Tuesday, December 18, 2007

20 Tips for Relocators to the SFV and Burbank

Clients Angela Bergman and Christopher Tucker sent me a hilarious Xmas letter with 20 of their recent Burbank-L.A.-SFV discoveries. Check it out on my site at www.JudyGraff.com, then hit the "select page" button. Thanks, A&C!

Monday, December 17, 2007

L.A. Times' Blog Picks Up the Story

The Good News! post below, about the house on Groton, etc., has been picked up as a story in Peter Viles' excellent L.A. Times real estate blog, L.A. Land. Check it out here.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Good news! There's still life in the local r.e. market...

This house on Groton was listed earlier this week for $679,000. It has 3 beds, 2 baths, a pool and is about 1400 square feet. It's in great shape, although it has not been remodeled lately. It sold for full price in three days. So, I guess the real estate sky is NOT falling, at least for well-priced homes in nice neighborhoods that are in good shape. And the property that I have listed on Elmwood has four written offers on it after being on the market for a month.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

More Burbank Animal Statuary -- The Cat Edition

Here are more Burbank animal statues! (See previous post on Smokie the Bear). Here's a larger-than-life wooden cougar in a front yard on Groton street. You'll note that s/he has a nice view. And, for those of you that worship the goddess Bastet, you now have a car-mounted graven idol in downtown Burbank! Who says Burbank doesn't have everything?

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Mortgage Rate Freeze - Don't Get Excited Yet

Okay, the major financial institutions may be freezing the interest rate on some adjustable rate mortgages. If you have one of these, don't get excited yet -- the freezes will be only for certain "eligible" borrowers who have demonstrated that they can't pay the reset interest rate. If you're already in trouble, you don't qualify. The estimate is that only 12% of all ARM borrowers will be eligible. This is good news, however, for the few families who will now not be homeless within the next six months.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Discount Brokerages? Oh, Puleeze...

I sent the following letter to the L.A. Times editor:
Re Sunday's L.A. Times Real Estate section article about discount brokerages, I think it would have been only fair for the Times to have disclosed that its parent company, Tribune Corp, owns Help-U-Sell. Also, an excellent reason to use a full-service broker instead of a discounter appears right in the Times Homes advertising section: unlike the full service brokerages, discounters won't purchase print advertising for their listings because it costs them too much. Nor do the discount brokerages do much on-line advertising as the full service brokers do. For home sellers, now more than ever, media exposure is the path to sales and that means much more advertising than just a sign in the yard and a box of flyers. The question should be not why a seller would want to pay for full services, but why a seller would throw away money on a discounter instead of paying a percentage point or two more and getting the services they truly need.

Monday, November 26, 2007


Yes, this has to do with real estate: did anybody but me watch CW's 60-hour retro marathon over the weekend? On a Dragnet rerun from 1968, Sargeant Friday is grilled by Officer Gannon about getting married and settling down. This takes place in Gannon's Eagle Rock traditional, which looks to be about, oh, 2000+ square feet. Sargeant Friday retorts something along the lines of, "I'll think about it when I meet a nice girl and then I'll buy a house like this for $8,500." If this was a more-or-less market price for 1968, the value of homes has risen 100 times since then! I guess that's why they call it a bubble...

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Prices Back to 2005

From todays L.A.Times Business Section:
Southland home prices drop to 2005 levels
"Welcome to 2005.If you're a typical Southern California homeowner, the value of your house is back to what it was that year thanks to the weak real estate market, according to a report released Wednesday. The median price last month was $444,000, the lowest since April 2005, according to DataQuick Information Systems. That's a 3.9% drop from September and an 8% decline from October 2006.The number of homes sold, meanwhile, slipped to a 20-year low. prices do find their low point, they will follow the historical pattern and "drag along the bottom for a while before they go up," Karevoll said. "

So, 2005 brought record highs for real estate prices. As I've been saying, if you've owned your home for awhile and haven't pulled much equity out of it, you'll still see a profit.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Quoted Again in State of the City Article

Not to contradict the Mayor, but Burbank housing prices have dipped, just like every other community:

