March 31, 2011

Tree Fell on Home, Buyer to Verify

Burbed gets some pretty amusing listings sent in, but this one stands head and shoulders above most of them.  Or should I say it made quite an impact.  Thanks very much to Burbed reader nomadic for sharing it.  

21431 BERTRAM Rd, San Jose, CA 95120


SQ. FT.: 852
$/SQ. FT.: $205
LOT SIZE: 6,348 Sq. Ft.
PROPERTY TYPE: Detached Single Family
COMMUNITY: Almaden Valley
COUNTY: Santa Clara
MLS#: 81104744
STATUS: Pending With Release
ON REDFIN: 56 days

SHORT SALE. Contractor Special!!! Beautiful Creek Setting. Tree Fell On Home. Buyer to Verify Allowable Re-Build With County. In A Historical District. Do Not Go On The Property!!! View From The Street. Offers are still being taken. They will be presented to 1st lender when negotiations are completed with second.

I really appreciate truth in advertising, and real estate is one field where creative descriptions (which is a rather fancy way to say “lies”) are the norm.  So a listing that calls it like it sees it is truly more than a breath of fresh air.  Observe the economy of prose that tells nothing but the unvarnished truth.

imageSHORT SALE.  Ahoy, bank trouble ahead.  Contractor Special!!! Yes, that often goes with Short Sale, usually. Lots of exclamation points, agent is excited.  Maybe agent owns a hardware store? 

Beautiful Creek Setting. That’s true, and here’s a nice picture of the beautiful creek setting.  So far, this listing reads like most of the distressed properties we’ve seen FBs lose when they couldn’t pay their bubblicious loan payments.  So, no surprises yet, but wait, there’s more!

imageTree Fell On Home.  Oh. My. Definitely. Short, descriptive, and resonant.  Hemingway couldn’t have said it better. 

Buyer to Verify Allowable Re-Build With County.  Beautiful.  A few choice words with just a hint of endless bureaucracy and red tape.  This property is a complete crapshoot: you pays your money and you may not get to do anything with it. We’ve moved from Hemingway to Kafka.

imageIn A Historical District.  See. this place isn’t a complete loss!  Here’s a lovely picture to show why you’d want an uninhabitable 1923 structure.

Do Not Go On The Property!!! View From The Street.  Now the writer injects a note of warning into what had been informative and down-to-earth beforehand.  The plot thickens!  Plus they don’t want you on the property because this is one ginormous liability suit just waiting to happen. 

imageOffers are still being taken. The listing concludes on a note of hope and perseverance in the face of adversity.

They will be presented to 1st lender when negotiations are completed with second. Hope, with a bemused eyeroll.  This admitted disaster is not only a short sale, there are negotiations with not one, but two banks.  That’s going to make dealing with the county planning department as easy as falling off a log.

Wow! Now tell us the bad news.

This listing spoke the whole truth. This is definitely a Contractor Special, in the sense that certain kids are “Special.”  View it from The Street!

with treeUPDATE: Burbed reader nomadic sent in two more pictures taken right at the site later today (3/31/11) plus some on-site commentary.  I hope they were viewed and taken from The Street as advised. 

Here’s what the tree house looks like now.  I didn’t take a long shot to show that 2/3 of the house wasn’t crushed – it appears that the front room (main living area) was flattened, but not the rest.  Too bad another picture I took was too dark to show the kitchen where one wall was missing.  There were GRANITE countertops!

firewoodIn the background you can see how massive the fallen branch was.  There is more of the same tree hanging over the next door neighbor’s house.  To be fair, I’m not sure the owner would have known what a risk there was.  The tree doesn’t look completely dead.  It’s one of those scrubby looking oaks or something.  There are many huge trees all along that street and nearly every home could have one fall on it.

Here’s the firewood pile nearby; I’m pretty certain it was the fallen branch.

The firewood had better be included for $175,000.

Comments (23) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:15 am

March 28, 2011

There was one room in her house that was always kept locked… It was the garage!

Thanks very much to Burbed reader nomadic for finding this fascinating property that is today’s featured house. 

