Friday, July 31, 2009

Notables of the week

Nicest house of the week: My two listings, of course, at 648 Birmingham and 2845 N. Lincoln in Burbank. Both will be open Sunday from 2 to 5.

Second nicest house of the week: a townhome on Valley Spring in Studio City. Just lovely, and with its own garage! I'm not going to advertise it further here in case my buyers want to buy it.

Best view of the week: from the for-sale house on Via Montana. You can see all the way to the County Hospital and the Ralph's warehouse! And downtown, Glendale and across the Valley.

Laughable seller statement of the week: "You don't need a/c in the summer in the Valley."

Trend of the week, continuing: Realtors that make their listings impossible to show.

Trend of the week, new: Realtors that don't read showing instructions on the mls.

Bank of the week: None other than Bank of America. If you read this blog often, you know that my recent BofA refinance took six months. Bank of America isn't doing much better with purchase money loans, apparently. I've heard lots and lots of anecdotes in the last few days about how long it takes for their loans to be approved, funded, etc. Way to bring your "A" game, BofA!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

All sorts of funky new lending rules are about to take effect -- or not

Update 7/31/09: Apparently, what follows only applies to Wells Fargo home loans at present. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have instituted all sorts of new regulations for loans that they buy -- which is most property loans that are made. I don't have many details yet, and I don't think many lenders do either. For FHA loans, an investor-seller had to own the property for at least 90 days before an FHA buyer could purchase it. That makes sense -- we don't want the government guaranteeing loans that only benefit flippers. Now, however, it looks like the 90-day rule will cover ALL non-jumbo loans for all single family homes. I have a dog in this fight as one of my current escrows is a gorgeous flip that has only been owned by the present seller since June. I represent the buyers. Stay tuned for more details, I hope.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Another really nice house just listed.

Here's another great new listing at 648 Birmingham Road, Burbank 91504. It looks like a Pottery Barn catalog inside and has 3 beds, 2 baths, 1478 square feet, redone kitchen and baths, and lots more. It is listed for $659,000 and will be open this Sunday. See my website for more pics.

And, this home is also in the Burbank Unified School District. Jefferson is the Elementary and has an API of 853 and Muir Middle has an API of 851. If you have children, you may want to consider this school district instead of private school or the ever-declining LAUSD.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Cosmetic fixer in excellent Burbank public school system

I've been blogging about listing this 3 bedroom, 1 bath cosmetic fixer for some time now and here it finally is. It will actually list Tuesday for $489,000, and the address is 2845 N. Lincoln, Burbank, 91504. Here's the description: This original 3 bedroom, 1 bath Burbank home just needs some updating to make it shine. Built in 1950, it features 1112 sq. ft, spacious sunny kitchen, separate laundry area, dining area, fp, hardwood floors waiting for finishing, covered patio, big green backyard (6050 sf) with fruit trees, and detached two-car garage. Plus, look no farther for excellent public schools* – Jefferson Elementary and Muir Middle are two of the best in the county! This great neighborhood is also close to entertainment, transportation and the studios. Bring your decorating talent and create a showplace or add square footage to make this your dream home. The first public open house will be Sunday, August 2, from 2:00 to 5:00.

*Seriously, folks, if you have kids that you don't want to send to private school, and if you've been reading the news about how California state is going to take even more money away from LAUSD, consider the Burbank public school system and especially this elementary and middle school. Because it is its own district and not part of LAUSD, BUSD will be providing excellent public education into the foreseeable future. Check out the Burbank school ratings on

Thanks for the blog p.r., Phyllis!

Today's Burbank Leader/Glendale News Press real estate section has an article entitled "Have You Wondered What a Blog Is?" It features this blog and agent Phyllis Harb's blog, Thanks, Phyllis, for arranging!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

How low the r.e. market was, and how high it went, as "seen" by one condo

Here’s a great example of how low the local real estate market used to be, how high prices went, and how it has now come back to earth. The unit is an 1110 sq. foot 2 bedroom, 2.5 bath in an 8-unit building in Burbank, and is nicely done inside. It's obviously not one of the new, glamour condo projects built in the last three years, but it is nice. It features low home owners association dues and a shared, subterranean garage.
I was involved in these sales, either representing the buyers or sellers or both, for a number of years and yes, that it unusual. The prices were always right in line with the comparable sales of other similar units.

