The Gnome Home

The Grimble Gromble Gnome Home; some places you just have to see to appreciate….

24 Lamplighter kitchen

Asking Price: $1,625,000

Address: 24 Lamplighter Irvine, CA 92620


24 Lamplighter wineI want to tell you a story
‘Bout a little man if I can.
A gnome named Grimble Gromble.
And little gnomes stay in their homes,
Eating, sleeping, drinking their wine.

He wore a scarlet tunic,
A blue-green hood, it looked quite good.
He had a big adventure
Amidst the grass, fresh air at last.
Wining, dining, biding his time…

The Gnome — Pink Floyd

Some properties are so special and unique that they must have value well beyond cashflow standards. Today, I am featuring one of the most unusual properties in Irvine: the Grimble Gromble Gnome Home (say that three times very fast).

The property description says the owners spent over $300,000 on upgrades. When a property is over-improved, it is a condition know as super-adequacy. Most improvements add value, but even the best ones only add about 70% of their cost to the value. As people over-improve, the additional value added falls off quickly.

Of course, by definition an improvement must improve the property. Some items people “improve” their properties with are undesirable and instead of adding value, it actually diminishes it. Today’s featured property is a case study in how to turn a super-adequacy into a value defeating fail.

Let’s start our tour with the most interesting feature on the property — the oubliette.

24 Lamplighter Oubliette

What you would do with your own secret hiding place? Hopefully, nobody is keeping any Egyptian slaves there.

Maybe this can be a home for bizarre rituals.

You will have a pair of knights to stand guard.

24 Lamplighter Kinght 1 24 Lamplighter knight2

A heavily armed pair of knights…

24 Lamplighter knights banner knights-jousting-warwick-castle-england

The current owner has some interesting art…

24 Lamplighter Equus

Equus? Perhaps the owner believes Obama is riding to his rescue.


This 2005 construction has that patina of age. Note where the plaster is breaking from the wall and exposing the underlying brick…

24 Lamplighter fake age

The children “sea” the house differently than their parents…

24 Lamplighter ahoy

Home! sweet home!

24 Lamplighter gothic

24 Lamplighter kitchen

Asking Price: $1,625,000

Income Requirement: $406,250

Downpayment Needed: $325,000

Purchase Price: $1,330,000

Purchase Date: 6/3/2005

Address: 24 Lamplighter Irvine, CA 92620

Beds: 5
Baths: 5
Sq. Ft.: 4,216
$/Sq. Ft.: $385
Lot Size: 7,000

Sq. Ft.

Property Type: Single Family Residence
Style: Tuscan
Stories: 2
View: Greenbelt
Year Built: 2005
Community: Woodbury
County: Orange
MLS#: P701545
Source: SoCalMLS
Status: Active
On Redfin: 2 days

This exquisite home is located in Woodbury community. Over 300,000
worth of upgrades, Semi custom touches throughout the home with extreme
detail. Travertine floors with hardwood insets, Granite stairways,
custom Iron rails, Brick veneer arch ways, distress wood beams, with
designer hand painted walls with distress detail, Custom doorways and
doors. Stainless steel appliances, sub zero, granite counter tops, open
wine closet, Customs built-ins throughout. This home is great for
outdoor entertaining with tranquil fountains, built in BBQ and

That is a good description. I don’t know if I could write a good description for this home.

Even though these owners bought near the peak, their property has appreciated over the last 4 years. If they sell it for its asking price, they stand to make nearly $200,000 after commissions.

I am trying to figure the likely buyer profile for this property. Who would this property really appeal to?

the-munsters TheAdamsFamily

I suppose if the Munsters and the Addams family are not interested, I know another family that can adapt to Southern California…


And so concludes another week at the Irvine Housing Blog, chronicling the Irvine home market since September of 2006.

Have a great weekend.


94 thoughts on “The Gnome Home

  1. Freetrader

    I’m sure there are plenty of people who would love to buy this place, IR, and pay the asking price too. Well, there’s Uday, and Qusay, and maybe Saddam would been interested as well. What’s that you say — they are all dead? Damn you George Bush! OK, so, where’s Mohammar’s number?

      1. bill shoe

        Nice. Someone needs to keep the graphic comments going now that AZDavid seems to be taking a break.

        1. AbroadThankGod

          Yeah, where the hell is AZD? His brand of furious, uncompromising schadenfreude appeals to me.

          I’m just as steamed as he is that the Boomers and Govt have colluded to trash our children’s future.

          No irony here. I mean it.

