Forgotten North of Valley?

By Dave Fratello | August 23rd, 2011
Families coming into MB are going to look first in the Tree Section. So there's your first asset if you're selling: There will be buyers.

Give them 5br and plenty of space, now you're in the sweet spot. (It'd be nice to offer a yard, but if you know the Trees, you know that's often just a wish-list item. Buyers figure that out quick, too.)

Despite having some of the things buyers want, several Tree Section listings are lingering because they haven't found the right price. And some confront an extra hesitation from buyers who see the region of the Trees north of Valley as less desirable.

Here's a look at some active offerings that face the dual challenges of location and price, and almost seem forgotten as a result:

3104 Maple (5br/4ba, 3350 sq. ft.) was new 4 years ago, selling for $2.490m at a peak time in the local market (June 2007). The sellers seem to recognize that the market's down since then, asking $2.149m (-$341k/-14% off acquisition).
Neighboring 3212 Maple (5br/4ba, 3440 sq. ft.), originally built and sold the same year (2007) and recently resold (Dec. 2010), is a more stunning (and slightly bigger) property, and it fetched $2.100m late last year. (Also down a bunch, -16%, from a June 2007 purchase.)

3104 Maple is recognizable as a recent speckie, with a familiar downstairs layout and one of those extra (5th) "bedrooms" opening right off the dining room that really makes no sense as a sleeping room. (It has divided glass doors.) On the plus side, there is a higher standard of quality in the materials, including nice dark woods, the fresh, Montecito-inspired exterior design, and various details around the house. 

3104 Maple has hung around for more than 2 months, but why panic? This is Summer. A buyer's bound to come around soon.

Useful statistic: Number of Tree Section sales for more than $2m, less than 3400 sq. ft., in all of 2011: 2. Just 2. Both terrific, in good-to-great locations. (2100 Pine and 3005 Poinsettia.)

Can we emphasize that again? Tree Section, $2m+, <3400 sq. ft. Number of sales: 2.

3521 Walnut (5br/4ba, 3250 sq. ft.) is a custom Craftsman filled with lovely woods, a delight inside.

But whoa, Walnut has a significant location issue, as this portion of the street feels very close to the refinery. With the rise in the hill on this stretch of the block, you get nice rooftop and treetop views due west and south, but the big industrial neighbor to the north can be very noticeable.

We gave a pretty thorough review to the home in this mid-June post, but there's no doubt by now that the location and lack of a truly accessible yard are punishing 3521 Walnut. It's down more than $200k to $1.690m, with nearly 3 months on market. This may be the signature example of an almost-unforgettable home that seems utterly forgotten in the Tree Section mix.

3525 Walnut (4br/4ba, 3500 sq. ft.) is the next-door neighbor of 3521 Walnut, obviously, so it shares the location challenge that – so far – no one has gotten over.

The Caliterranean at 3525, though bigger, has always remained a step ahead of the Craftsman neighbor in the contest for buyers, pricing $100k below 3521 at the start and remaining $95k below it now at $1.595m.

Inside, though it has a familiar layout, the house plays home to bold, custom colors, wallpapers and elaborate décor with a strong Asian theme to the space. Striking.

There's a grassy patch out back down some stone stairs, though it's hard to call this a "yard" in the traditional sense.

If you'd like a newer (2001) home under $1.6m, here's an option.

3617 Pacific (4-6br/5ba, 2800 sq. ft.) is another option under $1.6m, but it's literally the most-forgotten of the Tree Section listings we're covering here, right about to hit 6 months on market.

No big surprise there: It has a double-whammy of a location issue, bordering both Rosecrans and Pacific, with the refinery and an electrical substation looming. Yikes.

In February's review, while praising the home's "surprising... classy Spanish+modern vibe," we also said "[t]his one's got a long adventure ahead."

About that bedroom count: There are officially 4 bedrooms, plus one no-closet nursery-type room and the separate guest house ("casita") that has 2 rooms plus a bath, but no closets, either, so technically no bedrooms. Do the math right, and you could see having 6br if you need them.  Meantime, one of the real bedrooms is in the main house, upstairs, in separate mother-in-law/nanny quarters with a private entry.

Scratching your head yet? 

598 27th (5br/6ba, 4200 sq. ft.) probably offers the best package of the listings we're focusing on here, but also at substantially the highest price ($2.279m).

Useful statistic #2: Number of Tree Section sales above $2.275m in 2011: 2. Again, two. One was bigger on a much bigger lot (1706 Pacific) and one was on a bigger lot on the Martyrs Hill (swoon!) (616 17th).

Meanwhile, 598 27th runs along Blanche, one of the busier streets in this part of town down by The Dune. Location was more of an afterthought back in May 2005, when this one was new and got bid up over a $2.395m asking price to $2.504m.

Nowadays, location seems to matter a lot. 598 27th is only into its 7th week now, but you have this sense that something dramatic is going to have to happen to get this one sold.

For what it's worth, the current asking price is down 9% from the 2005 acquisition. We dare not speculate how much this one might have fetched in the final bubble frenzy of 2007/early 2008, but you can bet the writedown would be even more dramatic now, had this one first sold in those days.

2800 Palm (6br/6ba, 4225 sq. ft.) is by far the newest public offering on this list – the marketing, that is, not the home – and can't really be called "forgotten" only 3 weeks into its run.

But sometimes, you need to be proactive.

We'd say this one is primed to be forgotten and left by the wayside if someone doesn't have a real conversation about value with the sellers. They're now asking $2.420m for an early-90s home that lacks "wow" factors and needs a great deal of help. It's a classic case of PPSF being a terrible guide to market price.

2800 Palm lacks an accessible yard – there's a faux-brick patio surrounded by trees and bushes that is accessed down a spiral staircase or off a first-level bedroom – and is generally puzzling. Decent block, but otherwise, lots of questions.

Summer's ending (sorry!), and that can mean the onset of bargain-hunting season in local RE, at least among the listings that have hung around. Buyers who can make the tradeoffs might find some deals by remembering these forgotten – or almost forgotten – offerings in the Trees.

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