May 15, 2011

Trade Your Gift Cards in to Pay Your Mortgage!

Turning gift cards into mortgage payments

The Tech Chronicles, SFGate
Posted By:
Ellen Lee (Email) | May 11 2011 at 04:50 PM

Consumers with gift cards to spare will soon be able to use them to pay their utility, car and mortgage bills.

Plastic Jungle, a website where consumers can buy and sell gift cards, announced today it had partnered with ChargeSmart, an online bill payment service.

Wow, this is even better than gathering up all the pennies in my couch cushions to make the monthly nut!  I tell you I’ve been carrying around this stupid Jamba Juice card like forever.

So this is something that could work, trade in those useless birthday and holiday gift cards to pay to keep a roof over your head while your home value may make some adjustments.

And in case you think this means times are tough, don’t be silly!  This is innovative, just like the return of seller financing!  If the government won’t help, the free market will provide… um… something.

This is an open thread, but then again, al of them are.  Seen any good Open Houses?

Comments (3) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:35 am

May 7, 2011

Mark Zuckerberg Done with Renting

Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg buys house in Palo Alto

By Mike Swift and Pete Carey, SJ Mercury News
Posted: 05/05/2011 07:30:35 AM PDT, Updated: 05/05/2011 07:30:42 AM PDT

imageLong after he became a billionaire, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg still rented modest digs. But now one of Silicon Valley’s top tech celebrities has become a first-time homeowner, recently buying a large house in Palo Alto that is a 10-minute drive from what will soon be Facebook’s new corporate campus in Menlo Park.

Zuckerberg has lived in Palo Alto almost continuously since he moved Facebook to Silicon Valley straight from his Harvard dorm room in 2004. Now, with the fast-growing company preparing for a widely expected initial public stock offering and a move into its first permanent home in the former Sun Microsystems campus, Zuckerberg also appears to be settling down.

While the subject of the Hollywood hit "The Social Network" isn’t expected to move in for several months, his new home in a leafy and affluent Palo Alto neighborhood has more than 5,000 square feet, with a saltwater pool, a music alcove and five bedrooms for when friends and family of the Facebook founder come to visit.

Sources close to Facebook confirmed that Zuckerberg bought a house in Palo Alto, but declined to say which one. The real estate transaction did not close under Zuckerberg’s name. However, public records requests revealed a trail of clues leading to a property purchased for $7 million.

This newspaper is not printing the address because of concerns for the privacy of the sellers, who still live there, and Zuckerberg.


Don’t worry, this blog wouldn’t let a little thing like privacy stop us from Liking Mark’s new Mansion.  Or at least Friending it.  So, since the Merc was kind enough to give us a few details, such as more than 5000 sf, 17,000 sf lot and a $7 million dollar purchase price, it wasn’t that difficult to find:

1456 Edgewood Dr, Palo Alto, CA  94301


BATHS: 5.5
LOT SIZE: 16,995
STYLE: Single Family Residential
COUNTY: Santa Clara County
APN: 00311038
LAST UPDATED: April 14, 2011

Nobody would ever have suspected that “1456 EDGEWOOD DR HOLDINGS LLC” was actually the Facebook Dude.  Free Clue: Next time you buy a house, name your holding corporation after some people.

Here’s something fascinating, the house was listed for $5,850,000, which means the Zuckster overbid on this hot property down the street from the Beautiful Eichler with Poo!  Here’s what the GoogleCam has on this house:


We can give you a better view than that.  Whoever set up forgot to take all their pages down!


