April 30, 2011

Another High Asking Price Where it’s Special

Remember the $75 million Los Altos Hills property that Yuri Milner bought?  It turned out that he actually paid $100 million, making it one of the most expensive private residential sales in the United States.  We’re #1!  We’re #1!

This one isn’t #2, but it’s still a pretty healthy chunk of change.

Silicon Valley Estate Hits Market for $59.5 Million

The Wall Street Journal, Private Properties, April 29th 2011

imageA 12-acre Silicon Valley property that belonged to a great-grandniece of Levi Strauss is asking $59.5 million.

The sellers of the Atherton, Calif., property, called Pine Brook, are the children of San Francisco philanthropist Madeleine Haas Russell, who died in 1999. The family has owned it for a century and used it as a summer retreat. There’s a main, English Tudor-style house of more than 11,000 square feet. There’s also a 6,500-square-foot guest house, a swimming pool, pool house, tennis court and gardens.

The family members say in a statement that they always intended to eventually sell the land. Listing agent Mary Gullixson of Alain Pinel Realtors says the estate is an unusually large offering.

Can’t find it on Zillow or Redfin, but a search for “Pine Brook Atherton” yields the address 237 Atherton Avenue, owned by Pine Brook LLC.  And that property is a 5 bedroom, 2 bath, 2050 square footer, with another 2280 unfinished.  And it’s sitting on… 414,600 square feet?  That’s nine and a half acres.  In Atherton.  So how did they get 12 acres, do they own some of the other parcels too?


Here it is from the back, best view there is.


But the WSJ piece says that the property has an 11,000 sf English Tudor main house and a 6,500 sf guest house.  Wonder who at the assessor’s office missed all that?  They sure fooled Zillow; the Zestimate on this place is $1,913,500, and you should be able to rent it for just $7828 a month.  And if you want a comp, here’s ten acres in Atherton with a much larger house that was offered for $22.5 and scooped up for only $18 million.

In 2007.

Obviously this listing is so hush hush that the agent won’t even feature it on her website.

Comments (35) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:08 am

March 27, 2011

Foreigner with Huge Suitcase of Cash is Real

One of the recurring arguments for Real Bay Area (RBA) prices to never go down is that even if the local economy is in the tank, prices will be pushed back up by foreigners with suitcases full of cash.  Yeah, the idea has become a bit of a joke meme on Burbed, but looks like it has a kernel of truth.

Thanks to Burbed readers nomadic and Perfect Angel for sending this one in.

Mystery surrounds buyer of hilltop mansion in Los Altos Hills

By Pete Carey, San Jose Mercury News

Posted: 03/24/2011 03:30:25 PM PDT, Updated: 03/25/2011 11:30:02 AM PDT


Satellite view of the home on La Paloma Road in Los Altos Hills.

Someone paid $75 million last month for a 25,500-square-foot mansion in Los Altos Hills — complete with its own carwash — the biggest price tag for a house in Santa Clara County history. The big mystery is who.

What is known is that the buyer is La Paloma Property, according to county records. That is a limited liability company registered in Delaware, where business laws protect the identities of the principals in companies and partnerships.

The blog TechCrunch quoted “multiple sources” saying the buyer was Yuri Milner, the Russian venture investor who founded the investment fund Digital Sky Technologies, now known as DST Global.

Milner, a former particle physics graduate student, has made a splash in Silicon Valley with large investments in Facebook, Zynga and Groupon. And he’s been shopping for a home in Silicon Valley, real estate agents said.

Wow, who knew the Merc was still such a digital dinosaur?  I mean, seriously, how difficult would it have been for them to link to the TechCrunch article?  Yeah, it’s a little thin, but it’s got an angled overview of the house and it also says Milner isn’t planning on living there much anyway.

TechCrunch and the Merc didn’t print the address, but we will, because this is a housing blog.  This metastasized monstrosity is at 13310 La Paloma Road, Los Altos Hills.  Redfin only details the 1997 sale for $5.3 million, which was before the house in question was built.  The 2009 property tax bill lists the site valued at around $4M for land and $21M for additions, with a total bill of $200,644.


