Attention All You Crazy Drivers In The Fair Oaks Neighborhood: Those Traffic Circles Are There To Slow You Down
September 10, 2008
Having spent much of my life in former British colonies, I am well versed in various British-isms: marmite (yuck), lifts (not elevators), sprinkling my words with extraneous u’s … and the correct use of roundabouts — or “traffic circles” as they’re commonly known on this side of the Atlantic. Sadly, many of the folks here in Silicon Valley seem to have missed that part of driver’s ed.
To reduce the tempatation of using the streets of Fair Oaks (in Menlo Park) as a convenient shortcut to avoid delays on Marsh Road and on Middlefield Road, the local neighborhood installed roundabouts traffic circles a while ago. Most drivers slow down as they navigate around these obstacles, but some of the more aggressive drivers see them as a handy and challenging obstacle course, careening around them at full tilt, seemingly on two wheels. Both the fast and the considerate drivers, however, still don’t seem to understand the most basic rule of traffic circles: if you’re in the circle, you have the right of way. If you’re not in the circle, you don’t have the right of way.
Simple, really — or it should be. Alas, nearly every day brings about a near collision as a rule-following driver makes a left turn around a circle, while a non-rule-following driver comes merrily towards him, with no obvious intention of yielding.
People! Slow down! Yield the right of way to cars in the traffic circle.
No tag for this post.
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 . . .
Tags: 2008 real estate market, home prices, Local information, palo alto home prices, palo alto market, San Jose Mercury
Timing the Market, A Banker’s Viewpoint
September 1, 2008
Credit for this post really goes to 3 Oceans contributor Eric Trailer who sent me this content in a letter this week. My clients got it last week, and the blogoshpere can now benefit. We can assume that Eric has better things to do on Labor Day than blog. I’m guessing something involving his lovely wife and son . . .
To see current market data and price trends over the past year for local communities and confirm or refute Eric’s prognostications on the local market in Palo Alto and the surrounding communities,
CLICK HERE to see real-time market data, courtesy of our friends at Altos Research.
As you have likely been hearing, there continues to be more and more evidence that it will cost prospective home buyers more to purchase a home in select areas of the Bay Area as they allow time to go by.
Why? Let’s look at the basic reasons, then review an example:
1. The median price across the board in Palo Alto and the surrounding communities has risen since the beginning of the year.
2. On a national basis, the trough of the market was reached in April.
3. The conforming loan limit will DECREASE over $100,000 in 2009 to $625,000.
4. Rates have risen about .5% since the beginning of the year, despite the increase in the conforming loan limit to $729,750
5. Loan qualifications are becoming more restrictive with each passing week.
6. More restrictions on loans and a tighter supply of money forces rates to go up
7. Because loans require more work to process them (requirements today are 4x what they were a year ago), rates will go up.
8. Inflation is the number one concern of the Fed, and should be the number one concern for all of us.
Let’s say for a moment that you agree that rates are on the rise, but feel as though prices may come down on a $1mm property today; thus, you want to wait. Let’s further assume that you are right and the future price is $950,000, but rates have increased .5% at that future time. Using 20% down, waiting just cost you an ADDITIONAL $117 per month-over $1,400 per year.
But now let’s be more realistic given the appreciation rates of desirable areas of the Bay Area. If rates increase and the $1mm home appreciates to $1,050,000, you are looking at an ADDITIONAL $550 PER MONTH-OVER $6,000 PER YEAR!
What’s the take-away here? Price matters much less than true cost… My motto has always been that it always pays off to buy sooner than later, provided your holding period is greater than four years. And to prove that I walk the walk, I am happy to share my personal situation written as an article titled, “How to Afford a Home in Palo Alto Without a Trust Fund.”
To call Eric on his walking the walk comment, and get a copy of his article, “How to Afford a Home in Palo Alto Without a Trust Fund.”, click on his pretty picture over there in the contributor column to send him an email.
Tags: 4---mortgage-mania, absolute mortgage bank, mortgage rates, Mortgages, palo alto home prices, Palo alto housing market, palo alto market, palo alto real estate market
900 University Ave, Palo Alto: Attention, Madam Secretary Rice: We Have The Perfect Home For You After January 20, 2008
August 4, 2008
Ms. Condoleezza Rice
Secretary of State
Kevin Boer, 3 Oceans Real Estate
Chris Iverson, Ventoux Real Estate
Dear Madam Secretary,
We understand based on recent news events (include Mr. Obama’s pre-emptive European victory lap), and on the harsh constitutional reality that your present employer will soon no longer be needing your services, that you may soon be looking for a new residence, perhaps near to your past employer Stanford University.
It seems, in fact, that Mr. Bush has already begun his own search, so there may be some urgency to this matter.
Allow us to suggest a residence suitable for a person of your experience and discerning taste: the Squire House at 900 University Ave in Palo Alto. This property is currently on the market, listed by the local Alain Pinel triumvirate Carol, Rosemary, and Nicole, for only $12.5M.
