Saturday, February 26, 2011

Burbank Airport is funding noise-abatement program, but maybe not for long

The Burbank Airport and the FAA teamed up several years ago to offer a noise abatement program to local homeowners.  If a home was subject to a certain decibel level of over-fly airline noise, the program provided and installed a/c, double-paned windows, double doors, insulation, etc.  Not bad, eh?  Many people took advantage of this.  The program ran out of money for awhile but is now funded again.

Now, though, the program funds may be on the federal chopping block.  Airport officials are encouraging eligible homeowners in the Burbank/North Hollywood/Sunland areas to apply now rather than wait.  Burbank Leader has a great article about this today and the title above should link to it.  This is an excellent program and eligible homeowners should get it while its hot!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

LATimes: Housing prices edge towards double dip

I know I'm not supposed to report news like this, but today's L.A. Times has an article entitled Housing Prices Edge Towards Double Dip (the title above should link to the article).  I don't dispute the stats, nor do I want to gloss them over, but here are some things to consider:
  • These are national stats.  All real estate is local, and some of our neighborhoods are seeing price rises.
  • Studio City, Burbank, Toluca Lake and Sherman Oaks, et al do not have the same amount of foreclosures that other neighborhoods have, and foreclosures skew the stats lower as they make their way through the trustee sale process. Even short sales and foreclosures, when they eventually sell on the retail market, sell at market prices.
  • This is good news for buyers as long as interest rates stay relatively low.
  • If they purchased a home before 2003 (and didn't pull money out in HELOCs), most local sellers still have a lot of equity over their purchase price.
  • Sellers with nice homes in nice neighborhoods at market prices are still seeing quick sales.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Dogs in restaurants in Burbank?

I saw a terrier mix in Burbank's Lancer's Restaurant this a.m.  I don't think it was a service dog.  Is this a start of a new and welcome trend in Burbank not-so-fine dining?  Or has Lancer's broken the time/space continuum and is that part of the restaurant really in France?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Lots of "flips" in the San Fernando Valley - what you need to know

If you're a local San Fernando Valley home buyer, you've no doubt noticed a lot of "flipped" properties for sale lately. (A flip is a property that somebody bought cheaply, fixed up and is now selling for a profit.) Buying an already-fixed up home can be a great choice, especially if you don't have the time, money or talent to do any fixing up yourself.  Trust me, remodeling is nowhere near as fast or easy as it looks on HGtv.

However, here are some things to be aware of, if you'd like to purchase a flipped home. First, not all lenders will fund a loan on a flipped purchase.  Second, loan approval may take a little while longer than normal.  Underwriters usually scrutinize the chain of title, especially if the house was previously a foreclosure.  And lenders will also want to see proof of the cost of the upgrades over the previous purchase price.  Third, the flipped properties still have to appraise to market value and can't be priced considerably over similar recent neighborhood sales (this is good news for buyers).  Finally, even if the house looks great, get a professional inspection.  As an old colleague of mine used to say, "A coat of paint can hide a world of sin." You'll want to know that corners weren't cut on home systems that you can't readily see, like plumbing, foundation or HVAC.  Along those lines, professional contractor-flippers usually do better with repairs and upgrades than individuals.  Happy hunting.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

BofA has figured out a new way to torture short sale buyers

Honestly, Bank of America must have a department of weasels who stay up all night figuring out new ways to stab clients and potential buyers in the back.  Here's the latest from a short sale I'm involved with in Toluca Lake (I represent the potential buyer, who wants to pay all cash): BofA will no longer take equities (stock funds, etc.) as proof of funds to complete your purchase.  So now, if you send, say, your Morgan Stanley monthly statement with your offer to show you have the money to complete the short sale transaction, that won't be good enough.  BofA wants you to liquidate those funds and put them in a cash account, even though they haven't approved the transaction yet.  Or else, you can come up with a pre-approval letter from a lender stating that you have liquid funds to close. No word on whether they want you to liquidate your 401K in advance of approval.  What next from Darth Vader BofA?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Proof of Toluca Lake Don Cuco's hip cred: Destin and Rachel eat there!

