May 27, 2012

Palo Alto on Zero Dollars a Day

Both property prices and rents are rising to record levels in Special parts of Silicon Valley.  Here’s one very creative way around those sky-high living expenses.  Thanks very much to Burbed reader Real Estater for mentioning this story in comments.

120525-aol-simonsMeet the tireless entrepreneur who squatted at AOL

For two months last fall, Eric Simons secretly took up residence inside the Internet giant’s Palo Alto, Calif., campus, eating free food, enjoying gym access, and building a startup in the process.

by Daniel Terdiman, CNET, May 24, 2012 4:00 AM PDT

It was 6 a.m. when Eric Simons was jolted awake by the yelling.

After working until 4 a.m, the 19-year-old entrepreneur had finally passed out. A few hours of sleep would help with the day ahead.

But unlike most people working at AOL’s Palo Alto, Calif., campus who were surely still hours from showing up at the sprawling complex, Simons was already there. He’d been living there for two months, hiding out at night on couches, eating the company’s food, and exercising and showering in its gym. And now, with an angry security guard bellowing at him, it was all over.

120525-aol-couchThe story of how Simons, just two years removed from a Chicago high school, came to be living in AOL’s Palo Alto campus could well become part of Silicon Valley lore, especially because it highlights the lengths some entrepreneurs will go to make their dreams a reality. And though stories abound these days of startup founders barely old enough to drink swimming in venture capital, far more have to get by on packaged noodles and the good will of friends with extra couches.

This story may surprise people who have never seen a Silicon Valley software campus, but those of us who live here know that all of them are able to handle employees living on site.  Think about all the amenities provided: Free meals.  Dry cleaning.  Car maintenance.  Gyms, showers, and lockers.  There’s no reason to leave the campus at all, so Eric Simons simply took the next step.

120523-aol-rentalUnfortunately, all good things come to an end, and Simons was evicted from the crash couches by a security guard.  But he obtained funding for his project,, and is now able to rent a house in Palo Alto (backyard, left).  Ever the entrepreneur, he is renting out four spaces in bunk beds there on Airbnb.

Discuss how to avoid having to pay rent or mortgages, or all the ways working for a big company makes life easier and less expensive, or anything else you want to in this Weekend Open Thread.

Comments (11) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:05 am

April 23, 2012

Trespassing Squatters Occupying Short Sale Property File TRO Against the Selling Agent. Yes You Read That Correctly.

Happy Monday!  We’ve got another exciting story for you, about some riveting residents who really respect realtards.  Read on!

Squatters issue restraining order against real estate agent

120421-antioch-squattersKTVU Channel 2,
Posted: 9:49 p.m. Friday, April 20, 2012

ANTIOCH, Calif. —  A Bay Area real estate agent said she’s being taken to court by squatters in Antioch who have taken over a house she’s trying to sell.

As many as three people have been living in the Concord home since December. Even though the owner never gave them permission to move in, they’re apparently not moving out without a fight.

Real estate agent Melissa Case said she can’t get too close to the four-bedroom, two-and-a-half bathroom home she’s listed for sale in Antioch because the unauthorized residents took her to court.

“I have a temporary restraining order against me right now,” Case said. “I cannot come within 50 yards of the home, which was filed by the squatters.”

Case is definitely a Real Estate Professional.  You can tell from the way she talks, because it reads just like listing copy we see every day here.  The home was filed by the squatters,  Got it.  So you’re going to love this next quote from Ms. Case:

“Actually the police came out and verified that their… rental agreement? [air quotes]… was false and full of misspellings.”

Because nothing says Real Estate Professional like an example of their work product written up full of misspellings.

Here’s the house, and it was not easy to find.  Case described it as a “four bedroom two and a half bath” but Redfin listed it as a 4/3.  Also just to really mess with our minds, the article also said it was in Concord (see the second paragraph above).  Do you have any idea how many freaking short sales there are in Antioch? Or Concord?  Let’s just say I have a feeling we’re not in Los Altos anymore.

Antioch, CA 94531


SQ. FT.: 1,873
$/SQ. FT.: $80
LOT SIZE: 5,900 Sq. Ft.
TYPE: Detached
STYLE: Traditional
COUNTY: Contra Costa
MLS#: 40568008
STATUS: Pending
ON REDFIN: 23 days

End of Court Location and Across the street from the neighborhood park!! This home needs TLC.

End of Court!  Get it?  Get it?  Because the agent got taken to court!  Ahahahahahaha!