There’s page after page of house pr0n on this fact sheet, but just a look at the master bedroom suite description makes me wonder if this is really the ZuckerFriend we’re talking about:

  • Double interior French doors open to this personal retreat complete with crown molding, built-in speakers and a pocket door accessing the walk-in closet with custom built-ins
  • The light-filled spa-inspired master bath is opulently finished with Carrera marble flooring and slab countertops; marble slab baseboards are set beneath paneled wainscoting; two windows over the deep soaking tub with exposed nickel features welcome floods of natural light; additional appointments include Nuheat® electric heated floors, his and hers sink vanities with built-in mirrored medicine cabinets flanked by two wall sconces, a tremendous Carrera marble lined stall shower with dual showerheads and hexagonal tile flooring & a separately enclosed commode with skylight 


Bonus: Thrilling history of the property document has the address wrong on starting on the second page!

Update: Literally right after I uploaded this, Burbed reader San Matean shared this post from the Chronicle, with more pictures.  That’s the downside of a one article a day kind of blog.  However, the Chron in turn quotes the LA Times, which has this terrific description of the area from one of Mark’s new neighbors-to-be.

[The neighbor] described a neighborhood that is friendly but not that friendly. "Generally people do know who lives next door and across the street and say hello, but that’s about it," [he] said. He recalled that the most recent block party was held in 1976. "Everyone agreed we’d have to do it again," he said.

Palo Alto Online has the story too.  Honest, we had all this two days ago!

Comments (43) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:09 am

August 21, 2010

Buyer Tax Credit Ends, Bay Area Home Sales Plummet

Bay Area home sales tumble 22.5%

Carolyn Said, Chronicle Staff Writer
Friday, August 20, 2010

Bay Area home sales slumped by almost 23 percent last month compared with last year as the federal home buyer tax credit expired and buyers stayed on the sidelines despite record-low interest rates, according to a real estate report released Thursday.

"It was a significant drop," said Andrew LePage, an analyst with MDA DataQuick, the San Diego real estate service that released the report. "It was to be expected (after the tax credit expired), but no one knew the magnitude. For seasonal reasons, you normally see a bit of a drop from June to July, but this was triple that."

A total of 6,773 homes, including existing homes, condos and new homes, changed hands in the nine-county region in July, DataQuick said. That was a 22.8 percent decline from the same time last year and represented the lowest July sales volume in 15 years. For existing single-family homes, sales were down 22.5 percent to 5,104 homes.

The median price edged up as more high-end homes changed hands. For existing homes, it rose 5.9 percent to $432,500. For all homes, it was up 1.8 percent to $402,000. The median is skewed by the mixture of homes sold.

caution-housePlummet.  Tumble.  Drop.  Dive.  Head South.  Collapse.

No matter what your metaphor, properties are not flying through windows anymore.  Foreclosures are up in Silicon Valley, too.  Inventory is rising, many properties listed as pending are actually short sales that banks can put into limbo, while foreclosures loom on more and more high-end properties.  Check out this lovely location that just received a Notice of Default.

The average monthly sales drop between June and July is 6.3 percent, according to MDA DataQuick.  Wow, this spring had extra bounce from the federal tax credits!  It’s not every year you get a 22.8% drop once it’s over!

Those Debbie Downers over at the SF Chronicle just can’t stop the gloom and doom.  The article mentions double-dip several times.  Hey, you want a double dip?  How about two scoops of ice cream!  That should turn your frown upside down!  Then take a couple of swim sessions in your backyard pool… before the bank repossesses it!

Here’s more great news!  The average mortgage payment in the Bay Area is down to $1641 a month, down from $1709 last month.  Woo-hoo low interest rates!  If you adjust for inflation, that payment is 35 percent below the typical payment in spring 1989 (the peak of the last real estate cycle).  And compared to the July 2007 peak… it’s down 54.5 percent.  These numbers are not just affected by the record low interest rates.  Difficulty in getting jumbo financing keeps home loan amounts down as well.  Jumbo mortgages were 36.1 percent of July’s Bay Area loans.  That’s certainly up from January 2009’s 17.1 percent (the low for jumbos)!  Boo-ya!

But just to give you an idea how much RBA (Real Bay Area) Kool-Aid was being served recently, back before the credit crunch in August 2007, the percent of jumbo mortgages was… (are you ready?)

