October 17, 2011

Professionally Staged, but Amateur Scripting

Here’s a Mountain View find flip from Burbed reader Michael Boltonestater, new to the market!  Thanks very much, Michael.


155 HAMILTON Ave, Mountain View, CA 94043


SQ. FT.: 1,280
$/SQ. FT.: $702
LOT SIZE: 5,000 Sq. Ft.
PROPERTY TYPE: Detached Single Family
STYLE: Modern/High Tech, Contemporary
VIEW: Neighborhood
COUNTY: Santa Clara
MLS#: 81143278
STATUS: Active
ON REDFIN: 1 day

Heavily sought out “Eichler” home! Professionally Staged! This home has been completely remodeled; new & refinished kitchen cabinets & hardwood floors, gleaming granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, new fixtures throughout home, both baths redone extensive stone work w/ new sinks, tiled shower walls, vanity’s, nickel brush hardware and shower doors! Newly landscaped thougout!

imageMichael notes a comparable home on a bigger lot has a Zestimate in the high $700s and says, “Good luck to them!”  Clearly Michael doesn’t understand that just like in the arts, real estate is also all about appearances, promotion, and expectation.  All is vanity’s!  If this home lists for a higher price than the neighborhood would support, it’s because imagethe seller is telling us It’s Special Here thougout!  Sure, the front of the house looks rather unwelcoming, but that’s a feature.  Marauding bands of Occupy Mountain View toughs won’t think this place is part of the 1%!

Meanwhile, to see how Special this place really is,check out the virtual tour!  This kind of attention to detail thougout is what makes a property worth paying a hundred thousand over comps.  For example. the solid door leads to gardage.  Bet you didn’t know this house was equipped with Beefeaters!


And the new ceiling fan (spinning), just like this Realtard is.


And here’s the flip hat-trick of stainless, granite and hardwood.  We also have some awkward usage here (back-splash?) as well as the first of three (count ‘em, three) uses of the Realtard ejaculation “light and bright,” although never before have I seen it used as a quantity.


imageTake the tour, plenty of fun things to find!  And it was professionally staged, so enjoy the $164,000 markup performance.  See you at intermission!

And if you think this is too much staging, there’s always the original source material to fall back upon (thanks to dollarbin for that find).  For example, this charming photo is, I kid you not, the “program cover” of the old listing.  But there isn’t a single spelling error in the listing copy thougout.


Comments (26) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:09 am

May 31, 2011

Shenanigans with Short Sale in Old Palo Alto

Here’s a find from comments, from Burbed reader San Matean,  San Matean wants to know what kind of games the bank is playing with this short sale in Palo Alto.  We know that a short sale means “selling shortly,” but going pending the same day it’s listed sounds more like an inside job.

1520 Middlefield Rd, Palo Alto, CA  94301


SQ. FT.: 1,500
$/SQ. FT.: $553
LOT SIZE: 5,600 Sq. Ft.
PROPERTY TYPE: Detached Single Family
STYLE: Spanish
VIEW: Neighborhood
COMMUNITY: Professorville
COUNTY: Santa Clara
MLS#: 81123457
STATUS: Pending With Release
ON REDFIN: 1 day

Location! Location! Location! The following was remodeled in 1997 Kitchen; Master Bathroom; 2nd Bath; Hardwood Floors underneath carpeting. Newly Landscaped rear yard. Large Kitchen great for gathering. Enclosed front with beautiful park like setting.

Wow, they were in such a hurry to “list” this property they didn’t even bother including any photos.  It isn’t any different on the agent’s own site, so let’s take a peek at the Googlecam.


Not bad, although this is an 80 year old house.  It may need new light bulbs and Drano.


It also looks like some other building has preempted the back yard.  The property lines suggest that this house and its next-door-neighbor have gone halvesies on their own meth lab:



Back to San Matean’s concern: this property was listed and went pending the same day.  That’s not the real puzzler, though. This house is in 94301, a Really Special Place, yet not only didn’t it double in ten years, it actually may have lost value.  Unless, of course, the bank decided that the overbidding would take this house right where it needed to be.

imageAnd the reason this house is now essentially owned by the bank, instead of the couple who bought it with a $706.5K conventional variable mortgage, is they refinanced it in 2005 for $962.5K (also variable). They must have liked the extra cash so much that they did it again a year later.  In 2006, the purported owners became FBs when they refinanced with a variable first mortgage of $990K, and a variable second mortgage of $198K, or $1,188,000 total.  That is, coincidentally, just $17,500 more than this place’s current Zestimate.

