

  33. madhaus Says:

    Carol, When I said I might not be worthy to enter, that comment was in response to your earlier observation about shoeboxes, and the fact that I live in one of those. While I’d be the first to laugh at my tiny little house (in fact I’ve repeatedly referred to it as a “shack”), I am bemused by your personalizing commentary on your own house (which is 3 times the size of most of its neighbors) while seeing all those tiny overpriced crapboxes as fair game for your dismissal.

    In a way, Jaston (#14) was spot on. You and your husband, unfamiliar with the local real estate market, bought it not knowing how it was seen by everyone else. You judged it by East Coast standards, not RBA priorities. There was a reason it lingered on the market as long as it did, and price was not the only problem. No matter where you’re shopping, a house with >30 DOM in a brisk market is a signal something’s off.

    You see, you’ve touched on the central issue of the insane real estate market here: People are willing to pay over a million dollars to live in 50-60 year old tiny tract houses on very small lots. That fact alone is why this blog came into being back in 2006. Go take a look at the archives and you’ll see what I mean; house after house that you wouldn’t even want to visit, selling for insane prices.

    Eventually the bubble popped, the crappy houses dropped like rocks, and the Real Bay Area… didn’t plummet so much as freeze up. RBA owners can afford to wait out the market. So they did. I assume that was the case with your seller. (They listed it just two months past the peak pricing for Sunnyvale/CUSD and failed to get another Kool-aid drinker.)

    You are encouraged to continue posting, as a lively comment section is better than everyone agreeing. And yes, we welcome guest posts! (We ran one yesterday.) Your idea for an article could definitely work. You can send it, or any other housing-related pieces you want to contribute to my email on the right side column.

  34. madhaus Says:

    Oh, one more thing, Carol. You’ve earned this badge.

  35. Carol Says:

    A badge? Wow. Ok, I guess. ha ha

    #32- thanks for the chuckle. I actually smiled reading this comment. I think I ‘get’ the tasteless thing-especially the mixing the flashy with the old, etc., but again, I am applying my east coast mentality to a clearly different one here in the bay area. I guess I learned that one the hard way- and will spend a lot of time trying to understand it.I’ve got a lot to learn about the tax structure here. I worked on local tax reform in the legislature in PA and NY, so I have a base, but everything, and I mean everything is different out here.

    #33- I meant nothing personal about the shoebox houses with moldy oldy wallpaper- I was referring to the multitude of houses we didn’t buy- to me this was a bigger (read; better!) option than those we didn’t buy. I, of course, have NO way of knowing what kind of house you live in-because your house(s) have not been plastered all over the place, unlike mine. I didn’t read back enough in the archives to have a flavor for what kind of house you might live in- I wasn’t talking about you- I was talking about the houses that were in the $1.7 price range but were worse-YES WORSE-than this house on Valcartier. Btw, I wish I could remember the address of the house with naked ladies wallpaper in the hall closet…no kidding. It was actually sort of cool, in a strangely prohibition-esque kind of way. I wouldn’t make fun of it as much as point out that it was oddly cool. I was struck while house shopping that there were TONS of really small houses that were in disrepair with worse decorating than the goofy mahble kohlums in my house. I wasn’t aiming at you. It isn’t nice to feel aimed at though, is it? I sincerely think we were both saying the exact same thing- no one likes to feel like their decisions (especially one that is so difficult to reverse, like real estate decisions) are being publicly ridiculed. It feels ok to mock it yourself, tongue & cheek, but it feels altogether wrong when it comes from someone else. Enough of that for now, again, I am grateful to have been able to have this forum. It has been interesting!
    Hey, will that ‘badge’ be on my name when I post? Might be fun if so…I mean I feel like I should get a badge of courage after getting thru this… ha ha.

  36. madhaus Says:

    Well, we don’t really have badges. We have avatars. If you go to Gravatar.com you can change yours to something else. The one you have now is generated based on whatever email addy you enter.

    The naked lady wallpaper in the closet sounds like the sort of “bunus” feature that makes a crapbox of fail become #winning.

    I’m still not sure if you’re completely getting us. I am not at all offended that you called a shoebox a shoebox. Both DreamT and I were simply paying your initial reaction un peu de l’hommage. But yes, it’s different here. It’s Special. Not everywhere has million dollar crapboxes, you know.

