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






March 24, 2012

Spring has Sprung, The Price has Riz

Hope you’re heading out to look at Open Houses now that we’ve officially entered the Spring Selling Season!  Oh, what’s that?  Spring Selling Season doesn’t start until after Easter?  Well, dang.

Why don’t you instead do some window shopping?  Here you can admire this waterfront property in Washington State while you try to find an open house a little closer to home.  Thanks to Burbed reader SEA for mentioning this one in comments yesterday.

11718 Possession Lane
Edmonds, WA 98026
$625,000

120323-possession-redfin

Bunus: Stupid street name is stupid, too.  This is an open thread.

Comments (8) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:22 am

February 12, 2012

The Richest Cities Where No One Wants to Move

Many thanks to Burbed reader Michael Boltonestater for passing along this article, which was summarized on Yahoo Real Estate.

The Richest Cities Where No One Wants to Move

24/7 Wall Street
By Charles B. Stockdale, Michael B. Sauter; Posted: February 3, 2012 at 7:01 am

Many Americans still are holding off on buying homes in some of the country’s most expensive cities. While home prices fell 23% on average in the largest cities since the housing crisis began, for many home buyers the drop was not enough. Based on a new report released by Trulia, 24/7 Wall St. identified the 10 metropolitan areas to which no one wants to move.

Trulia ranked the 100 largest metropolitan areas by their Metro Movers ratio, which measures homebuyer activity and interest metropolitan areas. The ratio compares the number of online searches of local residents looking to buy elsewhere to the number of out-of-town homebuyers looking for real estate in the area. According to the report, a ratio of two means that there are twice as many home searches by people looking to leave the area as to move in. All of the cites no one wants to move to have a ratio higher than two.

The cities that attract few buyers experienced modest home price declines since the recession began, especially relative to their high home value. As a result, home prices in these areas are forecast to decline further, and homebuyers are waiting until they do. All of the 10 cities no one wants to move to have among the most expensive homes in the country. Newark and Bethesda, two cities with twice as many people looking to leave as looking to move in, have among the top 10 highest median home values in the country. Home prices in these cities declined at just the national average, and next year, they are projected to decline more.

120211-blightI think this 24/7 Wall Street site has forgotten how the real estate market works.  Expensive markets do not stop being expensive because other markets are not expensive.  Expensive markets are Special, and the decline of other markets makes Special markets More Special.

On the other hand, the list of the Top Ten Places Where More People Want to Move Out Of Than Move To is not as full of Specialness as you might expect.  Consider this conclusion:

People do not want to move to cities that are largely older and more densely populated. Regions in the northeast that are of little interest to out-of-town buyers include Philly, Newark and New Haven. Other older metropolitan areas include San Jose and Seattle. Kolko suggests the move away from urban areas has a lot to do with expense. “Even though people often say they want to live in urban neighborhoods where they can walk more and drive less, they get more for their buck where the car is king. Most long-distance searches are toward smaller, suburban, more sprawling areas, not toward the older, dense cities of the northeast.”

120211-i680-trafficYes, that explains completely why exurban areas are increasing in value compared to close-in neighborhoods near major employers.  Just look at the price increases in a community of newer homes in Danville, compared to a worn-out community full of tired, old houses in Palo Alto.  And the price of gasoline going up shouldn’t have any effect on communities further from high-paying jobs, either.  After all, the car is king, and if you’re going to sit in traffic for an hour and half, your reign will last longer.

California Zillow Home Value Index

Ah well.  On to the list of places people can’t wait to leave.  Have you made any predictions which metro areas will qualify?

For the chart below, the Metro Movers Ratio is the above mentioned proportion of residents looking at homes outside the region versus other people looking at homes in the region, per Trulia.  The home value decline is from peak pricing, and the forecasted percent change in home price is through third quarter of 2012.  For comparison, the national unemployment rate was 8.7%, while the typical home declined 23% from the peak nationwide.