So, our question for you, Burbed readers: How much do you think this house sold for? We have so many fun factors in the mix: Busy street, around the corner from an even busier street (Embarcadero), bank owned property, mystery structure eating up a couple back yards, asking price a whopping 30% below the Zestimate, and a transaction that not only doesn’t look arms’ length, it suggests someone has a banker by the balls.

Comments (52) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 1:36 am

March 21, 2011

Zrent vs. Zbuy

Zillow, the website that brought you the Zestimate, now has a brand-new feature to make fun of.  We’ve all chuckled over how surprisingly off the Zestimate of a home’s value could be.  Well, in the words of Mr. Family Guy, “You think that’s bad?”

Zillow has just introduced the Rent Zestimate.  Yes, now we can compute the Zrent Zratio, using two estimates that may or may not have anything to do with reality!  Let’s try it with a few houses previously featured on Burbed!


Here’s Friday’s house, the Tangrams Set with the High-Tech name.  Once more, the Zestimate has no relation to real life, because if it did this place wouldn’t be sitting unclaimed for 113 days at $200K less than Zillow’s amazing valuation model’s prediction.  To compute the Zrent Zratio, divide the Zestimate by the annual Rent Zestimate.  For this house, $762,000 divided by ($3081 * 12) is 20.6, a number that says rent, don’t buy this house.  (A number above 15 says rent, a number below 15 says buy.)

Although I think the answer is really don’t rent or buy this house, so let’s try again with something a little more desirable.  So let’s stop and smell the roses.


Well, here’s a Zestimate a little more down to earth, as this Beautiful Specious Home is listed for $239,000.  The Zrent Zratio is $217,500 / (1345 * 12) or 13.5.  Buy!  Buy!  BUY!

And here’s our most recent run-in with MAWBUL CAWLUMS, it’s the Shrek House.


Ready?  Oh oh, this place has a Zestimate about 30% of the asking price.  I didn’t say 30% lower, I said it’s 30% of the asking price.  I’m sure the FBs will be happy to set Zillow straight on this.  And the Zrent Zratio is… $1,427,000 / (5587 * 12) = 21.3.  Rent.  Definitely rent.

Okay, now for grins, we’re going to compute the rent ratio using the wishing prices of all three homes, and Zillow’s Rent Zestimate.

  • Poinsettia: $575,000 / (2979 * 12) = 16.1 (weak rent, buy it if you love it)
  • Gibraltar: $217,500 / (1345 * 12) = 14.8 (buy or rent, it’s a wash)
  • Butch: $4,999,000 / (5587 * 12) = 74.6 (rent rent rent rent rent rent are you kidding me?)

So, what do you think of Zillow’s new made up numbers?  Do any of these rents have anything to do with reality?  And if you divide one invented number by another, does the nonsense cancel itself out?

Comments (80) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:11 am

July 6, 2009

A good example of how Zillow is unreliable

290 CHIQUITA Ave, Mountain View, CA 94041 | MLS# 80929905
290 CHIQUITA Ave Mountain View, CA 94041
Price: $1,190,000

Beds: 3
Baths: 3
Sq. Ft.: 1,565
$/Sq. Ft.: $760
Lot Size: 4,414 Sq. Ft.
Property Type: Detached Single Family
Stories: 2
Year Built: 2009
Community: Downtown
County: Santa Clara
MLS#: 80929905
Source: MLSListings
Status: Active
On Redfin: 3 days
Brand New Home. Spacious floor plan, open and bright. Elegant Hardwood Entry Door w/ sidelights. Chef’s Kitchen w/ Stainless steel appliances, lots of hand stained cherry cabinets w/ Granite slab countertops. Gorgeous imported Tigerwood floors, Importd Tile and Marble in kitchen ad Baths. Spiral Staircase. Double hung, dual pane windows AND lots more. A MUST SEE TO APPRECIATE. .. Open Sat/Sun 12-5

Thanks to Burbed reader K.M. for sending this in.

Unfortunately, I think K.M. got things mixed up when she wrote this:

Outrageous, asking price on this house is double the Zillow, surrounded by a parking lot in a sketchy neighborhood.

Now while it’s true that Zillow only provides a ZEstimate of $585,000, I think this is more of an indicator of how Zillow can be unreliable.

You see, Zillow still doesn’t have a strong model for the Real Bay Area. They need to improve their algos to account for “special”. It’s hard, but I bet they could do it if they just knew about this deficiency.