    For what it’s worth, you did a lot better in your followup to your “you people are mean” entry than this agent did.

  37. nomadic Says:

    #35, you are absolutely right that you can see some really crappy houses at $1.7M. I’ve toured some at twice that and didn’t have the slightest envy for whoever eventually bought them. As I’ve said on here before, “every house in California is a fixer upper.”

    As for taxes, there are many here who would love it if you could spur reform. Lots of things are broken in Sacramento. As for your situation, you’ll get a revised tax bill within the first year of ownership that pegs your assessed value to purchase price. Future increases are capped at 2% per year (anyone correct me if I’m mis-remembering the details). If values fall (this NEVER happens in the RBA, haha) then you get a lower assessment but that missed opportunity to jack up your taxes is saved for better days when the gov’t can recoup that value plus new appreciation.

  38. Petsmart groomer Says:

    > having the biggest investment of my life ridiculed on the internet for the whole world to see- it didn’t scream welcome to California

    You should learn from z2amiller.

  39. SEA Says:

    It never ceases to amaze me how little the regulars know. It’s a good thing we get corrected by someone new to the area from time to time.

    “Fwiw, I met a bunch of neighbors at our yard sale this past weekend.”

    Is the Taj Mahal the best place host a yard sale? It’s almost like there was some sort of relocation deal, so all the trash was packed up and moved 3,000 miles.

    Fortunately I have not one nearby neighbor who has lined up trash in his yard trying to sell it for a buck or two here or there. Now you know, I am not your nearby neighbor.

    If I were to guess, and I have no inside information, I suspect that the $1.65M purchase is getting a bit heavy.

    Remember, “I’m eating ramen and PB&J every day, but at least I have a house.” And by house, insert “happy family with 100 pound dog.”

    It makes me wonder, is the family #31 as happy as she suggests? Hotel California?

  40. Alex Says:

    BHAHAHHAHAHAHA!!!

    So this is where the party has been! I can’t believe a buyer actually resurrected this thread.

    Carol, we’ve been bashing realtards and fcked buyers for years, way before you got here. Do not even for a second think that you’re somehow speshul.

    For someone who moved to the Bay Area from Pennsylvania, you sure aren’t very bright and drank the Kool-Aid.

    I lived in PA for a while and whenever I came home to see my family, it never ceased to amaze me the kind of fcktards around here who like to partake in the real estate Kool-Aid.

    BUy now or be priced out forever. BWAHAAHAHAHAHAAAA

  41. Carol Says:

    Nice.

  42. sprezzatura Says:

    This thread is so full of win.

    Carol, welcome to California. A very big percentage of us are transplants (I am from Connecticut myself). After 7 years you can call yourself a native like the rest of us.

    Everyone chooses their homes for different reason. You prioritized square footage over some of the other tradeoffs, as is your right. But the fact is you bought an obviously overbuilt house (and with mediocre schools to boot), you’re going to be an object of curiosity and even some ridicule from your neighbors.

    I’m sorry for your hurt feelings, but this would have happened anywhere, not just in the RBA.

  43. Alex Says:

    Carol,

    I’m curious. How the heck did you find this burbed.com listing? After all, it is an old blog entry.

    Did you have buyer’s remorse and decided to do a web search for information to validate your purchase?

  44. SEA Says:

    Buyer’s remorse? She has a happy family, dog included, and that’s all that really matters.

  45. Alex Says:

    The family may be happy but debt serfdom is no fun.

    Why protest if Carol and her husband can easily afford the payments on this house and they have money left over to enjoy life? Just enjoy the house and ignore the glances from neighboring crapshack owners and the snark from burbed.com.

    I don’t know why Carol took this burbed entry so personally. We didn’t target her. She associated this thread to somehow being unwelcomed in CA. A bit melodramatic.

  46. SEA Says:

    The question is simple: How long will the family be happy eating ramen and PB&J every day?

    I’m not going to suggest she’s made any mistake, nor do I have it on good authority that she made the right move by buying. That said, if we assume she made a mistake by purchasing this fine $1.65M dollar Taj Mahal, what’s the best exit plan?

