June 24, 2012

Brick by brick, row by row, building homes this way is slow

The fun-loving folks at Movoto have an interesting calculator to think about.  How long would it take you to build an exact replica of your house out of LEGO? 

Well, no, not being from the Real Bay Area, they didn’t actually ask that.  What they asked was how many LEGO bricks would it take to build your house if you didn’t put in any unnecessary accoutrements like interior walls.  They also skipped the luxury touches such as doors and windows.

Have fun with the calculator.  You might want to give the UPS driver a heads-up when you order the bricks.

Lego_ZuckSo if we want to know how much Lego it would take to rebuilt Mark Zuckerberg’s house, according to this silly tool, the answer is 23,470,037, and it would cost about the same ($2,347,074) to build it out of LEGO than it would if you used redwood and marble and slate and other cheap materials.  You’d need a building site as well.

Now, if you do care about including expensive nonsense such as an access port or a way to allow light and air into the interior, you could download the Virtual Lego Creator and figure this out for real.  Or maybe this guy could help you build it for real.

Lego_Langenbach

Image via Wired.

 

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






April 27, 2012

It’s a floor wax! It’s a dessert topping! It’s Mountain View!

Burbed began its life as a housing price and mortgage insanity site back in 2006.  And if home prices keep going up, up, up like they are now in some Very Special Places, we could be back to our glory days soon, when every article had over 100 comments no matter how meh the listing was.

Not only are listing prices up Where It’s Special.  So are lease costs.  Have a look at this well-situated rental, courtesy of Burbed reader Adennris.

229 Polaris Ave
Mountain View, CA 94043
For Rent: $1,195,000/mo

120424-polaris-zillow

Beds: —
Baths: —
Sqft: —
Lot: 15,246 sq ft / 0.35 acres
Type: Single Family
Year built: 1973
Parking: —
Availability: now
Lease term: ContactForDetails
Cooling: —
Heating: —
Fireplace: —
On Zillow: 21 days
MLS #: 81211034
Other facts

This may be a bigger entry error than simply putting in a sales price in the monthly rental field.  Here’s this same property on a realty site (photo right) and here’s the listing copy.  It’s a little different than what Zillow had.

120424-polaris-alanhuweGreat income opportunity for the right buyer. 1031 exchange is possible. 2 buildings on one lot. Many possible uses in the ML disdrict of Mountain View. Near the worlds greatest companies and close to many of Mountain View’s wonderful services and delights. Easy commuting access to El Camino, Central Expressway, 85, and 101.

Last updated on  4/25/2012

More Details for 229 POLARIS AVE

Property Class:Commercial Industrial
Listing Status:Active
City:Mountain View
Area:203 North Shoreline
County:SANTA CLARA COUNTY
State:CA
Lot Size:15164.00 SF
Stories:2
Year Built:1973
MLS#:81211034
List Date:3/24/2012

So it’s not a single-family home, then?  But the upside is you definitely can bring your arc welder.

Trulia calls it an income/investment.  But Zillow wasn’t the only one to assume this place was a residence.  Check it out!

120424-polaris-sfbrealty

This is a 380 square foot, single family home, which can rent for only $608 a month.  No beds or baths, but it has assigned schools, and more importantly, places doing business.

Redfin never heard of this location or either MLS listing number above.  That’s because this site is a 6019 sf office building for sale.  And this description might explain all the confusion.

Check this out!!
Real close to downtown Mountain View.
16 unit office building in ML district of Mountain View.
2 buildings on one lot.
Recent Zoning changes have allowed for additional uses.
ML zoning.
Buyer to check with City of Mountain View for precise zoning uses allowed for this location.

Near down town Mountain View.
Blocks from El Camino.
Easy access to highway 101, Central Expressway and highway 85.

If you read all these conflicting real estate offers for the same location, you will also notice that it’s been described as being in three different neighborhoods.  That’s because Mountain View is so cutting edge, it transcends space, time, and money.  No wonder it’s so hot, hot, hot!