Rank City/Metropolitan Area Metro Movers Ratio Median Home Price Home Value Decline Unem-ployment Forecast % chg price
10 Omaha-Council Bluffs, NE/IA 2.04 $138,000 -2.8% 4.7% +1.5%
9 Camden, NJ 2.11 $180,000 -24.7% 9.5% -3.3%
8 Seattle-Bellevue-Everett, WA 2.11 $350,000 -29.2% 8.2% +0.1%
7 Baltimore-Towson, MD 2.17 $258,000 -22.3% 7.2% -0.8%
6 New Haven-Milford, CT 2.21 $220,000 -21.1% 9.2% -1.6%
5 Bethesda-Rockville-Frederick, MD 2.25 $700,000 -28.9% 5.4% -5.6%
4 Philadelphia, PA 2.40 $265,000 -12.9% 8.2% -1.7%
3 Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC/VA/MD/WV 2.54 $390,000 -27.7% 6.0% -3.3%
2 San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA 2.60 $546,000 -32.5% 9.8% -3.8%
1 Newark-Union, NJ/PA 3.65 $400,000 -24.7% 8.9% -4.6%

120211-sanjose-yahooCurses!  Losing out the #1 spot is bad enough, but losing to NEWARK?  This is a grave insult.  People may want to move out of Newark, but I assure you, it isn’t because it’s too expensive.  It’s because it isn’t Special, and no doubt residents aspire to relocated to Places of More Specialness.

I mean, can you really take this analysis seriously, when this is what they have to say about our being #2 on the list?

Image of San Jose from Yahoo News Story; Sean O’Flaherty / Wikimedia Commons

The median home price in the metropolitan region of San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara is $546,000, the third highest in the country. The median family income is the fourth highest in the country. Home prices may simply too high for many people. The median mortgage payment at the peak of home prices as a percentage of median monthly family income was 46%. This is one of the highest rates in the country, reflecting the exceptionally large burden home prices place on residents in the area.

There is no price that is too high for the Real Bay Area.  These writers are clearly spending too much time in those tired and broken down urban hellholes of the Northeast, and couldn’t recognize Specialness if it bit them on the ass.

Look at this kitchen.  Now this is the kind of Specialness you can only get in San Jose for half a million dollars!

High home mortgages are not a burden, they’re a reward for getting to live here!  Plus, they’re tax deductible!

Comments (16) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:18 am

May 21, 2011

Neighbors from Hell, On Both Sides

The Greater Seattle Area isn’t usually part of the RBA, but this is such a great story that Burbed reader nomadic sent in, we thought you’d really enjoy it. (That is, if by “enjoy” we actually mean “take great delight in the woes of these nuts.”)

Neighbors’ dispute escalates into all-out legal war

A neighbors’ dispute that began with a wrecked motorcycle has escalated into a saga of police investigations, allegations of dog poisoning, ruined careers and the disbanding of the Sultan Police Department.

By Jonathan Martin, Seattle Times staff reporter

Photos: MARK HARRISON / THE SEATTLE TIMES.  Two very different gated homes near Echo Lake in rural Snohomish County are the scene of a bitter feud between neighbors. Gayle and Ray Harvie, above, are seen with one of their mastiffs. Neighbor Caroline Pepperell lives in a yellow manufactured home.

Gayle and Ray Harvie were at Disneyland when they learned a troubled neighbor had stolen, and then crashed, their new $12,000 Yamaha motorcycle.

The 18-year-old thief was fine, but the Harvies, who’d raised three boys themselves, thought he needed to be taught a lesson. They called police and pressed charges.

When his mother, Caroline Pepperell, and Ray Harvie spoke a few days later, Harvie insisted she or her son pay for the damage. Pepperell refused. They hung up.

That was the last conversation between the Harvies and Caroline Pepperell for nearly six years. In that time, their dispute metastasized into a saga involving three separate police investigations, a dead dog, Adolf Hitler’s secretary and allegations of forgery and organized crime. It led to the conviction of a decorated cop, the disbanding of the Sultan Police Department and, in March, a $79,146 judgment after a four-day jury trial.

You really have got to read the entire story to get the sense of how completely out of hand things got.  It would not be fair for me to summarize this incredible story (other than to say it’s the Hatfields vs the Jarndyces, the Trash vs the Cash, or maybe The Rubes vs a poorer Larry Ellison by way of Half Moon Bay or something).

Gayle and Ray Harvie have the white fence, and Carole Pepperell the brown one next door in a rural neighborhood that seems anything but peaceful in light of their long, costly, complicated feud. After years of personal havoc and legal conflict, neither side is ready to back down.

