August 13, 2012

What’s the sweetest house in Sunnyvale?

Sunnyvale, CA 94087


This house has all the most important buzzwords: FruitTrees™, VeggieGarden™, and GourmetKitchen™. Isn’t this house SuperAwesome™ and so VerySpecial™?

But the most important part? It’s currently the highest $ per square foot in Sunnyvale. $708! And it’s been on the market for 10 days – so tomorrow it will be sold.

Nectarine – thou are so sweet. The Real Bay Area is back baaaaaaaaaaaaaby!

Comments (12) -- Posted by: burbed @ 5:23 am

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!


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

August 11, 2012

Your Long-Distance Weekend Open Thread

It’s the weekend!  Time to check out the Open Houses, and share your excursions on this Open Thread!  Here’s today’s Red-Hot Home for you.  Thanks very much to Burbed reader Ryan, over at Estately, for passing this marvelous mansion along.  The property’s a bit more effort to get to, but we think it’s well worth the trip.

805 Curiosity Lane
4th  Planet from the Sun


120809-curiosity-squirrelsAsking Price $30,000
1 beds
1 baths
1,680 sqft
6,000 lot sqft
2012 built
1 days on site

Special Features of this Property Include

  1. It’s on Mars
  2. Rocket man Bobak Ferdowsi will personally watch your yard while you’re away
  3. You can do cool astronaut stuff in your yard
  4. Hunt rabid alien squirrels from your bathroom window
  5. Follow NASA’s Curiosity
  6. Libertarian paradise—no government or laws on Mars. Live free and die.

Agent’s Summary

120809-curiosity-window-viewRARE FIND! Once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to own property on the edge of Gale Crater on Mars! Jump into this lucrative market before the Curiosity Rover exposes it.

Whether you’re a stranded astronaut, a Civil War vet named John Carter, or a plutonium-powered rover that just traveled 354-million miles, this happy homestead is the spot to call home. The perfect place to rest after a long day of analyzing soil samples, blasting rocks with lasers, or searching for signs of life, this quaint casa has it all. The modern bath features a tub and shower (should you ever discover water), an oxygen chamber so you can breathe, and a spacious master bedroom should you locate a life form to procreate with (be fruitful and multiply). Seriously, even if single cell organisms are found on Mars it will take billions of years until they evolve into something like humans.

Avoid Earth’s global warming by living on a planet where the average temperature is -81 degrees fahrenheit. Release as much CO2 into the sky as you want—it might even help develop the atmosphere! Are you morbidly obese? Good news—you just dropped 2/3 of your weight because Mars has only 1/3 of Earth’s gravity! Here on the 4th planet from the sun even the heftiest of humans can break the Olympic pole vaulting record! Just don’t try to breathe the air or you’ll die. Seriously. You will die. This home is move-in ready, priced to sell, and offers LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION!

Listing Provided by Estately Intergalactic Real Estate





We’ve already let Ryan know that here at Burbed we expect to see photos of the toilets.  Preferably with the seat left up.  Given that this one works using vacuum suction, leaving out that photo is serious mistake on the realtard’s part.

So… what kind of toilets are you looking at this weekend?


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

August 10, 2012

BRAND NEW CONSTRUCTION “Estate Quality” home somewhere in San Jose

And we’re done with another exciting week of properties, finishing off in the “Capital of Silicon Valley”!  Today’s featured home was sent in by Burbed reader Tracy Tea House.  Sit back and relax as we bring you yet another San Jose Special, after we let Zillow and Redfin duke it out over what neighborhood it’s in.  Is it in West San Jose?  Is it in the Campbell area?  You decide!

456 Ardis Ave
San Jose, CA 95117
Sold for $1,285,000 on 7/27/2012
Sold for $437,000 on 2/3/2012


120809-ardis-kitchenBeds: 4
Baths: 4.5
Sqft: 3,700
Lot: 9,300 sq ft / 0.21 acres
Type: Single Family
Year built: 2012
Last sold: Jul 2012 for $1,285,000

Public Facts:
Beds: 3
Baths: 1
Sqft: 1,032
Lot: 9.300 sq ft / 0.21 acres
Type: Single Family
Year built: 1951

BRAND NEW CONSTRUCTION, this “Estate Quality” home features a wonderful open floorplan and so many designer features that include a “Chef’s Kitchen w/all stainless appl incl. refrigerator, wine chiller, wet bar, walk-in pantry and more! Fully landscaped! 10′-11′ coffered ceilings, crown/baseboards, 1,200+/- sft attic w/engineered flooring and so much more! A must see! Open Sa/Su 1-4!

