January 14, 2013

Home Buying: Comps, Mortgage Pre-qual, and Letter Writing

Can there be any question that The Bubble is Back? Buyers are returning to that delightful 2005 method: the Begging Letter. It must be true, because it’s in a newspaper.

Can I Buy Your House, Pretty Please?

By JOANN S. LUBLIN, The Wall Street Journal, January 10, 2013

Rob and Julia Israch won a fierce bidding war for a three-bedroom townhouse in Mountain View, Calif., late last year even though their $750,000 offer—while $92,000 above the asking price—was topped by 11 rivals and was several thousand dollars below the highest bid.

A key reason: The seller, software engineer Lev Stesin, was moved by a letter in which the Israchs said they worked in the technology industry and explained how the home’s spacious layout would be perfect given the imminent arrival of their first child. Among other things, the townhouse has three bathrooms, a wood-burning fireplace and a roomy backyard.

The only problem with this real estate story is the author’s contention that it isn’t just happening where it’s Special, namely Mountain View. Pitch letters are also going to sellers in Seattle, San Diego, suburban Chicago, and Washington D.C. Hah, and you thought we were going to say Belmont or something. No, we really meant places where it isn’t Special at all (e.g. where you can make an offer and be the only one! Redfin’s CEO said 95% of the offers their agents made in Silicon Valley had competing offers.)

The WSJ piece included two examples of House Begging Letters that worked. Both were from Silicon Valley buyers. Here’s one.

Note the use of photos. Don’t beg without them. Also don’t house beg with form letters. You’re going to have to write an individual letter for each seller, calling attention to their home’s marvelous features. Comments such as “Of all the 1954 era crapboxes we looked at today, yours had the fewest pet odors and the least offensive paint scheme” will probably not be effective. Some tips:

  • Remind the seller how attractive your offer is. You could write this note on the back of a hundred dollar bill to show how many more you have waiting.
  • Mention all the things you have in common with the seller, so they identify with you and not any of those other Less Special buyers. If you can’t find the sellers on social media, a good private detective can ferret that info out. Or spend some of those C-notes on the gabbiest neighbors.
  • Gush about their house and neighborhood without overdoing it. Otherwise they’ll figure you’re using irony. After all, it is one of several hundred 1954 era crapboxes in the tract. But — close to Google! (Don’t mention this if they tried and failed to get jobs there.)
  • Describe your difficult house hunt without sounding whiny. If you can fake sincerity here, you’ll have it made:

A few years ago, the owners of an older Los Altos home got more than 21 offers and picked the one from a woman who also submitted a love letter from her dog, said Kathy Bridgman, an Alain Pinel Realtors agent who represented the sellers. “She won’t touch a thing,” promised the letter, signed with a paw print. “I will be able to play in the yard.”

After closing, the buyer immediately tore down the home and built a bigger one.

Note: In case you’re noticing that we’ve repeatedly reformatted this piece, you’re correct. Our blogging tools aren’t as compatible with each other as we wish they were.  In this particular case, one tool supports photo captions but won’t strip styles out properly, the other is the reverse.  Don’t even get us started on what WordPress is doing to both of them.

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






October 19, 2012

Not a cornr lot

Happy Friday!  Let’s finish out the week with a super structure in Saratoga, courtesy of Burbed reader wahnny!  And break out the red arrows, because we’re hunting mawbul kawlums!

121018-bellecourt-redfin15181 BELLECOURT Ave
Saratoga, CA 95070
$6,000,000

5 Beds 
5.5 Baths 
6,600 Sq. Ft.
$909 / Sq. Ft.
Built: 2003 
Lot Size: 1.02 Acres 
On Redfin: 10 days
Status: Active
Property Type: Detached Single Family
Stories: 1
County: Santa Clara
Style: French
Community: Saratoga
MLS#: 81236964

This unbelvble Gorgeous French Style Masterpiece Estate is spanned graciously on one level. Magestic & quality craftd, combind w/ architctural excellnce. Nestld in most desirble & prestigious area of SAR * Situatd on a Flat Acr+, * Guest Hse * amazing Media Rm/cinema * Game Rm * Exercise Rm w/ steam showr * 2Family Rms/wings * invitng grounds w/ Pool & Spa perfect4 entertainng * Orchrd * Nr downtwn-sar schls-Not a cornr lot

121018-bellecourt-entryWas this house listed on Twitter before they put it on MLS?  With 6600 square feet of living space, certainly the broker could make room to stage some more vowels.

