July 22, 2013

Neighbors from Hell: Burlingame Edition (Could be considered threatening to some)

We all know that good fences make good neighbors. You know what makes great neighbors? Pulling a Larry Page and buying up every property anywhere near yours.  And if you don’t do this, you end up with a situation like this:

Noise in the hills: Burlingame neighbors in bitter dispute over home construction

130721-construction-gfyJuly 10, 2013, 05:00 AM
By Bill Silverfarb, San Mateo Daily Journal

John Lucero Michael Gaul has posted this sign (photo, right) for his neighbor to see. It includes the term ‘GFY’ which could be considered threatening to some.

A simmering brouhaha in the Burlingame hills started with a beehive near a pool and a first complaint between neighbors, escalated when tortoises started burrowing across property lines, came to a fever pitch when band saws roared at 6 a.m. and will come to a head when the two parties finally sit down for mediation, which has been delayed three times already now.

The dispute pits San Bruno school teacher John Lucero against his neighbor Burlingame Planning Commissioner Michael Gaul and the sizable home Gaul is building above Mercy High School on Adeline Drive.

Gaul pulled permits for the property back in 2005 and has been working on the home ever since. It is near completion but Gaul will first have to address a code enforcement violation that Lucero pointed out to Burlingame officials.

130721-construction-neighborsOh, this should be fun, the teacher is telling on the planning commissioner for code violations, namely that Gaul was running a general contracting business out of his house while calling it “construction.”  And since the permit was “finaled” seven (!) years ago, it looks like the city isn’t in much of a hurry to enforce code against its own planning commissioner.

The aerial photo at left shows Gaul’s house on the left and Lucero’s on the right.  According to Zillow, Gaul’s house is 6600 square feet, over twice as large as Lucero’s 70s-era 3000 square foot shack.  Both homes are on lots of over 20,000 square feet.

Bunus: Cross-jurisdictional finger-pointing as every other house near Gaul is in unincorporated San Mateo County. Hilarity ensues!

Dubble Bunus: “Aberrational sexual gawking behavior.” 

Trippple Bunus: Illegal B&B. Plus annoying film crew.

Comments (9) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 7:02 am






July 21, 2013

Ever get that sinking feeling you don’t live in the RBA?

Life in the Real Bay Area is Special.  Life outside is… less so. Here’s a story showing what happens when you buy elsewhere.  Thanks very much to Burbed reader nomadic for passing this along.

Residents of sinking Calif. subdivision file claim

130721-lake-spiveyBy TRACIE CONE, Associated Press
Updated 12:33 pm, Wednesday, July 17, 2013

LAKEPORT, Calif. (AP) — For months homeowners agonized as houses in their subdivision sank one-by-one into a California hilltop. It got so dangerous that the U.S. Postal Service refused to deliver mail.

Now, they say they know the reason eight homes were destroyed and 10 others are in danger, and they’ve taken the first step toward recouping damages by filing a claim against Lake County.

A leaking county water system that went undetected for months saturated the hillside and caused the ground to give way, said Michael Green, an attorney for the 41 homeowners in the subdivision with sweeping views of Clear Lake in Northern California.

Green is seeking $5 million for each homeowner in the claim filed last month against the county.

130721-lake-singhOh, this is going to be good. The homeowners are blaming the county over the leaking water system, and the county is blaming the homeowners association, saying their irrigation system contributed to the unusual behavior of the houses. Yeah, we know whenever a sprinkler system busts a leak, our Silicon Valley homes completely fall apart too.

Oh wait, that’s not because of the sprinklers, that’s the TCE plume.

For extra lawsuit lusciousness, the county supervisors asked for a disaster declaration from the governor. That was refused.

Next time, only buy in the RBA, where these sort of things never, ever, ever, ever, ever happen.

Comments (6) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 7:05 am

July 14, 2013

Agent Scammer to the Slammer for a fixed 15

Let’s have some more news about our favorite people: realtards. Or at least one particular realtard who was particularly clueless. Pro Tip: If you’re going to pull off a classic Ponzi real estate scam, don’t do it to your own friends and family. Pick people who won’t be continually reminded of you. They’re less likely to notice there’s a problem, and even if they do, they’ll keep forgetting to do something about it.

Thanks very much to Burbed reader Petsmart Groomer for passing this story along.