956 TERRA BELLA Ave, San Jose, CA 95125


SQ. FT.: 5,000
$/SQ. FT.: $495
LOT SIZE: 0.36 Acres
PROPERTY TYPE: Detached Single Family
STYLE: Tudor
VIEW: Neighborhood
COMMUNITY: Willow Glen
COUNTY: Santa Clara
MLS#: 81103858
STATUS: Active
ON REDFIN: 59 days

Custom Tudor estate close to downtown Willow Glen restaurants and shops! Formal entry has 28’ceilings, red oak hardwood floors, dramatic chandelier, formal spiral staircase. Formal dining/living rooms with wet bar over sized fireplace. Epicurean granite kitchen has top quality appliances. Expansive 2,000sf game room and 7 tandem car garage. Backyard with granite outdoor kitchen! And SO much more!

Here’s what nomadic had to say about this house:

I was checking out the most expensive houses in Willow Glen, wondering "who in their right mind would spend $2.5M to live there?"  Then I found this house.  This house has a seven car tandem garage.  It is two cars wide.  Check out the satellite view.  A house perfect for the car collector who doesn’t like to enjoy their cars and just keeps them in the garage all of the time.

Okay, check out the satellite view we shall!


Looks like the garage is the same size as the entire house.  Somebody had their priorities straight.  And I must say, a seven car tandem garage is pretty amusing, especially because the agent called it a “7 tandem car garage.”  Plus it’s got granite, both inside and outside, so you can have that bubbly mid-oughties feel.  But there’s a bonus in today’s feature, one I am very excited about.  I am so delighted because I get to break out the red arrows again!



Look, everyone, it’s the return of the MAWBUL KAWLUM.  Even in this master bedroom picture, there are all kinds of KAWLUM-like objects.


And the rooms that spared themselves KAWLUMnosity are almost as silly.  Like the dining room where the swag matches the built-in cabinets and the picture frame.


Or the wine cellar.  Nothing says grapes aged to perfection like halogen track lighting and both walls and ceiling painted to match Campbell’s Cream of Tomato Soup.


imageAnd what is that in the backyard at the right rear?  Looks like the covered wagon was left in place, to remind them of their pioneer roots. And they value their history so deeply they’d leave that hayseed dispenser on the grounds despite destroying the entire house and erecting this neo-Tudor with a bunch of fourdoors in the tandem garage.  There’s just the littlest hint of that 7 car garage in the upper left, showing how far they’ve come from horse-drawn farm vehicles.

Update: nomadic found the link to the virtual tour, so enjoy the 7 tandem car garage!


And a “bunus” picture FTW:


Comments (57) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:12 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

March 19, 2011

Chastity: A Cardinal Virtue on the Shuttle

Spell the ALE in YALE.  A-L-E.  Okay, smart guy, now spell the SEX at STANFORD.


Right.  There isn’t any.  Now can anyone come up with a decent caption for this bus sign?  Our thanks to Burbed reader nomadic for spotting this one over here.

Comments (4) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:00 am

December 30, 2010

BIG Clearance Sale – Los Gatos

When the banks say everything must go, they really mean everything, including this big, big, big deal.  Thanks to Burbed reader nomadic for today’s amazing offer.

18157 Wagner Rd, Los Gatos, CA 95032


Beds: 5
Baths: 6
Sq. Ft.: 7,035
$/Sq. Ft.: $1,094
Lot Size: 25 Acres
Property Type: Detached Single Family
Style: Contemporary, Mediterranean
Stories: 2
View: Green Belt, Mountains, Canyon, Neighborhood, Valley, City Lights
Year Built: 1999
Community: Los Gatos/Monte Sereno
County: Santa Clara
MLS#: 81051721
Source: MLSListings
Status: Active
On Redfin: 62 days


Such a BIG deal the agent put everything in CAPITAL LETTERS so you can pick up his URGENCY.  HURRY, HURRY, HURRY, it’s only been listed 62 days.

imageHere’s what nomadic had to say about this listing:

Look at the confusing history on this house.  The old listings bounce between 15 and 25 acres.  There are two parcels apparently, but with the foreclosures I’m surprised they would have continued to be owned by the same entity.  The prices are all over the place too.

image Wait, multiple foreclosures?  One at $3,367,000 and another at $4,155,534, within two weeks of each other?  Plus four sales within two months during the bubble, between an individual, a relative, a limited liability corporation, and a living trust (and that’s before the banks got involved)?  Is it a house or is it a hot potato?  Don’t know, but it’s (they’ve?) been listed on MLS no less than fourteen times since it was built eleven years ago.



The listing and sales record is so long it has 42 entries in it.  Head over to Redfin and take it all in there.