Mayor: City is in solid state
Ramos gives a glowing account of Burbank’s condition and potential in her annual address
By Jeremy ObersteinAIRPORT DISTRICT — Mayor Marsha Ramos painted a generally glowing portrait of Burbank on Thursday during the State of the City address. More than 400 business, education and civic leaders attended the annual address at the Burbank Airport Marriott Hotel and Convention Center, which the Burbank Chamber of Commerce puts on. “We renew our commitment to build a community that has positive experiences, and opportunities for the physical, social and economic well-being of everyone,” Ramos said as she began her talk about Burbank’s business community, its infrastructure, safety and the environment. “The Burbank economic outlook is quite robust, according to most thermometers.” Burbank’s unemployment rate, holding steady at 3.9%, is lower than California’s rate of 5.3%, she said.
“These numbers indicate that Burbank is a very good place for business,” she said. Ramos also pointed out that Burbank’s housing prices are an example of the city’s economic health.“Five years ago the median price was $256,000; today it’s $650,000,” she said. “We all know that home prices across the country have dipped, but, compared to other communities, Burbank holds stable and remains an excellent investment.” The average price for a house or condominium in Burbank may be lower than the figure presented, local real estate agent Judy Graff said.According to figures from the Southern California Multiple Listing Service, the average price for a house or condo is $633,000, she said.“What I have seen in the last couple of weeks is sellers getting much more realistic with housing prices,” she said. “There is still a credit crunch going on, but the lower the price the more buyers you’re going to attract. It’s good news.”

Safety was also an issue to which Ramos devoted a segment of her address.“Your city leaders recognize that another aspect of a healthy community is a community that is safe,” she said. “This year . . . we have restored three firefighter positions and two police officer positions.” Ramos relayed the importance of the new Interagency Communications Interoperability System, which allows police, fire and other safety agencies to remain in contact with one another during emergencies. “Today, by a turn of a switch on a radio, participating first responders and member agencies can now easily communicate on a common radio frequency,” she said. “This makes emergency mutual aid across city boundaries seamless, and all of us should feel safer.”

Ramos also focused on the city’s infrastructure.“A strong infrastructure is the heart of community well-being,” she said. “Our city’s infrastructure will be taking a major step forward in the next few months.” Ramos announced that the environmentally friendly new community services building will open in July, and that other projects, such as Ovrom Park and the DeBell Golf Course Clubhouse, are scheduled to be completed next fall.Turning her attention to the environment, Ramos spoke about the city’s landscaped walking paths, bike lanes and water conservation efforts.“The city will soon begin construction on a new landscaped walking path in the Lake Alameda area,” she said. “The path will incorporate lighting, native plants and doggie stations. I’m certain this walking path will enhance the look of the neighborhood and create a bit of much-needed community open space.” Ramos also mentioned that the paths on South San Fernando Boulevard are now completed and that energy-efficient street and crosswalk lights have replaced many of the less environmentally friendly lights. On each table in the convention center, energy-efficient lightbulbs and plastic water bottles greeted guests. “If every attendee replaced one of their most frequently used light bulbs with one of these compact fluorescent light bulbs, you would save 24,000 kilowatts per year or power four Burbank homes for a year,” she said. Ramos stressed the city’s water conservation efforts, asking each guest to use the water bottles to cut down on waste associated with one-time-use plastic bottles of water. “For the price of one bottle of Evian or Perrier, you can purchase 1,000 gallons of tap water,” she said. “[The bottles] represent an investment in the future, and they help move us to a zero-waste community.”

The speech drew rave reviews. “The mayor hit a home run,” said Gary Olson, president and chief executive of the Burbank Chamber of Commerce.He was also pleased with the turnout for the event.“This is the most we have ever had,” he said. “This is an event that continues to grow in attendance.”
 JEREMY OBERSTEIN covers City Hall and public safety. He may be reached at (818) 637-3242 or by e-mail at jeremy.oberstein@ latimes.com.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Burbank City's Response

In response to my query about the monster-sized house (see post below), here's the response I received from Burbank city senior planner Patrick Prescott: "I did not receive the photos you attached, but I have spoken with Tom Zartl and reviewed the plans for 1053 East Elmwood. The home in question is built at a four foot side yard setback. This setback meets the minimum requirement for side yards, which is 10% of the width of the lot. The average width of the lot is 45 feet; therefore, the required side yard setback is four feet. The lot size is 12,940 square feet and the floor area (including the 34 square foot portion of the garage over 600 square feet) is 5,162 square feet. The floor area ratio for this property is 40%, which is the maximum lot coverage allowed. The maximum height in the R1 zone is 30 feet. The highest point of the home at 1053 East Elmwood is 29’-10”, which complies with code." I still say this violates the spirit, if not the letter, of the anti-mansionization codes.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Just in Time for Halloween: a Monster (-Sized) House!

