March 20, 2011

2010 Census Data Displays Diverse Diversity Diversions

Thanks to Burbed reader Real Estater for nominating this article by posting it in the comments on Friday.


Image from USA Today

East Bay tops among California’s most diverse places

By Eric Kurhi and Matt O’Brien, Contra Costa Times
Posted: 03/18/2011 03:20:18 PM PDT

HAYWARD — Close to the geographic center of a city known as the “Heart of the Bay,” Luciano Ruiz peered out the pickup window of a burger joint in what is, by one measure, the most racially diverse neighborhood in California.

“There’s been a mix of people here ever since I grew up,” said Ruiz, 18. “It’s always been mainly Latino down here in South Hayward, but now you see more African-Americans, a lot more Asians. I’ve seen a little increase in Middle Eastern people.”

The 2010 census shows a collection of census tracts in the Hayward flatlands as the most diverse in California and a microcosm of the state’s likely future. Latinos are the largest group, but share the space with many other people. Multicultural churches, mosques and businesses are in walking distance.

Thirty-five miles away, in the Walnut Creek retirement community of Rossmoor, a cluster of census tracts reflect an older, less integrated California. About 90 percent of residents are white and less than 1 percent are African-American in the Bay Area’s least-diverse neighborhood.

“It’s probably accurate,” said Rossmoor resident David Smith of the newly released statistics. “Our population is overwhelmingly white.”

imageSince this is from the Contra Costa Times, there’s little about neighborhoods in Santa Clara or San Mateo County, and which would be the most or least diverse. East Palo Alto was specifically called out as one of the 10 most diverse communities in California. The diversity index is the probability that two randomly picked people from the area would be of different race or ethnicity. Maybe you might have an idea which neighborhoods you’d nominate?

imageAnyway, I looked up the data, and East Palo Alto has a DI of 83.4 (the highest was 86.4 and Hayward was 85.1).  Oakland was 81.1. Not mentioned in the article are Sacramento, 79.6, South San Francisco, 79.0, San Jose, 77.1, San Bruno, 76.3, Santa Clara, Cholula Half Gallon - Click Image to Close71.8, and Sunnyvale, 70.7.  On the other end of the scale we find Belvedere, 16.4, Portola Valley, 22.3, Woodside, 25.2, and Boulder Creek at 26.  Don’t assume that a low DI means white-bread; the Central Valley’s Mendota is 96.6% Hispanic and has a DI of 26.0.

In case you’re wondering how some areas end up with lots of diversity, here’s the secret, according to the above article:

It didn’t happen overnight,” Bogue said. “Just like anywhere, somebody puts a house up for sale, somebody looks at it and somebody buys it.”

Yeah, that couldn’t happen in Atherton, where houses are bequeathed.  But while houses are occasionally listed for sale in homogenous census tracts, the diverse ones, such as Richmond, San Pablo, Pittsburg, Hayward, Vallejo, Oakland and San Leandro have another interesting thing in common.

imageLocal historian Frank Goulart said affordability has also long attracted a broad spectrum of people to parts of Hayward.

“If you want an honest answer, it’s the cheap housing,” Goulart said.

He said many of the homes in the city’s most diverse tracts “were built like shacks.”

There you go.  Diversity is code for crapboxes (like this one above, in Hayward, the City of Diversity).  But don’t worry about it.  The majority of California public school students are now Hispanic, so the Diversity Index must be heading down (see Mendota, above).  That means housing quality will go up, so the Real Bay Area will get bigger!

imageThere’s no danger of that in Silicon Valley, though.  Santa Clara County’s index is a kumbayah 74, almost as multicultural as Alameda County’s state-topping 78.  The least diverse Bay Area County?  Marin, at 45. The overall state index is 72.9, second only to Hawaii’s 81.1.

But what’s more important is housing!  And the county with the highest percentage of vacant housing units goes to Alpine, with a whopping 71% of its housing sitting empty.  For the Bay Area, the winner is Sonoma, with 9.2%, imagebut Santa Cruz’s 9.7% would have beaten it had any of the county physically come into contact with the Bay.  Meanwhile San Mateo and Santa Clara county are both in the 4’s, while San Francisco managed double: 8.3% of the housing units sitting empty.

There’s stats, stats, stats to play with, so have fun courtesy of USA Today.  Data is available by city as well, so go wild and wonder why the city (town?) of Almanor has 100% of their 75 housing units empty.

Photo above: foreclosed home in Hayward, showcasing diversity.

Comments (8) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:04 am

March 13, 2011

Mysterious Secretive Consortium Really Pissed off that They Can’t Buy State Landmark Buildings in Sweetheart Deal that would Cost California Billions in Needless Rent, Sez They’ll Sue

Remember this story?  A bunch of well-connected cronies wanted to buy all those state buildings and rent them back, with the deal rushed through the waning days of the Governator’s final term? It’s Ba-a-a-a-a-a-ack!

Miffed Investors Sue State over Building Sale

The mysterious consortium goes to court after Gov. Brown nixes deal to sell 11 buildings

By ELIZABETH LESLY STEVENS, Bay Citizen on March 11, 2011 – 4:34 p.m. PST

Photo, right: Adithya Sambamurthy/The Bay Citizen

The California Public Utilities Commission Building is included in a controversial plan for the state of California to sell 11 office complexes to a group of private investors, then lease the space for 20 years

The controversial deal to sell state office buildings is headed to court.

Late Thursday, attorneys for the would-be buyers, California First, filed suit in a state court in Los Angeles, trying to get the court to force the state to go ahead with the deal. “A deal is a deal,” California First says in the suit. No further information about the identity of the California First partners appears in the legal filing, and the group’s attorney did not immediately return a call requesting comment. The group also appears to be paving the way to sue the state for damages if the sale does not go through.

That’s the American way, all right.  If you don’t get your insanely profitable deal done via friends in high places because a bunch of crybabies point out your doing so is probably illegal, sue their pants off!  Also, sue their pants off while refusing to identify exactly who you are, maybe by hiding your faces with those pants you collected.  Yes, we still don’t know exactly who wants to buy these buildings, but they’re mighty unhappy the sale was blocked and they’re going to court to make it happen.

