Overpriced: March 2009 Archives

Another giant McMansion on Bryant is for sale. This "highly sought after plan 9" was apparently "SOLD OUT" last year, and now is you chance to get another one for $9,000 more than what the other one is asking for after several price drops. Let's all jump up and down for joy. In fairness, this one has one more bedroom than 350 Bryant, so maybe it is worth the extra $9k.

The specs:

5 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, 3,173 sqft, 4,280-sqft lot, MLS(r) #40402589, $889,000
Show blind! Plan 9. Flex flrpln-big MBR suite up plus main lvl MBR/office & BA. Crnr lot on culdesac & miniprk. Kit/FamRm cmbo-dbl oven, 5-brnr stove, great island, bar. BkYd w/ Trex dk, mature plantings, [...] 2 FPs-FmRm & LvRm. [...] Open Sun 3/29 1:30pm

410-bryant-ave-street-view.jpgIt was last sold right when it was built:

Last sale and tax info

Sold 09/14/2004: $858,500
2008 Property Tax: $11,934
The pricing strategy appears to be something along the lines of "We're not losing money on this! Let's get a pair of agents who will share a 4% commission and we can break even."

It looks great if you like huge new McMansions that look the same on tiny lots with nice, straight new sidewalks and minuscule green spaces whose personality gets brutally manicured out of them on a regular basis.

Update 8/30/09: Sold for $852,000, less than its 2004 price.

Solid--2267 Clinton Ave, Alameda, CA

While we're revisiting old favorites, I submit that the overpriced cut-up Victorian jigsaw puzzle (9 units? Give me a break) at 2267 Clinton will be on the market well beyond its owners' lifetimes. Heck, the way it's going, the owners' children might die of old age still clinging to their $1.5M price point.

It's back as MLS(r) #40402191, at the new, low, low price of $1,425,000.

Based on the MLS(r) photos, there isn't much left of the property's much-vaunted Victorian character. Carpet, carpet everywhere, and not an unrented square inch to breathe. The (terrible) MLS(r) photos suggest some of the units are empty (so much for $114,600 yearly income), the two photographed kitchens look incredibly cheap, characterless and cramped, and other than the picture and chair rails and some woodwork that would take some effort to remove, there doesn't seem to be anything remotely Victorian left in this once-glorious carved-up house. And remember these are the official, cherry-picked photos aimed at representing the house in its best light to prospective buyers.

I am thoroughly underwhelmed. I could see paying $600,000 for the (enormous) building, lot and location, maybe, and spend another $200,000 turning it back into a real house. Not a penny more.

Update 1/8/10: And again, for a little less this time ($1,369,000).
Remember 1019 Santa Clara, the obscenely overpriced Tudor revival that started out at $895,000 only to slowly drop to $748,000 and then disappear, about a year ago? It's back. The agent's name and broker (Sima Talai, Prudential CA Franciscan Properties) match the email address last used on the Craigslist posts ("simat@sfpru.com"), so she hasn't been fired yet and will almost certainly close a full-price sale this time around now that the price has been massively cut unchanged to $748,000.

Can not get any better than this! [...] Tudor house with huge family/office, fireplace, manicured, easy to maintain back & front yard, [...] One garage, possibly 3 car port tandem.
I'll refer interested parties to the original post for specs and commentary. It's now known as MLS(r) #354673. In fairness, it's very pretty inside, the kitchen hasn't been Luftwaffied, and it seems to be staged beautifully. But $748,000 $689,000? Not on your life.

(thanks to danielsf for the update)
Combine a busy schedule with what looks like a Spring-bounce-ready market full of new listings, and you get a much abbreviated, but hopefully still informative, threefer post. The "appreciation" calculations are based on 4.5% yearly adjustment for inflation, 6% agent commissions, and 2009 sale at full list price (yes, I know, a likely story).

Today's gravitational cutlery includes the specimens below:

311 Centre Court, 2-bedroom, 2-bathroom townhouse, 1,720 sqft, $579,000 ($337 / sqft)

2009: $579,000
2004: $570,000
Appreciation*: -$166,000

248 Cheswick Court, 3-bedroom, 2 1/2-bathroom townhouse, 1,891 sqft, $679,900 $624,900 ($330 / sqft)

2009: $624,900
2008: $719,938 (foreclosure/repo, most likely, although listing disingenuously says "Not a Short Sale"
2005: $731,500
Appreciation: -$285,000

3292 Washington Street, 3-bedroom, 2-bathroom SFH, 1,563 sqft, $688,000 ($440 / sqft)

2009: $688,000
2005: $674,000
Appreciation: -$157,000

It's always a great time to buy.

