September 24, 2013

Reader Request: Live/Work Situation

Here’s one of the more intriguing emails we’ve gotten this year:

I came across burbed and it seems like you have an eye on what’s going on.

We’re looking for a fairly unique place for our company. Something in the SF area (south bay preferred), with a great view.

I realise you’re not an agent, but thought you might be aware of something interesting.

  • 20,000sq ft+
  • great views

We’re a close knit company that live and work together. We realised that for the price of us getting modest apartments and a simple office we could instead live in a mansion together and so far that’s been a much nicer option, but we’re currently spread over three houses and need a bigger place where can live and work together again.

Wow, didn’t we just discuss hacker houses last week? Why, yes we did! Perhaps the above email was in response to our in-depth coverage of someone else’s in-depth coverage!

And well, actually we are indeed a bunch of agents, we just neglected to let anyone know it.  So since our entire writing staff appears to have taken off the last six months, we’re going to throw this one open to our far-flung network of readers, some of which aren’t just pretend agents.

Please reply in comments, and we’re sure our requester will respond to you if you actually found what they’re looking for.  And of course, we expect a 15% finders fee, which beats a 6% commission.

Also note that said reader neglected to say whether this was a purchase or rental. Ha ha! Now they’re going to get all kinds of unsuitable suggestions because they weren’t specific enough! Maybe they’ll post in comments, especially because they don’t want us to shoot the dog.

PS… Turns out they did tell us, in a follow-up:

We’re keen for exciting options, even if a little terrifying. Ideal is rent with option to buy in a year and build more on the land, but renting a large place for 6-12months is a viable option.

Alright! The race to pay us that 15% finders fee is ON! And you can be sure we’ll be holding it for ransom if you expect us to pass it on quietly to the OP.  Put it in the comment, though? Free-for-all!  We’re hoping this one post will generate at least 16 more live/work rent/buy situations just form people reading about this group.

Comments (14) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 7:07 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

August 26, 2012

Advice Request: What to do about neighbor planning ginormous addition?

120825-adviceBurbed gets all kinds of mail.  Usually we get suggestions for houses to review or links to interesting articles that our readers might enjoy.  Occasionally we get requests for help.  Burbed reader Protennoia writes in and asks for your suggestions in dealing with a situation in the neighborhood.

A neighbor is turning a 3/1 into a 6/4.  Today, he had an open house for neighbors before he submits plans to the city of San Mateo. I went and asked him to tell me about it.

His roof leaks and he wants the space of a second story. He says his timeline is six months and that he’s building it for his family.  This neighbor is a few houses down, so I can’t argue that his second story will affect my privacy. He’s been there over 15 years and says he has no plans to move or rent out the place.

But plans can change.

I am nervous about a 6/4 house being built on the block.

A 6/4 house being rented involves a lot more traffic and street parking than a 3/1.

A 6/4 house, significantly, would maximize the potential profit of a halfway house. Up to six residents, a halfway house is considered a single family, even if their residents are six transient parolees with substance abuse problems.

People have the right to rent out rooms or to turn their house into a group home, so I don’t know that these complaints would have any effect

Other readers, how would you handle this situation?

120825-bryant-streetviewFor now we’ve taken out the name of the city.  Protennoia can add it in in the comments if it’s absolutely critical, but we will say this is a city in San Mateo County.

Updated 23:59 — Sorry about not fixing this until now.  I put San Mateo back in with Protennoia’s permission, but forgot to rewrite the about graf.  –ed.

We were looking for a good graphic of a house that completely dominated the block, but this video does an even better job getting that idea across.  And the article it came from suggests 10 signs a house is overbuilt for the neighborhood.  Several of them seem to apply to our reader’s situation.

So, Burbed Readers, what advice do you have on dealing with a neighbor doing so much expansion on your block, given that that the home’s purpose could change and then affect your ability to enjoy your home?  Is this NIMBYism or preserving neighborhood character?

If you don’t want to post your comment publicly, you can send email directly to Protennoia at this email address.

Comments (13) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:09 am

July 29, 2012

A request for information

We get all kinds of mail at Burbed.  Here’s one that asks us for some advice.  Instead of our just sending our answer, wouldn’t it be awesome if we sent several responses?  Our readers are a fairly high-powered bunch, so let’s go!


