Building Your Own Home?

TH asked about the benefits and burdens of building a home, and Ale mentioned yesterday that the custom homes featured here have been entertaining.  Thanks to both of you for your thoughts, and yes, the homes featured here are meant to inspire those who hope to build their own house some day, myself included. 

Because you can see the typical Mediterranean neo-taco Spanish stucco boxes at every new-home tract, here at bubbleinfo we’ll present the alternatives to fill out the selection card.

Here’s a do-it-youselfer in Laurel Canyon with a similar vision:

New design talent Michael Parks is pleased to announce the completion of the dramatic remodeling of the Parks House, a modern and innovative three-bedroom, three-bath hillside home located in the Laurel Canyon section of Los Angeles’ Hollywood Hills. The creative ingenuity behind the year and a half transformation of the Parks House is made all the more intriguing because Parks, the owner, had no formal architectural/design education. Yet he designed and spearheaded the project himself — an architectural metamorphosis through which Parks himself found a new career and a passion for creating ground-breaking modern design.

“After an architect presented us with a set of plans (no similarities to Parks’) that were over three times our budget, I decided to explore the possibility of using my love of architecture and my creative, budgeting and project management skills from TV and film producing to try and do it myself,” Parks said. “It all came together in a very LA story.  While getting my haircut, a stylist told me that he had a contractor/business partner ‘who was the best.’ The contractor turned out to be his brother, but after meeting him I realized he was our man and I could do the project for under our limited budget.”

Parks faced countless challenges when he purchased the house:  severe dry rot and termite damage to every area of the wood, post and beam-built house; windows that did not connect with their frames; a poor floor plan with little worthwhile useable space and only one proper bedroom; a kitchen where Parks actually put his foot through the rotted floor; poor ventilation with no insulation and an oddly shaped lot coupled with difficult hillside conditions. But Parks looked past the dwelling’s numerous issues and instead saw incredible, unrealized potential.

With a contractor on board and with the housing market going bust, Parks had no choice but to dive in.  Never one to take the easy road, Parks immersed himself totally into the project and was hands-on from day one, tackling all the architecture, design, budgeting, permit and inspection approvals, as well as complex landscaping issues.  In fact, many days Parks could be seen dangling 40ft. in the air staining wood — an undertaking befitting Parks — a man whose vision, drive and spirit of adventure led him to ascend the treacherous slopes of Mt. Everest in 2000.  “With this house, the learning curve and the difficult lot were both steep to say the least,” Parks said, “the only way to accomplish this was to make it a full time job.”

Perhaps one of the most inspiring aspects of this project is that the creation of the Parks House, borne from a love of architecture and design, has turned into a new career for Parks, who, mid-way through construction, began taking technical architecture courses at night at UCLA. Parks said, “I remodeled the house and the house remodeled me.

“I heard a quote once:  ‘There’s how we live and that is food, clothing and shelter. And then there is why we live… and that’s called art.’ The goal was to create a house in which we were surrounded, inside and out, by warm, modern architecture that is art, but could be lived in comfortably.”

His website wasn’t easily available, but here’s his email:

Vancouver’s Bubble

Hat tip to PK’s Infectious Greed where this article was featured from The Globe and Mail about the Chinese influence on the Vancouver real estate market.  Excerpts below, and the full article linked here:

The house Manyee Lui is showing today is listed at $2.2 million. Although the lot is only 33 feet wide and the house is nothing more than a blandly handsome two-storey, Lui expects it to sell quickly, even though the market’s turned a little tepid. With 2,900 square feet, the place is big enough for four bedrooms and an additional self-contained suite. All things considered, she says, “It’s not so expensive.”

Lui is simply telling it like it is: This house in the Dunbar neighbourhood may not be anyone’s idea of a dream home, but it delivers respectable accommodation for a reasonable price, at least by the standards of Vancouver’s west side. With a standard city lot trading hands for around $1.4 million and construction costs running at least $200 a square foot, it doesn’t take much of a house to hit the $2-million mark. And this summer and fall, as real estate markets wilted in most of the country, vertigo-inducing prices for properties on Vancouver’s west side held steady or even edged a little higher.

The question a lot of people were asking is, Who on Earth is buying them?


Pasadena Eclectic

From the

Built in 2007, this Pasadena home was designed with six towers and turrets to echo the vertical lines of an existing sequoia:



The library and living room have 14-foot ceilings and multiple skylights.

Baby Boomers Feeling It


Sherrilynn Palladino lives in a modest three-bedroom home with an affordable mortgage about a mile and a half from the ocean in Grover Beach, Calif.  She’s never missed a mortgage payment during the 10 years she’s lived in the neighborhood. In fact, she says, she’s never late on any bills. At 60, she’d like to retire, downsize and escape spiraling property taxes in the suburb about half-way between Los Angeles and San Francisco.

But she can’t.  The house next door is empty. It’s been vacant and in various states of disrepair for three years.  Palladino is a quiet victim of the housing market crash. Call her collateral damage. 

“I’m stuck,” she said.  “I can’t sell my house for what I paid for it with an empty eyesore next door.  I can’t afford upkeep, maintenance, and property taxes.  And I can’t retire until I downsize … I don’t know what to do. It’s all just a mess and I feel like it’s out of my control.”

Palladino is one of an estimated 14 million homeowners in America who are now under water — they owe more on their mortgage than the value of their homes. 

She has the misfortune of living in California, where one in three mortgage holders are under water.  Things are even worse in other states: In Florida and Arizona, half of mortgaged homes are under water; In Nevada, the number is 70 percent.

While consumers facing foreclosure and banks facing bankruptcy dominate the economic headlines, millions of other Americans are suffering effects of the housing market collapse that, while subtler, are very real.  Homeowners who are under water often can’t move to take advantage of new job opportunities, they can’t refinance and take advantage of low mortgage rates, and they generally feel rotten about their prospects. 

Palladino, who is single, would sell her home if she could, move into a cheaper condo and trim her annual property tax bill of $4,700.  But the house next door means that’s not in the cards.

“I didn’t buy more house than I could afford. I did everything I’m supposed to,” she said. “The mortgage is nothing.  But it’s the taxes that worry me.”


Extreme Comps

This youtube shows how varied the comps can be in this market. A large, one-story home with ocean view out the back can sell for a premium, and across the street a two-story short sale get dumped for almost a half-million less, all within a month of each other.

The short sale listed for $1,795,000 in December, 2009, and was down to $1,399,000 in August when the seller dropped the list price down to $1,000,000 – it closed for $1,061,000:

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