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New Construction Review: Redwood Gate by SummerHill Homes, Palo Alto

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The corner of El Camino Real and West Charleston Road has undergone a lot of real estate development in the past few years. First it was the 181-unit Arbor Real on the corner and now on the old Elks Club property, beside Arbor Real, is the new Redwood Gate by SummerHill Homes development. (map.)

The properties are listed as detached and attached single-family homes, which are unlike the the condominiums and townhouses available at the previous housing developments we have reviewed, Altaire and Sterling Park.

Redwood Gate may have better features, a better location and more square feet than its "competitors," but it also has a higher price tag -- $1.15 million to $1.499 million. Continue reading to find out more about this Silicon Valley real estate development and see if it lives up to the old adage: you get what you pay for.

Overview

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Redwood Gate is one of the smaller real estate developments in Palo Alto with just 35 detached and 10 attached single-family homes, plus a half-acre park.

Construction of the single-family homes at Redwood Gate started in 2009 and will be completed by the first quarter of 2011. The neighboring Elks Lodge is also under construction and will be completed by October 2011.

As of June 2010, 26 homes have sold and nine homes are currently available; in the future, the five homes in the park location, two of the attached homes and the three remaining model homes will be available.

The development is located in the Charleston Meadows neighborhood and close to the neighborhood’s three schools -- Juana Briones Elementary, Terman Middle School and Gunn High School -- that are all less than a mile away, and off of Arastradero road.

As a further incentive to visit Redwood Gate, receive a $50 Visa gift card for scheduling a tour of the properties with one of our agents in the month of July.

Details and Pricing

Redwood Gate properties are listed on MLS Listings Inc. as either attached or detached single-family homes, but sold to homebuyers under condo ownership and approved for loans under the detached condo category. This is the only way that developers could get approval in Palo Alto for building homes that have a large living space on a small lot. Otherwise, the residences resemble the single-family homes they are priced at -- the median price for homes in Charleston Meadows in 2009 was $1.25 million; condos were $801,000.

Being in a single-family home, instead of the condos and townhouses found at Altaire and Sterling Park, means that the homes do not share walls (even the duet-style homes, which are connected but have air space between walls), and the homeowner owns the house along with the land underneath and the yard for 10 feet. Homeowners, also, own a percentage of the common area through a $202 monthly HOA fee, which includes landscaping, all water usage, garbage collection, exterior property insurance.

Along with a difference on paper between Sterling and Altaire, is the difference when you see the property. Redwood Gate properties are about $500,000 more than a comparable townhouse at Altaire, but also have a two-car garage, large patio space, high ceilings, an extra loft room and 500 square feet more.

All seven floor plan options are still available at Redwood Gate as of June 2010. Plans range from three bedrooms two-and-a-half-baths and two stories through five bedrooms three-and-a-half-baths and three stories. Residence 1A has 1,7775 square feet all the way through residence 7B with 2,380 square feet, and listed at $1.15 million through $1.42 million, respectively. Upgradeable features are also an option.

Highlights

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New and modern homes. We’ve already mentioned the extra space and privacy that Redwood Gate allows, which means there is more flexibility for growing families. A new build means modern features, including Kohler sinks and faucets, GE stainless steel appliances, maple cabinetry, granite countertops, volume ceilings. Homes are also designed to be GreenPoint Rated, which help in energy efficiency and are environmentally friendly.

Smaller development size means a closer community and less hassle over parking spots, including the 14 guest spots. It is also surrounded by another housing development, the Elks lodge, and a pleasant residential area on Wilkie Way in the rear.

Good location in Palo Alto. If you ignore the busy El Camino Real intersection, Redwood Gate is better and more centrally located in Palo Alto over Altaire and Sterling Park. It is walking distance both to schools and Robles and Briones Park, and one mile from Charleston Shopping Center and San Antonio Shopping Center.

Strong home values. Because Redwood Gate properties sell as single-family homes their value will be more stable over the condo and townhouse market. In addition, Palo Alto, as we have seen, is one of the strongest real estate markets in Silicon Valley.

Concerns

Traffic on El Camino Real can be difficult, but noise shouldn’t be an issue because the Elks Lodge lies between Redwood Gate and the street.

Limited parking could be a pain if you plan on having more than two cars. Besides the 2-car garages, there are only 14 guest spots available here.

It is a high purchase price for condo ownership at Redwood Gate when considering that the median selling price in 2009 for homes in the Charleston Meadows neighborhood was $1.2 million. Having said that, the homes have been selling at a rate of two a month, so demand is clearly there. Another consideration is that standard homes under $1.2 million in Palo Alto are not going to be new and most likely need repairs or upgrades, and lack the premium build and features that a new development like Redwood Gate has.

Comparables

Altaire and Sterling Park aren’t comparable since price and features differ so much as we covered under the pricing details category. The locations of these properties are less than ideal since both sit near 101 and at the edges of Palo Alto. Another option for homebuyers in this price range would be to consider an entry-level home.

In the past three months (April, May, June 2010), the median price in south Palo Alto for single-family homes has been $1.26 million. Of those homes that have sold, the average age is 56 years old, average interior square footage is 1,779 and average lot size is 7,200 square feet.

