Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Los Altos Real Estate: 939 Clinton Road

939 CLINTON ROAD, Los Altos 94024
MLS# 81055814
Listing Agent: Don Yarkin, Yarkin Realty
List Price: $1,450,000
Days On Market: 1
Bedrooms: 4
Bathrooms: 3
Living space: 2,117 SqFt
Lot size: 9,440 SqFt
Age: 58

Bryan's Opinion: Central Los Altos covers such a wide range of neighborhoods with quiet little streets such as this one. From this street, you're minutes to downtown Los Altos, Rancho Shopping Center, MacKenzie Park, and commute routes. On the one hand, you're getting a street that will have quite a few people heading just down to the park so you will get some traffic. Otherwise, it's pretty quiet.

The home itself is pretty typical for this area of Los Altos although the lot is a bit on the small side. Most lots in this area (and thus the comps) have lots 1000-2000 SqFt larger. Not a big deal but still something to consider with respect to price. The home is larger than most in the area so that offers some compensation.

The property needs updating and that should be a factor when comparing to others in the area. The back yard is almost entirely taken up by the pool and deck. This should be considered a HUGE plus. Why? You can walk to the park in 60 seconds. Why have all the maintenance of a yard when you can enjoy the pool and play in the park. Besides, MacKenzie Park is one of the best in Los Altos in my opinion.

As for the pricing, it's in line with the comps so taking into account all other things I think it's reasonable.

Los Altos Spotlight: Burger Town

Burger Town in Los Altos
Prices: $
Hours:  10-7 (Closed Sunday)
Credit/Debit: Yes

Yelp Review

BRYAN'S OPINION:  This place is a classic example of the "greasy spoon" burger joints of the old days but with better quality.  It's totally unassuming, operating in what was a Dairy Queen and sandwiched between a vacant lot and a vacant building.  The clientele ranges from construction workers to locals with something for everyone on the menu.

Burger Town is the best "bang for the buck" burger joint of any place in Los Altos.  While I love the burgers at First and Main, The Grill, and Maltby's, they are all much more expensive.  For $6 I get a quarter pounder and fries hot and fresh.  The flavors and quality are excellent.  This place is not about ambiance but about hearty food.  Onion rings, shakes, and more are all made to order fast.

Similar to In and Out Burger, you can opt to get more patties for a small extra fee.  They have a 3/4 pound burger on the menu but if you want more you can get it.  Grilled onions, no problem.  Extra cheese, coming right up.  It's truly a burger joint for those who are all about the burger.  Lots of options that all taste great.

If you read the reviews on various sites, you'll get mixed feedback.  Trust me, it's worth a visit.  I eat there more than I should and I've always walked away satisfied.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Los Altos Spotlight: Assistance League of Los Altos Costume Bank

Open: Wed-Sat
Prices: $-$$

BRYAN'S OPINION: Are you attending or hosting a costume party? Then this is the place to be! The Costume Bank has been around for decades and offers, in my opinion, some of the best costumes in the area. Located on the corner of State Street and Third Street in downtown Los Altos, this is one of the oldest continually running businesses in Los Altos.

The costume selections include everything from vintage flappers and soldiers to cartoon characters. Many off the costumes are hand-made from high-quality materials by volunteers from the Assistance League. These are the same people who staff the store and help with selecting a costume to suit your particular party or event. Obviously, many of the great parties in Los Altos and Los Altos Hills are attended by residents who stop by the Costume Bank to get their costume.

The customer service here is much better than other costume stores in the area. They'll really take the time to work with you on finding a costume, adding accents, and sizing. While most costumes are designed to fit average folks, they do have tricks to make them fit if the costume is a little too big or small.

The profits all go to charity so no matter what you do, the price is for a good cause. A word on price, the prices here are as good or better than many other local shops and with fewer crowds. So, stop by for your next costume party!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Los Altos Ranks #1 Most Expensive In California

According to the San Jose Mercury News, Los Altos was the most expensive town in California for the month of October 2010 with a median sales price of $1.7 million. While I love that Los Altos is always near the top of the state and national ranking as most expensive ZIP code, this time the paper got it wrong.