Comments (15) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:04 am

April 21, 2012

Pride of Ownership: Los Gatos Edition

Thanks very much to Burbed reader Kir for passing along this nugget from her blog Inside Los Gatos.  While this is a commercial property, there’s no reason why it couldn’t be returned to its original purpose as an ostentatious trophy home.

120420-santacruz-house

Pride of Ownership Retail Investment | Los Gatos

115 N. Santa Cruz Avenue
Los Gatos, CA 95030
$4,900,000

Building Size: 7,300 SF
Price/SF: $671.23
Property Type: Retail
Property Sub-type: Free Standing Bldg
Property Use Type: Net Lease Investment with 10+ years left on lease
Cap Rate: 5.14%
Occupancy: 100%
Tenancy: Single
Lot Size: 17,987 SF

Highlights

  • Iconic Historic Building – One of Los Gatos’ Most Well Known Landmarks
  • Irreplaceable Downtown Los Gatos Location
  • 100% Leased to Experienced Restaurant Operators
  • New 10 year Lease w/Scheduled Increases
  • Minimal Landlord Obligations
  • Recent Extensive Renovations

Here’s what Kir had to say about this place over on Inside LG:

Coggeshall Mansion is For Sale

120420-palacio-dallasOne of our readers sent me a real estate flyer about the Coggeshall Mansion. I was going to post it in my "Where to Build a School" column, but decided it would be just too ridiculous of an idea; however, I want to share the fact that you can own a piece of historic downtown Los Gatos.

The history of the Coggeshall Mansion is interesting, to say the least. The house was originally built for Mary G. Coggeshall, a wealthy widow with two children. According to Alastair Dallas, "Once a grand home, one of many along N. Santa Cruz Ave., the Coggeshall Mansion was built in 1891 and converted into the Place Mortuary in 1917. When it re-opened as the Chart House restaurant in 1976, the bar in the back was called the Embalming Room. After the Chart House closed, the restaurant was known as Trevese from March 2007 to Fall 2009…" Now, Palacio inhabits the mansion.

Hooked on Los Gatos has a 1949 flyer depicting the Place Funeral Home. You can check it out HERE. In fact, many of the locals swear the mansion is haunted.

120420-place-funeralSo not only is the former home being sold at a premium as commercial in-town property, it comes with “bunus” ghosts.  Here’s some more on the hauntings mentioned above.

Unfortunately the link above is to yet another Google product called “knol” that’s being abandoned for insufficient awesomeness. That means the link above may not work after May 1st.  Sorry about that. 

Here are the links given in that article about the ghosts, like the one who runs up huge bar tabs or the little girl who turns wine bottles hiding the label, or the little boy running outside the building.

This house/restaurant/funeral parlor is definitely for someone who had a huge pile of stock option cash dumped in their lap who wants to one-up all those Facebook poseurs househunting in Palo Alto and Hillsborough.

Thanks very much to Kir for allowing us to reprint articles that mention real estate.

Comments (4) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:06 am

March 25, 2012

UPDATED: Trulia weighs in on Buy vs Rent by putting finger on the scale

120324-trulia-usamapTrulia has a new blog entry on the eternal Buy vs Rent question, and they have lots of meaningless aggregate data to wave around!  Here’s their Winter 2012 Rent vs Buy Index, and and it isn’t restricted to the Real Bay Area. 

Don’t be surprised that Trulia thinks signs point to Buy.  Their being in the listing information and real estate agent referral business shouldn’t have anything to do with their conclusion, right?  After all, Now is Always the Time to Buy!

120324-trulia-prr-graphRemember, the Index is the Price Rent Ratio: sales price divided by annual rent.  So, if a house in the RBA sold for $1.5 million, and rented for $4,500 a month, the rent ratio would be 1500000 / (4500 x 12).  That equation simplifies to 27.8, which sounds about right for the RBA.  Trulia considers 15-20 to be the swing zone between whether buying or renting is a better option; below 15 is buy and above 20 is rent.  We’ve written about the price rent ratio before, and 15 was always the inflection point mentioned in these articles, not 15-20.