And even the article isn’t enough, the arguments go on in comments, where one poster suggests the article itself was solicited by the Harvies’ attorney, and goes on to accuse the Harvies (these are the people with the big house and the big dogs) of paying neighborhood teens to “vandalize and harass other neighbors.”  Oh, and supposedly the Pepperell son had a key to their place all along, which is why he “borrowed” the motorcycle.  Pepperells = the trailer trash.  You can feel the contempt in the house descriptions:

The Harvies’ 3,200-square-foot gated home sits among more modest houses — including Pepperell’s yellow manufactured home — on a 4-acre plot in the woods southwest of Monroe. The Harvies own a successful concrete-design firm and proudly note one of their three sons is a scout for the Los Angeles Angels.

imageimage

It didn’t take too much trouble finding their respective houses, above.  That’s the Harvies’ place on the left, and the Pepperells’ on the right.  The article implies the Harvies are some modern Lords of the Manor, or at least of the block, and doesn’t inform that there are other large houses on their street, some with even bigger lots.  This one, literally around the corner and sitting on a ten acre lot, is for sale, and for a lot more than the Zestimate of the Harvie place.  That said, Zillow pegs Harvie House at more than twice ($541K) the value of Pepperell Palace ($224K).  Both lots appear to be similarly sized.

Yowza.  Good thing the worst neighbor problem I had was yappy dogs.  No biting, no poisoning, no stolen motorcycles.

Left, Motion-sensor lighting, an array of video surveillance cameras and some signs on tree trunks, all on the Harvies’ property, reflect the ongoing feud between neighbors.

Oh, and these guys have now appeared on Good Morning America.  Guess the newspaper wasn’t enough free publicity.  Plus the Harvies are the sort of people who quote George W Bush when they create web pages proclaiming justice was served.

Don’t feel any sympathy for Pepperell because of the Harvies’ politics.  She’s lost police jobs not once but twice for using police computers for her own personal issues.  Pepperell was fired for using police databases against the Harvies, and lost a previous job at a different department for running license plates of men she wanted to date.  Note: a judge ordered her reinstated to the Sultan police department, where she managed to get fired a month later for some other unrelated reason.

Above, Fred Walser resigned as Sultan police chief in 2008 and pleaded guilty to a crime after the feud led to a cover-up scandal. Walser regrets his plea and says the city acted out of fear the Harvies would sue.

Do these people remind you of anyone featured on Burbed before?  Maybe these jerks?  We have a follow-up here, their lawyer has had his license suspended and is now being held on various felony charges in San Diego.  But they never managed to get any police departments shut down.

Comments (20) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:15 am

January 18, 2011

Affordable house with great schools!

So yesterday we looked at an affordable house with easy commutes in the Bay Area – just $288 per square foot in East Palo Alto.

Now, let’s look at what’s going on for about the same $/sqft in one of our two mortal enemies: Seattle!

$525,000

image

Beds: 3
Baths: 2
Sq. Ft.: 1,800
$/Sq. Ft.: $292
Lot Size: 7,725 Sq. Ft.
Property Type: Residential
Style: 1 Story
View(s): Territorial
Year Built: 1969
Community: Microsoft
County: King
MLS#: 165784
Source: NWMLS
Status: ActiveThis listing is for sale and the sellers are accepting offers.
On Redfin: 8 days
Cumulative: 151 days
Large elegant rambler. Giant open living room + formal dining + breakfast counter. Lots of Italian tile, new carpet and paint. Remodeled baths and kitchen. Entertainment size deck with hot tub. Tam-O-Shanter Golf Club community with golf, Olympic pool and tennis courts.

So it’s in a golf club. So it’s got some of the nation’s best schools. But is it near Google and Facebook? Does it have the Bay Area schools? Does it have great sushi? (No, all they have is teriyaki!)

Sure they’re similar in price per square foot, but let’s face it – Redmond simply isn’t as livable as East Palo Alto. Add to that the lack of a state income tax… well… what would you do with all your money? Save it for retiring? Stop working and become a slacker?

Further proof that the Bay Area reigns supreme and why our awesome ho
using prices help drive our awesome innovation.

Comments (15) -- Posted by: burbed @ 5:23 am

May 30, 2010

Backyard Cottages: Threat or Menace?

Here’s an article sent in by burbed reader nomadic, who writes, “The RBA needs backyard cottages too!  I bet Worried Mom would be happy to live in a cottage in her backyard while she rents out the main house to cover college tuition for her kids.”

