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






May 26, 2013

UPDATED: A Bay Area School Ranking Mysteriously Heavy on the East Bay

Now how did this happen?  ZipRealty has produced a school ranking report that justifies buyers staying in its own East Bay backyard. A number of news sites ran completely uncritical parroting of this news release.  Let’s take a closer look to find out exactly how this happened, because there’s a reason there’s a Real Bay Area and the East Bay will never be part of it.

See updates below.

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Top Schools and Affordable Homes: East Bay Dominates ZipRealty’s List of Best Places to Live for Families

San Ramon Valley, Sunol Glen and Piedmont schools top the list.

EMERYVILLE, Calif., May 16, 2013 – ZipRealty, Inc. (http://www.ziprealty.com) (NASDAQ: ZIPR), the leading online residential real estate brokerage and technology provider, has released its first annual ranking of the Best Places for Families to Live: Top School Districts with Most Affordable Housing in the Bay Area. The public school rankings were compiled by factoring each school district’s School Score on ZipRealty.com with median price per square foot in that district. To be considered, at least 10 home sales must have closed in that school district over the course of 2012.

"We all know lots of factors – not just price per square foot – go into determining home values," says ZipRealty CEO and President Lanny Baker. "Among the most important of these factors for many families today is the quality of local schools in relation to the price of their local real estate. In our ongoing effort to help home buyers make important decisions, we are thrilled to bring these two sets of data together."

ZipRealty’s proprietary School Score ratings measure the performance of each school district, including elementary, middle and high schools on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest. ZipRealty calculates School Score ratings based on test-score data as well as student/teacher ratios, says Jamie Wilson, Senior Vice President of Technology.

130525-zipr-supermodelNotice that dateline? Emeryville. You think a realty portal located in a region with an inferiority complex is going to play fair with school rankings when up against the Real Bay Area? Ha. You can see how this is shaping up with the name of that list: “Best Places for Families to Live: Top School Districts with Most Affordable Housing in the Bay Area.”

Now if you’ve been reading Burbed for more than a couple of weeks, you already know that “Top School Districts” and “Most Affordable Housing in the Bay Area” are Two of Those Things That Don’t Go Together. It’s kind of like finding America’s Top Supermodels Who Live In Trailer Parks.  Only the supermodels are probably easier to locate because there’s less overbidding.

But it was the Top 10 on this list that made us write in to ZipRealty to ask just how the heck this list came to be.  Have a look:

  1. San Ramon Valley Unified: School Score 9.1/Median Price per SF $304
  2. Sunol Glen Unified: School Score 9.3/Median Price per SF $356
  3. Piedmont Unified: School Score 9.5/Median Price per SF $539
  4. Palo Alto Unified: School Score 9.2/Median Price per SF $885
  5. Castro Valley Unified: School Score 8/Median Price per SF $265
  6. Dublin Unified: School Score 8.4/Median Price per SF $265
  7. Pleasanton Unified: School Score 8.6/Median Price per SF $332
  8. Albany Unified: School Score 8.6/Median Price per SF $419
  9. Benicia Unified: School Score 7.8/Median Price per SF $181
  10. Martinez Unified: School Score 7.8/Median Price per SF $185

Okay, what the heck? Not only is every single school district on this list but one on the East side of the Bay, every single one is also single.  Where the hell are the non-unified school districts?  And look who’s sticking out like a sore thumb on this list. Yes, everyone’s favorite Palo Alto, sailing in at a Most Affordable Housing Price of $885 a square foot (which is too low because they calculated it more than a week ago).

Needless to say, that Most Affordable Housing figure made us write to ZipRealty’s media contact and ask just how this list was ranked.  Their answer is they put all the 9s in one bucket, then ranked the per square foot prices within the rank, then did the same for the 8s, the 7s, etc.  The school score itself was calculated based on “test-score data as well as student/teacher ratios.”  So Palo Alto and its sky-high price per foot represented the “worst” or Least Affordable of the Most Affordable of the 9s category, which had all of four school districts in it.

We were also sent the full list of 70 school districts, and there actually were some non-unified organizations therein. The highest scoring non-unified district was Los Gatos-Saratoga High School District, with an 8.3 (and a Most Affordable Housing Price of $601 a foot, which then pushed it below the Tamalpais and Fremont Union HSDs, which scored lower but were much more Most Affordable, reinforcing what we said above about those supermodels).

