August 12, 2012

Send not to know for whom the house Tolls… it took thy deposit

120808-producersRemember the basic premise of The Producers?  If you oversell interest in a Broadway show, and then deliberately produce the worst musical you can, none of your investors will complain when they lose all their money… and you keep their 40,000% ownership.  So our intrepid producer duo went off in search of the worst script they could find, and… hilarity ensues.

So why hasn’t anyone tried this idea with real estate as well?  Maybe it’s because not enough in the industry figured out the same trick: in a market downturn you can make more money not selling houses than you can selling them.  Read on to know it Tolls for thee.

How did Toll Brothers survive the housing slump? By keeping buyers’ deposits

By Matthias Gafni, Contra Costa Times
Posted:   07/27/2012 09:12:51 AM PDT, Updated: 07/27/2012 05:00:58 PM PDT

120808-tollbros-lotAs newly minted empty-nesters, Daven Sharma and his wife, Anu, spent 2010 searching for a spot for their dream house with views of San Francisco Bay. They found it in the Hayward hills, within a Toll Brothers development.

Shortly after plunking down about $100,000 in deposits, the couple’s dream fizzled. The Sharmas lost not only the house, but their deposit, attorney and arbitration fees — and a sense of justice.

Critics say and records show that Pennsylvania-based Toll Brothers — the nation’s largest luxury homebuilder, with developments in Contra Costa, Alameda, Santa Clara and San Mateo counties — has made it a regular practice to collect forfeited deposits from prospective homebuyers. In fact, it was the builder’s No. 1 source of profit during the down years of the housing market, according to a Maryland class action lawsuit.

From fiscal years 2006 to 2011, according to its own SEC reports, the publicly traded company retained $123 million in forfeited deposits from 3,300 prospective homebuyers.

120808-tollbros-sharmaRead that again: during the housing slump, the number one source of profit was forfeited deposits.  At least that’s what one lawsuit says.

There are 155,000 results for the search Toll Brothers LawsuitThis website has quite a story to tell.  While it’s about severe construction problems, the other part of the story is the lengths their attorneys would go to to avoid fixing the house.  Ellen Nevens has been fighting Toll Brothers for twelve years.  That’s a lot of time and effort to build a house badly and then not fix it.  It would be much easier to not build it in the first place. 

And that’s what happened to Daven and Anu Sharma when they put a $98K deposit on a Hayward hills homesite in a Toll Brothers community.  The Sharmas found out what many others have previously experienced: the sales contract has little flexibility on loan funding.  And if, or maybe we should say when, the loan isn’t funded, the contract says no loan means Toll keeps the deposit.  The Sharmas indeed lost in arbitration, plus they had to pay another $5600 in fees.

120808-producers-posterJim Daman had to sue to get some of his $104K deposit back on a home in Danville.  When Toll Brothers didn’t build his house within the promised six months, he watched its market value sink.  He eventually settled for $70K.   Compared to the Sharmas, he did well.  Someone the corporation won the arbitration, claiming that customization had been done and they had outlays.  Yet the photo of the dirt lot above is all that was in place when the Sharmas cancelled their contract because their current house didn’t sell.

Here’s the contract language that one attorney called confusing, Daman called “99.9 percent in their favor” and another tried diagramming on a whiteboard to understand it:

Buyer’s failure to fulfill any of such conditions or the termination or expiration of the mortgage commitment after it is received, for any reason, shall not release Buyer from its obligations under the Agreement.

120808-tollbros-arundelA latter attorney notes that Toll offered some of his Pennsylvania clients loan commitments with conditions that made no financial sense, such as amounts far larger than the agreed sales price.  When buyers balked, then Toll would keep the deposit, claiming they were in breach.

“They can make more money by not building the house,” he said.

While the Sharma’s Arundel Drive homesite is not listed, this nearby home on Stonebrae Road is.  It looks quite lovely when photographed with a sunset, and it’s “within the gates of TPC Stonebrae Country Club.”  According to the virtual tour, the builder is not Toll Brothers, but a firm called True Life Communities who seem to be avoiding any hint of describing themselves with specifics.

But given the story of the Sharmas and their Arundel Drive site being so nearby, we assumed it was the same community.  (In fact there are several different builders.)  And if you buy this house you’ll have quite the run of neighbors to entertain!