The house and 11 acre parcel belonged to Fred Chan, founder of Fremont-based ESS Technology, and was held under Evershine III.  The 5-bedroom, 9 bath house, when construction began in 2003, was going to be the largest private home in the county.  Assessor info says the house was built/renovated in 2009, which means planning and construction took six years from start to finish. Again, the Mercury news says they covered the home groundbreaking, but couldn’t be bothered to link to its old article (no doubt only available as a for-sale-from-our-archive item).  Looks like Chan found a place he liked better: the largest waterfront property in Oahu.

imageWhile some sources claimed the purchaser was not Yuri Milner, the Merc has followed up on its on story and said Milner is definitely the February 3rd buyer of the property.  Milner’s spokesman Leonid Solovyev did deny that pre-IPO shares of Facebook, or any other stocks were used to pay for the home that Milner doesn’t plan to live in much.

Looks like we’re back to the really big suitcase full of cash.

But if Milner doesn’t plan on living there much, maybe he could rent the place out when he’s elsewhere.  Zillow’s rent Zestimate is $4301 a month, which seems a touch low.  I’m sure he could get the upper end of the range, which is $2200-8600 a month.

Comments (64) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:28 am

February 5, 2011

Psst, Want to Buy an Island? Part Deux

Owning your own private island is one way to show you have arrived.  8 bedroom mansion?  How vulgar!  900 acre winery?  That means you’re in trade.  But a private island?  Now that is landownership.

Thanks to Burbed reader CLS for passing this along.


Last island we featured was a bit wanting in the location, location, location chops.  Not this one.  It’s in San Francisco Bay, with views, views, views!  And it even made the national newsYahoo picked up the story (that’s their photo above), and it’s been around some other sites, too, but this local blog may have kicked it back into collective consciousness.

0 Red Rock Is, San Francisco, CA 94109


SQ. FT.: –
LOT SIZE: 5.78 Acres
PROPERTY TYPE: Lots & Land, Other
VIEW: Bay, Bridges, City, Hills, Lights, Panoramic
COMMUNITY: San Francisco County
COUNTY: San Francisco
MLS#: 21022212
STATUS: Active
ON REDFIN: 186 days

Red Rock Island is the only privately held island in San Francisco Bay and is offered at $22M for the mineral rights and bragging rights. It forms the confluence of San Francisco, Contra Costa and Marin Counties. The largest portion of the island is the 4.114 acres in Contra Costa County. It rises to an elevation of 172 feet above the water with fantastic views in all directions and is North of the fog belt. The price includes the mineral rights.

imageAnd it’s a good thing the price includes the mineral rights, because it doesn’t include building rights, water rights, or permit rights.  All you get on are some old stories of possible pirate gold buried here, and, of course, bragging rights. 

Of course, the island has its own website!  It needs to, in order to explain that you aren’t merely buying an island.  You’re taking on a whole new paradigm of land use, such as being divided among three different counties (SF, Marin and Contra Costa), including the City of Richmond, and who knows how many state agencies, plus there’s a 1932 Executive Order signed by Herbert Hoover that prohibits destruction or disfigurement of the island.

Not every real property has to deal with so many government entities, but this one is Real Special!

imageThe Associated Press stated that the current owner bought the island in 1964 for $49,500, and attempted to build a 20 story hotel and casino complex.  The project was blocked by the City of Richmond.  He’s also considered turning the place into a quarry and practicing a little mountaintop removal.

Property Shark has never heard of the place (they say the address simply doesn’t exist), and the San Francisco Assessor’s Office software went all Three Mile Island trying to find it even when I spotted it the parcel number. 

So maybe you ought to consider buying it just to avoid bill collectors and process servers.  Plus if any county deputies come after you, all you have to do is step over the line into your choice of two others!

Really, if Zillow can’t find this place, you’re golden:


And puh-leeze on the listing being only half a year old.  The owner’s been trying to ditch this sandbar since at least 2007, and look!  It’ was for sale in 2005 for a quarter the price!  According to Yahoo, the asking price was $10 million in 2008.  Somebody better tell the listing agent that the price is supposed to double every ten years, not every two.

Here’s owner David Glickman on why the price keeps going up:

At the time, I thought I’d sell it. The island has a good spot for a marina, and it’s in the bay, so the marina would be useful," he said. "But each time I thought I was going to sell it, something happened to make it worth more money.

Comments (10) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:08 am

January 16, 2011

More Haircutting While Chasing the Market Down

Last Sunday we looked at a feature from Zillow Blog: ten expensive home sales in 2010 from all around the country (but NOT the Real Bay Area).  Today we take another look at more hideously high-priced homes across the nation, only these 12 housing tumors still haven’t sold.