First of all, this home is a leisurely 20 minute walk down University Ave straight into the heart of the Stanford Campus:
Secondly, the facade of the home may well remind you of a similar grand mansion on the East Coast, one in which you have spent a considerable amount of time in the last 8 years:
(Image courtesy of 900UniversityAvenue.com)
Thirdly, the home is over 6000 square feet, and has a lot size of nearly one acre. This will provide ample room for all your entertainment, parking, and security needs.
Should you wish to view this property, have your people call our people, and we’ll make it happen.
Mssrs. Boer & Iverson
P.S. Some of your colleagues may be in a similar situation. We are happy to provide them with good references for real estate professionals in their home towns.
Mr. Paulson, for instance, may return to Manhattan to work for Goldman Sachs. May I recommend Mr. Noah Rosenblatt as the ideal discrete broker to assist him.
Should Mr. Gates return to his former employer, I recommend he contact Ms. Lani Anglin, who, though based in Austin, not College Station, would be a stellar pick.
If Mr. Gutierrez finds the siren song of Miami irresistible, I highly recommend Mr. Kevin Tomlinson.
Perhaps you could also relay to Senator McCain that, should he decide to retire, the right person to contact is Mr. James Wexler, one of the best real estate brokers in the Phoenix area. We understand this move might happen this year, or in 2012 or even 2016; Mr. Wexler is patient and will be awaiting his call.
Curtis Van Carter, who sells real estate in Napa Valley, claims he’s trying to nab another high-profile soon-to-be-unemployed individual, none other than “W” himself. Apparently, said individual, while in Napa Valley on a fund-raising expedition, took a little side trip to see a certain castle. Alas, it’s not even for sale, and spouse Laura found it cold and uninviting.
At the other end of the spectrum, Los Altos Realtor Joanne Fraser suggests Condi may have to settle for a $1.6M Los Altos home because Stanford profs only make $175K per year. I completely disagree. First, she’d be the Provost, not a mere professor, which means her salary would easily be $250K. Secondly, I’ve heard she may be getting help for the down payment. Finally, there are rumors of a book deal in the works!
Tags: Condi Rice, Palo Alto, Real estate, Secretary of State, Stanford
A Housing Rebound? - Looking for the bounce
July 23, 2008
CNN Money is a favorite consumer source for news and sensationalism about issues affecting us financially. A friend uses it as his homepage, and sent me this article on indications that the housing market is pulling out of its downward spiral. Judging by the commentary on the Yahoo news service that picked it up, most people think it is another self-serving article written by real estate agents who want to further dupe consumers into buying homes and further leveraging them selves with unnecessary debt. There, I said it, so you can save your comments.
Here in Sillycon Valley, we are continuing to see variations on the Tale of Two Cities theme, with markets like Palo Alto and Menlo Park holding up strongly (click the links to see current market data), while prices in parts of Sunnyvale and San Jose have fallen off a cliff this year. We won’t mention Sacramento, because it’s not nice to kick ‘em when they’re down.
So, the key leading indicators for monitoring the health of your local housing market are:
- Is the housing stock shrinking?
- Are home prices falling at a slower pace?
- Is it cheaper to rent than own?
- Are houses becoming more affordable (relative to local incomes)?
Locally, we are still kind of bumping along. The current housing stock in Palo Alto is up slightly, but that isn’t unusually during the late Summer. If the trend continues through Fall, it may signal a trend.
Home prices have been stable here, so that is tough to measure, though the multiple-offer / overbid madness is definitely a rarity these days.
Depending on how you measure it, it’s still cheaper to rent than own, but tell that to my clients who were tossed into the housing market when the rental property was sold and they received a 60 day notice from the new owner.
Houses here are still unaffordable, but take a look at the chart at the bottom of the page and compare San Jose and San Francisco. It may be a good time to get into San Jose, especially if you understand foreclosures and short sales. If not, contact 3Oceans contributor Bart Marchioni, aka Mr. Short Sale.
Remember, real estate is local, and be careful what you read on the internet.
Thanks for reading . . .
Tags: 2008 real estate market, housing market turnaround, mortgage crisis, mortgage mania, Palo alto housing market
Geeks Of The World Rejoice! Behold The First-Ever Twitter-MLS!
July 22, 2008
I’ve been accused — rightly, I might add — of being a geek. I also happen to be in real estate. You put the two together, plus a keen interest in using new social media tools like Twitter, and what do you get? The Twitter-MLS!
For a long time, MLS searches have been available via email. Recently, some real estate search providers — like our friends at Trulia and at Diverse Solutions — have enabled MLS searches via RSS feeds. (That’s actually the technology I use on the sidebar to provide the link searches.)
As the latest new big online thing, Twitter has attracted a massive cult following, and as a permission-based communication tool, it’s ideal for sending out news snippets such as new listings.