One great thing about buying this house: You will definitely get to decide what color you want your walls painted.  Is there anything sadder than a ginormous custom home full of abandoned equipment because the owner ran out of money?  There’s definitely a story here, but you don’t need to hear it.  You just need to take this property off the bank’s books cheap, and pick out some paint.

Comments (17) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 4:57 am

December 26, 2010

Not Your House? Not Our Lien? We’re Foreclosing Anyway, Sucks to be You.

So, now that another Christmas has come and gone, it’s time to take stock and count our blessings.  Here’s a blessing you didn’t know you had: Be thankful a bank isn’t foreclosing on you for a house you don’t even own.  Because if they were, good luck proving it isn’t yours.  Or maybe it is your house, but another bank who doesn’t even own the note is foreclosing despite your perfect payment record? Or even better yet, how about a bank foreclosing on your house when you paid cash for it?  Welcome to another episode of Bankers Do the Darndest Things! 

Thanks to Burbed reader nomadic for this cup of Christmas cheer!

Caught by mistake in foreclosure web

By MICHELLE CONLIN, AP Real Estate Writer Wed Dec 8, 6:28 pm ET

In this undated photo provided by Alexa Marconi, Christopher Marconi stands outside his home in Garrison, N. Y. On Oct. 20, 2010, Marconi was in the sChristopher Marconi (photo, right) was in the shower when he heard a loud banging on his door. By the time he grabbed a towel and hustled to his front step, a U.S. marshal’s sedan was peeling out of his driveway. Nailed to Marconi’s front door was a foreclosure summons from Wells Fargo, naming him as a defendant. But the notice was for a house Marconi had never seen — on a mortgage he never had.

Tom Williams was in his kitchen thumbing through the mail when he opened a letter from GMAC. It informed him that the bank would confiscate his house unless he immediately paid off his mortgage balance of $276,000. But Williams had never missed a mortgage payment. And his loan wasn’t due to mature until 2032.

Warren Nyerges opened his front door in Naples, Fla., to find a scraggly-haired summons server standing on his stoop. He plopped a foreclosure notice from Bank of America in Nyerges’ hands. But Nyerges had paid for his house in cash. And he’d never had a checking account, much less a mortgage, with Bank of America.

By now, you may have heard the stories of bank robo-signers powering through hundreds of foreclosure affidavits a day without verifying a single fact. But most of those involved homeowners who had stopped paying their mortgage. They were genuine defaulters. Now a new species of homeowner is getting pushed into foreclosure hell.

Main ImageSeveral US Senators noted problems reported to them of people doing everything right and getting notices of default, with no way to reverse the foreclosure express without hiring lawyers.

One woman in the article said Bank of America not only picked through her personal property but cut off her utilities, poured antifreeze down her drains, padlocked her doors and confiscated her pet parrot.  Angela Iannelli said it took her 6 weeks to get B of A to clean her house.  She was current on her loan payments.

Jose and Maria Perez  of Seguin, Texas are suing B of A for scheduling their house for a foreclosure sale, despite the fact that their loan is current, with a different bank.  Former employees at banks have testified they knowingly foreclosed on the wrong people, or masqueraded as bank VPs when they had no experience whatsoever… because bank officials told them to do so.

So why is this happening?  Is it just sloppiness, or, as this AP article suggests, is it because the banks have a financial incentive to foreclose and then slap on a bunch of fees, which are the first debts paid when the house is sold?  Ya think?  Does a banker charge interest?

There’s plenty more, so get out your boxing gloves, head down to the boxing ring, find the nearest banker and enjoy Boxing Day.

Comments (11) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:08 am

December 5, 2010

How to Lose Ten Million Dollars by Investing in Real Estate

You know how to make a small fortune in real estate, right?  Start with a large fortune. 

This is a story of someone with a decent fortune who managed to lose it all, by buying can’t-lose inflation-proof real estate.  Let’s see how well that went.  Thanks to Burbed reader nomadic for sharing this modern morality play.