San Jose real estate agent who scammed friends and family gets 15-year sentence

130713-ponzi-mugshotBy Eric Kurhi, San Jose Mercury News
Posted:   07/10/2013 06:10:02 PM PDT; Updated:   07/11/2013 12:12:36 PM PDT

SAN JOSE — A real estate agent has been sentenced to 15 years in prison for using a Ponzi scheme to bilk friends and family out of more than $2 million, which she spent on luxury cars, expensive clothes and fancy furniture, according to prosecutors.

Jill Marie Silvey, 51, was convicted earlier this year in Santa Clara County Superior Court of 52 fraud-related felonies. Her scam involved convincing at least 20 investors to lend their money to homeowners whom Silvey had dealt with before. The homeowners would then send the investors monthly interest payments.

Unfortunately, there are still plenty of real estate agents out there not going to jail. Some of them might not have even scammed anybody!  This a good time to let us know your agent stories, both good and bad.

PG notes “She reportedly asked if we could refinance the sentence to a 5/1.” 

Comments (2) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 7:03 am

July 7, 2013

The End is Nigh? Or is that Ni?

Terrible bad news! Someone let the air out of Bay Area Bubble 4.0’s tires!  Tragedy!

Bay Area housing frenzy cooling off

By Pete Carey, San Jose Mercury News
Posted:   07/04/2013 04:00:00 PM PDT, Updated:   07/05/2013 08:44:05 AM PDT

130706-over-signThe Bay Area’s frenzied housing market, marked by soaring prices, short supply and a scramble for homes, is showing signs of cooling.

Some buyers, fearful of a new bubble or worried about higher interest rates, are putting their plans on hold, while new listings of homes for sale have been increasing since March, which should put the brakes on spiraling prices.

"It’s a welcome break in the trend, even if it ultimately means prices start to cool off a bit too," said ZipRealty CEO and President Lanny Baker.

Real estate agents in Silicon Valley, where homes have commanded offers hundreds of thousands of dollars over asking price, say bidding is less frenzied than a few months ago, although it’s still one of the hottest markets in the country with a median of 10 days to sell a home.

Santa Clara Median Sale Price / sq. ft.

This can’t be! The party isn’t over just because mortgage rates are going up, or more homes are being put up for sale. Not in the Real Bay Area, anyway! The above map of Santa Clara County real estate sale prices per square foot says so. The spiking rental market keeps pushing buyers forward as well. Besides, It’s Special Here!  (It’s so special we have to tell you that red is county, green is city.)

And that median of ten days to sell a home proves that things can’t be cooling off. Everyone knows the smart agents wait 10 days and get all the overbids all at once. Houses could sell in 15 minutes if the sellers wanted them to.

The housing frenzy isn’t cooling off. This is wishful thinking. Mortgage rates don’t affect the Real Bay Area, because every single house in it was purchased by suitcases-full-of-cash-wielding foreigners, who, HELLO, don’t care what the mortgage rates are because they have, HELLO, suitcases full of cash on hand.  And more houses being listed? That just allows more people the opportunity to lose out to overbids on an excellent property.

We don’t understand why anyone would be allowed to print something this misleading, although the quote from the president of a county Realtard association (in the East Bay, yet), makes us glad they did:

While the steep climb in median sales prices for single-family homes in the East Bay, Peninsula and South Bay has made some buyers nervous, it doesn’t necessarily mean there’s a bubble, said Robin Dickson, president of the Contra Costa Association of Realtors.

"Clients say they are just not going to buy at the top of market, but really, how do you know this is the top of market?" Dickson said.

Other things we don’t know is whether the sun will rise tomorrow morning, when the San Jose Mercury News will admit it’s just a website, and when real estate writers will stop asking realtards for economic analysis knowing damned well all they’re going to get is cheerleading and happy talk.

Really, how do you know this is the top of the market?  It could actually be the floor of the NEXT market, Mr. Negativity!

Comments (33) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 7:15 am

June 30, 2013

Mortgages Up Half Point in a Week: You are Officially Priced Out Forever

Here’s some cheery news for you from our local Website That Was Once A Newspaper Too!

Biz Break: Mortgage rate skyrockets amid housing market turnaround

By Jeremy C. Owens, San Jose Mercury News
Posted:   06/27/2013 03:47:57 PM PDT; ‘Updated:   06/27/2013 04:40:57 PM PDT

Today: 30-year mortgage rate takes a nearly unprecedented one-week jump to its highest point in two years as the real-estate market heats up. Also: Apple (AAPL) continues to decline even as Wall Street has third straight day of gains.

