Buyer must feed squirrels

From the WSJ:

Can I Buy Your House, Pretty Please?

Rob and Julia Israch won a fierce bidding war for a three-bedroom townhouse in Mountain View, Calif., late last year even though their $750,000 offer—while $92,000 above the asking price—was topped by 11 rivals and was several thousand dollars below the highest bid.

A key reason: The seller, software engineer Lev Stesin, was moved by a letter in which the Israchs said they worked in the technology industry and explained how the home’s spacious layout would be perfect given the imminent arrival of their first child. Among other things, the townhouse has three bathrooms, a wood-burning fireplace and a roomy backyard.

“I felt very comfortable with these people,” said Mr. Stesin, himself the father of a toddler. “I really wanted this place to go to somebody in a similar situation.”

In an echo of the last housing boom, ardent pitch letters from eager home buyers are popping up again in hot U.S. real-estate markets like Silicon Valley, Seattle, San Diego, suburban Chicago and Washington, D.C., housing economists and real-estate brokers say.

The heartfelt missives, often accompanied by personal photos, aim to create an emotional bond that can give their writers an edge—especially in situations where multiple bidders are vying for the same house. And the reappearance of buyer pitches, also known as love letters, offers further evidence that the housing market is rebounding after a five-year slump.

“The market has gotten so crazy that money alone doesn’t talk,” explained Glenn Kelman, chief executive of Redfin, a real-estate brokerage that operates in 19 markets. In 2012, 70% of the offers handled by Redfin agents faced competing bids. In Silicon Valley, the figure was 95%.

A few years ago, the owners of an older Los Altos home got more than 21 offers and picked the one from a woman who also submitted a love letter from her dog, said Kathy Bridgman, an Alain Pinel Realtors agent who represented the sellers.

“She won’t touch a thing,” promised the letter, signed with a paw print. “I will be able to play in the yard.”

After closing, the buyer immediately tore down the home and built a bigger one.

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67 Responses to Buyer must feed squirrels

  1. Fabius Maximus says:

    Feed them Friskies!

  2. Fabius Maximus says:

    “No, the land doesn’t belong to “All Americans”. Sovereignty begins in the states, and property rights with the people.”

    So I can’t get you to sign up for my plan to federalize Delaware?

  3. Fabius Maximus says:

    “Such as what? Totally plausible…..but anything written in the UK about a US domestic issue can be summarily ignored…….”

    So nothing objective?

    Are you making the call again this year to “keep all your money at home?”

  4. Juice Box says:

    All that facebook and google cash. I met with a FB
    Engineer yesterday, they told me even east palto alto
    Is a bubble too.

  5. Mike says:

    Good Morning New Jersey

  6. speedkillsu says:

    repost …. ….Need a little help …I live in little Silver ,Waterfront where the taxes are high Our town just had a reassessment which ended ended Oct 1 ..we all know how much destruction Sandy caused .Little Silver Point rd homes were damaged ,some beyond repaid some condemned ( )Dec 30 we received our new assessment most in town were up 25% however all waterfront valuations went 45% to 90% …our sales ratio was 75% at the time so the new numbers looked way out of line .The town is not relenting and saying the assesment was done and the final numbers will come out soon ….Well it appears panic in on the street one home that was reassessed 1.4 mil is up for sale 499K .. …my real question is are reassessments set in stone ,or are tar and feathers in order here ?

  7. Ernest Money says:

    Dear Sellers,

    Tick, tick, tick…



  8. Brian says:

    Speed, I’ve read of a nj statute that allows victims of sandy to request reassesments. My town website has a link on the homepage with a form.

  9. Juice Box says:

    re# 6- Sorry to hear about that. $20k to $30k a year in taxes for those homes and many are a total loss. The town has a budget of $10 million not including schools etc.
    Unless the Mayor and Council people all have damaged unlivable homes and are paying taxes like you are they are not going to vote gut the municipal portion of the budget and do mass layoffs.

    51.8 cents per $100 is the current portion of the tax bill the town controls. The rest go to the schools and the county.

    Good luck…

  10. Phoenix says:

    “Other kings said I was daft to build a castle house on the swamp Jersey Shore. But I built it all the same to show them. It sank into the swamp. So, I built a second one. That sank into the swamp. So, I built a third one. That burned down, fell over, then sank in the swamp. But the fourth one stayed up. And that’s what you’ll get, lad. The strongest castle house in these isles.

  11. The Original NJ ExPat says:

    Silver looks like it’s about to explode. It’s over $36 an ounce in real terms. If you don’t believe me, try to buy some and report back.