Over.  Sixty.  Per cent.

I can’t see why this should put any downward pressure on RBA home prices, though!

Comments (10) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:09 am

August 18, 2010



Kelly Zito, Chronicle Staff Writer

The housing market is red-hot in the Bay Area. So, who’s buying those pricey homes — and how are they able to do it? The answers: Young professionals. Riskier loans. Longer commutes. Smaller houses. And, in some cases, a lot of peanut butter and jelly..

With Hayes Valley condos selling for $750,000 and Livermore tract homes fetching $1.3 million, the question is on everyone’s lips: Who’s paying these stratospheric prices?

The answer, increasingly, is young professionals who are devoting exorbitant portions of their incomes to housing, according to a new study.

"It’s painful, more painful than I thought it was going to be," said Kris Crichton, who bought a $640,000 condo in San Francisco‘s SoMa neighborhood using $50,000 in equity from a home she owned with her former husband and an interest-only loan for part of the mortgage. "I’m eating ramen and PB&J every day, but at least I have a house."

Recent California homebuyers are finding novel ways to stretch into the nation’s most expensive real estate market, including taking out riskier adjustable loans, leveraging existing equity, and choosing smaller homes and longer commutes, says a study released today by the Public Policy Institute of California in San Francisco.

"Californians are being resourceful about homeownership just like they are about many other parts of life," said Hans Johnson, co-author of "California’s Newest Homeowners, Affording the Unaffordable."

But one of the study’s most surprising conclusions finds that nearly 1 out of every 5 recent California homebuyers is spending 50 percent or more of his or her income on housing costs — twice the national average (the study defines recent home buyers as those who purchased homes in 2002 and 2003). Though 2004 and 2005 data were not available to include in the study, Johnson said the percentage is likely even higher today.

Experts fret that consumers are placing an expensive bet on an overheated market that is expected to cool off. "I worry there are going to be a lot of unhappy young couples five to 10 years from now because of the heavy risks they’re taking on," said Ed Leamer, economist at the UCLA Anderson Forecast.

The study — which primarily analyzed 2000-2003 data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the California Association of Realtors, DataQuick, the National Association of Home Builders and the regulator of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae – – examined how homeownership rates across the state are rising at a time when prices are fast outpacing income growth.

Some of the explanations sound familiar.

Californians, on average, make more money than people in other states. In 2003, for example, nearly 1 in 5 recent home buyers had a household income of more than $125,000, compared to 1 out of 10 in the rest of the country.

And amid rapidly rising home prices — about 47 percent in the Bay Area in the last three years, according to DataQuick — many are trading up using equity from the sale of another property. Three out of 4 homes sold in 2004 went to people who had previously owned a home, the study found.

Jason Morrison and Andrea Sumits bought their first house in North Berkeley three years ago after living with Morrison’s father in Lafayette for a year to save money for the down payment. Armed with perhaps a couple hundred thousand in equity from a sale, the couple hopes to move into a bigger house on a quieter street, either in Berkeley or Marin County.

Increasing numbers of both trade-up and first-time buyers in the state are allotting a fat chunk of their incomes to their house payments. Although the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development recommends that households pay no more than 30 percent of their incomes on housing costs, 40 percent of all households in California with mortgages and 52 percent of the newest home buyers exceed that threshold. In the Bay Area, 44 percent of recent home buyers dedicated 30 percent or more of their household incomes to homeowner costs, which include mortgage, real estate taxes, insurance, utilities and condo fees, the study said.

Caltrans landscape architect Marty Hogan is among a growing share of homeowners whose housing costs eat up a whopping 50 percent or more of their income.

Last September, Hogan, 49, bought his first home — a two-bedroom condo in Hercules for $301,000. He jokes that his mortgage payments are twice his old rent, but he figures that after deducting the mortgage interest from his taxes, he will come out ahead.

"You just adjust," Hogan said. "You’re still a little broke, but it’s not too bad."