My name is Darren and I am a business student at <school not in the Real Bay Area>.  I’m taking part in a summer business incubator program in <city not in the RBA> where students create startup companies.  I believe the best businesses begin by solving a problem and I’m interested in building my business around helping real estate investors since this has always been an area of interest for me. 

I was wondering if you could take a few minutes to answer some of my informational interview questions below?  I am trying to determine what problems/inefficiencies real estate investors encounter that I could solve through developing a software solution.

I appreciate your help.

Thank you,

Darren <last name goes here>


1.)    What is the biggest hassle real estate investors have to deal with?

2.)    If you could wave a magic wand and change something about what you do, what would it be?

Here are our answers for Darren.  What are yours?

120729-ugly-house1.) The biggest hassle for real estate investors is buying a property and subsequently discovering that it wasn’t in the RBA after all.  Usually this is revealed right after the comps drop.

The second biggest hassle is when business students ask anyone running a website even remotely related to one of the topic terms to do their homework for them.

2.) What would we change?  We would find a way to monetize this site using advertisers who would pay us $1000 per pageview.  Also, we’d implement better email tools to direct these sort of blast requests directly to our readers who are here to help.  Plus we’d give ourself super powers.  No way are we letting go of this magic wand.  We may throw it open to our readership to suggest how to use it on people like Darren.  We’re debating between “sic a high-pressure real estate investment salesman on him” and “replace his computer with a motivational book.”

We’ll be sure Darren sees your answers.  Hopefully he’ll also answer some of our questions.  Our first one is “If you could be any kind of house, what kind of house would you be?”

This is also your Weekend Open Thread.  Feel free to tell us what kind of Open House you’d be as well.  If you could wave a magic wand and change something about the house, what would it be?

Comments (17) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:05 am

September 18, 2010

WSJ’s Top 10 Reasons to Buy a Home

Many thanks to burbed reader nomadic for sending in this provocative essay. And if there’s one thing we can rely on the Wall Street Journal for, it’s got to be meaningless flamebait!

10 Reasons To Buy a Home

Columnist's name

Enough with the doom and gloom about homeownership. Brett Arends explains why owning a home is a good thing.

Enough with the doom and gloom about homeownership.

Sure, maybe there’s more pain to come in the housing market. But when Time magazine starts running covers that declare “Owning a home may no longer make economic sense,” it’s time to say: Enough is enough. This is what “capitulation” looks like. Everyone has given up.


The Sept. 6 cover of Time magazine: This is what capitulation looks like.

After all, at the peak of the bubble five years ago, Time had a different take. “Home Sweet Home,” declared its cover then, as it celebrated the boom and asked: “Will your house make you rich?”

But it’s not enough just to be contrarian. So here are 10 reasons why it’s good to buy a home.

1. You can get a good deal.
2. Mortgages are cheap.
3. You’ll save on taxes.
4. It’s your house; you can do what you want with it.
5. You’ll get a better home then a crappy rental property.
6. It offers inflation protection.
7. Sooner or later real estate prices will head up again
8. It’s forced savings.
9. There is a lot to choose from.
10. Sooner or later, the market will clear.

I had no idea The Wall Street Journal was a wholly-owned division of the National Association of Realtors.  The calendar says it’s September, not April, so this isn’t a joke they’re playing on us either.  Either this writer just came back from a Kool-Aid party or he’s heavily long in residential construction.  Then again, it seems this isn’t the first time he’s made a complete idiot of himself just to generate traffic.

This is the most bizarre mix of naiveté, insouciance, and out-and-out Lawrence Yunnery.  Just as an example, here’s Arends’ reasoning for #5:

In many parts of the country it can be really hard to find a good rental. All the best places are sold as condos. Money talks. Once again, this is a case by case issue: In Miami right now there are so many vacant luxury condos that owners will rent them out for a fraction of the cost of owning. But few places are so favored. Generally speaking, if you want the best home in the best neighborhood, you’re better off buying.

I don’t know where these “many parts of the country” are, but I suspect they’re in places where homes are so cheap, anyone who can buy already has.  In high-income, high-housing cost regions, such as New York City, San Francisco, and Silicon Valley, rentals are readily available.  Knowledge workers are often on the move, and either won’t commit to buying, or simply rent their home out when jetting off to another assignment.

