We're back!

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Occasionally, to be sure, but back. Watch out, Alameda real estate!
A long, long time ago, in a galaxy close by, a cute Victorian fourplex on Central tried to sell itself at the strongly cash-flow-negative price of $749,000. Three years later, it's back at a much more down-to-earth price of $599,000.

The price history is a lesson in what not to do when buying property.

919 Central price history

Dan Neumansky beat me to it. 1304 Morton, which sold (with great difficulty) not that long ago, got a high-tech studio makeover, and tried to sell itself even more recently, just massively slashed its price from $1,329,000 to $899,999.

The new description doesn't mention the studio:

Rare Painted Lady Victorian, Sumptous Eastlake period Decor, like a page out of BETTER HOMES & GARDENS MAGAZINE! Was on the market at $1.3M+ now priced 4 quick sale! TURN-KEY condition!All systems upgraded. Tenant spent $$$ & converted full basemnt/gar 2 Art Deco game rm/wine cellar/home theater. Gourmet Remod kitchen w/ sub zero fridge & viking stove. Walk 2 shops, park & Franklin School.

So one assumes the new owner may be taking it with him, which should help with the price drop. Some research I did (no links to respect his privacy) suggests he's a big-shot music producer, and so he'll find something to do with it.
A nostalgic post today remembering frequent topics on this blog.

The Webster House, 1238 Versailles Avenue, finally sold after being repossessed by the bank. The price history is edifying, and it looks like somebody paid about what the house is worth.

1234_versailles_price_history.jpg
The terminally unsellable green infill property at 1533 Morton, which you may remember is built in another property's backyard is back on the market at a hysterical $759,000 (MLS #40524543).

OPEN HOME: Sun 2-4pm (5/29) - Live off the grid on the island of Alameda. Built in 2009, fully energy efficient, green construction home, designed by famed Berkeley architect. Dual master suites on top level with addl 3rd bed/office with full bath on ground floor. High Walkscore in Central Alameda.
Here's a sneak peek at the property hiding behind its bigger brother:

1531_morton_with_1533_in_back.jpg
It'll take a lot of sunshine to be truly off the grid, but if you can make it work, it's a really awful great deal.

A pair of large matching homes were spamming Craigslist about three years ago: 2318 Pacific Avenue and 2324 Pacific Avenue. After multiple attempts, 2318 Pacific is back again as MLS(r) ID #40514855 at a new, more realistic price of $649,000. Its valiant (not) attempts at selling made Knifecatchers' "Best of 2008".

2318-pacific-cars.jpg
It's described as follows:

Large 3,600 sqft duplex at the prime Park St District. Original details, high ceiling, skylights, hardwood floor. Great income. Surrounded by a mix of shops & restaurants in the Park St Business District / Downtown Alameda. Half a block to Park St, Marketplace, McGee's, King of Thai Noodle, Habanas, Ole's Waffle Shop, Free Library, Alameda Theatre, City Hall.
"Prime Park St District" may be true if you don't mind being both close enough to the main drag to be annoying (if you live there) and far enough away to be annoying (if you're running a business and need the foot traffic).

The new price is down an impressive $801,000 from its initial list price back in 2008.

Don't believe me?

2318_pacific_avenue_craigslist.jpgRedfin doesn't show the price history, only the listing history with price changes and delist/relist events, but it's entertaining nonetheless.

Property History for 2318 PACIFIC Ave

Date Event Price Appreciation Source
Mar 21, 2011 Listed (New) $649,000 -- EBRD #40514855
Mar 19, 2011 Delisted * -- Inactive EBRD #8
Mar 18, 2011 Listed (New) * -- Inactive EBRD #8
Nov 20, 2008 Delisted * -- Inactive EBRD #7
Oct 13, 2008 Listed * -- Inactive EBRD #7
Jul 23, 2008 Delisted * -- Inactive EBRD #6
Jul 19, 2008 Price Changed * -- Inactive EBRD #6
Jul 10, 2008 Price Changed * -- Inactive EBRD #6
Jul 09, 2008 Price Changed * -- Inactive EBRD #6
Jun 23, 2008 Price Changed * -- Inactive EBRD #6
Jun 16, 2008 Price Changed * -- Inactive EBRD #6
May 27, 2008 Listed * -- Inactive EBRD #6
May 27, 2008 Delisted * -- Inactive EBRD #5
Apr 25, 2008 Listed * -- Inactive EBRD #5
Feb 12, 2008 Delisted * -- Inactive EBRD #4
Jan 23, 2008 Listed * -- Inactive EBRD #4
Jan 09, 2008 Delisted * -- Inactive EBRD #3
Nov 08, 2007 Listed * -- Inactive EBRD #3
Oct 30, 2007 Delisted * -- Inactive EBRD #2
Oct 26, 2007 Listed * -- Inactive EBRD #2
Oct 17, 2007 Delisted * -- Inactive EBRD #1
Sep 19, 2007 Price Changed * -- Inactive EBRD #1
Aug 08, 2007 Price Changed * -- Inactive EBRD #1
Jul 24, 2007 Listed * -- Inactive EBRD #1



Remember that post of the week about 1715 Schiller over two years ago? The poor little blue thing filled to the brim with discarded vehicles and other bits?