Los Altos Hills and Atherton both had median sales prices higher than Los Altos in October. It wasn't a matter of being close, both were well past Los Altos.

So, why the differences? I have found that when papers post #1 stats for any town based on sales they often have minimum population sizes.  So, Los Altos will make the top of the list with a population over 30,000 but Los Altos Hills won't.  Atherton is also left of the list.

The good news is that Los Altos prices are, in fact, increasing and we should continue to see market leading home prices going into 2011.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Hot Los Altos Hills Real Estate 11/17

24632 OLIVE TREE LANE, Los Altos Hills 94024
MLS# 81001641
Listing Agent: Terri Couture, Coldwell Banker
List Price: $2,700,000
Days On Market: 1
Bedrooms: 5
Bathrooms: 3
Living space: 4,430 SqFt
Lot size: 49,222 SqFt
Age: 47

Bryan's Opinion: This section of Los Altos Hillls is one of the more "rural" areas and there's a real mix of estates and older homes.  Because it's so far away from town, you don't get the same sense of connection to Downtown Los Altos you do from other areas.  This is great, if that's what you're looking for.
The home was completely remodeled and the finish quality looks fine for the price range.  The size of the home and the fact that it's completely turn-key makes this an excellent value at this price.  It sold 2 years ago for $2.9 million so it's priced $200K below the current asking price and after the owners invested money in improvements.  Considering how far we've come in the current market, that also makes this a good value.
There are very few new homes on the market this week (or last) in Los Altos or Los Altos Hills in this price range.  I expect there will be only a handful of homes put on the market over the next month.  If you're looking at a newer home in Los Altos Hills, this should definitely be on your short list.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Los Altos Spotlight: Adventure Toys


Open: Mon-Sun
Prices: $-$$$
Adventure Toys

BRYAN'S OPINION:  This place is full of toys that are more interesting that the typically stuff you see at Toys r Us. I've been here so many times with my son that it's like a destination spot.  We used to have a routine that after karate we'd stop off here to look at toys before walking down the street to Spot Pizza.  This place isn't about quantity, it's about quality - a theme in Los Altos.
When you walk in, head right, and look at the section between the girls toys in front and the Legos and building toys in back.  That middle section is a goldmine of scientific learning toys and family games you'll have a hard time finding anywhere else.  You want to build a rocket?  There is a kit to build one.  In the same section is a wide range of puzzles with enough challenge for kids 2-80.  You want a 5000 piece super-puzzle, they've got it.
Opposite that section is their game area.  There are lots of individual and family games including old classics.  What is most interesting is there are games there I haven't seen anywhere else including similar specialty toy stores in other areas of the state.  Many are award winning and some are just plain creative.
The rest of the store offers just a much variety.  There are the usual Legos and dolls plus crafting kits and dress-up clothes to let a kids imagination go wild.  Along with their usual creative selection, you'll find special displays for certain holidays and nice extras especially during Christmas.

Los Altos Spotlight: First and Main Sport Lounge

Open: Mon-Sun
Prices: $$
First and Main Sports Lounge

BRYAN'S OPINION: The only real sports bar in Los Altos is First and Main Sports Lounge. It's a great place for everything from group meetings to gathering with friends. There are screens everywhere. It is impossible to NOT see a game and they have all the major sports on. There's memorabilia everywhere and many sports folks have signed the wall above the bar. This place exudes a cool sports vibe from every corner.

The food is, for me, the best part of First and Main Sports Lounge. They have arguably the best burger in Los Altos and their variety is excellent. The salads are always like getting a hand-picked from the garden fresh. The quantity is more than enough to satisfy a big appetite. I'm always impressed with the service which is always delivered with a smile. The best part is that the owner (one of them) is frequently onsite so there's a lot of consistency in both quality of food and service.

This is one of my favorite places to visit in Los Altos and I highly recommend stopping in to visit with friends and watch a game.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Los Altos Real Estate - Price Drop of the Week 11/10

803 MORA DRIVE, Los Altos 94024
MLS# 81001641
Listing Agent: Ed Graziani, Sereno Group
List Price: $2,495,000 (down $300,000 from original list)
Days On Market: 301
Bedrooms: 4
Bathrooms: 3 1/2
Living space: 3,488 SqFt
Lot size: 11,784 SqFt
Age: 1

Bryan's Opinion: The Country Club neighborhood of Los Altos is very popular with buyers wanting larger lots and an even more "rural" feel than other areas of Los Altos. There has been a lot of new construction in this area with prices doing fairly well even during the downturn. This home is now officially a bargain.

