Upgrading_in…, Both Buyer and Seller in Fremont, CA

Is the new housing development in Hayward (Stonebrae) a good buy?

Asked by Upgrading_in_fremont, Fremont, CA Fri Mar 21, 2008

I need to know how Stonebrae Elementary compares to other elementary schools in California. Even though Stonebrae has a golf course, is a gated community and holds incredible views, I am concerned that the future lots in this development will continue to depress prices (i.e., why by a used home when the new ones are the same price or less). I intend on living in my next home for 10 to 15 years. The developers are willing to offer upgrades and incentives, but I believe that the homes are still overprices considering that Hayward has a 2 year supply of homes. Any advice would be much appreciated!

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Mario’s answer
I believe that Stonebrae is the best value on the Bay Area.

We currently call Stonebrae our home. We relocated from the East Coast last year and after looking for homes all over the Peninsula and the East Bay we discovered our beautiful community. We bought our home last September from Toll Brothers and are very pleased with the home features, finishes and their service. We have an amazing view of the bay and get to enjoy amazing sunsets on a daily basis. The community is quite diverse, our homes are well built and our surroundings are amazing. We really enjoy how central is our location. My wife uses the Castro Valley BART to go to San Francisco (10 min.) on a regular basis and I commute daily to Genentech in South San Francisco (30 miles door to door, 40 - 50 min.).

Since we have a preschool son we visited the Stonebrae elementary and met with the Director a few weeks ago. The school has excellent facilities and the staff seems to be committed to make it the best school in the area. Some of our neighbors have their kids at Stonebrae Elementary and I have heard great feedback. They offer immersion programs in Mandarin and Spanish. Also, Hayward Park & Rec offers tons of community activities. Our son is currently enrolled in soccer lessons and we are really pleased with the program.

We have a Resident Membership at the Country Club and we are very happy with the facilities and look fwd to the construction of our permanent club house. The 2009 Stonebrae Classic (PGA event) was a total success demonstrating that this golf course is world class.

We feel blessed that we get to live at Stonebrae. I will certainly recommend this community to anyone that is looking for a estate home in gated community surrounded by nature but with great access to the major work centers of the bay area.
Web Reference: http://www.stonebrae.com/
1 vote Thank Flag Link Sat Apr 25, 2009
BEST ANSWER
I would like to weigh in as both a former Hayward resident and also a member of the Stonebrae community.

As a former Hayward resident I understand some of the challenges the city faces. By far the top concern from people buying into the community is the school system. I don't have a great deal to offer on the subject as I don't have kids. So I will simply say that Stonebrae Elementary is a fantastic addition, but it is part of Hayward Unified and is subject to all the problems that go along with that.

That said, I think Stonebrae taps into a unique market in the East Bay. From a real estate perspective there is nothing like it from Richmond to San Jose. For those people who are interested in a country club community and who still want to be close to San Francisco, this is an amazing opportunity. If you are looking at a 10-15 year time horizon as you state, think about how our communities are going to change. Transit-oriented housing, commuter-friendly housing, shorter commutes and access to public transit are becoming assets and virtual necessities. For those who want to still have the amenities afforded by community such as Stonebrae (golf, tennis, social activities, etc) this project is uniquely positioned.

As a club member I must state that I think the golf course is world-class. This is backed up by accolades by leading publications from the NCGA to Travel + Leisure and Golf Digest. The founding members have already begun to form a vibrant and energetic community and I think this will continue to enhance the value of Stonebrae. We are not a "traditional" country club.