120809-ardis-cabinetsHere’s why Tracy sent us this house:

Look quick cause this one shows the pictures from pre-flip. They bought the house in Feb. I think tore it down, built a new house  in six months and are trying to sell it for double the purchase.

Guess we didn’t have to look that quick, because Tracy sent this in 3 weeks ago, the day after it was listed.  The house went pending 2 days later.  It must have been a cash deal, because the sale was recorded just one week after that.

120809-ardis-carpetNow we could be party-poopers and show you the fancy pictures on Redfin, or we could be Burbed and revel in the cognitive dissonance between the listing copy above and these lovely photos still available on Zillow from the February listing.  We are talking “Estate Quality” in every room.

Also fortunately for us, Redfin saved the pre-flip listing so we can share that description with you too!

New listing! Large 9,300 +/- SF lot. Perfect starter home or for investment! Attached 1-car garage with washer/dryer hookups. Close to Santana Row, Westfield Shopping Center, and entertainment. Close to highways 280 and 880.

Yeah.  Definitely close to 280.


Bunus: Even closer to Winchester Ranch Mobile Home Park.

Comments (8) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:10 am

August 9, 2012

Over 20K put into bridge, foundation and engineered plans

Does seeing all those houses next to each other make you want to get away to your own private retreat?  Somewhere with elbow room for just you and the trees? 

Today Burbed reader wahnny has a place for you in Gilroy.  Hope you think nines are lucky!  And let’s have a big, warm, Real Bay Area welcome for wahnny who is today’s Guest Blogger!

0 LAND ONLY (Unable to map)
Gilroy, CA 95020


120808-gilroy-tableBEDS:  -
SQ. FT.:  -
LOT SIZE:  3.23 Acres
PROPERTY TYPE: Residential Land (Single Family)
VIEW: Mountains, Neighborhood
COMMUNITY:  Morgan Hill/Gilroy/San Martin
COUNTY:  Santa Clara
MLS#:  81226637
SOURCE:  MLSListings
STATUS: Active
ON REDFIN:  24 days

Magic Springs Drive. Also includes APN #810-03-004 for total of 4.36 acres. Beautiful and private creekside retreat among the giant redwoods and ferns. Over 20k put into bridge, foundation and engineered plans. No permits. Underground phone line and community spring fed water. Perfect for recreational getaway.

120808-gilroy-scgisWith all the recent chatter about “value in land only”, I thought this might make for an interesting, if not cautionary, tale.

This 4+acre property is nestled deep within a magical forest west of Gilroy.  Since it has no street address, Redfin can’t map it, but the Santa Clara County GIS can (via APN 810-03-022).

The property last sold for $800K during the peak of the bubble years.  Apparently, the seller planned to build a dream house there, investing over $20K towards improvements, but then gave up (the ogre/county wouldn’t permit it?). 

With hopes dashed, the seller resigned to sell the property, but seemed conflicted on asking price (at one point asking twice what was paid for it).  Currently, the seller has settled on a less fanciful price of $100K.

It just goes to show that RBA dreaming can only be truly realized in the RBA.

Comments (14) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:08 am

August 8, 2012

The units are unusually large

Who wants to make a small fortune in real estate?  You know what to do: start with a large fortune.  That is, unless you’re investing in Real Bay Area real estate.  Then all you have to do is let the checks roll in while the property appreciates every single minute!

Thanks very much to Burbed reader Michael Boltonestater for this bodacious apartment block in… of course!  Mountain View!  In case you haven’t already noticed, we’re giving Mountain View a lot of extra love for three days in a row.  Why?  Because we didn’t talk about them once last week!

1720 WRIGHT Ave
Mountain View, CA 94043


120807-wright-toiletBEDS:  -
SQ. FT.:  8,120
$/SQ. FT.:  $271
LOT SIZE:  0.55 Acres
COMMUNITY:  North Shoreline
COUNTY:  Santa Clara
MLS#:  81228487
SOURCE:  MLSListings
STATUS: Active
ON REDFIN:  9 days

The units are unusually large, averaging 902 square feet. They offer private backyards and balconies that face an expansive green space protected by the city. Built on over half an acre the land offers the investor a very strong long-term investment as both a rental property or a for sale redevelopment opportunity. The property is less than a mile from a number of major Mountain View employers.

