November 9, 2015

The one true unicorn: Palo Alto



829 La Para Ave
$1,998,000 Listed at Price
1 Bed
1 Bath
180 Sq. Ft.
$11100 / Sq. Ft.
Built: 1930Lot Size: 6,886 Sq. Ft.On Redfin: 25 daysStatus: Contingent


Exciting opportunity to build your dream home in charming Barron Park neighborhood. Quiet streets in an established community. The neighborhood is home to Bol Park, bike paths, close to top Palo Alto schools, Stanford University and California Avenue with restaurants, the farmers’ market, and shopping. City of Palo Alto allows for above ground max floor area of approx. 2,816 sqft not including possible basement addition (buyer to verify with city).

Whoops, it looks like I was a bit slow on this one!

Can you blame me? Every day there’s another unicorn popping up. Money is overflowing! It’s hard to keep track when every house is going up 100% per year!

This Palo Alto house represents the best of Silicon Valley growth. From just 180 sqft  for $1.998M, this will inevitably rocket to a 2816 sqft house that will be valued at $30M.

It’s only a matter of time before houses in Silicon Valley also become unicorns and reach the $1B price.

The only question is – how can we make this happen even sooner?

So, my question to you is this: What are you doing to help The Real Bay Area™ house prices climb even higher?

Comments (83) -- Posted by: burbed @ 5:53 am

83 Responses to “The one true unicorn: Palo Alto”

  1. Bill Lumberg Says:

    “this will inevitably rocket to a 2816 sqft house that will be valued at $30M.”

    Will need to add a basement to get the square footage up, but it’s not that far fetched.

  2. nomadic Says:

    The elementary school has a “7” rating… kind of shitty for a $2M lot, isn’t it? I guess the new owners will have to send their snowflakes to private schools.

    Love the Redfin agent’s comments: Below average size of lot for Barron Park with couple of big trees in the middle of it. You can build your modest size dream home if you can solve that problem.

    What’s to solve? A chainsaw will “solve” the problem in about ten minutes.

  3. Pedro Alvarez Says:


    I should get that cushy job as a Director/VP at Google and Facebook to buy that prime home in Palo Alto.

    I have Comp A+ certification. Will Google/Facebook hire me for a director job?

  4. Alex in San jose Says:

    And it’s totally like, a million dollars! Never mind that -998,000 on the end, its totally only a mil!

    Are we going to go back to putting lots of 8’s in prices again this go-around? Because that would be kinda cool.

  5. 2million$shack Says:

    Barron Park is actually a pretty good elementary school. Lower income students from the nearby trailer park (that maybe torn down soon bring down the scores but the teachers/facilities are comparable to other PA schools.

    In the RBA, many large trees are considered heritage trees and can’t be taken down without a fight with the city and neighbors. So unfortunately, a chainsaw most likely won’t solve that problem. I have heard of trees causing major delays in redevelopment projects in the RBA. An extra 6 months+ of holding costs and possibly having to design your new home around the tree.

  6. 2million$shack Says:

    Here’s how much PA loves trees. They are ok with risking a gas explosion to keep them.

  7. Bill Lumberg Says:

    “Are we going to go back to putting lots of 8’s in prices again this go-around? Because that would be kinda cool.”

    With China continuing to crack down on both grifting and capital flight, the old 888,888 trick and the lucky red door trick aren’t as effective anymore.

  8. Alex in San jose Says:

    I think as long as the gas explosion only kills some proles, the owning class in Palo Alto would have no problem with it. Just bury the dismembered limbs etc under the rose bushes – recycling! – and buy some more proles.

  9. madhaus Says:

    Tree in the middle of the lot? Just use the Eichler solution: an atrium. Unlike the Eichlers that eventually enclosed those larger spaces, this atrium is staying outdoors (and therefore wasted space).

    Oh hell, if a chainsaw can’t solve this problem, an exploding furnace (that conveniently takes down the trees, also the whole house) sure can.

  10. KikiSC Says:

    We’re doing our part for RBA prices by remodeling to age in place. After a 2 year search for a house I like more than the one we have we decided to do the first major work on a 70-yo home. Warming! This is an un-cheap process!