-My first involvement with this unit was when it sold to clients Melissa and Phil for $145,000 in March 1998.
-Next, Eric and Jennifer bought it in October 2000. They paid $190,000.
-Then, Jade and her partner, George, bought it from Eric and Jennifer in 2004 for $390,000.
Jade and her partner, George, never lived in the unit. They rented it to a nice family from Canada instead.
-In 2007, Jade and George sold it for $435,000 to the current owners, and my involvement with this unit finally ended.
-It came back on the market earlier this month as a short sale for $299,000 and is now in escrow again.

Nice in North Hollywood

My clients are in escrow on this cutie in North Hollywood. We had to beat out 11 other offers to get this. It's even cuter inside than outside, and the neighborhood is nice, too. Yes, we had to go over the list price. Will it appraise? Stay tuned...

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Sunday morning reading: Keys to a good credit score

Today's L.A. Times has a good article entitled Five Keys to a Winning Credit Score. I think this is a must-read for anybody who is trying to improve their FICO in order to qualify for a home loan as it goes beyond just paying on time. I even learned stuff here.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Got school? Need house? Two listings coming up.

I can't reveal the addresses until late next week, but I will soon be listing two homes for sale in Burbank's Jefferson elementary school district above Glenoaks. If you, or anyone you know, would like to get kids into an excellent public school system, here's your chance (Muir is the middle school and Burbank is the high school).

One house is a 3+1, a little over 1100 sf, and is a cosmetic fixer. Listing price isn't set yet, but it will probably list at about $499k. The second house is 3+2, 1400 sf., and looks like it's right out of a Pottery Barn catalog. It will probably list around $659k. Both of these are regular sales -- not REOs or short sales. More details to come next week.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

LA Times reports a home price surge

As if you don't have enough reading material, here's an article that will be in tomorrow's L.A. Times. Thanks to client Erik for forwarding it to me. The fact that home prices have risen will come as no surprise to anybody who has been out looking for a home lately. As much as I respect Peter Hong's journalism (he's the main blogger at the L.A. Times' real estate blog, LaLand), I question his conclusion that it is the higher-priced homes selling that's raising the median. (Correction 7/16: This is not Hong's conclusion; he is reporting Dataquick's conclusion.) My take would be that all single family homes are selling, and often in multiple offers, which tend to drive prices up. And since there are many buyers chasing few properties (see the Burbank Leader article about dwindling supply, below) well...high demand/low supply tends to make prices rise.
Hong points out an issue that I think we should all be mindful of: "Though lower-priced, repossessed properties have dominated home sales this year, they did not comprise the majority of homes sold in June. Last month, 45% of homes sold had been through foreclosure, the lowest percentage since July 2008. That trend could reverse, [emphasis mine] however, if a large backlog of Southern California homes in the foreclosure process end up being repossessed. A state foreclosure moratorium and voluntary efforts by lenders have slowed the rate of repossessions even as the number of borrowers failing to make mortgage payments is on the rise."

Slim pickings on the real estate front

Just as we've been's an article from the Burbank Leader about the local real estate market. IMO, this covers all local real estate, too, not just Burbank. Here's the opening paragraph: "Frustration is mounting among home shoppers trying to take advantage of historic drops in prices as the suply of real estate for sale in Glendale andBurbank dwindles, experts and agents say."

Monday, July 13, 2009

What an influx of hipsters does to neighborhood home prices...

Eagle Rock used to be a hilly working class community with lots of affordable single family homes. Yes, there were some high-end homes around Occidental College and above Colorado Boulevard. For many years now, a more hipster crowd has been buying up real estate and consequently, home prices have risen. My recent look at the inventory showed only eight homes for sale, and none were below $400k. Most are in the high $400k's to mid-$500k's and one was almost $800k. Seems like a lot of money to pay for a neighborhood that, yes, has some cool coffee places but is still a little on the edge. Just shows what a creative crowd can do.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Inflation!? Oh nooooo...

Many national economic experts are predicting a rise in inflation soon. As one who lived through the last double-digit inflationary period in this country, I pray this doesn't happen. Here's an excellent, simple explanation from on how inflation may affect real estate prices and the housing market. I hope you find it as informative, and somewhat calming, as I did.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Good news/bad news/good news for the end of the week

As we come to the end of the first week in July, here's some good news: interest rates are down again. The bad news is that there's not much to buy out there, unless you're in the market for a new condo. But the final good news is that I've seen a few foreclosures list this week. Not that it's good that somebody got foreclosed, but that the foreclosed property is finally hitting the market. Stay tuned...

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Mandatory buyer loan approval with SELLER'S lender?