Update 10:26 AM: The swing zone was 15-20 from other sources, but the other sites and articles counseled renting over buying unless the home you were considering was an unusually good find.  Trulia considers the rent vs. buy decision as completely balanced when the ratio is between 15-20.  That’s the thumb on the scale.

120324-trulia-logoTrulia is pushing their own agenda with this redefinition of terms by asserting a higher ratio for the buy zone.  The lack of yellow on the map above could indicate homes are more affordable, or it could show that the unlabeled color key breakpoints were chosen incorrectly.  Perhaps they simply wanted the map to match their brand color.

Now for some bad news. The Bay Area appears at #2 and #4 on Trulia’s list of least buy-friendly metro areas. It’s always a disappointment to not first on a list.

120324-trulia-most-expensive

At least SF beat NYC this time, but they’re going to gripe that was because New Jersey pulled them into the Hudson like a pair of cement overshoes.  We can counter that SF has the East Bay to contend with, and San Jose has, well, East San Jose. 

Here’s a little bit more breakdown, by county, but this still doesn’t get to the city level, let alone by zip code. 

120324-trulia-bayarea

Look, Pacific Heights is going to have a higher rent ratio than the Outer Sunset.  Palo Alto is going to completely clean Gilroy’s clock.  Foster City will stomp Daly City, Montclair mauls Hayward, and Danville going to defeat Discovery Bay in the “mine’s bigger” sweeps.  Even when outside the RBA, we still have an idea which places would be contenders, and which are permanently assigned to LOLsville.  And it’s the Definitely Not In The RBA places that are going to have the lower ratios.

Here are some other metros that score lower on the Index.

120324-trulia-least-expensive

The same rule applies within the Bay Area as well.  The not-so-Special places that are “slow-growing with high vacancy rates and land to spare” will have the best ratios.  These places also have the most foreclosures, which might explain why so many FBs are turning into renters themselves.  Too many foreclosures thus drive home prices down and rents up, resulting in a lower price rent ratio.  But in the RBA, prices are sticky because more owners can afford to wait out the price lulls.

These ratios are much lower than what we’d been seeing before.  Do you agree that prices are down and/or rents are up where you live?  Here’s what Trulia has to say about how the Index has changed recently: San Jose has been stable but San Francisco is dropping. 

Updated 11:14 AM: Added Oakland, Sacramento and Fresno to the table.  Note how the numbers don’t agree with those in the Bay Area table.  Stockton not called out separately.

Metro Winter 2011 Spring 2011 Summer 2011 Fall 2011 Winter 2012
San Jose 14.8 13.6 14.5 14.3 14.5
San Francisco 19.5 16.9 17.2 17.4 15.5
Oakland 12.8 11.0 11,9 11.7 11.6
Sacramento 11.2 10.4 10.0 11.1 9.9
Fresno 7.5 7.5 7.8 8.1 7.9

San Jose Metro also has the second lowest vacancy rate (3.9%) of the 100 regions surveyed. The “winner” is Long Island, NY, by one tenth of a percentage point. It’s also the third highest in growth in the employment rate, at 3%.  In the first two spots are Louisville, KY and Salt Lake City.  The latter is gearing up for a ginormous government data mining operation, so there may be some tech jobs!

Their  full press release on how they came up with these numbers is here.

Comments (7) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:07 am

February 13, 2012

The Links are Back!

120213-linksYou may have noticed while we’ve been rebuilding Burbed, the links to other worthwhile websites went away for a few weeks.  I’m happy to report they’ve all been restored.  (Or at least they all should have been restored; let us know if a favorite was eaten by Ceiling Cat.)

Have a look around and see if you find them useful, interesting, informative, or fun.  Also feel free to let us know if there’s a site you love that ought to be included.  Be sure to tell us why Burbed readers would enjoy it.

Feel free to complain about which category your favorite site was misclassified in, too.  It wouldn’t be Burbed without whining!