    Just remember, it’s not the journey, it’s the destination. Seriously.

  11. Dewane Says:

    A new entry! Welcome back Burbed/Madhaus! We missed you.

    The price is two mil, not one mil, and it hasn’t gone pending yet. Maybe some cooling going on?

    We’re not too far (like a mile) from a large high-pressure pipeline. You can see it along Calaveras at the McCarthy Ranch stores, behind the In-N-Out.

  12. Alex in San Jose Says:

    Dawane – No, no, no. It’s just a “hair” over 1 mil. Don’t pay attention to all the 9’s.

    Source: At one time, I had a try at selling used blue jeans at the swapmeet. I found if I put $4.99 instead of $5 on a pair, people would literally say out loud, “These are only four dollars”. I doubt much more thinking than that goes into buying a house in the RBA.

    Also, welcome back Madhaus.

  13. Petsmart groomer Says:

    We’re still #1!

  14. nomadic Says:

    You bet we are!

  15. Alex in San jose Says:

    I’ve long said that the way the San Jose economy works is, half the population works for the government especially the prison system, law enforcement etc. Those people make an average of $100k a year. The other half are effectively destitute, living on welfare, food stamps, recycling cans, etc. Those folks have an average I come of $0.

    Add it all up, and you get the official figure of an average income of $50kk in San Jose.

    Spend some time downtown here and see if my theory doesn’t fit your observations.

    Yeah we have a few techies but they’re basically a rounding error in the scheme of things.

  16. 2million$shack Says:

    Transaction fell through. It’s not too late to buy this beauty!

  17. Real Estater Says:

    Get more bang for the buck.

  18. Bill Lumberg Says:

    “Part of the prestigious Palo Alto School District.”

    Well I’m sold!!!

  19. BayFan Says:
    At your own risk – Schools …………………….

  20. Dewane Says:

    I lived in downtown for more than 20 years, and that hypothesis is uninformed. Downtown has a homeless problem, and a lot of halfway houses, but it was much, much worse when I got here in 1983 – first street was bars, adult book stores, seedy night clubs, and the Pussycat Theater. No high-rise apartments and condos, no Fairmont Hotel. I have never heard of any police officers living downtown – they would usually live in cheaper places like Tracy and commute here. I knew a few SJSU profs who rented in Naglee Park, and a city librarian who lives on Sixth Street. Tech is what drives the valley, and this has been true at least since I moved here in 1983. Every job I’ve had since I’ve graduated involved tech in some way. Even when I was going to school and working as a security guard, that was guarding Priam, an old Winchester drive company on first and Montague. I did get a County check when I worked in Clark Library and the Reserve Book Room at SJSU. A lot of starving students downtown as well. And they closed ABC, F&P, and Charlie’s liquors, the Dugout, and Lenny’s, although I believe that Caravan and Cinebar are still around for the slumming students and full-time drunks. Still has a lot of the same problems, but nothing like it used to be.

  21. Alex in San jose Says:

    Dawayne – Tech is only a few per cent of jobs here, and most “tech” jobs don’t pay any better than working in a warehouse. In fact, is sooner recommend warehouse work to a young person because there’s actual advancement for competent people.

    The golden words here are Government and Unionized.

    What really makes SJ go is the university (government) city state and federal government, people visiting from out of town (mostly involved with government-fed tech junk) and the fact that lawyers and government workers and students (on government loans) like to eat good food.

    TL;DR: Tech is almost entirely a myth and a boondoggle,if you want good pay in SJ, follow the money to the source.

  22. Gallileo Says:

    Still available. Somebody buy this thing ASAP. Think of the poor saps at Google whose houses aren’t appreciating 10% a year!

  23. Dewane Says:

    One place where that’s really true about government jobs is in Oakland. The high-tech boom kind of passed them by – there is the games company (EA I think) in Alameda, and Pandora is based in Oakland, but that’s it. Most people with decent jobs either work for the city, for Alameda County, or for Cal Berkeley, or commute over the bridge. It’s really not balanced up there. Downtown SJ is really an outlier. Back to real estate: If I had money, I’d buy an apartment complex there in downtown, one of those three-story ones along Margaret or Reed, as you have the constant influx of students, not matter what happens to the macro-economy. In fact, more people go back to school to retrain when the economy tanks. Without SJSU, downtown would be the Tenderloin.