The average rate for a 30-year mortgage experienced its largest one-week increase in more than a quarter-century, as the housing market continues a booming turnaround from the crisis that precipitated the Great Recession.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac reported Thursday that the rate had increased from 3.9 percent to 4.46 percent in the past week, the highest rate recorded in more than two years. The rise in the mortgage rate is even more striking when comparing it to near-record-lows experienced less than two months ago — in early May, the average rate was 3.35 percent. Bankrate.com reported that the 3.35 percent rate on a $200,000 mortgage would result in monthly payments of $881, while the 4.46 percent rate would cost a buyer $1,008 a month.

The rise comes as the housing market roars back to life so quickly that some in the Bay Area have asked if the region has entered another housing bubble. Home prices in the Bay Area hit their highest average in five years in May, according to DataQuick, returning to levels last seen before the Great Recession had most of its effects on the market. That mirrors a national rise, with the Standard & Poor’s/Case Schiller index tracking the highest annual gain in home prices since 2006 in April, as San Francisco joined three other large metro areas in increases of more than 20 percent.

130629-mortgages-forsaleWe’ll stop you right there with a reminder that we called Bay Area Bubble 4.0 and have continued to call Bay Are Bubble 4.0 months and months ago. You can see how behind the Murky News is on this, running a story by one of their own reporters and using an AP photo of a house in, we kid you not, Illinois.

130629-mortgages-openhouseflagAlthough maybe we shouldn’t point and laugh, because houses in the Real Bay Area sell too fast for anyone to bother with For Sale signs anymore.  Instead they use For Sale flags.  Much faster to wave one around for a couple of minutes, collect the overbids, and head back to the air-conditioned office.

We like this one, especially because the tree is doing the agent’s job.

Are you trying to buy a house or do you know someone who is? Are you trying to refinance and are you kicking yourself for waiting too long? What kinds of rates are you being offered by your bank or mortgage broker? 

Comments (12) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 7:06 am

June 16, 2013

Fed Study: Angeleños really did use houses as ATMs

In the latest installment of Formerly Middle Class People Deserved To Lose All Their Money, the Wall Street Journal informs us of a study from the Federal Reserve Board’s Steven Laufer. Not too surprisingly, the paper says these longer-term FBs would have been fine if they hadn’t kept taking equity out of their houses just because they could.

Study: How Using Homes as ATMs Fueled Foreclosures

130614-la-townhomesBy Nick Timiraos, The Wall Street Journal
May 28, 2013, 11:58 AM

The conventional wisdom of the housing crisis goes something like this: Too many people bought homes as the housing bubble inflated. Some were unlucky in their timing, while others overextended themselves by putting too little money down. All of these top-of-the-market purchases led to an explosion of foreclosures once home prices dropped sharply and the economy hit the skids.

Amid the current debate about whether a new bubble is forming in the housing market, it’s worth looking at a paper published in March that challenges conventional wisdom by showing that a significant share of foreclosures came from people who bought their homes before 2004.

So why did so many people who bought their homes before the housing bubble fully inflated end up losing their homes anyway?

20130614-la-freemoneyThe paper concludes that if only California had laws like Texas (which forbids borrowing more than 80% of home equity), not only would fewer FBs gotten F’ed, but homeowners (as opposed to homedebtors) would have had more money to spend because houses wouldn’t have cost so much.

Which is ridiculous, because why do you think these FBs borrowed all that equity in the first place? They sure as heck didn’t invest it in infrastructure.  Heck, no.  They spent it.  We’re cheered to see Larry Roberts (OC Housing News) agrees with us.

Then again, that study also says people defaulted because (among other reasons) they assumed their home prices would keep going down. This shows why the study was in Los Angeles instead of the Real Bay Area. Everyone knows in the RBA, prices only go up.

There’s also a very important reveal in the paper. Laufer’s model shows that home prices would be 14% lower if all that equity extraction hadn’t taken place. And as we know, the Real Estate industry will simply not allow that to happen.  They might as well throw away tax-deductibility of mortgage interest too.

Comments (4) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:02 am

March 30, 2013

Priced Out Forever? There’s an App for That

And now for your weekly dose of gee-whiz, tech news!

Real estate apps can help, overwhelm homebuyers

By Dan Nakaso, San Jose Mercury News
Posted:   03/29/2013 06:00:00 PM PDT; Updated:   03/29/2013 06:57:43 PM PDT

130329-apps-truliaRaj Aurora has been searching to buy his first home for the last three months, but hasn’t wasted time looking at condos he knows he won’t like and hasn’t even needed to meet his agent, all thanks to real estate apps that Aurora downloaded on his iPhone 5.

