Good News About Real Estate in the Mercury? Well Sort Of

September 2, 2008

Long-time readers know that I do my newspaper reading online via the New York Times. In a throwback to a quieter time, I do subscribe to the San Jose Mercury News on Sundays as we like to peruse the articles and share witty banter about the headlines over morning coffee. In an interesting twist, I also receive the paper on other random days of the week . . . but I digress.

When I picked up the paper on Labor Day (Second Sunday?), the headline “Home Sales Raising Hopes” bravely attempted to be seen over the front and center HURRICANE HITS GOP main headline. What’s this I thought, positive news about the housing market from the Merc? Really?

I have grown weary and wary of the Merc and its drumbeat of foreclosure of the week, gloom and doom, and reinforcing that real estate is local, and my market in Palo Alto varies just a bit from south San Jose. If you don’t believe me, visit Altos Research and compare the chart for median home price over the last couple of years in these two cities. The results may surprise you . . .

The Merc got my hopes up with an intro and a couple of quotes from brokers saying they were expecting an upturn in sales in the Fall after activity was so low in the summer, and there is usually an upturn in the fall. There is some back and forth, and the article pretty much shot down the “fall uptick” conventional wisdom. Again, Altos to the rescue showing inventory and sales actually DO pick up in Palo Alto fairly consistently every fall before slowing down over the holidays.

To see the article on its entirety, click here to visit the Mercury online. For charts and stats galore, visit the Market Reports page on my website, now in Single Family and Condo!

Thanks for reading . . .

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Introducing…Chris Iverson

March 16, 2007

Chris Iverson, Realtor with Keller Williams/Ventoux Group3 Oceans is pleased to welcome aboard Chris Iverson, a Realtor with Keller Williams, who operates under the enticing name of Ventoux Real Estate. Chris and I have been friends for several years and, similar to myself and some other contributors, is also a corporate refugee. Glad to have him on board, and welcome!

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Today’s Menlo Park Real Estate Tour: The Travails of a Gluten-Intolerant Realtor

March 13, 2007

Alas, the Americans with Disabilities Act does not consider gluten-intolerance a protected condition, and thus I went hungry during today’s Menlo Park real estate tour, in which many homes offered tempting delicacies to lure us in.
Real estate inventory in Menlo Park California is tightReal estate inventory in Menlo Park California is tight but improvingThough the dearth of housing inventory remains an issue (see the 90-day rolling average chart to the left), the numbers have been increasing lately (per the 7-day rolling average chart on the right), and this was reflected in today’s tour which featured a surprising number of properties in the Willows.

1033 Ringwood, Menlo Park, CA -- home for sale1033 Ringwood, Menlo Park, CA -- home for saleBut before stopping by the Willows I went to the Flood Park neighborhood sandwiched between Bay Rd and Highway 101 to see Corey Sijbrant’s listing at 1033 Ringwood, Menlo Park. Weighing in at $1,049,000, with 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, and 1600 square feet, it’s been nicely done up and the master bedroom boasts a loft area, a touch I’ve always liked.

Moving on to the Willows, I started at 927 Arnold, a Tasha Standridge (Keller Williams)Property for sale at 927 Arnold Way, Menlo Park CA listing. This home is a classic “Timing is everything story.” On the market during last year’s doldrums, it just didn’t sell. Tasha wisely took it off the market, made some improvements, and now it shows even better than before and will doubtless sell within the week. With two stories, 4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, and about 1750 sq ft, this home is listed for only $990,000. A home that large in the Willows for under a million dollars? What gives? Simple — it’s unfortunately only a stone’s throw from Willow Rd and from highway 101. The sound barrier wall deflects a lot of the noise, but there’s still enough noise to make the property’s yard a poor choice for a yoga meditation session. Check it out this weekend during the Saturday and Sunday open house.
212 Chester in the Willows neighborhood of Menlo Park CA212 Chester in the Willows neighborhood of Menlo Park CANext was this week’s winner of the “great spread” award: 212 Chester St from mother-and-daughter team Gloria and Caitlin Darke (Alain Pinel). I had to content myself with the healthy stuff there — celery sticks and carrots — and pass on the undoubtedly delicious, but tragically gluten-ridden, breaded chicken. Oh yes, the home itself…Priced at a whisker under $1.3M, the home has been significantly redone, boasts a large lot over 7300 sq ft, and has nearly 2000 sq ft of living space. See it for yourself during this weekend’s open house on both Saturday and Sunday.