130525-zipr-overcrowdedComparing a high school district (grades 9-12) to a unified district (grades K-12) is batshit insane pretty silly, though.  Elementary schools have lower student-teacher ratios because, and stop us if this concept seems a little too technical, but State Law mandates smaller student-teacher ratios for elementary classes.  Therefore a Unified district would score more highly, benefitting both from that smaller student-teacher ratio and the resulting higher school test scores than a district that only has high schools.  You know, because high schools have… larger classes… and more students in the school from more diverse backgrounds than elementary schools.

Talk about a stacked deck: Alameda County has no high school districts at all, only unified districts.  Same with Solano County.  And you know else how they shuffled the cards funny?  Where the HELL is Cupertino Union School District?  You may have heard of them, they’re the one that scores 998 on the danged STAR tests from a couple of their elementary schools. But they’re nowhere to be found on the list.  And that’s rather interesting, because we looked up a house in the district on ZipRealty, just to find out CUSD’s ranking.

It’s 9.4, which means it beats every other district on the list except Piedmont (which got a whopping 9.5, or 10.2 on the list of 70 we were sent, which makes us wonder about their copyediting). Yet for some reason there’s no mention of Cupertino at all. Maybe it’s that Most Affordable Housing Price of $750 a foot – except that’s still less than Palo Alto.

130525-zipr-unfairfightPerhaps they only wanted to include school districts that had high schools? Maybe, but that doesn’t explain the presence of two (yes two out of 70) elementary school districts on the list (Howell Mountain and Pope Valley, both toward the bottom).  How many of the 70 were unified school districts? 53. And 14 high school (only) districts.

Sorry, that’s whacked, comparing unified districts with high school only.  We can run similarly helpful lists, showing East Bay city values jumping by huge margins… and forgetting to mention that they utterly imploded after 2006.  Oh wait, that’s what realtards do every time they tell you that NOW IS ALWAYS THE TIME TO BUY.

We’ve helpfully pulled out all the high school districts from the ZipRealty list, to get a better idea of how they rank against each other, since we don’t see the value in comparing apples with horse apples.  The two numbers after each high school district are the price per square foot, and the ZipRealty School Score. 

Updated 4:30 PM: The number in parenthesis in front is the rank amid all those unified districts. And we’ve separated them into their respective school score buckets, which is how the entire list was ranked (first digit of score, followed by ranking price per foot from least to most).

(11) TAMALPAIS UNION HIGH SCHOOL DISTRICT  $486  8.1
(12) FREMONT UNION HIGH SCHOOL DISTRICT  $545  8
(13) LOS GATOS-SARATOGA JOINT UHSD  $601  8.3

(17) WEST SONOMA COUNTY UNION HSD  $255  7
(19) ACALANES UNION HIGH SCHOOL DISTRICT  $307  7.6
(24) SAN MATEO UNION HIGH SCHOOL DISTRICT  $474  7
(25) MOUNTAIN VIEW-LOS ALTOS UNION HSD  $626  7.6

(27) LIBERTY UNION HIGH SCHOOL DISTRICT  $124  6
(32) SAN RAFAEL CITY HIGH SCHOOL DISTRICT  $338  6.4
(36) CAMPBELL UNION HIGH SCHOOL DISTRICT  $408  6
(38) SEQUOIA UNION HIGH SCHOOL DISTRICT  $515.5  6.8

(45) SAN BENITO HIGH SCHOOL DISTRICT  $153  5.5
(52) EAST SIDE UNION HIGH SCHOOL DISTRICT  $272  5.7
(54) JEFFERSON UNION HIGH SCHOOL DISTRICT  $344  5.8

Jefferson was 54th out of 70 districts, which means it still managed to beat out 14 unifieds despite the structural handicap of not having any K-8 students.

Update 4:30: Just for giggles, let’s take a look at the bottom 10 schools on their list. East Bay in yellow, and the two WTF elementaries in green (both in Napa County).

61. HAYWARD UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT  $192  4.2
62. HOWELL MOUNTAIN ELEMENTARY SD  $201  4.7
63. OAKLAND UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT  $210  4.9
64. SAN LORENZO UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT  $211  4.8
65. SAN LEANDRO UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT  $218  4.6

66. PAJARO VALLEY UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT  $247 4
67. SONOMA VALLEY UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT  $269.5 4.4
68. CALISTOGA JOINT UNIFIED SD  $405  4.7
69. POPE VALLEY UNION ELEMENTARY SD  $55  3.8
70. EMERY UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT  $270  3.6

No RBA here!