Just remember what we learned last time we covered this topic: it’s probably a bunch of foreigners with cash not only on the sidelines but in both end zones and all the luxury boxes.  According to the Matt Taibbi article we linked to, there’s a good chance it’s oil money.  The last thing they need is for anyone to find out who they are.

Can we declare a moratorium on selling infrastructure to foreign investors? There must be a few Google gazillionaires who want their very own bridge or judicial building.  Maybe Jerry Brown would be okay selling to in-state private investors instead.  Mark Zuckerberg hasn’t bought himself a house yet, think he’d like to own something with a big state seal on it?  And Larry Ellison, he’d buy it just so Jim Clark couldn’t buy it first.  Problem solved!

Comments (12) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:03 am

February 12, 2011

The Right to Keep Your ZIP Code to Yourself

The California Supreme Court says you can.

Stores Can’t Ask For Customer ZIP Codes: CA Supreme Court

By Scott Weber,
updated 2/10/2011 6:45:30 PM ET

Customers who use their credit cards at stores can no longer be asked for their ZIP code, the California Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

In a unanimous decision, the state’s high court concluded that person’s personal information includes his or her ZIP code and that California’s Credit Card Act prohibits a merchant from asking for it.

The class-action case was brought by Jessica Pineda against Williams-Sonoma.

Wait, who shops at Williams-Sonoma who doesn’t want to brag about their ZIP code?  Well, maybe the people who had to trade down to less exclusive environs better suited to Crate and Barrel, or Target.  Maybe they can’t afford 94024 anymore, but they can still buy a $40 bottle of olive oil.

imageMy god, the woman who sued Williams-Sonoma was incensed that they were using her ZIP Code “for marketing purposes.”  Oh noes!  Next thing you know, they will want her name so they can send her an unsolicited catalog.

Well, now you can buy that olive oil without having to admit you live in 95008 (Campbell), or fearing you’ll be put on the Pottery Barn mailing list instead of Frette, due to your ZIP code. You have the right to not disclose it, so either wear it proudly or keep it to yourself.

Of course if you keep it to yourself, others will assume you live in 95002.

Comments (17) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:16 am

January 29, 2011

Rent versus Buy, Take 117

Trulia has yet another view of the perpetual Rent versus Buy debate, and they’ve got lots of colored bubbles to help.  Bubbles are great.  They lead to high housing prices and if you own the house, you get to paint it any color you want (as long as you don’t live in a fascist HOA community).

imageThe map at right is from Trulia’s Rent vs Buy tool.  The rent ratio is calculated by comparing the median list price of a 2 bedroom condo or townhouse listed on Trulia to the average monthly rent, for the 50 largest cities in the United States.

You see the problem right away, don’t you?  2 bedroom condo or townhouse.  Excuse me, but who the heck wants to buy a 2 bedroom condo or townhouse?  Maybe some of us have to (if we want to own anything), but for those who can buy a single-family detached house, the ratio we want is the cost versus the rent of a three bedroom, two bath house with a yard.  Those are difficult to find in San Francisco, and almost nonexistent in New York City, but for everywhere else, such a thing is not only possible but highly desired.

So who cares if Trulia says San Jose has a price to rent ratio of 15 (which puts it right over the line for the BUY column)?  That means BUY don’t rent the condo.  The question is whether to buy the house, and they aren’t helping with that decision.

Here are Trulia’s Rent vs Buy numbers for some cities of interest.  Remember, under 15 means buy, over 20 means rent, and in between, it depends.  Maybe that means live somewhere else.

City Avg List Price Avg Rent Price to Rent Ratio
Fresno $90,446 $936 8
Sacramento $152,696 $934 14
Oakland $278,245 $1,625 14
San Jose $298,621 $1,691 15
Los Angeles $491,055 $2,460 17
San Diego $396,409 $1,670 20
San Francisco $774,728 $2,996 22
Portland $307,858 $1,145 22
Seattle $461,330 $1,546 25
New York City $1,383,612 $3,538 33

The biggest surprises on the full list?  Omaha, at 26 and Fort Worth at 30, although Trulia notes the Fort Worth sample size was insufficient. These numbers don’t show whether attached housing is seen as a city norm or not, and if not, at what discount does attached housing go for compared to detached.  I suspect the odd results for Omaha and Fort Worth are for that very reason.  There may be so few attached units that the results are meaningless.

So where does San Jose fit on the scale of urban to suburban?  Given the name of this website, perhaps San Jose house price rent ratios are in the thirties.

Comments (33) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:05 am

January 23, 2011

We’re Number Eight! We’re Number Eight!

And we’re number eight within… number twelve?

The world’s fastest Internet access—who’s got it?

Fortune/CNNMoney Posted by Scott Woolley January 23, 2011 6:00 AM

New research ranks the countries with the fastest Internet connections, and all 50 U.S. states too.

The speed at which people around the world connect to the Internet is climbing at a 14% annual clip and now averages nearly 2 megabits per second, according Akamai’s "State of the Internet" report that is due out tomorrow. There remain huge variations around that average speed. South Koreans hook into the Internet at 14 megabits a second, seven times the global average, earning them the top spot on Akamai’s list:


Well, you can head over to the article and see the list for yourself. Nobody really cares if South Korea has better Internet speeds than we do. Do they have sushi? Didn’t think so.  And neither does Hong Kong or Japan!

More important is which states have faster Internet speeds than California. It won’t surprise you that each and every one is there not because of their engineering prowess or sheer high-tech awesomnity, but because THEY CHEATED.

  1. Delaware, 7.1 Mbps. Delaware only exists so all those corporations who are legally persons have a legal birthplace as well. Those fast downloads are just lawsuits flying from one company to another.
  2. Utah, 6.4 Mbps. High speeds realized by the majority of residents spending all their time in church, meaning nothing ever downloaded but the same 6 Warren Miller ski sequences.
  3. District of Columbia, 6.4 Mbps. Since the Federal Government runs on the Secret Government Internets, high speeds easily attained by little traffic but lonely agency workers reloading their profiles three times for good luck.
  4. Rhode Island, 6.3 Mbps. The state is so small that the rates are meaningless. You can’t measure latency when the border is always within 25 feet of you.
  5. Vermont, 6.2 Mbps. Cows and hippies and hippie ice cream companies. Does anyone there use the Internet besides Ben and Jerry? Didn’t think so.
  6. New Hampshire, 6.1 Mbps. Just as a smile is a frown turned upside-down, The Granite State is just Vermont flipped over. So they have Tea Party Loons instead of Flower Children. Same result: only five people in the whole state ever go online.
  7. Massachusetts, 5.9 Mbps. There may be a few people at MIT who use the Internet but I suspect their influence is greatly exaggerated.