It's a Walmart!...It's an apartment building!...no, it's the side and front views of a single family home being built smack in the middle of a residential street in Burbank. How did something this big make it past Burbank City's Planning Department or the permitting people? And what's become of our vaunted anti-mansionization laws? How'd the builder manage to encroach on the neighbor's property? Are Burbank lots subdividable after all? If you know the answers to any of these questions, please blog back.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Housing Price Article (I'm Quoted) From Burbank Leader

This appeared in the Burbank Leader on 10/20/07. A disclaimer about the stats: I read these off the mls, and encouraged the reporter to check them with Dataquick, the data service for the real estate industry. I don't think he did. Even though this is for Burbank, it pretty much reflects what we're seeing all over L.A.
Housing prices take a fall
Average price of a single-family home in Burbank in September was $658,000, compared with $692,000 in August.
By Jeremy ObersteinBURBANK — The average price for a single-family home in Burbank dropped almost 5% from August to September, and the number of residences listed on the open market in the same period increased almost 50%, according to the National Assn. of Realtors.“There’s a decline, no doubt about it,” said Judy Graff, a broker in Burbank.The average asking price for a single-family home in August was about $692,000 and about $658,000 in September, she said.In August, 229 properties were listed on the open market, while 336 homes and condos were listed by Sept. 30, she said.Graff tied the decrease in housing prices and increase in homes for sale to the credit crunch by which many Americans have felt squeezed.
“There’s a credit crisis in this country,” she said. “Up to 40% of people who were able to get loans back in July can’t get loans anymore.”The robust housing market of the 1990s and early 2000s, in which potential home buyers could easily secure a loan, seem to be a distant memory, said Ken Fears, an economist with the National Assn. of Realtors.“The housing boom [lasted] from 1998 to spring 2005,” he said. “The housing market has been slowing down since then and, since July 2007, home sale prices have sharply decreased.”That has directly affected Burbank residents, Graff said.“It used to be that if you could fog a mirror, you could get a loan,” she said. “Now, lenders want to see a 10% down payment and excellent credit scores. If the median price of a single-family home is $700,000, you would need to have $70,000 sitting in the bank. How many young couples have that kind of money?”The decrease in sales can be tied to the fallout in the mortgage-backed securities market, which specifically affects Burbank, Fears said.“What hurts Burbank is the lack of financing in the jumbo market, defined as any loan over $417,000,” he said. “Mortgage-backed securities stopped buying jumbo market loans, driving prices up and causing more homes to be listed on the open market.”As a result of loan defaults, many homes are staying on the market longer than anticipated, Graff said.“We have 11 months’ worth of inventory on the market,” she said. “Homes are staying on the market for a much longer period of time. What it comes down to is, there are less transactions now.”However, Fears does not expect the damaged jumbo market to be down for too long, nor does he believe the credit crunch will drive a national recession.“In terms of the jumbo market, it could be back within months. I’m not too worried,” he said. “The underlying economy is doing very well. Now, the [lending problem] is caused by increased interest rates. It’s a good economic backdrop for this painful housing market.”The problem remains prevalent in Burbank but may not be an impediment to ownership for all, Burbank Assistant City Manager Mike Flad said.“Cost of housing is one of our largest obstacles,” he said. “But the cooling-off is a plus for some who can enter the market with lower prices.”
 JEREMY OBERSTEIN covers City Hall and public safety. He may be reached at (818) 637-3242 or by e-mail at jeremy.oberstein@latimes.com.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Refi Info & Taxes

From Peter Viles' LA Land, the L.A. Times real estate blog:
A question about refinancing
This is one of those posts where we seek your wisdom and guidance, so pay attention, please.
We were reading the transcript of the President's news conference today, and noticed this quote: "...we need to change the tax laws. You're disadvantaged if you refinance your home. It creates a tax liability. And if we want people staying in their homes, then it seems like to me we got to change the tax code. That's why I talked to Senator Stabenow the other day and thanked her for her sponsorship of an important piece of tax legislation that will enable people to more likely stay in their homes."
Our first, knee-jerk response was this: The president is more clueless than ever -- There's no tax disadvantage in refinancing! What's he talking about? And doesn't he know that the Stabenow tax relief bill is not about keeping your house? It's about selling it at a loss and not owing income tax on the amount of your loan that is forgiven? This is about avoiding taxes on short sales; it's about selling your house, not keeping it.
But then we looked at the Stabenow proposal, and found that the President might be right. In some cases, it would help homeowners avoid owing taxes when they refinance -- in a scenario we haven't heard much about: "... if a family owns a home with a $100,000 mortgage and can’t afford to make their payments, the bank can step in and refinance the house at a lower value to better reflect the decreased market value. Under current law, if the bank values the home at $80,000, the family would have to pay taxes on the $20,000 difference between the new and the original mortgages."
I echo what Peter had to say. It is not well known (because it hasn't happened in years) that refi-ing for a lower rate (as if the banks will jump on this as a solution) creates a "debt forgiveness" for the homeowner.