1715-schiller-street-craigslist.jpg
It's back (MLS #40505847) over two years later, apparently in the same condition--the agent is using the same photo, the price is in the same ballpark, and it's advertised as a "contractor special". Especially touching is the use of the same photo twice, with different aspect ratios, perhaps to highlight how versatile this house is, all 856 sqft of it. Or perhaps because the interior is NSFW.

1715-schiller-craigslist-2011.jpgThe MLS(r) description says this:

Fixer! Priced to Quick Sale in Central Alameda. GREAT Opportunity! Buy low as a fixer and still have good value after fixing up! Not a Short Sale but is a distress sale and owers must Sell Now! Don't wait!!

The thing about fixing a house up is that there are fixed costs to the fixing, regardless of how small the house is. Your kitchen may be half the size of the average kitchen, but you're likely to spend more than half as much for a given finish level, if only because your appliances don't care where they live and cost the same in a 8x8 kitchenette as they do in a 20x20 gourmet extravaganza. In general, the smaller the house, the less (resale) value you're getting for a given improvement dollar, all else equal. Based on the original listing description, I wouldn't be surprised if the total cost of rehabbing this place was north of $50,000, bringing the TCO to a minimum of $300,000, or $350 / sqft for a tiny house on a tiny lot. Does that still constitute "good value after fixing up" in this market? You tell me.



You'd think being a real estate auctioneer would require a modicum of real estate experience. Not so for Ion Stoica, whose Craigslist post today made me scratch my head:


$520000 / 2br - NICE COMMUNITY SURROUNDED BY VIRGINIA HOMES (alameda)


Date: 2010-12-08, 2:26PM PST
Reply to: see below




1708 WILLOW ST


ALAMEDA, CA


NICE COMMUNITY SURROUNDED BY VIRGINIA HOMES

2BR/1BA Single Family House
$520,000

Year Built 1926
Sq Footage 1,076
Bedrooms 2
Bathrooms 1 full, 0 partial
Floors Unspecified
Parking 1 Car garage
Lot Size 3,900 sqft
HOA/Maint $0 per month







Description

Beautiful 2 bed 1 bath with laundry in basement situated in a very nice and quiet community surrounded by lots Virginia homes. Detached garage with long driveway conveniently allow parking multiple cars. Convenient access to highway I-580.

Contact Information:
Ion Stoica
Real Estate Auctioneer
Continental Realty Inc.
16 Crow Canyon Ct. Suite # 100
San Ramon, CA 94583
Cell Ph: (510) XXX.XXXX
Intl: 001.510.XXX.XXXX
Fax: (925) XXX-XXXX
E-mail: selling247365@XXXXXX.XXX
License #: XXXXXXX


My best guess is that he means Victorian houses.

Ion Stoica is affiliated with a site named Oresy, which I'd never heard of before. They need copy-editing badly, but mostly I wonder what they were thinking with the whole boat-anchor imagery:

oresy_anchors.jpg

Hard to believe, after all the trouble it had to sell, but 1304 Morton is back on the market.

Check out this recap post for its sad history, captured in spotty but gory detail on Redfin:

morton_history.jpgFor reference, the current MLS(r) ID is 40499154 and the new list price is an eye-popping $1,329,000. The photos on Redfin are something else--get a load of the recording room with the built-in guitar-hanger niche, and the totally over-the-top home cinema room.

If I wanted a studio or a high-end movie theater in my house, I would want to have them built to my specs so I could pick out the components, layout, furniture, etc. The only reason I can think of to spend $400,000 over last year's price to get someone else's vision of those rooms is if I wanted those things but didn't have the cash to have them built, and so I'd want to roll their cost into my mortgage. But my sense is that this Victorian enchilada is going to have a hard time appraising out for an 80/20 loan--these kinds of "improvements" are so specific they rarely resell for what you spent on them. So any buyer is going to have to come up with some serious cash, and my contention is that any buyer with that kind of cash reserves isn't going to want someone else's dream theater/editing room/studio--they're going to want their own.

And it's not as though there's a penury of seven-digit houses (or almost) on the market; this house is now the priciest in all of 94501.

There's no question this is a superb house, and now as a bonus you can record your hit album and shoot (and edit!) your videos in your swank Victorian palace. And there's a handy gas station 200 feet away for your pyrotechnic effects. What's not to love?
The Neumanskys already covered 1831 San Jose Avenue, but I figured I'd throw my bonnet into the ring because this listing is so completely out of touch with the market it deserves an award.