Anyone here know any Zillow employees that they can talk to about this?

Comments (183) -- Posted by: burbed @ 5:54 am

February 2, 2009

Free money in Oakland! Just buy this house and you win!

2615 Wallace St, Oakland, CA 94606 | MLS# 2935161
2615 Wallace St Oakland, CA 94606
Price: $37,500
Beds: 4
Baths: 2
Sq. Ft.: 1,520
$/Sq. Ft.: $25
Lot Size: 3,454 Sq. Ft.
Property Type: Multi-Family
Year Built: 1912
# of Rooms: 9
County: Alameda
Listing #: 2935161
Source: Bank-Listed Foreclosures
Status: Bank Owned
On Redfin: 82 days

Burbed doesn’t usually venture to Oakland, but Burbed reader Jeff thought this $37,500 house was important to share. Here’s what he had to say:

I know Oakland is somewhat offtopic for Burbed, however, this neighborhood is about as interesting as it gets.

First the house itself (theHouse.jpg) with the Christmas lights and three satellite dishes, its boarded up castle next door (neighbor.jpg), and finally an apartment that screams “Timber!!!” (furtherOver.jpg)

Let’s take a look shall we?





But guess what? If you buy this, you’re looking at $383,000 in instant equity! Here’s what Zillow has to say:

ZESTIMATE®: $420,500   What’s this?
* Value Range: $302,760 – $449,935
* 30-day change: -$17,500
* Zestimate updated: 01/23/2009

Last sale and tax info

Sold 08/11/2008:
$338,960 *

That’s right! It has a Zestimate of $420,500. Can you say free money?

Comments (223) -- Posted by: burbed @ 5:54 am

January 9, 2009

San Jose 3br/2ba for rent $2,095 – how much would it be to buy?

Let’s look at a rental listing on the MLS, and then look at the ZEstimate.

5573 Dent Ave, San Jose 95118 (San Jose)
$2,095 Beds: 3 bed(s) Baths: 2 bath(s) MLS: 80848842


Property Overview
5573 Dent Ave
San Jose (San Jose) 95118
Detached Single Family (Class 10)
Bed/Bath: 3 / 2
SqFt: 1,189
Lot Size: 6,098 sq ft
Date Available: 01/01/2009
Rental Price: $2,095
Upgraded! Kitchen w/ tile floor, maple cabinets, Granite Counter top, Pergo Floor throughout whole house. Great Neighborhood- Walk to Library, School, & Shopping

Ok. $2095 a month for a 3/2 in San Jose.

What do you think the ZEstimate is?

Did you guess that it was: $542,000

Here’s some other juicy information:

ZESTIMATE®: $542,000
* Value Range: $482,380 – $574,520
* 30-day change: -$19,000
* Zestimate updated: 12/19/2008

Last sale and tax info
Sold 03/15/2000:
2008 Property Tax:

Those of you with fancy calculators – how rich is this landlord becoming? Would you buy it today if it were offerred?

Comments (22) -- Posted by: burbed @ 5:05 am

January 5, 2009

San Mateo 2br/1ba for rent $2000 – how much would it be to buy?

Let’s look at a rental listing on the MLS, and then look at the ZEstimate.

3924 Casanova DR, San Mateo 94403 (San Mateo)
$2,000 Beds: 2 bed(s) Baths: 1 bath(s) MLS: 80848296


Property Overview
3924 Casanova DR
San Mateo (San Mateo) 94403
Detached Single Family (Class 10)
Bed/Bath: 2 / 1
SqFt: 950
Lot Size: 950 sq ft
Date Available: 12/05/2008
Rental Price: $2,000
Immaculate & charming home in S.M. Village. New interior paint, neutral carpets and window coverings. New paver driveway and patio. Beautiful large and private backyard. Gardener, washer and dryer included. Close to park, Whole Foods and highway 92. House is very light and airy – fireplace in living room. NO PETS!! NON SMOKERS PLEASE!!

Ok. $2000 a month for a 2/1.

What do you think the ZEstimate is?

Did you guess that it was: $537,000

Here’s some other juicy information:

ZESTIMATE®: $537,000

* Value Range: $451,080 – $569,220
* 30-day change: -$10,500
* Zestimate updated: 12/19/2008

Last sale and tax info

Sold 06/10/2005:
2008 Property Tax:

Those of you with fancy calculators – how rich is this landlord becoming? Would you buy it today if it were offerred?