          Enjoy watching your children and their children’s quality of life erode over the next 40 years. And just know that it was based on your selfish demands for immediate gratification and a complete inability to think beyond the next 5 minutes. I’ll bet that Escalade was worth it! Stupid self-satisfied, manifest-destiny-myth-obsessed Americans.

          Come back, David! I can’t keep this up on my own.

          1. Freetrader

            Thanks for helping fill AZD’s big shoes. Maybe we should form a work group — keeping up AZD’s consistent level of animus was just too much work for one man. Perhaps it has affected his sanity? I just hope he didn’t drive himself over the edge and is wearing a straight-jacket somewhere…

          2. IrvineRenter

            I have shared emails with AZDavidphx. He is fine. Life’s circumstances mean people come and go from communities like this one. He is missed.

          3. Property Owner

            Although AZDavidPhx did like to give me a hard time about the selling price of my house (did’nt he do the same thing?), I can respect his strong feelings about this whole housing mess.

            I did like his Photoshopping. I hope he comes back eventually.

          4. Blueberry Pie

            Are baby boomers really the most to blame over this situation? Anecdotally, I seem to hear a lot of gen-xers talk about being foreclosed on, being underwater, etc.

          5. AbroadThankGod

            Hmmm. Don’t think Gen-Xers found themselves in a position where owning a home was a nearly hopeless dream based on the bubble being driven up by (wait for it) Boomer yuppies and Boomers on Wall Street?

            So, yeah, some of them bought when they shouldn’t have with loans that were unsustainable. And I’m sure plenty of them HELOCed themselves into hell.

            Where would they have learned such behavior? What politicians, banks or otherwise would have encouraged it? What generation stood to gain the most by fleecing their own children?

          6. DAve

            Last I saw he got in a flamewar with a troll here and bailed.
            I’ve commented before what a waste that was-

            And what I’ve learned in many years of doing this is that sometimes you lose interest in bloglife for a while and have to reintroduce yourself to friends and family.

            *Is Pretentious AZ resurrected? If so welcome back dude-*

          7. Laura Louzader

            I’m a “boomer” and absolutely EVERYONE I know, with only one outstanding exception, who got caught up in this craze was between the ages of 25-45. GenXers and later, in other words.

            Most people my age are a little past all that. We’re too busy worried about our imploding 401Ks and skyrocketing health insurance premiums. Those of us who didn’t own long ago (like me) were too scared off by the prices to participate in the lunacy of the past decade, and have been sitting here waiting for the return of sane prices.

            Don’t blame the “boomers” for this disaster. The overwhelming majority of the hedge fund and trading room managers who drove this mania were well under the age of 40.

            Maybe we could blame our “youth” obsession. If you were over 35 years old, you couldn’t get hired in the big financial powerhouses. Young blood only wanted, people who do not think about risk.

            If these guys had had more experience with risk, they wouldn’t have set up this debacle. However, now that they’ve been bailed out by the taxpayers, the next generation of 20-something cowboys will surely create another massive financial bubble, probably based on energy.

            And it WON’T be fun to watch.

    1. Andrew

      Actually, I almost want to buy the place and make a bed&breakfast; (ok, who am I kidding… a lan party & pizza&mtn; dew hovel) out of it.

      I couldn’t imagine living there… but it would be a really… interesting… place to visit for a long weekend full of Dungeons & Dragons, World of Warcraft, or any other similarly nerdy activity.

      I wonder what you could charge, and whether it would cover the inevitable cleaning you’d have to do after each set of guests.

      Eh, I haven’t got enough to make the down payment. Maybe with a 3%… but then the payments… oh, man, the payments…

      But I almost want to ask for a tour of the place just to see it for myself.

  2. Gindy51

    What’s with the old jeans tacked on to the wall in the “sea” kids’ room? Is that some sort of salty dog reference I don’t get?

    1. Nice Wall Pants

      What is with the legs?

      Is that supposed to be a Yoga pose or something? Nowww… Just twist your leg and hyper-extend at the knee… and relaaax.. breath….

  3. autox

    I really like the house, but then again I have a thing for all things medieval. I would buy their house as it will all included furniture for a cool 1mil. If I had a mil.

  4. winstongator

    I agree that the whole issue of ‘upgrading’ that was so popular on TLC and any other cable channel was at best ignorant, and at worst deliberate deception to get people to spend at Home Depot or Lowes. No business could install some fixture – not associated with building something – and book as income the increase in value of the asset. Their accountant would laugh at them. Those cable shows took homes in markets where the land value was rapidly rising, fast enough to swamp any increased value of the improvements.