  24. Alex in San jose Says:

    Dawayne – I think we’re on the same sheet of music here. It’s government that makes San Jose go, and I’m going to include tech in this because tech companies are allowed to not pay taxes, and to import foreign workers and pay them a fraction of what Americans make – this last sanctioned by the government.

    I was born here in California but, because of a very poor decision by my parents, grew up in Hawaii. There, white people don’t get to get government jobs. Not teacher, bus driver, post office, nothing. I finally got the hell out of there when I was about 24. If I’d grown up here, I’d have gotten a sweet job with the DMV or a water treatment plant or something.

  25. Bill Lumberg Says:

    EA is in Redwood Shores.

  26. Alex in San jose Says:

    Dewane – It’s always good to bet on students. As long as there’s the trope that going to college is something worth doing, the young and foolish will borrow a ton and want a nice apartment to study in.

  27. Chris Kringle Says:

    Too funny:

    Sign of the top?

  28. Alex in San jose Says:

    BARP lol!

  29. nomadic Says:

    So, Real Estater, how are your Chinese investments holding up? Still feeling good about their government protecting you from losses and doubling down now that prices are lower?

  30. Dewane Says:

    Boom! Looks like the hard landing in mainland China is finally happening, like it should have in 2008. Xi Jinping is a reactionary who is taking away the tiny freedoms that were given during the Deng Xiaoping years. It’s possible that the jails there will be even more full than they are now.

    No Chinese I know of were investing in China – every single one I know took a bath at some time or another. I hear nothing but horror stories from my wife – I mean nobody makes any money there.

    My wife and I are waiting for the Yuan to get to 8, then we’ll probably buy an apartment next to her parents in the extreme north (Dongbei). People up there are really friendly and “Laowei” like me are a real novelty. Retirement is stacking up to be kind of interesting.

  31. michael Says:

    Looks the useless internet 2.0 stocks are headed down. Once those crack real estate will not be far behind.

  32. nomadic Says:

    So what’s new? By some measures, China has entered its 3rd bear market since June. Whee.

    And then there’s this:

    Looks like more dirty money is on the way to keep prices rising around here – for now.

  33. maryjane Says:

    The results from NH are coming in and the Revolution is coming. It’s time to start building a wall around Palo Alto.

  34. Calixto Says:

    As I look around me at the stunningly high prices and the now silent bubblesphere, I sometimes stop and wonder how did we get here? In 2008 the world was ours, all we had to do was sit back wait keep our powder dry and wait for the prime moment to buy.

    We were like cattle on these websites as prices came down, staring them in the eye. Now they’re back up to bubble highs as no one here made a move. Your chance is gone. Atherton, MP, PA, its just not going down.

    I admit defeat. I should of bought 2009 or 2010. But I listened to the masses telling me about hidden bank inventories and the upcoming price crushing Tsunami. What a bunch of BS. Those banks are not sitting on many homes. Not on the peninsula. I think the financial mess is in other non desirable states and cities. Like Detroit. Around here no way.

    I had the opportunity of a lifetime in 09-10 and I took a dump on it. I used to mock the concept of being priced out forever. Now, I live it.

  35. maryjane Says:

    It’s true. Some prices are never going to fall because they’re in desired locations and there are just more people wanting to live there. I have pictures of La Jolla in the 50’s. The hills above the beach are empty. Everything is empty. Now every piece of usable land has a multi-million dollar house on it. Unless there is an unforeseeable mass exodus these towns are going to be even more expensive. People can hold onto the thought that the residents of Detroit never expected the automobile industry to abandon the city in the massive way it did and that houses did become very affordable but as long as the jobs are here, real estate is going to become even more pricy.

  36. dollarbin Says:

    Have we reached the top of the mountain yet? I’m seeing <1000 sq ft houses on smaller lots on the market. Will the lucky holder of $2.38M be satisfied with a 5500 sq ft lot, because there's only so much McMansion you can squeeze in. Or perhaps they will be bask in the warming glow of spending $2500/sq ft.