120808-stonebrae-satellite

Comments (4) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:19 am






June 28, 2012

Alameda Gold Coast: Pay lots of gold while your agent coasts

Get out your FasTrak box, we’re crossing over to the East Bay today!  Thanks very much to Burbed reader J from Alameda, who reminds us that anyplace, no matter how unlike the RBA, can be Burbed-worthy.  Remember, if a property is in the Bay Area, it can be Burbed too!

J sent us a Zillow link, so that’s what we’re using. And that’s because we’re still really annoyed that Redfin stopped linking to us without explanation, but still emblazons “Bloggers, have you written about this property?” on every listing. So what are we, Redfin, chopped liver?

1629 San Antonio
Alameda, CA 94501
$649,000

120627-sanantonio-zillow

120627-sanantonio-frontBeds: 4
Baths: 2
Sqft: 2,371
Lot: 6,000 sq ft / 0.14 acres
Type: Single Family
Year built: 1970
Last sold: Oct 1998 for $375,000 —
Parking: —
Cooling: —
Heating: —
Fireplace: —
On Zillow: 42 days
Other facts
Construction quality: 6.0
County: Alameda
Last remodel year: 1971
120627-sanantonio-tableLegal description: MAP 58 PG 99 LOT 1
Parcel #: 072 031400502
Per floor sqft: 2,371 2,
Total rooms: 8
# Stories: 2
Structure type: Other
Unit cnt: 1
Zillow Home ID: 24861486

Affordable, Contemporary, Gold Coast Home

 

 

120627-sanantonio-steps

Here’s why J sent in this Alameda amazement.

Not RBA but perhaps Burbed worthy. So, it’s a partially finished remodel – not new news that someone ran out of money.

However, the photos. It’s sort of ‘staged’ – table in dining room, cabinet in living room, bed in bedroom (did not have time to get the comforter on right). The stair photo – written on the top stair is ‘keep out’. Finally, the lovely wall mounted fire extinguisher near the window in the other bedroom. Fascinating what an agent does, or does not bother to do.

You know what that lonely table in the dining room reminds us of?  Those abandoned real estate as art photos by Edgar Martins.  The bedroom photos are suggestive of his work as well.  Here are the two J mentioned above.

120627-sanantonio-comforter120627-sanantonio-extinguisher

Plus this was an awesome opportunity to break out the RED ARROW toolkit.

 

Comments (28) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:04 am

April 22, 2012

Happy Birthday Dear Earth Day, Happy Birthday to You

120421-earth-dayToday is the 43rd Earth Day, so thank you Senator Gaylord Nelson (D-WI)!  How should Burbed celebrate Earth Day?  Let’s talk green houses. 

Hold your stones, I don’t mean glass houses.  I mean green, as in sustainable.  Green as in energy efficiency.  Green as in non-polluting, or at least less polluting.  And green as in whatever you left in the fridge is no longer before its time.

Berkeley architect attains enegy [sic] self-sufficiency in 1,800-square-foot home

Michael Freeze, BlockShopper.com, on SFGate.com
Sunday, April 15, 2012

120421-camelia-office

When Chris Parlette, an architect by trade, went green with his Berkeley home, holding back wasn’t an option.

Parlette took his 800-square-foot home, built in 1920, and turned it into a solar-powered building that spanned more than 1,800 square feet. He described his idea of green residential living as a way of pushing the envelope to energy efficiency.

"Being an architect, I spent of lot time thinking of what I wanted to do with other clients’ houses," Parlette said of his home, located at 1147 120421-camelia-kitchenCamelia St. "Gelling these architectural ideals I had, I wanted to put it into practice with this home with mainly solar and green ideas."

A 3.2-kilowatt photovoltaic solar electric system in the form of panels brings power to the home, and it actually provides more electricity than Parlette needs. Aside from the abundance of power, the home, he rightfully noted, also is aesthetically pleasing.

There’s glass aplenty in this Berkeley home, and you’ll definitely hit the solar panels if you toss rocks at the roof.

120421-camelia-outsideYou can see more about the home over on the agent’s website, and there are even more pictures if you head over to Redfin and admire the listing.  But rather than splat out the nitty gritty details ($799K), let’s just use this house to start a discussion on how energy efficient your own home is, or is not.