And California is #8 with 5.8 Mbps, but we’re probably the only state that uses the Internet for what it was designed for: ogling real estate.

Comments (7) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 3:14 pm

January 15, 2011

Who’s Buying All Them State Buildings? Nobody’s Sayin’

<img missing due to burbed’s terrible admin skills. working on restoring>Hidden in emergency budget legislation, 7.3 million square feet of noted state office complexes were put up for sale, including several in San Francisco.That resulted in the oddity of all seven justices recusing themselves from deciding whether the sale could proceed. (Their offices in the Earl Warren building, part of the SF Civic Center, would be included, photo right.)  The deal was halted only 2 days before closing on December 15th, as Arnold’s reign came to an end.  And the more reporters dig to find out who benefits from this sweetheart deal, the more muck they find.

24 buildings on 11 sites, including landmarks such as the Ronald Reagan building in Los Angeles, plus others in San Francisco, Sacramento, Oakland, and Santa Rosa are being sold. The deal is with a mysterious group of investors who don’t wish to be identified, or claim they’ve dropped out when contacted.  The buildings cover 43 percent of all state government office space.

Identities of Investors in State Property Sale Grow Cloudier

Many have dropped out of contested deal, and those that remain are tight-lipped

By ELIZABETH LESLY STEVENS on January 12, 2011 – 3:12 p.m. PST
The Bay Citizen

Most of the members of a shadowy investor group that agreed to finance the sale of tony state office buildings last year appear to have dropped out of the deal, and those that remain are tight-lipped about their involvement in the transaction, which is being challenged in court as an illegal gift of state assets to a group with political pull in Sacramento.

Departing Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger tried mightily in his waning days in power to close the controversial sale of 11 premier properties.

The deal, now being challenged in a state appellate court, is in limbo. The new administration of Gov. Jerry Brown asked the court for a month to review the matter, and now arguments are scheduled to begin in February. The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office reported in November that the deal would end up costing California taxpayers $6 billion in the coming decades, but the approximately $1.3 billion net proceeds of the deal are already factored in to the state’s budget for the coming year. If the deal falls apart, the cash-strapped state’s deficit will swell by another $1.3 billion.

The deal had been scheduled to close on Dec. 15. The legal challenge, brought by lawyer Joseph Cotchett and former San Francisco City Attorney Louise Renne, convinced the appellate court to issue a stay just 48 hours before the sale was to have closed.

<img missing due to burbed’s terrible admin skills. working on restoring>Color me surprised.  A bunch of former officeholders finding ways to sell themselves some primo office properties hiding behind lawyers and corporations?  Stalwart building authority members who objected to the deal got sidelined?  Who would have predicted that?

And what a lovely problem it’s left California with: sell our buildings to these crooks, and have to rent what we owned.  (Bonus!  And get evicted in favor higher-paying trophy retailer!)  Or, invalidate the deal and dig up another $1.3 billion for that out-of-whack state budget.  Plus everyone standing to benefit will then sue when they don’t get their cut.  Be sure to read the first link in the article for more background if you haven’t been following this local example of how crony capitalism works.  (Photo above left, State PUC building is part of the 24 building deal.  Adithya Sambamurthy/The Bay Citizen)

But that’s just one secretive sell-off of public assets.  Burbed reader nomadic sends in what could be the answer, but it only raises more concerns.  Matt Taibbi suggests that large chunks of our infrastructure, including “a whole bevy of Californian public infrastructure projects,”are being bought by “sovereign wealth funds.” SWFs are extremely large amounts of cash, in particular from oil-producing nations.  One of the SWFs was offered the entire Pennsylvania Turnpike.  (They demurred, but Taibbi names other public works projects that have been sold off, including the Chicago Skyway and their parking meter revenue.)

Around this time, state and municipal executives began putting their infrastructure assets up to lease — essentially for sale, since the proposed leases in some cases were seventy-five years or longer. And in virtually every case that I’ve been able to find, the local legislature was never informed who the true owners of these leases were. Probably the best example of this is the notorious Chicago parking meter deal, a deal that would have been a hideous betrayal even without the foreign ownership angle. It was a blitzkrieg rip-off that would provide the blueprint for increasingly broke-ass America to carry lots of these prized toasters to the proverbial pawnshop.

Sounds familiar.  Maybe that’s why this California First LLC group is being so secretive?

Comments (7) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:05 am

January 9, 2011

We Wuz Robbed Again

Zillow Blog recently had a post covering “Some of 2010’s Top Real Estate Sales.”  Yet not one of them was in the Bay Area, let alone the Real Bay Area.  The ten featured home sales were mostly in Southern California, with one at Pebble Beach, one in Manhattan, and three in Florida.

Something has got to be wrong with those statistics.  The most expensive home in the article was a Bel Air beast, and another Bel Air battlement checked in at #5.  There were also two from Malibu, the aforementioned Pebble Beach, plus Santa Barbara.  Florida had disasters in Delray Beach, Naples, and Highland Beach.  (No wonder Florida real estate is hurting even more than California, at least we know how to spell del Rey over here.)

I was able to find several properties that sold in 2010 over $10 million in the Real Bay Area, and we’ll talk about those places another time.  Instead, there’s something more of interest about this Zillow piece:  How bad were the haircuts on each of these houses?  When the seller thought they could get $20 million, how much did they actually get?  Are we talking five percent?  Ten?  Fifteen?  Zillow didn’t feel this information was all that important, but we at Burbed know that watching the sellers chase the market down is the biggest part of the fun.


