November 15, 2011

Theory of Relativity in Real Estate

Today we’re taking a trip to the upscale community of Saratoga, thanks to Burbed reader REshrink.  The initial write-up was originally shared on, but REshrink thought they’d be perfect for Burbed.  Add in a visit at the Open House and we hope you agree that these pricey Eichlers make for a great Guest Post.

Neither of these Saratoga listings had sold when this column was sent in, now both are pending!  Be sure to place your bets on their selling prices.  And now, please give REshrink a big, warm Real Bay Area welcome to today’s front page.

19201 SHUBERT Dr, Saratoga, CA 95070


SQ. FT.: 2,840
$/SQ. FT.: $493
LOT SIZE: 0.32 Acres
PROPERTY TYPE: Detached Single Family
STYLE: Contemporary
VIEW: Neighborhood
COUNTY: Santa Clara
MLS#: 81141806
STATUS: Pending Without Release
ON REDFIN: 41 days

Gorgeous Atrium Model Eichler Home on Corner Lot! * 4bds/4.5bths, Plus Office & Workshop * Spacious Living & Dining Area w. Vaulted Natural Beam Ceilings, Tile Flrs * Gourmet Kitchen w. Large Island, Gas Stove & Lots of Counter & Cabinet Space * Open Family Room w. Fireplace * Master Suite w. Private Courtyard * Indoor Pool w. Solar * Foam Roof * Remodeled Baths * Indoor Laundry * Great Location & Saratoga Schools!

imageJust when you are trying to think if this house has been priced accurately at $1,399,000 (last sold in 2004 for 1.1 M) , a similar listing shows up with a price tag of $1,649,000 (19168 De Havilland Drive, pictured at left, last sold in 2003 for $1,488,000).

Is it a coincidence that these two homes are “perpendicularly” next to each other and have similar architectural styles?

Hmmm…why would an agent advise the owners of De Havilland to bring their home in market at a time when a similar property next door is priced approximately $250K lower. I acknowledge that the backyard of Schubert abuts a busy street, but $250K more, really. I will never pay $5.99/lb for tomatoes in Whole Foods if I know they are selling for $3.99/lb in Trader’s Joe next door. I know, I know…it is a bad analogy. After all, you don’t need a jumbo loan to buy tomatoes.


Moreover, the Schubert property came to the market only 18 days ago. Therefore, it is not like it has been sitting for 6 months and the owners at De Havilland got tired and decided to list their home a month before the holiday season, A.K.A. slow-real-estate season.

imageWhat kind of business decision goes in putting a home in the market for a price tag that is significantly higher than the neighboring home? If you read carefully at the listings for both homes, you will find the answer. Both these homes have something more in common; they have the same listing agent. It seems the property on Schubert, which now looks like a bargain at $1,399,000, is being marketed at the expense of De Havilland. So, buyers don’t delay or you will miss the deal at Schubert; that is if you can get past the bidding war in an attempt to get it for at least $1.5M, which is still $150K lower than the competition.

Any guesses what will happen to the pricing of De Havilland after Schubert is sold? Just go back to the owner of De Havilland and tell them that they should lower the price to whatever-Schubert-sold-for.

Am I the only one who wants to sympathize with the owners of De Havilland property?

imageAddendum: I ended up going to the open house for the Schubert property. The agent proudly explained the updates the current owner made in the kitchen. The cabinets are indeed new but they are Ikea Adel. Please don’t get me wrong as I am a big fan of Ikea, but an increase of $300K since the last sale ($1.1M in 2004) is hard to explain by Ikea cabinets. As for the appliances, the refrigerator does not make ice, and the garbage disposal has been disconnected as it keeps getting clogged. Besides, the only fireplace in the house is now non-functional.

imageAlso worth mentioning, the whole house smelled of Chlorine (from the indoor swimming pool). This stands in contrast to the real estate agent’s false claim about the house having a salt water pool.  The agent tried to mask the cheap-motel-chlorine-swimming-pool-smell by baking garlic-chicken in the oven during the open house. May be, the agent should have followed the traditional route of baking cookies. While the smell of Chlorine was enough to trigger my migraine, I found a few people leaving right away as the smell of garlic was nauseating.

imageSo, here is a wonderful Ikealer, I mean an Eichler for you to buy for $1,399,000 only. As most people might know, the attraction of any Eichler is their architectural philosophy of bringing outside indoors, Well, this purpose has been well achieved in this particular Eichler. The outside noise from Cox Ave can be heard inside the home in its full glory.


