A Little Skirmish


So last weekend I was holding open my listing at 9 Violet Lane in San Carlos when this older couple walked in. We went through the usual pleasantries and they proceeded to look around. The lady was taking pains not to make eye contact with me in any way, like if she did so I would whip out the contract, wrestle her to the floor and make her buy the place on the spot. They actually spent some time in the place, and honestly I left them alone, and when they came down the stairs from the bedrooms they headed for the door to leave.

The gentleman said thank you and goodbye…as did the lady. Yet, something inside of her was coming to a boil. I could just see it in her body language. She turned and came back, looked me in the eye and said. “We could buy this place…but we’re not going to!” Take that! “These prices out here are just ridiculous and we’re not budging until they come way down!” she said.

Somehow, I’d become the “realtor stereotype”? The sounding board for her frustration? I don’t know, but she needed to show me who’s boss. Sorry, but this scenario was just too irresistible to me…and I leapt into the breach. “Jeez, I think the market’s coming back and I’ll bet we’ll see prices go up again soon” (I actually don’t think that…but I couldn’t resist goading her a little). At that point I could see the blood rush to her face, she said “Why that’s crazy! Prices should fall another 40 or 50 percent…certainly before we buy!” she blurted. “All you crazy Californians think that you’re so special, why back in New Jersey prices are half of what they are in this crazy place!” She added  “You drop this price another 40% and we’ll buy it”.

Again, I couldn’t resist…I said. ” Oh, I know prices are far different back there, but the problem is…you would have to live in New Jersey”. “There’s plenty of places around here where you could find price reductions of 40 or 50 percent though…have you looked in Hayward or south San Jose?”

“We wouldn’t live there!” she replied.

At that point her husband came back in and dragged her out. Sorry, but it was funny! This lady, like lots of people (both buyers and sellers) had built an enemy out of the marketplace. The marketplace is inanimate…it doesn’t care about our feelings. It’s like getting mad at the Sun for shinning. Sorry to disappoint you but the market in San Carlos, or San Mateo or Foster City is not the same market as Denver or Cleveland…or New Jersey. It’s not even the same market as Daly City or Fremont or San Jose. Because you can buy a foreclosure in Detroit for $14,000 doesn’t mean the same thing is inevitable around here.

Having said that…9 Violet is still available. It’s priced right too!


  1. Steve W. says:

    Ahhhhh New Jersey… the armpit of America!

  2. Patrick says:

    That, Jim, is hilarious.

  3. Jim: there are some sad truths inside the story. The price here is too high for sure. It would hurt us in the long run. From the current budget crisis, it can be seen that Pro-13’s issue would come back some day: it is just a paradox.

  4. it is funny. it is true its pricier. but our life does not wait for the prices to come down. so ended up buying in windemere, san ramon.

  5. Michelle says:

    Hi Jim, You might just be the first realtor who is openly saying that prices probably won’t be going up soon anytime. Can you talk more about why you think that? Also, can you tell me how much that house on Cedar (your listing) ended up going for? We are in process of refi our place to get some money out to move to a bigger place and am eyeing the market…

  6. Jim Minkey says:

    It’s actually a paradoxical thing Michelle…I think prices are going both up and down. In Jan-Feb you could get plenty of REO type single family homes in many parts of the Peninsula for under $450,000. Now it’s hard to get the same type house for under $550,000…so at the lower end it’s already gone up. Conversely, at the higher end it’s still coming down and probably will in my opinion. That particularly includes high end townhouses with high HOAs. I think there’s a blog post brewing on this topic next week! Jumbo loans are a big part of that.

    As far as Cedar…I have to admit to being a tad superstitious about disclosure of asking prices before COE. That’s been a difficult escrow too…I’m afraid to rock any boats just yet. It’s going to close on the 30th…e-mail me then and I’ll let you know.

  7. Dana Ferri says:

    I wish I could have been there to see that skirmish!!!

  8. It is kind of funny.
    But I pity her, I know how frustrated it is to get a place here. It is close to impossible even with 2 persons working to pay mortgage, not to mention the worse economy. It seems that only people who started working and bought house like 10 years back can live a good life in bay area, anyone who hasn’t now has a VERY hard time surviving.
    Me and all my friends use up all the pay everymonth for mortgage and day care and food, all.

  9. Michelle says:

    Hi Jim,
    Just following up on your comment earlier. I would totally love to read your post about this subject. Meanwhile, in thinking about if a property is ‘priced right,’ I wanted to share this about my own refi. Our townhome in FC just got apprised for $540,000. It is a water front, 3 bedroom property! Yikes. We have neighbors that paid $750,000 about 3 years ago for the exact same house, minus the recessed lighting, the granite counter top…! We bought a while ago and so thankfully, it is still ‘worth’ more than we paid for it. I honestly cannot imagine a home like ours selling for $540,000, as there are properties from this complex listed for more than $650,000 still. What do you think about that?

  10. Jim Minkey says:

    I’m crazy about you Michelle! You’ve given me a second idea for a blog post! The appraisal topic is coming next week too. Your problem is not unique right now…although I totallly understand how it makes you nuts! Check in on Thursday

  11. That’s a gem, Jim! I always remind people, when we have gorgeous weather days like today, that THIS is the reason you’ll pay $900K for a home here that would sell for $14K in Detroit. Great comebacks!…Ed

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