#1. Le Belvedere – Bel Air, CA

Original Price: $85 Million (February 2009)

Reduced Price: $72 Million (November 2009)

Sale Price: $50 Million (June 2010)

Haircut: -43%

This house leads to all kind of speculation since nobody is sure exactly who owns it.  It has since been sold to 2 limited liability corporations.  The 11 BR/14 BA 48,000 sf home (yes, 48,000 square feet) requires a staff of 15 and is on a 2.2 acre lot.  You can pick up this Bel Air listing for $53 million (9 BR/21 BA) if looking at this picture is making you think, “You know what?  I really want an insanely large and expensive home in Southern California.”

Redfin had this listing for a 7 BA/15 BA 35,000 sf house on 2+ acres, which Zillow says is the same one, but key details differ.  A 10/15 did sell for $18 million last January, but it was less than half the size of La Belvedere.


#2. Carbon Beach Gem – Malibu, CA

Original Price: $57 Million (March 2010)

Reduced Price: $47 Million (June 2010)

Sale Price: $36,969,000 (October 2010)

Haircut: -35%

This 8 BR/12 BA is 12,785 sf and has a mere 3/4 acre lot.  However, that lot includes 180 feet of Malibu beachfront.  Plenty of instant equity, this place has a Zestimate of $39,733,000!  While the first house write-up above freely speculated over who the owner is, not a peep as to who bought or sold a home on “Billionaire’s Beach,” where “you could run into celebrities such as Jennifer Aniston and David Geffen.” Or in this case, older ladies who go to lots of fundraisers.  Property Shark didn’t indicate who the new owner was.

image#3. Malibu Colony Beach House – Malibu, CA

Original Price: $23,950,000 (April 2010)

Sale Price: $21,475,000 (September 2010)

Haircut: -10.3%

Zillow points out that this house is only 5,000 sf, so we’re talking $4,295 a foot.  A half acre lot but only 60 feet of beachfront, and that’s 60 more feet than any house in Silicon Valley will have until the Pacific and the Bay rise a couple dozen feet.  The property has not one but two guest suites and a gym, separate from the main building.  Given that exterior has all the charm of a Santa Cruz 8-plex motel, that’s an improvement.  Plus, you might run into Tom Hanks, Bill Murray, and other celebrities even older than I am.

Property Shark doesn’t have the most recent sale record, but the seller lived in Tiburon.

image#4. Pebble Beach Jewel – Pebble Beach, CA

Original Price: $25 Million (March 2010)

Sale Price: $18.75 Million (May 2010)

Haircut: -25%

Almost twice as large as the last beach house, this 6 BR/4.5 bath on 1.3 acres has all the charm of a Presidential library, minus the historical documents or the gravitas.  Unlike Malibu Beach, here you have “Out one set of windows is the surf crashing along Pebble Beach’s craggy coast where harbor seals come to visit.”  Evidently out the back windows is some golf club or something.  Guess any celebrities worth running into would be out there clubbing the seals.

Seriously, does Zillow think nothing in the RBA has sold for more than $10 million last year?  Or just that they weren’t trying very hard?  I found this place in San Francisco that went for $15.5 million, and this one in Woodside.  Someday we’ll talk about those…

image#5. Bel Air Mediterranean – Bel Air, CA

Original Price: $24,500,000 (February 2009)

Reduced Price: $19,750,000 (July 2009), $18,950,000 (February 2010)

Sale Price: $16,250,000 (May 2010)

Haircut: -34%

Want it?  It’s for sale again, showing that flipping houses hasn’t gone out of style in some places.  Listed for $19.5M this October, only 5 months after it sold for $16.25M, the price was cut a whopping 3.8% to $18.75M a month later.  This is a 13,000 sf 7 BR/11 BA behemoth on 0.85 acre, plus the listing agent is married to a Real Housewife of Beverly Hills.  I swear I am not making this up.

Given that the listing doesn’t mention a speck of improvement that the new owner put in, anyone want to predict their exit price point?

Bonus feature: The property was foreclosed on during bubblicious 2004 for $700,000, before the current structure was put in.

image#6. Dramatic Delray – Delray Beach, FL

Original Price: $24,900,000 (July 2008)

Reduced Prices: $21,900,000 (November 2008), $18,950,000 (June 2009), $21,500,000 (July 2009), $18,950,000 (September 2009), $18,975,000 (February 2010)

Sale Price: $12,650,000 (April 2010)

Haircut: -49%

Nothing says dramatic real estate crash like Florida real estate, and here’s a spectacular example.  Best of all, it’s up for sale again at $19.5M with the exact same agent, showing some people are very slow learners.  At least they have over 14,500 sf of house to learn slowly in, with 6 bedrooms and a WTF 7.3 bathrooms on 2.13 acres.  Florida real estate is definitely different than anywhere in the US.  Where else would a 16 foot elevation be described as “commanding”?  Features 160 feet of “frontage” but onto what isn’t clear.  Perhaps the 16 foot towering precipice above the Atlantic.

image#7. Upper East Side – New York, NY

Original Price: $17,000,000 (September 2009)

Reduced Price: $15,900,000 (January 2010)

Sale Price: $13,150,000 (September 2010)

Haircut: -23%

Gordon Gekko might have said that “Greed is good,” but in New York City, stock market traders have another slogan about making money: “Bulls make money, bears make money, pigs get slaughtered.”  And this “grand 20-foot wide mansion” sold for $10.5M in March, 2008.  Yes, you too can pay eight digits for a five story house that literally has the breadth of a double garage, and it doesn’t even come with one!  Boasting 6 bedrooms, 6 baths, 8000 square feet and a lot size of (get ready) 2000 sf (0.05 acres), and around the corner from an actual Park Avenue address.

The current owner is now a floplord, looking for a tenant for 109 E 69th St.  The rent?  $48,000 a month.  Hope they don’t expect three months’ security up front.

In case you’re interested, that makes this property have a rent ratio of 22.8.  Typical rent ratio for Manhattan is well over 30, which suggests some pig is about to get slaughtered again.

image#8. Santa Barbara Villa – Santa Barbara, CA

Original Price: $19.5 million (August 2008)

Reduced Price: $16 million (March 2009)

Sale Price: $13 million (September 2010)

Haircut: -33%

Whew!  That was too long outside of California.  Between the old people of Florida and the New York cabbies who enjoy speeding up to love-tap pedestrians in crosswalks, that was a definite dollop of cognitive dissonance.  Face it, high prices should stay in California where they belong.  Why would anyone pay lots of money to live in a city where 16 inches of snow shuts the whole place down?

