December 2008 Archives

On yet another one of those misspelled street names in 94502 lies today's short-sale duet, which sports not one but two master bedrooms suites.

2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, 1,519 sqft, 2,560-sqft lot, MLS(r) #40385586, $499,000
Two master suites grace this bright and sunny Bay Colony duet [...] Very short distance to the ferry, schools, shopping, [...] walking paths along San Francisco Bay. 

116-bannister-craigslist.jpgThe MLS(r) listing is amusingly worded:

Sunny duet [...] Two master suites and additional ½ bath. [...] This propety has a "long driveway". Vaulted ceilings & lots of windows. Roof two years old. [...]
The "propety" has a "long driveway". Not a long driveway, mind you--a "long driveway". I'm not sure why that would be a selling point, with or without the scare quotes. And even if there were a pool of buyers out there with a "long driveway" fetish, $328 / sqft is on the high side for a duet on such a teeny tiny lot.

Maybe the owners are tired of serving two master bedrooms (although I'm not clear on how both bedrooms in a 2-BR unit can be the master), considering:

Last sale and tax info

Sold 03/25/2005: $650,000
2008 Property Tax: $10,280
Assuming the property does sell for $499,000, and subtracting 6% for agent commissions and the price of a new roof (rounding down to net proceeds of $450,000), we're looking at $200,000 up in smoke in less than 4 years. That's just under what most people take home in solidly middle-class 94502. Well done.

A 2008 Retrospective: Mine, and Yours

As the year draws to a close, it is de bon ton to compile a retrospective of notable moments. Here's a list of some of my favorite 2008 real estate happenings in the fair city of Alameda, in no particular order.

The listings that would not die

2318-pacific-cars.jpg2008 will be known as the year the housing bubble really, really burst. Yet it appears flipping is alive and well, even in the unlikeliest circumstances. 2318 and 2324 Pacific Avenue, two bizarrely white-elephantesque properties (one of them includes a 30-car concrete parking lot) were on the market for what seemed like forever in the spring. After multiple, massive price drops, somebody finally bought them, and quickly proceeded to put them back on the market with a big markup. Not surprisingly, they haven't moved.

Price insanity of the year

3045-marina-drive-street-view.jpgA recent listing on Marina Drive had me, and several readers, baffled as to what the sellers' strategy might be. A 1,600-sqft house listed at a hair under $1.8M in this market is a thing of wonder.

Dubious practices in the world of real estate

house.jpgEvidently displeased with the way this blog paints the Alameda real estate market, somebody important at an East Bay MLS(r) sent me a nasty cease-and-desist letter with all sorts of legal threats, under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. I immediately complied and replaced all the offending pictures with the artist's rendition to the left. I'm not clear how that helps their members' cause, but all the same.

February: The inflection point?

inflection_thumb.gjfFebruary 2008 was when I started noticing a large influx of properties coming on the market for less than their previous, recent sale price. I suspect they were trying to cut their losses and to get a head start on the spring bounce. It didn't work so well for some of them, which took ages to sell and had to drop their prices significantly.

Notable price drops

price_drop.jpg2008 was also a year of impressive, nay, epic price drops. A reader purchased this property for $230,000 or so off the initial list price (29%). A rancher initially priced over $1M dropped by $349K all at once. Alameda's largest single-family residence, apparently owned by convicted felon Jack Easterday, still hadn't sold after a total of $500,000 in successive price drops. And the larger white elephant above dropped its price by more than $600,000 while it was on the market. The first time.

What were your favorite real estate moments of the year? It certainly was an interesting few months, and I'd be interested to hear what y'all remember, and what (if any) real estate plans you have for 2009. I personally intend to stay in my lovely rental until prices have come back to reasonable levels, and I don't see that happening until 2010 at the earliest.
1312 Mound Street is back, again, as MLS(r) #40386231, listed at $460,000.

Great east end location. [...] Large living room with hardwood floor. Formal dining room. Fireplace. [...] Property is now ready to show & sell.
Note the last sentence, which (unwittingly?) implies the last go-round wasn't exactly a good listing.

