January 11, 2014

Online Realty Pricing Sites: Do They Work?

Yes, they work. But are the prices valid? That’s another story. Let’s listen in as the San Jose Mercury News (motto: We’re a newspaper just like Burbed is a real estate blog, haha!) explains why the valuation models don’t agree with each other.

Online sites can help tell you what your home is worth

141010-avm-unioncityBy Pete Carey, San Jose Mercury News
POSTED:   12/27/2013 05:00:00 PM PST; UPDATED: 12/28/2013 06:17:12 AM PST

You’re likely to get a warm fuzzy feeling if you look at what your home is worth on Zillow, Trulia or any of the other real estate sites that provide values for millions of houses. Home prices have risen rapidly, and the value these sites assign to your home is sure to reflect that.

But don’t carried away by a single Zestimate, SmartZip quote or Trulia estimate. While they are fine for spotting trends, these home valuation services come with a caveat: they offer rough approximations by computer programs. If you want a more precise estimate, hire an appraiser, talk to a real estate agent or check around your neighborhood and see what homes are selling for.

The sites all use what’s called "automated valuation models," or AVMs, to make sense of mountains of data, typically drawn from recent sales, property history, size and number of rooms, market trends and other factors that influence price.

We can’t believe they spent all that trouble writing an article that says, “If you want to really know what your house is worth, hire an appraiser.” There are multiple models out there, but this piece won’t tell you how they differ, or why. We did learn that Santa Clara County prices are more likely to be correct than Alameda County, but again, no explanation why.

We know why!  It’s because the Real Bay Area’s prices only go up, and all the models built that in.  Feel free to speculate on what’s going on with the AVM of your choice and why your house is So Special that the price estimates are Way Too Low.  Unless you’re buying, in which case they are Way Too High.

Comments (5) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 7:11 am






December 20, 2013

Irreplaceable at this price in Monte Sereno!!

Let’s have a look at a property that isn’t jumping into somebody’s lap and getting overbids out the wazoo. Your job is to figure out what is preventing this normal Real Bay Area behavior from taking place.  Thanks very much to Burbed reader nomadic for this find.  Bunus: no longer available on Redfin!

131213-lexington-trulia18331 Lexington Dr
Monte Sereno, CA 95030
$3,624,000 Trulia Estimate

  • 3 bed,
  • 4 full bath
  • 8,710 sqft
  • Single-Family Home

Property Details for 18331 Lexington Dr

18331 Lexington Dr This Single-Family Home located at 18331 Lexington Drive, Monte Sereno CA. 18331 Lexington Dr has 3 beds, 4 baths, and approximately 8,710 square feet. The property has a lot size of 1.25 acres and was built in 1992. The average listing price for similar homes for sale is $2,684,230 and the average sales price for similar recently sold homes is $2,526,783. 18331 Lexington Dr is in the 95030 ZIP code in Monte Sereno, CA. The average price per square foot for homes for sale in 95030 is $788.

Public Records for 18331 Lexington Dr

Official property, sales, and tax information from county (public) records as of 09/2012:

  • 131213-lexington-entrySingle Family Residential
  • 8,710 sqft
  • Stories: 3 story
  • Parking: Garage
  • 1 Building
  • Tax Rate Code Area: 16-010
  • 3 Bedrooms
  • Lot Size: 1.25 acres
  • A/C
  • Parking Spaces: 5
  • Pool: Pool (yes)
  • 4 Bathrooms
  • Built In 1992
  • Heating
  • 9 Rooms
  • County: Santa Clara

131213-lexington-wineWell, that’s fairly boring. Fortunately, Movoto still has the actual listing copy:

Neoclassical Estate–one of a kind–irreplaceable at this price!! Main home has 3 bedroom suites, library, plus full guest quarters with kitchen, bedroom & bath. Separate pool cabana with full bedroom, bath, & kitchen (square footage includes cabana and guest quarters). City lights, mountain views, gated, beautiful pool, minutes to Los Gatos plus fabulus Los Gatos Schools. Five Car Garage!!!

131213-lexington-studyNow let’s check in with nomadic:

Look what I found at Mausoleums R Us.  It isn’t exactly a Black Friday special, given that it’s been on the market nearly five months without a price reduction.

Looks like it went pending after nomadic sent it on, on December 9th, and the agent promptly yanked it with the useful Pending/Do Not Show designation.  And while Redfin doesn’t have a thing for us to see, both Trulia and Zillow have plenty of pictures, and Zillow also has the listing history.  Check this out!