And speaking of short sales, the “homeowner in Berkeley” picked up this winner of a house for $460,000.  In 2004.  The current asking price is 23% less than what the house sold for, new, in 1992.  Perhaps “needs TLC” means “Teardown, Level and Condemn.”

Comments (18) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:08 am

April 10, 2011

SJ Merc Discovers Joy of Burbed Housing [Updated]

Here’s some copy that ought to have originated on Burbed.  But this is from from the San Jose Mercury News, or as the journos now call it, I Can’t Believe It’s Not Newsletter!  Thanks very much to Burbed reader Petsmart Groomer for calling this out in the Open Thread yesterday.

Bay Area homes you can buy for the national median price of $157,000

imageBy Patrick May, San Jose Mercury News   Posted:  04/09/2011 4:52 PM

The median price of a previously owned single-family home in America today is $157,000. What can you get for that in the Bay Area?

Headaches, mostly.

Here, where the median is nearly three times higher than the national, $157,000 will get you a 460-square-foot house in East Palo Alto that would fit inside a Saratoga walk-in closet. Or a two-bedroom in Antioch with mold, a squatter’s mattress in the kitchen, the oily remnants of an amateur grease-monkey operation out back, and what looks like a bullet hole dead-center in the front window.

image“Bring your tools & imagination to shine this piece of property,” the Realtor wrote on the online real estate site Redfin.

Want to spend that $157,000 on a San Jose bungalow on North 13th Street?

No problem.

OK. So there’s one small problem.

“Burned house,” says the real estate agent’s MLS note. “Don’t go in!”

Photos: Top right, 460 sf East Palo Alto house, Josie Lepe, SJMN.  Above left, SJ burnt house on 13th Street has received several offers.  Karen T Borchers, SJMN.

Wow, CAR (California Association of Realtors) must be pulling a Fry’s on the Merc for running this story.  Bet they’re going to pull all their advertising for weeks!  Nope, the Merc pulled this story within hours of posting it. In fact, the link above is to the mobile site, because it’s gone from the regular one (and if the mobile link doesn’t work, try this link to a cached copy from the Pasadena Star News.

But no problem, we’re going to find all the sites in this story and maybe even write them up in the coming days.  Meanwhile, what do you think is going to happen to Patrick May?

Update: This article mysteriously appeared yesterday afternoon for a few hours and then was thrown down the memory hole.  It’s back so I’ve changed the link, and also added the Merc’s pictures.  Too bad they didn’t take some inside the SF house.


This cozy charmer is at 2169 Addison Ave, East Palo Alto, weighing in at 460 square feet. Owner selling it only to establish a market value with bank so they’ll modify his loan.  Sold in 2003 for $278,000!


$157,000 will get you two homes in Antioch! 1117 Klengel Street, listed for $78,000, and conveniently bank-owned.  Bonus: Sold for $95,000 in… (drumroll) 1993!


Then take a look at 36 Texas Street:

Yes, it comes with roosters next door and a guy down the street dismantling his motorcycle on the front lawn. And yes, you’ll have to clear out that squatter’s mattress from the kitchen. And maybe, with all that motor oil soaked into the back yard, you’ll need the Environmental Protection Agency to sign off on the deal. But for $69,000, what do you expect?


A pre-heated house at 642 North 13th St. San Jose, plus agent had to threaten to Taser a squatter.  Price: $166,900.  The catch: Foreclosed in December for $350,000, and sold for $217K.  In 1998.  DAYUM, IT’S PENDING!


Vertigo house in Bayview-Hunters Point.  1482 Underwood Ave, SF.  “The easiest way to repair it is to tear it down.”   Price: $145,900  “The house is all crooked,” said realtor Alyce Cardinale.  Sold for $250K in 2000, foreclosed in 1997 and again in 2008!


imageHayward Contractor’s Delight, whoops the agent calls it “Carpenters Delights!”; train goes by every ten minutes.  22026 Western Blvd, Hayward.  Price: $155,000, originally listed for $189,000.
“It’s a fairly quiet neighborhood. Except for the train every ten minutes.”

Which one of these imagebargains will you be writing a check for?

Left, front of the house on Western Boulevard.  Right, agent David Ormonde shows door to garage from the kitchen in the Western Boulevard property. Photos, Karen T Borchers, SJMN.

Comments (7) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:03 am

October 23, 2010

Family Breaks Into Former Home, Moves Back In, Claims Foreclosure was Fraudulent, Lots of Legal Maneuvers

Thanks to a burbed reader for sending this in.  I know it looks like another TL;DR, but trust me, this one’s worth it.

