Sunday, December 21, 2014

Monday, December 15, 2014

Babies!

Several past clients are expecting little ones in the new year! Briana Hicks and Michael Pedicone will welcome their first child any minute now.  Erich Meschkat and Ryanne Meschkat are having a Meschkitten.  And Abby Hatch will have a new sibling, courtesy of parents Robin Hatch and Scott Hatch.

Also, the Misty Martin, Ryan Martin plus Phoenix and Haze Martin welcomed baby Sailor a few months back.  And Mark LaCorte and Jackie LaCorte have their first son, Romeo, as well.

Congratulations, everybody!  I look forward to meeting all of the new little ones.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Sunday a.m. reading: Getting a mortgage may be easier than you think. And Moby.

Both today's L.A. Times and today's NY Times have articles today about the loosening of mortgage requirements.  The L.A. Times link is here.  Some particularly excellent news: Fannie Mae is going to lower the downpayment requirement from 5% to 3%.  Before anybody starts thinking about "moral hazard" and such, consider Southern California's buyers who aren't wealthy.  If the average house costs about $450,000, the downpayment now needs to be $13,500.  Plus about 2% in closing costs.  That equals $22,500 and represents A LOT of savings for younger or middle-income buyers.

Today's other news is that performer Moby just sold a Hollywood Hills home for $12+ million.  He bought it four years ago for a little under $4 million, and spent -- sit down -- $2 million restoring it.  At first I thought the $2 million was a misprint, as I couldn't imagine what could possibly cost that much. What could that huge amount possibly be spent on? Diamond-encrusted laundry rooms? Fur-lined sinks? Real unicorns for the yard? But the house is apparently huge, so... The other big take-away is that Moby made about $6 million on this transaction.  Yup, that's huge.  Not bad for a non- professional real estate investor dj-songwriter.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Check out Listed and Twisted

Please check out my colleague Tracey Raphael's semi-new blog, ListedandTwisted.wordpress.com.  (Kudos for the very cool title, Tracey!)  The blog is described as the mad rantings of a real estate soccer mom.  Tracey is a wonderful Realtor who has lots of experience, integrity, and is fed up with the b.s.

Monday, December 01, 2014

Just sold this huge home/lot in...Valley Glen, of all places

Here's a pic of the house that I just sold to a wonderful couple who wish to remain anonymous.  It's in an area called Hillview Park Estates in Valley Glen, close to Valley College.  All the homes in this small area are on huge, 14000+ sf lots and the streets are gorgeous, tree-lined and quiet.  Especially quiet because there's no parking between 8:00 a.m. and midnight.  Ugh...yes, I got a parking ticket.

The escrow had its challenges, mostly because of the home's condition.  I know more about sewers now than I ever thought there was to learn.  The wiring was a safety hazard, the huge pool needs everything, and generations of rat families have raised their young in the attic.  Still, the house has so much potential that it's easy to see why my clients were attracted to it, and stuck with it.

My buyers have already started the rehabbing and make-over.  They are still debating what to do with my favorite room, the "rumpus room." It's pictured here and was probably last redone in the early 1970's.  Note the wood paneling and turquoise and orange accents.  There are workable beer taps and plenty of room for a full bar.  The owners thought of everything: to prevent a dangerous injury to home drinkers, bar stools are permanently bolted down.  And in true relic style, there's orange shag carpet under the turquoise carpet! The room had a built in sound system, a juke box, neon beer signs, pool table, gaming tables, and an electric panel hidden behind a wall-mounted snack machine.  They really knew how to party in the 1970's!

The rooms are all spacious and the backyard seems to go on for ever.  Good luck with the place, buyers, and I can't wait to see what it looks like in a few months or so.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Judy Graff Properties: providing the difference

Here's my biz card.
Here's what my yard sign will look like.