    According to #3 this place should have sold for closer to $1.1M, so selling would suggest approximately a $600k loss, and where would she move? And moving, in and of itself, violates the very reason for purchasing this fine property. You know, “we were truly unable to rent here in the bay area, without having to move our three kids (who are in hs, ms, & ele) to different schools twice… an option that seemed worse than biting this ridiculous bullet once.”

    Sure, “it IS a huge amount of $$, but that is beside the point. Trying to figure out what would work for re-sale value was not my main focus (right or wrong in your opinion), since I did live in my previous area for 20 yrs. My main focus was trying to make a really difficult move work for my kids and trying to keep my family together.”

    So on the one hand keeping the family together is worth any cost, yet on the other hand, it IS a huge amount of $$, but that is beside the point.

    It’s not clear exactly how much more this place cost than the selling price of her old place, but she does allude to size and price issues, “I know I couldn’t replicate the house, but buying a home 4X as expensive, that would have been 1/2 the size, with nearly no yard, and no basement was a hard pill to swallow.”

    My guess is that she sold a $400k place (definitely not a lot of money in the RBA) and purchased a $1.65M place. Even if the family income went up by 4x, I doubt there is sufficient cash, given the progressive tax structure, and the additional California state income tax, and likely a higher sales tax, so now it’s about time for a third house payment, things are very, very tight financially. Furthermore, it’s not like there are any extra financial resources leftover after purchases, since she suggested, “I have financially cleared out everything that I had.”

    I know, I know, “Again, beside the point.”

    She kept her family together, but now she’s complaining about not having any money. Why else would move all your trash over 3,000 miles and sell it in the front yard of the Taj Mahal, while your neighbors poke fun at you?

    While she is expecting some grand “Welcome to California” banner be strung up between all the columns while selling trash in the yard, I have far more respect for my neighbors than to try and sell a bunch of garbage in my yard, and I don’t own the largest home.

    Given all the risk factors, compute the likelihood of a foreclosure.

  47. Alex Says:

    a home 4X as expensive, that would have been 1/2 the size, with nearly no yard, and no basement
    $1.65 million

    Ramen noodles for family of 5: $1.25

    PB & J sandwiches: $2.00

    mild weather, beautiful Indian Native American summers, ethnic food, progressive liberals, welcoming people: priceless

    Given all the risk factors, compute the likelihood of a foreclosure.

    Does not compute. Foreclosures don’t occur in the Bay Area.

  48. Banker East Says:

    Carol,

    I am in the East Coast, and this blog has made me reconsider relocating to the Bay Area. The people are indeed quite mean spirited. I didn’t do much here, and they started making personal attacks and such. Like you, I have a slightly bigger budget than some of the folks, and it didn’t take long for the mocking to set in. Not sure if people are just bitter or jealous.

  49. Facebook Investor Says:

    I am in the East Coast, and this blog has made me reconsider relocating to the Bay Area.
    ——-

    Yeahhhhhhhhh! Burbed started making impact in real world. Kudos to Burbed!!!!

  50. Alex Says:

    I am in the East Coast, and this blog has made me reconsider relocating to the Bay Area. The people are indeed quite mean spirited.

    __________________________

    Good. Stay the back in the East Coast. Enough as*holes here already.

    People here aren’t bitter or jealous. I just think there are too many idiots out there.

  51. Banker East Says:

    Idiots? Are you talking about the people who bought, or the people who did not buy?

  52. nomadic Says:

    Allow me to venture a guess: the people who claim to want to buy, but sit frozen with indecision or the inability to make a successful purchase offer for more than a year.

  53. Alex Says:

    No need to guess.

    The people who chase real estate higher, only to become debt slaves and subject themselves to PB&J or ramen meals.

  54. DreamT Says:

    I do also find the tone rather mean spirited. SEA and Alex target people and relish second-guessing their intents and situations. That’s the best way to keep this blog audience small. Why not try to be less blunt and abrasive and instead go the RE route (I mean the puppet route) – at least it’s collegial and semi-funny. You guys sound bitter more than anything else, frankly, and who wants to be around bitter people?

  55. madhaus Says:

    A New Yorker who thinks Bay Area peeps are rude? Come on, if you’re going play a New Yorker, you gotta play it believably. I got New York CPR once. I was lying on the sidewalk and a cab driver screamed at me, “Get up! Get up! You wanna fvcking die?”