This Luxist article ranks the lucky nominees by price reduction in dollars (not percentages) taken along the way.  I put the listings in the correct order (the blogger had one in the wrong place), and added one more property that came out on Luxist after the list was published.

Best of all, we have a San Francisco entry this time, so we’ll take an extra good look at that offering.  Even in the RBA it’s possible to overprice something.

<img missing due to burbed’s terrible admin skills. working on restoring>#1: Albermarle House Charlottesville, VA

Original Asking Price: $100 million (October 2009)

Reduced Asking Price: $48 million (February 2010)

Current Asking Price: $24 million

Haircut So Far: –76% ($76 million)

This behemoth in the Blue Ridge Mountains has 25,000 square feet, 45 rooms (including 8 bedrooms and 13 baths), but all the furniture and art has already been auctioned off, so sorry!  The 907 acre grounds include the Kluge Estate Winery and Vineyards (and that is also on the block).  Even places like this can get foreclosed on, but their loss is your gain!

<img missing due to burbed’s terrible admin skills. working on restoring>#2: Henry T. Sloan Mansion – New York, NY

Original Asking Price: $64 million (January 2008)

Current Asking Price: $39 million (November 2009)

Haircut So Far: –39% ($25 million)

6 FL, 18267 SF, 15 BR/17 BA, 11 FP, 18 E 68th @5th, TAXES $79K, MAKE OFFER, SELLER DESPERATE.

“The owners have a real need to sell in the first quarter of next year, or sooner,” said Lawrence J. Selevan of Chesterfield Faring, a financial adviser to the owners. “They need to raise the capital to take care of other issues.” – New York Observer, 11/10/09

The current FBs bought their property for $20 million in 2007, then bought out all the tenants, one by one, for another $11 million, so they could turn the apartment building back into a townhouse.  The F-word has already been used and lis pendens was filed last January.  This property has the distinction of being on the 2009 list as well.

<img missing due to burbed’s terrible admin skills. working on restoring>#3. Museum Tower Penthouse – San Francisco, CA

Original Asking Price: $70 million (August 2008)

Current Asking Price: $49 million (November 2008)

Haircut so far: –30% ($21 million)

Many properties have their own website when they go up for sale, but few use a description rather than an address: Museum Tower Penthouse.  You won’t find this place on the MLS, either.  But you will find it on the map, and Third and Minna doesn’t look like the RBA part of San Francisco.

<img missing due to burbed’s terrible admin skills. working on restoring>

<img missing due to burbed’s terrible admin skills. working on restoring>The owner doesn’t seem to be in much of a hurry to sell, with the price not budging in more than a year.  But this is not only the most expensive condominium in San Francisco, it may be the most expensive apartment anywhere, and $49M is one of the highest asking prices for any property in SF.

Then again, not many of those other properties are 20,000 square feet.  That includes 2900 sf over four terraces, a 2500 sf master suite, 5 other bedrooms, 7 total full bathrooms and 4 half baths, four fireplaces, a 13-seat cinema, an office with conference room, and parking for six cars.

According the Chronicle piece linked above, the owner lives for the most part in Hillsborough, so you may want to think about getting a country house in addition to this little pied-à-terre.  Perhaps your buyers’ agent can get you some kind of buy one, get one half off discount.

<img missing due to burbed’s terrible admin skills. working on restoring>#4: Porcupine Creek – Rancho Mirage, CA

Original Asking Price: $75 million (March 2010)

Current Asking Price: $55 million (August 2010)

Haircut So Far: –23% ($20 million)

This resort masquerading as a private residence sits on 249 acres, 248 of which are a golf course.  The 18,400 sf metastasized mansion with 16 bedrooms isn’t large enough for visitors, as the lot boasts eight two bedroom guest houses as well.  The Yellowstone Club is selling (or should we say liquidating) to meet their creditors’ demands, and the bankruptcy court in Montana must approve your offer.  Divorce and lawsuits seem to be the cause.  Aren’t they always?

This home was originally ranked #2 on the list.  Why the author thought $20 million was more than $25 million is left as an exercise to the reader.

<img missing due to burbed’s terrible admin skills. working on restoring>#5. Rocky Oaks Estate – Malibu, CA

Original Asking Price: $65 million (October 2009)

Current Asking Price: $49 million (November 2010)

Haircut so far: –25% ($16 million)

This 5 BR/5 BA hilltop lookout encompasses 37 acres, with not one foot of beachfront.  Kind of defeats having that Malibu address, doesn’t it?  As a consolation prize, you get a vineyard.  HUGE PRICE REDUCTION!  Only on market 459 days!  HURRY, THIS ONE WON’T LAST.