  12. Frank says:

    These people are trying to pull a short sale scam. They are trying to sell this house which is in foreclosure for a low price, then flip it. How do I report them?

  13. Juice Box says:

    re#13 – Frank obviously the granite counters make it worth 734k, which was it’s peak valuation back in 2006. Just because someone wants less does not mean it is a scam, besides the bank has to approve all short sales. I don’t think the bank would approve it if it was a scam as you state. But then again if they really only want 339k there will be a bidding war just the ole days…..

  14. chicagofinance says:

    January 11, 2013, 7:56 p.m. ET
    Apocalypse Tips, From Antibiotics to Zombies

    A worrier’s primer on how to steal a car, build an igloo and live on rabbit (eat the organs, too)


    After my wife and I had a son, I was consumed with nightmares about disasters: earthquakes, tsunamis…even a zombie apocalypse. In an attempt to be “ready for anything,” I studied wilderness and urban survival, stunt-driving, shooting—basically everything you’ve ever seen in a ridiculous disaster movie.

    Though the lengths I went to aren’t necessary for everyone (with luck, you’ll never have to use the brains of an animal to cure its hide), certain survival skills are good to have in your back pocket—during a hurricane, a travel disaster or even a situation where the dead have unexpectedly risen from their graves.

    Don’t be scared: When you’re threatened, your brain releases a flood of chemicals that jack up your heart rate, preparing the body to face danger and to fight and bleed. Gross motor skills—pushing and pulling—improve. But these chemicals also change how your brain works. Even simple actions can be fiendishly difficult. People under incredible stress have trouble dialing 911: They can’t see the numbers, they can’t press the buttons.

    What can you do about it? Drill sergeants and coaches like to say, “You don’t rise to the occasion, you sink to the level of your training.” Repeat an action a thousand times so that when the stress hormones are ripping through your system, you do it on autopilot. A simple technique, sometimes called combat breathing, can help even an untrained person overcome extreme stress. Our breathing is automatic, but you can also control your breathing, unlike your heart rate or your adrenaline levels. In very stressful situations, take four deep breaths, on a four-count (breathe in for four beats, hold, breathe out for four beats), and this can bring you back from a state of super-arousal.

    Clean your cuts: Take a CPR or First Responder course and acquaint yourself with the basics of medical emergencies. Remember, in a disaster scenario, it’s extremely unlikely that you will be able to frantically surf YouTube videos for help. Emergency medicine has come a long way in recent years; get yourself some Quik-Clot and make a kit with bandages and antibiotics. The most important thing is to clean a wound. If it’s bleeding, 20 minutes of pressure should induce clotting. Honey can act as a good short-term antiseptic.

    If you emerge from a disaster in OK shape, be sure not to become another victim. Carefully survey the scene before rushing in to rescue others.

    Steal a car: Everyone else has turned into a zombie? Then take your pick of the vehicles left behind. But don’t get flashy. The older a car is, the easier it is to start without a key, so look for something from the 1990s or earlier.

    Using a flathead screwdriver, pry out the plastic and pot-metal and aluminum stuff that the key would normally go into, and then reach in and turn the starter ignition with a pair of pliers or the screwdriver. The only thing stopping the car from starting is the ignition lock, which can be peeled away in about three minutes. Assuming the battery has a charge, you’re good to go.

    Don’t starve on rabbit: European explorers, trapped for the winter with the Inuit in Canada, ate rabbit all the time and still starved to death, because rabbit meat is so lean. The Inuit ate more organs (not just the meat) and so got more vitamins, minerals and essential fats. If you’re trapping rats to stay alive, eat as much of the animal as you can. Make a stew so nothing gets wasted, and you can divvy out portions equally.

    Build an igloo: If you’re caught out in the snow, your primary concern is to maintain body temperature. You’ll lose heat three ways: convection (the wind), conduction (what you’re touching) and radiation (wear a hat!). You’ll need shelter. If the snow is the right kind (hard and old but not too old), you can dig out a cave or a trench, or even carve out blocks of snow with a ski-pole, machete or a stick. These blocks can be used to make a roof or a windbreak, which cuts windchill (and don’t bury yourself, you’ll need a ventilation hole).

    For an igloo, cut the blocks out and stack them around you; one course up, and then start stacking them inward, on an angle. You’ll have to finesse a keystone cap. Cover the outside with smaller chunks and powder. Inside, keep your body off the ice or ground (the Inuit put their sleeping blankets on top of a bed of sticks and reeds) and create heat-trapping “loft” (it’s what keeps you warm in a sleeping bag) by layering a few small blankets or big trash bags, with leaves or crumpled newspapers in between.