  37. maryjane Says:

    I’ve been noticing reductions of millions in homes that were listed in the 8 figures. That is a rarified market, though. But there was an article in the paper the other day about a house in SF listed for under $1 million – and it was livable! Yes, that actually made the paper. I think some of the steam is going out of the craziness and maybe prices are going to even out for a while but I don’t see a drop in price in the places where people want to live. There’s only so much housing available in nice neighborhoods and near jobs. Until they find a way to ship tech jobs overseas we’re going to have people who are willing to pay up.

  38. Up Up and AWAY Says:

    This time it will be different. BA real estate is immune to any and all world financial events. The BA is special and so unique that the value of 1950s crap shacks will only appreciate with time. All of those billionaires from China need somewhere to park their money.

    Pathetic. Just wait. But of course the people on this (and all other RE boards) are just gullible.

    Unicorn farts don’t stink, right?

  39. Bill Lumberg Says:

    I think Calixto is right, it’s different this time. ; )

  40. Akumal Real Estate Says:

    I agree with Calixto

  41. nomadic Says:

    Flipping houses is back to a national pastime.

  42. Petsmart groomer Says:

    And this house is not sold yet. What’s happening??

  43. Bill Lumberg Says:

    Price just needs more 8s.

  44. nomadic Says:

    Still not sold, but the agent has gotten more creative with the listing photos.

  45. Bill Lumberg Says:

    I have a Maserati, not a Panamera, so I’m having difficulty visualizing this.

  46. Dewane Says:

    Is that house from Second Life? I love the way the tree just pokes out of the corner of the house – not even trying to blend it in. Also, that needs to be a Tesla, or if it’s a Porsche, that hideous SUV thing they make, which seem to be the new d-bag cars.

  47. 2million$shack Says:

    Still pending! This blog is dead. Any other housing blog recommendations?

  48. Real Estator Says:

    This blog is dead because the premise it was based on has been defeated. For a real real estate forum, check out Redfin:

  49. maryjane Says:

    There’s still a lot to write about. We just need a conversation starter. This page hasn’t been updated in six months. I wonder which Presidential candidate will do the most to make housing affordable? Will Trump build some beautiful, really classy houses for those of us who are non-Hispanic? Will Bernie create housing blocks reminiscent of Eastern Europe during the cold war? Maybe Hillary will give a few lectures on how to give lectures so everyone can turn into a millionaire overnight. Or will Cruz tell us how his father didn’t have a house when he left Cuba and we just need to work harder and pray more? Personally, I can’t wait to see if Bernie campaigns in Palo Alto.

  50. Dewane Says:

    This one is good. The house is decent, but that picture needs to go a little bit to the right – the neighbor is a hoarder who feeds the ducks and birds around there. The fowl get free target practice, and you get a hoarder who is there 100% of the time as a neighbor. I believe he is a retired policeman, because of the two non-functional police cars in the driveway. He like Mustangs too – he has a dead one parked next to the house above.

    You’re right RE, the Redfin site is pretty good – right away I see this castle with a glorified trailer on it, the kind of stuff I used to see here:

    He currently has two used tires in his front yard with a big sign that says “FREE”. They are now filled up with water from the rains, so mosquito infestation comes for free!

  51. Steve Says:

    Palo Alto Real estate market is insane!

  52. nomadic Says:

    Too bad the site is dead. This listing was kind of amazing – basically a 14k sf lot was sold with a teardown for $3M in Los Altos. Big win for taxes (and the heirs) though!

  53. Bill Lumberg Says:

    Here’s a good one. Sold for $1.35m Apr 11 2014, on the market two years later for $1.595m. Didn’t sell. Owner is now will to take a loss at $1,098,888. With that price, it’s almost like he’s praying to some Chinese god to take this POS off his hands.

  54. Bill Lumberg Says:

    Check out this listing. Note the horribly photoshopped first image to partially remove overhead power lines. Wow.