Comments (8) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:02 am

October 16, 2011

We Are the 99th Percentile

imageimageOccupy Wall Street is finishing up its fourth week in Zucotti Park (if they weren’t evicted yesterday), near Wall Street in Manhattan.  The massive protest against Wall Street excess has spun off Occupy movements across the United States, including our very own Occupy San Jose movement on the steps of City Hall. 

And that  in turn spread to, I kid you not, Occupy Palo Alto.  The very definition of the one percent has supporters of the other 99, or at least the 99 found the right location, location, location for the one.

Occupy Wall Street comes to Palo Alto

imageBy Jason Green, Daily News Staff Writer
Posted: 10/13/2011 06:09:44 AM PDT, Updated: 10/13/2011 06:09:51 AM PDT

Photos by Kirstina Sangsahachart/ Daily News

Some 150 people gathered Wednesday evening in front of a Palo Alto bank to lend their support to the growing Occupy Wall Street movement that has zeroed in on corporate greed and rampant unemployment.

Organized by the Peninsula Peace and Justice Center, the rally in front of the Bank of America on El Camino Real was one of several that took place across the Bay Area on Wednesday.

image"This is an upwelling of frustration, a deep-seated desire for substantive change and a keen awareness of just how unfair and unequal our country has become," said the center’s director, Paul George, as protesters sang and waved signs at passing cars. "I expect to see these kinds of demonstrations happening weekly, daily."

As with the demonstrations in San Francisco and San Jose, the Palo Alto rally was held in front of a bank that received a federal bailout but foreclosed on jobless homeowners. "They got $45 billion in bailout money," George said, motioning to the Bank of America behind him, "and they continue to evict people from their homes."

imageOne reason the movement has caught on has been the 99 percent message.  Signs from the Occupy groups tell their stories, and the Tumblr blog We Are the 99 Percent allows anyone to send in a photo with their tale of financial fallout.  (Click the image at left for a larger view.) And there are so many of these stories.  The enormity of misery and how so many people ended up near-destitute in these tales is what sustains both the demonstrations and those who add in their stories to the blog.

Even in the Real Bay Area, where It’s Special Here, people are living paycheck to paycheck.  We’ve discussed some of these ideas on Burbed before, such as the banks’ imagefailure to foreclose on expensive homes, the huge amount of shadow inventory keeping home prices high, and the requirement for two incomes in order to buy even adequate housing.  Now rents are shooting up in both San Francisco and Silicon Valley.

For the most part, people who follow a real estate blog do so because they plan to buy or sell property at some point.  They are most likely in a better financial position than the typical resident.  So given that most of us are doing better than average (We Are the Top 50%), and that with incomes and home prices near the top of the entire country (We are the 1%), how are you feeling about your own financial prospects? 

imageWhat do you think about them now that a number of economists are admitting that yes indeed, we are in a full-blown Depression?  The drop in homeownership rates suggests a Depression as well.  Do you feel you’re the “rich” “they” want to tax, or do you consider yourself “middle class”?  Does “middle class” even make sense in an economy as atypical as ours, where a sixty year old tract house on 6000 square feet can sell for over $800,000?  Or a two-income family taking home more than $200K a year has little disposable income after paying for living expenses?  Or as someone recently asked on, if you lost your job today, in how many months would you be homeless?

Comments (80) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:18 am

October 7, 2011

800 sf slate deck becomes extension of the home, because no remodeling allowed

corntrolio over at (who has also been an occasional Burbed reader) found this house and complained about it.  We did a smash and grab so you could point and gasp.  At the house, I mean.  Thanks for the great observations, corntrolio!  Note that they were made back when the house still listed for $1.095M.

Are there any Real Estate forums you regularly check for great discussion on local properties?  Let us know so we can steal share them with you.