    When all else fails, keep moving, eating and drinking. Heat your body from inside.

    Finally, remember that survival is a group endeavor. People don’t degenerate into wild animals when disaster strikes. That’s a myth pushed by Hollywood and people trying to sell you something. Sociologists find that the vast majority of people behave well in a crunch. So get to know your neighbors. The ideal components for a survival kit are a doctor, a mechanic, a farmer. Society, it turns out, is useful in times of disaster, too.

    —Mr. Sheridan is the author of “The Disaster Diaries: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Apocalypse,” to be published Jan. 28 by Penguin Press.

    A version of this article appeared January 12, 2013, on page C3 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Apocalypse Tips, From Antibiotics to Zombies.

  15. McDullard says:

    Sad news about this kid Aaron Swartz, who coauthored RSS spec, one of the original builders of Reddit, and activist for free availability of public information… He was bullied towards suicide by ambitious, “tough on crime” prosu-critter.

    Lessig had a nice, short tribute…

  16. relo says:


    Ole or Ol’?

  17. The Original NJ ExPat says:
  18. grim says:

    NJ Taxes Down???? (after inflation)

    From the Star Ledger:

    N.J. property taxes rise slightly in 2012; Christie pushing for lower bills

    New Jersey homeowner taxes went up 1.7 percent last year, the smallest bump in more than two decades and a hard-fought milestone for one of the highest-taxed states in America.

    Residents paid $7,870.28 on average in property taxes for 2012, an increase of $132.46, a Star-Ledger analysis of all 566 municipalities shows.

    The 1.7 percent rise was the lowest since 1991, and for the first time, property taxes rose by a smaller percentage than the 2 percent cap on local tax growth enacted by Gov. Chris Christie and lawmakers in 2010. The analysis shows that after decades of searching for fixes, New Jersey is heading off the kind of rampant property tax increases that dominated the 2000s.

    “I’m very happy but not yet satisfied,” Christie said in an interview. “In the 10 years before I became governor, we were averaging 7 percent a year. The last two years, we’re talking about an average of 2 percent, and that’s I think significant for the people of the state.”

    Property taxes actually declined in one county: Morris, where the $9,184 average was 0.8 percent lower than in 2011.

  19. grim says:

    20 – The old salvage lot off 46 in Fairfield that was there for years, and was subsequently emptied out and cleaned up (or at least an attempt to clean out), is completely packed again, all newer cars, amazing. Take a ride out 46 West until you hit the merge out in Fairfield, look right. Looks like somewhere around 5000-10000 cars.

  20. Frank says:

    Re #13, It’s a short sale fraud, they listed the place for half of the market value, I called for a showing, the agent says the owner is busy, no showings. It will stay like that for a month, then they will present an offer from their cousin, who will flip it for $300K more. Easy money as long as you don’t get caught. Servicers will approve any short sale these days, it’s part of the settlement. I see $5 million homes being sold for $500K as a short sale.

  21. grim says:

    23 – File a complaint with the local Realtor board and email one of the reporters from the Ledger or Record (Kathleen Lynn, or if it’s down at the shore Michael Diamond, for example).

  22. Frank says:

    But if take an account decreasing home values and decreasing pay, taxes are up, way up. File a tax appeal, you have until April 15th. Lower your taxes, it’s easy money.

  23. Frank says:

    The problem is that I don’t have any hard evidence until it closes, which is too late. I tried contacting the board on another property, they don’t care. FBI will get involved if this person does a 20 of them like this, but one will go un-noticed.

  24. grim says:

    26 – The bank cares, there have been lawsuits against brokers for fraud in NJ for similar activities. In one case the agent stripped the property of fixtures, cabinets, appliances, toilets, etc prior to the BPO (this was a REO). Sold the property to an associate that reinstalled everything and resold the property at a profit.

    He was caught because the MLS pictures of the sale prior to foreclosure looked very similar to the flip pictures afterwards.

  25. Frank says:

    Let me try calling the MLS board. Maybe they will respond this time. Thanks

  26. grim says:

    Call the NJ Department of Banking and Insurance or the NJ state real estate commission.

  27. grim says:

    Why do you think that this was approved in November?

  28. Painhrtz - Not like you can dust for vomit says:

    Grim used to pull parts at that yard for my chevelle back in the early nineties. Their stock was getting dated even then. Wonder how many of those cars are Sandy rides.