I believe that for those who are looking at an intermediate to long term investment in property at Stonebrae, you have to look far past the current market conditions and even far past the norms of day-to-day life in the Bay Area today to see an enormous amount of potential in the development. It will take some time to develop. However, I believe the long-term gains will end up being substantial. Not to mention that I think you will find and AMAZING community in which you and your family can become involved.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Wed Apr 9, 2008
I have been renting in Hayward for about 7 years before I bought my "first" house in stonebrae. Between the prices that Stonebrae opened with and the time I bought mine last year the prices were down about 100-150K and I still remember that day very well when I walked into the Toll brothers office was told that all view lots were already reserved and that some lots which did not have views etc were available starting at 1.3M. Today I met someone who bought a view lot house for 900+K. so you can imagine where the prices have gone. The lowest price range of homes is completely sold out. We're left with some lots for Std Pacific and Toll Brothers. I do not expect them to open those lots unless the market brightens up as most of those are view lots and if the market picks up then they can certainly sell them for premium prices which they originally wanted to sell them for. One thing to remember when comparing prices is also to view the size of the lot. At the end of the day some of these homes are same size but their lots can be quite different. So if my house was 1.1 mil, another similar plan could be 950K because the lot is much smaller. You can always refer to the property tax information for two houses and see the difference in their land size.
The reality is most of the inventory is sold and the builders have been able to get back what they had invested into the land for stonebrae. Now my assumption is that they will go into contract before they build more homes, or if the market picks up in the near future then they will continue the remaining lots (besides post October is a slow period for construction activity).
Stonebrae elementary appears to be a good school, my kids go to private school just because I'm of the same opinion that Hayward schools are not up to the mark. I see that the school and its surroundings are maintained well, feels very safe around. Again, at the end of the day, it is not just the school or the teachers, it is the students who would make the school proud and as somebody said right that school is not just for stonebrae kids. So only time will tell how the school will prove itself.
It is windy up here in Stonebrae, very windy if you have a view or do not have another house next to yours. But if your house is interior or if your backyard does not face the bay it is not bad at all.
HOA is on the higher side compared to other communities down in Hayward, but you have to remember these are estate homes and they come with a price.
I did practically all of the flooring and counter top of the line upgrades for 45K that too because I chose their interior designer or it would have been 35K. I did most of my yard for about 25K. so even if they do top of the line upgrades inside and do a nice backyard it would work out to full blown upgrades max 75-100K. I would not buy the builders word that there are 200K upgrades. Those are inflated numbers like Toll brothers' 1.5-1.7M which they asked for the first few homes.
Thanks much to the new construction activity and other sources of income the city of Hayward is improving with great strides just like some people have mentioned here. I just can't wait to see the 880 exit open up. People come in, money comes in, growth happens, schools perform better. All in all it appears that Hayward is in only one direction and that is forward.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Sat Sep 13, 2008
I had been looking at houses for the past year - in reality, I'm always looking at houses, whether to browse/see how my investments are doing/check out the market/or to buy. The geographic range was from San Francisco/North Bay to Pescadero/San Gregorio. It's true that, for me, Hayward isn't as desirable a location as others. However, the price per sq. ft. on the houses in Stonebrae is unmatched anywhere, all variables considered. The houses have "good bones" - staying power. The city itself is in flux - I'm hoping it will move in a desirable direction. That said, I'm not a flipper and would not recommend buying into Stonebrae with that plan (sounds like you are not). This is a long-term development.

There is a great deal of inventory, however, I do not foresee the prices dropping more than what they have already, regardless of how the market goes. They're at the right price point (compared to about a year ago) and the developers are able to hang out for a while (indeed, even 2+ years). The best option would be to put in a solid bid and explore incentives.

In terms of the school, I knew the reputation of Hayward schools - my disclaimer is that I assume private schooling, if the public school isn't to par. It will take time to see how this school fares and what impact it will have on the area.

As far as windiness (as per someone else's post below) - I also looked at Bailey Ranch. It _is_ incredibly windy down there. For some reason, Stonebrae escaped the gales and is an amazingly beautiful walk at sunset. The view is quite unparalleled.

Good luck with your search, if you haven't already made a decision.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Sun Aug 17, 2008
Hi,

I am very familiar with the Stonbrae area since I have been seeing it from the starting stages, the breaking ground stages. I used to drive my daughter to School on Fairview.

I have also sold homes in the Bailey Ranch area which is just next to Stonebrae. At the time when Stonebrae homes were coming up, the homeowners in Bailey Ranch started panicking since they felt that the homes in Stonbrae were going to be sold for a reasonable price considering they were newer than Bailey Ranch, would have a new school and were built by Toll Brothers, Warmington Homes and Standard Pacific Homes, all of which are very reputable builders.

Because of Stonebrae, all of a sudden there were 20 homes on the market at one time in Bailey Ranch which was very unusual since people really like that area and had planned on living there for a long time. It was with great effort that some of the listings sold there, fortunately mine was one of them.