<img missing due to burbed’s terrible admin skills. working on restoring>#6. Val Kilmer’s Pecos River Ranch  – 30 miles east of Santa Fe, NM

Original Asking Price: $33 million (early 2009)

Reduced Asking Price: $23 million (October 2010)

Current Asking Price: $18.5 million CASH (January, 2011)

Haircut so far: –46% ($14.5 million)

Even the website heading has Val Kilmer as part of the title.  And what a ranch, 5200 acres plus an additional 640 acres of grazing rights, right in the middle of the homicide capital of the Southwest.  The sales conditions are spelled right out here: you get all furnishings and appliances not owned by employees or reserved by seller.  That could mean none of them.  You get all the mineral rights not previous reserved – oops, same loophole.  In addition to the land you also get a 5500 sf main house with 4 bedrooms, 4 baths, 2 living rooms, and, get this: 2 kitchens.  You also get 2 guest houses, a manager’s house, and the usual equestrian facilities.

Just for grins, the IRS has a half a million dollar lien on the property.  And for another knee-slapper, Kilmer put the property up last October on Craigslist.  Final indignity: In 2006, Kilmer attempted to sell an 1800 acre parcel of the ranch, or a bit less than a third of it, for… $18 million.

<img missing due to burbed’s terrible admin skills. working on restoring>#7. Michael Jackson’s Rented House – Holmby Hills (Los Angeles), CA

Original Asking Price: $38 million (April 2008)

Reduced Asking Price: $28,995,000(August 2010)

Current Asking Price: $23.5 million (October 2010)

Haircut so far: –46% ($14.5 million)

Yes, MJ was the tenant here, not the owner.  It’s just your basic 17,100 square foot 7 BR/13 BA French Chateau designed by Richard Landry off Sunset Boulevard.  Has the usual guest house and private cinema.  Ho hum.  Last sold for $18.5 million in 2004, and may very well sell for something a lot closer to that.

<img missing due to burbed’s terrible admin skills. working on restoring>#8. The Razor – La Jolla, CA

Original Asking Price: $39 million (May 2008)

Reduced Asking Prices: $32 million(August 2010), $28.5 million (June 2009)

Current Asking Price: $25 million (February 2010)

Haircut so far: –36% ($14 million)

Perhaps the only home on the list with any architectural interest, The Razor was designed by Wallace E. Cunningham, with floor-to-ceiling windows set to take in the ocean views.  It’s 11,000 square feet, with 4 bedrooms, 5 baths, an 8 car garage and the obligatory guest house, set on 3/4 of an acre.  It also has a private entrance to Black’s Beach.

This is the extra house discovered Tuesday, after Luxist already published their 11 price cuts piece.

<img missing due to burbed’s terrible admin skills. working on restoring>#9. Sea Lane Drive – Malibu, CA

Original Asking Price: $55 million (July 2010)

Current Asking Price: $45 million (December 2010)

Haircut so far: –18% ($10 million)

Never mind the 11,000 sf house with 7 bedrooms, 8.5 baths, guest house, theater.  Yawn.  Forget that it’s on 6.2 acres.  Meh.  No, this insane price is for the 339 feet of Malibu beachfront.

Do you know who this house belonged to?  Max Palevsky.  He died in May, so the house is for sale.  He founded some snack company that made chips.  They even have an office in Santa Clara!

<img missing due to burbed’s terrible admin skills. working on restoring>#10. The Webb Project – Montecito, CA

Original Asking Price: $42.5 million (August 2010)

Current Asking Price: $32.5 million

Haircut so far: –24% ($10 million)

Yet another 6 BR/8.5 BA house with theater, guest house, and two three-car garages on five acres. Enough, already. Enough.

Its address seems to be 000 East Mountain Dr.  Can any of you sleuths find the date the price got reduced?  I’m having no luck with Redfin, which I like for its price history section. This is the only listing where I couldn’t get dates from either Redfin or real estate blogs.  It was still $42.5 million this October, from my one hit on a Montecito site.

<img missing due to burbed’s terrible admin skills. working on restoring>#11. Flying Dog Ranch – Woody Creek, CO

Original Asking Price: $56 million (July 2009)

Current Asking Price: $46.2 million (October 2010)

Haircut so far: –18% ($9.8 million)

245 acres, next to National Forest, and close to Aspen.  Other than 11,000 sf, 9 bedrooms, 7 baths, there’s next to no details about the house. The value really is in the land, and the seller assumes the interest is only in the land, too.

