Thursday, October 30, 2008

Say it ain't so, Pete!

Those of you who already read LALand know this already -- blog host Peter Viles will be leaving at the end of the week. Peter has been great for the LA Times, great for blogging (I have been a frequent commenter), and great for the local dialogue about real estate (well...lots of bitter dialogue, anyway). Good luck, Peter! You'll be missed.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Gorgeous Hollywood Hills listing

My colleague Dan has just listed this immaculate beauty at 3167 Lake Hollywood, in the Cahuenga Pass area of the Hollywood Hills. It's a 2 bedroom, 2 bath, 1500 sf (taped) 1937 traditional with loads of upgrades, and includes a sunroom/den, dining area, terraced backyard and more. The owner has meticulously maintained the home, too, and added features like central heat/air, a retrofitted foundation, and a newer roof (4 years old). And it's listed for $799,000 which is an incredible price for the area -- this is an area of $1 million+ homes, folks. And it's not even a short sale or REO! Contact me if you are in the market for a home like this and we will arrange a showing.

Eban Schletter's Witching Hour

Tonight and tomorrow at 8:00 pm, the Steve Allen Theater will present "Eban Schletter's Witching Hour." Eban himself and lots of special guests will perform material from his CD, "Witching Hour," and it promises to be loads of spooky fun. (The show debuted last year at Largo.) And admission is only $10! I haven't seen the show yet, but hope to either tomorrow night or next year. The Steve Allen Theater is located at 4773 Hollywood Blvd. Eban Schletter is, obviously, a music composer who works a lot in tv. He and his wife, performer Kris McGaha, are also past clients of mine.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

New jumbo conforming loan limits will be lower

As you may know, loan limits are now as follows: conforming loan limits are $417,000, and jumbo conforming limits are $729,750. These limits will expire soon. The last day to lock a rate at these limits is December 1; the last day a loan can fund at these rates is December 10 (thanks, Dana). The new limits have not been confirmed yet, but it looks like the jumbo conforming limit will drop to $625,000.

And more news from FHA: the minimum downpayment will rise to 3-1/2% from 3%. Right now, FHA interest rates are over 7%. Yikes! Are they trying to kill us?

Friday, October 24, 2008

Countrywide rides to the rescue. Or not.

In case you didn't see the paper today, Countrywide plans to cut the interest rate on some of its option arm loans to 2.5%, and possibly even reduce the principal on others in order to help people stay in their homes. I think these efforts should help some people from losing their homes to foreclosure, and that's a good thing.

And, as we all know, the holders of California mortgages now have to actually try to contact homeowners before they're foreclosed and try to do workouts, which is also a good thing and has led to a drop-off in foreclosures.

However, our office's short sale expert tells me that banks are largely paying lip service to these loan modifications. For example, I'm told that many loan servicers will now take calls from distressed homeowners and promise a workout, but then not ever follow up. And the banks are not staffing up to meet these new challenges, even though they've had ample time to recognize the problems in the housing market and prepare for workouts. So, is this all just a game? Will banks have title to most of the residential real estate out there by the end of the decade? Stay tuned.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A new task, uh, undertaken

Awhile back, I sold a property and represented both the buyers and sellers on the transaction.

I received an urgent message from Mr. Buyer this week. He had torn down the old house on the property and is building a new one. But. When his contractor began to dig the foundation, they came upon a box. With a funeral crematorium label on it. Yup. Buried cremated remains.

The sellers had sold the property after their elderly father had died there, but had said nothing to me about this. Sure enough, the remains are Dad’s. The sellers had not mentioned this to anybody because they had tried to dig him up, but couldn’t find him. They presumed he was down so deep that his remains would never be disturbed. I retrieved the box from the contractor, told Mr. Dad that I was pleased to be helping him to his next resting place, and shipped the box to the sellers. Everybody involved, (including Dad, I hope) is happy now.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

And even more statistics -- here's California Association of Realtors' Economic Outlook

Once a year, California Association of Realtors gives an economic outlook presentation to Dilbeck Real Estate. Here is this year's presentation, which was given today. It's a pdf file, and it's 92 pages long, but there are some great charts and graphs here (info courtesy of Dataquick). If you are unable to open this, contact me and I'll get a hard copy to you.

Wait! I was wrong!

Yesterday's post reported some real estate sales statistics. Today's Dataquick numbers show a median sales price in the county of $360,000, and a year-over-year price dip of 22%. The other numbers are state-wide. Sorry!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Headlines and Bad Foreclosure Realtors

Okay, first the headlines from the LAT: Sales were up 65% last month over September 2007. This is largely due to the number of bargains and foreclosures that are on the market. And the median price in the county is now $308,500 -- that's what? Down 25% from last year? Or more? We are still seeing more price stability in many neighborhoods, though, such as Burbank, Toluca Lake, Studio City, etc. Yes, prices have come down, but not by 25%.

