December 22, 2012

Are You Feeling Lucky?

121221-lucky-digitsWe sure hope so.  You survived the end of the world yesterday, didn’t you? (Those not surviving the end of the world, please stop interrupting.)  Now we’ve found a piece on Trulia on the numerology of home sales. 

This means you can continue your lucky lifestyle, thanks to Trulia’s research.  It turns out that a lot of home sellers put their favorite “lucky numbers” in their asking prices.

So what’s wrong with this pie chart at right?  Too many nines and fives, yet not enough eights, that’s what.  Everyone knows that eights are lucky.  Well, everyone in the Real Bay Area knows that.  The lucky numbers in the rest of the country say otherwise.

121221-usa-map

This consolidated map suggests that there aren’t any particular lucky numbers in the Midwest, the Plains, the Rocky Mountains or the Pacific Northwest, just a countrywide avoidance of the number 13 in prices.  And here’s some more on 8 as a lucky number.

121221-lucky-eights

121221-lucky-cupertinoWe took a spot-check of the asking prices in Cupertino, right now, over a million dollars (which is pretty much all of them).

We came up with one 1, one 2, one 6, three 9s, seven 5s, and a whopping ten 8s.    We just had to make a pie chart out of that.  Until today, we had no idea that donuts were a subset of pie.

If we then take the sub-million houses, we get an additional one 1, four 5s and two 8s.

We then compare with similarly sized cities (at least as to number of sales over a million) with rather different demographics.  San Rafael is majority white, and Oakland, while one of the most racially diverse cities, has a higher percentage of blacks than many other areas.

121221-lucky-sanrafael121221-lucky-oakland

Whoa. There’s 4s in Oakland, which is a very unlucky number in Cupertino.  All three cities have a strongly marked preference for 5 over 9, while nationally it’s the other way by almost 2 to 1.

We welcome your reasoning on why this would be, or anything else you wish to bring up in this Weekend-after-the-end-of-the-world Open Thread.

Comments (6) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:07 am






December 15, 2012

UPDATED: Snout Housing: Threat or Menace?

Letters, oh we get letters… Here’s something to snuffle over from Burbed reader Kiki:

121214-snout-victoriaI would love to see some analysis on South Bay snout houses.  Why are there so many? It’s like mullets at Wal-Mart.

Do they sit on the market longer than other house styles? Is that a punishment? Do people actually like them or do they settle because of … ahem … “inventory” available?

I don’t think anyone has ever done a published, peer reviewed analysis on snout houses (because the people who would be interested in that sort of data sure don’t want to share it). I’m in Santa Clara – I know of one tract developed in the 1950s that’s almost ALL snout houses. It’s east of Lawrence & north of El Camino (yes, El Camino runs East-West in Santa Clara) and runs east to about Kiely. I’m not sure how far north the sprawl of snout goes but I can surf google earth later today.

thank you for your delightful daily snark. I love what you’re doing.

121214-snout-warburtonGiven the location, location, location that Kiki provided, we went to Redfin and saw what was available.  Answer: nothing you can buy that’s particularly snoutside, but looking at recent sales yielded a winner from 1954 on our first click.

And in that same general area, no snout about it, different from the first one yet so much the same, and also from that excellent year of 1954.

Asnout these homes… yes, they do seem to be clustered in this area.  But we’ve featured this style of home before, and they aren’t all in West Central Santa Clara.

121214-snout-bouveronFor example, here’s one we ran at the beginning of this year.  It’s all snout and nothing else to face.  It’s also not in Santa Clara, but in San Jose.  Such a delightful frontage, wonder why it took ten months to sell. No, it didn’t take ten months, it sold this October.  And also this June, so it’s a snout-flip.  (The June sale took 3 years to happen, and then sold for 1/3 less than the 2000 sale price.)  Wow, instant equity!

But there are all kinds of snout houses, just as there are all kinds of buyers and sellers.

121214-snout-kirkwall121214-snout-college

121214-snout-selbyF’rinstance, this lovely little luxury lulu in Milpitas (on the left, above) is better than the usual snout house, because it has bunus snout.  Contrariwise, on the right is a Mountain View maisonette, or as Burbed reader bmwman91 put it, a “single-nostril snout house.”