This is another crazy idea from Seattle, which brought us too much coffee, Windows Vista, and not enough sunshine.  Why would we in the RBA (Real Bay Area) want to use them as a role model (we’re doing a great job this year on that last one)?

Seattle’s backyard cottages make a dent in housing need

John Stoeck sweeps the 437-square-foot cottage he's building behind
 his home in Seattle. The city changed zoning rules to allow cottages in
 single-family neighborhoods.

<< John Stoeck sweeps the 437-square-foot cottage he’s building behind his home in Seattle. The city changed zoning rules to allow cottages in single-family neighborhoods.  

Lynn Watkins, left, and her partner, Yolinda Ward, built a 
600-square-foot cottage behind their four-bedroom Craftsman-style house 
after deciding the "big house" was too big.

>> Lynn Watkins, left, and her partner, Yolinda Ward, built a 600-square-foot cottage behind their four-bedroom Craftsman-style house after deciding the "big house" was too big.

By Judy Keen, USA TODAY

SEATTLE — John Stoeck is building a one-bedroom, 437-square-foot cottage on the spot where his garage stood before a tree fell on it. Construction costs: about $50,000. When the cottage is finished this summer, he plans to rent it for at least $900 a month, which will make a nice dent in his mortgage payments.

His is just one of about 50 tiny cottages sprouting in backyards across the city as it tries to expand affordable housing options in established neighborhoods without resorting to high rises and apartment complexes. The city changed zoning rules to allow cottages in single-family neighborhoods citywide, rejected a proposed cap of 50 cottages a year and helped organize a design competition to spur creation of reasonably priced plans. The point is not just to allow the cottages, but to encourage them.

They may not making any more land, but would this work in the RBA?  Would rental cottages in the back yard make RBA homes more or less Special? A rental income stream is nice, but how does a tenant a few steps from your back door work for you when you want to slip out to soak au natural in your hot tub?  How can you water your own lawn when your cottage renter tore it out to put in a garden?  How can you enjoy being lord of your manor when you’ve downsized to a 600 sf Craftsman cottage, and you’re renting out The Big House to an Angry Renter?

Would this solution work for Worried Mom?  Could it work for you?  What would your city do if you put in a permit application for one of these beauties?  Renters, would you jump at the chance to live in a cottage in a SFH neighborhood instead of your current digs?

Then again, this is the RBA!  Maybe we can make it even more Special!  Instead of Backyard Cottages, we could have Backyard Garages, and incubate the next Web 3.0 startup! What’s even better than rental income? How about ground-floor equity?  After all, it’s your ground floor!

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

July 3, 2009

Groceries cost 14% more in the Bay Area than Seattle or Washington DC

Happy July 4th everyone!

I’m posting this one day in advance because I’m taking tomorrow off.

As is tradition on Burbed, here is the latest installment of “Groceries cost more in the Bay Area.” As usual, I have compared 3 cities where Safeway is available: Cupertino, Seattle (possibly our new enemy), and Washington D.C.

As we all know, it is our explicit goal to have the highest cost of living here. It helps keep the riff raff out, and promotes innovation by encouraging people to constantly work.

So… for those of you who are slacking off, not adding value by taking the day off to have a BBQ, here’s a sample grocery list and how much more it costs to have it in the Bay Area. I compared the exact same items on Safeway.com for these three cities, choosing only products that were not on sale. That explains there are no hot dog buns on this list – they were all on sale!

Item Cupertino Seattle Washington DC More than Seattle More than DC
Coke (12 pk) $6.29 $6.29 $5.99 0% 5%
Beef Back Ribs $5.98 $3.58 $2.98 67% 101%
Pork Loin Bank Ribs $17.99 $18.99 $17.99 -5% 0%
A1 Sauce $8.23 $5.56 $5.99 48% 37%
Salt $0.89 $0.89 $0.79 0% 13%
Ground Pepper $2.99 $2.69 $1.99 11% 50%
Red Potato $0.37 $0.37 $0.32 0% 16%
Can of Corn $1.49 $1.15 $1.15 30% 30%
Gravy Mix $1.45 $1.39 $1.09 4% 33%
Chicken Breast $8.99 $8.99 $8.99 0% 0%
Match Light Charcoal $5.59 $4.49 $3.99 24% 40%
Lettuce Blend $3.79 $3.49 $3.49 9% 9%
Madeleine Cookies $4.29 $3.99 $3.99 8% 8%
Organic Corn Chips $2.99 $2.99 $3.49 0% -14%
Sheet Cake $21.99 $17.99 $20.99 22% 5%
Dinner Roll $0.59 $0.59 $0.59 0% 0%
Red Roma Tomato $0.54 $0.40 $0.54 35% 0%
Dill Pickles $4.19 $3.29 $3.79 27% 11%
Ketchup $2.99 $2.39 $2.59 25% 15%
Mustard $1.99 $1.75 $1.89 14% 5%
Red Onion $0.97 $0.74 $0.97 31% 0%
Beef Franks $5.29 $4.99 $4.49 6% 18%
Paper Plates $3.29 $2.49 $2.49 32% 32%
Utensils $0.99 $0.99 $0.99 0% 0%
Total $114.16 $ 100.48 $101.57 14% 12%