I’m sure burbed readers will find plenty of fault with this list, and so conclude with this simple rebuttal:

Top 10 Reasons Not to Buy a House Now

10. Enjoy the bankruptcy-free lifestyle
9. Can live close to work no matter where work ends up being
8. No public record in county recorder’s office of where you live
7. Time Magazine finally catches up with a trend that you’ve been ahead of for years
6. When you’re tired of being underwater, you just climb onto the shore and towel off
5. Three words that don’t apply to you: Monthly equity burn
4. You want to have all your cash on the sidelines with interest rates this low
3. Payback for those smug jerks showing off the toys they bought in 2006 from mortgage equity withdrawal
2. Landlords have plenty of people to evict ahead of you if you’re a few days late with the rent

And the Number One reason not to buy a house now:

1. It’s the economy, stupid.

Update: Looks like several burbed readers couldn’t wait for this article and the party has already started.  Here are some of the lists they’ve come up with so far.

From burbed reader Alex:

Top 10 reasons to delay buying a home

1) better deals are coming
2) mortgages will get cheaper
3) you’ll save more by avoiding the impending price drop
4) you don’t have to maintain the house (change light bulbs, draino) if you rent for a while longer; if your big sh*t clogs the toilet, just call the property manager
5) for the same amount of money, you can get a much better rental than a crappy house
6) you’re protected against deflation
7) it’s forced saving by not throwing your money away at depreciating assets
8) real estate ain’t going up for a loooooong time
9) there will be even more to choose from in a few years
10) the market will clear in a few years when the shadow inventory is finally put up for sale and the government stop d*cking around with their feeble market-propping measures

This would be a perfect list if only the author had properly spelled out the word “ducking.”

From burbed reader DreamT:

Top 10 reasons to buy a home now

1. If you don’t buy it, someone else will. You wouldn’t want to be a loser, would you?
2. Grass will be greener than your current place, which has none.
3. You can mock the renters, or treat them with contempt, or just haughtily ignore them
4. Now you Belong!
5. Your wife’s happy. Your kid’s happy. If your family’s normal, you’re therefore happy.
6. Nothing worse than idle money sitting on a savings account. Make it work for you! An empty savings account is a good savings account.
7. [Another burbed reader] will be your friend, or your BFF if you’re Chinese and like to eat at Dynasty.
8. You’ll get promoted, just like [Another burbed reader]. It’s inevitable.
9. You can stop wondering when is a good time to buy. Done!
10. You missed your chance yesterday. Care to make the same mistake again today?

Top 10 reasons not to buy a home

1. Surprise – you don’t own it – the bank does, then whomever you pay property tax to who can repossess your property.
2. No matter how many times you water the plants, they still die – or they grow too fast.
3. That roof shingle flew off again, and what’s up with that toilet anyway. Oops, what’s that sound, was that the tree?
4. You’d only get pissed off at the renters who don’t keep up their grass and litter the sidewalk. Not to mention the ruffians who dare walk on Your neighborhood park.
5. There’s no money left for a good old hostile takeover.
6. You can walk away when the meth lab in the garage explodes. The owner’ll clean it up.
7. You’ll have enough money left to buy that promotion.
8. You don’t have to suffer any kind of kinship to [Another burbed reader].
9. You can mock the homeowners who turn blue every time a foreclosure rears its ugly head in the neighborhood. And nothing compels you to check zillow valuations six times a day.
10. You were smart enough not to buy in 2006, you’re not going to be dumb enough to buy now!

Please add your owns lists on the best reasons to buy or not to buy.  That is today’s question.

Comments (29) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:19 am

April 11, 2010

What are the best real estate tips that you have?

Thanks to Burbed reader nomadic for this post:

Rumors of increased activity for house flippers have been circulating, so it’s time to share some basic rules of flipping.  Anyone who undertakes a house flip should be focused on using their funds wisely (think style over substance) and not tying their money up any longer than absolutely necessary.  In that spirit, these tips are short – inspired by a blogger who calls them “triplets:”

Use maximum leverage.

Always landscape first.

Brazilian hardwood floors.

Travertine all bathrooms.

Granite kitchen countertops.

Stainless steel appliances.

Red front door.

Staging: angle bed.

Plant bright flowers.

8s in price.

Plus a bonus tip for every seller based on my experience at numerous open houses:

Vacuum dead bugs.

What tips would you add?

Comments (22) -- Posted by: burbed @ 5:57 am

July 23, 2009

Can someone help Jennifer Hu with Century 21 Su Casa and Mariposa Mortgage?

