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The higher they went, the harder a home price fell

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POSTED February 22, 2013 12:47 a.m.

The highest sale price ever recorded in Manteca for a production home was $720,000.

It was paid in 2006 for a 4,336- square-foot Heritage Ranch home on Pestana Avenue in East Manteca, a couple of blocks south of Joshua Cowell School.

Today the home - based on values assigned it by the San Joaquin County Assessor - is valued at $276,000. The fact the home is valued 61.7 percent less on Jan, 1, 2012 than six years earlier isn’t a surprise.

What is, though, is the fact the value dropped from $291,000 on Jan. 1, 2011.

Unlike most of the Manteca resale market, the behemoth McMansions - especially the ones designed as massive boxes with little architectural enhancement - are still backsliding.

That’s because many of them were square footage buys with little emphasis on upgrades. In other words, buyers paid top dollar for space at the height of the market and had little financial room, if any, to add enhancements.

Actually, the $720,000 was a model home purchase that the buyers immediately turned around and made $30,000 worth of upgrades on. It had all of the bells and whistles. The problem is value is perceived on what is similar in a market such as the one we’re slogging through right now.

Other builders - like Atherton Homes and Florsheim - made conscious efforts in the basic floor plans to create some sort of style beyond just sticking together rooms the equivalent of boxes.

The worst examples of the Heritage Home’s biggest model were the ones where the buyer chose the option with a massive master suite built across the street-facing side of the second floor. That created a large rectangle space in excess of 1,000 square feet. The master bathroom and closet were built directly over the two-car garage, adding and other 400-plus square feet to the master suite.

When the homes were being flipped from 2004 to 2006, very few of those that had the massive master bedroom option had much in the way of furnishings. The most Spartan one had a dresser, armoire, bed, chair, and TV. That underscores one problem with the biggest McMansions in Manteca: The cost of furnishing them. Then there is the issue of heating and cooling, not to mention routine upkeep.

Little wonder the boxiest - and most expensive - McMansions ever sold in Manteca are still backsliding in value.

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A snapshot of the Manteca market shows prices - depending upon how you measure it - are up 20 to 25 percent since November 2011.

Fifteen months ago, the average closed escrow for a resale home was $192,000. That compares to $234,000 last month.

Meanwhile asking prices of the homes for sale have gone from an average of $239,000 to an average of $309,000.

The asking and selling prices almost met in February 2012, but increasing buyer demand widened the gap between the two numbers.

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