The Bay Area wins again!

So congrats to the Bay Area for once again being more expensive in groceries than Seattle and Washington DC.

Now if only Safeway.com would open in NY so that I could do a comparison there. That would be the ultimate match up!

Have a good BBQ tomorrow!

Comments (23) -- Posted by: burbed @ 5:43 am

December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas – Are you eating? Let’s talk groceries!

Merry Christmas! I hope Santa delivered you the mortgage bailout federally guided assistance that you asked for!

I’m sure you’re feasting today, so I’m going to be lazy and reprint the post from Thanksgiving. Have a great day!

Last year I had the ultimate Thanksgiving Price Shootout on this blog: Using safeway.com’s website, I compared the prices of a hypothetical Thanksgiving shopping list between the Bay Area and Seattle/Redmond area.

Also known as “Zune vs iPod, Wii vs PS3″ since Sony/Apple are either based in, or have significant operations in the Bay Area, versus Nintendo and Microsoft which are in Seattle/Redmond. I guess I could’ve also called it Google vs Microsoft, but that seems so cliche.

Anyhoo, here are the prices for this year! Again, I compared prices of the exact same item in the Bay Area vs Seattle/Redmond. I also tried my best to pick items without coupon deals (the only exception was stuffing – crazy sale on stuffing right now!). Also, if you compare to last year, the prices won’t match – in part because I may have picked different brands/items last year. For example, this year I went for Roma tomatoes – I think last year I picked beefsteak tomatoes.

That said, it’s the same general list otherwise. Here we go!

Item Bay Area Redmond Difference
Turkey $24.21 $24.21 0%
Yellow Onions $0.74 $0.59 -25%
Celery $0.99 $1.19 17%
Cranberries $3.99 $3.49 -14%
Oranges $4.99 $4.99 0%
Garlic $0.50 $0.69 28%
Lemons $1.50 $0.99 -52%
Green Beans $1.49 $1.26 -18%
Pork Sausage $3.69 $3.19 -16%
Eggs $3.79 $3.39 -12%
Milk $4.59 $2.69 -71%
Corn $1.49 $1.26 -18%
Olive Oil $12.99 $8.99 -44%
Chicken Broth $3.25 $2.79 -16%
Flour $2.79 $2.49 -12%
Sugar $3.49 $3.49 0%
Ginger $0.80 $1.40 43%
Pecans $6.89 $6.19 -11%
Salt $0.79 $0.79 0%
Rosemary $1.99 $1.99 0%
Honey $3.00 $2.50 -20%
Black Olives $1.39 $1.29 -8%
Green Onion $0.99 $0.66 -50%
Pumpkin Pie $6.49 $5.49 -18%
Spinach $3.69 $3.29 -12%
Grape Jelly $3.51 $2.95 -19%
Butter $2.49 $2.39 -4%
Biscuits $2.15 $1.55 -39%
Tomatoes $0.60 $0.46 -30%
Orange Juice $6.79 $5.69 -19%
Potatoes $3.99 $3.69 -8%
Carrots $1.49 $1.29 -16%
Rice $3.66 $3.47 -5%
Grey Poupon $4.42 $3.39 -30%
French Fries $4.39 $3.59 -22%
Ketchup $3.29 $2.79 -18%
Stuffing $2.00 $1.50 -33%
Ham $4.79 $3.99 -20%

Difference: Bay Area is 16% more expensive

(BTW, I’ll never understand why milk is so much more expensive here…)

This is pretty disappointing frankly. Last year the difference was 20%. This means either that Seattle/Redmond has gotten more expensive, or the Bay Area has gotten cheaper.