This delightful domicile à droit (that’s at right for the realtards following along from their home offices) looks like it could fit in a tract with any of the others up top, but this middle-class muzzle-mansion is in Atherton. Yes, it’s in the cheap-ass part that’s practically Redwood City, but it has an Atherton mailing address and more importantly, an Atherton property tax bill.

Let us know about snout houses you’ve seen, visited, or even lived in.  Or let us know about anything else you want, because it’s also time to get your schnozz into a Weekend Open Thread!

Update 10:07 PM: How could we forget this ode to snout housing from 1986? Put your hands together for David Byrne, who anticipated what endless expansion of exurbia would lead to.  This is a clip from True Stories.

Comments (10) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:07 am

December 9, 2012

10 Least Affordable Metros: We Are Number 2. You Are Number 6.

CNN/Money has another one of their Most/Least/Best/Worst/Good/Evil slideshows that could have been presented as a table, but then they'd get ten fewer click-throughs. This time it's one of our favorite regional competitions, for 10 Least Affordable Cities for buying. Actually it's Least Affordable Metros, but it sounds better if they call them cities, even if a couple of them are known locales for multiple Portals to Hell and very few yachts or polo ponies.

10 least affordable cities to buy a home

BY LES CHRISTIE @CNNMONEY – LAST UPDATED NOVEMBER 29 2012 02:02 PM ET

Looking to buy a home? You may want to skip these places. Prices are either so high or incomes so low that many families can't afford to buy homes here, according to the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Opportunity Index.

Anyway, we lost to New York City again, which is just so unfair. This isn't even an SF to Manhattan comparison, so we should have kicked serious butt here. However, California totally owns the Least Coast as far as leaderboard spots, and Washington DC didn't even qualify. We present the results in one easy list, so you don't have to click through their annoying one-city-at-a-time-gee-who-could-be-next-and-if-this-was-so-exciting-why-didn't-they-put-it-in-reverse-order-Top-Ten-List-style?

  1. New York, where 28.5% of homes are affordible. They seemed impressed by $1100 a square foot, too. But they didn't define the boundaries of any of these metro areas, so of course we can (and will) complain we were cheated on geographical grounds. We doubt this was an apples-to-Big-Apples comparison.
  2. San Francisco, 31.4%. The piece laments it's unaffordable all over, because nearby communities are also expensive. Nearby high-priced places such as Sausalito, Berkeley, and… wait for it… Daly City. We swear we are not making this up.
  3. Santa Ana, 43.5%. I kid you not. Perhaps the nearby beach towns are pulling up its results. And Disneyland. Because Santa Ana is not what comes to mind when we think “delightful but so unaffordable California real estate.”
  4. Los Angeles, 44.1%. Because “bunus” hydrocarbons and ozone raise home prices. Seriously, when did LA rediscover the bubbly?
  5. Bridgeport, Connecticut, 44.2%. Look, if you have to tell us what state the metro is in, maybe it isn't really worth mentioning. Just sayin'.
  6. San Jose, 46.2%. Above is the lovely photo they used to feature the Capital of Silicon Valley, probably because the Quetzlcoatl statue made the photog drop a perfectly good camera. Not one other metro had a freeway interchange featured. Not even Los Angeles, which loves its freeways so much they get definite articles. We suspect they're also putting their thumb on the scale by adding in San Benito County.
  7. Honolulu, 48.8%. Houses cost more because of good weather, expensive shipping, and hotel jobs pay squat. But they get a photo with palm trees.
  8. San Diego, 54.6%. Here the filler text spends more time lamenting the glory days of 6% affordability during the last bubble. Well screw you, because we're already on our next one.
  9. Newark, 55.3%. No, not that one, in New Jersey. Although Newark itself is cheap. It's la-di-da luxury locales like Hoboken and Jersey City that cost the big bucks. We're sure it's a complete coincidence that NJ made the list even though the feature author's surname is Christie.
  10. El Paso, 61.7%.This is an honest case of low overall incomes ($41.7K) as opposed to expensive housing ($141K).

Let us know if you find any of these results surprising, or what you plan to do to ensure we never lose to New York or LA or The OC ever again.. Or mention anything you want, because this is Your Weekend Open Thread.