<img missing due to burbed’s terrible admin skills. working on restoring>#12. Villa Colina – Knoxville, TN

Original Asking Price: $21 million (June 2010)

Reduced Asking Price: $19 million (September 2010)

Current Asking Price: $12.5 million (November 2010)

Haircut so far: –40% ($8.5 million)

You get so much more for your money once you leave the coastal nexus of CA-NY-DC-FL.  You lose so much less when you can’t sell it, too.  Percentage-wise, though, you may take a pounding.

If you can figure out why someone built an Italian Villa in Knoxville, Tennessee, then you’ll can figure out how to sell it to the next victim, too.  This effronterous edifice is 37,000 square feet.  That’s right, it’s almost an acre of house, with 8 bedrooms and 11 bathrooms.  The garage has room for 5 cars.  Just like those Southern California ego trips, it boasts a guest house and a cinema.

And speaking of Things One Really Doesn’t Need In Tennessee, this house comes with… a doorman?  The buyer should send him to property #2 where he’ll feel more at home.

Comments (6) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:03 am

January 14, 2011

Biggest, Weirdest Reported Sale – Maybe Ever – Alameda County

I wanted to close out the week with one more property that could have made Zillow’s expensive home sales list (remember, not one RBA property on the list, the nerve!)  But there weren’t any over $10 million properties in Marin, and when I moved over to Alameda County… lookie here what I found.

1812 Bali Ter (Unable to map), San Leandro, CA 94578

Sold on 01/08/2011: $41,500,000

<img missing due to burbed’s terrible admin skills. working on restoring>

BATHS: 2.5
SQ. FT.: 2,192
$/SQ. FT.: $18,932
LOT SIZE: 2,543 Sq. Ft.
TYPE: Detached
STYLE: Contemporary
COMMUNITY: San Leandro
COUNTY: Alameda
MLS#: 40492923

New Construction. .. Gated Community. No HOA. Many upgrades included. Great floor plan. Large kitchen island & pantry and gas stove. Huge master suite with jet tub, etc. Has 3-fireplaces. Seller says must sell bring offer!.

Guess this was the seller’s lucky day, huh?  Or maybe someone seriously fat-fingered that update?  From looking at that rather pedestrian kitchen (for $41 million, I want something that doesn’t scream 2005 at me), I suspect someone made a big mistake.  Let’s hope it wasn’t the FB fulfilled buyer.  So, have a look at the asking price.

<img missing due to burbed’s terrible admin skills. working on restoring>

Whoa!  I’ve heard overbidding is everywhere, but… let’s see what the lucky homedebtor got for (cough) $41 million.  Fortunately, this site and several others had lots of pictures and information and even managed to come up with a map.  There were 10 homes in this new gated community.  It must be really posh!

<img missing due to burbed’s terrible admin skills. working on restoring>

That’s some serious elbow room.  At least there should be some open space nearby, right?

<img missing due to burbed’s terrible admin skills. working on restoring>

Plenty of room across Liberty Street!  Awesome!  Now, gated community, right? Let’s get a good gander at the gate!

<img missing due to burbed’s terrible admin skills. working on restoring>

While a few security guards at an entry booth would be a touch more apropos, the riffraff won’t be crashing the cotillion!  In fact, don’t worry about the wrong element showing up uninvited to social events, because absolutely nobody will know where this house really is.  I’ll prove it.  Here’s where another Realtard site thinks it’s located:

<img missing due to burbed’s terrible admin skills. working on restoring>

Who wouldn’t pay a hundred times the asking price for an undisclosed location and guaranteed privacy?  Not convinced? Here’s where Zillow thinks it is:

<img missing due to burbed’s terrible admin skills. working on restoring>

And remember, Redfin didn’t even try to find the house.

Okay, I know you’re all laughing at this new construction in San Leandro (has Burbed ever been to San Leandro before?  Yes!) but it’s got 10 rooms!  The house yesterday had 14 (and zero bedrooms).  So there’s no reason why this house can’t sell for an eight digit price, too.  Plus you will avoid all that horrible traffic in The City.

Update 1/11/11: Well, dammit, Redfin now (as of 4 pm) says the house sold for $415,000.  I was so looking forward to watching this FB open the property tax bill, too.