Comments (1) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 3:38 pm

January 21, 2012

Your Weekend Open Thread

It’s another weekend in the Real Bay Area, so what better time to discuss anything you want about real estate, or all the sites that went on strike Wednesday, or anything at all. 

Here’s a photo sent in by Burbed reader nomadic to get you started. Photo source here.

freehouse

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

January 14, 2012

Holy home sales, Batman, this column was written by an agent!

Today we have a guest post from Burbed reader Greg Fielding.  Greg has a real estate blog, Bay Area Real Estate Trends, and even though he’s a real estate agent, he is not a Realtard.  If you check out his site, you’ll find it rather free of Now Is The Time To Buy.  For someone who makes a living helping people buy or sell houses, he sure spends a lot of time over on patrick.net.

Greg is based in Contra Costa County, which we haven’t covered enough on this site.  Be sure to let him know if you think his analysis is relevant to the Real Bay Area (if anyone can figure out where it is in 2012).

Anyway, please give Greg a big, warm, RBA welcome to the front page today. 


Tale of Two Markets: Breaking Down Case-Shiller Tiered Indices

Following up on the latest Case-Shiller Home Price Index report for the Bay Area, let’s break down index into top, middle, and lower tiers. The result shows two distinctly different markets since the price lows in the Spring of 2009.

Just as Wall Street has diverged from Main Street, high-end neighborhoods are enjoying a different reality than the rest of us.

Tiered Case Shiller Home Prices San Francisco Bay Area

The lower and middle-tiers are generally following the same pattern. When the supply of foreclosures was turned off, interest rates dropped, and buyer incentives kicked in, both market segments rallied. Then, when that temporary stimulus was exhausted, they resumed their declines at a paces of roughly 10 percent per year.

However, the top-tier – homes priced above $579,803 – are only declining at a pace of roughly 3-4 percent per year.

Why?

There are lots of possible reasons. Among them, that higher home prices are more directly tied to the stock market, which has performed remarkably well. In April of 2009, the S&P 500 Index was in the 800′s. Today it is at 1,277 – an increase of roughly 50 percent. Also, higher-paying jobs have survived the recession better than lower paying retail-type jobs that are more directly tied to consumer spending and sentiment. Or, that wealthier homeowners with higher-paying jobs were more likely to be able to refinance their homes to avoid foreclosure. And there are probably a dozen other reasons that all contribute to the divergence.

One other note: high-end home prices are holding relatively stable in spite of the reduction in conforming loan limits. Buyers literally need 100K+ more of cash to buy the same high-end home, and they are still doing it. So far, anyway. Honestly, I am shocked by this.

One thing is clear: this circle will square itself at some point. Either the mid and lower-tiers will rally (or stabilize) and the gap will narrow over time. Or, the pillars holding up the high-end will eventually give way and prices will begin to fall at a pace that matches the other tiers.

Written by Greg Fielding. This article originally appeared on Bay Area Real Estate Trends on January 4th.  Republished with permission, nay, encouragement of the author.

Comments (28) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:14 am

December 3, 2011

Bay Area Prestige Home Index: Up from a Real Downer

If you’re interested in Bay Area real estate, you should be familiar with the Prestige Home Index.  Put together by First Republic Bank, the Prestige Home Index tracks the value of a number of “over $1 million properties” in eight Bay Area counties.  Burbed has a handy link to the index on our blogroll on the right; you’ll find it with the Real Bay Area links.

Earlier this week, the latest quarterly numbers ending September 30th were released.  Let’s take a look at First Republic’s exciting graph with the latest RBA domicile data!

image

While the index has risen to 437.48 (after dropping from 450 nine months ago, long down from its peak of 533.17 exactly four years ago) the little kick at the very end of the graph shows what could be the second dead cat bounce, or it could show we’ve hit bottom!  Then again, it could just represent a few LinkedIn types jumping into Palo Alto ahead of their stock coming out of the no-trading lock-up zone.