Family’s Fall From Affluence Is Swift and Hard

Published: November 25, 2010

WAMEGO, Kan. — Grateful to have found work in this tough economy, Nick Martin teaches grape growing and winemaking each Saturday to a class of seven students in a simple metal building here at a satellite campus of Highland Community College.  (photo, right)

Then he drives 14 miles in an 11-year-old Ford Explorer to a sparsely furnished tract house that he rents for $900 a month on a dead-end street in McFarland, a smaller town. Just across the backyard is a shed that a neighbor uses to make cartridges for shooting the prairie dogs that infest the adjacent fields.  (photo, below)

It is a far cry from the life that Mr. Martin and his family enjoyed until recently at their Adirondacks waterfront camp at Tupper Lake, N.Y. Their garage held three stylish cars, including a yellow Aston Martin; they owned three horses, one that cost $173,000; and Mr. Martin treated his wife, Kate, to a birthday weekend at the Waldorf-Astoria, with dinner at the “21” Club and a $7,000 mink coat.

That luxurious world was fueled by a check Mr. Martin received in 1998 for $14 million, his share of the $600 million sale of Martin Media, an outdoor advertising business begun by his father in California in the 1950s. After taxes, he kept about $10 million.

Photos: Steve Hebert, New York Times

In some ways, this story is similar to many sympathetic treatments of less wealthy people losing their homes due to not understanding the basics of finance.  If you owe more than you own, you’re not moving in the right direction.  And if you sign papers you don’t understand, you’re setting yourself up for a world of hurt.

What’s amazing is how Nick Martin still seems to think what happened to him is somehow somebody else’s fault, maybe multiple somebody elses.  Unlike the numerous victims of manufactured documents and hard-sell subprime Pay Option ARMs, Martin seems to have sought out what became his undoing.

I do recommend you read the article, but here’s the shorter Nick Martin: He bought a bunch of crap he couldn’t afford, so now he’s broke.  That’s a fairly common story, it’s just most of them don’t start with getting a phone call asking where you want your $14 million deposited.

Please share your advice for Nick Martin, or for anyone about to enter the exciting world of buying and selling real estate.  How would he have fared if he’d bought in the Real Bay Area instead? 

Comments (17) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:09 am

October 28, 2010

A Great Land Bank Opportunity

Today’s listing was sent in by burbed reader nomadic.  Thanks very much!

14050 Shannon Rd, Los Gatos, CA 95032

image Beds: 6
Baths: 8
Sq. Ft.: 6,138
$/Sq. Ft.: $1,384
Lot Size: 31.53 Acres
Property Type: Detached Single Family
Style: French
Stories: 3
View: Green Belt, Mountains, Canyon, Valley, City Lights
Year Built: 1998
Community: Los Gatos/Monte Sereno
County: Santa Clara
MLS#: 80788192
Source: MLSListings
Status: Active
On Redfin: 941 days

Sellers found their next property-Bring your offers. .This stunning residence captures the timeless refinement set on approximately 31.5 acres of gently rolling, pristine landscape. Annexation is complete in the town of Los Gatos Check with the Town on lot min 2.5 acres. 6 bdrms, 7 baths & 2 1/2 baths. This makes this home a great land bank Opportunity.

imageHere’s what nomadic had to say about this stunning residence:

On the market for 932 days. is that a record?  It’s been listed on and off for NINE years without a sale.  The price has been cut $2.3M since 2008 – that’s more instant equity than 1.5 median houses in this zip code.  The
realtor is keeping his optimism in the first line of the listing, “Sellers found their next property-Bring your offers.”

Wow, 932 days.  That’s like 932 years in Silicon Valley time measurement.  Let’s take a look.   If burbed readers can figure out why yesterday’s house wasn’t selling, I’m sure they can do it again!

And it’s Style: French.  How do you say, “You have got to be fracken kidding me” in French?  Or “Don’t you think they over-Photoshopped the green in that exterior shot?”

imageI don’t know if I’d call this style French.  These overdone rooms with saturated colors that belong on evening gowns rather than wall decor remind me of somewhere… Ah yes!  Another house that isn’t selling!

Mais non, nomadic, your submission is not a burbed record, because that house has been on Redfin for (zut alors!) 1284 days.

Maybe there is something about houses with curved stairways landing on white tile with black inset, or fussy little rooms in a color that will drive you mad inside of a week.  Do these properties have that certain je ne sais quoi?  Problem is, all the buyers are certain to have that je n’ai rien.

The Annexation is complete in the town of Los Gatos!  Toute résistance est futile.

Comments (29) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:07 am

October 22, 2010

Investors/Contractors Delight with Many Possibilities!

