by Susan Golovin
What kinds of homes are commanding prices of $10 million and upwards? Where are they located? How are they marketed? The following is a description of three local homes that fit into this category, as well as comments from the listing agents.
1870 University Ave., Palo Alto
6 bedrooms (2 master suites), 5 baths, 2 half baths
9,322 square foot
$10,750,000 (lowered in April from $11,250,000)
Nancy MacLeod, broker/owner at Homes2Buy, Palo Alto, describes this home as having an "impeccable provenance." It was designed in 1926 by Gardner Daily for San Francisco coffee magnate Jack Manning, and the gardens, with their mature oaks and specimen plantings, were originally designed by Thomas Church. Because of its designation as a historic home, the Monterey Colonial's original exterior -- tumbled brick and stucco, with a barrel tile roof -- must remain completely intact.
However, the interior has been completely restored and modernized with careful attention to the traditional style. For instance, the dining room, with its bay window, wainscot, custom millwork and fireplace, is a perfect setting for wallpaper painted in 1834 by Zuber and Co., "Les Vues de Amerique du Nord", a version of which is in the White House.
"As large as this home is, and it is one of the largest in Palo Alto, it is not pretentious," MacLeod said. "It is really a family home, yet great for entertaining with French doors leading out to gracious (three) flagstone terraces. ... Most Palo Alto lots are 10,000 square feet (about one-quarter acres)." The grounds also include a bocce court and putting green.
After 38 days on the market, the price was lowered. "(This) is a real bargain counting square footage in Palo Alto. We are trying to compete with Atherton since they are so much lower per square foot than Palo Alto," MacLeod said in an email.
MacLeod, whom the Silicon Valley Association rated Realtor of the Year in 2011, has placed ads in the Wall Street Journal in Asia, Europe and throughout the U.S., as well as in local newspapers and Gentry Magazine. She is also heavily marketing on the Internet and tapping into her professional and social connections.
"I was in real-estate politics for eight years, and I know the brokers and agents who handle these homes," she said. She also networks at social functions where potential clients mingle.
"It is all about talking to the right people," she said.
18 Reservoir Road, Atherton
Main house: 5 bedrooms, 4.5 baths, 4,930 square feet
Guest house: 2 bedrooms, 2 baths, 1,390 square feet
This Atherton home, represented by Judy Citron of Alain Pinel, Menlo Park, had a "down to the studs" makeover in 2013 by Pacific Peninsula Group. Citron, who has had extensive experience in design and building and who was rated Alain Pinel's top Realtor in Menlo Park in 2013, points to finishes such as the custom molding and Frank Allart hardware, as well as a living room limestone mantelpiece, imported from London, all of which give the home character.
Citron said that the abundance of light -- "every room has three exposures" -- as well as the state-of-the-art Integration System (security, TV, sound system, lighting, DVD, Bluetooth, Blu-ray, etc.) designed by Gator Tech, are aspects which set this home apart. The size of the rooms, while commodious, still allows for an intimate feel, she said. The guest house features a full kitchen, gym and great room. A pass-through fireplace serves both the structure and the outdoor patio.
An impressive amount of built-in storage runs the length of the upstairs. The walk-in master closet even has a hook wall for purses. The kitchen, with its white cabinetry and custom tilework, has several refrigerator drawers, a built-in floor vacuum targeted for high work areas and a faucet that can be controlled with a light tap.
A controlled creek, lined with river rocks, runs through the property and leads to a backyard gazebo. The gated property has been completely re-landscaped.
The home has been advertized in the Palo Alto Weekly, Gentry, Luxury Portfolio and Premiere Homes. In addition, Citron has placed an ad in Epoch, one of the largest newspapers in China.
"Alain Pinel aggregates to hundreds of websites," she said. "I am very analytics driven, and I have been monitoring hit rates and return rates and where they are coming from." So far, she has registered hits from all over the world, with top international regions ranging from Kuwait to the Netherlands.
89 Almendral Ave., Atherton
5 bedrooms, 6 full baths and 2 half baths
Approximately 10,760 square feet, which includes the 3,620 square-foot garage
This three-story Atherton home was custom built in 2006. The gated property is enhanced by towering redwoods -- a grove in front and many along the rear border. They do not interrupt the sweep of the back lawn, which the listing agent, Hanna Shacham, said could accommodate a tennis court or pool, in addition to the current small sports court. A generous limestone terrace with an outdoor kitchen overlooks a koi pond.
Shacham, who is consistently rated in the top 1 percent of Realtors, nationally and internationally, at Coldwell Banker (as she was at her previous firm, Cornish and Carey), said that both the location of this home and the underground 12-car garage are two aspects that make the property special. "There are lots of car collectors in Atherton," she said. The garage also houses a full bathroom and a wine cellar customized with western redcedar.
Of the four upstairs bedrooms, two with balconies, one is a multi-room master suite. A fifth bedroom on the main floor could provide for an au pair. The media room and paneled library are also downstairs, off the dramatic, two-story entry.
In addition to placing ads in the Palo Alto Weekly, Gentry, the Daily Post, Zillow, Trulia, Realtor.com and international sites provided by Coldwell Banker, Shacham has also signed up for a special service offered by Facebook that targets employees at Google, Apple, Facebook, LinkedIn and Zynga, who might be potential buyers.