The kicker is that all three of these great investments are significantly overpriced and have very little chance of meeting my third assumption.
Sometimes I wonder if the Treasury is printing money to make up for the massive wealth destruction occurring all over the country as the excesses of the housing bubble are being wrung out of the system. Of course, none of the money being lost was ever real money, and it's painfully clear nobody likes what the Treasury is doing. Today's McMansion in the West end is a subprime example of foresight and excellent money management:

4 bedrooms, 2 1/2 bathrooms, 2,925 sqft, 3,760-sqft lot, MLS(r) #80914276, $690,000 $790,000
Award winning design [...] shows like model. Over $15,000 in kitchen upgrades and $22,000 in countertop and flooring upgrade. Beautiful Bamboo flooring, [...] Stainless Steel appliances, Thermador built-in refrigerator, double oven, caesar stone counters [...] Won't last long!

310-lina-street-view.jpgThey're so sure it "[w]on't last long" they raised the price by $100,000 the day it was listed. Or maybe the initial list price was a Freudian typo.

Property History for 310 LINA Ave

Date Event Price Source
Mar 20, 2009 Price Changed $790,000 MLSListings #80914276
Mar 20, 2009 Listed $690,000 MLSListings #80914276
Nov 28, 2006 Sold $1,088,500 Public Records
My favorite part, though, is the lovely bath the owners are taking on this property: $298,500 (27%) in 30 months or so--that's about $10,000 per month going "poof" since they purchased the property. Assuming they've been making regular payments since they moved in, this is roughly the same as paying $15,000-$18,000 a month in rent, with the added bonus of a couple of blown FICO scores and (most likely) a stress-related illness or two. But we know full well homeownership is the best way to build wealth.

At $270 / sqft, it's still too much, of course, especially considering how small the lot is. And $790,000 is a lot of money, regardless of how big the house might be. Now that lending has returned to reasonable standards, anyone buying this property would have to have between $80,000 and $160,000 in cash and $200,000 or more stable yearly income. Considering how well the economy is doing in California, I'm sure the sellers will find dozens of qualified buyers in no time flat.

To all the Alameda real estate agents who say things like...

the prices in Alameda have always held their values for the most part! We are again seeing some multiple offers on properties!
maybe it's time you stopped lying through your teeth making provably false statements being ignorant idiots working.

(Thanks to Sam Bezi for this post's title) 
Update 4/10/09: Also known in the local MLS(r) as #40404344.
It appears that spamming Craigslist with borderline bait-and-switch ads and even the old "Taking multiple offers on Saturday from 1 to 4" trick didn't work (imagine that!), so 601 Fortress Isle is back on the market.


It's now on the MLS(r) as #40401150 (no Redfin link yet), listed for $722,000, with no description. The same broker that was carpet-bombing Craigslist with his idiot agents who think Alameda has an ocean view and a lake still has the listing.

Some listings stay on the market for more than a year. Others come back on the market after less than a year. The condo at 11 Eclipse Court (another Wendy Sanda special) is in the latter camp, having last closed escrow in April, 2008. The specs:

2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, 1,443 sqft, MLS(r) #40399496, $535,000 ($371 / sqft)

This unit was purchased in 2008 for considerably less than its current price:

Property History for 11 ECLIPSE Ct

Date Event Price
Mar 11, 2009 Listed $535,000
Apr 07, 2008 Sold $437,000
May 16, 2000 Sold $350,000
One presumes the wished-for $98,000 premium is a refund for the ALL NEW KITCHEN APPLIANCES, miscellaneous REFINISHED sections, and agent commission.

While we're discussing agents, here's a plea to Ms. Sanda: Will you please stop yelling in your listings and learn how to type like a greater, rather than lesser, ape (pace this little fella)?


This is getting out of control. Not five, not six, not seven, eight nine! houses on the Marina / Fernside waterfront are now on the market or in various states of pendingness. 3031 Marina Drive just appeared, with the following specs:

2 bedrooms, 1 bathroom, 1,249 sqft, 5,016-sqft lot, MLS(r) #40399978

(as of this writing, the MLS(r) description is a terse "Fabu").

Redfin and other MLS(r) sites show this as a new listing, but ZipRealty says it was listed on 1/14/09 (2 months ago).