  55. deertick Says:

    Its interesting that as of today a report came out that as of now prices in the Bay Area have surpassed the peak of the last housing bubble. Interesting because back in the last period there were 100’s of blogs like this one and each one filled with 100’s of comments per post.

    I was one of those folks and in many ways it was therapeutic. It helped people express their frustration. As someone who bought 5 years ago during the recession now I see the other side and honestly, I find today’s bubble just as troubling as I did back then when I rented.

    A good 60-70% of my friends and family who live here rent. Most of them have had their rents increased and in some cases dramatically. A few are seriously close to not being able to afford to live here despite making a decent income. Buying is out of the question: they can’t compete with the dramatic over asking bidding wars nor the all-cash offers. If my friends move away then that would be tragic.

    At some point if this continues the entire bay area will turn into one big Palo Alto. Just one big hoity-toity suburb with bimmers, expensive espresso and all the phony crap that comes with it. A place utterly devoid of charm or character. Personally I’d have no interest in living in such an area.

    So as much as this would probably not benefit me… we need a crash. Yes, I said it alright. We need another good ole’ fashion recession or some other economic malady to help reset things once again. Sure. 2007-09 were tough. I lost my job for 5 months and it was miserable. But it also crashed prices and the cost of living back down to at least somewhat more reasonable levels and for a brief 1-2 years provided a window for “ordinary” people to actually get into the market.

  56. maryjane Says:

    deertick –

    I bought a house in 2011 that today I could never afford. In retrospect it looks like I did a brilliant thing but at the time I didn’t know if prices would continue to crash and I’d lose my entire down payment. It easily could have gone either way. I’ve decided that California real estate depends on a whole lot of luck. The people who talk about having timed the market are lying. No one, other than real estater, of course, have a clue. Real people can’t live here anymore. You’re either very rich or very poor or very lucky.

  57. deertick Says:

    I didn’t see the purchase as a genius move either. Simply put there was a very brief period where average rent and mortgages were at a parity and thus it made financial sense to buy.

    I guess what I’d offer as advice for people is that historically speaking the bay area is prone to crashing and booming in rapid succession and its almost like clockwork. I fully anticipate a crash within the next few years because it seems that just when things become too crazy and everyone talks about how expensive it is then a crash comes along and “resets” everything. As things are now there is no way in hell I would buy. But for those looking to buy I’d say to have patience and save your money. The current market isn’t sustainable and what comes up most come down.

  58. Ho lee fuk Says:

    You buy now. 5 dolla real estate be 5 dolla times 1 billion two years. You buy now.

  59. BayFan Says:

    Already seeing a plateau and in some cases price drop. This is in Cupertino, Saratoga and surrounding areas.
    New listings / builders in Mountain View and Sunnyvale have also dropped prices…
    Are others seeing the same? What about other areas?

  60. Melissa Says:

    Man, reading this entire thread really makes me want to move to San Jose…

  61. deertick Says:

    Certainly not really slowing down over here in the east bay it seems. There have been probably 5 houses that have come up for sale in my neighborhood ( Alameda ) and they all went pending the first week. That said the most expensive areas typically do fall first and that in turn creates a domino effect throughout other parts of the bay. Thus we will have to see.

  62. Skippy Says:

    Here’s a $5.5 million teardown:

  63. Real Estater Says:

    How about $10 million tear down?

    I saw the SOLD sign today.

  64. Real Estater Says:


    Just goes to show everything you’ve ever said has been wrong.

    Most expensive area fall first? Are you joking me? During the banking crisis East Bay was crushed, while Palo Alto was the last to fall and first to recover.

  65. deertick Says:

    Sorry RE but you’re incorrect. Had I taken your advice back in 2007-2008 I would’ve taken a huge haircut. But since I waited and saved I wound up paying 50% less and now that prices are back up, I’ve ( on paper ) ” Made” 500k.

  66. Real Estater Says:

    Great news about the Chinese consumer:

    Huge growth opportunity in China:

    Folks, the analysis comes from the pros at McKinsey! The Bay Area is going to be the beneficiary for the upcoming boom through 2030. You don’t have to do anything. Simply own a Bay Area home and live in it. It doesn’t matter much where either. Even EPA starts at $700K already.