Newer homes are not necessarily greener, either.  Not only is a lot of new construction done with shoddy materials and plenty of corner-cutting, but isn’t it greener to move into an existing home rather than have a new one built for you?  There are over 1.1 million empty dwelling units in California per the 2010 Census.  That’s 8.1 percent of all California homes.

Are you considering any energy improvements such as better insulation or putting in solar panels?  Is your house a lean, clean, green machine or is it a giant carbon sink?

Discuss your home, or particularly good or bad examples of sustainable energy in homes, or how you’re celebrating Earth Day, or anything else you’d like in this Open Thread.

Comments (14) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:09 am

April 16, 2012

Castro Valley Value is in the Land. And the Vehicle.

This site does not get out to the East Bay enough.  Thanks very much to Burbed reader Jeremy from Hayward for doing the legwork for us, with this vintage villa in Castro Valley.  Remember, if you want us to cover more hella-fine houses from your hometown, be sure to send some in!

Today’s house is one you may be able to pick up with your income tax refund.  Now who says there isn’t affordable housing in the Bay Area?

5939 E Castro Valley Blvd
Castro Valley, CA 94552
$199,900

120413-castro-redfin

BEDS: 3
BATHS: 1
SQ. FT.: 1,390
$/SQ. FT.: $144
LOT SIZE: 1.74 Acres
TYPE: Detached
STYLE: Contemporary
STORIES: 2
YEAR BUILT: 1900
COMMUNITY: Castro Valley
COUNTY: Alameda
MLS#: 40567572
SOURCE: EBRD
STATUS: Active
ON REDFIN: 16 days

Bank Owned !!! CONTRACTOR Special !!! Home needs Extensive repairs or may need to be torn down. LOT’s of POTENTIAL for this 1.75 acre lot.

120413-castro-additionHere’s why Jeremy sent us this classic structure:

All I can say is Best. Addition. Ever!!!

No Kitchen? Need extra space? No problem! In the East Bay we just knock out a wall and drive our RV up next to the house, some duct tape, and viola! Mama’s new kitchen!

Oi….at least it’s not $1million!

120413-castro-rv-parkedThis has got to be a whole new level of WTFness, even if it didn’t have that lovely support post right next to the RV entrance.

Here’s another view of the RV.

Hoe.  Leigh.  Crap.

Jeremy followed up with:

Do you get a break on a combined auto/home policy for this?

120413-castro-rv-doorDo you pay property tax or car registration?

It is pretty spectacular. Loving the retro dwell-ready colors on the RV as well….

Be sure to head over to the listing, because there are plenty more photos, although most are of the house without an RV parked in the middle of it.

Lot’s of POTENTIAL, indeed.  Too bad the listing doesn’t specify if the RV stays.

Bunus: Location, location, location!

120413-castro-satellite

Comments (21) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:09 am

February 14, 2012

This house is ready for a Valentines Day date

If you’ve been a long-time reader of this blog, you may remember that burbed (our founder and long-time content creator) had this thing for pink houses.  So the site occasionally would dig up a pink house for Valentines Day.  This year, we found an even better listing for celebrating a day for lovers.  It’s all set up for a Special date you won’t forget!  Many thanks to Burbed reader The Maggadads for this fantastic find from Fremont!

2116 JACKSON St
Fremont, CA 94539
$894,950

120212-jackson-redfin

BEDS: 3
BATHS: 3.5
SQ. FT.: 1,824
$/SQ. FT.: $491
LOT SIZE: 0.28 Acres
TYPE: Detached
STYLE: Ranch
STORIES: 1
VIEW: Hills, Mountains
YEAR BUILT: 1963
COMMUNITY: Mission San Jose
COUNTY: Alameda
MLS#: 40538102
SOURCE: EBRD
STATUS: Active
ON REDFIN: 186 days

Mission schools! 12,110 sq. ft. lot, 1-story. $50k spent on 2011 remodeling kitchen, baths, carpet, tile, french doors & lighting, dual pane, AC & backyard. Built-in 50’s Diner theme- pool cabana/antique western town, 6-car garage w/ 1/2 bath, pool w/ water fall, new lawn & sprinklers. Not a REO/SS!

120212-jackson-dinerHere’s what The Maggadads thought of this place with $50K spent on 2011 remodeling:

I just started reading your blog. Although I take a minor offense to the jabs you poke at Fremont, I couldn’t help but send you this listing.

I’m not sure which is cooler…the 50s themed diner or the western-themed fence. At least it has a 6-car garage!