  29. grim says:

    31 – All of them, that lot had maybe a dozen cars in it pre-Sandy. I’d been keeping my eye on it because I think they were attempting to remediate the pollution and resell the property for development.

    Last time I was there was probably mid 90s as well, I believe I was looking for dash parts for my Oldsmobile.

  30. Anon E. Moose says:

    Re: Sandy flood cars;

    Sorry if this is a repost I took from this site, but imagine two runways, 2 miles long x 200 feet wide, both turned into a parking lot.

  31. Anon E. Moose says:

    Grim [30];

    What a bunch of protectionist BS. Two neighbors talking on the corner: “What do you think that old Jones house will sell for? Probably about $600,000.” — In swoops the Realtor SWAT team to slap the cuffs on for appraising without a license.

    No first amendment anymore? I thought first amendment protection was the ‘get out of jail free’ card to the ratings agencies in the whole CDO debacle — “You can’t regulate us, we’re just giving an opinion.”

    Besides, how do you not drive a but through the first exception?

    There are two provisions of the Real Estate Appraisers
    Act which may operate to exempt brokers preparing BPOs from
    appraiser licensure requirements. A broker may legally prepare a
    BPO if the BPO is:
    – prepared for the purpose of giving “counsel and advice
    on pricing, listing, selling and use of real property,
    directly to a property owner or prospective purchaser, if
    the intended use of the counsel or advice is solely for
    the individual knowledge of or use by the property owner
    or prospective purchaser.”

    I’m a “prospective purchaser” of every property on the planet.

  32. grim says:

    36 – I don’t believe it applied to the public, I beleive the intent is to stop Brokers/Agents from preparing estimates for commercial banks, GSEs (quasi-governmentals) and servicers (third parties).

    You can argue this is nothing more than the appraisers protecting their turf though.

  33. Anon E. Moose says:

    Redux [36];

    “drive a >bus< through…"

  34. Anon E. Moose says:

    Grim [37];

    I’m just a little cranky before my morning coffee…

    Still seems a mostly silly law more prone to abuse than legitimate use.

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  36. grim says:

    Roche will be a developed into a retail property, under the guise of mixed use. The model will be the same as was used to redevelop the Bergen Mall into the Bergen Town Center (it’s not a town center, it’s a mall). The other two uses (commercial and residential), will never be built. It will open before Xanadu, and will be another nail in the coffin for the Meadowlands Disaster, as many of the retail tenants that had eyes on Xanadu will open at the Clifton Town Center.

  37. Fabius Maximus says:

    #34 grim

    They have been trying to do that for the past 30 years. Can’t see this happening. We’ll be reporting in a few years that the few initial sign ups lose their deposits as the place goes bankrupt once again. Of all the proposals that have been rolled out over the years the only one that made sense was a new stadium for Chelsea.

  38. grim says:

    Here is my thought for the Roche property.

    In Clifton, you have two main rail lines cutting through town. The old Conrail freight rail and the NJT Main Line.

    My proposal would be to swap the rail paths through Clifton, so that the NJT trains run the Conrail line, and the Contrail line takes the NJT line. Of course, the reconnection near River Rd/Rt 3 would require eminent domain.


    Because the Conrail line runs through the Roche property, as well as closer to a number of more active use properties (as opposed to running through light industrial). I’d imagine the Conrail line is barely utilized at this point.

    This would allow you to build a true mixed use property, as the Roche property would now be a key stop on the Main Line. Alternatively, if necessary to keep the old rail stops, if Conrail could provide ROW from Roche to the intersection of Main Line near Rt 3 (River Road), you could essentially provide the NYC-Roche connection (although not out to the further suburbs). The rail stops at Passaic and Delawanna are probably two of the least useful on the line (Sorry Passaic Park).

    Ultimately, the desirability of the property for retail and residential would eclipse Xanadu by far,

  39. grim says:

    120 acres? Split it down the middle, 60 acres retail, 60 acres residential. What’s that about 1500 condos and townhouses? At $9k a piece taxes, I’d think that would cover the loss of revenue. The retail would be gravy.

  40. Frank says:

    #46, this would just make too much sense for NJ politicians and NJT, it won’t happen.

  41. Fabius Maximus says:


    The problem with Roche site is access. Without buidling overpasses,getting access from RT3 West will be a pain. Once onto the site the next problem is parking. If I can’t park close, I will go elsewere, that is the main reason I can’t stand Garden State Plaza.