The sale history suggests this little 2+1 is probably almost paid off:

Last sale and tax info

Sold 07/30/1987: $340,000
2008 Property Tax: $6,283
A little history shows what happened to nominal prices between 1987 and the late 1990s (not much), so if we generously call this a $400,000 house before the 21st-century price runup, you might think it'd fetch something in the low $600,000s today (around $500 / sqft because of the waterfront premium), which is consistent with the presumed assessment value the $6,283 property tax is based on.

Appropriately, this "fabu" property is listed for a paltry $1,150,000, which not even the inflated price tag of its neighbor at 3045 Marina Drive rivals on a per-sqft basis ($921 / sqft v. $872 / sqft after $400K price drop for 3045 Marina Drive).

The waterfront must be crawling with yard signs.


Update 3/20/09: Now on Craigslist.
I know a lot of buyers have been chomping at the bit for another chance to purchase 409 Shell Gate Road, which was on the market last year. All that pent-up demand, free-flowing credit and strong job market, combined with a realization that now is a great time to buy real estate and invest in your future, almost guarantee it's going to be gone by Sunday.

Well, your wish has come true, and you're getting a second chance! 409 Shell Gate Road is now back on the market, known as MLS(r) #40399644, and listed for a paltry $525,000, or only $349 / sqft for a unique gem of mid-1960s architectural flair.

408-shell-gate-road-alameda-street-view.pngPlease be courteous and try not trample each other as you rush to drop off your signed offer of 15% over asking with 40% down and 815 FICO.

(excuse me)

You may remember that this ugly run-of-the-mill rancher was advertised as follows (emphasis added):

Hawaii in alameda? This lovely home is a strolling distance to the shore, schools, shops and rest-aurants. It's a spacious 3bd/2baths/2cgarage cozy home. Features central heating, romantic fireplace in livingrm, move in condition. Hurry this won't last.
I hope words are nutritious, because that's all a lot of Realtors(tm) have to eat these days.
You may remember the "painted lady" Victorian on Morton that was bragging about its "unheard-of" price (and then its unheard-of price drop). It disappeared without a sale last last year, and with good reason--it was overimproved (if you can say what looked like a $75,000 tricked-out kitchen is "improved") and overpriced.

1304_morton_mine.jpgI heard through the grapevine the owners had bought a new house before selling the Morton property, and were in a bit of a bind.

Well, it's back (MLS(r) #40399138), for the even more unheard-of price of $975,000.

1304-morton-trulia.jpgIf I may quote myself:

Assuming an appreciation that matches historic trends (i.e. around 5%), today's price should be about $830,000.
It was listed for $1,250,000 at the time, which means it's down about 65% of where it needs to be.

Now consider that Lehman Brothers and relatively easy credit were still around then. The rhetorical question at the top of my original post now seems to be answering itself:

Why can't this house come on the market in a year or two, for $500K less?
Update 8/25/09: Still on the market with a really idiotic price drop from $975,000 to $949,999. Not only is "$949,999" a truly meaningless discount from $950,000, it also shuts out all the buyers who start looking at $950,000 using various real estate Web sites. Well done, genius(es).

Update 8/27/09: Still on the market for any one of three prices.

Update 11/13/09: Pending.
As promised earlier today, here's a short summary of goings-on at 1616 Cornell Drive, a pointy English Tudor on a corner lot in the East End with the following vitals:

3 bedrooms, 1 bathroom, 1,487 sqft, 4,040-sqft lot, MLS(r) #40398284, $749,500

[...] 1929 English Tudor is in the desirable Fernside neighborhood, and walking distance to top-rated schools. [...] fine architectural details, [...] updated kitchen, lots of storage, built-in cabinetry, a wood-burning fireplace [...] much more.

Nothing terribly interesting about this property other than its excessive price ($504 / sqft), whose only justification is the property's previous sale price under three years ago:

Property History for 1616 CORNELL Dr

Date Event Price
Mar 05, 2009 Listed $749,500
Nov 17, 2006 Sold $740,000
Note to buyers: nothing good comes out of paying too much for your house.

Update 4/9/09: Amusingly, the price was increased to $769,500.

Update 10/4/09: Finally a teeny tiny price drop, to $720,000, after about 7 months on the market. "New low price" my foot. ZipRealty has this listing tagged as a short sale (no surprise there).


Sorry for the low post volume this week; not very many interesting listings coming on the market. Mostly relists like...

