That’s no Monster

Back in June of 2019, I wrote a post called At Home in Redwood City in which I made my first mention of Thomas James (“TJ”) Homes, a Southern California-based developer of medium-sized, single-family homes who had begun snapping up properties in Redwood City. (They are also operating in other peninsula communities, including San Carlos and Menlo Park). Back then I mentioned that I knew of six homes that were definitely going to be torn down and replaced by TJ Homes, although I had heard rumors that there were others (I’ve heard counts of 15 and 17 from various sources). While it is still a bit tricky to nail down the exact number of in-the-works single-family home development projects that are being done by this particular developer, the number has grown to twelve, at least, since that is how many have received their building permits and are now at various stages of development.

While the total number of houses that TJ Homes currently has underway in Redwood City is significant, I’m pleased to note that these homes, although not small, are by no means “monster homes.” All are two-story homes, and all, I believe, sport four bedrooms and three bathrooms. The smallest that I am currently aware of has 2,432 square feet of living space (not including the two-car garage or any decks or porches), whereas the largest has 2,997 square feet of living space. Of course, size is relative — in this case, relative to the homes in the immediate vicinity. So whereas a 2,997 square foot home might not be a “monster home” on paper, if it sits among a sea of, say, 1,500-square-foot one-story homes, it could indeed look like a bit of a monster. So each home needs to be considered in context. Fortunately, plans for some of the projects are easily accessible online, and those plans include renderings showing the homes as they would appear from the street. For instance, here is a rendering for the home to be constructed at 1741 Connecticut Drive (in the Roosevelt neighborhood):

To my eye this one fits in rather well with its neighbors. Whereas another project, over on Carolina Avenue (near Woodside Plaza), stands out a bit more from its immediate neighbors, since most of the homes on that block are single-story houses. But nevertheless it still isn’t particularly imposing:

The various projects that TJ Homes currently has in the pipeline are scattered throughout the city (although all are, I believe, on the western side), and are not part of a single large development as was recently built on Finger Avenue. By my count, five of the homes are located in the Mount Carmel neighborhood, three are in Eagle Hill, two are in Roosevelt, and the remaining two are in Woodside Plaza. Each is replacing an older, usually smaller, home on a large lot.

TJ Homes projects are easy to spot when driving through Redwood City’s residential neighborhoods: this developer uses construction fencing upon which their company logo is prominently displayed:

These fences also have a sign with the company’s “Integrity Pledge” on it, one that also has a slot where the building permit (and, on occasion, the design drawings for the house that they will be building) on it:

Their integrity pledge is a particularly nice touch: if they truly adhere to it, it appears that there will be no smoking, drinking, or drugs allowed on site. As well, they don’t allow radios, so although neighbors will hear plenty of unavoidable construction noises, they at least won’t have to put up with loud music as well. TJ Homes pledges to maintain a “clean and organized jobsite,” and says that they will clean up debris daily. From what I have seen so far, they do seem to be adhering to this — although as yet none of their projects is much past the stage where they’ve poured the concrete for the foundation. Whether they are truly doing anything more than what other developers are doing, I for one appreciate the visible effort they are making to keep the neighbors in mind.

Any construction of this sort has unavoidable impacts to traffic and noise, however, and I suspect that there is not much that TJ Homes can do to minimize those beyond what other contractors do. At least they pledge to adhere to the city’s established work hours, so any impacts shouldn’t occur early in the morning or into the evening.

Although this much home construction — and more; there are plenty of other developers redeveloping individual homes throughout Redwood City — may seem odd given the pandemic, somewhat counterintuitively our area’s home values continue to increase. Even though many of us are working from home, most of those who have high-paying jobs are indeed still working. Our office buildings may be mostly empty, but there is still a great deal of demand for housing in our area. According to one local realtor, in October the number of homes sold increased by 45%, and the average sales price rose by almost 4%, to just shy of $1.8 million. Pending sales were up, as were the number of homes on the market. Thus, despite the increasing number of “For Sale” signs I’ve been seeing out there, there are buyers for those homes, which is keeping upward pressure on home prices. It may seem crazy, but the numbers don’t lie: this is the economy we are living in. Which is of course great for those of us who own our homes, and not so great for those hoping to buy into our market. And, I have to say, it is good for residential property developers like Thomas James Homes: it gives them some level of confidence that when they’ve finished building their homes, there will be buyers out there with the wherewithal to afford them.

These new homes won’t be cheap, of course. For instance, TJ Homes paid $1.475 million for the property at 2403 Whipple Avenue (at the corner of Whipple and Nevada). Start with that $1.475 million price and add in the cost of demolishing the existing home and building an entirely new one, plus profit to get to the final price. I would think that these homes will go for something in the high two millions or even low three millions. For houses that are a good size, and presumably good quality, but are by no means “monster homes.”