Kulwinder Singh, Su Casa, and the $2,500 condo | SF Bay Area Home Price and Mortgage Insanity Blog –
Jennifer Hu Says:
July 22nd, 2009 at 2:25 am

A similar situation happened to me. I was tricked into “having a house under my name for a few months”. And all of a sudden found out I owned 1 house and 1 triplex in Stockton. I never signed or saw any documents and now they have gone under forclosure. The people who scammed me were Simon Dante Lopez Jr. from Mariposa Mortgage and Pete and Anna Flores from Centry21 Su Casa. They lied about my income, and also said i worked for one of the centry21 Su Casa “fake business” like a trucking company! Where can we get help and justice! Now my credit is ruined and I have Tax issues. If there is anybody out there to help, please reply if anybody can help me I’d appreciate any advice.

Now, that’s what Jennifer alleges. But let’s assume this is true.

In the Bay Area spirit of everyone helping out everyone else – does anyone here have thoughts on how to help Jennifer out?

Comments (12) -- Posted by: burbed @ 4:24 am

June 14, 2009

How much should I charge my kids for rent – reader question

This came in my inbox from Winston:


How much should i charge my kids for rent?

I am not sure what criteria are important.Can you please guide me.Any info much appreciated.

Thankyou.yours truly,


Any good suggestions?

Comments (17) -- Posted by: burbed @ 6:37 am

March 27, 2009

Where to buy? What to buy? When to buy?

Personally, I warms my heart when I see people helping each other out on Burbed. Those are the comments I love to see. It’s the powerful community in action.

In case you missed it… or you want to chime in… here is yesterday’s moment:

First, a question:

SoonToBeDad Says:
March 26th, 2009 at 2:25 pm

Long time listener, first time caller here.

I’m going to be a dad soon. The “host” is demanding we buy a place.

The 2br rentals in Mountain View and Sunnyvale are all about 1800 and they suxxors.

I think I can spend up $3500 in PITIZKLMUOK8J (everything all in) at most.

Downpayment is a mixed story.
I put it all in the stock market. Stooooooooooooopid me.
I think have $100k left.

What should I do? I’m thinking of a 2br /1ba . You guys have scared me away from condos and townhouses with HOAs.

Where should I buy? What should I buy?

Will it go up in value? (Just kidding. If it is RBA, I know it will. lolz!)

The first piece of advice?

nomadic Says:
March 26th, 2009 at 2:45 pm

The “host.” LOL. The kid isn’t even born and it’s already a parasite? 😉

2BR/1BA? With all due respect, why bother buying? Save up some more, wait until next year.

Wait until next year. Ok. Next piece of advice?

smart dads rent Says:
March 26th, 2009 at 3:05 pm

Hi new Dad, I’m in the same boat. We sold our house in 2006 to move to CA and are we are renting a house. Equity was put in the stock market (it seemed less likely to loose money than the housing market!).

We are now renting, and will rent at least until the kids are school age. My current rent is less than the interest payment would be to buy a similar house.

Unlike the inefficient housing market, the stock market is much quicker to correct to economic reality. At this point, stocks are much more likely to appreciate while housing prices may continue to decline (except the RBA!).

My advice is to move to a rental house and let your landlord eat the depreciation. I know it is hard for aspiring homeowners to understand, but owning a house (and the headaches of ownership) is overrated.

Then, some clarification:

SoonToBeDad Says:
March 26th, 2009 at 3:34 pm

To Madhaus: Have I considered school districts? Yes. Anywhere in the RBA.

To nomaidc: 2br/1ba is the minimum. Ideally I’d like to see 3br/2ba. Or more!

Is $3500 and $100k for downpay not enough? Is that what people are saying?

To: Smart Dads Rent
Interest rates. So low. Cannot resist. They’re goin go back up.

I don’t have an MBA. How can I calculate/justify renting a $3500 a month house versus paying a $3500 all-inclusive payment mathematically? How do I justify it to “the host”?

Followed by this referral:

nomadic Says:
March 26th, 2009 at 3:47 pm

dad – I think steve originally posted this link. It’s a pretty good calculator to play with:

Figure about 1.1% for property taxes.

Some encouragement to buy ASAP:

Real Estater Says:
March 26th, 2009 at 3:54 pm


I think you’re making the right move. You’re planning for the future, instead of living day to day. You really can’t argue with the fact that now is a great time to buy a home. Interest rates are at historic lows, and home prices in the BA are about as low as you’re likely to see. You may not catch the absolute bottom, but the upside is way bigger than the downside at this point. Most importantly, you can’t put a price tag on raising your kids in a home of your own.