  • 1527 Willow St (MLS(r) #40398697, $724,500), covered a month ago;
  • 1626 Alameda Ave (MLS(r) #40398582, $1,145,000) with a new agent. The listing is always in ALL CAPS regardless of the agent representing the house, so I'm guessing the owner might have some control issues evidenced by their lack of sale in something like 10 years or more of trying to unload their "mansion";
  • 538 Palace Ct (MLS(r) #40398372, $435,000), a sad, unrecognizably Victorian "duplex" I didn't have the heart to cover last year because it's so sad looking;
  • 1612 Minturn St (MLS(r) #40398229, $545,000), covered a couple of months ago.
One relist I didn't cover is 1611 San Antonio, at the same idiotic high price at which it failed to sell last year:

$1059000 / 4br - Fabulous Gold Coast Property ~OPEN SUN~. 2PM-4:00PM (alameda) (map)

Reply to: daveparkrealtor@gmail.com
Date: 2009-03-07, 7:32AM PST

Don't miss this fabulous 4bedroom 2bath turn of the century brown shingle home on a large deep lot in Alameda's exclusive Gold Coast neighborhood.

For more information visit www.1611SanAntonio.com
The listing history is sad (what little you can get from the MLS(r) anyway):

Property History for 1611 SAN ANTONIO Ave

Date Event Price
Jan 01, 2009 Listed $1,059,000
Jan 01, 2009 Off Redfin *
Sep 18, 2008 Listed *
Sep 18, 2008 Off Redfin *
Sep 13, 2008 Price Changed *
Sep 08, 2008 Relisted *
Jul 12, 2008 Relisted *
Jul 10, 2008 Off Redfin *
Jun 21, 2008 Price Changed *
Jun 03, 2008 Relisted *
May 27, 2008 Off Redfin *
Apr 30, 2008 Listed *

If I remember correctly, one of the price changes last year was from $1,095,000 to $1,059,000. The Google search results aren't conclusive, but I do remember thinking the price drop was silly:

1611-san-antonio-previous-price-maybe.jpgI couldn't find a sale history for this property, so there should be room to drop significantly. Zillow's mostly useless Zestimates, which are usually much too high, have this house valued at $725,000 as of today, which is about right for...

4 beds, 2.0 baths, 2,148 sq ft, MLS(r) #40387468
I've only seen the outside, but trusted acquaintances tell me the house isn't in good enough condition to warrant a seven-digit price; supposedly lots of little annoyances and signs of age all over. I might just drop by an open house to confirm.

The Spite House's neighbor at 1343 Broadway (MLS(r) #40397569 and #40397471) came on the market this week, and I'll post on it when I have a chance to research it a little more. Also watch for a post on strategically-priced, sub-$1M 735 Palmera Court (MLS(r) #40398286), which is listed for considerably less than a neighbor a little while back, and a pointy, overpriced East-Ender at 1616 Cornell Drive (MLS(r) #40398284).

Update 4/27/09: Finally a price drop, to $938,000. Relisted as MLS(r) #40406999.

Update 9/28/09: Sold for $900,000.
Remember how one, then two, then five houses along the waterfront all seemed to come on the market in a semi-coordinated avalanche? Guess what: a sixth specimen at 3019 Marina Drive just appeared on the MLS. The specs:

3 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, 2,000 sqft, no lot size specified, MLS(r) #353483, $1,038,000 ($519 / sqft)

Lovely [...] with fruit trees, vegetables, and plants. 40 ft dock for your boat [...] 2 bed/1 ba single story home in the front and 1 large waterfront studio in back. Upgraded kitchens and bathrooms. Gazebo with spa. [...] go fishing, boating right from your backyard. [...]
Zillow has very different specs:

2 bedrooms, 1 bathroom, 976 sqft, 4,928-sqft lot ($1,064 / sqft)
It doesn't look like much from the street, but that's to be expected--the really interesting bits are on the other side:

3019-marina-drive-street-view.jpgWe now have six homes in a row vying for the well-heeled boater's dollars. Here's the previous map updated for this property:

3019-marina-drive-map.jpgThe sale history suggests the current owners should be able to drop their price by a few hundred thousand dollars (assuming they actually want to sell):

Last sale and tax info

Sold 05/05/2000: $505,000
2008 Property Tax: $7,264
Advertising two tiny buildings on one lot as one 3BR, 3BA, 2,000-sqft property is not exactly on the up and up as far as I'm concerned. This weird arrangement ensures that the average family with $1M to waste spend on a luxury-ish waterfront property will have no comfort or convenience whatever, unless they're the kind of family that likes to have two kitchens and be cramped in not one but two houses at once. The only candidates for this silly structure are probably divorced/widowed empty-nesters with a lot of cash, an expensive boating habit, and a hobby that makes having a second building extra super, like painters, jewelry makers, or crystal meth manufacturers.