"We’ve already eliminated 20 to 30 houses without driving around," said Aurora, a 42-year-old chiropractor and part-time Web developer from Danville. "I don’t want to sit with (my agent) for eight hours driving from house to house. I’d rather hang out with my dog and my friends."

Aurora instead checks out properties virtually by glancing at his Zillow and Trulia apps throughout the day, then reviews any possibilities via text or email with his Danville real estate agent, Kevin R. Kieffer of Keller Williams Realty, whom Aurora has yet to see.

We think the Merc headline has an extraneous comma.  We also think Mr. Aurora doesn’t need to see Mr. Kieffer as long as Bay Area Bubble 4.0 ensures that homes are sold faster than they can be listed.

If you’ve been reading this site for more than a few days, you’re already aware that there are several real estate sites out there that have information on homes for sale. And if you’ve spent any time on the sites themselves, they probably let you know about their various apps for different devices.  Because, if you don’t want to be PRICED OUT FOREVER, you have to be ready to look at new listings at any possible moment, day or night.

130329-apps-zillowAlso, if you’re anything like Raj Aurora, you will do absolutely anything to avoid coming into contact with people you don’t have to.

This is your weekend Open Thread.  Let us know which, if any, real estate apps you use to find those open houses you’ll be looking at later today.  Be sure to mention the superiority of whatever hardware you’re using it on as well, because if you don’t have enough respect for your zip code, at least you can have it for your mobile device. Or talk about anything you want at all.  Remember, this isn’t having to actually talk to other people, so you can say anything.

Comments (7) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:02 am

March 24, 2013

Steve Wozniak’s House for Sale. Again. This time media creams themselves.

Steve Wozniak’s former Los Gatos mansion for sale for $4.4 million

By Dan Nakaso, San Jose Mercury News
Posted:   03/19/2013 06:19:05 AM PDT; Updated:   03/20/2013 02:22:17 PM PDT

130323-wozhouse-wozLOS GATOS — A six-bedroom, six-bath home formerly owned by Apple (AAPL) co-founder Steve Wozniak — complete with a bedroom mural of the "Little Mermaid," outdoor grotto and firefighters pole for the kids — is up for sale for $4.4 million.

The 7,500-square-foot home on Santa Rosa Drive near Shannon Road includes lots of high-end finishes and a few low-end personalized touches from Wozniak, such as the initials "S" and "W" that were scratched inside a drawer in the music room, said realty agent Arthur Sharif of Sotheby’s International Realty, who is listing the property.

In a brief telephone interview from an airplane as he prepared to fly from Florida to San Francisco on Monday, Wozniak told this newspaper that he liked the original three-bedroom home when he bought it for more than $1 million about 1986.

"I liked the architecture very much but the home kind of grew as my family extended," Wozniak said.

130323-wozhouse-redfin300 SANTA ROSA Dr
Los Gatos, CA 95032
$4,395,000

6 Beds
7 Baths
7,500 Sq. Ft.
$586 / Sq. Ft.
Built: 1986
Lot Size: 1.19 Acres
On Redfin: 12 days
Property Type: Detached Single Family
Stories: Tri-Level
Community: Los Gatos/Monte Sereno
MLS#: 81307599
Style: Modern/High Tech, Contemporary
View: Mountains, Canyon, Valley
County: Santa Clara

Originally built for Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, This exquisite 7500 sq/ft, 6 Bed, 8 Bath on 1.19 acres, minutes to Los Gatos Blvd, combines post-modern style with majestic natural views. It is a natural abode full of light and warmth Euro chefs kitchen, wraparound terraces. Recent major re-design and renovation, one of a kind indoor/outdoor kids play area, pool w/ waterfall, Koi Pond +++.

Upcoming Open Houses

Sunday, Mar 24: 1:00-4:30 pm

130323-wozhouse-arielYes, open today! Burbed meet-up!  The password is When can I submit my overbid?

News media from all over are falling all over themselves reporting that a house once owned by Steve Wozniak is for sale. For some reason, when it was for sale last year, this did not happen.  We mentioned it, though.

130323-wozhouse-currentIt’s interesting reading all these sites. You might learn something if you do, like where Woz is living now. (Yes, that’s it on the right.  Where he is now, not the place above.) 

And the comments show most of them haven’t sussed to the fact that Woz hasn’t lived at the Santa Rosa house since 2004.  Some of the improvements he put in the house are still there, but articles don’t mention all of them. The secret kids’ room complex is still there:

It’s a warren of rooms accessed through a tiny, kid-size door surrounded by elaborate molding with a dinosaur design. The complex is a series of little rooms, nooks and crannies connected by ladders, stairs and crawl spaces. Any child would love to wiggle through the complex and curl up on the floor pillows with a book or toy. You can exit via the dinosaur door or slide out on the fireman’s pole.