Competitive lenders and a flood of investment in bonds and real estate are helping drive the trend toward smaller down payments, easier credit standards and larger percentage of income spent on housing, experts say. But no one seems to know whether the lending standards have grown too loose.

Almost 50 percent of home purchases in Californians last year were financed using interest-only loans, up from about 2 percent in 2001. As such, financially stretched buyers could quickly find themselves at the breaking point if home values were to stagnate or interest rates to jump.

"Everything works out well provided home values are rising and the economy and jobs remain strong," said Keith Gumbinger, vice president of HSH Associates, a mortgage information firm in New Jersey. "But in an adverse environment, those borrowers can get into trouble."

Likewise for lenders.

"If the risks are distributed, there’s not that much of a problem," said Gumbinger. "But if there’s an accumulation of risks out there, a lender who has accumulated a lot of these loans, and they fall over at the same time … that could pose some systemic risks."

Among the study’s other unexpected findings was that homeownership has risen among those in their early 30s. What’s more, many buyers in the last several years have moderate or even modest incomes — between $40,000 and $80,000.

An account manager at a fair-trade nonprofit in Oakland, Kristina Pappas describes her income as being at the low end of that spectrum. Still, by using a risky type of adjustable-rate mortgage and renting out a couple of rooms in the Mission district condo she bought late last year, Pappas, 35, has been able to get by.

"I don’t worry that it’s a gamble because … it’s my home — it’s not an investment for me," she said.

Others buyers have had to compromise on space or location to get a toehold in the market. One-third of recent California home buyers purchased dwellings with two or fewer rooms. And in Northern California, for example, prices are soaring in places like Yuba City, Merced, Redding and Stockton as refugees from the Bay Area flee to the lower home prices in the Central Valley.

Dan Kalb and his fiancee didn’t have to go that far.

Kalb, who had lived in San Francisco for 21 years, originally started his home search in San Francisco. But af
ter finding they could afford little more than a closet in the city, they quickly redirected their search to Oakland and Berkeley. After about a dozen failed offers, the couple landed a $700,000, 1,165-square-foot Craftsman-style home with two bedrooms in the Rockridge section of Oakland.

"It’s definitely smaller than what we wanted, but it’s a good neighborhood," said Kalb, a policy manager for an environmental nonprofit organization.

Melita and David Doostan were able to get a bigger place than they originally imagined — a triplex in North Berkeley. Their secret? Parents. David’s father kicked in about half of the down payment on the property.

"We’re lucky, we can pay that back — whenever," David said. "A lot of people scrape together whatever they can to make it work."

Gleb Budman, who looked at a $729,000 condo in Noe Valley last weekend, also expects to use all the tricks he can — financial help from family, an interest-only loan and renting out rooms.

"All of the above," he said.

I thought it would be fun to post this trip down memory lane. Originally published on August 18, 2005.

A few things have changed since then. A few.

Comments (64) -- Posted by: burbed @ 5:32 am

May 1, 2010

Santana Row set to expand with 108 new residential units

Santana Row set to expand with 108 new residential units

It seems the consumerist urban idyll that is Santana Row is proving popular, as the developer of the San Jose shopping mecca with housing attached has announced it has begun construction on 108 new residential units.

According to Federal Realty Investment Trust, 97% of Santana Row’s rental units are leased, demand for more is strong, and the new homes will bring the total number of residential units at Santana Row to 622.

The new four-story building will be located behind Anthropologie and Borders Books and is expected to be completed by late summer 2011. The new units will consist of 98 flats, ranging in size from 750 sq ft to nearly 1,600 sq ft, and a row of 10 four-story townhomes. There will be subterranean parking with 160 spaces, a business center, entertainment lounge and fitness center.

Congrats to Santana Row on its amazing success! This is further proof that San Jose is on its way to overtake San Francisco… and eventually Manhattan… as the coolest place in America.