Monday, October 15, 2007

More Bubble News & Local Stuff, too

For those of you who are interested in news and stats about declining r.e. prices (and who isn't?), here's another blog: Bubbletracking.com. This is great for the blog roll, too. Anecdotal flipside: I've heard about two multiple offer situations in the last three days. Apparently, both properties were really terrific and really well priced for the current market.


Okay, so it's true, but not so bad. We've got 'em for 3 more years. And the property is to be sold to media companies. For a second, I was worried that there might be a huge expansion of Forest Lawn or another Grove-type mall coming to those 34 acres.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


From La.Curbed.com, 10/10/07:
Rumor Mill: NBC Going to NOHO???
Wednesday, October 10, 2007, by jwilliams
We're just saying. An insider emails: "The NBC studios in Burbank will be relocating to NOHO and their studios' site will be placed on the market." Rumor confirmation and development ideas for the soon to be vacant Burbank studios welcome.
UPDATE, 4:19 PM PST: A second trusted insider emails us confirming the rumor: "It's true." Good news for Los Angeles and all the tax revenue to be generated. Maybe the City can finally afford to build some more subways and stuff.
UPDATE, 5:26 PM PST: More info on where in NOHO/Universal City the NBC project will go here.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Pirates of the Burbankean

Aaargh! And you thought Burbank was dull. Here are shots of a full-scale pirate ship that a local property owner (Captain Hook? Captain Jack Sparrow?) on Angeleno has built in his backyard. The pictures barely capture the amazing detail. This was built probably to plunder other ships from the Burbank Maritime Provinces. Thanks, Lily, Mark and Sue!

Smokey the Burbank Bear

Among Burbank's other distinctive architecture: here's a picture of a bear statute in front of a house on Tufts. The house is very nice and very lodge-y; kudos go to the owners for anti-suburbia style. Plus, I'll bet the bear keeps the local deer from eating the plants!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Aroma in Studio City gets even more kudos

Aroma, that fab Studio City coffee house and cafe where husband Steve hangs out every day, has received even more kudos. Check out the review in herfablife.com.

Fannie Mae to increase limits?

This article from September 21's L.A. Times Business section is great. This could be HUGE for the local lending markets, as most Southern California loans are "jumbo" loans. Right now, the conforming loan limit is $417,000.
Regulators cautious on housing fix
They acknowledge potential benefits of letting Fannie and Freddie buy bigger loans but also urge restraint.
From Reuters
September 21, 2007
WASHINGTON -- -- The top two U.S. economic policymakers told a House panel on Thursday that allowing the biggest home finance companies to buy larger loans could ease mortgage market strains but the move should be coupled with tighter regulation of the firms.Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. dropped some of their resistance to expanding the role of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and said the companies could help restore funding for the largest home loans, which has dried up.Paulson told the House Financial Services Committee that he could support letting the two government-sponsored enterprises, or GSEs, temporarily invest in so-called jumbo loans, or those above their current $417,000 limit, as part of a broader regulatory overhaul."There is little question that allowing the GSEs to securitize jumbo mortgages would give a short-term lift, which would be helpful to a segment of the housing market," he said.Rising defaults on sub-prime mortgages that had been extended to risky U.S. borrowers have set off a global chain reaction of tightening credit, and jumbo mortgages, even to prime borrowers, have been among the casualties....The chief executives of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which have the support of numerous congressional allies, also appeared before the committee and repeated their calls for more freedom to invest in jumbo loans. Rates on new jumbo mortgages have risen sharply in recent weeks as lenders have found few investors willing to take them off their hands...Fannie and Freddie's regulator, the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight, on Wednesday loosened some limits on the companies' investment holdings in the hope they could do more to provide liquidity in the sub-prime market...Frank and the companies' other supporters on Capitol Hill have suggested that lifting the cap on GSE investment holdings and raising the loan limit size could ease market strains.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Filming in Toluca Lake?

Does anybody know what was being filmed in Toluca Lake around Forman last week? Lotsa big production trucks.

How Bad Is the Real Estate Market, Really?