120212-jackson-western-fenceWait, let me check, is this a house for sale, or a commercial property?  Because while it’s always good to have a space for entertaining a crowd, a 50s themed diner wasn’t exactly at the top of my list in must-haves for an 1,800 square foot house.

But a 50s themed diner AND a western themed fence, both!  I can die now.  What a Valentines Day you’ll have!  And if your date isn’t successful, one of you can retire to the six-car garage.

Well, this is one of those good news/better news situations.  The good news is yes indeed, this house is in a 100% residential district and there is no danger that one of your neighbors will be opening up a 40s themed diner to compete with yours (and incidentally use up all the street parking).  The better news is, well, location, location, location!

120212-jackson-satellite-photo

Comments (14) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:02 am

February 6, 2012

Need more land? It’s under the newspaper

Nothing is better than this street number for your next residence!  Thanks very much to Burbed reader sonarrat for this find in beautiful Hayward.

0 Chronicle
Hayward, CA 94542
$80,000

120205-redfin-0-chronicle

BEDS: –
BATHS: –
SQ. FT.: –
LOT SIZE: 5,800 Sq. Ft.
TYPE: Lots & Land
COMMUNITY: Hayward Hills
COUNTY: Alameda
MLS#: 40534298
SOURCE: EBRD
STATUS: Active
ON REDFIN: 204 days

Located high in the Hayward Hills. Non Tract area to build your home. Need more land? Home next door which is part of the Trust may be purchased for addtional money to live in while you build your home.

No photo, no map, no bedrooms, no bathrooms, not even a house number.  Sheesh.  For some reason ZipRealty was able to locate the street when Redfin failed.

 

120205-ziprealty-0-chronicle

Here’s where this mysterious Chronicle is, right around the corner from Tribune and Call! 

120205-map-0-chronicle

What’s the name of this Non Tract area, Dead Tree Terrace? Fishwrap Farms? 20th Century Media Meadows?  And where’s the “addtional money to live in”?

Comments (4) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:09 am

February 3, 2012

Castles in the Air… or at least in Castro Valley

Here’s another vaguely castle-like home from Burbed reader Tracy.  See how many castle-ish amenities you can identify.

5345 WILLOW GLEN Pl
Castro Valley, CA 94546
$790,000

120202-5435-wg-cv

BEDS:5
BATHS: 4
SQ. FT.: 5,180
$/SQ. FT.: $153
LOT SIZE: 0.5 Acres
TYPE: Detached
STYLE: Custom
STORIES: 2
YEAR BUILT: 1992
COMMUNITY: Castro Valley
COUNTY: Alameda
MLS#: 40555097
SOURCE: EBRD
STATUS: Pending
ON REDFIN: 45 days

Custom home located in a nice quiet Castro Vally neighborhood. Has possible in-law or 6th bedroom. 6th bedroom. Great amenities throughout the home. Must see to appreciate!

I’ll spot you one: It used to be worth a lot more money.  Or at least not a lot more money.  It sold in 2004 for $1,375,000.  Then again, the overbidding could have taken this baby right back to where it should be.  If you’re not sure where it should be, check out the similarly sized castle across the street.

120202-5344-wg-cv

Comments (6) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:05 am

January 10, 2012

Fremont wants back into the RBA

We’ve had many discussions on what makes a place Real Bay Area (RBA) and more importantly, what makes a place Not.  Good schools, professionals for neighbors, and no uncorrectable deficits such as freeways, airports, and toxic waste dumps is a start.  But what’s a real tip-off that a place is in the RBA?

Not only is it way too expensive for what you’re buying, but the asking price has been increased.  Many thanks to Burbed reader Praveen for today’s featured listing.

 

42261 CAMINO SANTA BARBARA
Fremont, CA 94539
$10,998,000

image

 

BEDS: 4
BATHS: 2
SQ. FT.: 1,931
$/SQ. FT.: $5,695
LOT SIZE: 7,910 Sq. Ft.
PROPERTY TYPE: Detached Single Family
STORIES: 1
YEAR BUILT: 1964
COMMUNITY: Alameda County
COUNTY: Alameda
MLS#: 81200779
SOURCE: MLSListings
STATUS: Active
ON REDFIN: 1 day NEW LISTING (24 HOURS)

Very exclusive Mission Highlands East section of Chadbourne. One level four bedroom with huge remodeled kitchen and family room. Large master bedroom newly remodeled master bath. Large yard. Wonderful layout. Easy wlk to Mission High, Chadbourne elementary.

imageThis not particularly large home on a not particularly large lot was listed for $1,099,000 on EBRD, the East Bay multiple listing service, last Friday.  But when it appeared on MLS (used by the West Counties) the following Monday, the price had gone up tenfold.  What happened?

