San Diego Haunted House


Location: Old Town, San Diego, CA
Notable ghost: “Yankee Jim” Robinson

In 1849, as news of the Gold Rush broke, young Thomas Whaley moved from New York to California and opened a hardware store in San Francisco. Arson destroyed his business in 1851, so he moved to San Diego — the present day Old Town San Diego — where he set up general store businesses. Always the entrepreneur, he started a brick-making business and used those kiln-fired bricks to build a granary. Then, in 1857, he built an adjacent two-story Greek Revival brick building where he and his wife, Rachel Pye, lived. It was considered the “finest new brick block in Southern California” by the San Diego Herald, and cost $10,000. The walls were finished with plaster made from ground seashells.


The White Haunted House


The White House

Location: Washington, DC

Estimated home value: $263,170,000*

Notable ghosts: Abigail Adams, Abraham Lincoln

It makes sense that a home this old and with so much history has a lot of ghosts. Abigail Adams, wife of second president John Adams, is considered to be the “oldest” ghost in the White House since she and John were the first to live in the big, drafty home that was still unfinished when they moved in on Nov. 1, 1800.

She was known to hang her laundry in the East Room and is still “spotted” there to this day. But perhaps the most notable ghost is 16th president Abraham Lincoln who some believe had psychic powers. Many former presidents, residents and heads of state say they’ve seen Lincoln or felt his presence throughout the White House, including British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands, who fainted at the sight of ‘Lincoln’s image.”

Other famous ghosts include Dolley Madison who stands watch over the Rose Garden; 7th president Andrew Jackson has been heard laughing in the Rose Bedroom; 3rd president Thomas Jefferson plays his violin in the Yellow Oval Room; 9th president William Henry Harrison haunts the White House attic; and British soldiers are “seen ” walking the hallways.

* Zillow calculated the White House Zestimate in January 2008, using propriety algorithms to determine, as accurately as possible, a value for the White House were it actually a home that could be bought and sold, using publicly available data and information.


Coolest home upgrades, from

It’s go big or go home with televisions these days – but when you bring one of these drive-in movie-sized screens home, it can often wreck the design of the room. When a guest walks in, they won’t say, “Wow, what a nice house,” but rather, “Wow, what a big TV you have!”

Well now, you can have it all – a big screen and big style. Designers are increasingly choosing to hide gigantic televisions in the wall and cover them with a mirror or artwork so when they’re not in use, you don’t even know they’re there!

When it’s above the fireplace, it can be a framed mirror or piece of art. In the photo at left, this Samsung 37-inch LCD is mounted in the closet behind the mirror, hidden by a removable panel in the closet.

You probably want a pro to do this – TVs require proper ventilation.


Fountains aren’t new and fire pits aren’t new but put them together – maybe even add some LED lighting – and shazam! Welcome to the future.

A water feature with fire shooting out of the middle can instantly remind you of that Hawaiian vacation (maybe pump some hula music into the outdoor speakers) or just ensure that you not only keep up with the Joneses but knock their socks off when they come over for a barbeque.

They can be rectangular trough-like structures with broken glass in the middle where the fire shoots out, or circular like this one in the picture at left. They can be freestanding, attached to a pool or create a big ridge of fire in a stoned wall. Have a seat because you can control it all by remote control!


No, we’re not talking about the kind you put next to the pool so the kids can wash off the sand, dirt or chlorine.

These are luxurious showers, usually off of the master bath, made of high-end stone and other natural materials, with lush foliage that create your own personal Eden.

You’ll already find this type of outdoor shower in resorts in Bali, Fiji and the Caribbean, but now, homeowners are bringing the resort home.

“It’s a very sexy thing,” said Walid Wahab, president of Wahab Construction in south Florida. “It’s your private shower — you can get completely naked and take a shower outside in your private garden.”

Wahab said the construction is getting very creative – things like a shower head coming out of a tree.


Japan’s super high-tech toilets have spawned an international craze – not only do tourists visit them as a destination when they’re in Japan but many people want to bring them back home.

Toto is one of the companies that’s tried to get out front of that, offering products like the WashletS400 that has auto flushing, automatic lid closing (that will end many a family battle!), a bidet and a warm-air dryer. But wait, don’t answer yet – you also get a wall-mounted control panel and remote.

Some models even feature seat warmers and in-bowl lighting, which says, “Yeah, that’s just how I roll.”


State of Housing

From HW:

Laurie Goodman, senior managing director at Amherst Securities, believes one in five distressed homeowners in the U.S. are facing, or may face, foreclosure.

The analyst adds that little may be done to stem the tide of foreclosures without greater government intervention or significant principal reduction. Currently, she said 11.5 million home loans are non-performing or highly distressed.

Transition rates of negative equity homes are improving, however, from last year.

“Many banks are opposed to principal writedowns,” Goodman said. “Though it is interesting that they make good use of this for their own portfolios. We think before this crisis is over you will end up with a mandatory principal writedown program.”



Meanwhile, Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, maintained an optimistic tone on the future of the housing market.  He expects home prices to be depressed into 2012, and adds that the knock-on effect from the robo-signing debacle will be minimal. “It’s not going to be a significant issue,” he said.

“Household formations will pick up,” he added, in a belief that supply will not greatly outstrip demand in the long-term. The current, large inventory will provide the main downward pressure on prices going forward.  

Zandi said markets will improve overall, as mortgage rates hover around 4.5%. And, he adds, housing has reached the most-affordable levels in recent memory.  “By this time next year we should see measurably better job conditions,” he said.  

“We aren’t quite at the bottom yet, but we are getting close,” he said.


And Kyle Lundstedt, managing director of the applied analytics division at LPS, said one in three mortgage delinquencies have been in such a state for more than a year.  Perhaps most alarming to Lundstedt is the rise in prime mortgage delinquencies. “The prime markets are the place we’ve seen the most increase in foreclosure,” he said.

Sales-to-Inventory Relationship

We’ve seen in the past that there is some relationship between the amount of homes for sale, and the frenzy in the marketplace.  The bigger the inventory, the more cautious the buyers are in their search, and when there isn’t much for sale, buyers tend to get more anxious.

Here is raw data for detached and attached MLS listings for the first nine months of each year:

Year # of Solds Total # of listings Ratio Cost-per-sf
2000 27,489 39,273 0.70 $172/sf
2001 26,823 42,268 0.63 $210/sf
2002 29,798 39,646 0.75 $226/sf
2003 32,219 42,167 0.76 $265/sf
2004 32,624 49,020 0.67 $350/sf
2005 31,813 55,370 0.57 $379/sf
2006 23,557 63,204 0.37 $376/sf
2007 20,022 58,037 0.34 $360/sf
2008 20,752 51,501 0.40 $277/sf
2009 25,512 41,395 0.62 $223/sf
2010 24,836 43,591 0.57 $242/sf

Here is how the sales and total listings compare visually. It isn’t a perfect relationship, pricing and exotic mortgages probably played a bigger role over this same time period. But over the last two years when pricing and mortgages have been relatively tame, the ebb and flow of sales have tended to move with the inventory – we’ll see how it transpires over the next few months/years:

The withdrawn listings in previous years are deleted by Sandicor, so instead of including the 1,688 withdrawns this year, I used the same 140 from 2009.  Previous years show 1, 2, or 3 withdrawns.

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