1831 San Jose is a very pretty Victorian (although I personally ogled its roof and siding a week or two ago, and let me tell you neither looks all that great, but then again I'm not a roofer, sider, or home inspector, so for all I know it's all brand new and I need new glasses). It sits semi-grandly in the famed Leonardville district, named after a prolific and talented builder of the late-ish 1800s, surrounded by other Victorians with varying degrees of grandness (the corner-lotted one east of today's property is particularly magnificent, and huge).

1831-san-jose-craigslist.jpgIt's large-ish (2,072 sqft) on a decent sized lot (6,600 sqft) and sports 5 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms, which is nothing to sneeze at. The listing claims 3 levels, but it's not clear whether the "lower level" (frequently, and equivalently, referred to as "basement") meets all the city's criteria for regular living space (e.g. the city has stringent requirements on parking availability for any unit or subset of a larger home to be counted as living space, over and above what the building code requires in terms of ceiling height and such). 2,072 sqft isn't a small home, but by way of comparison its prenominate easterly neighbor at 1835 San Jose is over twice as large, with 8 bedrooms in 4,761 sqft of Victorian goodness standing unarguably grandly on a large corner lot.

The property does look very pretty in its Craigslist photos, and the yard is quite a sight (the agent calls it "magical"). The listing agent also describes the kitchen as "French-infused", which may have been achieved by steeping French chefs in hot water for some period of time and spraying the infusion throughout the room using elegant little perfume spritzers (the listing doesn't specify if that is indeed the process the owners used to French-infuse their kitchen). However that French infusion was arrived at, it seems to involve hanging your pots from a ceiling rack, commissioning your appliances from Solingen, and julienning your veggies on very shiny stone slabs. In other words, French infusion is indistinguishable from every other splurge kitchen financed by home equity withdrawals between 2003 and 2006 in the continental United States, at least to the untrained eye:

1831-san-jose-french-infused-kitchen-craigslist-resized.jpgThe price tag for this medium-sized hunk of gorgeosity is a mere $1,390,000. The current owners (over)paid a cool million back in 2004, and proceeded to sink beaucoup bucks into la maison to make it all grand and gorgeous and warm and custom-sound-systemed and French-infused. A good foundation job doesn't come cheap, and neither does finishing a basement-media-room-au-pair-wine-cellar deal, getting Harry Potter to bless your yard, or French infusion, so I wouldn't be surprised if the home improvements since 2004 total north of $150,000, which is again nothing to sneeze at.

The problem, however, is that $1M + whatever French infusion et al. cost bring the total amount to recoup when you want (need?) to sell way, way, way out of line with, well, pretty much anything on the island. One issue the owners may not have planned for is that the lower level improvements don't count towards your legal square footage if they're not, well, legal, as in tall enough and/or accompanied with whatever the city wants you to provide when you make yourself a big ol' house (I'm not implying the owners didn't do this by the book; there's an extensive permit history available over chez the 'skys and I'm not seeing anything untoward here; you may want to check for yourself at www.velocityhall.com; no direct link). But as far as I can tell from the language in the foundation permit, the basement job was never intended for living space (emphasis mine):

(ALL WORK IN BASEMENT) R/R FOUNDATION, BRICK TO CONCRETE; EXCAVATE BASEMENT TO 8'2" CEILING HEIGHT FOR STORAGE ONLY (ONE LIGHT, ONE SWITCH AND ONE PLUG IN STORAGE AREAS); DIVIDE LAUNDRY AREA & INSTALL UNDERGROUND PLUMBING FOR FUTURE FULL BATH; BUILD NON-BEARING WALLS TO CREATE UTILITY ROOM & WINE STORAGE ROOM; ADD 2 STEPS TO EXISTING INTERIOR STAIRWAY; INSTALL NEW WATER HEATER, FURNACE & SUMP PUMP - NO EXTERIOR CHANGES (BLDG/ELEC/PLUM/MECH)

What that means is that your price per sqft isn't $1.39M / 3,100 = $448 (assuming the basement is the same size as the main floor, roughly), but instead a much less palatable $671, which I don't believe has been fetched by any property of any size at any point in the past four years (and almost certainly not the past two). For context, it is 12% higher than the next-highest listings (on a per-sqft basis) currently on the market, one of which has been sitting there unsold for 75 days. At any rate, however, even $448 is pushing the envelope given recent market trends. And there's no garage.

Another way of looking at this issue is by comparing this property to its aforementioned neighbor. Let's do some comparison shopping:

  • To my right, a beautiful 4,761-sqft, 8-bedroom Victorian on a 8,800-sqft corner lot, sold for $1,390,000 near the peak of a bubbly real estate market
  • To my left, a beautiful 2,072-sqft, 5-bedroom Victorian on a 6,600-sqft lot with neighbors on both side, listed at $1,390,000 near the trough of an epic, unprecedented nationwide real estate meltdown accompanied by substantial price cuts in essentially every neighborhood in every city in every state.
If you identified the contestant to my left as the better deal, I don't believe there's much even modern science can do for you.