3 Cleland Place, Menlo Park -- another Willows listings for sale, this one by Coldwell Banker agent Karen Izzo3 Cleland Place, Menlo Park -- another Willows listings for sale, this one by Coldwell Banker agent Karen IzzoNext up was Karen Izzo’s (Coldwell Banker) listing at 3 Cleland Place. Also open this Saturday and Sunday, this $1,200,000 “Charming Willows Bungalow” has a surprisingly large back yard — complete with a nostalgia-inducing tree swing — and 1410 square feet of living space, including 3 bedrooms and 1.5 bathrooms. Her Realtor treats included some much-needed coffee and some undoubtedly also delicious, but sadly be-glutenized muffins. I had to pass.

336 Concord Drive in the Willows, a Menlo Park neighborhood. This home is offered for sale by none other than Miles McCormick of Keller WilliamsFrom there the next on my list was local Keller Williams superstar Miles McCormick’s listing at 336 Concord Drive. Miles was in the business and web-savvy early enough that he snagged the domain name “”. At $786/sq ft, this 1520 square foot property will set you back just under $1.2M, and you’ll get not only a spectacular Willows location — with proximity to downtown Palo Alto — but also a very nicely done up 3 bedroom, 2 bath home. Again, delicious treats. Again, not for the gluten-intolerant Realtor. Oh yes, this home is also open on both Saturday and Sunday.

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Lingering Appeal

March 12, 2007

Friday tour in Palo Alto wasn’t necessarily a big tour numbers wise (seems sellers aren’t moving or they’re still waiting to put their houses on the market) but it was a tour in which I felt like I wanted to linger.

293-bryant-street-pic-2.jpgFirst I wanted to linger at 293 Bryant Street ($839,000), a sophisticated 2Bedrm/2.5Bth Townhouse I knew was perfect for my traveling client. Freshly painted with an open floor plan – perfect for both everyday living and entertaining – this unit has an updated gourmet kitchen, fireplace and patio lined with mature trees and a beautiful camellia. It definitely felt like the Townhouse for “jet set lifestyle.” Check it out now, cuz it will be gone by Wednesday!

hopkins.jpgThen my touring companion and I moved on to 1319 Hopkins Avenue ($1,695,000) ($1,195,000 — ed; apologies to Ken DeLeon, the listing agent), a property situated down a long driveway and set next to a charming two story unit with two one bedrooms. I remember when this property went on tour last fall. It felt like an artist’s enclave to me. “Who,” I thought, “wouldn’t want to live here.” The home, over 1300 sf, has 2 bedrooms and 2 full updated bathrooms. The dining area overlooks the courtyard as does the gourmet kitchen with two windows that open out onto a bar perfect for spring, summer and fall yard parties. With hardwood floors throughout, the elegant living room has a fireplace for cozy gatherings. This house feels like a place where creative types and intellectuals might gather for wine tastings and dinners with delectable delights. Sadly we had to press on.

webster-2.jpgBut gladly we arrived at a stunning Villa situated on 2061 Webster Street ($4,295,000). Pack my bags, I’m movin in. The colors… the flow of the floor plan. Oh my God! Standing in the entry way I slowing turned 360 degrees, imaging how the architect had imagined lines folding into lines.webster.jpg From the attention to detail from the curve of the staircase to the view from the tub in the master bedroom to the au pairs bedroom window in the basement, which looked out onto a square courtyard. No need to travel if you lived in this house.