Because I suspect we're going to start seeing a lot more of these lists-relists-REO-foreclosure-flips, I'm inaugurating a new category, the "repeat offenders."
Today's Victorian is a "contractor's special" in the West end. Per public records, it has the following specs:

4 bedrooms (3+2 per listing), 2 1/2 bathrooms, 2,415 sqft, 5,620-sqft lot, MLS(r) #40385895, $620,000
[...] contractor's special. Two homes on one lot. [...] front [...] charming victorian style home with [...] partial basement. The rear cottage was gutted and ready for completion. Off-street parking. Nice yard and great location [...]

Something tells me "rear cottage was gutted and ready for completion" is code for "we ran out of HELOC money before we finished the job" given:

Last sale and tax info

Sold 06/29/2006: $655,000
2008 Property Tax: $8,629
Way to add value.

Can you actually claim the gutted cottage's bedrooms and bathrooms in the listing if it's actually been gutted (which in my book means it's not livable as is)?

Update 12/18/08: I drove by and verified that the block is moderately nice, except for the high school down the block and the house right next door to this property at 549 (you can see a piece of it in the picture above), which seems to be in pretty bad shape.

Update 9/28/09: Sold for $412,000. Not a typo. Outstanding 37% drop in 3 years earns the property an "Epic" tag.
We've seen a lot of delusional asking prices in this town, but today's listing takes the cake, fruitcake, pumpkin pie, and bûche de Noël all at once. 3045 Marina Drive has the following specs:

3 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, 2 stories, 1,600 sqft, approx. 5,660-sqft lot, boat dock, MLS(r) #40385068

Fabulous waterfront home [...] boat dock. Updated boathouse w/ kitchen & bath. [...] Putting green, 13 fruit trees, brick bbq. [...] totally one of a kind with finest appliances, family room of glass-ready for the most discriminative buyer. Great central location.

This property is reportedly in the DEEP WATER DOCK subdivision of Alameda:

I'd like to know what the heck a "family room of glass" is, and in what universe that address is a "central location."

3045-marina-drive-map.jpgKeen-eyed readers will have noticed that I left the price out, except for the hint in the gray picture above the map.

For the benefit of large-print book aficionados, let me take a moment to display this property's price in a font size that fits its standing as The Most Grotesquely Inflated List Price In All Of Alameda. Drum roll please, as we reveal this home's list price of...

one million seven three one hundred ninety five thousand dollars



It comes out to $1,122 $872 $747 / sqft, in case you're too flabbergasted to do the math in your head or too blown away to pull out your desktop calculator.

I understand the house has been pimped out upgraded with "finest appliances" and that even your boat gets its own little house with bathroom and kitchen (boats are known to get peckish at odd hours). I also understand the dock and great central location mean there's probably a pretty good view of the estuary, the High Street bridge, and swathes of stunning beige storage buildings on the Oakland side (and perhaps even a peekaboo view of the Home Depot warehouse, if you're lucky), which is probably a plus if you're into that sort of thing.

I wasn't able to find any sale history, so maybe it's all paid off and the property owners will be able to drop the price by, say, one million dollars or so, to bring it in line with the market.

This is so completely, mind-blowingly insane it almost deserves its own super-epic category.

Update 2/3/09: Another obscenely-priced property showed up on the same block, but at least 2921 Marina Drive has the decency to be priced at $1,079,000 for 2,064 sqft (29% larger, $523 / sqft) and come with a brand new lift (whatever that is).

Update 2/20/09: Price dropped to $1,395,000, perhaps in response to the onslaught of waterfront properties suddenly for sale.

Update 4/25/09: Price dropped to $1,195,000 with new MLS(r) #40406597.

Update 8/10/09: Price dropped to $950,000, with new MLS(r) #40423754. That's 47% off the initial price.

Update 9/29/09: Sold for $950,000.

Luxury--108 Parfait Lane, Alameda, CA

Today's coming-soon Craigslist post is about a condo in 94502 that we may have seen before.