 

Comments (7) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:04 am

December 1, 2012

Be Like Zuck! Buy a house and pay 3/4% interest

121130-margin-rates

The secret to being rich is to start off rich.  Don’t believe us?  It’s true, and it’s how Mark Zuckerberg bought his house in Palo Alto.  Let’s hear from Burbed reader nomadic, who alerted us to this excellent opportunity. To go bankrupt!

Here’s the letter I got in the mail offering super-low interest rates on a loan secured by a stock portfolio.  The beauty of it is that the interest rate goes down the higher the loan amount – the opposite of what working stiffs get when they want a super-jumbo loan to buy a house in the RBA.  (Then again, the larger the stock portfolio, the smaller the risk?)

This must be how Zuck got his ultra-low interest rate on his mortgage.  Interesting that they don’t mention a mortgage in their “average loan rates” example.

121130-margin-zuckerbergThe headline above doesn’t say pay three to four percent interest.  It says pay three quarters of a percent interest.  Let me repeat that.  You can buy a house at 0.76 percent interest.  All you need is a sufficiently healthy stock portfolio to borrow at least $3.5 million against. 

Whoops.  All you need is an investment portfolio at this particular online brokerage.  For loans under $50K, you need to have twice that in your brokerage account.  With this firm.  But!  Remember about rich people getting richer? The more you have, the more you save. The more you have, the more you 121130-margin-callcan borrow, too.  If you “qualify” and have an account over $100,000, you could borrow against 85% of your assets.

Remember how well things went when anyone who could fog a mirror could buy a house for nothing down? This is an even better idea! Borrow against your investments, and if the underlying value drops, then you have to pay some of the money back immediately, or sell assets to cover it. Good thing you’ll have a bunch of equity in your new house that you could borrow against to pay back your brokerage account you borrowed against in the first place.  This sounds like a perpetual equity motion machine.

Open your portfolio, open your wallet, open your eyes, and we’re opening this thread to any topic you wish.

Comments (8) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:09 am

November 17, 2012

Sellers in the drivers seat

Burbed began in February 2006, when the market was running bubbly, the RBA ran clear to Seattle, and an East Palo Alto crapshack would run you $850,000. It's early days but we're seeing definite signs of re-carbonation. Burbed reader dollarbin sends in some further proof.

Of course this is Palo Alto. When ads like this run in East Palo Alto, we will have arrived. Again.

Did you check out last week's Palo Alto Weekly? There were at least two different full page ads from Realtards with groups of buyers looking for houses they can close by the end of the year. High end stuff too, 1.5 to 4 million. I can't find links online, but I can take photos of the ads from the physical paper, it might make an interesting weekend post.

Interesting is the word for them. Voyla!

This is also your Weekend Open Thread, so go wild. Buyers 1 through 6 are counting on you!

Comments (8) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:08 am

November 11, 2012

A Livability Index

We’re always interested in ways to measure how Special a place is.  A website called areavibes.com has a Livability Index that has some interesting assumptions.

First, let’s see what it makes of some places most of us agree are Not Particularly Special (by which we mean we wouldn’t live there for free and we also wouldn’t live there unless we were paid Larry Ellison’s stock options).

Here’s areavibes on Detroit.

121110-areavibes-detroit

Detroit, MI is “Somewhat Livable.”  The only “A” grade it received was in cost of living, and that’s because the city will pay you to take one of their excess houses so they don’t have to pay to tear it down.  We can’t imagine what kind of city would merit a “Completely Out of the Question.”  Let’s move another to another Perennial of Pwnage: Stockton.

121110-areavibes-stockton

I can see the new Civic Motto over City Hall (if they have any staff capable of hanging banners): Stockton! Four Points More Livable Than Detroit!  But they are an important four points, as Stockton is considered “Very Livable.”

We now move on toward the Bay Area, but not the Good Part.

121110-areavibes-hayward

When Stockton has finer amenities than you do, and their weather is better too, plus your housing costs are unacceptably high to anyone outside the Bay Area, what’s the point of even entering the race?  Let’s try a better zip code.

121110-areavibes-sanjose

Ooooo!  Exceptionally Livable!  And what’s really exceptional is that if we type in an actual zip code, the score went down.