The price was actually dropped a month ago but it never got the attention it deserved. The listing expired last week and it was relisted by the same agent. I've actually held this house open and buyers have all said it stands out as being of higher quality than many others in the area.

This home was custom built for the owners who had other plans but changed their minds. The attention to detail is much higher than a "spec" home. That said, it has some features you won't find in most homes including an outdoor fireplace. It's one of the best examples of new home construction in the Country Club neighborhood of Los Altos.

Someone is buying up downtown Los Altos

A lot has been happening in downtown Los Altos in recent months with new construction and an emphasis on major redevelopment of downtown Los Altos into something more than just a sleepy little town.  Someone is buying large sections of downtown Los Altos.  The question is, what for?

I've lived here on and off since the 60s.  In all that time Los Altos seems to have been stuck between two camps; people who want a sleepy little town and those who want something like Santana Row or Los Gatos. The folks who want to keep the "village" feel are against large chain stores coming into town.  The other folks, like me, would like to see the town become something interesting where we have a lively downtown similar to Los Gatos.  The inability to make the change has been landowners downtown who refuse to allow chains.

Well, Los Altos is heading for change - big change.  The zoning has been changed to allow multi-story buildings downtown.  That will make knocking down old buildings in favor of newer ones economically viable.  In addition, the city is moving ahead with plans to make First Street more walkable with wider sidewalks.

 The entity that is buying up Los Altos has purchased buildings on State Street, First Street, and other areas.  Over $40 million has been invested so far and more may be spent.  Is a developer on the way to buying up downtown to make it a vibrant destination like Los Gatos?  I certainly hope so.  I'll be keeping an eye on this topic and talking to my friends in commercial real estate to see where this goes.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Hot Los Altos Hills Real Estate 11/9

26390 ANACAPA DRIVE, Los Altos Hills 94022
MLS# 81053519
Listing Agent: Kathy Bridgman, Alain Pinel Realtors
List Price: $2,295,000
Days On Market: 1
Bedrooms: 4
Bathrooms: 2 1/2
Living space: 3,344 SqFt
Lot size: 1.18 Acres
Age: 49

Bryan's Opinion: When people think of views in Los Altos Hills, this is the sort of thing they're looking for. This area of Los Altos Hills is full of fabulous luxury homes. There are a lot of people looking for opportunities such as this - an older home on a great lot with spectacular views and easy access to the Los Altos Village.

It's in move-in condition and large enough that you could live in the house while working on plans for an estate for the ages. Compared to other homes in the area or even in other sections of Los Altos Hills, this one is particularly appealing because the price is perfectly matched for the lot size, location, and best use.

Another huge plus is the fact that this home is serviced by Palo Alto schools. I know so many buyers who want the Los Altos Hills address but with Palo Alto schools. With so few homes in this price range with that feature, I'm sure this will sell fast.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Rosita Park in Los Altos - Major Upgrade Coming

This park, located at the end of Rosita Avenue in Los Altos, has been a spot for tennis, BBQ, kids playing, and more for decades.  I remember going to this park when the pool at Covington School was still available to swim in.  Nearby the park was a Catholic School with a large field for baseball and general play.

Now the park will be completely updated with a cleaned up baseball diamond, three new tennis courts (instead of the current 2), a childrens play area, new trees and shrubbery, and more.  It's the most money the city has ever spent on a park which bodes well for this gem literally at the heart of Los Altos.

I think this park, along with many others in Los Altos, it part of what makes this town so special.  We have a very active community who likes to be outside for sports and recreation.  Keeping our parks in great condition and continually improving them goes to the core values of Los Altos.

Stop by the Los Altos Town Crier for more details and a small picture of the new park.