If you’re in the market for a new home, you’ve probably already been pre-qualified or pre-approved for a home loan with a lender of your choice. However, many sellers and listing agents are requiring buyers to pre-approve with the listing agent’s lender of choice as a condition of even reviewing a purchase offer.

The pros of this approach: The seller and listing agent receive more seemingly "trustworthy" information since it is coming from a lender that they have presumably worked with before. However, the cons include the following:

-In the current economic climate with layoffs still occurring, there are no guarantees that a loan will fund until it actual does so, regardless of buyer qualifications.

-Getting a purchase loan is a contingency which must be met in a certain number of days after offer acceptance anyway;

-This is a time-consuming burden to sincere, already-approved potential buyers, and in multiple offer situations, not all offers will be considered anyway;

-A potential buyer may have to share confidential financial data with several institutions over the course of their search. Privacy, anyone?

Solution: 1. If a listing agent wants to know if a particular buyer is qualified, the listing agent needs to do the legwork by calling the buyer’s lender and asking for particulars. The listing agent can then advise their seller client accordingly. That’s what we’re paid for. 2. The listing agent & seller can ask the buyer to "double apply" during the loan contingency period if extra certainty is needed.

Here are two emails between me and a listing agent about just such a situation. Names and details changed, of course. Background: my buyers were pre-approved for a loan, have plenty of provable cash, good credit scores, stable employment, were putting down 25%, and made an offer that was $34,000 over the list price. Offers had to be in 72 hours after the property listed.

My email: "[Listing agent], as you know, my clients have a very strong offer in on the [address] property. I'd like to ask you to reconsider the requirement that my clients get pre-qualified through [lender name] at [lending institution].

[Mr. Buyer and Mrs. Buyer] are continuing to go through all sorts of gyrations in an attempt to meet [seller's specific lender] requirements although they've had an extremely short time period to do so. This includes attempting to get their 2008 taxes filed today. They had been holding off to take advantage of the $8000 first time buyer tax credit that can be applied to 2008 taxes. Now, in 2009, they make too much money now to qualifiy for the credit. So, [listing agent], the way I see it, they are losing $8k in just attempting to get this house.

Also, I am attempting to line up another [seller’s lending institution] to get the letter you need.
The issue appears to be [buyer's 2006 and 2007 income]… Obviously, this is 2-year-old and three-year-old information anyway. The [Mr. & Mrs. Buyer] were barely out of college at the time. Subsequently, [Mr. Buyer’s business has taken off and [Mrs. Buyer] is an accountant at [large company]…

Most importantly, they have already been conditionally approved by [buyer’s lender] at [large lending institution]… one of the biggest home loan lenders in the area. You can call [buyer’s lender] at [phone no.] for any information that you need, and/or I can get a letter from him. You'll recall that you and I had a very successful transaction in February with [same lender] as the buyers' (Mr. & Mrs. [former buyers]) lender -- it was FHA and it closed on time. Thanks for considering this."

Response from listing agent (a nice guy, btw):

"sorry but [seller bank] requires a pre-qualification letter from a [seller bank] loan officer. If things aren’t going well with [seller’s specific lender] you are free to get one from another [seller bank] loan officer. Please try to remember that [seller’s specific lender] is doing what she is supposed to... [seller’s specific lender] is just trying to be thorough and avoid problems down the road."

Outcome: two days into the process, the seller’s lender told us that there was a better offer and we would not get the property anyway. Gosh, wouldn't it have been nice to know that before all this time was wasted? As my buyer said, "There is more drama going on here than in General Hospital."

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Nicest house of the week, so far

This is 1251 Graynold in Glendale. Listed by my collegues Laureen Endoso and Doyle Barnes, it's a 3 bed, 1.5 bath, 1692 sq ft on a 6480 sq ft. lot. List price: $679,000. It's really nicely done inside as well. More pictures are on my site at For those of you who don't know Glendale, this is in northwest Glendale, above Glenoaks.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Wall Street Journal says home prices have risen in California again

This article appeared last week in the Wall Street Journal. Of course, all markets are local, but I would not be surprised to see big statistical spikes for May and June in the L.A. area.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Thinking of buying a condo downtown? You may want to hold off for awhile.

Here's an excellent guest post from Blogdowntown about the future of the condo/loft market in downtown Los Angeles. The author, Fred Cordova of Colliers International, states that there will be deals to be had there -- but not for another 12 to 24 months.

IMO, the market for downtown L.A. condos and lofts has always been naturally limited because downtown is so family-UNfriendly. But, then, maybe that's wrong. After all, being family-unfriendly has not hurt the real estate market or prices in NYC or San Francisco.