121110-areavibes-95129

Good luck figuring out why.  Finally, we arrive at the pinnacle of Real Bay Area Living.

121110-areavibes-cupertino

We invite you to try to score higher than that, either in the Bay Area, or anywhere else.  And we don’t want you to think these “grades” are completely pulled out of Mitt Romney’s car elevator.  Here, for example, is what the housing grade is based on:

121110-areavibes-cupertino-housing

Cupertino scores higher than average in every category.  Why would they be marked down for better numbers?

This is also your Weekend Open Thread, so go crazy.

Comments (17) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:11 am

November 3, 2012

Stockton: Gateway to Exurban Misery

Burbed has often featured links to real estate and economy pieces on the weekends, provided by both local and national news sites.  Today’s article comes from The Guardian, based in the United Kingdom.  Its excellent reportage capturing the civic death throes of California’s 13th largest city (4th largest in the Central Valley), and its British perspective offers an outsider’s look at some of our issues we can’t see ourselves.

Stockton, California: ‘This economy is garbage’

The middle-class families Obama claims as his bedrock are suffering in a city where foreclosure and violence are rampant

Aditya Chakrabortty, The Guardian, Friday 2 November 2012 13.12 EDT

121102-stockton-gatedIn some towns, visitors are warned to keep an eye on their stuff, or to watch out late at night. In the Californian city of Stockton, the anxiety is more precise – and it kicks in early. “Take care downtown after 5pm,” one local person told me. “Don’t hang out too long.”

A few hours later, I saw what she meant. Almost as soon as the offices shut, the city centre empties. Then the sun goes down and a different cast takes to the streets: the homeless, the drug dealers, and clusters of young men patrolling up and down on bicycles.

Stockton ranks among America’s 10 most dangerous cities, and everyone here seems to operate under a self-imposed curfew. The commuter admits she doesn’t dare go to the cinema after 8pm; the father expects his 18-year-old daughter home by 10 – “and she totally gets why.” Others prefer not to go out at all. All give the same reason: the spiralling number of violent crimes.

Last weekend, the city notched up its 60th murder of the year, up from 24 for all of 2008. At just under 300,000 residents, this river port has about the same population as a London borough. Imagine a couple of your neighbours getting killed every week, and you’ll understand why almost all the conversations here touch on a recent homicide.

TL;DR: Sucks, crime, cuts, crash, foreclosure, not the Real Bay Area, affordable big houses, long commutes, upside down, civic decay, life downgrade, bust redevelopment loans, abandoned shops, cheap rentals, farmland. We highly recommend this piece but warn you it has a somewhat high bummer factor.  If you’re the type who gets weepy and emotional reading about mortgage rates going up 0.1 percent, we suggest you read this with either a supportive friend or a drink with plenty of kick.  This is a news feature with a Steinbeck vibe by way of Manchester.

Fortunately, this is also your weekend open thread, so you don’t just have to talk about this essay, or Stockton, or the crap house you toured today that might as well be in Stockton, or the demographics of Weston Ranch versus Brookside. 

You’re all ready for our Fantasy Real Estate League, right? This is going to be great!

Comments (4) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:12 am

October 27, 2012

Mountain View: A Super Fun Site

Thought all those problems with toxic groundwater and Superfund site cleanup was in the past? Guess again.

121026-epa-mewmap

Turns out that parts of Mountain View are still dealing with problems from the TCE from not one but two different plumes.  What kind of problems?  Well, a higher incidence of non-Hodgkin Lymphoma than expected, according to the California Cancer Registry.

Now MEW can mean two different realty problems. Not only does it stand for Mortgage Equity Withdrawal, it also is an acronym for Middlefield-Ellis-Whisman, the area the EPA is monitoring for vapor intrusion.  You see, there is too such a thing as being on the Wrong Side of Middlefield.

121026-epa-hangar1TCE (Tricoroethylene), a cleaning solvent that’s been sitting in the ground since the early days of the semiconductor industry, is the apparent culprit.  Oh yeah, and the military dumped it as well.  Vapor intrusion is when these chemicals lead to outgassing into buildings over the TCE plume in the ground.  Researchers note it’s difficult to clean up because the area near Moffett Field is made up of… well, mud. 