Comments (26) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:06 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

August 31, 2010

Best Real Estate Blog for Where?

If you’ve managed to miss reading this site the last few weeks, you might have not have noticed that burbed was nominated for, and won, this award from Zillow:

There’s one problem.  It turns out there was also an award for Best Blog in San Jose Real Estate, and burbed wasn’t even nominated.  So that means we can’t discuss Palo Alto anymore. 

Good thing burbed reader AJT sent in this San Francisco property, along with a comment about walking by the place and then finding out it was for sale.  And even better, look what was listed two years ago, thanks to Herve:


Burbed reader Herve thought it would be good to point this unique property out. Apparently it’s been on the market 2 years ago for $75 million (really?).

In any case, it is now just at $48 million – another sure sign the real estate market has bottomed out and that it is now a great time to jump back in.

Just think, if you got a smart enough mortgage, you could easily buy this and get at least $22 million in instant equity. Wowsers!

What are you waiting for?

Wowsers!  If the price was cut from $75 million in 2006 to $48 million in 2008, then it should be down to $31 million in 2010, right?

2901 Broadway St, San Francisco, CA 94115


BATHS: 7.5
SQ. FT.: –
PROPERTY TYPE: Detached, Single-Family Home
STYLE: Custom
VIEW: Panoramic, City Lights, Water, Bay, Bay Bridge, Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, Downtown, Marina, Ocean, Park, Garden/Greenbelt, Hills, Mt. Tamalpais, Twin Peaks
COMMUNITY: Pacific Heights
COUNTY: San Francisco
MLS#: 322933
SOURCE: San Francisco MLS
STATUS: Active
ON REDFIN: 1226 days

Italian Renaissance hilltop mansion on the Gold Coast, near Presidio. Expansive Golden Gate & north Bay views from almost every room. Grand reception hall. Elegant formal rooms. Graceful marble stair leads to family level. 7 bedrooms, 7.5 baths. Master suites. Library. Music room. Office. Rec room. Elevator. Period details. Private winding drive. Garden. Private tennis court. 2007 San Francisco Decorator Showcase. Property history & floor plans on property and agent’s website.

$45 million?  Someone doesn’t understand that if the house won’t sale, your price is FAIL!

I want to look at that “Days on Redfin” number again while my eyes pop out.  1226!  You’d almost think they don’t care if they sell the house or not!  Perhaps the tenants are paying almost enough rent to cover the heating bill.

For the garage.

I’m sure the Assessor’s Office is keeping an eye on this one, as it only paid $7,000 in taxes last year.  To give you an idea how little that is, if you were to buy this house and put $9 million down, your 15 year fixed loan of $36 million would cost you $261,000.  A month.  And that’s assuming you could get the 3.75% mortgage rate Redfin helpfully put in for you.  Do you think you’d have to apply for a jumbo?

One last thing about this expensive, er, expansive, listing.  Here’s what Redfin has to say about the 2008 observation:

The seller has requested that all public comments be removed from this listing. Per MLS rules, we are not allowed to link to blog posts about this home.

Fortunately, we are.  Otherwise we’d have to keep following up on 13 Lucky Street.

Comments (71) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:01 am

July 12, 2010

Florentine? Isn’t that a Restaurant on De Anza?

So, what should it be today, overpriced teardown or overpriced prestige listing?  That’s the beauty of the Real Bay Area, plenty of both!

5050 ALPINE Rd  Portola Valley, CA 94028


Beds: 7
Baths: 6
Sq. Ft.: 16,000
$/Sq. Ft.: $1,250
Lot Size: 20.93 Acres
Property Type: Detached Single Family
Stories: 3
View: Bay, Canyon, Valley, City Lights
Year Built: 1920
Community: Central Portola Valley
County: San Mateo
MLS#: 81032274
Source: MLSListings
Status: Active This listing is for sale and the sellers are accepting offers.
On Redfin: 5 days

One of the nation���s finest private residences, the hand-crafted Villa Lauriston is incomparable and unique. Commissioned in the 1920���s, this 20 room Florentine Villa features the finest historic materials and artifacts from San Francisco mansions and European palaces and churches. This architectural jewel is set in a private 28.4 acre park-like parcel, surrounded by 1,000 acres dedicated as open

image When you’re looking for a house and you find a listing that has a name instead of an address, you know you’re not in Milpitas anymore.  When it’s offered for sale by Sotheby’s International instead of RE/MAX, that’s a hint this is no crapbox in Campbell.  Why bother putting on pretty photos on Redfin?  Heck, they didn’t even care enough to remove those unprintable characters above.  So what?  This is an “incomparable and unique” Florentine Villa in Portola Valley.  A Florentine Villa!  Wow!  That means there’s spinach on top.