    For some improvements that take a longer time – getting a kitchen completely redone, basement finished – there is value in the convenience of not having to do without a kitchen or having the work done. That value for a newly constructed home is zero.

    Why would someone move from a home it appears they had very custom detailed? I don’t care enough to put 25% of the cost of a home into upgrades, but am considering custom building a home. The question I’m asking is ‘will I live in the home for > 10 years’. If for whatever reason the answer is no, then we’ll go with existing homes.

    What am I thinking though – I need to drink some 2005 vintage kool-aid to get in the right frame of mind.

    1. OCDude

      Actually, capital expenditures are booked to the balance sheet and capitalized to the value of the asset.

  5. Stan

    What’s the point of being crazy if you can’t spend a lot of money letting everybody know just how crazy you are? I think the best description of the house and the owner is “super-inadequate.”

  6. Thuy

    “The property description says the owners spent over $300,000 on upgrades. When a property is over-improved, it is a condition know as super-adequacy. Most improvements add value, but even the best ones only add about 70% of their cost to the value. As people over-improve, the additional value added falls off quickly.”

    Best example of this can be seen with the kids who trick out their hondas & toyotas with rims, custom paint, hydraulics, etc. A $10,000 car with $20,000 in improvements is worth like $8,000 to the majority of used car buyers who would prefer that the car was not tricked out.

    Sure, the seller may find that small minority who appreciates what he did to the tricked out honda who will pay much more, but for the vast majority of buyers the car is worth very little

    1. MalibuRenter

      I have a 1993 Civic with 340,000 miles. I get unsolicited offers to buy it about once a month. The offers are usually around $5000, about 4x book value. Part of the reason is everything is factory, nothing has been tricked out or messed with, just properly maintained. Oddly, that really appeals to people who want to rip it apart and put a nitrous kit in it.

    2. Blueberry Pie

      What? I can’t hear what you’re saying. A little Toyota Corolla with a 5″ diameter tailpipe just drove by my desk.

    1. IrvineRenter

      I just emailed a friend over at John Burn’s office. I think I can get a copy of the FHA report to review and comment on.

        1. CapitalismWorks

          Taken from the report.

          …our projections to reflect HUD’s estimates of projected
          loan volume, initial capital and initial insurance in force, we find that the Fund will be
          unlikely to meet its statutory capital requirements by the end of this fiscal year.

          That might have an impact on quasi-rally.

  7. Justin

    Who has this much money but this little taste? Is that crack in the wall painted on like a graphic design?

    I can’t imagine this person has a home office, it would be embarrassing to talk business in front of a pair of gauntlets. Unless you own Medieval Times or something.

    1. AVRenter

      You can take the boy out of the trailer park but not the trailer park out of the boy.

      Each time I see faux deterioration paintings a little piece of my soul dies. There are so many things wrong with it I can’t wrap my mind around it. It’s like trying to comprehend the size of the universe.

      1. IrvineRenter

        It is so overdone in Las Vegas that I have developed a faux decorating blindness from repeated exposure.

  8. Burbujas

    Shouldn’t this be a 566 A.D. Rollback given it’s “Medevilness”. Perhaps it will catch the fancy of a World of Warcraft gamer. Too bad that Phil Spector is locked up as he could be a prospective buyer.

    1. DarthFerret

      Or maybe a World of Warcraft designer/developer? Blizzard Entertainment is headquartered in Irvine, after all. Their full-block compound is only about 2-3 miles from this house. Just the other side of the I-5.


  9. NewportSkipper

    The hideaway is simply an entrance, and it came with the house. Most of the complaints are about the furnishings. The only thing that would need to be fixed in the house itself is the paint job. They are probably breakeven with this price after the extensive landscaping.

    1. IrvineRenter

      You are right; it is mostly cosmetic. Some of the unusual brick work might be more expensive to remove if it didn’t suit your taste.

      “They are probably breakeven with this price after the extensive landscaping.”

      That is the point; they will never get back to breakeven — at least not in their lifetime.

  10. NewportSkipper

    And since when are themed bedrooms for kids unusual? The Irvine Company has made an art form out of them.

    1. BeachRenter

      I will, very begrudginly agree with NewportSkipper (aaaggghhh)
      The house, stripped of it fine furnishings, granite stirway and faux sho paint job is no better or worse than most others tract homes in Irvine or anywhere else. That little oubliette (what does that mean?) is not however, the entrance. A slightly more careful study of the photos will show it is, indeed, a stand alone something. I like the grow room idea – Who needs rental parity or HELOCs when you could really unlock the money making power of this chunk of SoCal real estate!

