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Monday, June 2, 2008

Our Far-Flung Correspondents: A Report From Sycamore Park

You might think that we could pull ourselves away from Scrabulous long enough to walk a few blocks to see Mill Valley's newest "green house," a mid-century modern redo (asking price $2.2 million, previously sold for $973,500 in 2006) that recently went on the market in a trendy walk-to-town neighborhood. Especially after we made such a fuss about Marin's growing obsession with sustainable living, bamboo flooring, tankless water heaters, etc. But our friends at the ultra-hip design blog beat us there. Their verdict:

"One of the greener homes we’ve seen in a while"

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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Danielle Steele's Stinson Beach House For Sale

Add Danielle Steele's name to the growing list of homeowners who are trying to sell their beach houses in Stinson Beach's gated Seadrift community. The best-selling author's 3BR, 3B "personal play house on the beautiful Seadrift Lagoon" went on the market today, with an asking price of $2.65 million. Not everyone thinks it's worth that much, however. Meanwhile Steele, who paid $1.55 million for the house in 2003, still has another personal playhouse in Pacific Heights.

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The House Down The Block Sold For How Much Again?

April sales figures for Marin are in, showing that the local market is still weaker than last year. In other words, there were fewer sales (147 vs. 212 in April 2007) at slightly lower prices ($1.02 million was the median vs. $1.08 million) after houses sat on the market for more days (75 vs. 56).

That said, 31 houses in Marin sold above their asking prices. What did those houses have in common? Some were well-priced, others were brand-new, some had one-of-a-kind locations. A lot of them you read about here first, because they caught our eye for one of the above reasons. Here's a comprehensive list:

Corte Madera
390 Prince Royal: asked 1,495,000 and sold for $1,515,000
5 Alta: asked $1,225,000 and sold for $1,275,000
14 Portola: asked $799,000 and sold for $820,000
18 Via Cheparro: asked $2,495,000 and sold for $2,550,000
23 Gretchen: asked $1,550,000 and sold for $1,600,000
421 Woodland: asked $2,895,000 and sold for $3,325,000
23 Bridge: asked $1,495,000 and sold for $1,500,000
3 Crystal Creek: asked $1,399,900 and sold for $1,437,580
39 Cornell: asked $1,095,000 and sold for $1,136,000
Mill Valley
111 Locust: asked $3,395,000 and sold for $3,750,000
6 Tartan: asked $2,395,000 and sold for $2,520,000
890 Chamberlain: asked $1,350,000 and sold for $1,400,000
30 Juanita: asked $1,050,000 and sold for $1,095,000
156 Montego: asked $534,900 and sold for $571,000
318 Grandview: asked $489,000 and sold for $500,000
1103 Simmons: asked $469,900 and sold for $495,000
2418 Center: asked $459,900 and sold for $476,000
1430 Elm: asked $264,900 and sold for $315,000
409 Fernbridge: asked $299,000 and sold for $305,000
San Anselmo
190 San Francisco: asked $759,000 and sold for $850,000
9 Kenrick: asked $799,000 and sold for $819,000
180 Creek: asked $729,000 and sold for $800,000
San Rafael
21 Santa Margarita: asked $1,125,000 and sold for $1,200,000
31 Bonnie Brae: asked $959,000 and sold for $1,000,000 2518
Las Gallinas: asked $599,900 and sold for $638,000
33 Jefferson: asked $475,000 and sold for $495,000
20 Miraflores: asked $405,000 and sold for $481,000
85 Spring: asked $3,649,000 and sold for $3,890,000
334 Blackfield: asked $2,625,000 and sold for $2,675,000
1496 Vistazo: asked $1,595,000 and sold for $1,680,000
104 Howard: asked $1,425,000 and sold for $1,471,420

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Why Is This Man Smiling If His Company Just Lost $1.8 Million On A Tiburon Mansion?

Maybe because it was his mansion?

The Italian-style villa at 3650 Paradise Drive cost Edward Mueller $8.3 million a few years back, and it came with bay views, beach access, a wine cellar, a bar and a large limestone veranda.

But then the former Williams-Sonoma exec got hired in August to be Qwest Communications' CEO and moved from Marin to Denver; Qwest bought the house for $8.9 million in September.

Qwest listed it for $9.95 million—but ended up selling it for $7.5 million in December. According to today's Wall Street Journal:

Qwest ... reaped only $7.1 million after closing costs and commissions when it sold in December, the latest proxy statement says.

The moral of the story:

If you want to sell your house above market value, get hired by Qwest, which "promises to buy the residence of any transferred employee at the vice-president level and above if the home remains unsold for 60 days," the Journal noted.