That's a really long way to say the odds this listing will fetch anywhere close to its asking price are below zero.

Update 8/1/2010: Price dropped to $1,200,000. It needs another $400,000 at the very least to be competitive.

1831-san-jose-price-drop-1.jpg



This blog hasn't been updated very regularly, but that doesn't mean I haven't been watching the market get all giddy with spring fever and the irresponsible tax credits that have been doled out by various entities that sometimes really can't afford it. Predictably, the giddiness and market distortions have caused prices and sales to rise in the first half of 2010 (view the original chart here):

redfin_94501_stats_summer_2010.jpgOne thing that's struck me over the past few weeks is how inflated the newer listings seem to be on a price per square foot basis. So I fired up the ol' spreadsheet to see if I was imagining things, and lo and behold, there's an amusing relationship between price per square foot and days on market:

price_per_sqft_v_days_on_market_94501_july_2010.jpg
The graph shows the average price per square foot for 94501 as of 7/23/2010 (thanks Redfin for the downloadable data), plotted against days on market. The blue bars (left in each pair) show the cumulative average (e.g. "<=30 days" includes listings on the market between 1 and 30 days). The red bars show the average for each band excluding previous bands (e.g. "<= 30 days" means 15 to 30 days, "<=15 days" means 8 to 14, etc).

It's not terribly surprising that older listings tend to have a lower price per sqft, if only because they're more likely to have had a price reduction; that said, one might also expect the reverse, i.e. the listings that stay on the market for a long time are disproportionately likely to have a high price per sqft. So this result is by no means self-evident.

By and large the data does indicate that the listings that have appeared on the market recently tend to have been priced using either the obscene gauge or the moron method.

Quite a few of these are, not surprisingly, bubble purchases coming home to roost: 3030 Thompson is an old acquaintance of ours; 3115 Fairview was bought for way too much in 2006 and is back for about $100K less, but still too much; 1100 Post one of those suicidally ugly post-war houses on that little stretch that curb appeal and interior design both forgot, is listed for more than its previous sale price, way too high but people inexplicably still fall for the old ugly-but-gorgeous-deep-down-inside trick; 2288 Chipman is one of them Bayport albatross that shouldn't have been built (or bought) in the first place.

Paying too much for housing and subprime lending: it's the new black.



Miraculously, 1201 Peach Street just dropped its price by $50,000 today. It now sits at $949,000, and is no longer FSBO--José Cerda-Zein is now representing the property.

1201-peach-craigslist-price-drop.jpgIt's also spamming Craigslist considerably less these days. It used to pop up almost every weekend, twice (until Craigslist viewers flagged it down), and return the following weekend, twice, like clockwork.

One particularly charming feature of this property, in addition to the wood paneling inside, is the daring blend of fish scale siding on top and tan stucco on the bottom.

1201-peach-side_view.jpgMore details at the original post from September 2008.

Update 9/15/2010: Now pending, listed at $768,000. Wow.
Today's listing is just plain weird. 1616 Clement Avenue has the following specs:

3 bedrooms, 2 1/2 bathrooms, 2,078 sqft, 3,195-sqft lot, MLS(r) #40453780, $699,000

7 year old lovely home in Marina Cove Nice neighborhood. .upstairs den cld be 4th bdrm, luxurious bath, hardwood floor, spacious fam rm, [...] superb location. .speak clearly and slowly when leaving messages.
The lovely location near the end of Hibbard street (you may remember its almost-neighbor 1810 Hibbard) is truly "superb" if you like old metal buildings (hint: pan the map around a bit):


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The neighborhood is "nice" if you enjoy proximity to large metal containers:

1880-hibbard-street-storage-silos.jpg
The sale history is even weirder:

Property History for 1616 Clement Ave

Date Event Price
Mar 03, 2010 Listed $699,000
Jun 21, 2007 Sold (Public Records) $1,185,545
Jun 24, 2004 Sold (Public Records) $659,000

Even at the peak of the market I can't think of very many properties that appreciated more than 20% annually, yet this house sold for almost double its initial price in just three years.

If you're interested in this property, just remember to speak clearly and slowly.

Today’s “new” listing inspired me to dust off one of my old gripes about the real estate industry, namely its lack of transparency and borderline dishonesty.

3229 Fernside Boulevard came on the market this week, with the following specs:

4 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, 2,172 sqft, 6,439-sqft lot, MLS(r) #40453128, $895,000

Traditional Mediterranean family home of highest caliber.[…] Living rm w/ fireplace, office rm w/ built-in book cases & French doors which lead outside. […] wonderful backyard […]


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It’s in the same neighborhood as the half dozen or so properties that were listed all at the same time a year ago.