The listing history is fairly interesting. After the curve-inducing renovation in 2006, the house was listed for even more (we heard ten million but it’s not in Zillow’s listing history).  Whoops.

image

Also, don’t worry about The Woz running off to Australia.  That’s not planned for a few more years.  So if you do buy his old house, feel free to ring him up and him the best way to unstop the grotto drain.

Comments (8) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:05 am

March 17, 2013

If the Bay Area Were a High School…

Found while perusing The Atlantic Cities and submitted for your consideration need for a weekend giggle:

‘Rich Kid Who Wears Pastel Shirts’ of the Day: Connecticut

130316-hstypes-redditHENRY GRABAR | The Atlantic CITIES | MAR 11, 2013

Sometimes, the hive mind just does it better.

This weekend, thousands of Redditors brainstormed an exciting new method of stereotyping American regional identity. If the U.S. were a high school, which states would fulfill which high school stereotypes?

A few of the top answers:

Oregon, by DVDAmoog: "Oregon is that white dude with dreadlocks."

Washington by GoopyCheese: "Washington would be that awesome kid who’s cool enough to roll with the cool kids, but not too cool to hangout with the weird kids."

Alaska, by JoeTromboni: "Alaska is the fat kid with a beard who wears flannel, and gets A’s in shop class."

130316-hstypes-map

Okay, you get the idea: let your worst stereotypes run wild. We’ve included the link to Reddit so you can find more, but while this is a fun game, we need remember that on Burbed, all real estate is local. What would each city or neighborhood in the Bay Area be like if they were a typical high school kid?

Let’s see…

Alviso is the runty guy on reduced lunch who lets off Silent But Deadlies on the staircases. Even Milpitas won’t sit next to him anymore.

Emerald Hills (Redwood City) are twin girls. One wears Juicy Couture and tries to hang out with Woodside and his gang but they usually blow her off.  The other Emerald Hills girl buys her clothes at Goodwill, cuts most of her classes, and spends all day in the Art studio.  Nobody can figure out what she’s making.

Mission San Jose (Fremont) used to be a pretty fun dude but once he got those 2380 SATs back he’s just unbearable.

Go.

Comments (4) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:01 am

March 16, 2013

The Hipster in Suburbia: Do I Dare Hipsturb the Real Bay Area?

San Francisco’s Mission District is Hipster Central for the Bay Area.  (Also mentioned: The Uptown, Oakland.  But that’s in the East Bay, so fuhgeddabowdit.) A recent New York Times column (motto: We Still Think New York Is Important!) notes that not all the East Coast Hipsters are found in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg district, either.

Creating Hipsturbia

130315-hipsturbia-illo

By ALEX WILLIAMS, The New York Times
Published: February 15, 2013

Illustration: Ryan Inzana

A yoga studio opened on Main Street that offers lunch-hour vinyasa classes. Nearby is a bicycle store that sells Dutch-style bikes, and a farm-to-table restaurant that sources its edible nasturtiums from its backyard garden.

Across the street is the home-décor shop that purveys monofloral honey produced by nomadic beekeepers in Sicily. And down the street is a retro-chic bakery, where the red-velvet cupcakes are gluten-free and the windows are decorated with bird silhouettes — the universal symbol for “hipsters welcome.”

You no longer have to take the L train to experience this slice of cosmopolitan bohemia. Instead, you’ll find it along the Metro-North Railroad, roughly 25 miles north of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, in the suburb of Hastings-on-Hudson, N.Y.

130315-hipsturbia-decadeSo, barring any proper large city, where would hipsturbia be in the Bay Area?  Is Palo Alto too expensive to qualify?  Is Larkspar too tilted to aging hippies?  Could Hayward, City of Diversity, take the title of the “twee lifestyle”?  How can people who don’t want to be like everyone else find meaning in a subdivision full of identical tract housing?

Well, they can’t, that’s the point.  The challenge is to find low-density but non-conformist older single-family housing.  Or at least older and idiosyncratic housing amid primary low-density population centers and front yards.  We’d say look for neighborhoods near funky downtowns, with low Walk Scores or lots of bicyclists.

130315-hipsturbia-vansWe bet you could find something appropriate near the downtowns of Mountain View, San Carlos, or Willow Glen.  Where would you suggest?

Meanwhile, this is also your weekend Open Thread, to discuss any hipster sightings in the Open Houses you’re reporting on.

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