Well, it's not good now here in Burbank, Toluca Lake, Studio City, et al. Buyers are waiting it out on the sidelines. It was a bad August and it's a bad September -- showings are way down (like, to zero on some properties), sales are non-existent and jumbo loans are hard to come by. I have been educated and entertained by the comments on the L.A. Times real estate blog, L.A. Land, and highly recommend it for a pulse-taking of what buyers (or at least buyer-bloggers) are thinking. But all real estate is local, and just as we think we've got it figured out, it changes. "Inventory" (homes coming on the market) has begun to shorten. The Fed just reduced rates. And there's talk on Capitol Hill about letting Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac buy up jumbo loans. So stay tuned, folks -- October should bring yet more shadings and changes.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Cool, new gossipy real estate blog

I've just discovered Realestalker. It's been out there in the blogosphere, for, like, two years. I know I'm late to the party, but this is Burbank, after all. It's wonderfully gossipy about your favorite celebs and their real estate.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Today's L.A. Times Headline

Okay, about today's LAT article: the graphic doesn't match the text. The article talks about August's slow sales and dropping prices, but the graphic actually shows several areas that have had dramatic price increases. If I had to sum it up, I'd say that the outlying areas of the county are dropping, but the wealthier areas at the core are not. Yet. Or another way to look at it: there are lies, damn lies, and statistics.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Two more reasons to feel smug...

Here are two more reasons we Burbankians have to feel we've got it all over city folks (okay, I'm reaching): 1. We didn't lose power during the recent Labor Day weekend heat wave. Check out Steve Lopez's LAT column or Here inVanNuys to see how bad it got. 2. My new fave neighborhood place, Krust, bakes it's own croissants. Every day. Along with all sorts of other stuff that's delicious, too. And you can park your car close to the door. It's on Verdugo. Take that, westsiders.

More on Evergreen and Magnolia; Meeting on the 25th

Friend-and-Evergreen-resident Ellen writes about the Evergreen burger stand: "FYI they shot on Tuesday at the burger stand and were so very informative and respectful of our neighborhood as they crammed up the street with all kinds of trucks and cars and trailers! I came home at 7:30 and it felt like they had SWEPT the street!! I guess word around town is that Evergreen is not a neighborhood to mess with!!! We've won small concessions, I guess. BUT, if the amount of traffic for ONE day of shooting is anything like the construction crews to dig out _3_ levels of underground parking for months on end....YIKES!!! And you KNOW they'll be twice as many vehicles...I imagine our little street littered and battered every day of the week once that [building] starts...We've got a city council meeting on the 25th to see if the council will restrict the construction worker's parking along our little street...pray we succeed!!"

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Make Burgers, Not Buildings

Those of you who have been following the progress of the building plans for the Evergreen and Magnolia lot may have been delighted to see a burger stand going up instead. We certainly were -- Keller Burgers (could that be the Keller, as in Thomas Keller fame?) is being constructed on that very controversial spot.

Alas, however, it was too good to be true. It's a set for an HBO show (don't know which one). Thanks, friend Ellen, for dashing our dreams. However, Ellen tells us that she's heard that the building the Burbank City Council approved may be too expensive to build anyway. Has anybody else heard anything?

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Breed restrictions!?

I forgot to mention in the previous post about the Burbank Collection, the new loft complex going in across from the AMCs: they allow pets. Up to 70 lbs. But they have breed restrictions in their CCRS and don't allow either pit bulls or rottweilers. I haven't encountered this restriction before, but it certainly makes sense.

Got Loft?

Want a loft but don't want to move downtown or to North Hollywood? The Burbank Collection is open for sales and will be available for occupancy next June. This is the complex going up right across from the AMC in downtown Burbank and will feature a fitness center, swimming pool, dog run, etc. Each 1-, 2-bedroom or penthouse unit will have 2 side-by-side parking spaces and guest spaces. I haven't seen the model units yet, but I'm told they all have high ceilings, stainless-steel appliances, granite countertops and washer dryers. At this point, they range in price from $700,000 to $1,000,000, but I expect that will change as the market continues to contract. I was recently in downtown Burbank on Saturday night and was impressed by the foot traffic. It truly has become a "destination" and I think it would be a fun place to live.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Shootings in our Little Burbank!

There was a triple murder-suicide on my block this past Thursday. It was a neighbor-against-neighbor dispute, in a large apartment building, and at least one victim had nothing to do with the dispute. Family members were witnesses. Putting aside the issue of gun control, what does this say about urban density? In particular, the growing density in my neighborhood? (Okay, I'm a NIMBY.) Sure, this could be looked at as an isolated incident. But each week the police log in the Burbank Leader lists at least one crime "incident" on San Jose, a block away. As we all know, San Jose has become extremely overbuilt in the last two years and the number of people living in the neighborhood has soared. But the City planning staff member that I spoke to in April insisted at the time that there's no statistical correlation between density and crime. Oh, really? Tell this to the other neighbors who were in the bullets' paths. This shooting is just more fuel for my developing anti-growth sentiments. Incidentally, most of my co-Realtors are pro-growth.