Given the size, lot size, waterfront location, and tax-credit-fueled buying frenzy, there's nothing outrageous about the $895,000 price tag (although $412 / sqft is silly in almost any circumstances).

What really galls me about this listing is that, on March 2, 2010, over 15 years after the Web started gaining acceptance, 6 years after we sent unmanned rovers to another planet, the real estate industry and its various players still can't, or won't, get their act together and tell people the truth about their listings.

I surveyed several sites' records of this property and I am appalled to report that none of them paints an accurate picture of this listing.

  • Redfin promises to give you the skinny, but hides it behind a registration wall due to MLS(r) rules. And even after you log in, you get no information about previous prices.

3229-fernside-redfin.jpgPost login:

3229-fernside-redfin-history.jpg
  • Trulia shows the current price and its list date says "more than 180 days ago", but there's no mention of previous list prices.

3229-fernside-trulia.jpg
  • Yahoo! is completely out of date and doesn't even have an MLS(r) number.

3229-fernside-yahoo.jpg
  • Kijiji suggests the listing is just one month old.

3229-fernside-kijiji.jpg
  • Movoto, MLS East Bay and Sawbuck (never heard of them before) come out and say or imply the listing is brand new ("On site: 1 Days" could be interpreted as "new listing" or "new listing as far as we know", but I'd bet money most people pick the former).

3229-fernside-sawbuck.jpg
3229-fernside-mls-east-bay.jpg3229-fernside-movoto.jpg
  • Cal Home Finder says the listing is pending at the old price and MLS(r) number.

3229-fernside-calhomefinder.jpg

What will it take for the real estate industry to get its act together and stop misleading people looking to spend six-plus figures on a house? I'm not holding out any hope for the industry to self-regulate, considering the myriad conflicts of interest: not telling the public a property has been on the market for a long time creates a false sense of urgency, which may help a sale, which helps the agent earn a commission, a percentage of which goes to NAR in the form of dues, so any transparency and data freshness rules are simply not going to be enforced.

What's blocking the establishment of a single, open, publicly-accessible, up-to-date repository of property information about for-sale listings, so that consistent, accurate information is available to consumers on any site they choose to visit? It's not that technology isn't available to achieve this. If Google can update its index of billions of Web pages from the entire world multiple times every day, surely a database containing a few million listings and a few hundred million data points can be kept up to date and published on a daily basis.

It all boils down to archaic, arcane, and paranoid barriers erected around real estate listing information by an industry fighting tooth and nail against its inexorable obsolescence.
Guess who's back? Our old friend the unsellable 1626 Alameda Avenue! It now sports a shiny new lower price ($925,000) to go with its new MLS(r) ID (40453300) and its new agent (Andrea Gordon, picking up after Carol Burnett; whose site is down; here's a cached copy).

1628_alameda_avenue_mine.jpgPlease refer to the original post for details, or Chez Neumansky's detailed tour summary for a first-hand account of the place.



The recent bump in home prices has some sellers seeing dollar bills again, as evidenced by a large number of new listings in January and February and some truly silly prices.

Today's inflated asking price belongs to 847 Santa Clara Avenue, a pretty Victorian triplex with the following specs:

3 units (studio + 1-br + 2-br), 2,230 sqft, MLS(r) #40452574 (Redfin doesn't have the active listing yet)

Queen Anne cottage residence [...] great conditiion with lots of amenities everyone loves. Hardwood floors in lower units. Studio with large kitchen & spacious bath. Upper unit w foyer, high ceilings, quait balcony off bedrm, [...] Close to school, libra. shopping

847-santa-clara-street-view.jpgI saw this property when it was on the market in late 2006, and can confirm it is very pretty on the outside, but the lot is minuscule, the inside was less than inspiring at the time (it may have been improved), and the property is wedged between its two neighbors, one of which is a church.
 

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I don't remember there being any deeded parking or garage, either, which is somewhat of a problem for a triplex.

The property last sold for $700,000 in late 2006, and given what's been going on in the real estate market, you wouldn't necessarily expect to see it again for... $850,000. Yet that's exactly what the sellers are asking as of February 28. I'd wish them luck, but that would be disingenuous.



cerda-zein-typo.jpg
From cerdazein.com, provided by Uptown Creative Group, which describes itself as follows:

Finally, a reliable design company.

We're not out to create the next award-winning piece of modern abstract art, our goal is to increase your sales with clean, functional designs that work!

With a team of formally-trained marketing professionals, graphic designers, and web programmers, our goal is to provide you with creative solutions that propel you towards your strategic vision and branding goals.
High-quality work, to be sure, characterized mostly by complete ignorance of, or disregard for, current Web marketing practices, such as no permanent links search engines can index ("cerdazein.com" never changes regardless of what page you're reading on the site), or old-school frames. Not to mention quasi-run-on sentences that could be easily fixed with an elementary grasp of punctuation.