And this “incomparable and unique” property has “materials and artifacts from European palaces and churches”?  In some circumstances, that could be due to art theft, or looting.  I hope these were paid for, as last time I checked out European palaces and churches, there weren’t any price tags on the fine historic materials and artifacts, just a few knock-offs in the gift shop.  And they called the house an “architectural jewel” too!  Remember the diamond in the rough a couple of weeks ago?  What does that make this place, the Hope on the putting green?

Speaking of golf metaphors, there is no golf course on the grounds.  (Hmpf, even a spread in Cupertino had two holes for golf!)  But you do get tennis courts, a pool and spa, an historic pool (which means it isn’t usable and they didn’t feel like taking it out), and a reflecting pool.  Let the website tell you all about it (for twenty million dollars, this place had better have its own website):

The property includes the main residence, a cottage or caretaker’s house, four car garage, and a estate landscape featuring a one acre main meadow with dolphin fountain and two river god sculptures, reflecting pond, conservatory/sunken garden with fountain, old swimming pool/stage, two acre 600-vine vineyard, vegetable garden and cutting flower beds, tennis court, picnic area with arbor, natural waterfall and stream, bee hives, lavender/Italian cypress path, and much more.

image Lavender?  Forget it.  For $20 million they should have put in a danged saffron crocus field.  Saffron grows in Mediterranean climates (like this place is trying to pretend it’s from) and sells for up to $11,000 a kilogram.  If you had one of those, you could afford to put in some more MAWBUL CAWLUMS.

Be sure to spend some time perusing the property website.  I’m still trying to figure out where they store the “riding lawn mores” and what the heck a “Hebraic wood splitter” is.  Does it clip off the branch tip first?

Villa Lauriston is both a grand estate and an expression of one man’s personal vision.  The 13,000-square-foot, 20-room Villa and the surrounding acres of formal gardens, ponds and pools was the creation of the English-born entrepreneur Herbert Edward Law. Law was a businessman, a real estate magnate, a connoisseur and a man of the arts.  Law is perhaps best known for having purchased, with his brother, San Francisco’s Fairmont Hotel just days before the great earthquake of 1906.

Quick!  Follow in the footsteps of Herb Law!  Hurry up and buy this place so we can get The Big One over with.

Comments (11) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:01 am

June 15, 2010

truly exemplifies the belvedere

You can fool some of the people all of the time, you can fool all of the people some of the time, but you can’t possibly sell this problematic house to anyone fortunate enough to live in the Real Bay Area.


101 Belvedere Ave Belvedere, CA 94920

Beds: 6
Baths: 6.5
Sq. Ft.:  7,063
$/Sq. Ft.: $3,894
Lot Size: 0.69 Acres
Property Type:
Residential, Detached, Single Family
Style: Custom
Stories: 3
View: Bay, Bridges, City, Lights, Marina, Mountains, Water
Year Built: 1987
Community: Belvedere
County: Marin
MLS#: 21014179
Source: BAREIS
Status: Active This listing is for sale and the sellers are accepting offers.
On Redfin: 19 days

Sited on the western-most promontory of Belvedere Island w/ the Bay directly below & unobstructed views from Mount Tam through Sausalito, the GG Bridge & the entire SF skyline, this property truly exemplifies the belvedere. Warren Callister designed, west-side waterfront w/ 5 bedrooms, 4 full & 3 half-baths in the main residence & separate 1-bedroom, 1-bath guest apartment w/ kitchen & living room.

I don’t even know where to begin with this one, so let’s get the biggest problem out of the way first.  This house is at least 45 miles from Silicon Valley.  I’m sure you could handle a lot of your business via email, Skype and SMS, but.  But.  You’re still 45 miles, that’s an hour and half in traffic, from the people you need to see.  There’s something to be said for “smart” communities, and Belvedere wasn’t anywhere on the list.  Face it, with a density of 1856 people per square mile, you’re not going to find 1259 of them being college grads as you will in San Jose.

Next problem: Serious water hazard.  I mean, would you LOOK at this?


And that isn’t a koi pond.  That’s San Francisco Bay, and it’s 56 degrees in there.   Brrrrrr.  So don’t waste your money on koi.  They’re freshwater.