120807-wright-fenceEvery real estate purchase is an opportunity in the RBA, and this is a great example.  We particularly like the realtard’s 100% correct but absolutely useless claim that the units average 902 square feet. The listing info says the building has eight one-bedroom apartments, each 865 square feet, and one 2/1 apartment, weighing in at 1200 sf. 

Are you on the fence about buying this place?  So’s the math!  The Gross Rent Multiplier is 15.03, right in between buy versus rent.

And speaking of opportunity, check out the location!


Looks like you’ll have a front row seat on whatever’s going in that right-of-way!  Maybe if you’re really lucky that’s the alternate route for High Speed Rail!


Comments (15) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:10 am

August 7, 2012

Like lawns? You’ll love this house in Mountain View!

Today’s house must be an Olympic-level winner, because three different Burbed readers sent it in.  We’re sure you’ll love it as much as they did.

375 ANNA Ave
Mountain View, CA  94043


BEDS:  4
SQ. FT.:  1,216
$/SQ. FT.:  $574
LOT SIZE:  5,000 Sq. Ft.
PROPERTY TYPE: Detached Single Family
COMMUNITY:  Thompson
COUNTY:  Santa Clara
MLS#:  81227441
SOURCE:  MLSListings
STATUS: Active
ON REDFIN:  8 days

Contractor Special! Excellent opportunity to purchase a fixer-upper in a great location in the Monta Loma Neighborhood. Excellent floor plan with private rear yard backing up to Monta Loma Elementary.

Here are the nominating speeches, first from dollarbin:

From the always popular Monta Loma neighborhood we have a hot little “contractor special”.

Only $574/sq ft?  Fortunately, local realtor Pat Jordan’s newsletter has the full story:

“375 Anna Avenue, 3 BR, 2 BA Mardell with 1,216 Sq. Ft. on 5,000 Sq. Ft. lot.  In very poor condition, offers subject to inspection (cannot see until an offer is written, because it is infested with fleas).  Notice of default has been filed.  Listed for $698,000 by Sereno Real Estate. “

I guess I won’t be able to post a first hand account from an open house.  In fact, I drove by tonight and they’re going with stealth marketing, there isn’t even a sign out front.

Not only that, have a look at the Googlecam.  The next-door neighbor is close.  Real close.


Bunus: trash bins!  Next, another nod from mabel du, who was yesterday’s Guest Blogger:

there’s only one pic on zillow or redfin, and boy-howdy it’s a beaut!  doesn’t it make you want to rush to buy this gem?  you could lose sight of your dog or kid in that weedy front lawn.  the realtor is set to make a chunk of money on this place, but he couldn’t drop $50 to get the front yard mowed?!?

“…private rear yard backing up to Monta Loma Elementary” –  oh yeah.  the sounds of screaming kids, intercom announcements, and timed school bells all day long, that’s “private” and peaceful.  (check out the satellite maps)   in case you were ondering – the school bells ring early & often, even on holidays.  so don’t plan on sleeping late very often.

Sleep late?  With all those delightful sounds you’ll be hearing?


Not to mention the amazing history this offers.  Well, amazing listing history.


Looks like this property is back in the RBA, if it can pull off this price double after just 13 years.  Which it really needed, after losing value from 10 years before that.

Comments (17) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:08 am

August 6, 2012

Our Peacock laid an Egg. On his face.

Here’s the denouement of a Burbed perennial, and best of all, it’s even in Mountain View!  Thanks very much to Burbed reader mabel du for giving this turkey one more roast with this fine guest post.

And speaking of birds, soon we’re going to have to talk Mountain View and Chik-Fil-A, but we did enough politics yesterday next door in Los Altos.  So please give mabel du a real, warm, RBA welcome as today’s Guest Blogger!

1755 PEACOCK Ave
Mountain View, CA 94043
Sold for $475,000 on 4/13/2012


BEDS:  –
SQ. FT.:  –
LOT SIZE:  6,200 Sq. Ft.
PROPERTY TYPE: Residential Land (Single Family)
VIEW: Neighborhood
COMMUNITY:  North Shoreline
COUNTY:  Santa Clara
MLS#:  81138265
SOURCE:  MLSListings

Sale price includes building plans for 4 bedroom 3 bath home

Do you prefer a bath or a shower?