Then again, the above graph is the median value of their high-end home portfolio, which is currently $2,531,042.  Since they neglected to graph the index itself, I’ve thrown one together for you.

image

Oh, silly me, I didn’t pull the “let’s exaggerate the graph by chopping a whole bunch of numbers off the bottom of the Y axis” trick.  Fine, I can play that game too.

image

Can anyone figure out which Bay Area county is not represented in the First Republic Prestige Home Index, San Francisco Edition?  My money is on Marin!

In San Francisco, the higher end of the luxury market was active. “Above $5 million, the market is healthy,” said Mary Lou Castellanos of Sotheby’s International Realty. “Smart money is buying now and is taking advantage of lower prices and lower interest rates. At the same time, a growing number of sellers are getting more realistic about price.”

We’ve featured high-end properties before, and prices aren’t always realistic (take a look at both the homes in the zip code series and this collection of Santa Clara County astonishers if you don’t believe us).

This is an Open Thread.

Comments (23) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:09 am

November 26, 2011

Sawbuck measures Market Health, drunk-dials 911

imageThere are several real estate search sites out there that let you peruse homes on the Multiple Listing Service.  Regular Burbed readers may have have noted we’re partial to RedfinZillow gets noticed for their ZEstimate, an automated model that attempts to value most homes in the United States.  Some of our fans like Trulia, as I get the occasional submission pointing to their site.

imageI just took another look at Sawbuck when I put a recent feature together.  Sawbuck is a Washington DC-based site that partners with local agents in several regions, including the Bay Area.   Until I found their listing information last week, I figured Sawbuck links were just nuisances. Google searches for property addresses pointed to Sawbuck’s very silly videos that were animated frames for MLS photos and information. 

But this time they had a very detailed page on the house I was checking out.  The videos were gone, even when Google pointed to embedded players.  They also had something I haven’t seen on any of the other sites before.

Their pages for each city have a Market Overview, showing how many homes are for sale, the median list and sales price, ho-hum, seen it.  But I hadn’t seen a Market Health Score on a city’s real estate activity before, at least not on a site that links to individual home listings.  Altos Research does something like that called the Market Action Index (MAI), but they’re in the Useless Aggregate Data business.

So how is the market doing in the Real Bay Area?  Let’s have Sawbuck and Altos fight it out, after the break!

(more…)

Comments (1) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:04 am

October 23, 2011

Prop 13: Insidious Budget Cancer or Fiscal Terrorist Threat?

Well, that certainly got your attention.  I’d like to direct you to an excellent, dare I say seminal piece of reporting on the elephant in the California real estate room: Proposition 13.  I’ll quote a few grafs here, but I really would like you to read the entire piece.

California Diminished by 1978 Tax Revolt Shows U.S. in Decline

By Christopher Palmeri, Bloomberg/Businessweek
October 17, 2011, 12:23 AM EDT

Oct. 17 (Bloomberg) — California voters approved Proposition 13 to rein in property taxes that had doubled in 10 years. More than three decades later, that rebellion has mortgaged the state’s future, saddling it with the nation’s highest debt and lowest credit rating.

The measure led to reductions that dropped per-student school spending from seventh to 29th nationally, prompted cities to pursue sprawling retail development to compensate for lost revenue, and pushed the state into budget gridlock, including a $705 million revenue shortfall announced Oct. 10, by requiring two-thirds approval for any tax increase.

“Proposition 13 set up an unfair and dysfunctional two- tiered system of property taxes,” said Kevin Starr, a history professor at the University of Southern California and the author of a series of books on the state. “It choked off a source of revenue, and the lack of that revenue has brought California to the edge.”