Simple. Houses marketed to East Bay buyers aren’t as Special as houses for Peninsula and South Bay buyers.  That’s why there’s one price for the East Bay and a higher, better, more exclusive, lots more Real Price for Silicon Valley lucky duckies.

And boy, some Silicon Valley home-owner-to-be is going to want this place!  Doesn’t that location, location, location suggest rural isolation and quiet evenings at home?

image

Absolutely!

image

Get your overbids ready, because photography like you see for this listing doesn’t come cheap!

Comments (15) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:04 am

December 20, 2011

BLACK FRIDAY DEALS: Cheapest House in Berkeley!

DEALS, DEALS, DEALS, we’re going to travel all around the Bay Area to bring them to you!  Here’s something close to a major center of higher learning!  No, not Stanford, that would be the cheapest house in Palo Alto.  This is the cheapest house near Cal!

And since Cal’s a public school, you can pay a public house price!

1509 ASHBY Ave, Berkeley, CA 94703
$170,000

image

BEDS: 3
BATHS: 1
SQ. FT.: 754
$/SQ. FT.: $225
LOT SIZE: 2,516 Sq. Ft.
TYPE: Detached
STYLE: Bungalow
STORIES: 1
YEAR BUILT: 1922
COMMUNITY: Berkeley
COUNTY: Alameda
MLS#: 40498800
SOURCE: EBRD
STATUS: Active
ON REDFIN: 384 days

Nice home but does need work. Public record shows 754 sq feet, and 1 bedroom but it has 3 bedrooms, so sq foot is larger.

image“It has 3 bedrooms, so sq foot is larger.”

You know, maybe someone subdivided that one bedroom into three and turned this into a super-cheap student rental.  Maybe the sq foot is not larger after all.  Maybe it is.  Maybe it’s a tesseract and the house is actually 25,000 sq foot.  Maybe it’s in some kind of non-Euclidian geometry zone where a sq foot is 25,000 sq inch.  (That may be the best explanation, as Euclid is on the northeast side of town.)

There’s no inside photos, so the only way you’re ever going to find out if sq foot is larger is to BUY THIS HOUSE RIGHT NOW.  Think of it as a lucky raffle ticket, only instead of possibly winning a new car, you could win a larger sq foot.

Comments (9) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 4:07 am

December 18, 2011

BLACK FRIDAY DEALS: Cheapest house in Hayward!

Burbed doesn’t spend enough time in the East Bay, and when we do, we’re accused of being mean to them.  So let’s show them our Real Bay Area love, especially because there isn’t a lot of Real Bay Area to go around out there.

Today we’re going to find the cheapest house in the City of Diversity!

27878 MELBOURNE Ave, Hayward, CA 94545
$38,500

image

BEDS: 0
BATHS: –
SQ. FT.: 1,000
$/SQ. FT.: $38
LOT SIZE: 5,100 Sq. Ft.
TYPE: Detached
STORIES: 1
YEAR BUILT: 1955
COMMUNITY: Palma Ceia
COUNTY: Alameda
MLS#: 40553774
SOURCE: EBRD
STATUS: Pending
ON REDFIN: 8 days

WOW!!! . .. .. .. FINALLY ON THE MARKET. .. .. .. .. . AND NO ZEROS MISSING FROM THE PRICE, THAT’S JUST $38,500. TOTAL AND YES IT’S IN CALIFORNIA. BUT YOU WILL NEED TO BRING YOUR CONTRACTOR AS THIS ONE IS A POSSIBLE SCRAPER.

Possible scraper.  No bedrooms, no baths, and it’s a possible scraper.  If you want to leave one of these walls standing you could call it a remodel instead.  But for this price, you ought to get the pleasure of renting a bulldozer and destroying this place all by yourself.

imageimageimageimage

You couldn’t do worse than these guys did. (Thanks to Burbed reader Michael Boltonestater for sending in that link.)

Comments (2) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 4:09 am