To make a long story short, what I am getting at is the talk about the Stonebrae Elementary school being very good and homes starting at a reasonable price was a concern for other good areas of Hayward.

The Stonebrae community is one of a kind especially for Hayward and the surrounding areas. Stonebrae Elementary school opened just last September so it is hard to say how the school is going to be in the future. According to Lisa Nolting, the new Principal, "Stonebrae Elementary will truly be a state-of-the art facility.

However, the truth is that Stonebrae elementary is not exclusive to the Stonebrae area and as you are probably aware Hayward schools are not the best when compared to Castro Valley, Fremont or other surrounding cities. So at this time it remains to be seen if this school will be better than the other Hayward schools.

In 1999 I was going to buy a home in Bailey Ranch, but after a lot of thought about the schools, I decided to buy a home in Five Canyons in Castro Valley. I had no regrets with that decision and my kids did very good at those schools and we really enjoyed the area.

Another fact I did not like abour Bailey Ranch at the time was that it was very windy up there. I don't know if it is the same case in Stonebrae, it probably is since it is so close to Bailey Ranch and is up in the hills, but you should consider that also before purchasing a home there from an investment and a resale point of view. Buyers do not want to be in a windy area. They want to be able to enjoy the outdoors.

I guess I have said more than enough. Please let me know if you have any more questions. I would be more than happy to help you.

Thanks

Meena Gujral
Help-U-Sell Achievers Realty
40083 Mission Blvd, Fremont, Ca 94539
510-279-9580
1 vote Thank Flag Link Thu Mar 27, 2008
Would any of residents of Stonebrae share their observations on Stonebrae Elementary? The overall scores are better than any other school in Hayward, but with an API of 796 it is still below the California "satisfactory" level of API 800. If we bought in Stonebrae, we would not be able to afford private school for the elementary years.
Also, is there a pool? Are there extra fees for pool membership?
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu May 19, 2011
In reference to Joe's question below, the Montessori Children's House of Hayward is an excellent school. They cover preschool to 3rd grade. The teachers are all excellent and the tenure of the staff is amazing. A great value for an even better education!
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Jun 2, 2009
Many have referenced private schools in the area. Any thoughts on the selection of private schools would be much appreciated. Thanks.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Apr 3, 2009
It sounds as if you have discovered a lot of value in the home already - the very same things that appeal to you with likely appeal to others in the market. But you are correct -a closer look is in order:

When comparing new homes to existing homes, a few things are important to consider: First, there are a lot of "hidden costs/benefits" involved when comparing the two side by side. There is value to the incentives, special financing offers, and of course - that "new home smell". There are also - very often - additional taxes, assessments & fees attached to the new home that may be cleverly hidden deep in the contract that don't jump out at you at first glance. Be certain that you are comparing apples to apples. A special assessment of $182 per month (not unusual) is the financial equivalent to approximately $28,000 in purchase price. (assuming financing at 6.5%) .

One of the main reasons people often purchase a "gently used" home on the resale market, rather than buy new from the builder is that alot of the upgrades purchased, the value (and trouble) of landscaping, adding a pool, patios, etc. cannot be recovered by the resale seller on a dollar per dollar basis. Therefore a resale home may end up being the better buy, overall.

In the end, keep in mind that while you do want to get good value for your money, and make a smart financial decision, within the realm of reason, you should purchase the home that you can envision yourself and your family living most happily in. We sometimes forget during the buying process that when we're buying our own homes (as opposed to an investment property) the greatest value lies in the potential for personal satisfaction and quality of life. This isn't your bank account or balance sheet - it's the place where your life happens.

Best of luck!

Jeri Creson
http://www.realestate-enabled.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Nov 17, 2008
As a longtime resident of Bailey Ranch, I can assure you that wind is not a problem. Sure it is windier than the flatlands, but it is hardly an issue worth considering when purchasing in the Hayward Hills. IMHO, I think now is an excellent time to buy in Stonebrae. There may be lots of inventory in the rest of Hayward, but I don't believe there are very many homes up for resale in Stonebrae. Warmington, the lower end builder, is sold out. And the remaining builders will not undermine and anger existing homeowners, by selling the remaining homes at a fire sale. I imagine that the Stonebrae community will go into a holding pattern until there are signs of a market rebound. The Stonebrae Country Club is now part of the exclusive TPC family of courses, managed by the PGA. It will be hosting PGA events in the future which will bring it national recognition to the course and the community. This combined with a market turnaround, will make this area very desirable. It may take 1-2 years for this to happen, but I think, for this community, the worst is behind them.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Nov 17, 2008
A 2 year supply of homes in Stonebrae? Maybe the lower Hayward area, but I doubt the Hills do.

