January 11, 2014

Online Realty Pricing Sites: Do They Work?

Yes, they work. But are the prices valid? That’s another story. Let’s listen in as the San Jose Mercury News (motto: We’re a newspaper just like Burbed is a real estate blog, haha!) explains why the valuation models don’t agree with each other.

Online sites can help tell you what your home is worth

141010-avm-unioncityBy Pete Carey, San Jose Mercury News
POSTED:   12/27/2013 05:00:00 PM PST; UPDATED: 12/28/2013 06:17:12 AM PST

You’re likely to get a warm fuzzy feeling if you look at what your home is worth on Zillow, Trulia or any of the other real estate sites that provide values for millions of houses. Home prices have risen rapidly, and the value these sites assign to your home is sure to reflect that.

But don’t carried away by a single Zestimate, SmartZip quote or Trulia estimate. While they are fine for spotting trends, these home valuation services come with a caveat: they offer rough approximations by computer programs. If you want a more precise estimate, hire an appraiser, talk to a real estate agent or check around your neighborhood and see what homes are selling for.

The sites all use what’s called "automated valuation models," or AVMs, to make sense of mountains of data, typically drawn from recent sales, property history, size and number of rooms, market trends and other factors that influence price.

We can’t believe they spent all that trouble writing an article that says, “If you want to really know what your house is worth, hire an appraiser.” There are multiple models out there, but this piece won’t tell you how they differ, or why. We did learn that Santa Clara County prices are more likely to be correct than Alameda County, but again, no explanation why.

We know why!  It’s because the Real Bay Area’s prices only go up, and all the models built that in.  Feel free to speculate on what’s going on with the AVM of your choice and why your house is So Special that the price estimates are Way Too Low.  Unless you’re buying, in which case they are Way Too High.

Comments (5) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 7:11 am






September 7, 2013

Planning on Selling? You waited too long!

Should have sold this spring when there wasn’t any competition!

Bay Area home sales hit seven-year high

130906-sales-houseBy Pete Carey, San Jose Mercury News
POSTED:   08/15/2013 11:48:29 AM PDT | UPDATED:   22 DAYS AGO

The Bay Area’s housing market staged a breakthrough in July, reaching the highest level of sales for any month in nearly seven years, according to a report Thursday.

The housing recovery has been bogged down by a lack of inventory. This month’s report indicates that is no longer the case, as sellers respond to double-digit price increases.

July’s median sale price of $562,000 for all types of homes is up 33.5 percent across the nine-county Bay Area in 12 months, according to real estate information company DataQuick, meaning that homeowners who have been sitting on the sidelines for years can finally sell at a profit.

Along with the news that the average Silicon Valley house is selling for over a million dollars, perhaps we’ll hear from some Deluded Renters about how smart it is to buy a house NOW and how they can’t wait to sink every penny they have into a 30 year obligation.

Also note the lack of recent Real Estate news in the Murk. Maybe nobody is buying or selling anything anymore.

Comments (5) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 7:01 am

August 11, 2013

Harvey “Two Sheds” Blight on the Neighborhood

Let’s have a look at the joys of living in suburbia, courtesy of Burbed reader PK. Thanks very much for the reminder why we should buy in the Real Bay Area, and only in the Real Bay Area.

San Mateo County orders property owner to remove two big sheds in his front yard

By Bonnie Eslinger, Daily News Staff Writer
POSTED:   08/07/2013 06:32:45 PM PDT | UPDATED:   A DAY AGO

The clock is ticking for Harvey Blight to remove two large sheds in front of his home near Menlo Park that officials say give the property a blighted look.

San Mateo County Deputy County Counsel Eugene Whitlock filed an abatement warrant Friday ordering Blight to get rid of the sheds he never received permission to build, in 30 days.

If he doesn’t, the county would find someone to do the work and charge Blight for it, Whitlock said Monday, estimating that the cost could run up to $10,000.

Blight couldn’t be reached for comment, but he left a voicemail message Tuesday night calling the county’s move a "misuse of judicial power."

imageOooh, this is gonna be good. But you know what would have been really good? A photo of the problematic portable storage. Fortunately, we have teh Google!