It's official! I am pleased to announce that I am finally going solo and forming my own real estate company.   This new direction will give me the opportunity to give my clients more of what they need – expertise and outstanding service.  No pitches or pressure, just astute advice, counsel and solutions for your real estate needs.  Call it Judy Graff Properties, or just call it me – Judy Graff.  I can be reached the same old ways.

I have been delighted to be of service to all of my real estate clients for the almost two decades, and I am honored to have been part of my clients' lives.  I look forward to continuing to help, advise and educate new clients on their real estate transactions with my new venture.  

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Ask the Realtor: should I sell or buy a California home in the winter?

This is kind of an anniversary post for me.  Please read on.

Most people think that real estate goes dead during the fall and winter, even here in Southern California.  That's not entirely the truth, but most home sellers want to celebrate or have a quiet time in peace, and most buyers do not want to even contemplate moving over the holidays.  But here's the upside of home sales at this time of year.

In late November/December/early January, there isn't as much on the market.  So if you're a home seller, this is an opportunity to capture the interest of serious buyers.  (However, if you want to wait and capture the rising spring market, I'm down with that, too.)

And if you're a home buyer, you'll know that if a house is on the market during these months, the sellers are very serious.  This is also the time of year that prices don't go up, so you may get a really good deal.

But nobody wants to move at this time of year.  Too many hassles, too much else to do, etc.  So here's the work-around: sellers can arrange to rent back the home for a few weeks.  Many Realtors will caution everybody against this, but if each side believes the other side is trustworthy, it can work out really well.  Buyers, your first payment isn't due until the end of the first month that you own the new home, so the rent-back monies can be paid up front and can offset your closing costs.

Here's where the anniversary part comes in.  This is exactly what my husband and I did last year when we bought our new place.  We had an offer accepted on November 17, closed on December 17, the sellers rented back for a month, and we moved in on January 21.  It was a win-win all around.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Burbank residents, BWP has even more rebates for you

If you own a home in Burbank, Burbank Water and Power is gifting you with even larger rebates on new, energy-efficient appliances.  They've doubled the rebates for new refrigerators, washers, and dishwashers.  Check their website for details.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

10 types of Real Estate Agents to Avoid


Readers, this was written for other real estate agents but it will be amusing for home buyers and sellers, too.  I so wish I could name names here.  This article originally appeared in the Trulia Pro Blog and was picked up by Inman News.  The writer is Jovan Hackley and the entire text of the article is here.  I've edited this for home sellers and buyers, rather than just real estate agents.

1. The agent who could use a little more training …
Expertise and experience are two different things. Unfortunately, many of you said that there are too many agents who are simply undertrained, and it can show during the transaction.
My comment: this may surprise you, but it is truly #1.  But as with all other professions, it takes a long time to learn the ropes.  Many people get into selling real estate because it looks easy to make a lot of money. (Sound of cackling laughter.)  But experience is the only true teacher.
2. The agent who misses all of the contract deadlines — and doesn’t know it …
We’ve all run into that agent who hasn’t seen a deadline he couldn’t miss.
My comment: See #5 and #7.