Comments (82) -- Posted by: burbed @ 5:20 am

April 25, 2008

Very very clever auction in Redwood City

500 Hurlingame Ave Redwood City, CA 94063

Starting Bid: $179,000
Previously Valued To:* $480,000

Item #: 752
Address: 500 Hurlingame Ave Redwood City, CA 94063
Property Type: Single Family
Year Built: 1958
Square Footage: 1020
No. of Bedrooms: 3
No. of Bathrooms: 1
Total Rooms: 6
Lot Size: 0.05
Occupancy Status : Vacant
Financing Available : Yes

Hey wait a minute… this sounds familiar! Now I remember!

Very very clever!

You see, buy using a ludicrous starting bid like $179,000 approximately 1 million people will show up to with cash and Google stock in hand to buy this house.

Having just been sold on 9/4/2007 for $464,120, and a Zestimate of $535,500, I predict this house will easily clear for $535,500.

What do you think this Hurlingame house will clear for?

(Thanks to Burbed reader Michelle for this find.)

Comments (23) -- Posted by: burbed @ 5:36 am

August 8, 2006

BURNING HOT! City Heat Maps: Silicon Valley

Zillow.com – City Heat Maps: Silicon Valley
Explore the range of home values in areas of the city by looking at the Zestimate™ per square foot value key below. Neutral colors indicate that there are no homes or that we do not have Zestimates for homes in those neighborhoods.

Click the picture to see the full version. OH MY GOD IT’S BURNING HOT!

(Note that green/yellow splotch around Stanford is a Stanford-subsidized/controlled anomaly. From what I understand, you have to be Stanford-connected to buy there.)

BTW, to those who say “Well, the Bay Area’s not that expensive other than housing” (which doesn’t make any sense … as if housing doesn’t impact labor costs or explain why Safeway cookies are almost 15% more expensive here than in other states)… here’s a map of “expensive” New York:


Click here to post a comment -- Posted by: burbed @ 5:29 am

May 11, 2006

$697,000 for a meth "super lab" in East Palo Alto

So I saw this article the other day:

EAST PALO ALTO / Hospital setup found during meth lab bust / Medical tools may have been intended for injured criminals
An East Palo Alto home where police found a “super” drug lab last week also housed an elaborate hospital-like operation — stocked with thousands of dollars in medical equipment, surgical tools and supplies — that authorities believe was to be used to treat injured criminals.

The top floor of the Runnymede Street home was filled with “boxes upon boxes upon boxes” of medical supplies and contained a room equipped with a hospital bed, fresh linens, scalpels, IV stands and surgical tools, according to Lt. Tom Alipio of the East Palo Alto police department.

“It was set up just like a hospital room,” said Alipio, who said a second room was in the process of being set up. “We found a kit that a surgeon would use to reassemble a joint — like a hip or a shoulder.”

So I found myself wondering… “Gosh! How much does a meth super lab/hospital cost these days?” Fortunately, with some simple sleuthing, I was able to find the address and this ZEstimate:

Zillow.com – xxx Runnymede St, East Palo Alto, CA 94303

Residence: Single family
Bedrooms: 2
Baths: 1.0
Total rooms: 5.0
# Stories:
Sq ft: 760
Lot size: 18,768 sq ft / 0.43 acres
Year built: 1935

Hey! Wow… 760 sqft sounds small. Fortunately, the article provides more details…

Alipio, who said the items appeared to have been stockpiled to treat gunshot or chemical wounds, said everything appeared brand-new, but he couldn’t be sure if the room had been used to treat any patients.

Alipio said he was stunned by the sheer volume of the items, which he said would fill a semi-trailer truck.

“This goes above and beyond the taking of a garbage bag or a bottle of soap,” said Alipio.

Investigators said wounded criminals could use such a place to avoid going to regular hospitals, which are required to report suspected criminals to authorities.

The room and supplies were discovered in the upstairs front unit of a house that had been divided into three units and also contained a drug lab that had been fortified with concrete cinder blocks, steel doors and metal bars. The entire property had been wired with an elaborate security camera system that police said was not being monitored at the time of the raid.

A single mother of five young children had been living in the back of the home at the time of the raid but was not connected to the drug operation, police said.

Hey! That sounds like a lot of livable space! And its prewired for security! Keep your eye out for this jewel when it shows up in court. Could be a good buy!

Click here to post a comment -- Posted by: burbed @ 5:00 am