Friday, August 03, 2007

New Burbank pics

Check out the site Flickr.com and type in Burbank. Lots of cool shots of our town: the Franks sign, the Kwicky Mart sign, etc.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Chili Johns is Featured on HBO's Big Love

Who says Burbank doesn't have unique (well, maybe not sophisticated) places to eat? Our very own Chili John's restaurant was featured in last night's episode of HBO's Big Love. CJ's was the scene of a major plot point (Harry Dean Stanton got shot on the sidewalk outside) and it's location stood in for a place named Juniper Creek, Utah. Okay, so comparing a small town in Utah to Burbank is not that far-fetched. For those of you who don't know, Chili John's is a beloved Burbank institution and only serves chili. The restaurant has a very unique horseshoe-shaped counter and, uh, interesting murals on the walls. The chili is terrific and the restaurant has been in business for well over 40 years.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Prices as of early July

As of now (just after July 4th holiday) I see prices softening quite a bit in the middle-class areas of L.A. County, including Burbank. However, asking prices are still very solid in the hot, trendy areas of L.A., including West Hollywood and Silverlake. Will this continue as the summer goes on? Usually, sales REALLY slow after mid-July. Stay tuned to this station.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Only in Hollywood...uh, I mean Burbank - CELEBRITY GOSSIP!

Got a call yesterday from my client, the seller of a middle-Burbank home. "It has finally happened," he said. "My iPod has been stolen." I read the lockbox (now I know what these fancy electronic gadgets are for) and determined that only one Realtor, and her clients, and their kids, had been in the house that day. Called the Realtor. Warned her about her clients. She said she'd check it out on her end.

As an aside: thefts happen very infrequently during listing periods. It's usually done by some opportunistic teenager. And it's why I nag and nag my clients to hide small valuables.

The other Realtor called back. She and her buyer clients confronted one of the buyers' kids and obtained a confession. They planned to come back to my seller's home, return the iPod and apologize. Turns out the bandit was not a teenager, but a little girl! Not only a little girl, but a little girl tv star, as my seller discovered when he opened the door.

Anyway, there was a wonderfully touching note of apology, tears and plenty of contrition from the child and the parents, too. And, of course, the iPod was returned. And of course my seller forgave her. Now, if I had only somehow made the house's sale to the buyers a condition of the forgiveness...

Burbank House in LACurbed!

For those of you who are fans of LA.Curbed.com, the hot local L.A. blog, one of our Burbank homes -- the "Lava" house -- is featured in it this week! Check it out for pictures and snarky comments.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Great article from today's (6/17/07) L.A Times Real Estate Section

This is very reflective of what we've been seeing:
It's the new normal
Sellers try for the right price off the bat, while buyers take their time deciding.
By Diane Wedner, Times Staff WriterJune 17, 2007
ON a recent Sunday, Bob and Jane Baker practically tiptoed across the hardwood floor of a newly refurbished Sherman Oaks home, looking a bit sheepish about bringing their Italian greyhound to the open house. They needn't have worried about Digby being an unwelcome visitor, however. Just about anything goes today, as agents vie to get potential buyers into homes for sale."A couple years ago, a house situated next to an alley, with 16 additions, could sell without an open house," said Keith J. Fisher, associate manager of Prudential California Realty in Sherman Oaks. "Now, it's sitting there for half a year. Open houses can make a difference, especially for new listings."Open houses, staging, upgrades and seller concessions — they all help speed home sales. Still, the No. 1 selling tool is setting the right price, agents say. The three figures people look at are the comparables, which agents give clients to show what prices their neighbors got; the county appraiser's price; and the price buyers are willing to pay, said Tracy Malone, a ZipRealty Inc. district director for San Bernardino and Riverside counties. "The last one is the only one that counts."More and more, sellers are getting it.The Bakers and a dozen other potential buyers checked out every corner of the pristine 4,471-square-foot, five-bedroom Sherman Oaks house with a modern kitchen, built-ins and a pool. It's located in a red-hot part of the San Fernando Valley and well-priced at $1.69 million. Coldwell Banker listing agent Shea Crofoot said she's already negotiating an offer in that ballpark.Overall, prices in the Southland rose 4.7% in May from a year ago to a median of $505,000, which reflects gains in L.A. County but masks declines in Riverside, San Diego and Ventura counties. In Los Angeles County, the median price — the point at which half the homes sold for more and half sold for less — rose 6.8% to $550,000 in May from the same month the previous year, according to DataQuick Information Systems. Orange County's median was $635,000, virtually unchanged from a year ago.The number of homes sold across Southern California was down by about one-third, benefiting buyers, who can choose from a vastly larger inventory of properties for sale. They also are enjoying the ability to look at a house, walk away, compare it with others and return a week later to make an offer. By a widely used measure of inventory, there has been an average 8.3-month supply of homes on the market in Los Angeles County over the last 19 years, according to the California Assn. of Realtors. That's how long it would take for the supply of homes to be exhausted at the prevailing sales pace. In April, that supply was 12.1 months in L.A. County and 22 months in Orange County. The San Fernando Valley, for example, had 5,680 single-family homes, condos and town houses — a 5.2-month supply — listed for sale at the end of March, compared with 1,492, or a one-month supply, for the same period in 2004, according to the Southland Regional Assn. of Realtors. John Gillette, a Dyson & Dyson agent in La Quinta, said properties in the high desert are sitting on the market for an average of 200 days.James Joseph, owner of Century 21 Ambassador in Whittier, said his office checks comps frequently for neighborhoods in which it has listings, and urges clients to adjust prices accordingly. "People need to look at their homes like they do Motorola stock. You throw it on the market, and the market will give it the thumbs up or down," Joseph said. "You get what the market will bear."To gain an edge, some sellers are offering concessions to buyers: paying loan points, helping with closing costs, paying the first year's homeowners association fees and extending one-year warranties. Even with that help, some first-time buyers are having to get creative, as median prices are still stratospheric and banks have tightened lending standards in the sub-prime market.Alexis Desanti, a 57-year-old legal secretary and West Hollywood renter, began searching for a Long Beach condo in the $250,000 range in March. The first-time buyer, who was nervous about her meager down payment, looked at about 30 units before buying a 700-square-foot, one-bedroom condo within walking distance of the beach, for $258,000. To qualify financially, Desanti got a $15,000 down-payment grant from a first-time-buyers program sponsored by the Pacific West Assn. of Realtors. Opening Doors participants must purchase a home priced at less than $564,264 in Los Angeles County, their incomes must not exceed $97,320 and they must contribute 1% of the sales price toward the down payment. As long as Desanti lives in the home for the first three years, the grant will be forgiven.Desanti also qualified for a 40-year loan at 5.75%. She pays interest only for the first 10 years. "I thought I never had enough money or the right job or the right location to buy," Desanti said. "I finally realized the market was right now. Or I would never get in."