3. The agent who always overpromises and underdelivers …
Ambition is good, but according to those in the industry, making a promise that can’t be kept is a deal breaker! Clients and other agents remember those who talk a big game without bringing home the win.
My comment: if you are reading this blog, you've probably investigated local real estate enough to run into agents like this.  Be careful of standard sales pitches.
4. The agent who forgets everything and anything …
Showing appointments are a shock! Four out of 5 of their clients insist they forgot! They’ve had scheduling conflicts the last three weeks in a row!
My comment: This just forces that agent's clients to do the remembering for them.  And that's not what the clients are paying them for, is it?
5. The agent who avoids (OK, ignores) every call and email …
When you’re trying to close a solid deal for your clients, there can be nothing more frustrating than working with someone who won’t return calls, listen to voice mails, or return calls.
My comment: like, you have something better to do? Like what? Solving the crisis in the Middle East? And don't tell me that you didn't get the message -- you have your iPhone implanted where your ear used to be.
6. The agent who quotes crazy high prices to win a listing …
Winning a listing is great — unless in the process you’ve ruined your client’s chance of closing in a timely fashion. One big complaint we’ve heard from agents across the country is on others using bad pricing tactics to win clients. The reality is that market value won’t move based on any delusions.
My comment: good sales comps are those that are closest in time, closest in distance, closest in size and condition.  Home sellers, have you been shown this data? I hope so.
7. The agent who doesn’t focus on the details …
There is a lot expected of real estate agents. You’ve got to be able to see the bigger picture and hone in on the details. Whether it’s dealing with deals, presenting an offer or reading emails, thoroughness is a valuable skill in this industry. And those who don’t have it can be a headache to work with.
My comment: some agents are just focused on getting the listing. Again, if you're still reading this blog, you've probably investigated the local market enough to know who these folks are.
8. The agent who tries to be a big bully …
Agents whose methods of moving a transaction along always involve voice-raising and choice words scored high on the drives-me-nuts scale.
My comment:  Shouldn't people who value their work and their clients have at least a little class? Agents, please -- stay away from the phone when you are drunk and angry. Or just feeling mean.
9. The agent who doesn’t anticipate potential problems …
Real estate deals are about getting clients to closing the best way possible. That’s impossible if an agent is always getting tripped up by transaction surprises.
My comment: some problems are unimaginable in advance, but here's where well-rounded experience with transactions comes in.  Experienced Realtors anticipate problems in advance. 
10. The agent who’s dangerously walking that “ethical” line …
The last and least liked of all the agents are those who are actively unethical. Those who get the deal done by treading in the gray area of the law or jeopardizing someone tend to make other agents uneasy. And that’s understandable!
My comment: this happens, and it really is scary.  When an agent in a transaction behaves unethically, all of our licenses are at risk.  And we risk lawsuits, too.  

I hope you've enjoyed this! If you're a long-time reader of this blog, you know that I give shout-outs and props to good real estate agents.  Feel free to call me and ask me about the good guys. 

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Ask the Realtor: Mansionization in L.A. and what it means for you


(Cartoon by the incomparable Ted Rall) Recently, two separate residential real estate clients have called about parcels of residential property next to or adjacent to their houses.  These parcels are either vacant land or an older, smaller home in disrepair.  They’re worried that a real estate developer will come along, buy the properties for cash and build a mansion which will then block my clients' light, their view, their neighborhood ambience.  Could this really happen? Yup.  Check out this recent article from the L.A. Times about many residents’ growing frustration.

This won’t make you feel better, but here are some rules of thumb about what can and can’t be built on residential property.  Each separate city has its own rules, though, so if you want to be certain, please check with that city’s building and planning department.

-        First, the house’s square feet can only be 35% to 45% of the lot’s square footage, not including the garage.  So a house of 3000 sf can be built on a standard 6700 sf lot.  At least it’s not a 5000 sf house (cold comfort, I know).

-     There have to be set-backs from lot lines.  Standard here is 5 feet (not enough IMO) on the sides, and 25 feet at front.

-      The design has to conform to the neighborhood character.  So while somebody could build a fake Cape Cod (the house design du jour), they can’t build a replica of the Parthenon.  (Except in Glendale. Kidding.)

- If the lot is smaller than 5,000 sf, building on it at all may not be permitted unless a variance is issued.


What to do if you’re next to a potential humongous construction project?

-     Try to make nice with the new owners before they dig.  If they are not developers and plan on staying there, perhaps they will re-scale grandiose plans.  Not likely, but it’s worth a try.

-       Go to your city’s building and/or planning department and speak with whomever is reviewing the plans (before the old house, if there is one, is torn down).

-        Buy the lot/house yourself (thanks a lot for nothing on this one, Judy).

If you’d like to investigate further, here is the link toL.A. city mansionization ordinances.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Check out my new Yelp review!