Take a small buyer pool, divide it by six seven eight, and you get what looks like a pretty dicey situation for all of our contenders in the next few weeks (months)?
Today's Craigslist post had me in stitches (almost). Here goes, in its entirety, with some highlighting for emphasis.

$485000 / 2br - Sweet and Charming Home with lots of Character! (alameda) (map)

Reply to: hous-1055041452@craigslist.org [Errors when replying to ads?]
Date: 2009-02-28, 8:17PM PST

Two bedrooms, one bathroom.
Charming home with lots of character. Built in 1912.
Beautiful refinished wood floor throught the home.
New roof!
New foundation!
Fresh paint!
Great central location in Alameda.
Quiet neighborhood of expensive homes.

*Price for quick sale before listing on MLS.
If interested call Moti at 415-850-4841

The backyard and Home Depot special granite and short backsplash in the kitchen look especially appealing.

If you don't know where 1810 Hibbard is, here's a map with a street view. It looks like a bunch of super classy new construction homes on the west side with three five times as many pickup trucks than cars parked outside of them (I counted them), a big empty lot to the south of this property, and the striking modern sculpture below at the north end of the block:

1880-hibbard-street-storage-silos.jpgBut that's not what amused me most. This is:

2 bedrooms, 1 bathroom, 744 sqft, 3,564-sqft lot, $485,000
You read right. 744 square feet for $485,000 ($652 / sqft) is "Price[d] for quick sale before listing on MLS."

Maybe whatever is stored in those silos has been wafting down the street and eating away at the owner's brain cells. Or maybe they didn't have enough room for a TV, radio, computer, or newspaper mailbox in their subcompact bungalow to be informed that there are no quick sales anymore (with the occasional exception, and both of those occurred before unemployment hit double digits in California and the S&P 500 hit an 11-year low), and that the kinds of price per sqft that actually sell in Alameda are less than half of their demented asking price.


It shouldn't come as much of a surprise that the owners are not quite there. You may remember this property from last year, when it was on the market with a rather colorful description courtesy of Ms. "Sam" McDowell:

If you can't quite make out the description, here's what it says:

Its craftsman architectural integrity has been effectively exploited into a wreck created by the ravage of passing time or human beings????
Sure makes you want to move right in, doesn't it? Yet the current owners did pay $300,000 for it last April:

Last sale and tax info

Sold 04/30/2008: $300,000
2008 Property Tax: $2,099
In other words, this house is probably an attempt at a quick flip that's almost guaranteed to end poorly for the idiot flippers. Assuming they did things right, not luxuriously, and that the Craiglist post is factually accurate (i.e. the "new foundation" is a new foundation, not a cheap perimeter job, and the "new roof" really is a full roof replacement), we're probably looking at $60,000 worth of work given the condition the house appeared to be in.

That said, if the new roof, new foundation, and full rehab listed in the Craigslist post are their work, and if they're done properly (I have my doubts based on the cheap kitchen do-over and what looks like just a coat of paint on the windows, rather than a replacement), I must commend them for restoring what looked like a complete disaster. I'm almost tempted to wish them a break-even sale so they don't get completely turned off from rehabbing old houses in Alameda. It's an expensive hobby in this market, but I can think of much more destructive ways of killing time.

Update 3/9/09: On the MLS(r) as #4039891, same price.

Update 3/10/09: Reader Alyssa (yabbadabba) was kind enough to provide photos of the house taken when it was on the market last year, pre-renovation. Alyssa says:

I had a feeling this house would be flipped.  These are some before photos which show the sad state that the house was in; these photos are from February 2008.  The house looks better now from the photos.

Could be worse. Like, say, the side of the house:

Or what looks like a landing in back:

1810-hibbard-before-IMG_0136.jpgOr what looks like the back of the house:

Here's to hoping the current owners did more than just paint over all this grossness.

Update 4/11/09: Down to $469,000, with MLS(r) ID 40404510.

Update 9/5/09: Sold for $435,000 in June. I guess the new owners didn't see the pictures.