What is your favorite kind of problem property?  Do you like 100+ year old termite havens?  How about severe price reductions chasing the market down?  Or does an eye-popping you-have-got-to-be-insane wishing price make your day?

Here’s what burbed reader nomadic, who sent in today’s featured listing, had to say about this trifecta:

$2.5M for a tear-down on .47 acres in LG?  That backs up to townhouses?  How much is it worth to be a short walk to the middle school?  Whatever it is, it’s probably off-set by the headache of all of the traffic that will
accompany it.

You know what the agent would say: the value is in the land!

16922 Mitchell Ave, Los Gatos, CA 95032


Beds: 2
Baths: 1
Sq. Ft.: 1,200
$/Sq. Ft.: $2,082
Lot Size: 0.47 Acres
Property Type: Detached Single Family
Stories: 1
View: Neighborhood
Year Built: 1900
Community: Los Gatos/Monte Sereno
County: Santa Clara
MLS#: 80823053
Source: MLSListings
Status: Active
On Redfin: 821 days

Investors/Contractors Delight with many possibilities! 3 Lot subdivision capability to build 3 new homes. Remodel existing home and build two new homes at site. Replace/remodel existing home on large lot. Property walkable to Los Gatos shopping and schools. Huge price reduction for this in-demand LG location.

Yes you read that right, 110 years old, 1200 square feet, with each one of them priced over two thousand dollars, and it’s been on the market for 821 days.  It’s like every single metric of horrible all rolled up in one.  All we need is a wrecked foundation and a clouded title.  (Um, wait… why is there an earthquake disclosure?)

So let’s see what nomadic meant about the neighborhood.


“Backs up to townhomes” wasn’t a figure of speech!  But speaking of Many Possibilities, how about checking out the other MLS listing for the same location?  Same price, same address, but they’re marketing the property as Residential Land and ignore the house.

Guess the Investing Contractors are in, demanding another Huge Price Reduction before delighting.

Comments (18) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:07 am

September 27, 2010

It Could Be Winchester West

Today’s contribution is from burbed reader nomadic.  This property certainly has all the key features we know and love: listing copy in all-caps, problems galore neatly omitted, and a series of grudgingly small reductions on a WTF wishing price pretending to be a bargain.

11441 Eastbrook Ave  Los Altos Hills, CA 94024


BATHS: 5.5
SQ. FT.: 9,000
$/SQ. FT.: $367
LOT SIZE: 0.53 Acres
PROPERTY TYPE: Detached Single Family
STYLE: Contemporary
VIEW: Neighborhood
COMMUNITY: Los Altos Hills
COUNTY: Santa Clara
MLS#: 81031402
STATUS: Active
ON REDFIN: 93 days


Here’s what nomadic had to say about this house:

OMG.  It’s a freak of nature.  The noise from 280 is loud.  Very loud – it’s right across from the house and elevated for maximum annoyance.  It’s like two houses were glued together with a hallway or two. The listing says “2100sf guest house,” but you can hardly tell where one ends and the other begins because it’s just a double interior door, and then there’s a second kitchen back there.  The floor plan wanders from room to room with no sense whatsoever.

On the front, there are stairs with access to a roof top deck (see aerial view).  It’s like having turrets on an old house; you could set up a reporting station for traffic on 280.  It’s the weirdest house I have ever seen.  It could be Winchester West.  But what would you expect for just $367/sf in Los Altos Hills?

Thanks, nomadic!  Let’s take a look at that aerial view.


Yowza.  A half-acre parcel and the house seems to take up most of it.  And what little isn’t built over seems to be paved over.  Viewing the grounds from a little higher up shows this lot has been somewhat… subdivided.  And yet, no spec homes have sprouted yet.  Think of the excitement in buying this house, knowing a future neighbor could begin construction on another monster house just a few feet away from yours!  You’d better snatch that parcel up and put in Sarah’s Cafe West next door.  If the neighborhood improvement committee complains, give them all 25% off coupons.


Oh yes, the noise from 280.  This is an easy remedy.  If only the agent had the sense to use a more attractive map:


Problem solved!  Lovely riverside setting!

Besides, if the freeway is inconveniently elevated for maximum annoyance, that means it’s conveniently sited for tourists to see the large signage you’re going to put on the roof deck.  Remember, the original Winchester Mystery House is also atop I-280, but isn’t in the Real Bay Area part.  This house is full of freeway WIN!

Comments (9) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:04 am