Thanks, Jim and Elizabeth, for my new 5-star Yelp review.  Jim and Elizabeth, the writers, are the new owners of the Hollywood Hills home that I blogged about last week.  Even though the transaction got a little hairy, I had a great time working with J&E and I miss them already.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Surprise! Mortgage interest rates are really low.

In defiance of expectations, mortgage interest rates moved down this week.  All the financial experts said they'd be going up and we'd probably hit 5% by the end of the year.  Just shows what experts know, eh?  Right now, rates look like this:
30 year fixed: 20% down = 4.00% with no points
30 year fixed: 10% down = 4.125% with one point

It may be time to pull the trigger on purchasing a home.  BTW, my 11485 Moorpark #17, Studio City is open on Saturday from 2-5 and 629 N. Keystone in Burbank is open on Sunday, 2-5.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Hollywood Hills house closed yesterday - whew!

First-time buyers Elizabeth and Jim are the proud new owners of this home in the Lake Hollywood area.  This transaction had a bunch of challenges.

The house is a flip and the new stuff is really nice, but an entire lower unit had been torn out on the order of L.A. City.  And there were lots of brand-new concrete pours and patches which indicated lots of cracks and slipping.  This is no surprise as the house is built on a hillside.

We had lots of inspections and estimates and the news wasn't so great.  But two factors made this purchase a go: first, Jim and Elizabeth are up to the challenge of a not-perfect house and second, the sellers gave the buyers a huge, huge credit.  (It's the largest credit of any real estate transaction I've been involved in.)

I am eager to see how Jim and Elizabeth (wonderful clients, btw) will fix this up.  Here are pics of a friendly neighborhood kitty and also the sunset view from the front porch.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Check out my brand-new website at JudyGraff.com!


Please visit JudyGraff.com and take a look at my newly-designed website.  It has lots of new functionality plus many of the same popular features as the old one.  Search the local mls, read my blog posts (without pictures), and get community news.  Some bugs are still being worked out, but I hope you like it.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Burbank-style Octoberfest

Now that you've seen this, you can't un-see it.  Thanks, clients George and Yvonne Feucht, for the fun night! George, you are adorable in your lederhosen!

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Best breakfast in Studio City -- by item

Who needs Yelp, eh? Let's all hop on the restaurant ratings bandwagon! Lately, I've been sampling various specific breakfast food items in my new hometown of Studio City.  I've come up with a not-so-definitive "best of" list by item for those of you that share my tastes. 

I select Jinky's on Colfax and Ventura for the best all-around egg-type breakfast.  Not only do they have many, many kinds of omelets and such, they also have quick service with a smile, celebrity spotting, a dog-friendly patio, and mimosas.  Coffee is a bit pricey but you get a whole pot.

Now on to the really carbohydrate-y stuff that we won't admit we eat:

French toast even better than Mom used to make can be found at Tujunga Village's Aroma.  This is dipped in the real egg batter stuff and is so rich that I dare you to finish an order.  It's even better than nearby foodie-fave Girasol's brunch French toast.  This is how I want to start my birthday day for the rest of my life.

Good old standby Du-Pars has the best regular pancakes (pictured above).  Light, fluffy, and scrumptious, the order is so large that you'll want to share these (or maybe not).  The parking lot there at Laurel and Ventura is a bit tricky, so go early.

What is it about banana pancakes? I don't know, but I crave these when the bananas are cooked in the batter, not just laid on top.  Vivian's on Ventura, close to Vineland does a wonderful job on these noms (pictured above), and their patio is delightful as well.  The other breakfast items are good, too, although they are a bit chintzy on the toast.

Yes, my weight is up 5 lbs from last year when I moved.  Please feel free to comment, or add other faves.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Long before there was a Studio City, Burbank, Toluca Lake...there was an SFV and here's a link to pictures

Take a look at these pictures from our land.  These are from back in the day when "real estate" meant "farmland" or "belongs to the Catholic Church." Most of these were taken in the 1880s.  Unrecognizable? I'll say.  http://waterandpower.org/museum/Early_Views_of_the_San_Fernando_Valley.html.  Thanks, Melinda, for the heads up!