    Bergan Towne Center worked in the beginning because the rehabbed an existing mall sso the Infrastructure was already in place. Today ut is straining at the seams and they are planning to expand by putting an underground car park in the back facing Target.

  42. grim says:

    Bergen and Main Lines were both freight at one point in time as well, just look out the window and you can still see all of the cutoffs into the industrial buildings. Walk the Conrail line in Clifton and it’ll be pretty obvious that very few companies continue to use the freight service.

    Taking the full rail path would open up the opportunity for additional residential redevelopment in Clifton as the rail line would run past a number of very large vacant industrial properties on it’s way to Rt 3. Problem is the existing rail stations, Clifton and Passaic, are both in fully developed residential neighborhoods that lack any desirability. Redevelopment options is pretty constrained there. There might be an opportunity around Delawanna station, but the desirability of those neighborhoods is even less.

  43. Fabius Maximus says:

    Turn the rail line into a bike path!

  44. grim says:

    They’d need to buy out a number of neighboring properties (either commercial or residential) to build the 3 West access, absolutely. The residential neighborhood at Ward Ave looks like a good candidate for a 3 underpass. Alternatively, if they could secure the Styretowne property as well, they would be able to re-architect the Rt3/Bloomfield Ave infrastructure to be able to support it.

  45. grim says:

    Just for reference, the Xanadu/American Dream complex is on a 104 acre property (which I believe includes the 14 acres set aside for a water park), Roche is 119 acres.

  46. joyce says:


    I love portsmouth! Every time I’m near by, even if just driving through, I go walk along the water front and have food & drinks. That being said, I’ve never been more than 2-3 days at a time. Wonder if I could enjoy living year-round, I’d like to think so…

    The Original NJ ExPat says:
    January 12, 2013 at 5:49 am
    [134] & [135] NH – Nobody likes Portsmouth?

  47. joyce says:

    37 & 39

    All licensure and certifications are about protecting a given industry.

  48. Ernest Money says:

    All gubmint regulatory agencies are nothing more than legitimized protection rackets.

    The gubmint itself is an organized crime syndicate.

  49. xmonger says:


    Frank, call the bank holding the bag and ask for their audit or fraud department. Looking at the records, that would be Wells Fargo.

    Look up records here:

    Property/Owner tax info:

    P.S. I am going to call my agent to ask for a showing as well.

  50. Comrade Nom Deplume, plotting his moves for 2013 says:

    [55] Joyce,

    That’s why I believe in harder bar exams. Seriously, they are a joke, they’re so damned easy.

  51. The Original NJ ExPat says:


    My wife (girlfriend at the time) moved to the NH coast in ’97 because we liked the area so much. We liked it so much we moved up there with no jobs an no prospects ( but with at least a little savings). I expected we would settle near there and I would happily consult or work in Portsmouth. But the dot-com boom pulled me down to Boston and that’s where we’ve been since ’98 and I expect we’re here for the duration, which isn’t a bad thing at all.


    I love portsmouth! Every time I’m near by, even if just driving through, I go walk along the water front and have food & drinks. That being said, I’ve never been more than 2-3 days at a time. Wonder if I could enjoy living year-round, I’d like to think so…

    The Original NJ ExPat says:
    January 12, 2013 at 5:49 am
    [134] & [135] NH – Nobody likes Portsmouth?

  52. Ernest Money says:

    Live free or die, mf’er!

  53. Comrade Nom Deplume: To Tax what JJ is to Sex. says:

    [62] sac

    Alors, laizzez moi!

  54. Comrade Nom Deplume: To Tax what JJ is to Sex. says:

    [60] expat

    My wife lived in Exeter when we started dating. Our first date was The Gaslight in Portsmouth.

  55. Comrade Nom Deplume: To Tax what JJ is to Sex. says:

    [61] clot,

    I don’t think John Stark said m’fer but perhaps he should have.

  56. Phoenix says:

    grim, can you please get me in touch with the uberinspector. Thank you.

  57. 30 year realtor says:

    BPO’s/appraisals…The BPO mills ordering values for shortsales, modifications, pre-foreclosure analysis, etc are an issue. In the 1980’s lenders and servicers were paying $50 – $75 for basic, handwritten reports without photos based upon exterior inspection. Today BPO mills (same companies involved in robosigning scandal) are paying $35 – $50 for detailed reports similar to appraisals with exterior photos of subject and all comprable properties.

    Lenders and services do not appear interested in the accuracy (quality) of the BPOs. They appear to only be interested in meeting regulatory requirements for the lowest cost available.

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