Paris? London? Tokyo? Hong Kong? Yeah… you’d better watch it. ‘cuz Santana Row is coming to get you!

Comments (16) -- Posted by: burbed @ 5:28 am

May 13, 2009

House available in the Bay Area for just $29,5000!

On The Block
Who said the Bay Area was expensive? House for sale: $29,500

It’s true that $30K barely buys you anything more than a grimy garage in most parts of the Bay Area, but it is also possible to buy a bona-fide home here for just $29,500.


Granted it’s a tiny home — very tiny, with a mere 7×18 ft footprint — but you have to admit it’s darn cute too.
The tiny house is described as a traditional cottage with a contemporary interior.

The tiny house is described as a traditional cottage with a contemporary interior.

Listed on Craigslist by its owners, this hand-built house is currently in Rohnert Park, Sonoma. But it’s on wheels so can be taken anywhere you please.

Its look is described as “traditional cottage styling with contemporary accents”. There’s a kitchen, a seating area, a (fold-down) table for eating, a (walk-in closet) bathroom and a sleeping loft — there’s even a fireplace for goodness sake. What more could you want?

The couple who are selling up have been living in the tiny house for more than a year, but plan on starting a family and feel to need to expand their surroundings (shades of Mayor Gavin and his wife).

Um. Sort of in the Bay Area. Sonoma?

Well that said, this is a great find. Thanks Brendan. I think we can all breathe a sigh of relief that affordable housing is being built for all those whiners out there. More importantly, this is something you won’t find in the Real Bay Area.

Too bad it doesn’t list the square footage – that’d be fascinating to find out. Just what is the price per square foot?

Comments (303) -- Posted by: burbed @ 5:00 am

January 31, 2009

Bay Area rental market prices and trends

Bay Area rental market gives tenants an edge
Bay Area apartment rents will soften and vacancies will edge up in 2009, giving tenants more leverage, according to a forecast from an influential real estate firm.

Still, the rental market here will remain stronger than in most other regions around the country, said Marcus & Millichap Real Estate Investment Services, which issued forecasts for three metropolitan areas in the region: San Francisco, San Jose and Oakland.

Those excess homes and condos, which M&M terms “shadow market rentals,” largely are bank-owned foreclosures purchased by investors who then rent them out. They are concentrated in the East Bay and some parts of San Jose, and are barely a factor in San Francisco.

Thanks to Nomadic for posting this earlier. Note that these problems are mostly limited to parts of San Jose and the East Bay – both of which are clearly not in the Real Bay Area.

For those of you who are looking in the Real Bay Area – how does the rental market seem to you? Gangbusters as usual?

Comments (39) -- Posted by: burbed @ 5:37 am

January 11, 2009

Santa Clara County: preforeclosure activity spikes 234%

Report says foreclosures, defaults up in 2008
Santa Clara County saw the biggest jump in preforeclosure activity among the counties last year, up 234 percent to 18,610, according to Default Research. Los Angeles County experienced the highest number, 122,408.

In a word… Gilroyandmorganhill.

Ok… maybe 4 words then: Gilroy and Morgan Hill.

Maybe it’s time for a new term: Real Santa Clara!

Comments (20) -- Posted by: burbed @ 6:30 am

June 6, 2008

San Francisco economy is bulletproof – Oakland has carjacking problems

S.F. immune so far from struggling economy
There may be plenty of disagreements about the budget Mayor Gavin Newsom announced on Monday. But there was one statement I totally agree with.

“The reality outside our 47 1/2 square miles is very different from the reality within it,” Newsom said.

He’s got that right.

The housing market is crumbling across the country – but not in San Francisco. Travel and tourism is down in many places but not here, where visitor spending, fueled by foreign tourists, reached an all-time high last year.

And despite a huge city deficit, Newsom still managed to sound upbeat Monday when he announced spending increases for the police force and a health care program that covers uninsured residents.