131213-lexington-price-history

Any predictions on what the selling price will end up being? We’re throwing in for fifteen million!

Comments (2) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 7:05 am

October 14, 2013

We’re #1! We’re #1! We’re… PRICED OUT FOREVER!

Yesterday we shared a San Jose Mercury News (motto: Website now as thin as our newspaper!) piece showing many first-time buyers are going to remain full-time renters for the time being.  And that’s true even if we spot them places like Hayward and Mountain House.

That’s distressing news if you hate your blood-sucking landlord (but we repeat ourselves), your noisy neighbors, or your shiftless property “manager.”  Let’s balance that cup of cold crappy colloquy with some news that will turn your frown upside down.

Where Can the Middle Class Buy a Home?

131013-sf-least-affordable-ggbBy CONOR DOUGHERTY, The Wall Street Journal

If you’re in the middle class and want to buy a home here’s a piece of advice: Move to Ohio (if you’re not already there).

Some 86% of homes in the Akron, Ohio area are within reach of middle-class buyers in the area, the highest share in the nation, according to a report from Trulia, the real estate listings site. The next two cities on the list, with 85% of homes affordable to middle class, are Dayton and Toledo, respectively.

For those of you in the coastal elite who are reading this post for the perverse pleasure of finding out just how unaffordable your city is, you might be surprised to hear that New York isn’t No. 1. San Francisco is the least affordable place to be a middle-class buyer, with only 14% of homes within reach of those making the median San Francisco household income of $78,840, according to Trulia.*

However, we were slightly surprised by the next two most unaffordable places, Orange County and Los Angeles, respectively. New York was the fourth least affordable place to be middle class. After that were San Diego and San Jose and Ventura County.

Sooooo, SF is #1 but Silicon Valley is #6? But note, California completely PWN3D New York and the entire East Coast in the unaffordability sweeps. Washington DC? Shut out by the shutdown. Later, you imperialist running dogs no longer feeding at the public trough for the next few days!  When it comes to places nobody can afford to live in, we can revel in our Specialness!

131013-sf-least-listThe Trulia link above (yes, of course it works) says that while San Francisco has a 60% higher median income than most-affordable Akron, Ohio, homes there sell for (deep breath, now) seven times as much.  Only 14% of homes for sale are affordable to a household earning median income for the area.  Even worse, whoops, we mean better, San Francisco has dropped ten more percentage points in affordability since last October when 24% of homes could be purchased by a median income household.

To get slightly wonky, the real formula was what percent of homes’ monthly payments were 31% or less of the median household income, which shows the problem right there.  Everyone knows if you want to buy a house in SF, Cash is King. Monthly payment? Might as well ask if they’ll sell you the house for a hogshead of buggy whips.

San Jose’s affordability index per Trulia was 31%, but then again, none of the contenders were anywhere close to SF.  Second-place Orange County came in with only 23% of homes rated affordable by the “middle class.”

Trulia also provided a “maximum affordable home price” for each area.  Let’s take a look at what you get for that price.  Here’s a 5 BR/3 BA in SF at only $10K less than the maximum affordable amount. Of course this house is in Bayview and it has some permit issues, but you can’t have everything.

131013-sf-least-newhall

Contrast to how far your dollar S-T-R-E-T-C-H-E-S in San Jose!

131013-sf-least-waverly

Wow, a gated estate with lots of CAPITAL LETTERS and it’s yours AS IS, which means the seller won’t switch houses on you!  And just for giggles, let’s see what an “affordable” house in Akron (highest affordable house: $226K) looks like.

131013-sf-least-akron

OMG look at that house! Those bricks are going down into a big ol’ pile as soon as The Big One hits! Not only that, it would take at least a couple more hours to get to Google from here than the other two houses we showed you.  And when you look out in the boonies like this, notice what you don’t get: a decent fence around the place to keep the nosy neighbors away.

We won’t even get into the difficulty of transferring into Cupertino schools.

Comments (8) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 7:08 am

September 30, 2013

Buying A Home Still Beats Renting By 35% In America’s Biggest Cities

Buying A Home Still Beats Renting By 35% In America’s Biggest Cities

Despite rising home prices and mortgage rates, it’s still cheaper to buy a home than to rent one in America’s largest cities. A new report from San Francisco, Calif.-based real estate site Trulia finds that, nationally, it’s 35% less expensive to own a home. Even in notoriously pricey, renter-heavy cities like San Francisco and New York, it remains 9% and 21% cheaper, respectively.

Of the top 10, eight are located in Calif., a state in which many cities, despite being plagued by high unemployment and the foreclosure crisis, never saw prices fall enough to fully align with other local economic fundamentals like median income.