Also:

Our award-winning design team specializes in custom vector illustration, strategic logo design and branding, magazine and billboard designs, and other high-quality promotional materials.

Please contact us if you would like to view additional samples.
No link to the supposed "awards," or to a form or email page to "contact us." Note to Uptown Creative Group: your site is your portfolio. It can be as big as you want it to. Why not put your additional samples up for the world to see? It doesn't cost anything. But of course you know that, since you're all "formally trained." And I have to hand it to you for being "award-winning" yet not seeking "create the next award-winning piece of modern abstract art."

At least they're consistent.

cerda-zein-typo-2.jpg
José, here's a free tip: get a refund.

Update 1/22/10: Congrats to José's for having both his splash page and his navigation updated. Is someone there reading this blog?

cerda-zein-typo-fixed.jpg
and

cerda-zein-typo-2-fixed.jpg
 

The ugly little corrugated shack at 1715 Lincoln Avenue has been on the market since June of this year, but I never wrote about it until now. It's such an unsellable crackerbox on a busy street I don't see how anybody would be interested in reading about it, much less buy it. But I've been silent long enough. Maybe the vacuous, cloying platitudes dished out throughout the holiday season have worn me down; or maybe yet another year of reading the same vapid garbage in real estate listings has finally tripped a switch. No matter--let it be written, let it be done.

1715 Lincoln Avenue has the following pathetic little specs:

1 bedroom, 1 bathroom, 923 sqft. 2,280-sqft lot, MLS(r) #40415778, $399,000 ($432 / sqft)

LIVE/WORK.COMMERCIAL ZONE. Good set-up for home based business. [...] Spacious living room.Large storage.laundry room. Small fenced in yard/patio. [...] Enclosed porch. Was used for business then, as residence today, or as either/both tomorrow.

The MLS(r) listing is sedate and descriptive enough, and there's really nothing wrong with it. But what really got my goat today is the off-MLS(r) listing on Craigslist, reproduced below:


$399000 Are you ready to make your dream come true? Live/Work at Grand Station (alameda) (map)


Date: 2009-12-29, 7:02AM PST
Reply to: [redacted to protect the guilty]

[photos]

ZONED COMMERCIAL AND RESIDENTIAL. What a fabulous opportunity to have your business where you live. Possibilities abound in this 1 bedroom/1 bath house, enclosed porch with large picture windows.

Nail salon? Beauty parlor? Retail? Professional service? Office? YES!

Across from Alameda's Gaslight Emporium, on Lincoln and Grand. Convenient location at an affordable price.

Do you know anyone (not currently homeless or mentally deranged) who dreams of  living in a tiny 923-sqft double-wide box planted on a tiny 2,280-sqft lot at one of the busier, uglier intersections in town (Lincoln and Grand), across from a liquor/convenience store, nestled between other ugly houses and busy businesses, and altered countless times to satisfy the needs of various non-residential activities in the 69 years since it was built (as an earlier, and evidently unsuccessful, incarnation of this listing once intimated)?



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What if you did use this as a business and a residence: how exactly do you fit both a thriving business of any size and its owner's living space in a 1-bedroom Tupperware? Almost by definition, nothing "abounds" in a house the size of a gazebo, except maybe cockroaches, and certainly not "possibilities".

Seriously, dear readers, do you or anyone you know entertain the hope, nay, the dream, of someday living in a slapdash World-War-II-era nail salon?

And what exactly is affordable about a $432 / sqft price tag for what is arguably one of the least appealing properties to come on the market in years?

Stop the inanity! Just call a spade a spade and stop embellishing the unembellishable! And for the love of Pete, get a thesaurus and forever banish from your vocabulary those meaningless, vacuous cheerleading bromides that serve no purpose than to highlight your complete lack of creativity and/or make better copywriters angry.

Happy new year to all. May prices fall another 15% and option ARMs default by the thousands.

Update 1/5/10: Ms. Dimacali helpfully switched her post back to the old version, which has the following description:

Description
LIVE/WORK. Rare opportunity to have a building in a commercial zone. Was used as realty office and an "antiquery". Use as a residence, a place of business, or both. Tremendous value in its zoning classification, among other businesses on the same block. Directly across from Alameda's Gaslight Emporium, at historic Grand Station. Cross street is Grand Avenue.

Was probably built as a bungalow, but when porch was enclosed, it was "modernized." Enclosed porch could be used as the office/reception area. Large display windows in front. Garage and driveway for 2 plus vehicle parking. Separate and spacious storage and laundry room. Fenced in patio for outdoor entertaining and cook-outs. Living/Dining room, eat-in kitchen, one bedroom and one bath.

The "Wear Your Pajamas to Work" title adds to the property's extra classy appeal as a potential nail salon across from a liquor store.

Update 1/18/10: After dropping to $349,999 (maybe a typo?), your next dream house came roaring back at $399,000.

