Fall Real Estate 2005

Publication Date: Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Top of the line
So, what do you get for $10 million in Woodside these days?

by Barbara Wood

Not so long ago a million dollars was a magic figure in real estate; if the asking price was over a million the property offered something very special -- a mansion, a spectacular view, proximity to the rich and famous, history, romance or even all of the above.

The most expensive property on sale in September in Woodside, at $29.5 million, offers more than 20 acres off Woodside Road, as well as three homes, a barn, apple house and a pool. Key selling points are the views of the western hills, meadow, an old-growth redwood grove and a creek.

Today, that million won't get much more than a tiny fixer-upper in Woodside's least expensive neighborhood, an older house on a small lot in Menlo Park or a remodeled Eichler in Palo Alto.

To find that mansion, that view, the rich and famous for neighbors, a property that's really special, the price is more likely to start at $10 million.

Such properties are still relatively rare, but Woodside right now has at least eight such listings, with a few more in escrow. The most expensive is a little over 20 acres of land off Woodside Road listed at $29.5 million. A 1,235-acre ranch in the Kings Mountain area of unincorporated Woodside is for sale at $18 million and the former Davies estate on 20 acres on Lakeview Drive has been reduced from $18 million to just under $14 million.

The former estate of Ralph K. and Louise M. Davies is now on the market as part of a bankruptcy sale of the former founder of Inktomi. Built by a Frank Lloyd Wright protégé, the property -- billed as a fixer-upper -- features a 7,000-square-foot house, a caretaker's cottage, greenhouse, service garage, horse barn, pool and tennis court. It was recently reduced from $18 million to just under $14 million.

A historic stable converted into a home on Albion Avenue was recently listed at $12.9 million. A new home on Woodside Road is listed at $11.9 million and three properties are for sale on Mountain Home Road, where Larry Ellison and Steve Jobs own nearby property, for between $10.5 and $11.9 million.

All of these properties do indeed offer something special. The $29.5 million Woodside Road land, while located within a short walk of the town center with Woodside's school, library and shopping district, is quite private and separated from Woodside Road and neighboring homes by thick vegetation. The property is described by listing real estate agents Kyra Gebhardt and Mary Gullixson of Alain Pinel Realtors as offering "unparalleled tranquility, solitude and natural beauty."

The Bella Vista Ranch on Skyline Boulevard, in the Kings Mountain area, gets a tax break for raising cattle on the land. Llamas abound too.

Although it has three existing homes, plus a barn, apple house, garage and pool, the structures are apparently nothing special because the address is actually listed twice in the real estate multiple listings service, once as land only. The property has views of the western hills, a meadow and an old-growth redwood grove and has a creek on two sides of the property.

For a little less money and about a 30-minute drive away, the Skyline Boulevard property called the Bella Vista Ranch is probably the most unusual property on the market. David Cline, who is co-listing the property with Diana Plank, of Coldwell Banker's Montara and Half Moon Bay offices, says stepping on to the ranch is like stepping back in time.

The old Victorian-style cottage built around 1902 and a lodge built in the 1940s and the farm buildings on the property have been impeccably maintained by the current owners, Cline says. Cattle are raised on the property, which enjoys a property tax break because it is used for agricultural purposes. Similar large ranches and protected open space surround the property, which has views of the coastal mountains and the ocean.

The former estate of Ralph K. and Louise M. Davies, a shipping tycoon and his philanthropist wife, is being sold as part of a bankruptcy sale by the former founder of Inktomi, James Paulett Charlton who bought the estate for a reported $5.8 million with the intention of restoring it in 1999. The home, venue for 50 years of fundraisers hosted by Louise Davies, was built in 1940 by Frank Lloyd Wright protégés Ashen and Allen of San Francisco.

While the property looks sleek and welcoming in the marketing put out by real estate broker Mark Benson of Cashin company, it apparently needs millions in repairs. The property is located east of Interstate 280 on Lakeview Drive, and has views of the Bay and the western hills. The 7,000-square-foot house has seven bedrooms and six and a half baths with a two-bedroom caretaker's cottage, greenhouse, service garage, horse barn, pool and tennis court.

The property on Albion, listed by Berdine Jernigan and Heidi Johnson of Coldwell Banker in Woodside for $12.9 million, is a former stable built in 1928 and converted into a summer home of two cottages with a pool, greenhouse, barn and riding ring on four acres. The property is on a quiet, dead-end street yet close to central Woodside.

On Mountain Home Road, a 9.6-acre property with a four-bedroom main house, cottage, pool, pool house and barn in "original condition" is listed at $11.995 million, down almost a million from $12.975 million in February. The property has three legal parcels of more than three acres each. The property is also within walking distance of central Woodside.

A new home on three acres on Woodside Road is listed for $11.9 million. Jim McCahon and Holly Stockman of Coldwell Banker in Woodside are the listing agents for the farmhouse-style five-bedroom, five-and-a-half-bath home with a full basement and three-car garage with an apartment above it as well as a one-bedroom, one-bath guesthouse and pool, spa and fitness center. This property is also close to central Woodside.

A recently remodeled home on 3.8 acres on Mountain Home Road is listed by Carol MacCorkle of Coldwell Banker Menlo Park for $11.5 million. The 5,800-square foot four-bedroom, four-bath home has a pool, cabana, gazebo, two-bedroom guest house, exercise room, billiard room and four-car garage. There is a view of the western hills, a four-car garage and a wine cellar.

Another property on Mountain Home Road has nothing but a water tower built in the 1930s and pool house on its 4.38 acres. The $10.5 million property, listed by Mary Gullixson of Alain Pinel in Woodside, has a view of the western hills and is quite near Oracle founder Larry Ellison's home.

Of course, what these properties eventually sell for may be nowhere near their asking prices if the two properties now in escrow are any example.

The most extreme is 1015 Mountain Home Road, which was originally listed in March 2004 for $16 million. The 7,800-square-foot contemporary home on three acres was reduced to $10.5 million in July 2004, to $9.75 million in September 2004, to $8.6 million in October 2004 and then fell in increments to $6.4 million in August 2005 when it finally sold.

A house at 208 Miramontes was listed in late December 2004 at $14.5 million. The price dropped to $12.5 million in February, to $11.5 million in May and the 9,500-square-foot, three-year-old home on three acres was finally sold in August for $9,660,575.

Several of these properties are on more than one legal lot and could possibly be subdivided. But Woodside Town Planning Director Hope Sullivan says that many barriers to subdivision exist, most commonly getting approval for septic systems to serve new development. Sullivan said that while the town does get some questions about subdividing property, she is under the impression that the lack of large parcels in the entire Peninsula area makes properties valuable without subdivision.

In the case of the Bella Vista Ranch, which is in San Mateo County's jurisdiction, the current owners prefer to see the property go undivided, Cline said. They have reserved the right to put recorded restrictions on the development of the property even if they receive a full price offer, he said.