The metro area that will swing back toward renting first is San Jose, Calif., when mortgage rates climb to 5.2%. It’s currently 4% cheaper to buy than rent in the Silicon Valley hub, a dramatic change from last year when it was 31% cheaper.

This really proves what we’ve all known: buying is cheaper than renting. It’s always a good time to buy.

I’m not sure what you’re doing this Monday morning, but if you’re not buying a home, you’re probably starting off this week in the wrong way.

What does your calculations show? Is buying cheaper than renting?

Comments (8) -- Posted by: burbed @ 5:42 am

August 12, 2013

UPDATED: Real Estate Portal Roulette in Mountain View, featuring large bedrooms

Updated 12:30 pm: Added listing screenshots, copy and more writeup from the other 3 non-Redfin portals.  All after the (added) break.  Enjoy.

One of the fun things about running a real estate blog is seeing how differently each of the major realty portals handles the exact same listing. We’ve had several examples of a house switching to Pending/Do Not Show status (usually about ten seconds after it’s listed), and then Redfin will disavow all knowledge of the property ever having been for sale. Zillow will usually lose the photos but manage to hold onto the listing copy. Trulia might do the same as Zillow – or the opposite. And there’s always Movoto, the place to go if you want to see the photos every other site took down.

Today’s prime property, sent in by Burbed reader LomaLuvr, shows the differences in action.  First, we’ll check in with our default site of Redfin.

130811-sanpierre-redfin935 SAN PIERRE Way
Mountain View, CA 94043
Sold for $840,000

4 Beds
2 Baths
1,576 Sq. Ft.
$533 / Sq. Ft.
Built: 1964 Lot
Size: 6,000 Sq. Ft.
Sold On: Aug 6, 2010
Status: Sold
Property Type: Detached Single Family
Stories: 1
Community: North Shoreline
MLS#: 81031181
Style: Ranch
View: Neighborhood
County: Santa Clara

Beautifully updated & ready to move right in! Open floor plan with hardwood floors in the LR, hall & bedrooms, granite slab countertops in kitchen & baths, dual pane windows, stucco outside. Formal living room, eat in kitchen & separate family room. Great location, close to major companies, walking trails, schools & downtown. Easy access for commuters, close to Cal-Train/Light-rail & the freeways.

We immediately knew something was wrong, because LL asked about “large bedrooms” (in the listing copy). That didn’t any make sense because there’s nothing in this copy about them.  Do these bedrooms look large?  Here are some listing photos, in actual size.

130811-sanpierre-bedroom130811-sanpierre-entry130811-sanpierre-kitchen130811-sanpierre-family

Only one of the listing photos even was of a bedroom.  Much more on what we found on the other portals, after the break.

(more…)

Comments (6) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 7:06 am

July 30, 2013

Rebuild with your family in mind

It may be another day, but there’s never an end to Mountain View Realty #winning on Burbed.  Today’s million dollar listing at a six digit price arrives courtesy of Burbed reader LomaLuvr. Thanks very much!

130729-alice-trulia495 Alice Ave
Mountain View, CA 94041
$980,000

4 bed
2 full, 1 partial bath
2,494 sqft
Single-Family Home
$4,773 / mo Mortgage Center
83 Days on Trulia
3,659 views
Built in 2002
Status: For Sale
Contemporary Architecture
Lot Size: 6,249 sqft

495 Alice Ave This contemporary style home offers a blend of traditional stile and modern convenience.Located in the quiet,family oriented neighborhood of Mountain view, This home was rebuild and updated in 2002 with your family in mind.The private backyard is designed for family fun. Over than 2400 sf home with 4 bedrooms, 2.5 baths,2 car garage very close to mountain view down town and easy access to freeway

We swear we looked at every single picture and couldn’t find any sign of that traditional stile. And while Trulia won’t tell us which neighborhood of Mountain View is the quiet,family oriented one, we did find it on a map.

130729-alice-aerial

They definitely meant it about easy access to freeway. Why didn’t they tell us they meant easy access to freeways? Two is twice as good. Are they part of the family fun?

Comments (11) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 7:04 am

July 6, 2013

Fake Realty Win: North Side of made-up city is “better”

Any reader of this blog knows that some parts of the Bay Area are just better than others, and that’s what we call the “Real Bay Area.” Do you know where the RBA is? According to this study, it’s probably north of you.