$468000 Luxury Harbor Bay 1,520 sq.ft. (alameda) (map)

Reply to: see below
Date: 2008-12-12, 9:25PM PST

Coming Soon For Sale by Owner/Agent. On Beautiful Harbor Bay. Community pool and sauna. Fantastic bike/walking trails on the Bay in Alameda. Near the Ferry (To San Francisco), Two large bedrooms, two full bathrooms, Master suite has two closets, private bath, balcony. Large living room w/vaulted ceiling. Open floor plan with formal dining room. Attractive wood floors in entry, kitchen and formal dining room. Interior laundry area, attached garage with inside access. Priced thousands below comparable sold next door. Approximately 1,520 sq.ft. Phone Donnaluci 510.207.2378 --- $468,000.
108 parfait lane at sheffield

I'm not convinced this unit is the same as last September's listing, mostly because...

  • the buildings in that area look considerably larger than 1,520 sqft (i.e. the street number likely matches multiple units):

  • the current price is so much less than the other listing's was;
  • this unit is being represented by its owner (I can't imagine why an agent/owner wouldn't represent it the first time around--it's not as if real estate agents are particularly busy these days);
  • various places on the Web suggest there are at least two units at 108 Parfait Lane, with different unit numbers (#36E, #378)
Assuming there are indeed at least two units at 108 Parfait Lane, and that they are labeled inconsistently across various listings and public records sites out there, it's difficult to be certain of anything, and in particular of each unit's specific history.

That said, it's not hard to find what looks like a pre-foreclosure notice on one of the units and a previous sale price that's very close to this listing's current list price.

It's also easy to wonder why any buyer would willingly trust a real estate professional to represent their best interest during a transaction in which they have a built-in conflict of interest, when they can't seem to represent their own best interest (if indeed Donnaluci is the owner of the property affected by the pre-foreclosure notice and the inflated prior transaction price).

To her credit (I suppose), Donnaluci does seem to want a career change:

donnaluci says:
Hello, I've just joined the AARP and would like to say hello. Michigan, Automobiles, buyouts? Wow, are you glad that you've retired before all of this started? I am in my 20th year of Real Estate and am looking to reinvent myself.
Posted: December 6, 2008 12:39AM EST
(yes, we have no bananas privacy, especially folks endowed with fairly unique names)
Please make it stop.

Just as its failed cousin at 2318 Pacific , 2324 "Possibilities for the Sophisticated Urbanite" Pacific is now back on the market. For $638,000, or $228,000 more than its last known sale price (which was suspiciously low, so perhaps it was a non-arms-length dealio or a repo? it was a regular sale, just in bad shape with lots of repairs needed, including foundation--thanks Ms. Dimacali for the correction).

It's currently known as MLS(r) #40384680:

[...] NEW REMODEL.Legal Duplex!Seperate door.Great for small family to live on 1 floor and rent out 1 floor to help payment.[...] Lot size 4146 sf per Pre-lim.C-M zoning(buyer to check with City)

or #40384685:

[...] NEW REMODEL.Easy to rent out,produce good income.Great for investor to live in 1 unit and rent out 2nd unit.[...] Seller give 2 new refrigerator(Seller's choice) at closing

For some reason, the description reminds me of Manuel from Fawlty Towers.

Update 12/13/08: No comment--

Great Investment Two Lots + Two Houses Pacific/Park St! Open Sunday (alameda) (map)

Reply to: see below
Date: 2008-12-13, 10:18AM PST

This is a great commercial/residential investment.

Two seperate lots (11000 sqft) + (4000sqft) combined both lots = 15000sqft
can build !!
Two seperate houses (large 4 bedroom) + (Duplex 2 and 3 bedroom)

open sunday 1-5

Update 3/11/09: This property dropped its price twice while I wasn't paying attention. This has got to be one of the droppingest addresses in all of Alameda when you combine its multiple listings in the past 2-3 years.