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We rank this press release 4 Pinocchios and 5 Lereahs

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And seriously, shame on Yahoo Finance and HuffPo Parents for not doing the slightest bit of due diligence on it. Do we have to do everything?

Update 4:30 PM: We’ve asked ZipRealty to explain their mooshing together unified and high school districts, as well as the two elementaries in their list. We will run any response of theirs in full.

Comments (15) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:03 am

September 12, 2012

Street has only a few (somewhat enormous) houses in East Foothills

Today’s fistful of awesome in Alum Rock is brought to you by Burbed reader Tracy Tea House. Thanks very much for this foothill find!

15865 East Alta Vista Way
San Jose – East Valley, CA 95127
$499,000

120911-altavista-ziprealty3 bedroom, 1 bathroom, 1 partial bath, 1,570 square feet, Single Family
Lot Size: 15,794 Sq. Ft.
Year Built: 1950
Days on ZipRealty: 34
Listed: 08/09/12
Price/sq ft: $318
Estimated Monthly Payment: $1,737
Neighborhood: East Foothills
School District: Alum Rock Union Elementary School District, East Side Union High School District
Source: MLSListings Inc.
MLS #: 81229860
Views: 61
120911-altavista-drivewayPopularity: 8
Walk Score®: 9

Large yard w/deck & view of downtown SJ & Silicon Valley — marvelous! Newly improved driveway. Home is in move-in condition. Bonus room could be 3rd bedroom. Shows well. Level site on lot. Quiet residential hillside neighborhood is minutes away from shopping & parks. Not a through street — EAST Alta Vista Way has only a few (somewhat enormous) houses on it. Enjoy the view!

And here’s why Tracy chose this house out of thousands just for you!

Near a few enormous houses.  Truly poor photography. Value fail, great list copy.

120911-altavista-fence120911-altavista-back

120911-altavista-fireplace120911-altavista-lightlevels

What are you talking about?  This is great photography!  Do you have any idea how hard a photographer has to work to compose images like these?  Anyone can take pictures of a house, but this?  This transcends the artform by questioning its purpose.

120911-altavista-price-historyFor example, is the front of that fireplace actually carpeted?  Or is it a ginormous piece of hard candy?  Only a truly gifted photographer could make you wonder like that.

And instant equity galore!  Just check out the price history!  In no time flat the market’s going to heat up to eleven and every property price in this county will double in eleven minutes.  Yes, you read it here first.  The Real Bay Area is back, it’s booming, and it’s bettuh than evuh!

Comments (9) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:05 am

May 7, 2012

Proof that the Mountain View market is hot, hot, HOT!

There are a number of ways to measure whether a market is favoring buyers or sellers.  Right now, it’s Spring selling season, and the buyers are definitely out there.  It’s a challenging time to buy, because there’s much less for sale.  So is it really a sellers’ market, or are the sellers waiting until prices go up even more?

Today’s find from Burbed reader Petsmart Groomer shows that even an unloved listing will find a suitor in this market.  This home went pending last week after a price reduction, and the agent promptly pulled the photos down.  But that didn’t stop us from checking every real estate site until we found them for you.  Today’s I-can’t-believe-it’s-not-violating-their-MLS-contract site is ZipRealty!

179 HAMWOOD TER
MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA 94043
Listed for $849,999, reduced from $869,000

120506-hamwood-ziprealty

3 bedroom, 3.5 bathroom, 0.0 partial bath, 1,612 square feet, Single Family

Lot Size: 1,742
Year Built: 2007
Neighborhood: North Whisman
School District: Mountain View Whisman Elementary School District, Mountain View-Los Altos Union School District
FIPS: 06085
APN: 160-81-013
Source: Public Records
Walk Score®: 43

This is a Single Family home located at 179 HAMWOOD TER, MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA. 179 HAMWOOD TER has 3 bedrooms, 3.5 full bathrooms, 0.0 partial bathrooms, and approximately 1612 square feet. The property has a lot size of 1742 square feet and was built in 2007.

120506-hamwood-deckWe found the photos, but there’s no listing copy, just boilerplate assembled by a computer.  Although several living, breathing Real Estate Professionals could have come up with “has 3.5 full bathrooms, 0.0 partial bathrooms.”