Study Points to Bias Toward a City’s North Side

People tend to see the north as more desirable and affluent, in turn fueling stereotypes about where the rich live

130705-north-mapBy Sanette Tanaka, The Wall Street Journal
SPREAD SHEET, July 4, 2013, 8:14 p.m. ET

North, south, east or west, researchers find north seems best.

Most people, knowing nothing else about a city, would rather live in the northern half of town than in the southern, says Brian Meier, associate professor of psychology at Gettysburg College in Gettysburg, Pa. People tend to see the north as more desirable and affluent, in turn fueling stereotypes about where the rich and the poor live.

"For some reason, people see the north and south as very different," Prof. Meier says. "When all else is equal, people have this bias to think that northerly areas are better or more affluent.

Prof. Meier and co-authors Arlen Moller of Northwestern University, and Julie Chen and Miles Riemer-Peltz, both of Gettysburg College at the time, conducted four studies with groups ranging from 28 to 87 participants to see how "north" and "south" affects housing preferences. The study, "Spatial Metaphor and Real Estate: North-South Location Biases Housing Preference," was published in Social Psychological and Personality Science in August 2011.

130705-north-heatscWe’re going to note a fairly seriously flaw in this study (or at least Tanaka’s description of it) right off the bat: the participants aren’t identified in terms of where they live. We know what schools the researchers did the study out of, but this article doesn’t indicate if the participants were from the surrounding regions, randomly chosen throughout the United States, or were a worldwide sample. And that’s actually an important bit of data. How could they possibly assume that all people, everywhere, prefer the north side of a city when we don’t know if anyone from the Southern Hemisphere was represented? Maybe South is the “better side” in Buenos Aires, Melbourne, and Christchurch.  Maybe South is superior if you get too far north as well, as it would get more sun.  Northern exposure isn’t a good thing if you want sunlight.

130705-north-mapmvThis silly study suggests people are so used to thinking of north as “up” on a map, that they conflate the direction with the emotion. We’ve just found that prices keep heading north as long as you’re looking at the RBA.  Although the heat map of Santa Clara County above suggests that high prices are found not in the north, but the northwest and to a lesser degree, the northeast. North Central, though, does not impress..And the map at right shows sales for hot, hot, HOT Mountain View, hottest in the part that is the Exact Opposite Of North.

And… open thread! What direction are you heading to check out Open Houses this weekend? Or, if you’re on vacation and can’t stay away from us, what direction did you head for your getaway?

Comments (5) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 7:22 am

June 18, 2013

Lotsa Listing Lunacy in Los Altos!

Let’s take a look at this lovely lienhold in Los Altos. Today’s featured property brings us lots of great photography.  That is if by great we mean some other word, such as “quaint” or “challenging” or perhaps “well-meant.”  Thanks very much to Burbed reader littleoldlady from RBA.

And since this place is already in contract, Redfin isn’t showing it anymore. Helloooooo, Trulia!

130617-morton-redfin1650 Morton Ave
Los Altos, CA 94024
$1,388,000

4 bed / 3 full bath
2,588 sqft
Single-Family Home
Active Contingent
$6,215 / mo
25 days on Trulia
Built in 1955
Neighborhood: South Los Altos
MLS/Source ID: 81317816

1650 Morton Ave DIAMOND IN THE ROUGH-UPGRADE TO YOUR TASTE! This home was extensively remodeled and expanded in 2000. A guest room wing with two separate entrances was added and much of the original house was rebuilt. The finishes and details need attention, but the bones are 130617-morton-hardwoodgood. If you have the vision to imagine your own finishes and colors in place, you could polish this into the gem of the neighborhood, and what a fine neighborhood it is. The kitchen features maple cabinets and a comfortable breakfast area. Granite slab counters would complete the kitchen makeover (and we have a bid of just under $10,000 to supply and install… these). The bathrooms are dated; in fact, the guest bath is so dated it is 1950’s retro! The 130617-morton-kitchenhouse would benefit from interior paint, new windows, extending the wide plank hardwood floors from the living/dining areas or adding new carpet, and bathroom updating. Located on a spacious corner lot of over 10,000 feet, the parcel includes two majestic redwoods, three mature oaks, and three soap bark trees. The trees are near the property perimeter so you can develop the rest of the parcel as you choose. The landscape details and final design are up to you. Priced to allow the new owner the ability to integrate all the details and finishes you desire and still enjoy a valuable acquisition.

130617-morton-paintNow that is one chatty agent. This one went on for more than three picture’s worth of listing copy! Can you imagine having to get in the car and go on a house tour with that dude?  You’ll be glad you brought your earbuds!  Now let’s hear from LOL RBA.