And, thanks to the new California law that requires lenders to contact home owners before they foreclose, there are now 61% fewer Notice of Defaults filed than there were last quarter, and 45% less Notices of Trustee Sales. So you're right if you think there's less inventory out there.

Unfortunately, the downturn in the market has not attrited out the lousy Realtors. Here's how not to sell your foreclosure or trust sale: list with a Realtor that doesn't return calls, doesn't give property status, doesn't list things correctly in the mls, doesn't bother placing pictures on the mls, and doesn't give correct lockbox or combo code information. I attempted to show four short sale or REO properties in Altadena this weekend; two houses we tried to see are listed with Reators like this. So if a short sale or foreclosure is on the market in the current climate for over 70 days and you're wondering why, it's likely because of the Realtor.

Friday, October 17, 2008

The NoHo Show!

As you know, North Hollywood is chock full of smaller theaters and even has its own arts district. You may have seen theater there, and many of you may have been members of theater companies and have pursued acting careers. C'mon, admit it! You may also have friends and family doing that even now. So, for your viewing pleasure, here's a delightful YouTube spoof of the North Hollywood theater scene, The NoHo Show! There are four webisodes so far, and I certainly hope there will be more. Kudos to friend Ellen, who is laugh-out-loud funny as Lori.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Multiples! Still!

This is a picture of 600 E. Walnut in Burbank. It listed six days ago for $699,000 and is now pending after multiple offers! So multiple offer situations still do exist, but they are increasingly rare. This home is such a likely candidate because it was completely spiffed up for sale, has five bedrooms, 2400 square feet, and loads of character, obviously. Although I must say I'm surprised, with all the bad economic news, that any buyer was willing to pull the trigger in the last few days. This home is right next door to a home I sold on 6th last year, and one house away from another character home that I blogged about a few weeks back. That home listed as a short sale for $499,000, which I thought was really low. I would imagine that it, too, has multiple offers.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Dab of FHA news

Here's a little FHA news: a 3.5% downpayment will soon be required. That's up from 3%. Also, the mortgage insurance on FHA loans will be going up .25%. Not deal breakers, but still...

Monday, October 13, 2008

Houses under $300,000? Yes.

I showed several homes yesterday in northwest Pasadena -- under $300,000! Yes, they were fixers (ranging from light to not-so-light). They were all under 1100 square feet. All but one were on regularly-sized lots, and yes, they all had roofs, floors, doors and windows, were in regular residential neighborhoods, and none were on busy streets. Yes, most were short sales or REOs. But I was surprised at how many real bargains are out there, and I think there will be more bargains like this to come.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Countrywide is going to do workouts. Finally.

Finally, Countrywide is going to help some of its mortgage holders modify problematic mortgages. Read the L.A. Times story here. This is something that they should have been doing, not just pretending to do, a year ago. And of course, it took legal action, in the form of California Attorney General Jerry Brown, to get Countrywide/BofA serious about doing this. This will be too late for some people who are in deep financial trouble, of course, but in California alone, there are apparently over 125,000 Countrywide mortgages that may be able to be modified in order to keep people a) in their homes and b) making their loan payments.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Rates and Loan questions

To those of you who asked about rate and loan info, here's the skinny, courtesy of Dana Dukelow at Metrocities Mortgage:

Conforming loans (up to $429k): Even though some lenders are advertising 5% down loans, it is hard to get mortgage insurance for anything under a 10% down. The good news is that today's 30-year fixed rate is running at about 5.875%/1 pt.

Junior jumbo conforming loans (up to $729k): a rate of 6%/1 pt. is possible with A+ credit and 20% down. Less down, less credit is going to be higher.

Jumbo loans (over $729k): these are really hard to get, and fewer and fewer lenders are offering them. And, lenders are frequently asking for 25% down, because this is still considered to be a declining market. However, the way to go seems to be to get a 10/1 arm, or a 5/1 arm -- if you can do it, the rates can be as low as 6%/1 pt.

What I see going forward: I hate to even try to predict it. But, surprisingly, there seems to be liquidity in the home lending system. Unlike, apparently, any other segment of our economy. My hunch is that the powers that be are going to try to shore up the real estate/mortgage system before anything else because that's where the current financial crisis began. So, and this is a guess, I would expect rates to go only slightly higher for conforming and junior loans in the next several months. But honestly, I really have no friggin' idea. I hope that's helpful.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Money to lend

Well, even though it was supposed to be raining fire and brimstone by now, several lending institutions are still making mortgage loans. Bank of America is not only making loans, they're still making home equity line of credit loans. And Metrocities, a big non-bank lender, still has plenty of money to lend, especially on conforming loans and junior jumbo loans (up to $729k). Hmmm.