But then there was a difference of opinion:

smart dads rent Says:
March 26th, 2009 at 4:41 pm

To Realeater: Actually, my returns would have been much worse than the stock market if I had bought another house in 2006: I would have negative equity right now. Leverage works both ways you know.

To Dad: the point is that I can rent a much nicer house than it would cost me to own. Home ownership in the Bay Area only makes sense if you have substantial price appreciation (which we are not likely to see for years

Some disheartening advice:

DreamT Says:
March 26th, 2009 at 5:03 pm

“Is $3500 and $100k for downpay not enough? Is that what people are saying?”
Not enough for RBA cigars. In fact, not enough for grey area either. Unless you land a foreclosure or a fixer-upper, and you’re prepared to beat 50 other offers.

The city of Santa Clara’s housing plan – 1st draft – is out today at
check p. 11 and p. 111 for population growth figures, p.119 for income figures, p.120 for rent figures, etc.

.. and SoonToBeDad – you can buy a condo with $20k down and be in a good school district. Considering your budget, if education is a priority, you should definitely consider this alternative.

But wait… then Karen steps in and says:

karen Says:
March 26th, 2009 at 7:54 pm

SoonToBeDad – please don’t buy yet!!! somehow convince the mom-to-be that renting is okay. I have incredibly fond memories of the rental places that we lived in when I was little (grad student housing and then a place very near to the beach that my parents could never have afforded to buy). my parents bought when I was about six, when they could genuinely *afford* to. this reduces stress!!!

why not rent in a nice apartment complex with lots of other families with little kids? It’s really fun for little kids to have loads of other little kids around. and while your kid is a baby, there will be plenty of other moms around for your wife to commiserate with.
Prices are going to keep going down, because the job market is going to get worse, and the resets are coming. better to invest now in loads of ice cream and milk shakes (mom bribes) and buy a house or apartment later.

p.s. have you looked at rentals in Redwood City? my impression is that the schools are not so good (I don’t have kids, so ask someone else), but that ought to mean that you can get a better rental deal while your kid is too young for school. you can then move to a rental (or buy) in three years or so, in a better school area.

Finally, some more advice:

smart dads rent Says:
March 27th, 2009 at 12:01 am

New dad, the best thing to do is to compare rentals to the interest expense of owning. If you buy, remember that moving will cost you 6% in realty fees and you will pay 1% a year in property tax.

There is no need to live in a good school district until your child is old enough for school. Until then you can rent more cheaply and invest the difference.

Wow. I love it when the community steps in to help.

Agree? Disagree? Chime in!

Actually, if you look carefully, one of the original questions is never answered: “where to buy?” – this is your chance to jump in with your favorite microneighborhood…. like WOEISME (West Of El Camino, Intersection of  Stanley & Miramonte Ave)

Let’s help a fello Burbian out!

Comments (154) -- Posted by: burbed @ 6:17 am

March 29, 2008

Your advice needed

A few weeks ago, there was this exchange:

Five Reasons Houses Beat Stocks []
Crossroads Says:
February 20th, 2008 at 6:08 pm

Hello RealEstater,

I need your wisdom. I make a standard starter Valley salary (125k) ,I just bought a new Sienna for the children (800 a month) ,and I have some money from stock (150k).

The calculator at shows that I can afford a 577,767$ house. There are no houses in Palo Alto for that price.

RealEstater, what should I do? Where should I buy?

The reply?

RealEstater Says:


First of all, you should’ve paid cash for the Sienna, but let’s work with what you’ve got.

You make over 10 grand a month. That means very conservatively you can afford $3K a month of payment. Working backwards, you can borrow somewhere in the neighborhood of $500K, although up to $600K is doable.

With a down payment of $150K, you can afford a home in the $650K-$700K range. You can buy a house in any number of neighborhoods within Santa Clara, Sunnyvale, or San Jose.

You’re not going to make it to Palo Alto right away, unless you want to live in a Condo. Palo Alto is considered a “destination neighborhood”. You get there only after trading up a couple of times.

In other words, you’re in a good position to own a home. I don’t see you as being priced out.

Good advice? Bad advice? Do you agree with Real Estater?
What would you tell Crossroads to do?

Comments (196) -- Posted by: burbed @ 5:39 am