Unfinished Homes Spell “Opportunity” for San Carlos Buyers…

February 11, 2009



“The best-laid plans of mice and men/

often go awry”

–Robert Burns

This line from the Robert Burns poem “To a Mouse” exemplifies how a sudden, harsh turn in the economy can derail even the smartest plans for developing new homes, or even remodeling existing homes.  I hail from the semiconductor industry, and I have seen my fair share of commercial buildings in Silicon Valley that have been built and never occupied…or worse yet, never even finished.   That's more common in commercial real estate when there's a sudden economic downturn;  after all, the fortunes in technology swing far faster than the buildings that will house them.  But what about residential real estate… in San Carlos?

Make no mistake;  San Carlos is not being spared the wrath of this stormy economy.  But out of every crisis springs opportunity, and if you're handy in the home-building trades (or you have good buddies who are, and may owe you a favor) there are a couple of opportunities for you to purchase a nice home in San Carlos at a steep discount.  The catch?  All you need to do is finish the work…  Here are the details;  be sure to click on the address links to see the interior photos.  This will give you a better idea how much work will be required to finish both of these homes:

280 Oakview Dr:


280 Oakview Drive

This home was supposed to be the fourth of 5 homes to be built in the Oakview Knolls development of White Oaks.  But if a picture is worth a thousand words, then these few words that are on the MLS paint a pretty clear picture of what's happening here:

“This almost complete new home is among a 5 home development that will not be finished by the developer. Three of the wonderful, spacious, high quality homes have been completed. What is needed: flooring, light fixtures, plumbing fixtures, A/C & heating units, cabinetry, countertops, security system, & landscaping.”

The home is 2,835 square feet and is listed at $1,195,000.   Compare that to the two smaller but finished homes at 260 Oakview Drive and  290 Oakview Drive that are both listed at $1,525,000, and you can see the potential for some serious savings here.

3291 Brittan Avenue


3291 Brittan Avenue

This 2,260 square foot unfinished home is being offered at $879,000.   This equates to $389/sq foot, compared to the overall average of about $570/sq foot in all of San Carlos.   Like 280 Oakview, you get a lot of square footage for a small price with this home.

What you'll need…

As I mentioned above, you'll need access to folks in a variety of trades to finish these homes.   If you can do the work yourself, all the better.   It's also important to know that getting a first mortgage on an unfinished home is more difficult, especially now that credit is extremely tight and banks are already nervous about lending money in this environment.

But if you're looking for a great deal in San Carlos while still having the ability to put your personal touch on the finish work, be sure to check both of these out.


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  1. Michael on February 11, 2009 at 11:49 pm

    I can’t speak to the Oakview home (which I believe is a great deal and will be sold for “around” that price), but the home on Brittan was purchased in 2006 for $930,000. The owners are (according to the lsiting agent) “in the house between $1.1 and $1.2M”. I was told at an open house that the $879k asking price was meant to encourage multiple offers. If this home indeed was “on the market” for $879k, it would have sold by now. I would love to hear from anyone (if any) that has presented an offer on this house. It looks like they are just trying to get traffic through this house so they can excite someone into wanting to finish it.

    The Brand New home on Oakview requires only flooring, cabinets and fixtures; nothing more. The home on Brittan has a strange kitchen layout with odd finishes and is missing walls and is a maze of problems and it is not clear exactly what the plan is. Plus, it is a 50 year old home that looks like it still has a lot of issues.

    My advice to any interested parties is to be careful what can of worms you open. But there are some great opportunities out there if you do the homework.

  2. transient on February 12, 2009 at 4:09 am

    What do you think about having 25 steps to get to the front door? That’s quite a workout.

  3. Chuck on February 12, 2009 at 4:38 am


    You’re right — the front staircase on this particular home is a straight shot upward. But I don’t think there’s much else that could have been done when the front of the house faces the downhill slope. Perhaps creating a landing and changing the direction of the stairs would make it look less intimidating, but you’ll still be dealing with the same number of stairs.

    I often thought that another viable way to utilize this knoll would be to have the homes facing the the opposite direction they are now, such that all of the front yards converge toward a private cul-de-sac in what is now the back yard area. Then the view of the bay would be from the master bedroom, not the front porch or living room. This would solve the steep entry issues, and create more of a micro-neighborhood feel. The entry to the “cul-de-sac” could even be gated.

    The problem with this approach is that you’d only get 4 homes in this configuration..but that is how things seem to be shaping up now anyway.

    Thanks for your comments.


  4. Michael on February 12, 2009 at 5:01 pm

    I was thinking there would be no good way to get any large furniture into the house through that little archway.

    I would have stopped the stairway about 2/3 of the way down, put up a retaining wall and short walkway to the right and had a short open set of steps to the street.
    I guess the new owner could still do that.

  5. Michael on February 14, 2009 at 3:52 pm

    Looks like 280 Oakview is now $100,000 cheaper; truly a great opportunity to buy in an established neighborhood. Shop wisely and I bet you could finish that house for $100-$150K; maybe less.

    Good example of a 3100 sf home that sold recently (closed this past week) is 119 Northam. It clearly struck a chord with the buyer and sold for $1.7 Million. Maybe not what it would have sold for in a hot market, but 42 Club at 4090 sf and currently priced at $1,292,000 should have sold in a heartbeat (right?).

    I see that even the higher priced homes that may seemingly represent excellent value are being further scrutinized for detail:
    Is it on a busy street?
    How do the neighbors maintain their homes?
    Do you hear road noise?
    Is there ample available parking if I have a party?
    Is the driveway steep or narrow?
    Does the garage offer enough storage?
    Are there visibles flaws in the structure?
    Do I like the colors of the walls, counters, tile, floors?
    These were things that may have been overlooked in years past and I think a lot of buyers figure if they can’t find the perfect home (or one that needs work at a rock-bottom price) they will not warm up to the level they need to make an offer.

    The questions we asked ourselves, even in the hot 2000 and 2003 markets, were always constant and we were still able to buy our “dream homes” at below asking prices. I think there are more buyers like ourselves out there right now and that is preventing seemingly great values to still sit on the market.

  6. Chuck on February 14, 2009 at 4:38 pm


    Excellent points. What you have concisely summarized is that San Carlos is experiencing its first “Buyers Market” in decades. All of the things you listed are part of a normal thought process for someone buying a home. But because the San Carlos market has been so hot for so long, buyers would forgo those considerations just to get in. We’re finally hitting an equilibrium point that is bringing some rationality back to they buying process.

    Thanks for your comments.


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