Now wait… I have noticed a pattern in Los Altos. Every nice house gets listed for $1495, or $1498… Then sell then sells for $1750 – $1800. 130617-morton-tileEvery not so nice house gets listed for $1150 and sells for around $1300. What on earth is this terrifying listing? Rebuilt in 2000? Wha’?? What did they rebuild? And is this a nice house, destined to sell for $1750 (um…no) or a not so nice house that will sell for $1300, thereby getting no overbids? Regardless, the house will be in escrow within 7 days, like everything else in the RBA.

I love your blog. My favorite stop with my morning coffee. Your fan.  Sent from my iPad

You know you’re in the Real Bay Area when even the little old ladies correspond with an iPad. And LOL-RBA was correct about the 7 day escrow, or was it more like 7 minutes?

Comments (4) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:07 am

June 9, 2013

We’re Number 8! We’re Number 8!

130608-trulia-sanjoseYes, another danged list! This time San Jose is #8 on the Least Affordable Housing Market list created by Trulia. Not only that, Oakland and San Francisco are ranked even better!  Let’s have a look, and also at this article that referenced the Trulia list.

Thanks very much to Burbed reader Petsmart Groomer for sending in the second article.

 

Rank US Metro % of monthly avg wage to pay mortgage YOY % change in prices
1 Honolulu, HI 74% 12.8%
2 San Francisco, CA 55% 19.6%
3 Orange County, CA 44% 21.2%
4 Ventura County, CA 41% 15.4%
5 Los Angeles, CA 41% 17.4%
6 (tie) San Diego, CA 37% 16.8%
6 (tie) Oakland, CA 37% 31.2%
7 (tie) Long Island, NY 35% 1.1%
7 (tie) New York, NY-NJ 35% 4.6%
8 San Jose, CA 33% 23.2%

Affordability is measured as a mortgage payment at 3.8%, 30 year fixed, on an 1800 sf home at median price per sf divided by local average monthly wage for a worker.

130608-trulia-oaklandNot only that, Oakland and San Jose metros are the 1-2 punch of year over year housing price increases, greater than every other Top 100 metro that Trulia examined.  San Francisco is also showing frightening gains at 19.6%, right behind Orange County.

But remember, 8s are very, very lucky.  Tell us how you feel about so many California cities on the Least Affordable List?  Are you going to keep renting or are you determined to get out there and overbid?

130608-trulia-pineappleThe Wall Street Cheat Sheet piece conveniently left our old nemesis Manhattan and environs off its list by completely ignoring it. After all, if you can’t increase housing prices by double digits, what the heck are you doing calling yourself unaffordable?

Now, what are we going to do about Honolulu? We’d better get those median housing prices up past a million in at least 15 more cities by next week!

Comments (6) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:04 am

May 23, 2013

This charming home is in the process of being highly updated

Let’s check in with Burbed reader J from Alameda, who seems to be spending a lot of time not in Alameda of late.  Once more J has a house for us in Walnut Creek. Is it Burbed-worthy?  You know the answer!

130522-buena-trulia2215 Buena Vista Ave
Walnut Creek, CA 94597
$599,000

(Overlook)

4 bedrooms
2 full bathrooms
1,416 sqft
Single-Family Home
For Sale / Resale
$2,682 / mo
20 Days on Trulia
476 views
Bungalow Architecture
Heating: Gas
Lot Size: 6,860 sqft
Built in 1930
Neighborhood: Overlook
MLS/Source ID: 81314840
Zip: 94597
1,416 sqft

2215 Buena Vista Ave Built in the 30?s this charming four bedroom home is in the process of being highly updated throughout property inside and out. Buyer can choose colors if upgrade work has not begun. Walk to BART, freeway around the corner and other amenities.

130522-buena-backWell, we thought where it says Overlook up top that was an order. But J sent it in to us anyway. Here’s why, despite it being in the East Bay and everything:

More freeway! At least the agent almost told the truth – Joe says the freeway is around the corner but it’s really across the street. Of the 16 listings photos how many are the same? Finally, no inside pictures? I want to see the freeway view!

130522-buena-streetviewYour wish is granted.  That’s the streetview from the house.  Bunus: trash bins!

We apologize for not using Redfin today (that’s what J sent in) but they occasionally take their system down when we’re writing, so we had to give someone else a turn.  So helloooooooooo Trulia! Also this is another chance to complain about Redfin not linking to our posts anymore.

Oh, and we counted up the photos. We think there are only actually 3 of them.

But you can choose your colors if you hurry!

Comments (4) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:08 am