Update 1/22/10: It's back at $349,999.
Real estate agents are not renowned for the quality of their copy. Agents with English as their second language will get a lot of slack from me, because it's not easy being functional in a foreign country. That said, a home seller has every right to expect their property to be represented in the best possible light, and if that includes paying a professional photographer for nice outdoor shots or slipping a $20 to a starving English major at Alameda College to proofread marketing copy, it's the bare minimum an agent should be held to, regardless of their proficiency in any language. Especially if they stand to make a $60,000 commission from that same seller.

Which is why, for the life of me, I can't fathom why the owners of 26 Castlebar Place, a 4,062-sqft house on the bay with a fantastic view (MLS(r) #40443065) that almost makes up for its spectacularly hideous interior, haven't summarily dismissed the agent presumably responsible for this wretched monstrosity of a listing, reproduced here from Craigslist in its entirety, complete with a photo of said agent in lieu of the property. Emphasis added for extra oomph.


$1999000 / 4br - Exquisite Taste In Living (alameda) (map)


Date: 2009-12-28, 3:34PM PST
Reply to: [redacted]


This property has the most enchanting design. "Outstanding" describes this exquisite custom built home which situated in the best area of Alameda! Approx. 4062 living square feet huge home on a 4800 square feet lot. 2 Stories facing the bay, views are amazing when you care how to enjoy life! patio from master is dainty designed as the bow of a ship!

round Glass Ceiling in the central of the house aborting blue skylight come along with an extraordinary stair shows impressive style precisely. Pragmatic kitchen has its' open dinning area. Built-In Walkie-Talkie throughout the house with gas heated fireplace. Split up section of entertainment, relaxation and a parlor. One bedroom downstairs may be utilized as an office or guestroom with full bathroom off rear. In additional, there is cubbholes for storages under the chairs appear like inhabited solely in a cruise.

* Totally 4 huge bedrooms joined with a spacious family room
* Grand bathroom and walk in closing in expansive master Suite
* Gleaming hardwood floor through out the whole house
* Granite shower stall and marble tile flooring in all bathrooms
* Unique circular shape hallway
* Two car attached garage with storage space
* Wonderful Alameda neighborhood and school district
* Charming and Fresh Feeling, This is the dream home that you have been waiting!


Please E Mail to Victoria Lam at [redacted] for additional information and view the photos by clicking: http://odc.rw.imprev.net/tmp/31/531/8693/

OPEN HOUSE THIS SUNDAY FROM 1-4P.M., SELLER'S MOTIVATE, DON'T MISS THE CHANCE!

victoria_lam_26_castlebar_place.jpg

26 Castlebar Place
  • it's NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests
PostingID: 1528128763

In addition to the horrendous English, the virtual tour link is dead.

I fully expect hate mail calling me a racist for picking on poor Victoria's broken English, completely missing the point I am making here (never mind that I myself could very well have been raised in the exact same town as Victoria)--I don't care of you've got a PhD in classics, Wernicke's aphasia, or 2 years of Berlitz English courses under your belt, you simply do not advertise a $2M house like this. It's beyond unprofessional.

The official MLS(r) listing, by Tina Wong, is not great but considerably better, and somewhat imaginatively worded (emphasis added):

This impeccably designed luxury home offers unparalleled view of the bay & its unique design has brought the outside scenery into this voyager. Ample natural lighting via large windows & centre circular dome roof; ea. window assembles a live moving picture, must see to appreciate.
So I don't know what exactly happened to allow that train wreck of a Craigslist post to go live, but someone dropped the ball, and I felt it my duty to bring this to the sellers' attention. Given the property's sale history, it's likely they need to squeeze every penny out of this sale, and this shameful listing sure isn't helping.

Property History for 26 CASTLEBAR Pl

Date Event Price
Dec 21, 2009 Listed $1,999,000
Dec 16, 2003 Sold (Public Records) $1,890,000
Nov 29, 1989 Sold (Public Records) $345,000

Update 12/31/09: Victoria's back.

$1990000 / 4br - Outstanding Custom Built 4000sq.ft. Big House (alameda) (map)


Date: 2009-12-31, 1:26PM PST
Reply to: [redacted]


This property has the most enchanting design. "Outstanding" describes this exquisite custom built home which situated in the best area of Alameda! Approx. 4062 living square feet huge home on a 4800 square feet lot. 2 Stories facing the bay, views are amazing when you care how to enjoy life! patio from master is dainty designed as the bow of a ship!

round Glass Ceiling in the central of the house aborting blue skylight come along with an extraordinary stair shows impressive style precisely. Pragmatic kitchen has its' open dinning area. Built-In Walkie-Talkie throughout the house with gas heated fireplace. Split up section of entertainment, relaxation and a parlor. One bedroom downstairs may be utilized as an office or guestroom with full bathroom off rear. In additional, there is cubbholes for storages under the chairs appear like inhabited solely in a cruise.