October Market Report - Los Altos Hills Real Estate

October was a mixed month for the Los Altos Hills real estate market.  As I said in my preliminary report, the sale of one $8 million home has skewed some of the value.  That's most evident in the percentage of listing price received.  That was down to 88% in October 2010, down from 95% a year ago.
The median and average sales prices were $2,150,000 and $3,012,000 respectively.  Last year, those figures in Los Altos Hills were $2,435,000 and $2,545,000.  So, the average is up (due to the one large sale) but the median is down.  Median has little meaning for this month because there were only 8 sales, compared to 11 in 2009.  Inventory was up to 64 units vs. 58 a year ago and new listings were up to 14 from 6 a year ago.  The trend is more inventory and fewer sales but few days on market (only 102 vs. 128 last year).

Sales Over $2 and $3 Million
There were 3 sales over $2 million and each was very close to their asking price.  There was 1 sale over $3 million (except the $8M property) and it was also very close to its asking price.  Those are critical for the stats in Los Altos Hills because the market in the $2-3 million market band has had trouble still this year.  As I said in my last report, one month is not a trend but it could bode well in establishing 2010 as a turning point in the high-end market of Los Altos Hills.

One Big Sale

The home that sold for $8.2 million was listed at $10.9 million so that has skewed a few numbers.  The bright side of October 2010 is that all the other homes sold for close to their asking prices.  This would seem to indicate that homes priced well are in fact getting solid offers.

Comparison to September

The October market in Los Altos Hills had fewer new listings, lower inventory, more sales, lower days on market, and a higher average selling price which is all good for the long-term trend.  The activity of buyers in November indicates that this trend could continue.  What will impact sales this month is the loss of several selling days due to holidays.

October Market Report - Los Altos Real Estate

The month of October was great for Los Altos real estate.  The final numbers show that October is one of the strongest months for selling homes in Los Altos for many, many months.  There were 34 homes sold compared to 25 sold in October 2009, and 19 in September 2010.  The average selling price was  $1.94 million which is much higher than any previous month this year.  What drove this bump was sales over $2 milion and strong performance in the market band of homes in the $2-3 million range.
The median and average sales prices were $1,737,000 and $1,940,000 respectively.  Those figures in Los Altos were $1,580,000 and $1,710,000, respectively, in October 2009.  Inventory was down to 73 units vs. 89 a year ago and new listings were down to 26 from 36 a year ago.  The percentage of listing price sold is up to 97% from 95% last year.  This shows that Los Altos is doing much better.

Sales Over $2 Million
Los Altos had 4 properties listed over $3 million that were set to close this month and of those, 2 actually closed over $3 million, one was within $15,000 of that mark, and the last was at $2.775 million.
Los Altos had 8 properties listed over $2 million and all of them sold for over $2 million.  This is huge for this market segment because as I had reported in September, homes in this price range have been selling with no up or down movement.  We'll see how sales this month change the course of median and averages in this critical high-end of the Los Altos market.

Days On Market
The Average Days On Market did not skew to the high side even with the sale of a few homes that had been on the market a long time.  the average days on market for Los Altos in October was 59, down from 75 in October 2009.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

OPEN HOUSE: 900 Madonna Way in Los Altos 1:30-4:30 11/6

I'm holding open 900 Madonna Way in Los Altos today from 1:30-4:30PM.  This has just recently had a price reduction of $150,000 and is now priced at $1,998,000!  For the size and location, this is an excellent deal!

The home is a 4 bedroom, 2 1/2 bath with 2,957 SqFt on a 9000 SqFt lot.  It offers spectacular views of Silicon Valley and the flats of Los Altos.  The location is only minutes from downtown Los Altos with easy access to Hwy 280 and Foothill Expressway.

Stop by and I'll be happy to provide a tour as well as insights into the local market.

900 Madonna way Los Altos

Los Altos Pre-School Needs Help

Los Altos schools rank among the best in the state, especially the elementary schools.  Our top elementary schools even score above Palo Alto schools which most home buyers seem not to know.  So, where do we get all these fine students from?  Pre-schools!  Almost every incoming child has had at least a year of pre-school before they get into kindergarten.  My son had 3 years of pre-school so he was very well prepared going in.  So, I was shocked to learn that one of the oldest pre-schools in Los Altos is at risk of disappearing.