610 WOODSIDE Way, Woodside, CA 94062


SQ. FT.: 1,670
$/SQ. FT.: $656
LOT SIZE: 7,440 Sq. Ft.
PROPERTY TYPE: Detached Single Family
STYLE: Traditional
VIEW: Mountains, Neighborhood
COMMUNITY: Emerald Hills Area
COUNTY: San Mateo
MLS#: 81126046
STATUS: Active
ON REDFIN: 75 days

Open flr plan, Massive loft w/ vaulted ceiling. (multitple uses) gourmet kitchen. Bath/2 sinks, vanity area, tub with jets & separate toilet area. 800 sq ft slate deck becomes extension of the home. Crowned molding, recessed lighting, old world plastered walls, french drain, new septic/leach fields, storage throughout. Flat grassy yard/garden w/ fountain. Woodside Schools. OH 10/02.(SUN)1:30-4:30

imageThe ridiculous place I saw recently was this one.

This is a 1BR house with a loft built 2000-2004. You may ask yourself, why would someone do that in this day and age? The reason is because this property is on a septic system, and a restrictive covenant placed on the house in 2001 does not permit more than 1BR.

I also didn’t believe it was 1600+ sqft. I’ve lived in 1200-1300 sqft houses with 3BR that felt bigger. It’s also not really in Woodside proper, but rather Emerald Hills which has the Woodside zipcode/post office and not necessarily Woodside schools. Because this place is north of Jefferson, it may have Woodside schools. Nonetheless, this place is considered part of the Town of Woodside and is subject to its code and planning.

imageIt has a bizarre history too — foreclosed in 2005 at $865,209, and then purchased for $925K in 2006. The current owners tried to add a second bathroom in the loft space but got smacked down by the Town of Woodside for doing so illegally without a permit and against the covenant which requires only 1 BR. The prior owner tried hard to build that second bathroom in the loft space, but got smacked down numerous times by the town (including after demolishing the prior 1BR house and applying for a "remodel").

All this for a mere $1.095M.

And in reply to another comment:

corntrollio, i don’t get it, foreclosed in 2005?? Didn’t he got it for like 355k in 2000?

imageThey tore it down completely (without getting a demo permit) and then rebuilt it. There may have been a big construction loan that was converted to a mortgage, or something else that resulted in the foreclosure (e.g. building the new house then cash-out). These guys tried for several years to back-door a 2nd bedroom into this house, and then the subsequent owner did too. We’re 10 years down the line now.

Comments (14) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:07 am

September 15, 2011

Has Palo Alto really gotten THIS expensive?

Today’s featured listing was sent in by Burbed reader Wendie.  Thanks very much, Wendie, for remembering that we all agreed not to ever discuss Palo Alto again!


120 LOWELL Ave, Palo Alto, CA 94301


SQ. FT.: 1,319
$/SQ. FT.: $1,289
LOT SIZE: 7,500 Sq. Ft.
PROPERTY TYPE: Detached Single Family
STYLE: Ranch, Traditional
COMMUNITY: Old Palo Alto
COUNTY: Santa Clara
MLS#: 81136132
STATUS: Active
ON REDFIN: 21 days

Opportunity! Many upgrades create move-in condition hm in Old Palo Alto on 7500 sq ft lot. Perfect for downsizeing into prestigious neighborhood or living comfortably while planning the building of your dream home. Popular great room floor plan with gourmet kitchen w/ custom cabinets & granite counters. Stunning full bath. Living/dining areas open to spacious private deck perfect for entertaining

imageHere’s what Wendie had to say about this interesting property:

I find this listing fascinating.  Can a 1300 square foot, 3 bed, 1 bath house, three houses from Alma/train in Palo Alto REALLY command 1.7 million?? I guess we shall see!!  Take a look at the map of the property.  Something (an apartment building, utility building?) is right behind the backyard as well. Whatever it is, its not good.  But, still the owner/real estate agent thinks the house is worth $1,300 per square foot!!!


Let’s have a closer look at that mystery building behind the back yard.


I don’t think that’s a new townhouse.  All the recent construction uses earth tones.

And what’s wrong with $1,300 a foot in Old Palo Alto, anyway?  Lots of people pay that for houses where the agent is too embarrassed to use an exterior shot as an intro to the place.  And if the photos lead with the living room, there’s a good reason, so now let’s have a glance outside.


Awesome!  This place comes with a Dude hanging out in the driveway!

Bunus: This $1.7M listing looks like a serf hut next to the larger neighbor house!  Unless, of course, that wishing price represents the seller’s expectation that you’re going to scrape this sucker down and build something just as large to fit in!  But if that were the case, why all the improvements inside?  Truly a puzzlement whether it’s perfect for “downsizeing” into prestigious neighborhood or living comfortably while planning the building of your dream home!