* Totally 4 huge bedrooms joined with a spacious family room
* Grand bathroom and walk in closing in expansive master Suite
* Gleaming hardwood floor through out the whole house
* Granite shower stall and marble tile flooring in all bathrooms
* Unique circular shape hallway
* Two car attached garage with storage space
* Wonderful Alameda neighborhood and school district
* Charming and Fresh Feeling, This is the dream home that you have been waiting!


Please E Mail to Victoria Lam at Celestialinv@yahoo.com for additional information and view the photos by clicking: http://odc.rw.imprev.net/tmp/31/531/8693/

OPEN HOUSE THIS SUNDAY FROM 1-4P.M., SELLER'S MOTIVATE, DON'T MISS THE CHANCE! E-Mail to : Celestialinv@yahoo.com for pictures.

26 Castlebar Place (google map) (yahoo map)


I wonder who the first part of this "new" listing is directed to. 1419 Cottage Street, a cute overpriced cottage that failed to sell last year, is back on the market for a lower, still-too-high price. The specs, as a reminder:

3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, 1,289 sqft, 5,000-sqft lot, built in 1895, MLS(r) #40442977, $619,000 ($480 / sqft)

The agent helpfully confirms this is the same property one may have seen last year (emphasis mine), which saved me a couple of minutes. Thanks!

Yes, this one was on the market last year. New low price and additional work to the finished basement. Square footage will be approx double with some extra work. Quiet neighborhood. Great value.
The Zestimate a year and a half ago... (screenshot taken in Spring 2008; note the owner-inflated estimate):

was close to the then-asking price (screenshot taken today, 12/23/09):

1419-cottage-zillow.jpgThe price has come crashing down to $619,000 and claims to be a great value, even though the renovations are still not finished. Note to agents and sellers: "less than I paid" does not equal "great value" to other people.

Property History for 1419 COTTAGE St

Date Event Price Appreciation Source
Dec 21, 2009 Listed $619,000 -- EBRD #40442977
Aug 17, 2005 Sold (Public Records) $700,000 13.4%/yr Public Records
Aug 09, 2002 Sold (Public Records) $479,000 -- Public Records

On a per-square-foot basis, $480 / sqft is a full $130 / sqft more than the going price these days, which in your case translates to about $170,000. In other words this property should be priced around $450,000. Sure, the agent claims there's a full floor's worth of square footage available, but 1) it's not verifiable unless you look at the permit status and 2) the work isn't finished yet. Expecting a $130 / sqft premium in advance for the promise of square footage when the next owner will have to fork over extra money to be able to live in that square footage is moronic.


Inventory Trends
So welcome back and happy holidays, little house. Happy new year, too.


Sold!--1304 Morton Street, Alameda, CA

|
Hi everybody!

1304 Morton Street finally sold in early December for $938,000, according to Redfin.

In summary:

  • April 2008: 1304 Morton St appears on the market, listed at $1,250,000
  • July 2008: the price is dropped to $1,199,000
  • September 2008: the price is dropped to $1,150,000
  • March 2009, almost a year after the initial listing, the property is relisted for $975,000
  • August 2009: the price is dropped to $949,999
  • December 2009: the property closes for $938,000

The extent and quality of the renovation work on top of the previous sale price (above $500,000) means the now former owners likely didn't make their money back on the transaction.

The moral of the story? Don't over-improve, and don't spend 6 figures on your kitchen.

That's a $312,000 price drop from the initial list price (about 25%) and 20 months on the market. I trust Redfin won't begrudge me a full history:

Property History for 1304 MORTON St

Date Event Price Appreciation Source
Dec 02, 2009 Sold (MLS) $938,000 -- Inactive MLSListings #80911577
Nov 12, 2009 Delisted -- -- Inactive MLSListings #80911577
Sep 22, 2009 Delisted * -- Inactive EBRD #4
Aug 21, 2009 Price Changed * -- Inactive EBRD #4
Aug 21, 2009 Price Changed $949,999 -- Inactive MLSListings #80911577
Mar 10, 2009 Listed * -- Inactive EBRD #4
Mar 06, 2009 Listed $975,000 -- Inactive MLSListings #80911577
Jan 01, 2009 Delisted * -- Inactive San Francisco MLS #1
Nov 21, 2008 Delisted * -- Inactive EBRD #3
Nov 20, 2008 Delisted -- -- Inactive MLSListings #2
Jul 22, 2008 Listed * -- Inactive San Francisco MLS #1
Jul 21, 2008 Price Changed -- -- Inactive MLSListings #2
Jul 19, 2008 Price Changed * -- Inactive EBRD #3
Jun 11, 2008 Price Changed * -- Inactive EBRD #3
Jun 11, 2008 Price Changed -- -- Inactive MLSListings #2
May 02, 2008 Listed * -- Inactive EBRD #3
Apr 25, 2008 Listed -- -- Inactive MLSListings #2