No doubt the Zillow blogger who put this piece together was so relieved to cover a California property that s/he neglected to notice the original (and much higher) list price for this house.  Maybe this one item was farmed out to Tech Gal, the Peninsula real estate agent notorious for her sales to listing price ratios based on reduced asking prices.

Speaking of the house… This 8592 sf home thinks of itself as a Tuscan villa, but it’s got a modern tax bill to greet you.  A 5 BR/6.5 BA main house plus a 1 BR/1 BA guest home on the 3.4 acre grounds guarantee you’ll keep a gardening staff busy all year.

image#9 Gulf Coast Grace – Naples, FL

Original Price: $16.5 million (May 2009)

Reduced Price: $15.9 million (July 2009)

Sale Price: $13 million (January 2010)

Haircut: -21%

This over 9000 sf house on Naples Bay is situated on 3/4 of an acre but is still in the sinkhole of Florida real estate.  Even Zillow looks at last year�
��s sales figure and comes up with a Zestimate of $11,013,000, suggesting that this palatial estate lost another 15% of its value merely by spending all of 2010 in Florida.  Once more, the Zillow blogger missed the original price, misunderestimating the amount a Florida property can plummet.

image#10. Living the High Life – Highland Beach, FL

Original Price: $18,900,000 (May 2009)

Reduced Price: $15,950,000 (July 2009)

Sale Price: $12,650,000 (January 2010)

Haircut: -33%

If a second marriage is the triumph of hope over experience, then buying a 12,000 sf house on 0.95 acres of Florida real estate for 67% of the original asking price is the knifecatcher’s exhilaration.  This brain-damaged fool has put the place back on the market for $14,950,000, just six months after taking delivery.  Given that Zillow has depreciated the previous property by 15%, I would calculate that this Adventure in Real Estate is going to lead to another 28% trip down Equity Burn Esplanade.

Comments (49) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:06 am

January 2, 2011

The Decline and Fall of the Real Estate Bubble Site

It’s 2011, and Burbed is still here.  Not every real estate site can say the same thing.

Simply checking the blogroll links at right shows that a number of bubblicious blogs have either shut down entirely or exist in suspended animation, with the most recent post made months or even years ago.

This article from the old bubble days links to us right at the head of the California blog section.  It’s a 2007 list of 750 real estate blogs from every state in the Union, from a Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania property blog.  How many of these 750 are still updated regularly?  How many are shut down completely?

Say goodbye, or at least maybe later, to these California sites on the list:

  • Grow-a-Brain (Riverside), which called itself “The original real estate blog,” abandoned January, 2010.  Blogged every day for 7 years, now blogging about his new baby.
  • Making a Killing in Real Estate – Killed.
  • Riverside Realtor Blog – Abandoned December 2007.
  • Sunny Spot Realty – Moved to new site, but only the newest post is accessible.
  • Laguna Niguel Real Estate Blog – 404
  • The Real Estate Blog (Los Angeles) – Essentially abandoned in April, 2010
  • San Francisco Real Estate – Abandoned this year by February with last post in August.  They had an interesting piece in May on how Google affects SF rental stock.
  • Southern California Real Estate Blog – Changed name to Long Beach Real Estate Insights and slowly dying; 5 real estate-related posts between March and September.
  • Desert Homes Today – Deserted
  • Eco-Almanac for the Landed Poor (San Diego) – Better known as Professor Piggington’s this highly-respected bubble site is now only updated once every two weeks with links from Voices of San Diego.
  • Southern California Real Estate Bubble Crash – Moved and now only updated every few weeks.  The owner “Chuck Ponzi” explains it’s because he bought a house (yes, it was a foreclosure) plus arrival of third child.  He says they were renters for six years because he sold their house in 2004 for being “overvalued.”  This was a thoughtful site whose only weakness was failure to link to us.  I like this graphic.
  • SF Home Blog – Evicted
  • The Oakland Real Estate Blog – Probably arson, because nothing left standing
  • San Diego Real Estate Blog / Peter Toner – Appears to be more current than it is by clever decision to leave dates off home page.  Articles appear in bursts when new writer is brought in.  One post for December 2010.
  • LA Real Estate – Lots of green.  So green.  So very, very, very green.
  • Rey Estate – The King is Dead.
  • VF Consulting’s Real Estate Blog (Los Angeles) – Last post, August 2010.
  • In the Trenches (Kevin Boer) – Buried
  • Sacramento Land(ing) – Last real (rather than automatic) post was October 2009.
  • Square Feet Blog (Silicon Valley/Mercury News) – Last post October 27th, killed by SJ Mercury News rather than by blogger Sue McAllister. 
  • Cameron Novak’s Real Estate Blog (Corona) – Last entry, January 2010.  Another ironic final post.
  • Beach City Blog (Long Beach) – Last entry, March 2007.  Only 2 entries, wonder why it made the list in the first place.
  • Orange County Real Estate News (Daniel Realty) – Last entry May, 2010, last regular series of posts, July 2009. In yet another whistle in the dark, this realtard not only calls bottom a year and a half ago, but makes his eight-grade English teacher cry.
  • America’s Most Opinionated Mortgage Broker – Appears to have gotten into a more profitable business: selling Japanese women’s clothing
  • Sacramento Real Estate News – Now a RE/MAX site called  News no longer welcome or wanted.
  • HomesMax Bay Area Real Estate (Alameda & Contra Costa) – Last entry, June 2007: Open House Bandits Captured.  Goes real well with this entry about home sellers who accused the blogger or his clients of stealing a watch from their house.
  • Condocontessa San Francisco Real Estate (South Beach SF) – Last entry, July 2008.  St. Paul, MN native reinvented herself as contessa of real estate while posting in bursts and then ignoring site for months at a time.
  • Burbank life, filmmaking, and real estate – Two out of three ain’t bad
  • El Dorado and Amador County Real Estate – Now called Placerville Real Estate, last entry, July 2008.  This agent kept a Sacramento real estate blog going, though.
  • Maury Properties – It’s kind of blank.
  • Berkeley Homes – Last entry, January 2010.  The blog is about Berkeley rather than real estate (despite being the creation of a couple of agents), and has a lot of broken image links.  Other links on the page will take you to their real estate content.  This is also the only real estate site I’ve ever seen with what appears to be, but isn’t, a David Lance Goines-designed logo.
  • Lending Clarity – Clearly taken over a week ago by someone who has nothing to do with California real estate.  Can anyone figure out what the new blog is about?  There are six articles on it: raw dog food, nandina plants, article submission and SEO, syncing files among several devices, HVAC valves and moving services in New Jersey.
  • OC Prudent Bear (Huntington Beach) – Last entry, November 2009.  Blogger bought a house in Huntington Beach in September, 2009, so that might have something to do with the
    death of this housing bear site.
  • Starboard TCN (Bay Area Commercial RE) – While there are current posts, site is updated are more by the month than the week.  Plenty of posts in 2005.
  • Your Real Estate Voice – has been gagged
  • Jackie’s SF Real Estate Blog – Last entry, October 2010.  In fact, this is the only entry.  Where did her blog go?  No sign of it, except this fawning puff piece from NAR about why you should be just like Jackie and create a real estate blog.  It seems, like our vanquished rival Luba,(and her abandoned blog that she shamelessly hustled attempting to win a Zillow award) Jackie has moved to Facebook.
  • Real Estate Blog for Palo Alto, Mountain View, California and Surrounding Communities – That’s a mouthful, and the latest post is from October.  The second latest is from May. This was no high-volume blog, where 6 posts a month was a record.
  • Relocation A to Z (Carlsbad) – Another Realtown blog (as the awkwardly named mouthful above is), with six posts this month and very few earlier this year.  The agent running it used to post almost daily back in the glory bubble days.  In April 2008, his personal bubble popped and updates went to weekly or less.
  • Rancho Santa Margarita Homes and Lifestyles – Last entry, December 2008.  Another agent who would post tremendous amounts and then not show up for months.
  • Remodeling Blog by Elegant Kitchen Cabinets (San Carlos) – Whoops, all the cabinets ripped out.  Nothing new since 2008, anyway.  Who would have predicted kitchen porn would suffer from a housing downturn?
  • PopCasa – Mi casa es no casa
  • LA Land – Defunct LA Times blog that now links to its business section (and not even the real estate page).