  67. MissUnderstood Says:

    So bummed that this blog is dead! I used to read it sporadically and came back today after several months to find it hasn’t been updated since November. Anyone know why?

    In the meantime, here’s an interesting piece I saw posted in the comments section of an SFGate real estate article:

  68. burbed Says:

    > Anyone know why?

    ‘cuz I had a lot of other things going on. And I got lazy/tired after so many years.

  69. Real Estater Says:

    Not sure what is the author of the SF Gate article smoking. Employment going down? LOL. All of the tech companies in town (Google, FB, Apple, you name it) are expected to grow their staff significantly over the next couple of years. Even a stagnant job market will take housing down? Really? Where are all the people going to live?

  70. Squanto Says:

    >>”‘cuz I had a lot of other things going on. And I got lazy/tired after so many years.”<<

    You should add some guest bloggers.

  71. DreamT Says:

    Those guest bloggers get older, lazy and tired too 🙂
    Years without inventory and now entirely predictable price curve. There isn’t much to say any longer. Most of us legacy contributors are homeowners anyway. The newcomers are completely shut out. Really, what else is there to say?

  72. nomadic Says:

    What else is there to say? How about Bubble Part 3 (or 10 or whatever)? I’m surprised no one has mentioned the return of zero down loans in Silicon Valley.

    Great way to sucker in newbies and saddle them with a huge mortgage while they still think everyone here becomes a millionaire.

  73. edvard Says:

    Let’s face it: people don’t really use blogs much anymore. Its so…. 2005, or back when the last housing bubble was raging.

    Its interesting too that if I talk to people who are the age I was during the old bubble hardly any are talking about buying a home. Its totally unfeasible. Prices have simply gone well beyond what any of them could possibly ever afford.

    Additionally interesting of note is that at least in my neighborhood the last few larger homes that sold have then become occupied by HUGE families. As in Mom, Dad, the adult sons and daughters and even sometimes their own wives and husbands move in. It reminds me of Hawaii where its so expensive that instead of moving out, the kids simply stick around or the parents add on a room.

    When will this bubble end? Its hard to tell. Its all so very fluffy out there right now: big bubbly tech and big bubbly housing market. For some of the old timers like me we’ve seen this before. Then again I’ve been here for close to 20 years and many of those coming here now haven’t a clue at just how drastic and sudden fortunes can change. My gut suggests another 1999-2000 era meltdown but when is anyone’s guess.

  74. Real Estater Says:

    There is so much good news in the Bay Area it’s unbelievable. Jobs have well surpassed dot com figures:

    Walk down Castro street in Mountain View for dinner any night, and it’s almost like in New York, except the people are younger and smarter!

    If you’re a relatively new comer to the Bay Area, the goal should be to beat the crowd and buy a house ahead of all of the other newcomers, and the newcomers-to-come. We are #1 and the rest of the country knows it!

  75. edvard Says:

    Ahhh… ” this time is differnt”. Where have we heard that before? I’m also familiar with another phrase: ” The higher the rise the harder the fall.”

  76. Squanto Says:

    Slight price cut on this lot. Now listed for $1.848 million. Property sale is being managed by a “Real Estate Evangelist”:

  77. Squanto Says:

    Tomorrow is the 1 year anniversary of the last update to this blog! And the lot still hasn’t sold.

  78. Howdy Says:

    Collapse has started – brace yourself…

  79. SEA Says:

    It’s been so long…

  80. Squanto Says:


    Looks like they built a 5 BR house on the lot.

  81. Scottinfukie Says:

    That’s 833 La Para, not 829…

  82. dollarbin Says:

    Here’s a listing with some lovely Realtard poetry (quoted below in case somebody actually proof-reads the listing):

    “Nestled in the very quite and safe Monta Loma Neighborhood, this rare property acquisition opportunity is perfect for any family or investor looking for a property that holds astounding high qualities within every aspect a Home can have.”

    Keep earning that 3%, you’re doing a bang up job!

  83. Squanto Says:

    You’re right. 829 La Para still hasn’t sold. Listing removed in 2016.

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