Um. Yeah.

Not sure that the two sheds (that would cost up to $10,000 to get rid of) were exactly worse than what was there before.

Unless the sheds were made out of the vehicles in this photo.

Let’s check out the satellite photo and see if that’s any better. And while we’re at it, who wants to see the house?

130809-blight-aerial615 11th Ave
Menlo Park, CA 94025
(Fair Oaks)
$674,000 Trulia Estimate

2 bed
1 bath
760 sqft
Single-Family Home
Stories: 2 story
Parking: Detached Garage
Subdivision: NORTH FAIR OAKS NO 3
2 Bedrooms
Lot Size: 5,227 sqft
A/C: Central
Parking Spaces: 1
County: San Mateo
1 Bathroom
Built In 1940
Heating: Central
5 Rooms
Tax Rate Code Area: 73-023

615 11th Ave This Single-Family Home located at 615 11th Avenue, Menlo Park CA. 615 11th Ave has 2 beds, 1 bath, and approximately 760 square feet. The property has a lot size of 5,227 sqft and was built in 1940. The average listing price for similar homes for sale is $3,337,532 and the average sales price for similar recently sold homes is $687,817. 615 11th Ave is in the Fair Oaks neighborhood in Menlo Park, CA.

That’s more like it. No permits, no picket fence, and plenty of pointing and yelling. Be sure to read the article for the Nazi Germany simile. Not too often that a news story gets Godwinned covering a permit issue.

Also the place is assessed for a whopping $44 grand, assuring the neighborhood that Harvey “Two Sheds” Blight isn’t going anywhere.

Comments (1) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 7:09 am

July 29, 2013

A house near intrigue, excitement, sex & piles of cash

Tired of your boring life working in a cube farm and returning to your apartment farm? This listing is for you! Best of all, it’s in the center of happening stuff. That’s right! Mountain View!

Thanks very much to Burbed reader dollarbin for not only sending us the listing, but the amazing story that goes with it. Or next to it. Or, if you don’t read this article, may involve the next owner.

130728-tyrella-redfin620 TYRELLA Ave
Mountain View, CA 94043
$899,000

4 Beds
2.5 Baths
1,833 Sq. Ft.
$490 / Sq. Ft.
Built: 2002
Lot Size: 4,978 Sq. Ft.
On Redfin: 59 days
Property Type: Detached Single Family
Stories: 2
Community: Whisman
MLS#: 81318701
Style: Traditional
View: Neighborhood
County: Santa Clara

Gorgeous light & bright 2-story home! Almost new-11 years old! Gourmet kitchen has granite counter tops. Sep Family Room has gas fireplace. Living Room is perfect for Downstairs 4th BR! Formal dining room. Gleaming hardwood floors & new carpeting. Master suite features spa-tub & walk in closet. Redwood deck is perfect for outdoor entertaining. Large 2-car garage. Lush Landscaping. Mt View High!

130728-tyrella-gleamingWell that’s pretty exciting, an eleven year old house calling itself almost new. We guess if you compare it to the typical Mountain View Eichloid put up in 1956 this place was practically finaled yesterday. If only they’d put in confetti tile to get with the 2010s.

And if the gleaming hardwood floors aren’t enough high drama, then the following story directly from the same block as this house certainly will be.

 

Blind date robbers strike a third time

by Nick Veronin, Mountain View Voice Staff
Uploaded: Friday, June 7, 2013, 4:33 PM, Updated: Monday, June 10, 2013, 10:46 AM

They did it again.

For the third time in just over a week, a man was lured to the 600 block of Tyrella Avenue believing he would have sex with a woman he met online on top of a bed covered in money. Unfortunately for this man — and the two others who were duped before him — instead of taking a roll through cold hard cash, he was rolled for his cash.

130728-tyrella-rolling

You can read the entire story at the link above, and yes, all three of these dudes actually believed they were going to meet a woman whose fantasy was to “make the beast with two backs on a bed full of Benjamins.”

We absolutely swear that is a direct quote from the Voice.