Another thing I noticed is that the builders are not opening up the premium lots with hill views, presumably to keep them around for sale when the market rebounds.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Sep 17, 2008
I purchased a foreclosure in the Hayward Highlands in 1996. I've seen great appreciation since that time. As a real estate appraiser/real property agent for ove 15 years , I did not anticipate this rise in prices. However, as a parent, we place our son in a private school. So if you are concerned about schools, still want to live in Hayward, you need to go private.

In my opinion you should do what I did and consider the Highlands. Prices have come down about 25% since 2005-2006.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Sep 16, 2008
Hayward looks to be on a positive trajectory.. The downtown is in the middle of a revitalization.. the old guard city council have been minimized and refreshed with new blood. Another result evident: Hayward just passed their first major school bond in about 30 years to get Federal money. New downtown + better schools = community on the cusp.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Aug 17, 2008
I'm not a resident, but a member of the country club.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Apr 10, 2008
Jeff, how long have you been living in Stonebrae?
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Apr 9, 2008
I just talked to a few people. Stonebrae has a long way to go, and a few more phases. It's going to be awhile, I think
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Mar 31, 2008
Kraig and Meena -

Thanks so much for your discussion on the topic of Stonebrae. My biggest concern about the development are this :
1) Is Stonebrae Elementary at least on par with the middle-of-the-pack Fremont schools. (I don't expect StoneBrae Elem to be on par with Mission San Jose Elem, but I do expect them to be at least as good as the Hirsch or the middle of the pack Fremont Elem schools) I'll call the school myself and see what details I can find.
2) Any speculation on the year when the StoneBrae development will be completed finished? Because as long as they are building new homes, my home will not significantly appreciate in value.
3) Since Hayward is the least desirable town on the 880 corridor, I'm concerned about selling my home 10 to 15 years in the future. Of course, no one knows what home prices will be, but I am sure that the home will increase in value. The question is by how much. If Stonebrae Elem turns out to be a great school, then I am sure that Stonebrae will be a very desirable location.

Thanks for you thoughts and comments.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Mar 31, 2008
Appreciate that feedback. I agree that there is always some assumption of risk, but I also think that there is always good data to help us come up with a 'gut' feeling. That's what we're asking for. If your profession ethically won't let you answer, it's totally understandable. But we're hearing there is 2+ years of product on the Hayward market. Is that true? And if it is, would it lend to the opinion that price drops might be further ahead?

On the subject of 200k upgrades. I agree that that is definitely something tangible. However, nothing is more tangible than the overall affordability of the house. I would probably much prefer a price drop, as opposed to a free 5th bedroom, for example. :)

And again, I really appreciate the thought and time in the answers!

Kraig
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Mar 31, 2008
Hi Kraig,

I don't think any one can really answer that question. There are buyers asking that question about investment risk in every area, not just about Stonebrae. Who knows where the prices will be in the future. We only realize that prices have bottomed out when they start going back up, and then the buyers fell they have missed the boat.

Builders do not offer free upgrades and incentives when the market goes up. I do understand the buyers anxiety, but you need to see that some builders are offering 200K + in upgrades. Is that not worth someting? If you are going to live in a home for several years and enjoy the benefits of home ownership, in my opinion it is worth it. Every investment comes with some risk. When the prices go back up, buyers get priced out of the market pretty quickly.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Mar 31, 2008
I'm sure the questioner appreciates the answer, but I feel like your answer doesn't really get to the main point of his question, which is, is Stonebrae a big investment risk? Could a realtor in the know about Hayward and Stonebrae clue us in?

I'm thinking about buying as well, but if the questionaire is right and there is a 2 year supply of homes, perhaps it is wise to wait awhile for Stonebrae to lower their prices a bit more.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Mar 30, 2008
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