So Redwood Gate homes have equivalent interior space and come with all the advantages of a new build and low maintenance, but on the other hand, lack in lot size and ability to customize when compared to a traditional home in Palo Alto.

Takeaway

These homes are generally targeted for people that are moving up from a condo or townhouse and need the extra space for a growing family. The residences offer the benefits of a new community development but also the future stability in home values that a single-family home has in Palo Alto. Of course, Redwood Gate prices reflect these criteria and it certainly is a quality development, but the high-price tag could be a determining factor for a lot of potential homebuyers.

Feel free to contact us for more specific information and an opportunity to tour Redwood Gate in-person (plus a $50 Visa card if you visit in July), or just to find out more about our unique Silicon Valley real estate services.

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New Construction Review: Sterling Park by Classic Communities, Palo Alto

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Sterling Park is another of the recent housing developments in Palo Alto, which also includes Altaire and Redwood Gate. Located in the Midtown neighborhood, the use of mixed housing and two on-site parks helps Sterling avoid the compact feeling of standard developments in Silicon Valley and lets its residents enjoy some extra space. Click through to find out more about the property.

Overview

Parallel to the 101 freeway and on the corner of West Bayshore Road and Loma Verde Avenue, 96 units compose the new Sterling Park development, which is slated to be completed early 2011.

The development is broken down by 28 detached single-family homes, 39 townhouses and 29 condominiums. Potential buyers should be aware, however, that all its single-family homes are sold out, and only one remaining three-bedroom and two remaining two-bedroom townhouses are available as of June 2010. That leaves the 29 one-and three-bedroom condominiums left, which will be released for sale this October.

The six and a half acre site accomplishes a neighborhood feel with wider streets, mixture of home types, focus on the two central parks, and a nose mitigation wall beside the 101 freeway to reduce the noise and view of passing traffic.

The Midtown neighborhood, which Sterling is located in, is known for its small-town feel and there is a variety of positive things to say about the nearby schools -- Palo Verde Elementary, Jane Lathrop Stanford and Henry Gunn High School.

For basic information, available floor plans, features and sales information about Sterling you can visit their web site.

If you are ready to visit the property for your first time, consider representation from a local Silicon Valley real estate agent who can provide information about local comparable properties and help in sales negotiations. The second half of an older post I did goes over these considerations.

Details and Pricing

The two remaining two-bedroom three-bathroom and one-car garage (floor plan 4) townhouses start just under $800,000. The last three-bedroom three-and-a-half bathroom and two-car garage (floor plan 5) townhouse is selling for under $900,000.

The upcoming 29 condominiums will start at approximately $600,000 when released late 2010. They will have either one or three levels, with a respective amount of bedrooms; and range from 1,050 square feet to 1,800 square feet.

In addition, all properties include either a one-or two-car garage. Street parking will be limited to the 39 visitor parking spots and reserved spots that are estimated to sell for $5,000 each.

Homeowner’s association fees will initially be $325 a month, but reduced to under $200 once all the homes sell out, which should occur upon the developments completion by mid 2011.

Highlights

Lots of space. Because Sterling is composed of single-family homes, townhouses and condominiums, two parks and a community recreation center, the scenery is more pleasant than the dense row housing we usually see in developments. Traffic shouldn’t be a problem on West Bayshore Road and most parking inconveniences have been reduced since every property has their own garage.

Affordable, luxurious, green. Prices starting at $600,000 for a condominium in Palo Alto are a strong draw for many first-time buyers. But Sterling also has luxury features such as gourmet kitchens with General Electric appliances and granite countertops, and large master suites. Standard green and energy-efficient features reduce utility bills and result in quieter homes.

A location in the Midtown neighborhood means Sterling is only one mile away from fulfilling basic shopping and restaurants needs at the Midtown shopping center, which includes Longs Drugs, Safeway, Starbucks and Mike’s Cafe. And only half a mile from Greer Park, Seale Park and the Palo Verde Elementary School.

Concerns

Beside two office buildings and the noisy 101 freeway. The developers did their best to mitigate both these issues by, first, focusing the real estate development inward and towards the parks. Second, noise levels have been reduced by a wall built along the freeway. Lastly, for condos located on Bayshore Road, the developers have taken extra measures to reduce the noise through sound insulation like double-pane windows.

Competition:

Two other currently competing real estate developments in Palo Alto are Altaire and Redwood Gate. Comparable properties at Altaire are about $100,000 higher and Redwood Gate is mostly detached homes starting above a million. So expect nicer overall building quality and features at those two developments, but both are located at crowded intersections. Redwood Gate has the advantage of being centrally located in Palo Alto, while nearby Altaire is at the boarder of Palo Alto and Mountain View.

Takeaway

Most buyers looking into Palo Alto already know about its strong real estate market and fantastic school district and API scores. But most are taken aback by the steep Silicon Valley real estate prices, and is why many developments in Palo Alto make it possible for new homebuyers to break into Palo Alto’s prestigious market.

Sterling Park reflects this demand and doesn’t skip on features that should enable the properties to hold their value in the coming years.

Feel free to contact us for more specific information and an opportunity to tour Sterling Park in-person, or just to find out more about our unique Silicon Valley real estate services.