santa-rita-2.jpgOnward! We arrived at 514 Santa Rita Avenue ($2,295,000) – a meticulously maintained English Tudor home where care has been taken to preserve its original character. Memories… this house is all about creating memories and one’s own fairytales. I could barely make myself leave the upstairs with its three charming bedrooms and 2 baths. The front bedroom’s windows were opened out onto the front lawn and as I stood there, I imaged myself as the teenager of the house being courted by some handsome Romeo… And the bathroom with its tub – long enough for someone of my 5’11 stature to luxuriate in while looking up and out through the window framed by a tree and the rooftop next door, which at night might be covered with starlight.

barron.jpgAlthough not our final visit, the tour ended for me at 776 Barron Avenue ($1,495,000). Make an offer quick. Gone by Wednesday as well I’m sure. This 4 bedroom 2 bath home has wonderful interior and exterior lines for instant curb appeal. While there, I couldn’t decide if I wanted to stand in the remodeled gourmet kitchen, which opened into the family room and looked out through French doors to the pool and yard. Or should I stand in the master bedroom, which felt like I was away on vacation in France somewhere. Double French doors open out onto a secluded courtyard and I imagined myself sipping my Sunday morning coffee of Graffeo and ambling through the New York Times in a comfy bathrobe and slippers.

Since Friday’s tour I’ve pondered: what makes one want to linger – to remain or stay (as it is stated in the dictionary) on in a place, as if from reluctance to leave? I think it’s in part because homes have their own souls and essence. After all, they were made by people for people and it’s wonderful to walk into a home where I can feel the thought that has gone into creating good and peaceful energy. And to see the care that has been taken with the angles, color and design. You know when someone has loved their home; taken great care while they have dwelled there. And you can feel when an owner has made every effort to present their home in a way that will attract the next person who wants to take up residence. So here’s the thing with lingering; when putting your house on the market, don’t forget to consider Lingering Appeal.

Note: Images courtesy of

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Menlo Park’s Fair Oaks neighborhood: A touch of the rustic in the middle of suburbia

December 20, 2006

One of the hidden treasures of Menlo Park is the Fair Oaks neighborhood, nestled between Middlefield Rd, Marsh Rd, and a seldom-used industrial rail track. Squashed between the three neighboring towns of Atherton, Menlo Park, and Redwood City, it nonetheless manages to have a character all its own.


A stranger walking the streets of Fair Oaks wouldn’t help but notice a lack of sidewalks and proper drainage, and an abundance of little British-style roundabouts. Both help create the unique sense of neighborhood for which Fair Oaks residents are justly proud — a uniqueness that comes from a peculiar combination of benign neglect (as part of unincorporated San Mateo County instead of Menlo Park proper) and a strong neighborhood association (which installed the roundabouts to slow down commuters who use the neighborhood as a way to avoid the traffic on Marsh and Middlefield).

The neighborhood association also oversees Fair Oaks Park, a little gem maintained without a cent of public money and situated on a Hetch Hetchy right of way; residents keep their fingers crossed that the massive water system’s pipes will never need to be dug up.

Being part of unincorporated San Mateo County — “Menlo Park” in this neighborhood being technically only a mailing address — is a mixed blessing. On the one hand, Fair Oaks residents don’t have the luxury of access to Menlo Park’s phenomenal elementary school system; on the other hand, property values are a good 20% to 30% lower than nearby Menlo Park proper, most of the difference being accounted for by…the poorer schools. What you would pay just under a million dollars for in nearby Flood Park would set you back a mere $800,000 or so in Fair Oaks.

Many of the homes are small — 1200 sq ft or less — and sit on small lots of 4500 sq ft or less, a testament to Fair Oak’s origins as weekend country homes for rich San Franciscans and San Jose-ans in the 1920’s. There are a smattering of larger lots left, mostly a relic of spillover estates from nearby Atherton, which technically the southeast corner of Fair Oaks is still part of.

Conveniently located only minutes from the bustling downtown of Palo Alto, as well as Menlo Park’s more bucolic downtown, Fair Oaks is also only a vigorous stone’s throw from highway 101, making it a convenient location for commuting to many of Silicon Valley’s top high-tech employers.

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