Now heeeeeeeeeere’s wahnny on why this wigwam’s a winner!

It’s been a while since multimillion+ RBA houses were featured on Burbed, but I just came across one that seems to go overboard in its ostentatiousness.

121018-bellecourt-diningThe house looks like an ad-hoc mishmash of architectural styles, with each room having different themes, some with painted ceilings, and of course, mawbul kawlums galore!

Curious who the seller/realtor thinks will be attracted to such a place, especially at their asking price.

We’re curious how high the overbidding on this kawlumned kastle will be when it’s so unbelvble.  We’ve included some more pictures for your perusal in case you doubt its awesomitude.  But we’re thinking of calling shenanigans on the home theater.  Either every high-end installation looks and photographs exactly the same, or the picture’s been nicked from another listing.

121018-bellecourt-marble-everywhere121018-bellecourt-guesthouse121018-bellecourt-firepit121018-bellecourt-fireplace121018-bellecourt-study121018-bellecourt-theater

Bunus: See if you can figure out how this one acre property on the corner of Bellecourt and Highway 9 is not a cornr lot.

121018-bellecourt-satellite

Comments (16) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:05 am

September 1, 2012

We’re Number One! We’re Number One!

Here’s a cheery news item, submitted by Burbed reader wahnny.

Silicon Valley’s Boom Creates Shortage of $1 Million Homes

120831-cnbc-losaltosPublished: Wednesday, 29 Aug 2012 | 10:22 AM ET
By: Robert Frank, CNBC Reporter & Editor

The home of venture capitalist Kelly Porter in Los Altos, photo, right.

The capital of high tech is now the capital of high-priced real estate.

Silicon Valley currently leads the nation in the number of homes sold for $1 million or more, according to Realtytrac. Sales of $1 million-plus have more than doubled in many communities in the Valley this year, toppling longtime luxury real-estate leaders like Beverly Hills or Miami.

Topping the list is Saratoga, Calif., in Santa Clara County, which had 225 homes sold for $1 million or more. That marked a 162 percent increase over last year.

Ranked second was Burlingame, Calif., which had 211 sales of at least $1 million, more than double last year’s rate. Cupertino and Los Altos ranked third and fourth in the nation, with 175 homes and 170 homes respectively.

Booyah!  We lead the nation in million dollar homes.  Sayonara, Scarsdale!  Meet you later, Miami gator!  Buh-bye, Beverly Hills!  Buh-… there’s just one problem with this article.

CNBC is comparing Silicon Valley to other “longtime luxury real-estate leaders.”  And up there on millionaire’s row is… Cupertino?  That’s not exactly the first town that comes to mind when we think “palatial estate.”

We don’t think this CNBC reporter understands the Real Bay Area.  Any region can feature a town full of luxury homes, towns like Atherton or Hillsborough, only somewhere that isn’t very Special.  You can find some real big, expensive estates in cities such as Bloomfield Hills, Michigan (boyhood home of Mitt Romney), or Winnetka, Illinois, or Greenwich, Connecticut.  Or Beverly Hills.

But only in the Real Bay Area can you find crappy houses for a million dollars.  Observe.

First, we look at Saratoga, since there were so many million dollar homes on the list they couldn’t find one to feature in the article (they just noted you could buy 1.2 acres with no house for more than a mill).  Find out what that same price gets you with a house… after the break.