If only one of these men had bought this house instead of showing up at a rental apartment building, they wouldn’t have had any spare cash to get rolled for. Instead, they could have met a woman online who would join them on top of a bed which is in turn on top of a house covered by an even huger pile of money (never mind that most of it belongs to the bank).

Plus, it would be much harder for her to steal the money that way. Unless she’s with the bank.

Comments (4) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 7:07 am

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

May 5, 2013

Don’t want to pay 6% commission? Make agents beg for less.

Here’s a press release from the “Lending Tree of Real Estate Agents.”

LessThan6Percent Revolutionizes How Home Sellers and Real Estate Agents Connect

Press Release: LessThan6Percent – Mon, Apr 29, 2013 6:39 PM EDT

SAN FRANCISCO, April 29, 2013 /PRNewswire/ — LessThan6Percent (http://www.lessthan6percent.com), the online marketplace where home sellers can compare commissions and marketing plans from local real estate agents, is exiting its beta launch in the San Francisco Bay Area and expanding into Southern California. Founded in late 2012 by serial entrepreneur Simon Ru, LessThan6Percent provides home sellers a convenient platform to streamline the process of finding the best agents to represent their home.

"The problem home sellers face is that there are thousands of agents in any given market," says Ru. "It is difficult for home sellers to compare agents to find the best match. They don’t know what questions to ask, what to look for in a marketing proposal, or how to start the awkward conversation of negotiating services & commissions." This is where LessThan6Percent steps in.

LessThan6Percent differs from traditional agent-matching service such as Trulia (http://www.trulia.com/) and Zillow (http://www.zillow.com) by matching sellers to proposals submitted by agents rather than agents’ profiles. Instead of directing sellers to call agents’ numbers on a directory, LessThan6Percent transforms the matching process by having agents compete for sellers’ business. With a click of a button, home sellers would know exactly what services they are going to receive and how much they would cost. This level of transparency is unparalleled in the real estate industry.  

130504-lessthan6percent-agentsYou may have noticed that LessThan6Percent is one of our newest advertisers, featuring that oversized entry form on the right. We’re certainly in accord with their business model. Some home sales are pretty routine, and there’s no reason why the six percent commission rate has been enshrined as unchanging. Personally, we’d like to see home sales done as flat fees, because that would mean the buyers’ agent wouldn’t have a financial incentive to advise you to bid more than a home is worth.

130504-lessthan6percent-proposalThen again, we are in Bay Area Bubble 4.0, every house is worth more than it’s listed for, and you couldn’t possibly pay too much for a place in the Real Bay Area. That means your agent was right to tell you to overbid by 85%.

Meanwhile, LessThan6Percent says you can specify what you want in an agent and look over the proposals you get in response.

And if their algorithm predicts you may be likely to sell, watch for their ads appearing wherever you surf.  This reminds us of that creepy datamining prediction that Target became infamous for: figuring out you were expecting before the rest of your family knew.

130504-lessthan6percent-bidsBut LessThan6Percent also expects to reel in many leads through an algorithm that the company has created to identify people who are likely to sell. Ru said the algorithm scours a wide array of information sources, including social media, and then turns up likely sellers, like people who it’s discovered are having children soon.

The company then uses printed materials, cookies and keyword advertising to invite those people to use the site, Ru said.

- See more at: http://www.inman.com/2013/04/08/new-website-lets-sellers-see-proposals-from-listing-agents

According to Ru, the comments on this article were “getting heated” once a NAR official showed up. It appears Inman removed them by moving the article to a new location and conveniently neglecting to bring any comments along… or even allow them to be made.

LessThan6Percent envisions having agents slug it out for the right to sell your house. Why not have a good fight in comments on what you think of this idea? 

Comments (1) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:07 am

April 7, 2013

A Day of Rest Should be Observed with Real Estate

Today is Sunday, and that means… no A-Z Blog Challenge today. The schedule’s been set that we do a new letter every Monday through Saturday, and on Sunday you can go to church or look at Open Houses.  Or in the case of this story, courtesy of Burbed reader nomadic, you can combine both.