At this rate, the prices might be the same – that would be a disaster! Would high housing prices, and a 9.3% state income tax (that keeps our roads in fantastic condition) be enough to keep the Bay Area as special as it is?

Of course if you leave the the Bay Area, you’ll find that they don’t have any Chinese restaurants, Korean restaurants, Japanese restaurants, Thai restaurants, Vietnamese restaurants, gays, smart people, guacamole, tech companies, snow sports, hiking, mountains, liberals, In-n-outs, or 9 months of sun. And let’s not forget our cheap housing, amazing public schools, great roads, low taxes, and lack of traffic.

Here’s to hoping that 2008 will be more expensive!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Comments (7) -- Posted by: burbed @ 5:41 am

November 22, 2007

Bay Area Groceries now only 16% more! Thanksgiving Price Shootout 2007

Last year I had the ultimate Thanksgiving Price Shootout on this blog: Using safeway.com’s website, I compared the prices of a hypothetical Thanksgiving shopping list between the Bay Area and Seattle/Redmond area.

Also known as “Zune vs iPod, Wii vs PS3″ since Sony/Apple are either based in, or have significant operations in the Bay Area, versus Nintendo and Microsoft which are in Seattle/Redmond. I guess I could’ve also called it Google vs Microsoft, but that seems so cliche.

Anyhoo, here are the prices for this year! Again, I compared prices of the exact same item in the Bay Area vs Seattle/Redmond. I also tried my best to pick items without coupon deals (the only exception was stuffing – crazy sale on stuffing right now!). Also, if you compare to last year, the prices won’t match – in part because I may have picked different brands/items last year. For example, this year I went for Roma tomatoes – I think last year I picked beefsteak tomatoes.

That said, it’s the same general list otherwise. Here we go!

Item Bay Area Redmond Difference
Turkey $24.21 $24.21 0%
Yellow Onions $0.74 $0.59 -25%
Celery $0.99 $1.19 17%
Cranberries $3.99 $3.49 -14%
Oranges $4.99 $4.99 0%
Garlic $0.50 $0.69 28%
Lemons $1.50 $0.99 -52%
Green Beans $1.49 $1.26 -18%
Pork Sausage $3.69 $3.19 -16%
Eggs $3.79 $3.39 -12%
Milk $4.59 $2.69 -71%
Corn $1.49 $1.26 -18%
Olive Oil $12.99 $8.99 -44%
Chicken Broth $3.25 $2.79 -16%
Flour $2.79 $2.49 -12%
Sugar $3.49 $3.49 0%
Ginger $0.80 $1.40 43%
Pecans $6.89 $6.19 -11%
Salt $0.79 $0.79 0%
Rosemary $1.99 $1.99 0%
Honey $3.00 $2.50 -20%
Black Olives $1.39 $1.29 -8%
Green Onion $0.99 $0.66 -50%
Pumpkin Pie $6.49 $5.49 -18%
Spinach $3.69 $3.29 -12%
Grape Jelly $3.51 $2.95 -19%
Butter $2.49 $2.39 -4%
Biscuits $2.15 $1.55 -39%
Tomatoes $0.60 $0.46 -30%
Orange Juice $6.79 $5.69 -19%
Potatoes $3.99 $3.69 -8%
Carrots $1.49 $1.29 -16%
Rice $3.66 $3.47 -5%
Grey Poupon $4.42 $3.39 -30%
French Fries $4.39 $3.59 -22%
Ketchup $3.29 $2.79 -18%
Stuffing $2.00 $1.50 -33%
Ham $4.79 $3.99 -20%

Difference: Bay Area is 16% more expensive

(BTW, I’ll never understand why milk is so much more expensive here…)

This is pretty disappointing frankly. Last year the difference was 20%. This means either that Seattle/Redmond has gotten more expensive, or the Bay Area has gotten cheaper.

At this rate, the prices might be the same – that would be a disaster! Would high housing prices, and a 9.3% state income tax (that keeps our roads in fantastic condition) be enough to keep the Bay Area as special as it is?

Of course if you leave the the Bay Area, you’ll find that they don’t have any Chinese restaurants, Korean restaurants, Japanese restaurants, Thai restaurants, Vietnamese restaurants, gays, smart people, guacamole, tech companies, snow sports, hiking, mountains, liberals, In-n-outs, or 9 months of sun. And let’s not forget our cheap housing, amazing public schools, great roads, low taxes, and lack of traffic.

