Building a new house in Palo Alto

Building a new house in Palo Alto

Friday, August 29, 2014

172 Park Completed and Sold! Days on Market: 0

Well that was fast. The day after we finished hanging the light fixtures we had an offer on the Park Ave house. I was hoping to use my marketing skillz to sell the house but our buyers showed up before we even passed the final inspection. The deal closed yesterday, here were the terms:

House: 5 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms.
Living space 2722 sq ft + garage & basement
Lot: 7500 sq ft

Price: 3.8M
Close: 21 days after passing the final inspection, contingent upon a home inspection

The nice thing about selling a house off-market is that you don't have the ticking "days on market" time bomb where your property gets stale if it hasn't sold in a week. This is nice because it takes away the pressure to only accept an all-cash, no contingency offer and allows you to be more flexible with potential buyers. In this case, we gave them time to secure a mortgage and hire a home inspector to check out the house.

We were okay being flexible because it was very important to us to find the right buyers. As my builder partner, James Witt likes to say, "I'm not interested in selling to a suitcase of money." We were lucky enough to acquire the property at a below-market price and we were karmically committed to passing it along to a nice family who would enjoy living in the house and neighborhood for years to come. In this crazy climate we may have been able to get a higher offer by listing it on the open market and stirring up a bidding war, but the deal felt right so we accepted it on the spot.

Here's James signing the contract...

...ha, not really. Neither of us had a pen, so the buyer's agent had to run to his car to fetch one while we staged this photo opp. If you look closely, you'll see James "signing" the offer with a drawer handle. You'll also see a photo of the nice family who bought the house. We're super psyched because we know the neighbors are going to love them.

My apologies to everyone I promised to invite to the open house. We've been scrambling to finish up the final details so we could get the buyers into their new home before Labor Day.  In lieu of an open house, here are some photos of the finished product:

Front of house

Back view
Outdoor dining area. As a bonus, our expert landscaper planted an edible garden.
Bonus sitting area in the front of the house under a grand old oak tree.
James thought it'd be festive to string up some party lights for evening entertainment. can't see it but the island is a lovely honed Calcutta marble. 
The dining section of the great room
The great room is really great.
The homework nook at the top of the stairs with built in desks, storage shelves,
skylights and Nelson pendant lights is visually my favorite space.
Master bedroom with vaulted ceilings and a simple propeller ceiling fan.
One of the two upstairs bedrooms. Some lucky kid is going to love this room.
My final inspector giving his stamp of approval.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Drone footage of 172 Park Ave

The always amusing Atherton police blotter #firstworldproblems. Thanks to Ellen Levy for the photo!

Droning. Apparently everyone's doing it right now. George from Techcam came by our job site yesterday to test out his some of his new services.

Here's a video taken from his drone of our job site. We are about a month away from completion so if you know anyone who's in the market for a new home in Palo Alto, please send them my way. You can see the floor plan and more details hereJames Witt's last three homes all sold before they were finished. So far we've been holding off on showing this house, but once the floors are in later this week, we'll allow interested parties to take a look.

2014-07-08 Techcam Helicopter Park Finishing from Techcam on Vimeo.

In case you're interested, here's a list of TechCam's new services below.  As a side note, one of James' construction sites (that wasn't being monitored with cameras) was recently burglarized. He lost several thousands of dollars worth of tools and equipment, so it's well worth investing in some security measures! TechCam has branched out to cover more techie home construction areas, so if you're in need of some expert guidance, I highly recommend consulting George. You can reach him at

TechCam Consulting Services:
1. Permanent Camera / Security Systems
2. Aerial Drone Photograph / Video
3. Solar PV Systems Design
4. Electric Vehicle Charging Stations
5. Home Energy Monitoring Systems
6. Home Wired / Wireless Computer Networks
7. Smart Home Automation - Lights, HVAC, TV, etc.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Park Avenue House Update: Latest Building Photos & Floor Plan

Construction of 172 Park Avenue has been flying along. Here's a quick look at the last two months...

We spent a fair amount of time building this handy dandy basement.

It's somewhat tricky getting the city to approve a basement but it's a huge plus in my book because everyone can always use extra storage space. Luckily James Witt is a master at getting basements (which don't count towards your maximum allowable square footage) approved by the city.

Because of the complexity and extra cost, we didn't put a basement in our own house and I'm always kicking myself now that I've learned how much stuff one accumulates when you have a kid. Basements are also perfect for storing wine, (which is also nice to accumulate and guzzle when you have a kid).

Daniel putting the finishing touches on the rat slab.

Like all his homes, James doled out to put in a rat slab. It's one of those nice but invisible upgrades. Check out this post if you don't know what a rat slab is and why it's such a nice feature. Just for kicks, next time you're at an open house, ask them if the house has a rat slab.

We're currently in the framing stage. This is when the house really starts to come to life. James never sells his houses before the framing is finished because you can only tell so much from floor plans. Once the framing is done you can get a feel for the flow of the space, the size of the rooms and the views from the windows. Above is the floor plan for the first floor and below is the framed out family/dining/kitchen aka the great room.

Ah, the great room. This is my favorite room in the house. We spend the majority of our waking hours in ours. For a peaceful environment, it's important to have lots of natural light, big windows/doors and nice greenery to look out on. A backyard with mature trees and privacy is one of the most important attributes I look for when evaluating a property to build on.

Above is the floor plan for the second floor. Until the framing went up, I didn't realize how cool the various vaulted ceilings are going to be. Also, the view of the redwood tree from the master bedroom is sublime.

The street view of the house..