Friday, September 26, 2014

629 N. Keystone in Burbank is open Sunday from 2 to 5!

If you think there's nothing left to buy, you haven't seen this lovely 3+2 in Burbank's Magnolia Park.  Totally upgraded with an open, flexible floor plan and two gorgeous patios, the home also boasts a chef's kitchen and sparkly, saltwater pool.  And it's in Burbank's best neighborhood, too.  Steve and I will be there spinning tunes from 2 to 5 on Sunday. More pictures and info can be found at 629NKeystone.com.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Open Sunday, Sept. 21, from 2 to 4 -- 11485 Moorpark #17, Studio City

Please swing by my open house tomorrow in Studio City and see this amazing townhouse.  It has 2 beds, 2.5 baths, two stories, two balconies, a fireplace, a gym, and a gorgeous pool.  It has been spiffed up with new paint and new upstairs carpet.  Best of all, it's priced at an affordable $399,000 and the HOA is only $225 a month.  Do the math: depending on your down payment, that's cheaper than renting the same-sized unit.

Plus, this is in the neighborhood that everybody loves -- Tujunga Village.  Walk to Girasol, Vitello's, Aroma, groceries, cool little stores...

Friday, September 19, 2014

Please and thank you for open houses

For the most part, holding open houses are one of my favorite real estate things.  It can be like a party and I get to meet new people.  Some people think that houses never sell from an open house showing, but that's completely false and I've done it several times.  However, some open house guests amaze me with unmindful behavior.  If you're visiting an open house, please...

  • Please don't bring your pet in the home with you.  I, like you, love dogs more than people, but that sentiment isn't universally shared.  It's not just that your pet might have an accident; it's that other guests may be afraid, allergic, etc.  I'm sure your dog isn't aggressive but nobody else knows that -- plus, there may be pets in the home that get aggressive at the sight of your dog. Thanks!
  • No matter how awesome your kids are, please keep them with you and maybe even hold their hands. Nobody wants an accident and your little ones are on unfamiliar turf.  Nobody wants anything broken in the house, either. Thanks!
    • This goes double for kids around outside swimming pools.  Your toddler may swim like Diana Nyad, but you probably don't, I don't either, and why cause panic to rise among all guests when you turn your back for one minute? Thanks. 
  • This "please" comes with a story.  The one time one of my open houses was burgled was right at the end of it.  The people posed as open house guests just as we were wrapping up, putting things away, and I was distracted.  They new I was distracted.  My bad.  The guys, who didn't look like potential home buyers, immediately went for the top drawer of the dresser and stole jewelry.  Of course, I make my sellers take all valuables out of the house, but...If you are a couple of guys who come at the end of the open, or a posse of young adults, expect me or my trusty bouncer to escort you through and not leave you alone for a second.  If you're really home buyers, you won't mind that, will you? Thanks!
I hope to see you at Sunday's open house at 11485 Moorpark #17 in Studio City.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

11485 Moorpark #17, Studio City, is now on the market

Do you want an affordable townhouse in the Tujunga Village neighborhood of Studio City? Wanna live within 3 blocks of Aroma Cafe (below), Vitellos or Girasol? (Yay! Never circle for parking again!) Here's your chance.  This 2 bedroom, 2.5 bath townhouse has just listed for $399,000.  It features a front exposure, two balconies, washer/dryer hookups, security building, new paint, new carpet, laminate downstairs, fireplace, lots of closet space, pool and gym.  The HOA is incredibly low -- $225/month -- and includes earthquake insurance.  And of course the complex allows pets. Come visit me and the stalwart Steve Fisher there at this Sunday's (9/21) open house from 2 to 5 pm.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