The measure, approved in 1978, was the inspiration for an antitax movement that has taken hold of the public discourse in Washington and in state legislatures throughout the country. It caps real estate levies at 1 percent of a property’s most-recent sale price. Before it passed, local governments could raise revenue as they saw fit.

imageHere’s a few more colorful quotes from this story:

  • “You couldn’t invent a crazier system,” [Santa Clara County Assessor Larry] Stone said in a telephone interview.
  • “It’s had a profound impact on multiple levels,” said Jean Ross, executive director of the California Budget Project, a nonpartisan research group in Sacramento. “The one that’s underestimated is the shift in decision-making from the local level to the state. All of our public systems have been affected by our seemingly perpetual budget crises.”
  • “Prop. 13 has had the unintended effect of favoring commercial property owners at the expense of homeowners,” [Los Angeles Mayor Antonio] Villaraigosa said Aug. 16 at the Sacramento Press Club. “Let’s apply Prop. 13’s protections to homeowners and homeowners alone.”
  • “This is a nightmare,” said Mohammad Islam, San Bernardino’s assistant superintendent who has worked in school finance for 22 years. “It’s impossible what the state is doing to us.”

Yet despite all California’s budget woes (as described by Michael Lewis in Vanity Fair), there is no organized movement toward either doing away with, or even modifying Proposition 13 to a homeowners-only tax adjustment.  While presented as a way to keep senior citizens from losing their homes to skyrocketing property taxes, Prop 13 has become a windfall for commercial and corporate property owners instead.

imageMeanwhile, California’s public school system has declined from seventh in per-pupil spending to 29th according to this article. If you go by this NEA report, it’s 36th. According to this article from KQED, it’s 42nd.  Or 43rd.  Or 46th.  More importantly, education quality has dropped as well.  California ranks 46th of 51 (50 states plus District of Columbia) on test scores in 2003.  This more recent ranking had California come in 30th (but this appears to be a different series of grades).

That NEA report said we’re #3 in prison spending per capita, though!  Woot!

Now, if you don’t think an educated citizenry is an important goal, then you can tell me to shut up already about school funding.  But I suspect most knowledge workers (such as Silicon Valley engineers or San Francisco creative class members) would want our schools to return to their previous high quality, and that means starving them is not in our interest.

image

Let’s hear from someone else who doesn’t agree with that.  Furthermore, this is someone who writes a San Francisco real estate blog.  Here is his complete takedown of that 2600 word Bloomberg piece.  Ready?

Prop 13 Isn’t Squeezing Anything

Bill Quick, San Francisco Real Estate Blog

The political big spenders absolutely hate Prop 13, because it cut off their unlimited access to the piggy bank of private property taxation.

The truth is, our spending on essentials like education, public safety, and other bottom-line items is not being constricted by Prop 13. It is being choked off by the propensity of governments at both the local and state levels to spend money on tens of thousands of pet projects and pet constituencies, rather than paying for services that voters feel are the most basic. We’re not broke because our state “salary” (taxes) is too low, it’s because we spend way too much on non-essential fripperies.

Wow, I’m speechless from that relentless chain of brilliant logic!  And to be fair, when I called Quick on his heavy use of facts and supporting evidence, he did respond with this:

imageEnjoyed your sarcasm! I’ll be looking forward to your piece supporting runaway property taxes and booting retired boomers into the street, too. Of course, California’s housing economy is in such great shape that property tax hikes should be just the ticket for rocketing us to even greater heights!

Right.  Because interest rates and inflation are exactly the same as they were in 1978, and property tax assessments are rising faster than college costs.  Then there’s this:

Here’s a bunch of stats on California’s tax and business climate. Short takeaway: We’re in awful shape, with one of the highest overall tax burdens in America.

imageThe bunch of stats are from the Tax Foundation, so I looked into just who they are and what their real motives are.  They’re funded by high-minded humanitarians such as the Koch Foundation (as in Koch Brothers) and ExxonMobil. They obviously have your interests in mind rather than those grabby one percenters!  Would you expect anything less from a group founded by the CEOs of General Motors and Standard Oil other than whether grannies are getting taxed out of their Cayman Island Corporations and have to bunk in their Swiss bank deposits?

Paul Krugman (a know-nothing economist who won a stupid Nobel) accused this group of committing “deliberate fraud” in their evaluation of Obama’s jobs proposal.  This isn’t the first time he’s questioned their methodology, either. But let’s drink to “the tax is too damned high” Kool-aid that the Tax Foundation is pouring.

It’s a lot cheaper than actually fixing things.

Comments (64) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:05 am