$638,000 to $598,000 on 02/07/09
$598,000 to $538,000 on 03/04/09
This property sold for $410,000 last August. It's now listed for $128,000 more (down from $228,000 last December). Because there's only so much renovation you can do in less than 4 months, and because I suspect the flipper contractor owner probably cheaped out on everything and saved a bunch by calling in favors and/or doing the work themselves, let's say the "improvements" cost $30K. Subtract 6% for commissions and we're still looking at a $50,000-$60,000 profit. I don't think so.

The upside is that all the car dealers at the end of the block have decamped permanently, so the stigma of the Alameda auto row is somewhat diminished.

Another day, another West End McMansion going down the tubes. Today's big-house-on-a-napkin is located at 2111 Glenview Street and has the following specs:

4 bedrooms, 2 1/2 bathrooms, 2,219 sqft, 3,371-sqft lot (!!!), MLS(r) #40384449, $799,000
Lovely Athena model [...] Gorgeous hardwood floors & carpeting. [...] high-end kitchen with stainless steel appliances. [...] fireplace and nice built-in entertainment center. Finished patio with gas hookup for BBQ, free-standing fireplace! [...]

In addition to being ugly, characterless and overpriced ($360 / sqft), this lovely Athena model also has the distinction of having been purchased new for even more money, and being unloaded (or at least put on the market) at a loss:

Last sale and tax info

Sold 01/13/2006: $823,500
2008 Property Tax: $11,320
Assuming average rents for a reasonably-appointed 2- or 3-bedroom apartment in town, the property tax alone amounts to 2/3 of a year's rent. That's not counting insurance or mortgage or maintenance or anything else. Just the property tax. And the NAR morons have the gall to call renting a waste of money.

The mind boggles.

Update 2/3/09: Price dropped to $759,000 on 1/23/09.

On a lovely block of St Charles Street stands a medium-sized, distinctive-looking Victorian with the following specs:

3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, 1,300 sqft, 3,800-sqft lot, MLS(r) #40383248, $679,500
In-Law studio unit [...] Can be used for recreation room or Office. [...] bathroom, stove and refrigerator. Partially, improved basement.

If you ask the owner, you get the following specs with a considerably gushier description (I wonder if it's the "mother-in-law" that bumps the Zestimate up to $1,198,654 from $754,000):

5 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, 2,218 sqft

At-a-Glance Features

  • Cable Ready
  • Ceiling Fan
  • Deck
  • Hot Tub/Spa
  • Lawn
  • Mother-In-Law
  • RV Parking

Additional Features

**Finished basement: 2 bd/1 large rec room, nonpermitted. **Legal 1 bd 1 bath granny unit w/kitchen.

Home Description

One of few Mansard Cottage style Victorians [...] edge of Gold Coast. [...] Beautiful redwood trim inside. [...] Large kitchen w/island and lots of cupboard space.

It's not every day you see the word "mansard" in a property listing here in town; I can't think of any residential (or formerly residential) buildings other than this house and the big, magnificent, aptly-named Mansard Building at 2233 Santa Clara (map) that would have a real mansard roof:


Mansard, granny unit and mother-in-law or not, though, we have ourselves another fine example of how real estate is always such a great investment (Zip Realty has it listed as a short sale):

Sales History

Sale History & Tax Info
Sale History
09/01/2004: $710,000
03/12/2003: $202,000 *
08/09/2000: $100,000 *
No other sale data is available
* Transaction not included in Zestimate. More info

I didn't see (or pay attention to) this property when it was on the market, but what I find interesting is that it sold for significantly below its asking price at the time, even though 2004 was a year notorious for demented overbidding. Its previous agent still has the house's antlers on display on her site:



Mansard Victorian cottage. 3 bedrooms, 2 baths plus lower level all-purpose rooms. Additional living space over the garage. [...] hot tub, gourmet kitchen. [...] long driveway for cars and RV.