629 N. Keystone, Burbank is open Thursday from 9:30 to noon and this weekend, too!

Looking for a 3 bedroom, 2 bath home with an open floor plan, killer kitchen, pool and aesthetic flair? Come see my 629 N. Keystone on Thursday, the 11th, from 9:30 to noon or on Sunday, the 14th, from 2:00 to 5:00.  It is listed for $779,000 and is in a great Magnolia Park neighborhood with outstanding Burbank public schools. Other showings by pre-arrangement.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

629 N. Keystone, Burbank - great indoor-outdoor flow and 3 beds, 2 baths!

Interactive FloorPlan Presentation


This amazing Magnolia Park home will be on the market tomorrow for $779,000.  Everything you could want is here: cool aesthetic vibe, great indoor-outdoor flow, big rooms, open floor plan, huge pool, beautiful xeriscape with fountains, big 2-car garage, chefs' kitchen and stellar location.  Call me for more details or if you'd like to view it.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Jens closes on his new Burbank condo

This is Jens, otherwise known as JB (it's been a month for JBs).  He just closed escrow on his first home -- a great two bedroom condo in east Burbank.  This was supposed to be a video of me handing him the keys, but alas, the film thingy wasn't working on my phone. Fun fact: his backpack contains paint samples. Jens has been a wonderful client and was very eager to learn the ins-and-outs of the home buying process.  I know he and girlfriend Kristy will really have a wonderful time making the condo their own.  Another nice thing: The listing agent on this is an old friend of mine from Burbank.  She showed me a lot of ropes when I was a newbie agent and it was great to work with her again.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Karen and JB closed escrow on their Sherman Oaks condo today!

My wonderful first-time home buyers, Karen and JB, closed escrow on their new home today.  This couple met in college and will be married next year.  Even though they are still in their 20's, they wanted to take the plunge into home ownership and we looked at Sherman Oaks condos for about a month until we found the perfect place. Best of luck with everything, K&JB, and thanks for introducing me to Local Peasant in Sherman Oaks!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Coming soon...Magnolia Park 3+2!

Have you been looking for a single family home in Burbank's Magnolia Park? I just might have something for you.  There are no pictures yet because the sellers are still spiffing it up, and it's not officially on the market until after Labor Day. It has an open floor plan, lots of cool architectural details, two amazing patios, a chef's kitchen and a super saltwater pool, among other things.  It's defined by its unforced naturalness and is certainly not your basic plain vanilla house.

Contact me if you're a serious buyer and if you think this might be right for you.

Monday, August 11, 2014

#StudioCity #celebrity sighting!

Studio City is one of the best places for celebrity sightings that I know of, and here's proof.  This is the actual Rusty, of Rusty's Discount Pet Center in Studio City! I got to meet him on Saturday.  He's a beautiful 19-month old collie, and he's really sweet and well-behaved.  I was too shy to ask to take a selfie with him, though.  The pet supply store is great, too.  It's in the same strip mall as the famed (deservedly so) sushi restaurant, Katsu-ya.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Ask the Realtor: Does the seller have to disclose all property reports in their possession?

Any real estate transaction contains lots of paperwork, much of which are disclosures.  A property seller has an affirmative duty to disclose anything and everything that they know about a property.  I once had a seller disclose that a house was haunted.  Seriously.  The buyers bought it anyway.

So if a seller has property condition reports from another, earlier escrow, those must be given to the buyer, too, right? Ethically, yes.  Legally, no. 

I know; this is really surprising, and I just learned the legal answer myself.  Part of the contractual legalese says the seller only discloses "known, material facts" and doesn't specify reports. And some unethical agents will say that they never read a particular report and therefore can't possibly "know" what's in it.  I call bullshit, but there it legally is.  Property sellers, your buyers will likely find out everything about your property anyway -- why risk their wrath? And a lawsuit? Buyers, think twice about getting into a transaction with a seller that appears to withhold information -- if they seem to be concealing something, they probably are!