      Unfortunately they wasted $300k on crap on the house will soon be available on the Santa Ana courthhouse steps (well maybe not so SOON)

      1. NewportSkipper

        Look again, it is the entryway that ultimately leads to the front door. Do you see a front door on this property?

      2. NewportSkipper

        They have these things all over Irvine’s new communities. I’ve passed through some of them.

      3. Freetrader

        Don’t be so hard on yourself, BeachRenter. You can rest easy in the knowledge that you don’t agree with NewportSkipper, thank God. He is predicting ‘break even’ for the seller which means it will sell for the asking price of $1.6 million. That is only likely to happen if it stays on the market for another 10 or 15 years, or alternatively, it comes with 200o kilos of coke in the oubliette.

        1. NewportSkipper

          I said it’s a breakeven price point, not what it will close for. I’m relieved to not agree with a thing you say as well.

      4. zubs

        An oubliette is a French dungeon consisting of a room where the opening is in the ceiling. The sides and bottom of the room are solid walls.

  11. cosmo kramer

    The ‘oubliette’ is obviously where the owner brews his mead and performs alchemist experiments (he is THIS close to turning lead into gold).

    Personally I would use it to set up a hydroponic grow room: 100 plants, 3 harvests a year. An easy $150k/yr and no interference from the man :coolsmile:

    1. Freetrader

      Actually, the drug lord image works for me. I can see Al Pacino pulling out an Uzi while coming down the stairs, shouting “Say hello to my little frien’!”

      Of course, a Pot Lord would hardly have the motivation or the energy to get into a gunfight. But it works for me. Besides, pot is so much more laid-back Californian than coke. The pot lord will hardly notice when the police show up to evict him after he defaults on the mortgage.

      1. Freetrader

        On second thought, you are right, the obliette would be a great place to torture heretics. And with that axe on the wall, it’s all set up for the executions of those shills from the bank demanding payment, and if necessary for those pesky excess wives. Every morning El Cid (Charlton Heston to us Americans) can grab his espresso, don his suit of armor, mount his trusty steed, kiss Sophia Loren goodbye and ride off to do battle at the office park.

  12. tenmagnet

    This place is perfect.
    A Crusader’s paradise.
    Just needs a fortified outer wall, Keep, and treasure room.
    Thy Kingdom Come!

    1. Property Owner

      Speaking of Fry’s.
      I always found it odd that an electronics superstore like Fry’s uses people at the register line to tell you to go to register #XX rather than use technology and have a screen direct you like at some banks.
      You also gotta love that three step ‘approval’ process they have when returning something to make it painful and take as long as possible so you would rather keep the crap than wait.

      1. dafox

        the trick to returning things at frys is to tell them you dont plan on shopping today (even if you do). they’ll put it back on the CC you bought it with.
        I dont believe this applies to cash purchases though.

        takes out that extra step of going through the checkout to get your money refunded

    2. Bitter Renter

      Man, the local Fry’s stores are so weak in their theming compared to some of the other locations.

  13. NewportSkipper

    Photo #2 clearly shows the steps leading from the street through the entryway that leads to the “front” door, which is on the right side of the house. The structure came with the house, like I said.

    1. IrvineRenter

      I think the Beverly Hillbillies are good people that represent the finest in American values. I would enjoy them as neighbors, and I believe they would raise the quality of the character in most neighborhoods they would inhabit.

  14. jimfromJaxFla

    Is that Jennifer A, A,A,A,? !!!!

    anyway.. on the “Good News Friday”, there’s that FHA thing again..
    The FHA is the imaginary brakes for the Housing locomotive heading straight for the cliff at full speed…
    Which one fails first, FNM, FRE, FHA ?
    Free market laws will not be denied.. only delayed…

    1. winstongator

      Wait, FNM & FRE haven’t already failed? Can we say that AIG hasn’t failed yet?

      Was it hard to see that the ‘good news’ was irony?

      The whole notion of the FHA & by association FNM & FRE bugged me this morning. They effectively lower interest rates which do NOT necessarily lower borrowing costs. If they serve to prop up prices, you can end up with higher overall mortgage payments. Also, all the homeownership initiaitives build the idea that there’s something wrong with renting.