There is good news.  The plume is migrating toward the Bay, away from residences.  There’s also bad news: the plume is migrating toward the Bay.

Do you live near any of these problem areas, or know someone who does? How much would you overbid for the opportunity to meet cute EPA scientists or cancer researchers?

Or if this topic is way too depressing for you, talk about anything you’d like in this Open Thread.  When you’re not worried about getting cancer from TCE, there’s always the Fantasy Slut League, coming to a high school near you!

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

October 20, 2012

Economists say it costs too much for Bay Area to have an economy

More complaints that living where it’s Special isn’t all rainbows and unicorns:

Bay Area’s business climate is less friendly to startups than other parts of California, says study

By George Avalos, Contra Costa Times
Posted:   10/18/2012 10:43:17 AM PDT, Updated:   10/19/2012 08:10:22 AM PDT

121019-jobstudy-downgraphRelatively expensive housing, coupled with the high cost of living and doing business in the Bay Area, has made the nine-county region less hospitable to new companies than other big urban centers in California, according to a study released Thursday that urges improvements in what it describes as this area’s burdensome regulatory climate.

“You have to ease the regulations that people face when they want to launch a new venture,” said Jon Haveman, chief economist with the Bay Area Council’s Economic Institute, which produced the report. “If somebody is trying to start a small business and spend a small fortune on a new home, they will probably start that business elsewhere.”

The Bay Area lags major rivals such as Los Angeles and San Diego in jobs created by startup companies, the study determined.

The strengths of the region are reflected in household income and other factors, the report stated. The region has increasingly specialized in high-value industries such as professional, scientific and technical services, along with information services and products.

121019-jobstudy-boromirSo what the Institute is complaining about is it’s difficult to start cheap-ass startups where it’s expensive?  That isn’t a bug, that’s a feature.  If it’s expensive to live here, it should be expensive to work here. Besides, if you need money for a lower-capital startup, you should sell one of your vacation homes, or write put options for what’s under all the couch cushions at your furniture factory.

The article waits until graf 7 to admit there’s no problem with the Bay Area job market after all. Actual quote from report: “The Bay Area economy is one of the most productive and prosperous in the country.”  Sounds awful. Then again, engineers are being bought and sold like excess office furniture by a Bain Capital-funded startup, which decided staying in business was too much trouble.  The buyer?  Apple.

We swear we are not making any of this up.  Let us know of your ease or difficulty in starting a business in the Real Bay Area (summary: 90% say it’s Special here even though it’s expensive. So?)  Or read the full 68 page report yourself, and comment on it before falling asleep.  Or discuss anything you wish in this Weekend Open Thread.

 

Comments (2) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:09 am

October 13, 2012

What do you think about all the spamlicious selling stuff?

121010-spam-wallBurbed, like most blogs, gets its share of spam in the comments.  We use some spam-blocking tools to keep those to a minimum, but no tool is perfect. And sometimes some of your legitimate posts end up in the spam bin, where our hardworking staff has to rescue them by sorting through hundreds of offers of gay porn and Louis Vuitton ripoffs.  That means some of your comments sit alone, in the dark, with nothing but dozens of identical posts in Portuguese to keep them company until we dig them out them days later.

We’ve been dealing with some of the odder contributions by posting them without whatever sites they linked back to, as a Moment of Zen feature.  We’d like to know if you find these interesting or if this is wasted effort on our part, when we could be out looking at Open Houses to not write up.

Here are some of the latest additions to comments that really did belong in the spambucket, but are now standing on an equal footing with your own contributions. Please let us know if you think we’re taking the right approach toward responding to these. Do you enjoy them or should we just have left them in the spam Portal to Hell? It’s the hope of finding a #winning entry that keeps us checking the queue while rescuing those of you unfairly discarded with the Xbox cheat codes for only $49. The earnest, badly spelled, improper use of English while selling services on another continent comments are a “bunus,” but do let us know if these are worth our trouble.  Remember, these tend to released after most of you are done with the thread they sought out.

Or complain about something else.  This is an open thread, you know.  Post away. Attempts to sell us something are subject to further scathing editorial commentary.

Comments (4) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:12 am