How many of the California blogs are still in business (updates at least once a week): 19.  Out of 63.

Among the still posting most days sites, don’t be in the least bit surprised that one is called The Mortgage Fraud Blog.  Also, I have to call out Sacramento Real Estate Voice for one of the most honest assessments of how 2010 went for anyone still in the real estate industry.

And of the 750 blogs in that list,I took a quick spot check by counting up six states (AL, CT, ID, KS, NV, WI).  How many of their blogs are still going?

  • Still publishing: 7, plus 2 that moved from originally listed sites
  • Dying on the IP with less than a new post a month: 7
  • Abandoned (last post more than a year ago, most untouched since ‘08): 13
  • Dead: 6
  • Private access only: 1

Actually you absolutely must check out this abandoned Las Vegas blog that I found in doing the spot-check.  The last entry is perfect.

In addition, here are a few more sites Burbed recommended that have departed us, alas:

  • Bubbletrack (San Diego County)
  • East Bay Housing Bubble
  • Housing Bubble Casualty
  • Jim Kunstler  — moved HERE (see below)
  • Patrick – still there, just a bad link (see below)
  • View From Silicon Valley – Sigh, this nicely done blog covering renting and buying woes just went pfft… The blogger used to comment here to mention new pieces were up, but never stuck around to chat.

Here’s a couple more sites I remember that have left us as well.

  • Central Coast Bubble
  • The Original LA Land

And some sites that stopped updating or tapering off, not already covered above (no links if already in the blogroll):

  • Another F@cked Borrower – Last entry, March 2009.  Straight-talk about how bad it was, written by a mortgage “insider”
  • Bakersfield Bubble – Blogger has enough in January 2009 and posted a May ‘09 local “expert” calling bottom
  • Bay Area Housing Bubble – Last entry, August 2010.  Written by Doug in Alamo, with almost all the latest posts obsessed with… gold.  The blog ran from January ‘06 until last year.
  • Bubble Markets Inventory Tracking – The San Diego bubble site that named names and hid from angry agents ended up going to invited guests only.  The only real estate site with an anti-SLAPP warning on the front page.  Alas, the last past was in October 2009.
  • Real Estate San Francisco – Mr. Front Steps writes a blog, abandons it in July 2009
  • Home Girl – East Bay real estate – tapering off since blogger decided instead of writing about real estate she’d sell it.
  • Housing Panic – Attitudinal bubble site stopped updating in November, 2008, with an update 2 weeks ago that says, I kid you not, THE TIME TO BUY IS NOW.  Blogger went on to a new site, Soot and Ashes, only to abandon it in April, 2010.  Last few posts were getting pretty fried at Tea Party members.
  • Knifecatchers (Alameda) – A recent entry just 3 weeks ago, but posting is sporadic.  Definitely snarky, and they’re reading us.
  • Marin Real Estate Bubble – Last entry, December 2009. 
  • Marin POS Blog – Last entry, August 2009 but it was done by the end of 2006.  Now this was a snarky blog for the Land of Mellow, and I’m sorry the writer lost interest.  Yes, POS stands for exactly what you think it stands for.  This is the site that called an Eichler what it needs to be called: Ickler
  • Mr, Mortgage – ML Implode – Why you’re screwed.  Last post, January 2009.  Says he was moving the site.  He already had moved once, from here in 2008.  Mark Hanson seems to like moving his blog, as he posted here for a few months, and then here… abandoning that one too.  Maybe he just can’t get along with anybody.
  • Property Lines (SF) – Not updated much last 2 years. 
  • Rancid Truth – Orange County Real Estate Blog – Last entry, July 2010.  The title says it all: definitely a dollop of acid in those home descriptions.
  • Sacramento Landing – Mentioned above, it’s dying.
  • Santa Barbara Housing Bubble Blog – Last entry, June 2008.
  • San Mateo Home Sellers in Trouble – Specific breakdown of financial ruin on San Mateo county properties, with last update in September, 2009.  The blogger’s main site, The Baglady, still updates occasionally, but not much specific about real estate.
  • Silicon Valley Real Estate Blog – This is the site that won Zillow’s best real estate blog in San Jose.  Obviously they won it because our fans only nominated us for one region (yeah, we won too).  At least this site posts something once a month or so, unlike a certain agent in San Francisco.  What is it with the other entrants in this contest?  The San Jose runner up isn’t updating much either.
  • Sonoma Housing Bubble – Last entry, October 2008.  Noticing a pattern?

