Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Bob Dunning: Riding the real-estate roller coaster


From page A2 | July 23, 2013 |

We always hear about the potential for property values in our town to go up or down depending on which way the wind is blowing on a variety of issues.

Close a cherished elementary school and the value of nearby homes may drop. Earn one of those “Most Livable Cities in America” mentions and watch property values spike.

All of this, of course, matters most only to those trying to buy or trying to sell or hoping to leave the grandkids something they can convert into cash for college.

Those of us who consider ourselves lifers at our current residence, either because East Davis is such a swell place to live or because we can’t afford to move on up to the Westside, watch the ups and downs of housing prices with a degree of amusement.

When prices go up, newspaper headlines generally herald it as “good news,” which must seem odd to those who don’t own a home in town but wish to.

The Davis Dream starts very humbly when you arrive here as a college freshman and dutifully spend your first two years living on campus in the dorms. You then get your own off-campus apartment, which you share with three roommates until you can’t stand one another anymore. At that point you and 11 others rent a three-bedroom house with a real backyard so you can barbecue and drink beer every night of the year.

Those who stick around town after graduation eventually add jobs, spouses, kids, bicycles and dogs to their lives. Ever upwardly mobile, they move through their own stages of Davisopoly, starting with ownership of a half-duplex on Arthur, then to a three-bedroom, one-bath “El Dorado” on Whittier to a four-bedroom, two-bath beauty, with pool, on Grande.

The ultimate goal of all this house jumping is to eventually — and finally — end up owning a home on College Park very near the chancellor’s residence. At that point you get to pass “GO” and collect $200.

Still, even though I’m not in the housing market, I can’t help checking out the “Real Estate Review” in this very newspaper to see what great bargains, if any, are out there, not to mention the creative ways they’re being described.

For instance, an $829,000 beauty on Marden has “3BR plus study plus bonus room!”

Holy exclamation points, I’ve always wondered exactly what a “bonus” room is. Must be a term the “other half’” uses. Our humble home has bedrooms, bathrooms, a kitchen, a living room and — like all East Davis houses built in the 1950s — a converted garage. But no “bonus” room.

I’m imagining a bonus room is something like those walls that pop out of the 50-foot family RV to create more room once you’ve safely parked your moveable home for the weekend at the local KOA.

Or maybe it’s a room that simply wasn’t there when you were first being shown the home, but somehow magically comes into being once escrow has closed.

Then again, a $799,000 custom gem on Holly Lane features “flexible” living spaces, so maybe those are the walls that pop out to create more room.

For a mere $739,000, you can enjoy a home on Hepworth with “strategically placed windows,” which are much better than those non-strategic windows so prevalent in my neighborhood. I mean, who needs a window in the walk-in closet?

The Hepworth home has a backyard where you can “relax and enjoy a cup of coffee or ice tea as you observe the birds or players on the golf course.” If the players are shooting birds, pour yourself something a bit stronger.

Meanwhile, a $540,000 Breton Avenue bargain boasts that “Davis is a lifestyle and this house is the symbol of exactly that lifestyle.” Don’t know for sure what that means, but I’m going to ride my bicycle out to Breton Avenue to find out.

The Breton home features a pool, where “you’ll be cozy on the deck sipping fresh lemonade from the huge lemon tree between dips.” It’s unclear whether those would be onion dip, clam dip or freshly made guacamole.

The $799,000 pink palace on Waxwing “will make you feel like you are in Positano,” which I believe is a small farming community just south of Turlock.

And finally, the $935,000 steal on Angela Street features “three fireplaces,” plus another built-in fireplace on the patio. I’m just guessing that whoever built this stunner is not on speaking terms with those members of the Natural Resources Commission who wish to ban the use of all four of those fireplaces.

I’m not sure how the creative minds who write the copy describing these properties would treat our East Davis estate, which is another good reason to stay permanently exactly where we are.

— Reach Bob Dunning at





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