“My opinion is that the Bay Area is 100 percent bulletproof,” said Carlo Middione, who has owned the Vivande Porta Via restaurant on Fillmore Street for 27 years. “I live in the Mission and when I go out at night for a meal, I can’t get in a restaurant. I think business is booming.”

Congrats! Further sign that house prices are going to start rocketing forwards. In the Real Bay Area anyway. Haters will undoubtedly point to Oakland… but clearly Oakland isn’t in the Real Bay Area:

Carjackings a symptom of Oakland’s problems

Oakland can now claim to be the nation’s King of Mayhem on public streets.

The city’s latest award is yet another dubious honor to bolster that claim: Oakland is among the nation’s leaders in carjackings – with a rate more than four times higher than San Francisco over a two-year period, according to a report in Monday’s Chronicle.

It is also one of the nation’s most violent and murderous cities. As midyear approaches, Oakland has reported 56 homicides, a pace that would exceed last year’s total of 127.

Georgia State University criminology Professor Volkan Topalli, who is writing a book on carjackings, found that Oakland’s high rate of that crime goes hand in hand with a laundry list of troubling crime statistics and social ills that make the city a prime candidate to be on the cutting edge of the next national crime surge as the economic downturn continues.

“I think violence rates are going up across the country, and in places like Oakland, the increase is going to be even greater because of existing problems,” Topalli said Monday in a phone interview.

The combination of poor public schools, high unemployment, and a lack of community cohesion amid open drug sales and prostitution on blighted streets can create “a perfect storm of problems,” Topalli said. In this category, at least, Oakland is ahead of the national average.

Already this year, a 10-year-old boy was shot at a piano lesson, the state Senate president pro tem was carjacked in the middle of the day (possibly by the same man who is accused of shooting the boy, police say), and impromptu illegal street races have ended in fiery crashes and multiple shootings.

Those don’t constitute normal, everyday occurrences in most U.S. cities, large or small. But in the most lawless parts of Oakland, such events are a part of everyday life.


There were so many reported carjackings in East Oakland that it resembled an Auto Row for car thieves.

Worse comes to worse, I hear there’s a secret button that can transform the San Francisco – Oakland Bay Bridge to being just the San Francisco – Treasure Island Bay Bridge. We’ll probably also need to barricade 92 and the Dumbo, but that’s ok since the East Bay long fell out of the Real Bay Area.

Comments (31) -- Posted by: burbed @ 4:47 am

February 23, 2008

Good news: Midwage jobs vanish in Silicon Valley

Report: Midwage jobs vanish in Silicon Valley
For the first time, this report documents an alarming fact: The middle fell out of the region’s payroll between 2002 and 2006.

Federal and state jobs data show that 62,050 midwage jobs – defined as having salaries between $30,000 and $80,000 – vanished during that four-year period, according to the report.

During the same four years, employers added 66,200 jobs that paid less than $30,000. And despite bullish times for the likes of Google and Apple, Silicon Valley employers added just 16,790 jobs during that period that paid more than $80,000.

“We have indeed documented a squeeze on the middle. Now we have to figure out what it means and what to do about it,” said Russell Hancock, president of Joint Venture: Silicon Valley Network, the public-private partnership group that has been issuing such reports since 1995.

I’m sure some losers will bemoan this situation. Boo hoo – middle class jobs are disappearing.

But actually, this is a good thing – for homeowners. As more middle class jobs disappear, that means the population mix will include more people earning good $100k salaries – and that means they can afford to pay more for houses.

Or more simply: less middle class jobs = more rich people = increased housing prices. Can you say: Manhattan?

And, this works on the bottom end too: less middle class jobs = more low wage people = more renters = more rental income for homeowners.

Either way, this is great news and it’s a great time to buy a home in Silicon Valley.

If we all work together, we can make 2009 the year we beat Manhattan in housing prices. Let’s pull together and make it happen!

Comments (13) -- Posted by: burbed @ 5:12 am