At least the realtard spelled “prestigious” correctly, while planning the counting of her dream commission.

Update (9/16): Welcome, readers!


Comments (31) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:08 am

September 9, 2011

Too many features to list, like $400 monthly HOA fees

As long as I got one real estate agent annoyed with us, let’s take this find from another one.  My good buddy Greg Fielding actually posted this listing to and expected to get a friendly reception there.  I told him he should have posted it here.  Then I realized, why wait on Greg to write it up?  I’m sure he wants this listing on as many real estate sites as possible!


831 TANGLEWOOD Dr, Lafayette, CA 94549


BATHS: 5.5
SQ. FT.: 6,120
$/SQ. FT.: $212
LOT SIZE: 0.69 Acres
TYPE: Detached
STYLE: Spanish
COMMUNITY: Lafayette
COUNTY: Contra Costa
MLS#: 40541345
ON REDFIN: 1 day

Expansive, Spanish-style home with secluded feel yet close to everything. Master suite w/ fireplace & soaking tub occupies 2nd floor. Boasts den w/ fireplace, dining room, wet bar, & kitchen with too many features to list. Deck w/ built-in BBQ & firepit, perfect for entertaining. A must-see!

imageThis place’s former homedebtors would have been better off realizing that with three fireplaces plus a firepit, the answer to their financial woes was staring them right in the face.  Instead, the bank took this disaster from them along with $1,835,379 of a two million dollar mortgage that was never going to be made good. Now, three or four entities later, whichever finance company ended up owning this Spanish elephant is actually throwing it onto the market in hopes of seeing some of the money again.

So you can now consider moving into this expansive, Spanish-style monument home with secluded finances feel yet close to bankruptcy court everything.  There are too many features to list!  Don’t you think they should list what you get for those $400 of homeowner fees?

  • imageOther Item Included in Fee
  • Other Amenity
  • Other HOA Documents
  • Other Transfer Fee

While you’re puzzling over what that “other amenity” could possibly be for $4800 a year (I think it’s martinis for the lawyer who drew up those HOA documents), let’s admire the bathroom.  It could use some mawbul kawlums, I suppose, but you’re not in much danger of falling asleep in the soaking tub with this bold, innovative color scheme.

imageThere are a few other parts of the house with similar décor, so if you’re a bold, innovative person you might appreciate what’s been done with some of these rooms.  Then again, if you’re a bold, innovative person, you might also know better than to leave other people’s bold, innovative interior decoration around for your party guests to snicker gape at.  Perfect for entertaining, indeed!

And it looks like the bold, innovative people who borrowed way too much on this house also made bold, innovative moves like putting in improvements without bothering to get any necessary building permits.


Now, let’s salute the agent who had the bold, innovative idea to encourage readers and fans of one of the Biggest Bear Housing Market Sites Eveh to come on down and check out this REO.  Given that his site is usually a breath of fresh air refreshingly free from Now is the Time to Buy hype, this one’s for you, Greg!

Comments (14) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:09 am

April 23, 2006

Denial – not just a river! » Blog Archive » Has the zeitgeist turned?

Denial still in my neck of the woods. But the realtwhore advice column in the real estate section of the paper is all about advising people how to buy when they think they have no money.

the number one option is to ask if the seller (who is a long time owner with plenty of equity) is willing to give owner financing… and then of course there is advice to the long time owners with massive amounts of equity encouraging them to consider financing the buyers.

Also, there is advice to sell boats, extra cars etc. to try to come up with the money to buy.

There is also advice to borrow from parents… maybe parents have equity in their house they can HELOC and you can borrow from them.

Also, there is the sales pitch towards all those financing options that will allow you to buy property without putting any of your own skin in the game, and of course what would a sales pitch be without reminding wannabe FBs about the availability of piggy back mortgages to avoid having to come up with down payments.

I take this whole article as nothing more than an effort to beat the bushes for the last remaining hold outs who are under the impression that they can’t afford to buy because the median house price in Sonoma has risen to above ridiculous.

oh how could I forget my favorite part of the advice page… co-signers…ask your relatives to co-sign for you. Right… rope in your relatives into becoming one big FB family!

I can’t believe they didn’t suggest “selling your organs” as well. After all, what’s 1 kidney for a condo in California. Get in before it is too late!

Click here to post a comment -- Posted by: burbed @ 4:43 pm