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Listings are slow; interest rates are up

It's now mid-June. Inventory of resale homes in the areas I serve seems to be shortening. This is good news for sellers, although that doesn't mean sellers don't have competition. The bad news for everybody is that interest rates are up. "Jumbo" rates (for loan amounts over $400k) are almost at 7% -- gulp. All in all, tho, the market seems to have much more buoyancy than I thought it would at this point.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

A 1.4% slip? Big deal

Today's L.A. Times reports that home prices in Los Angeles are down 1.4% in a year-over-year comparison. This is good news to me as it's such a minor decline and certainly not even the 5% to 7% slip that the experts predicted! Median home price in So. Cal. now is $505,000.

Monday, May 28, 2007

No July 4 celebration

The City of Burbank has announced that it will not have its annual July 4 fireworks show this year due to the high fire danger on the hillsides. Good idea. Fires have broken out after the Starlight Bowl show even in wet years.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Increased activity

Good news for sellers of Burbank real estate: homes for sale inventory in the Burbank, Toluca Lake, Studio City and Hollywood Hills areas seems to be thinning out and properties are selling faster. And even going in multiple offers. Of course, the properties selling quickly are the ones that are in great shape, updated and priced right to begin with. Will this stop or slow down again? Prediction: yes, after July, as it usually does. As always, if a property needs work, is non-conforming, priced too high, etc., it's staying on the market for a long time.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Today's caravan

There were 28 new properties on the Burbank Realtor caravan today. Two years ago today, there were eight. However, here's the good news for sellers: many properties are once again selling in days, rather than weeks. Most of the quick-to-sell properties are in the middle range, of course.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Burbank Planning Board

My appeal of the project on Harvard Ave. was denied by the Burbank Planning Board last night. No surprise there. It seems that the Board is going to pretty much rubber-stamp anything that meets the current codes. I won't be appealing to the City Council. However, I'm debating going to the CC to ask them to consider down-zoning in the area. Any thoughts?

Monday, May 14, 2007

Planning Board appearance

I'll be at Burbank's planning board tonight (May 14) at 6:00 pm. A 20-unit apartment complex is planned for Harvard Road, right behind my house, and I have filed an appeal against it. How many more people can we shoehorn into this neighborhood?! I know this is not politically correct for a Realtor to be opposing a developer, and I'll probably lose, but I want to have my say. I think this will be televised on Charter channel 6.