Let’s leave you with some good news.  Not only is Burbed still here, these sites are still here too, and if you haven’t given them a look, please wander on over.  Bonus: some of them aren’t in the blogroll yet!

These blogs are generalist real estate sites, follow a market outside the Real Bay Area or don’t follow places within commuting distance of it.  But that’s okay.  Reading them reminds us why It’s Special Here!

  • Bubble Info – Jim Klinge (Jim the Realtor) – North San Diego real estate.  Useful information without sugar-coating from an actual real estate agent.
  • Bubble Meter – National housing bubble blog.   Among other recent news items, price stagnation until 2014.  Oh boy!
  • Charles Hugh Smith – Of Two Minds – Economics and Markets affect YOU
  • Dr. Housing Bubble – Southern California implosion site, including recurring feature “Real Homes of Genius.”
  • Housing Bubble Blog – Nationwide – Everyone thinks its’ Special there.  Unfortunately most days are just comment collectors.  This site used to have bubble news from all over every day.  No easy archive links, either.
  • Housing Bubble Hall of Shame – Last entry was a month ago. Features homes with vanishing equity, strategic mortgage walkers, plus people with too much educational deb.  Not a blog you’d use the word “kind” to describe.  They link to us. ‘Nuff said.
  • Housing Doom – Still there, still sharing bad news.
  • Housing Kaboom – Inland Empire bubble site – Owner took a brief break but is hopefully back to keeping us updated.  High snark factor, little respect for real estate professionals.  What a shame.
  • Housing Opportunity Index from NAHB, new reports released when they want.
  • Irvine Housing Blog – Mouth gapes open in sheer amazement as borrower after borrower maxed out their home equity and property values dropped 40%.  If you only read one bubble site, read this one.
  • Jim Kunstler – This is the guy who called the whole housing crash.  Everyone at the time said he was nuts.
  • Long Beach Housing Blog – Real Estate in the LBC –  Snark meets rude in a Long Beach bubble site that never met an editor calling for a 500 word limit.  This site is one of the few real estate blogs funnier than Burbed.
  • Mortgage Lender Implode-O-Meter – Bad News Every Day!  Former home of Mr. Mortgage.
  • Portland Housing Blog – Oregon – In-depth coverage of Portland and national real estate trends.  A good place to get sense of how out-of-whack our prices and economy are with almost everywhere else on the planet.
  • Santa Monica Distress Monitor – The post-bubble site that says “This place is Special, don’t expect any bargains!”  Sound familiar?
  • Seattle Bubble – Includes monthly “Actual Listing Photos” feature sent in by readers.  At Burbed you only get to enjoy crappy real estate photography one house at a time!

And let’s finish up this post with the local sites still going into 2011!

  • Altos Research Blog – Analysis that only a graph geek could love, and so much of it!  A national site right in our back yard.
  • Cupertino Housing Blog – It hasn’t listed a house for sale since July, but it’s still being updated with various news clips related to housing, the economy, and the occasional Cupertino Schools piece.  Then again, it missed a huge CUSD item: Eisenhower and Stocklmeir elementary schools are now holding lotteries for admission… for the people who live in their attendance zones.  (And as to why I don’t list the blog who caught that item?  If they can’t be bothered to date their entries, that means they’re trying to hide how few they have.  11 for all of last year… color us not impressed.)
  • Flippers in Trouble – Sacramento – If you crave watching red ink spill, you’ll love this site. 
  • Healdsburg Housing Bubble (Sonoma County) – Looks like I’m late to the party.  This excellent site is winding down as of this week.  Blogger ran it for a year because he couldn’t stand all the misinformation put out by the real estate industry.  Clearly influenced by some of our favorite sites, and enough useful information that the major econ blogs linked to it.
  • On the BlockThe San Francisco Chronicle still has a real estate blog, unlike the Merc or the LA Times.
  • Patrick.netThe site for bubble news.  Unrelenting negativity will convince you now is the time to burn your house down for the insurance money and go live in a refrigerator box.  Or at least now is the time to sell.  Warning: owner is running a pledge drive.
  • Redfin SF – Bay Area Sweet Digs, this is Redfin’s local updates and stats, stats, stats!
  • San Francisco Real Estate Blog – Bill Quick’s take on the market.  Appropriately snarky yet informed.
  • SF Curbed – A little more on the gossip than the SF Real Estate Blog, nice pictures, plenty of useful info in the comments, too. 
  • SocketSite – The third of the trio of informative San Francisco blogs and probably the most informative.  Quite frankly one of these three should have won best real estate blog in SF and we should have gotten the nod for San Jose.
  • The Front Steps – Another SF site, and why no updates in three weeks? When you blog in your mom’s basement, you don’t get a whole month off!

And that site crowing over 750 real estate blogs?  Their last entry was Valentine’s Day, 2009, expressing relief that Pittsburgh wasn’t named one of Forbes’ Ten Most Miserable Cities.

Comments (85) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:16 am

December 19, 2010

The Other Valley

Here’s an article sent in by a Burbed reader who doesn’t necessarily agree with the author’s conclusions or the site it’s on, but thought the piece interesting and thought-provoking.  Given that the Central Valley is a fairly easy drive from the Real Bay Area, what is it that makes it so different from here?

Two Californias

DECEMBER 15, 2010

Abandoned farms, Third World living conditions, pervasive public assistance — welcome to the once-thriving Central Valley.