Family reclaims foreclosed house, Simi clan moves in after home sold

By Stephanie Hoops, Ventura County Star
Posted October 12, 2010 at 2 p.m., updated October 13, 2010 at 6:58 a.m.
Photos by Karen Quincy Loberg, VC Star Staff

simi_family An 11-member Simi Valley family who claimed they were wrongfully evicted after a foreclosure forced their way back into the house over the weekend in a move meant to block the new buyer from moving in.

Jim and Danielle Earl and their nine children used a locksmith to help retake possession Saturday, despite an investor who spent $697,000 to purchase the house at a foreclosure sale in January and remodeled and sold it to people ready to move in Tuesday. The two-story house in the 5800 block of Mustang Drive has nearly 4,000 square feet, six bedrooms and 4.5 baths.

Police officers were on hand when the Earls changed the locks Saturday but did not intervene. The Earls’ lawyer, Michael Pines of Encinitas, held a news conference to announce the family was taking back the home and reportedly filed a complaint against the real estate broker and investor when police arrived at the scene.

Pines said the Earls are not concerned about the possibility of being charged with trespassing.

The Wall Street Journal covered this story too, and they said we may be seeing more of this.  Now it’s not enough for a bank to go through through all the steps of foreclosure and eviction on determined deadbeats.  You never know when they’ll turn around, hire a lawyer and a locksmith, and move right back into the house you sold out from under them in good faith! Your team of robo-signers worked hard forging a pile of documents and backdated every single one of them, and all for naught.

image Actually this story gets more and more complicated depending on which version you read.  But the basic facts are, the Earl family bought the house in 2001 for $539,999.  Being Southern Californians, they considered mortgage equity withdrawal a religious rite rather than a guaranteed method of ruining their credit and their future, and owed $880,000 on the first mortgage, when they were finally shown the door of their former residence.  Total debt and unpaid costs on the property was over a million dollars, according to foreclosure documents.

The house was bought by investors for $697,000, who put $40,000 of improvements into it (including the mandatory granite countertops) and flipped it for $800,000.  With the new owners scheduled to take possession within a few days, the Earls (both parents and 9 children) broke in and moved their stuff back.

A number of items are in dispute, which is where the fraud claims come in.  This may be a question of which party are the bigger slimebuckets, as absolutely nobody comes out looking good in this story.

The Earls had some financial difficulties, and in trying to set their mortgage right, say that a catch-up payment of $12,500 they made to GRP Services was never credited to their loan.  Danielle Earl says she then stopped making payments because the loan had been repeatedly reassigned to different lenders, she believed, fraudulently.  “They clearly didn’t want us to catch up,” she explained.  Their lawyer elaborated:

The Earls’ fraud claims are twofold, [Michael] Pines said: The loan was originated and serviced with improper documents, and the foreclosure and eviction were created with new and phony documents. He said there were multiple instances of people signing the foreclosure documents who were not authorized to do so.

Foreclosure documents says GRP Financial Services owns the loan.  The Earls’ mortgage was from WaMu, which was acquired by JPMorgan Chase, and went to B of A the same day the Notice of Default was sent.  The Earls claim Chase never properly acquired their loan and therefore had no right to sell it.  Not surprisingly, the group acquiring the house doesn’t see it that way.

“They broke in and are proceeding to squat in there,” listing agent Chris Garvin of Troop Real Estate, told HousingWatch. […]

Garvin was not only the listing agent but also the acquisition and sales partner for his client, Conejo Capital Partners, the investors. He says that he purchased the home in good faith for $697,000 in January on behalf of his client, at an auction on the courthouse steps.

In June, a judge refused to seat a jury for trial, claiming it was another delaying tactic by the Earls.  Conejo had been trying to get them out of the house since February.

In 1994, the Earls have filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, and they began two serial and voluntary Chapter 13 bankruptcy proceedings after their house was sold at auction  The judge claimed the bankruptcies were yet another delaying tactic.  Their liabilities exceed one million dollars, with creditors including both the IRS and the state tax board.

At the close of the trial, however, [Conejo attorney Stanley] Yates said of the whole matter: “I will say this, that the (Earls) are an indefatigable source of stalling and red herrings.”

The Earls are asking for damages of over one million dollars on the fraud allegations, and claim this means they own the house free and clear plus additional money owed them.

Good luck with that.

Comments (30) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:04 am