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Comments (38) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:12 am

May 10, 2012

Elegant, stoidy, and boisting with class

120508-kawlums-snlLike any long-running blog, Burbed has developed a few inside jokes.  One of them is our fondness of the most important element in classical architecture.  That’s right.  Mawbul Kawlums.  (And if you haven’t seen this video yet, please go watch it, because it’s a classic.  Ha ha!  Classic, get it?) 

Ever since we featured this empty spec house, Burbed readers have asked for more homes in KawlumVision.  Today’s featured listing says “Break out the red arrows!”

Thanks very much to Burbed reader Swan for this super structure in Saratoga at an even more super price!

13815 PIERCE Rd
Saratoga, CA 95070
$6,988,000

120508-pierce-redfin

BEDS: 6
BATHS: 5.5
SQ. FT.: 8,000
$/SQ. FT.: $874
LOT SIZE: 1.87 Acres
PROPERTY TYPE: Detached Single Family
STYLE: Mediterranean
STORIES: 2
VIEW: Mountains
YEAR BUILT: 2008
COMMUNITY: Saratoga
COUNTY: Santa Clara
MLS#: 81215397
SOURCE: MLSListings
STATUS: Active
ON REDFIN: 13 days

This elegant 8000+/- sf Italian Villa on 1.5+/- view acres will awaken all your senses. The elaborate paver driveway with 3 entrances leads you to a beautifully designed front steps and door. Great curb appeal! The 3 levels include an excellent open floor plan with 6 bedrooms and 5.5 bathrooms, Brasilian Cherry hardwood floors, marble bathrooms, spiral staircase, Best Anderson windows and More!

120508-pierce-kawlums1

Here’s why Swan shared this home with all of you:

120508-pierce-inside-kawlumsI am in mawbul kawlum heaven!

Kawlums in front, kawlums at the garage, kawlums in the entry hall, kawlums in the master bath, kawlums in back, kawlums at the gazebo!

Are there enough red arrows in the world for this home?

120508-pierce-kawlums3This house may very well have broken the Burbed KawlumVision generator, because there actually are kawlums hiding behind other kawlums.  We assure you that every single red arrow in the big picture above is pointing to a unique kawlum. It’s just that some of them are shy.

You can see the wallflower kawlums from this slightly different angle of the façade, available from this home’s virtual tour. Plus it also has the aforementioned garage kawlums. 

120508-pierce-kawlums2

The MLS listing has 14 yummy pictures, many of them with kawlums to drool over.  But if you can’t get enough kawlumnage, plus more eye-popping “They put that in there?” you simply must check out the tour as well.  And bring your red arrows.

120508-pierce-kawlums4

Remember, nothing says “Rich people live here” like mawbul kawlums.  Well, that and a $7 million listing price.

Comments (8) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:04 am

March 29, 2012

Great potential in Saratoga

120328-northampton-saratoga-chartRemember the house we featured yesterday, the “fixer” in San Francisco?  Yes, it was in hot, hot, HOT Noe Valley, so of course all the agent had to do was take pictures and slap that puppy on the MLS to let the wild overbidding start.  This low-inventory situation means less work for agents, so they can spend more time finding more excellent properties… for our front page.

Inventory isn’t low just in San Francisco.  Today’s house in Saratoga, courtesy of Burbed reader hsjb, may remind you of yesterday’s.  Grab your oven mitts, because you better be ready for the heat!

12546 NORTHAMPTON Ct
Saratoga, CA 95070
$1,299,888

120328-northampton-redfin

BEDS: 4
BATHS: 2
SQ. FT.: 1,880
$/SQ. FT.: $691
LOT SIZE: 9,945 Sq. Ft.
PROPERTY TYPE: Detached Single Family
STYLE: Ranch
STORIES: 1
VIEW: Mountains
YEAR BUILT: 1962
COMMUNITY: Saratoga
COUNTY: Santa Clara
MLS#: 81207583
SOURCE: MLSListings
STATUS: Pending Without Release
ON REDFIN: 28 days

single family ranch style home in a quiet cul-de-sac with great potential!! 4 bedrooms, 2bathrooms, 3yr new red tiled roof, hardwood floors, copper plumbing, nice size yard with pool and jacuzzi, close to great schools and needs updating and reflected in the price.