Now, let’s look at one of those words the listing agent used.  “Promontory,”  No, not promissory, promontory,  As in exposed, windswept cliff.  As in “I sure hope you have a lot of liability insurance, because you are going to need it when your daughter’s best friend starts playing Wuthering Heights on that promontory.”  As in, “Did you hire a geologist to see if the whole house is going down in the drink because a big chunk of promontory just collapsed?” 


Promissory probably doesn’t pertain to this property.  At an asking price of $27,500,000, your loan of $729,750 will leave you to come up with a 97.3% down payment.  There is good news!  With that much cash up front, there’s almost no chance of a low appraisal sinking the deal!

Next problem: Isn’t the entire point of buying rather than renting so you can water your own lawn?  This property seems to have neglected the lawn.  Big minus.

Another big lose for this property is the Golden Gate bridge toll.  What is that up to now, six dollars? Five with FasTrak?  Your only way around that is to take the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge and come down I-880.  Well, that or put in a helipad on the roof.

Now, did you take a look at this interesting number?  Price per square foot: $3,894.  I’m going to say that again.  Three thousand, eight hundred ninety four.  Most of the properties on burbed are smaller than that in square feet, let alone cheaper per square foot.  This might indeed be a record.  What is this place made out of, unobtanium?  And for this kind of money, are there any marble columns?

image Nope.  There might be some marble in the bathroom, but none of it was column-shaped.

What a rip-off.

And speaking of rip-off, note how the listing gives and then takes away.  It said 6 BR/6.5 BA, didn’t it?  What you don’t find out until you read the fine print is that one bedroom and one bath are in the guest apartment.  So you’re really only getting 5 BR/5.5 BA in the house, and that 5.5 BA is really 4 full and 3 half bathrooms.  That’s right.  3 of the “bathrooms” don’t have a bath or a shower.  If that isn’t false advertising, I don’t know what is.

It’s that kind of cheap fitting out that leads people to say rude things about contractors.  And let’s just note one thing about the home’s designer, Warren Callister.  He is responsible for Rossmoor.  That’s a retirement community.  In Walnut Creek.  Walnut Creek is even less RBA than Belvedere, because the former is a suburb of Oakland.

imageHere’s another problem with this property: can you imagine having to wash all these windows?  I can’t either.  Keep looking at the pictures in the listing, because this isn’t the only room where one window would have been enough, so Callister put in six.  Did he own stock in Andersen or something?  I mean, if you’re going to spend so much on fixtures, why not throw in a few marble columns instead?

Yup. I’ll say it again.  Custom home, not one marble column.  It’s like they weren’t even trying.  It “truly exemplifies the belvedere.”  A belvedere is a structure built to take in a commanding view, usually above a building or city.  So this house, in not having one, truly exemplifies it.

Comments (27) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:05 am

September 18, 2009

A house fit for an executive in Palo Alto

1781 ARASTRADERO, Palo Alto, CA 94304 | MLS# 80930540
1781 ARASTRADERO Palo Alto, CA 94304
Price: $23,950,000

Beds: 6
Baths: 4
Sq. Ft.: 12,000
$/Sq. Ft.: $1,996
Lot Size: 12.96 Acres
Property Type: Detached Single Family
Style: Mediterranean
Stories: 2
View: Bay, Green Belt, Mountains, Lake, Valley, City Lights
Year Built: 2001
Community: Palo Alto Hills
County: Santa Clara
MLS#: 80930540
Source: MLSListings
Status: Active
On Redfin: 75 days
Welcome to this exceptional private gated estate of approximately 12,000 square feet with breathtaking Bay, lake and hill views from nearly every room of this residence. Situated on approximately 13 acres, this property is unmatched in the attention to everydetail. 7 bedrooms, 9.5 bathrooms, family room, living room, office, library, lounge, game room, theater, and infinity pool.

Thanks to Burbed reader Pralay for this fine Friday find.

Wow. Just wow.

Personally I love houses… no… estates like this. These are the kind of listings that really help the Real Bay Area stand out. It’s a shining beacon to people everywhere – sending a message of prosperity, hope, and fortune.

You could be the next engineer that creates a startup that gives you this house. All you have to do is move here.

Kudos to the listing agent for this clever shot. It really is eye catching, and it definitely stood out in my mind.

How long is it before you move into this house, you crazy, successful, entrepreneur you?

Comments (36) -- Posted by: burbed @ 5:33 am