The reason PG sent in this home (other than this excellent photo of the spacious deck) is that the house previously sold near the peak of the bubble market.  2008 was post-peak for most areas except the Special parts.  We’d have to look at the other first-time sales in this development to determine if this was as rich as it got.

120506-hamwood-kitchenSold on June 18, 2008 for $820k and it is now on the market for $869k. Anybody thinks it has gone up $49k since 4 years ago? Or is it just in hope of breaking even after commission?

You mean It was on the market for $869K!  At the reduced price the FBs won’t break even, unless they had a pet agent who would sell the house for free.

Even the homes that weren’t selling are now selling.  And this one is full of location win.

120506-hamwood-satellite

Close to freeway, tasty street name, conveniently located steps from historic Superfund sites, what more could anyone ask for?

Comments (8) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:09 am

February 6, 2012

Need more land? It’s under the newspaper

Nothing is better than this street number for your next residence!  Thanks very much to Burbed reader sonarrat for this find in beautiful Hayward.

0 Chronicle
Hayward, CA 94542
$80,000

120205-redfin-0-chronicle

BEDS: –
BATHS: –
SQ. FT.: –
LOT SIZE: 5,800 Sq. Ft.
TYPE: Lots & Land
COMMUNITY: Hayward Hills
COUNTY: Alameda
MLS#: 40534298
SOURCE: EBRD
STATUS: Active
ON REDFIN: 204 days

Located high in the Hayward Hills. Non Tract area to build your home. Need more land? Home next door which is part of the Trust may be purchased for addtional money to live in while you build your home.

No photo, no map, no bedrooms, no bathrooms, not even a house number.  Sheesh.  For some reason ZipRealty was able to locate the street when Redfin failed.

 

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Here’s where this mysterious Chronicle is, right around the corner from Tribune and Call! 

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What’s the name of this Non Tract area, Dead Tree Terrace? Fishwrap Farms? 20th Century Media Meadows?  And where’s the “addtional money to live in”?

Comments (4) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:09 am

January 26, 2012

A Beach House for Fantasy Fans

Recently we ran a rather unusual house that would make a great West Coast toehold for the White Castle burger chain.  Yes, it was an actual fracking CASTLE in the back of an otherwise normal home in Los Altos. Burbed reader Tracy is crazy for castles, and has been deploying the trebuchet to hurl several into the inbox.  Here’s another one if you can’t wait until April for Season 2 of HBO’s Game of Thrones.

Unfortunately, this castle, like so many homes built on fantasies and empty treasure chests, was taken off-market.  So we’ll do our best to get the information to you, no matter how many real estate sites we have to scour to find it!

81 PUFFIN LN,
Watsonville, CA 95076
$1,795,000, delisted on 12/12/2011
Originally listed for $1,895,000

image

Beds: 6
Baths: 4
Sqft: 2,864
Lot: 9,146 sq ft / 0.21 acres
Type: Single Family
Year built: 1971
Last sold: September 22 1999 for $353,500

Beautiful ocean views, convenient beach access, private parking front and rear, quality remodel, 6 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms, custom home in Pajaro Dunes – Turnkey! Remodeled kitchen, bathrooms, flooring, roof, siding, windows, appliances. Pajaro Dunes is perhaps Northern California’s best kept secret! To live here or just to visit is an experience to be treasured. Come see for yourself!

imageWe’ve provided all 9 photos, because most of the other sites took them down when the listing got yanked.  Thank heavens for ZipRealty!  And we used Zillow to fill in all those missing pieces, like whether the castle actually had any rooms and was built after the Year 0.  Redfin provided the neighborhood plot layout at the bottom of this post.  Finally, this expired agent page provided the listing copy above.

The very first thing you’ll notice looking at the front of the house is that there isn’t any garage.  And that’s a good thing!  If you’re imagethe kind of person who wants to live in a castle, you don’t want any newfangled technology such as horseless carriages and wireless music using airwaves.  A six bedroom house means you can keep your own horn section to play flourishes when you enter each room.  And really, nobody should be waving except your courtiers.

So the plastic furniture really has to go.  Just set up some trestle tables and benches and you’ll be ready to serve up the wild boars.

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I tell you, it’s being able to build a castle out of a 1971 tract house that makes this country great, even if said castle would be more appropriate on its lonesome on ten acres in Inverness, rather than on a 9000 square foot lot right next to traditional beach homes.

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America, F*** YEAH!  Although the tennis courts ought to be replaced with a jousting pavilion, and the flag with one from, say, 971.

Comments (6) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:05 am