      To the govt guaranteeing of mortgages, the king is dead, mortgages do have default risk, and the principal is at risk. What needs to be done is for some decent underwriting to take place. Where the risk is higher, charge a higher rate. I’m very liberal, but acknowledge the fact that risk gets paid for sometime and by someone, and too much of the risk from 03-08 is being paid for with T-bills, to be actually paid for sometime in the future.

      Risk is never free. Its costs can be transferred or time-shifted but never eliminated.

  15. ConsiderAgain

    Interesting comments. I guess it speaks to my personality, but I like most everything about this house on a visceral and esthetic level. I am an engineer and not a psychologist, so I can only wonder what this says about me in light of the general comment theme. Oh well.

    This is one of the very few houses that show up here I would take a second look at if I were in the market for a $1.6MM house. The kitchen/attached room and yard are very nice.

  16. Geoffrey Chaucer

    A pox on all thee who mock this noble castle. ‘Tis a fetching estate and a fine place for ribald times between Lord and Lady – or between Lord and a comely ReMax strumpet. Huzzah!

    1. ConsiderAgain

      Lords and Ladies I think not good sir. Tis be a place for Knights and Dames and good wholesome frivolity. Those looking for balls and polished courts best look elsewhere!

  17. Stuff It

    Can you do a Queen music week?

    ‘I want it all’, ‘Nothing lasts forever’, ‘The show must go on’, ‘Dont stop me now’, ‘the loser in the End’, etc.

    1. IrvineRenter

      I really enjoy Queen’s music. I will use at least one song next week (I have already written some of the posts), and I will contemplate a Queen week.

  18. Barren_Irvine

    This should go straight to the fail blog. I was rolling on the floor when I saw the “A heavily armed pair of knights..” room. I am sure even king Arthur’s bed room had class that this one.

    That’s what happen when you have too much money and too little class.

  19. Dirk

    Fry’s should unearth, pull out and move the home to one of their stores… It could be a showcase for their new Home & Garden Center, and get them competing directly with Home Depot when the housing market recovers.

  20. DAve

    My money’s on this being a rehab home or halfway house for people suffering from withdrawals when they’re forced to confront their addiction to D&D.
    *Five points for the cultural reference*

  21. DAve

    God-DAMN JA is hot
    Can you imagine how freakin’ crazy she must be that all these guys keep dumpin’ her???

  22. Bitter Renter



  23. tonye

    This home is built for Torquemada or Machiavelli. It looks like something that nowadays only exists in some museum in Spain or Italy or at Medieval Times.

    The use of french words is simply so nouveau rich! Gaudy, yuck! If you’re going for a Medieval look from Castille or Florence don’t start claiming french words in the description.

    Besides, so now we got TWO castles in Irvine?

    Hmm.. I didn’t see a plasma TV, maybe it’s hidden in the dungeon?

    And, Mon Dieu Cardinal Richelieu, there is no bidet. Maybe it’s also hidden dans le oubliette!

  24. Irvine5

    let’s say in 2004 you bought a house and filled it with faux medieval armor suits and exposed brick and two years later the house appreciated $300k. do you think it is the luck of the market timing or a result of your brilliant value-adding decorating? so you take the gain and put a downpayment on a $1.3MM house. of course you are going to trick it out in a medieval motif and sell it for $1.6MM. you are a genius after all. you even provide free advice to other homeowners in the neighborhood, “I’m telling you, all you need is some exposed brick and crossed medieval swords and you can sell for double”. Hey, it is more original that adding pergranitell.

  25. newbie2008

    How much will it cost to restore the house to its original form?
    BHH brings back pleasant memories.

    As for 40% of the loans going into FC: I think that will be too high with with the bank/govt. monkey business and Prop 13. FC of 20% to 25% will be more likely occur over a 3 years period to socialize the losses and pain, while privatizing the 5% RE fee and 1% loan fee.


    Thanks for the laugh.
    We stayed at a ski cabin in Sun Valley this year that looked a lot like this but in somewhat better taste. The dungeon with the knight in armor and the guy chained to the wall was the wine cellar. There were a lot of $3000 a bottle wine in there that we could not drink. The place was a little bigger – 20000 sq ft. The dungeon was the only goofy part of the place. We did have to call the repair guy to fix the frige and the dumb waiter that got stuck between floors when we tried to move the frozen stuff down to the other kitchen.
    In our development we have the Disney House that is comparable but on a much smaller scale.
    Nothing is selling in our area – even the modest places offered at around 250 to 350K are just sitting.
    Best to you all.

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