60 Minutes

Oh, boy. The 60 minutes piece that aired on May 13 is controversial among Realtors, to say the least. What 60 minutes doesn't say is what Redfin actually does for sellers, or how they handle multiple offers for their buyers, how many of their listings expire due to lack of exposure, etc. Of course, I'm a full service Realtor and of course I'm going to resent discounters -- they make this all look so easy. It's not.
I'm also wondering: the commission arrangement is between the seller and listing agent. Shouldn't sellers have some say in rebates going to buyers? After all, it's their money...

Sunday, May 13, 2007


Today's L.A. Times has an article about a new buyer/seller search site called Movoto.com. I checked it out and it looks pretty complete. Has anybody had any experience with it? It will "refer" an agent to you when you ask about a specific house.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Other blogs

I've found some other blogs that might be interesting for home sellers and buyers. They are: real-estate-blog.com and good ol' Trulia.com (it's called Trulia voices). If there are others out there that might be worthwhile, please let me know.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

A Whole Lot of Nothing

Okay, now it's mid-May. How's the market? Properties are staying on longer. We are noticing more price reductions. But they're small price reductions. And, once again, buyers now have the luxury of time within which to make a decision on a house. So, the local market is okay -- actually maybe even a little better than it was last summer! Thoughts?

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Contradictory data on the market?

Confused by the contradictory data on the market? Here's an L.A. Times article for you. It reflects what we're seeing: prices are not currently going up, but if you've owned your home for more than two years, you'll likely make a profit when you sell.
It's all how you look at it
Contradictory housing reports got you puzzled? Maybe it's because no two gauges are alike.
By Kenneth R. Harney, Washington Post Writers GroupMarch 11, 2007
WASHINGTON — With all the conflicting reports on housing prices and the direction of the market, you might ask: What's really going on out there? If, as the National Assn. of Realtors reported last month, the median price of an existing home nationwide fell by 3.1% in 2006, does that mean your house lost value as well? Or do you focus instead on the more upbeat numbers released March 1 by the federal agency that tracks value shifts in the country's largest database of existing dwellings? The Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight reported that home values rose by an average 5.9% last year, although the rate slowed to just 1.1% in the final three months of 2006. It also found some quarterly deflation in prices in California, parts of Florida, the Midwest and New England. How could two highly respected gauges of real estate prices and values come up with such contradictory conclusions? How can the government report nearly 6% average appreciation on existing homes at the same time that the most comprehensive private-sector study of actual selling prices says they're down by more than 3%? Could they both be right? The surprising answer is yes — but mainly because they are measuring different things. The monthly median resale price surveys from the Realtors' group have an important limitation. The median price — the midpoint among all houses sold in a given period — is influenced by changes in the geographic composition of where houses are selling. If high-cost markets are experiencing record sales — as occurred in California and the Middle Atlantic states during the boom years — while low-cost markets are relatively quiet, the median will be pushed upward. But if sales are down sharply in high-cost markets — California sales are down by about 30% for the year — while sales in populous, lower-price areas such as Texas are booming, that will increase the proportion of lower-cost sales in the mix, and drag the median price down. So, a reported 3.1% decline may not be exactly what it appears to be. Now take the federal housing survey, the sunnier side of the street in the latest polls. Its database, large and impressive as it is, omits much of the country's highest-cost housing — dwellings with jumbo loans higher than the Fannie Mae-Freddie Mac limit, which is currently $417,000 but had been much lower in previous years. That's an important omission because higher-priced homes tend to experience more volatile swings in values. The federal numbers also omit condominiums — a key segment in South Florida and the western part of the state. Leaving out condos in areas where overbuilding and investor panic have depressed values significantly, documented by local realty statistics, inevitably produces rosier conclusions than reality. So the federal housing report that Miami area home prices were up by a stunning 15.3% last year should be taken with a giant grain of salt. Despite these limitations, you can look at both surveys and come away with some useful conclusions: • If you own or are buying property in any of the dozens of metropolitan areas that boomed during 2002-05, you can be fairly certain that property values are either giving back some of those fat gains or are flat for the time being. The good news for most of the former high-flying areas is that the "give back" is relatively small. If your area saw an average doubling in values during the five most effervescent years of the boom, is it a big deal that prices are down by 1% to 4% from the peak? • If you live or are buying in an area where employment growth is strong and you never experienced the hyperinflation of the boom years, you probably are seeing excellent growth in home values. The truly sobering pictures are in the industrial Midwest and portions of New England, where job and population growth has been flat or negative. Prices there aren't likely to get out of minus territory until employment turns around and people start moving in.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Will Whole Foods Rise Again?

As you probably know, the Burbank City Council has voted against allowing Whole Foods Market to open at Main and Alameda. However, perhaps, all is not lost. Whole Foods apparently has downscaled its plans and is returning to the city with a request to open a 40,000 foot store. Will this turn the tide? Stay tuned!