Here’s what hsjb had to say when alerting us to this superb suburban synonym-for-“house”-that-starts-with-the-letter-S.

120328-northampton-livingroomOwners can’t understand why it’s not selling

The agent who took these photos really knows how to make this home look attractive enough to go check out.

He certainly does! Yet after this was sent in to Burbed, the house went pending anyway!  This is a signal to realtards everywhere: you needn’t bother with the light bulbs and Drano anymore.  These houses really do sell themselves.  All the agent needs is a camera phone.  We’ve got plenty of pictures for you, so click on through to the Open House!

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Comments (18) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:14 am

December 27, 2011

A little larger than county records

16240 WOOD ACRES Rd
Saratoga, CA 95030

$698,000

image

Yes. I would also guess that this home may be larger than county records. By just a little though.

Any thoughts on how one would go about measuring this?

Comments (11) -- Posted by: burbed @ 5:59 am

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 patrick.net, 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
$1,399,000

image

BEDS: 4
BATHS:4.5
SQ. FT.: 2,840
$/SQ. FT.: $493
LOT SIZE: 0.32 Acres
PROPERTY TYPE: Detached Single Family
STYLE: Contemporary
STORIES: 1
VIEW: Neighborhood
YEAR BUILT: 1964
COMMUNITY: Saratoga
COUNTY: Santa Clara
MLS#: 81141806
SOURCE: MLSListings
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.

image

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 30, 2011

Updated: For Halloween Weekend, Here’s a Scary Treat for You from Burbed!

imageOoops, my bad.  It’s a trick.  It’s a trick!

You see, Forbes has their new list of the 500 Most Expensive Zip Codes out, and it’s time to see how much of the Real Bay Area (RBA) can Occupy The Forbes Zip List!  Since this series is a perennial Burbed favorite, we’re going to devote the next five hundred weekend posts to lovingly analyzing every single aspect of this new set of delicious demographic domicile data.

Today: The Top 50 Most Expensive Zip Codes

Hey wait, come back!  This is going to be really good!  We’re going to see which zip codes gained or lost ground since last year!  Maybe some of them get kicked out of the RBA for this!  This is a Burbed exclusive, too, Forbes didn’t bother doing any analysis of their own list changes.

imagePlus this year’s Forbes feature has the top 50 places show the most expensive house so we’ll link to each listing, plus what you can get for a mere million. That means nothing in the RBA except one crapshack in Los Gatos despite their featuring 20 different “expensive” zips.  Ha ha!  Our expensive zips are so Special we don’t let any stinking one million dollar properties in!

We also love to catch Forbes in mistakes, so if there’s something more expensive they missed, or if they otherwise screwed up like last year, we’ll be sure to let them know with as much obnoxious chortling good-natured ribbing as possible.  It’s going to be awesome!

Updated: And the TRICK is on Forbes for a Burbed Treat!   They have screwed up very, very badly.  Badly enough that I’m wondering if their (bad, really bad) mistakes made it to the print version of this feature.  If anyone has a copy, please let us know in comments.

I’ve grabbed the Days on Market (DOM) from the big table as Burbed readers Divasm and nomadic point out every single zip had a DOM of 200.  That’s highly unlikely.  Nice going, Forbes!  I can’t wait to see if your other numbers disagree too!  (Yes, they’re fvcked.)

I’m also putting a break in right after the first entry, because this article is not one of our shorter pieces.  And now, here they are!  Every Northern California entry in Forbes Top 50!

#2: Atherton 94027

  • Median Home Price: $4,295,000
  • Median Price Change: +7.1% ⇑
  • Average Days On Market: 200 162
  • Inventory: 162 41
  • Rank Last Year: #2 (no change)  Exclusive BURBED content, Not on Forbes!
  • Most Expensive Home: $20 Million (52 Tuscaloosa Avenue)

imageOh little town of Atherton
How high we see thee lie
Above thy rich and floodless ditch
You burst with equitie
Yet in they dark streets shineth
No mortgage meltdown mess
The hopes and quips of other zips
Are met in thy address

Oops, Tuscaloosa now listed for $18.9 million.  Sorry about that!  Are you Astonished?