  56. Alex Says:

    madhouse,

    I’m surprised he didn’t mug you and take the shirt off your back while you were down.

    Fck the East coast pricks.

    Fck the West Coast pricks.

    Damn pricks.

  57. Real Estater Says:

    What the amateurs here don’t understand is that prices catch up, meaning, even if you buy the highest priced house on the block, a few years later it will be the normal price for a regular shack down the street.

    $1.65M for a 4790 sf house on a large lot in Sunnyvale 94087 is already a bargain in today’s market. I’ve seen several new homes sell in the $1.5-$1.6M range recently. Those homes are all less than 3500 sf. Here are a couple of examples:

    http://www.redfin.com/CA/Sunnyvale/1307-Bobwhite-Ave-94087/home/40420431

    http://www.redfin.com/CA/Sunnyvale/1336-Nelson-Way-94087/home/1578804

    I don’t think the buyer is extravagant at all. Her price range is quite normal for Silicon Valley, and she got a heck of a lot of house for the money.

  58. madhaus Says:

    Speaking of amateurs, I do believe it was #57 who first alerted us to the very house under discussion, and seemed quite pleased to report that Sunnyvale now had hit “prime time.”

    No. The house never sold for two million, so by definition it was not a $2M house. Four years later it sold for 17.5% under asking. Bear that in mind when considering who is and who is not the amateur around here.

    I also believe we had a discussion about why one should NOT buy the biggest house on the block, as the upside potential rests within the smaller homes. The largest house has nowhere to go, price-wise, and in fact, this very example shows that a very large, custom-built home sold at a discount not because it was poorly designed or cheaply built, but because it was 200% bigger than every other house in the neighborhood.

  59. Real Estater Says:

    >>Four years later it sold for 17.5% under asking. Bear that in mind when considering who is and who is not the amateur around here.

    I think we talked about this, so I don’t know if you’re just trolling. The marketing strategy for such a home is different. They tend to shoot for the sky and take the best offer, as opposed to selling a shack, where they look to get multiple bidders.

    >>I also believe we had a discussion about why one should NOT buy the biggest house on the block, as the upside potential rests within the smaller homes. The largest house has nowhere to go, price-wise, and in fact, this very example shows that a very large,

    As you know, general wisdom does not always apply in the Bay Area. What does apply here, is the fact that you will be screwed if you don’t buy.

  60. Facebook Investor Says:

    We never had any doubt that Real Estater is not an amateur. […] he has vested interest in real estate market.

    Personal commentary removed –ed.

  61. Real Estater Says:

    Please remove Pralay’s post. There should be no tolerance for people who [personal commentary/attack removed].

    We prefer to edit out the personal commentary and attacks rather than remove the entire post. The same approach has been taken with other comments, as you may already be familiar. –ed.

  62. nomadic Says:

    The link in #58 has an interesting prediction (December 2008) from our old (and long absent) favorite, WillowGlenner:

    In a year or two this recession will be over.

  63. Facebook Investor Says:

    As you know, general wisdom does not always apply in the Bay Area.
    —–

    :) And the wisdom about inapplicability of general wisdom in Bay Area is coming from, as usual, Real Estate Conventional Wisdom industry.

  64. Facebook Investor Says:

    The link in #58 has an interesting prediction (December 2008) from our old (and long absent) favorite, WillowGlenner:

    I am sure you haven’t forgotten another FAMOUS prediction of 2008 – “all clear to take off“.

  65. Last post of 2012 [Burbed.com] Says:

    […] Too-big-for-the-hood Sunnyvale Spectacular, with Bunus Buyer in comments […]

  66. shandrew Says:

    Soo…2 years later, and it sold for $2.4M.

    And it lost more space! Only 4970 SF.

    As floor space approaches 0, price approaches infinity!

  67. nomadic Says:

    Lost space? It’s still listed at the same ginormous size.

    Carol (up in #31) got the last laugh. Nice appreciation in two years – up 45% with a huge overbid. I think she might’ve beaten Palo Alto.

    Too bad the high price it commanded doesn’t diminish how pretentious it looks. Maybe the new owners can remodel a bit.


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