Here’s to hoping that 2008 will be more expensive!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Comments (7) -- Posted by: burbed @ 5:28 am

July 4, 2007

Hope you enjoy your July 4th BBQ – it’s special!

It’s July 4th! And to celebrate our independence, I’m going to simply repost the Memorial Day post!

As you may recall, last Thanksgiving I found that the exact same groceries at Safeway in the Bay Area were more than the exact same groceries at Safeway in Redmond, WA.

The point of this comparison was to see how Apple/Sony would compete against Nintendo/Microsoft. In that study, I found that on average, groceries cost 20% more here than there.

Which makes sense – have you seen Apple’s stock price? Have you seen our great weather? Of course grey poupon should be 30% more expensive here than there. Grey poupon is simply better here!

Well, Memorial Day is coming up, so I thought it would be fun to come up with a comparison for a BBQ. But to add a twist, I decided to compare groceries in the Cupertino, to groceries in Redmond, Washington – as well as Washington DC!

Yep, that’s right! There are Safeways there – and they sell the same Safeway Select stuff there.

Let’s take a look:

Cupertino DC Difference Cupertino Redmond Difference
Charcoal 4.99 3.69 35% 4.99 3.99 25%
A1 8.23 5.99 37% 8.23 5.45 51%
Foil 3.49 2.99 17% 3.49 3.49 0%
Butter 3.00 3.00 0% 3.00 3.00 0%
Pickles 3.69 2.99 23% 3.69 2.85 29%
Large Tomatoes 1.50 1.50 0% 1.50 1.25 20%
Corn on the Cob 3.19 3.29 -3% 3.19 2.99 7%
Pork Should Ribs 5.58 7.38 -24% 5.58 3.58 56%
Sausages 5.29 5.50 -4% 5.29 5.49 -4%
Coke 5.49 5.49 0% 5.49 5.49 0%
Ruffles Chips 3.49 3.49 0% 3.49 3.49 0%
Olive Oil 10.46 8.79 19% 10.46 8.39 25%
Dinner Rolls 0.39 0.55 -29% 0.39 0.39 0%
Ribeye Steak 10.99 11.99 -8% 10.99 10.49 5%
Ketchup 3.59 2.69 33% 3.59 2.59 39%
Mustard 2.49 2.04 22% 2.49 2.31 8%
Relish 1.49 1.49 0% 1.49 0.99 51%
Oscar Mayer Franks 4.99 4.29 16% 4.99 4.49 11%
Hot Dog Buns 1.69 1.19 42% 1.69 0.99 71%
Lettuce 1.49 1.79 -17% 1.49 1.59 -6%
Potatoes 0.32 0.25 28% 0.32 0.25 28%
Cucumbers 0.99 0.66 50% 0.99 0.99 0%
Chili 2.09 1.99 5% 2.09 1.86 12%
Appie Pie 6.99 5.99 17% 6.99 5.99 17%
Peach Pie 6.99 5.99 17% 6.99 5.99 17%
Ice Cream Sandwich 5.99 5.29 13% 5.99 5.49 9%
Paper Plates 2.19 1.99 10% 2.19 1.89 16%
Cutlery 1.99 1.99 0% 1.99 1.99 0%
Garbage Bags 7.99 7.59 5% 7.99 7.49 7%
Average: 11% Average: 17%

Woot! We win again! Groceries here are 11% more expensive than Washington DC, and 17% more expensive than Redmond, Washington.

Woot! We’re #1! We’re #1! Hurray! Huzzah!

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “WTF? Houses are 2x more expensive than renting, and now groceries are more expensive than in Washington DC, and Washington state – where they don’t even have an income tax? WTH am I doing here???”

Before you consider leaving the Bay Area, just remember that they don’t have any Chinese restaurants, Korean restaurants, Japanese restaurants, Thai restaurants, Vietnamese restaurants, gay-friendly, smart people, diversity, tech companies, snow sports, hiking, mountains, universities, In-n-outs, or 9 months of sun. And let’s not forget our cheap housing, amazing public schools, great roads, low taxes, lack of traffic, and our Governator.

I hope your BBQ turns out well!

Click here to post a comment -- Posted by: burbed @ 5:05 am