Also I found this $24M home, listed a month ago.  Guess they missed it when putting their article together, since it ran a couple of weeks ago.  But Homes of the Rich found it too.

More after the break!  Much more!

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

October 22, 2011

Silicon Valley Luxury Real Estate’s Most Astonishing Webpage Ever

I read a lot of real estate sites in order to bring you Burbed-worthy features.  Recently, I found an agent’s special “Astonishing Homes” page that looked absolutely scrumptious.  Plenty of seven and even eight-figure high-end properties on acres of land with great schools.

Now I know absolutely nothing about this particular agent, but all these homes were on MLS. Member agents can detail any MLS listings in their region, and Sophia Delacotte put together a webpage with nicer luxury properties for people to get some real estate pr0n action.  But something was amiss when I took a closer look at the actual listings.

image

With ten different houses, that’s ten front facades and ten sets of details.  I have all that waiting for you inside, but before you join me, make your prediction how many of these ten estate properties:

  • Sold (pending within 7 days)
  • Sold (pending within 30 days)
  • Sold in a longer timeframe
  • Are still active on MLS
  • Had their listing withdrawn
  • Had a price reduction at some point

For “bunus” yucks, guess how many of these ten estate homes have marble columns.

Got your guesses ready?  Good.  Now, let’s see these Astonishing Homes and find out if you’re as Astonished as I was.

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Comments (17) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:06 am

April 11, 2011

malty million$$$ home in a lather

Thanks very much to Burbed reader Tracy for this bubbly find in Saratoga!  Just the pick-me-up for Spring Bounce.  Cheers!

20615 Leonard Rd, Saratoga CA 95070
$1,798,000

image

BEDS: 4
BATHS: 2.5
SQ. FT.: 2,142
$/SQ. FT.: $839
LOT SIZE: 0.74 Acres
PROPERTY TYPE: Detached Single Family
STYLE: Ranch, Traditional
STORIES: 1
VIEW: Green Belt, Mountains
YEAR BUILT: 1952
COMMUNITY: Saratoga
COUNTY: Santa Clara
MLS#: 81112417
SOURCE: MLSListings
STATUS: Active
ON REDFIN: 18 days

location. location. location. Area of malty million$$$ home (homes up to $4,700,000 sold in the street). Huge and beautiful 3/4 of acre(32200 square feet 161 by 200) land close to down town and schools and shopping. make your appointment. beautifully situated on top of very quiet street. Home was remodel 20 years ago and still needs some work. Fix it now or simply move to it and fix it lather.

imageDefinitely location, location, location if they’re selling malty million$$$ home in the street.  Sound’s like every day is St. Patrick’s day with this view of the Green Belt, wow, you think they have any red pixels left in that camera?  And on-street sales, definitely a big brew party.  make your appointment.

imageYou have a choice: fix it now or simply move to it and fix it lather.  Just make sure you got the fridge plugged in so you can pre-chill your mug.

Judging from the tile in this kitchen I think a remodel 20 years ago means they got a close-out on this stuff.  This design screams 1988.  And 8s are lucky!

What I really like about this listing is how the agent is barely literate, but tries to pull a fast one on us.

image

As you can see from the map, the house is fifth on the right from a major arterial that was once a state highway.  But how about this for deceptive? 

(homes up to $4,700,000 sold in the street)

Wow, there’s a $4.7M sale on that street (excuse me, sold in the street)?  Could it be… the ginormous parcel where the road curves a bit?  Ya think?  Maybe the house isn’t worth sparge and the value is in the land?  If you want a malty million dollar house, hop to it and buy both neighbors’ places, scrape ‘em, profit!  You’ll be at lager-heads with the remaining neighbors, but don’t let it ale you.

Comments (41) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:14 am