The last three weeks I have traveled about, taking the pulse of the more forgotten areas of central California. I wanted to witness, even if superficially, what is happening to a state that has the highest sales and income taxes, the most lavish entitlements, the near-worst public schools (based on federal test scores), and the largest number of illegal aliens in the nation, along with an overregulated private sector, a stagnant and shrinking manufacturing base, and an elite environmental ethos that restricts commerce and productivity without curbing consumption.

During this unscientific experiment, three times a week I rode a bike on a 20-mile trip over various rural roads in southwestern Fresno County. I also drove my car over to the coast to work, on various routes through towns like San Joaquin, Mendota, and Firebaugh. And near my home I have been driving, shopping, and touring by intent the rather segregated and impoverished areas of Caruthers, Fowler, Laton, Orange Cove, Parlier, and Selma. My own farmhouse is now in an area of abject poverty and almost no ethnic diversity; the closest elementary school (my alma mater, two miles away) is 94 percent Hispanic and 1 percent white, and well below federal testing norms in math and English.

Here are some general observations about what I saw (other than that the rural roads of California are fast turning into rubble, poorly maintained and reverting to what I remember seeing long ago in the rural South). First, remember that these areas are the ground zero, so to speak, of 20 years of illegal immigration. There has been a general depression in farming — to such an extent that the 20- to-100-acre tree and vine farmer, the erstwhile backbone of the old rural California, for all practical purposes has ceased to exist.

mendotadowntown Who here visits small towns in the Central Valley regularly?  Are things as bleak as Hansen describes them, “rural trailer-house compounds…no different from what I have seen in the Third World”? (Photo, at left, shows unemployed men in downtown Mendota.)

Has the Central Valley become a bifurcated version of “white flight,” either to the more affluent coastal areas or out of the state entirely?  And how hard was it to guess that a conservative magazine/website would observe high unemployment, loss of small-family farms to corporate agribusiness, and shuttered farm machinery plants that have moved to lower-wage countries… and conclude this is all somehow due to illegal immigrants?

One thesis of Hansen’s to chew on:

It is almost as if the more California regulates, the more it does not regulate. Its public employees prefer to go after misdemeanors in the upscale areas to justify our expensive oversight industry, while ignoring the felonies in the downtrodden areas, which are becoming feral and beyond the ability of any inspector to do anything but feel irrelevant. But in the regulators’ defense, where would one get the money to redo an ad hoc trailer park with a spider web of illegal bare wires?

Think about that the next time you deal with getting a permit for something.

Comments (76) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:13 am

December 11, 2010

How to Lose All Your Money in Investment Property

Last week we covered the sad tale of Nick Martin, who lost ten million dollars on real estate and high-style living.  This story is very different.

San Diego House Is Burned Down, for Safety’s Sake

Published: December 9, 2010, New York Times

The authorities in San Diego County burned down a house filled with explosives on Thursday after determining that removal of the volatile clutter of chemicals, detonators and grenades would be too dangerous.

Officials discovered the hazardous house in Escondido last month after a gardener stepped on a homemade bomb in the yard. When county sheriffs and F.B.I. agents tried to enter, they found so many explosive materials lying about, in containers and loose piles, that they abandoned their search.

Later, a bomb squad collected samples including PETN, which was used in 2001 when a man on an airplane tried to ignite a bomb in his shoe, and HMBT, which can explode when stepped on.

The house was rented by George D. Jakubec, 54, an unemployed software consultant. He has pleaded not guilty to federal charges of making explosives and robbing three banks with firearms. Prosecutors have declined to say why they think Mr. Jakubec assembled the jumbled arsenal, saying on Thursday that “the investigation is ongoing.”

Photos by Sandy Huffaker

But the most important quote above wasn’t in the early part of the story.  It was the caption under the photo at left:

Officials did not plan to compensate the owner of the house for the loss.

That’s amazing, isn’t it?  You save up your money to buy an investment property, you rent it out to some unemployed software consultant who turns the place into a terrorist bomb factory, then the Feds decide it’s too dangerous to clean the explosives out so the local Sheriff sets fire to the place.

This article goes into all the ways Jakubec’s landlady is seriously screwed.  While governments have to compensate owners when their property is seized via eminent domain, police action is a different issue.  And forget about homeowner insurance (unemployed software consultant bomb factory riders notwithstanding); governmental action isn’t covered.

The county’s declaration gives officials authority to destroy private property in the interest of public health and safety —- without compensating the owner, [county spokesman Michael] Workman said.

Did you remember to buy unemployed software consultant bomb factory insurance on your rental property?  I suggest you take care of that because there are a lot of unemployed software consultants in the Real Bay Area.  Some of them might have lost their own homes. While most will rob a few banks to get even, a few may not feel too kindly towards blood-sucking landlords and will blow up the gardener as proof of concept.

Here’s the house.  It was bought five and a half years ago for $479K, with a $383,200 first mortgage and a $85,800 second mortgage, both variable.  98% financing, sounds about right for Southern California.  The following year the house was refinanced for a $436,000 fixed first and a $54,500 fixed second, which means another $20,000 borrowed.

Now the owner is going to find out that a zero down purchase means infinite loss.


The owner also has the house as her address of record for property taxes, despite currently residing in Oakland.  And she isn’t talking to the press.  The Los Angeles Times reports that Jakubec has lived at the house for three years.  This is great, not only will she lose the house while still owing on two mortgages, she’s going to lose her $7,000 homeowners exemption.


Zillow seems to have some trouble with their home estimate algorithm; look at the wild swings between three and five hundred thousand over the last two years.  If we can believe that the house’s value is up again, it’s not worth much more ($496,000) than the owner “paid” for it in 2005.  However, nearby recent sales show values in the $300,000 range; exurban San Diego prices were hit hard when the real estate bubble collapsed.  Looks like this underwater property will be done in by fire.

Now, the value is all in the 3/4 acre of land.  And while Jakubec wants to apologize to all the neighbors for the difficulties, there’s no word what he has to say to the person who owned the house.  Since he is under arrest in lieu of $5 million bail, and currently charged with 28 felonies, including possession and manufacturing of destructive devices as well as bank robbery, it may be a while before he has to disclose this incident to a future landlord.

Comments (44) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:04 am