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Google vs. MLS: Guess Who We're Betting On?

Google has a cool new addition to its always evolving Maps site. You can now search for real state listings in any area, by price, number of bedrooms or bathrooms. The "Google Operating System" blog has the lowdown here.

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Here's What Marin's $116,626 Median Income Will Buy

Median incomes in Marin are among the highest in the state—OK, in any state. Among married couples who file joint tax returns, the median adjusted gross household income is $116,626. If they're first-time homebuyers, how much house can they afford these days? One that costs $462,126.15, but only if they have saved up a 20 percent down payment:

Here's how the numbers would work out with a 30-year fixed rate mortgage at 5.82 percent, according to Money Magazine:
House price: $
Loan amount: $385,105.15
Down payment: $77,021
Monthly mortgage payment: $2,264.52
Monthly taxes/homeowner insurance: $456.75
Total monthly payment: $ 2,721.27

So what's on the market in that price range?
746 Diablo, Novato: 3BR, 1 B, $450,000. Amenities include a rope swing in the front yard and a skylight in the dining room.

Other possibilities include a 1BR, 1B condo in Mill Valley for $455,000, a 2BR, 1 B condo in Greenbrae for $469,000 and a 2 BR, 1 B condo in Corte Madera for $459,000.

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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Where The Brokers Hang Out Online To Get The Inside Scoop

Think of it like a Facebook for real estate brokers. About two years ago, two Seattle-area entrepreneurs launched a blog-hosting site for brokers, called ActiveRain, which has grown into a social network where nearly 90,000 members post and bid for each others' referrals.

We recently conducted an interview via email with co-founder Jonathan Washburn, who noted that the referral service has helped ActiveRain set itself apart from the herd of Web 2.0 real estate sites competing for agents' attention. "Our members receive a great deal of value from the site. Both in terms of income earned and knowledge gained," Mr. Washburn wrote.

But what lures the average real estate junkie to the site? The same thing that keeps us coming back: gossip.

If you search the ActiveRain site for local news (like we did), you'll see that 107 Marin real estate professionals—including agents, mortgage brokers and real estate attorneys—are members (and bloggers). For the real estate enthusiast, there's no end to the interesting tidbits you can pick up from such posts as broker Kelley Eling's monthly market conditions update. Average number of days on the market in April varied widely throughout Marin, Eling notes, ranging from 13 in Greenbrae to 150 in Kentfield.

Other ActiveRain blogs we follow religiously:,

The following is an edited transcript of our interview:
ROOF: Can you tell me a little about how you got the idea for the site,
how old it is, did you launch it with venture investment money or was
it a by-the-bootstraps project, etc.?

JONATHAN: We initially started ActiveRain with the idea to create a real estate social network around transaction management but after we built
out the entire network we had lots of trouble gaining traction on the
network. It just didn't spread virally like we had initially
imagined. In 2006 Matt Heaton, an ActiveRain co-founder thought of a
way to scale down our initial idea and add a competitive element to
it. After about a month of development we launched and
that has evolved to what you see today. We bootstrapped the company
ourselves for the first couple of years, then we received a few
hundred thousand dollars from some very supportive angel investors,
and recently we announced an investment for a couple million dollars
from HouseValues.
ROOF: Your own background. I saw on the site that you have extensive
experience in real estate and wondered how that helped you come up
with the idea for Active Rain.

JONATHAN: I started as a real estate agent when I was 18 years old. After a
couple years I created my first real estate website, which after years
of hard work eventually led to the creation of my first real estate
brokerage WhyNotOwn Real Estate. I would say that my on the ground
real estate sales experience has played a huge roll in the development
of ActiveRain. It has allowed us to see things from our members
perspective and keep our company very real estate professional

ROOF: Why do you think Active Rain is taking off so quickly? Is the
secret to the site's success the referral forum?

JONATHAN: I think ActiveRain has achieved fast and significant success
because our members receive a great deal of value from the site. Both
in terms of income earned and knowledge gained.

ROOF: How does the referral feature work? Can anybody post a referral or
respond to one?

JONATHAN: Yes, any member can post or bid for a referral.

ROOF: Are there other social networks for realtors and, if so, how is
Active Rain different (better!)?

JONATHAN: here are a ton of web 2.0 websites or products for real estate
agents. Integrating web 2.0 marketing tactics into a real estate
agents marketing repitoure is extremely important in this day and age.
Investing the time to learn about web 2.0 businesses and how to
utilize them in your business is something that every forward thinking
real estate agent should be doing; ActiveRain is a good place to do

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