Here’s how it works:
- Sign up for an account at Twitter if you haven’t done so already.
- Head thither and “follow” my Twitter “Menlo Park MLS” account. Other towns in the Bay Area will follow shortly.
- Sit back and enjoy the “tweets” that will come your way by cell phone, email, Twhirl, online (depending on how you configure Twitter). These “tweets” will be little news snippets about new homes to hit the market. Want more details? Click on the link in the tweet and you’ll see pictures, details, and much much more.
If you’re more of a FriendFeed type, I have the same offering available in FriendFeed room format. Find your way yonder, select your favorite city, and click “Join This Room.” And, as our British cousins would say, “Bob’s your uncle!”
FriendFeed room example for Burlingame:
Twitter example for Menlo Park:
Tags: FriendFeed, Real estate, Real-estate-technology, Technology, twitter
“I’m Sorry, I’m Twittering” — A Shameless Parody Of An Old Classic
July 21, 2008
Wine Country Agent One-ups Us
July 20, 2008
About a year ago we did what may have been the world’s first virtual open house. Alas, we’ve been one-uped by Pam Buda, a Coldwell Banker agent in the wine country north of San Francisco. In conjunction with Trulia, she’s live-web-casting her open house in Healdsburg today.
As video becomes more mainstream and more accessible via technologies like Qik, Mogolus, and ustream, this sort of event will probably become more common.
Pam Buda gets my vote for this year’s real estate Oscars!
Tags: Healdsburg, Open houses, Trulia
From The “I Missed That Class Where We Talked About ‘Place Value’” Department: Palo Alto Per-sq-ft Prices Drop Precipitously Down From $75,000
July 15, 2008
In a former life, I was a middle school math teacher. In the Peace Corps. In Botswana. I distinctly remember spending a number of days teaching about the importance of place value in numbers — you know, the concept that decimal points and zeros aren’t just decorations. .32 and 3.2 and 32 and 320 are distinctly different.
As far as I know, none of my former students are Realtors in Palo Alto. Which might explain this juicy little chart from our friends at Altos Research:
Note the drop in per-sq-ft prices a few years ago, from $75,000 per sq ft down to perhaps only a thousand bucks a sq ft. Then, a massive run-up back to over $20,000. Then back down again. Kind of like a scary roller-coaster ride.
Even during the incredible run-up in real estate prices, trust me, we were never at $75,000 per sq ft! The explanation for that chart? Simple: Every now and then a listing makes it onto the MLS with a misplaced decimal or zero. A $2,000,000 home gets listed for $200,000 (these mistakes are typically corrected quite quickly when the listing agent gets 100 phone calls in the first hour from agents wanting to make offers.) Then a $700,000 home gets listed for $7,000,000. (These mistakes take longer to correct. The agent wonders why nobody comes for the open house, then figures it out.)
Then there’s the square foot mistake, where a $1,600,000 home (price entered correctly) gets its floor space shrunk from 2000 sq ft (correct) to 2 sq ft (incorrect.) Voila! This home now costs $800,000 per sq ft! A few of these in the same week, and poof! Up goes that average!
Athol Kay has proved that, as a species, we Realtors aren’t that good at taking pictures. But for the love of God, people, can we please please please remember the importance of correctly-placed decimal points and zeros!
Tags: Altos Research, Palo Alto, realtors
Mortgage Mania 17 - Foreclosures Inside The Bubble
June 7, 2008
Long-time Mortgage Mania readers, (aka Mortgage Maniacs) know that I’m an avid reader of the New York Times, so it should come as no surprise that I would have some comments on this article in the Friday June 6 edition regarding the continuing foreclosure crisis affecting consumers across the country.
Authors Bajaj and Grynbaum review some recent statistics on foreclosures, and then go on to predict another wave of foreclosures as the economy continues to slow and more consumers fall victim to layoffs and job cuts.
It’s easy to ignore these rumblings here in wealthy Silicon Valley where the local economy is still vibrant, even with nearly $5 a gallon gas, as it is still a minor impact on a budget with a $5,000 a month mortgage. It’s easy for us living in The Bubble of Unstoppable Real Estate (which I define as: Palo Alto, Menlo Park, and Los Altos, your mileage may vary) to say “it can’t happen here”.
Not so fast there pardner. A Short Sale in Atherton you say? It’s almost enough to make you drop your Grey Poupon.
This little number at 199 Selby Lane in Atherton recently listed by Lanny Dannenberg of Keller Williams is a short sale at $1,795,000. It has been on the market with a couple of different brokers for over two years, starting at $2,495,000 in March of 2006.
The good news is that the local market continues to be pretty strong, especially at the upper levels, above $3 million. Don’t take my word for it, check out this market data for the latest facts and figures on Palo Alto and surrounding communities.
Thanks for reading . . .
Tags: 4---mortgage-mania, Atherton, economy, foreclosure, new york times, short sales
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