Listing # 40033062

LIST PRICE:   $795,000
SOLD PRICE:   $ 710,000
It's hard to get an idea of how overpriced the current listing is with so many different descriptions of what may or may not be living/livable/permitted/improved space. The house itself is cute, although it seems to show its age, and who knows to what standards the non-permitted sections were built. But even for less than its previous price, it's still too damn expensive to make any sense unless you're going to extract rent from granny, your mother-in-law and the basement rats (the ones that live in the unimproved section).

Update 1/12/09: Dropped to $649,500 on 1/2/09.
I remember this property at 760 Buena Vista when it was on the market a short while ago (late 2006 or early 2007). If memory serves, it was either priced aggressively to begin with or priced high and dropped dramatically; and it sold relatively quickly (that transaction is so fresh it's still on Harbor Bay's site as of Dec. 2, 2008). I also remember driving by, lured in by that low, low list price, and being thoroughly unimpressed by what I saw from the outside, especially what looked like a pretty run-down downstairs-slash-basement unit..

I suppose it must have gotten bored with its new owner, and it's now back on the market. Here are the specs:

4 (or 5?) bedrooms (2 units: 2 (or 3?) BR + 2 BR), 1,767 sqft, 5,049-sqft lot, MLS(r) #40383398, $625,000

[...] Duplex. Fully Remodeled Downstairs unit. Upstairs has remodeled kitchen. Each unit has private backyard. [...]

760-buena-vista-street-view.jpgHere's an excerpt from the previous description, back in 2007:

Alameda Residential Income - Listed at $ 533,000 Sold
760 Buena Vista Ave, Alameda 94501

[...] duplex. Upstairs [...] very clean 2 bedroom and 1 bathroom with an eat-in Kitchen. Formal diningroom and fireplace in livingroom. Accented with hardwood floors. Downstairs 2-1 needs TLC ! Large backyard. [...]

Zillow confirms the $533,000 transaction in early 2007, and adds a not-included-in-the-Zestimate $267,000 twist shortly thereafter:

Sales History

Sale History & Tax Info
Sale History
02/21/2007: $267,000 *
01/30/2007: $533,000
04/10/1980: $64,000
No other sale data is available
* Transaction not included in Zestimate.  

The Google Street View picture above appears to be recent--the house looks somewhat better than I remember, and it seems to have a brand new concrete walkway leading up to the main unit's stairs.

Comparing the new description with its 2-year-old ancestor, one deduces the new owners bought the place and fixed up the downstairs unit, maybe did some work to the upstairs ("Upstairs has remodeled kitchen"), and possibly split up the yard so the tenant has their own little private plot. That's actually a nice touch, if that is indeed what they've done.

But I also suspect they're either running out of HELOC money, cash, time, interest, patience, or all of the above, and are realizing that they'd better sell this thing PDQ before they really get in trouble. Assuming they get their $625,000 (fat chance--$354 / sqft in that moderately nasty markedly indifferent subprime very blah location is not in the cards), we're left with $92,000 $86,480 (gotta pay those commissions) minus 2 years' property tax, a full downstairs remodel, and various other bits that cost money, also known in the charming vernacular of New Yorkers as bupkiss.

Good luck, what with the holidays and all. Flipping houses, ain't it a riot?


I can't help but quote a delightful excerpt from the Alameda Sun article linked to in the first paragraph above:

Alameda Income Property

All real estate transactions listed below were supplied to the Alameda Sun by Carol Martino, CRS, of Martino Associates and Mortgage Co.


Listed properties sold during the 1st quarter in 2007. All signs point to a positive rental market in 2007 fueled by several growth indicators. A Harvard University study indicates the rental population is expected to increase by 1.8 million rentals by 2015, thus increasing your property value. Single family homes may show some signs of slowing sales but a property in good condition and priced right are selling.

First Quarter Sales

760 Buena Vista Ave. $533,000 1/31/07

The jump from one data point in some unspecified Harvard study about expected rental population growth to the "income properties are going up in value," without a single piece of context (for example, how many housing units are being built to meet that demand?), simply defies the imagination.

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This page is an archive of entries from December 2008 listed from newest to oldest.

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