This flipper-to-be sure took a bath in his bubblicious real estate gamble.  A fun bubble bath?    Not so much.

Plans to feather his nest ran afowl when he ate more than $200k to unload this rotten egg, and that ain’t chicken scratch.   Buyers didn’t flock in as hoped, so after hovering for years on a wing and a prayer he finally ended the drag and landed a buyer.

Purchased for in 2007 for $674K, dropped more cash to remove the previous crapshack, finally sold for $475 in 2012.  I don’t think that’s how RE investments are supposed to work, certainly not in the RBA.

To wax nostalgic on this oldie but goodie, let’s revisit previous Burbed entries for this 4H fowl failure:

Sept 8, 2011: This Peacock is looking a little less proud


 Click to see the other entries:  (more…)

Comments (3) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:05 am

August 5, 2012

Huge Charter School Controversy in the RBA (tl;dr warning)

120804-bullis-cartoonWe haven’t been shy about sharing our educational “reform” position with you: we distrust the charter school movement.  We believe they are a means for private corporations to strip school boards of their resources and teachers of their benefits by providing cut-rate education under the false flag of “school choice.”  After all, corporations exist to make a profit.  Would you really want your child’s education outsourced to the lowest bidder?  Of course not!  That’s why you’ll pay anything to live in the Real Bay Area!

Charter Schools’ Negative Impact on the Educational System

120804-bullis-protestCharter schools are being implemented all across the country, whether parents want them or not.  This is happening because some very wealthy people, not one of them with any education background, see this as a way to profit at the expense school boards and teachers unions.  Much of the current “school reform” movement has been taken over by tons of money from foundations from the Walton (Walmart), Gates (Microsoft) and Broad (construction and insurance) families and, of course, the Koch brothers.  These groups have completely derailed real school reform in favor of their plan to corporatize our educational system.

All that money crowds out real reform in favor of forcing charter schools, despite their lackluster performance despite their ability to cherry-pick students.  There are stories everywhere of neighborhood schools forced to close, fire all the teachers and administrators, and then reopen as charters, despite complete opposition from the affected teachers, parents and children.  Needless to say, this is most likely to happen where parents are not well-represented in the political system.  That is, this process is most likely to happen in poorer neighborhoods rather than wealthy suburbs.  Remember Waiting for Superman (which is, of course, pure propaganda)?  The Bay Area school in the film was in Redwood City.  And look at all the corporate charter schools that have popped up in Oakland and San Jose.

Click on through to find out what happens next.


Comments (20) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:06 am

August 4, 2012

Does Your Refrigerator Match Your Smartphone?

If it doesn’t, it’s time to chuck your fridge.  Thanks very much to Burbed reader nomadic for passing along this fascinating article.

So Long, Stainless: Whirlpool Introduces a New Finish For Premium Kitchens


By Keith Barry, July 18, 2012, Refrigerator Info

120803-fridge-white-iceThe stainless steel appliance hegemony has ended.

On Monday, Whirlpool introduced a new premium exterior finish that they call “White Ice.” With clean lines, silver accents and streamlined controls, the new collection’s refrigerator, range, dishwasher, and microwave are a departure from the flash and glitz of stainless steel and its many lookalikes. In fact, the combination of a white finish, stainless handles and mirrored glass appear to have a lot in common with Apple’s popular design language.

The streamlined new look combines with simplified features that Whirlpool says will make the appliances easier to use. “In addition to the intuitive technology, the line takes a fresh look at appliance design and features flawless exteriors that add beauty to any home,” said Pat Schiavone, Whirlpool’s VP of Global Consumer Design.

120803-fridge-apple-storeHere’s why nomadic sent along a clipping from Refrigerator Info (and I do not want to ask why any Burbed reader would also be checking out that site).

You can be the first real estate blog to report the death of stainless!  No more pergranisteel…

And the inspiration is coming from Silicon Valley!

Yes, this is going to look just great in all those new white kitchens with the emphasis on wood rather than a wall of stainless steel.  Because if your kitchen doesn’t look like a foodie version of an Apple Store, then you’re obviously still living in 2001.

Which is when the first Apple Store opened.

Update: The Sunday piece is a thinky one, so deposit your open thread comments here.

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