Judge Rules Against Bay Area Church Leaders In Real Estate Case

130406-vallejo-marqueeVALLEJO (KPIX 5) – A California state judge has ruled against two leaders of a prominent Bay Area church accused of bilking parishioners in an alleged investment scheme.

The judge ruled that General Assembly Church leaders Lacy Hawkins and Michael Parker operated a real estate investment company without a license, in violation of securities law.

KPIX 5 has been investigating Lacy Hawkins and Michael Parker’s involvement in the business deal, that church members said cost them millions of dollars. General Assembly Church has locations in Union City and Vallejo.

Hundreds of parishioners mortgaged their homes and drained retirement accounts on the promise of investment returns as high as 30 percent. Some said they were even promised salvation.

Yes, it’s not enough to have a religious leader in a fraud case, it has to have a realty component. And this one’s actually pretty interesting. Seems this was one of those We’re Here To Run Your Life For You kinds of churches, where you can’t even wipe your nose without permission.

130406-vallejo-churchAnd the Supreme Leader pretty much was ordering parishioners to buy into their real estate trusts or tout them to each other.  The investment vehicles weren’t exactly transparent about the real estate in them.  Unless you count the Woodlands of Ascension project they bought in Louisiana. Which was, mo konmprann, swamp.  Leadership blamed lack of progress on Katrina, but the Army Corps of Engineers said the land was always swamp.

The victims are claiming they were brainwashed into investing with the church’s leaders. We’re imagining just what kind of techniques were used. Maybe “Buy now or you’ll be priced out forever and that, my friends, is the definition of HELL.” 

Also the church leadership quickly realized that paying the real estate agent (who was part of the church) regular commissions for flipping properties was a loser… for them. The agent went from $20,000 a month to $1600 biweekly, as straight salary.  Meanwhile, the church reported to the IRS that they had paid him the commissions, so he owes more than a million in taxes.

The investment’s books were not open to the membership, either, so they didn’t realize that the vehicles were classic Ponzi schemes.

This is an Open Thread. Are you attending religious services this weekend, Open Houses, both, or neither?  And we’ll be back with the next letter in the Challenge tomorrow, G for God. Or Grab. Or both.

Comments (2) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:02 am

February 4, 2012

Contractor’s License Yanked over offending trench

Here’s some news from the exciting and ever-fragrant community of Milpitas!

State suspends license of contractor in fatal trench collapse

120203-milpitas-trench-collapseBy Joe Rodriguez, Posted: 02/03/2012 08:34:27 PM PST
Photos by ABC7 News

State officials Friday suspended the license of the contractor building a home in Milpitas where an immigrant carpenter was buried alive over the weekend when a trench collapsed over him.

The Contractors State License Board said it suspended U.S.-Sino Investment, based in Fremont, after discovering the builder claimed to have no employees when it filed paperwork in 2008. Agency spokesman Rick Lopes said the employee list was necessary to meet state requirements for workers’ compensation insurance.

The owner of the company, Richard Liu, is believed to be in China and could not be reached Friday for comment.

120203-milpitas-trench-collapse-2We have to go back to some earlier articles to find out a little more about the home in question.  It turns out that you need a state permit, not just a mere city Mother-May-I, to dig trenches deeper than five feet. 

Furthermore city inspectors had issued a stop-work order three days before the tragic accident, because the trench was not shored. The recent rains made it even more unstable, plus the construction work by the contractor was also considered poor quality.

Why do you think a 5800 sf house foundation needs a 12 foot trench?  Were they building their own wine caverns?  Given that it was in Milpitas, shouldn’t it have been corn syrup caverns instead?

Anyway, here is the property in question:

120203-814-Calaveras-Ridge

Notice anything interesting about this 2010 sale?  Not only did the agent provide both ends of the deal, but that name ought to sound a tad familiar.  If it doesn’t, go back and read the third paragraph of the Merc’s article above.

Criminal charges are being considered against the contractor, but then again, building a 5800 sf “small mansion” seems to require additional karma loss.

Comments (22) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:03 am