The Los Altos Parent Preschool lost its lease and is now looking for a new home.  They've been serving the community since 1954 and currently support almost 60 families.  As a co-op, parent participation is required and part of how it does so well.  They are currently looking for new space that is available at below market rates so that tuitions can be kept low.  If tuititions aren't kept low, the pre-school may not survive.  Take a look at this story in the San Jose Mercury News for more perspective.

I encourage any reader who knows of space in the area to contact the school so this part of the Los Altos educational legacy isn't lost.  I'll be on the look out as well.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Hot Los Altos Real Estate 11/4

595 ROSITA AVENUE, Los Altos 94024
MLS# 81052959
Listing Agent: Hiep Nguyen, Intero Real Estate
List Price: $3,795,000
Days On Market: 1
Bedrooms: 4
Bathrooms: 4 1/2
Living space: 4,986 SqFt
Lot size: 22,100 SqFt
Age: 2

Bryan's Opinion: This is the Los Altos neighborhood I grew up in and I've watched many new homes get built over the years. This particular area of Central Los Altos is one of the most popular areas for developers. There have been some spectacular homes built in this area and this is one of them.

A few key points, this lot is much larger than the others in this section of Los Altos. Most lots in this neighborhood are about half this size so you're getting a lot of value. There is some traffic for people going to Covington Park but it's relatively mild. The street is generally really quiet. The home itself is much larger than some of the newer homes that have sold recently on connecting streets such as Parma. Those homes have sold for close to $3 million.

in my opinion, the price is good and the location with quality make this a winner.

Los Altos Hills Real Estate - Price Drop of the Week 11/4

10869 MORA DRIVE, Los Altos Hills 94024
MLS# 81042247
Listing Agent: Mickey Shaevitz, Coldwell Banker
List Price: $4,795,000 (drop of $1,200,000)
Days On Market: 2
Bedrooms: 4
Bathrooms: 4 (and 2 half baths)
Living space: 5,120 SqFt
Lot size: 70,567 SqFt
Age: 75

Bryan's Opinion: Here is another huge price reduction on a luxury estate in Los Altos Hills. This section of Mora is very private as it is near the end that ends against the Rancho San Antonio County Park. That means you'll get very little traffic and have easy access to one of the most popular hiking areas in the SF Bay Area.

The house itself is a heavily remodeled home on nearly 1.75 acres of land. While the modern feel may not appeal to everyone, it's still got the casual charm consistent with the area. In addition to being gated and private, it's also large enough to be competitive with similar sized properties in the area. When compared to other Country Club homes on Mora and nearby priced in the $2.5 million range (in either Los Altos or Los Altos Hills) this seems like a bargain.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Los Altos Holiday Stroll

A little break from the usual blog posts about Los Altos real estate this time.  Here's a note about the upcoming Holiday Stroll held in downtown Los Altos on November 12th.  The stroll is on from 5-9PM and offers shoppers a chance to do their holiday shopping while enjoying live entertainment, snacks or drinks at the various stores, and live entertainment.

When I served on the board of the Los Altos Village Association, this was considered a great event for residents or anyone who likes Los Altos because it showcases the charm of the Los Altos village.  You'll see all the trees on Main Street lit up with white Christmas lights, restaurants open with lots of friendly people, and a vibrant atmosphere of holiday cheer.

For more information, take a look at the website for the Los Altos Village Association.

Hot Los Altos Real Estate 11/3

26 SUNKIST LANE, Los Altos 94022
MLS# 81052599
Listing Agent: Kathy Bridgman, Alain Pinel Realtors
List Price: $2,149,000
Days On Market: 2
Bedrooms: 3
Bathrooms: 3
Living space: 2,974 SqFt
Lot size: 11,280 SqFt
Age: 51

Bryan's Opinion: I used to walk this neighborhood in North Los Altos when I lived nearby. This area has lots of new construction and remodels, is close to downtown Los Altos, and is very quiet (little street traffic or noise).

This home has a healthy sized lot and offers an above-average size home in great condition. The grounds are amazing and there's even a pool. What I think will limit many people is having only 3 bedrooms. I've seen other larger homes come on the market (remodeled and/or expanded) that didn't get a 4th bedroom and the price took a hit as a result. Other than that, this is a great home.