Spotted tonight at the Toluca Lake Don Cuco's: Destin Pfaff and Rachel Federoff from Bravo TV's Millionaire Matchmaker.  This should prove for all time that Don Cuco's restaurant is an extremely cool place. No, there was no sign of Patti Stanger.

Quick sales and multiple offers again in Studio City and Burbank

Sales activity appears to be picking up locally, especially in Studio City, Burbank and Hollywood Hills.  It's the time of year for sales to pick up, and inventory is still low.  4222 Rhodes (pictured above), a short sale for $749k in Studio City, sold over the weekend (well, sorta, if it's a short sale, but that's another story). 2637 N. Lamer in Burbank sold over the weekend as well.  1335 N. Ontario in Burbank for $529k just listed, and has two offers on it already.  And I'm told that several properties that just listed in the Hollywood Hills have multiple offers.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Patrick Duffy at Housing Chronicles weighs in on Fannie and Freddie

I asked my friend Patrick Duffy, of Housing Chronicles, to weigh in on the possible disappearance of Fannie/Freddie, and here's what he wrote:

I think it's mostly about political posturing; Obama is trying to address it before Boehner and Co. can claim he has no plans to end it.

At the moment, there's simply no private market for residential mortgages, so unless the gov't wants to tank the housing market they'll have to at the very least test the waters very slowly.

Lou Barnes addressed this issue in his latest column (Inman News).


Patrick S. Duffy
MetroIntelligence Real Estate Advisors

Contributing Editor, Builder & Developer
Author, The Housing Chronicles Blog

Phone: 818-584-1848
Toll-Free Phone & Fax: 888-82-DEVELOP (888-823-3835)
Mobile Phone: 310-666-8288

Thanks, Patrick!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac: hasta la vista, baby!

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have provided mortgage "liquidity" for the past few decades. While they are not government programs, they are government-sponsoredprograms, and had to be bailed out by the tax payers when the housing crunch hit.

Now, there are plans to eliminate or reduce Fannie and Freddie over the next few years. There are also plans for the government to get out of the mortgage-guarantee biz entirely, except in times of a financial crisis. (Which I don't get; how would that be different than what we have now? But I'm not an economist.) See G. Morgenson's NY Times article here; also has a good analysis.

Here's my take on how this will affect housing markets (hint: not good). Disclaimer: I'm not an economist, and could likely be very wrong. But every analysis I've read says that it will be harder to buy a home. So here goes with my personal analysis:
1. Taxpayers/taxpayers. Taxpayers may no longer be on the hook for bailing out Fannie and Freddie. But many taxpayers will no longer be able to buy a home and hence take advantage of the mortgage interest deduction.
2. Banks/banks. This will definitely put more power over the housing market into the hands of the banks. Banks will have to deal with less government interference. And they still may have a back-stop during financial crises. However, fewer people will be able to afford homes and after all, the banks don't make money unless buyers borrow money.
3. Landlords and landlords Less home sales mean more home renters, which is good for landlords. However, it will be harder to sell rental properties.
Now, for the losers/losers:
4. Home buyers, home sellers and Realtors: If you're a home buyer, you'll need a bigger down payment. If you're a home seller, fewer able buyers may translate to lower prices. And if you're a Realtor (hey, I can add some self-interest here) you'll be looking at less transactions all the way around.
If you think I'm wrong (and I hope I am), I'd love to know your opinion and your reasons.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Help for those facing foreclosure. Or not.

Here is an article from today's L.A. Times with the following headline: "California plans $2 Billion program to help distressed homeowners." And here are details and quotes from the article:

"The Keep Your Home California program, which uses federal funds reserved for the 2008 rescue of the financial system, has the potential to make a sizable dent in California's foreclosure crisis and help the general housing market. State officials hope to fend off foreclosure for about 95,000 borrowers and provide moving assistance to about 6,500 people who do lose their homes." Sounds great, right? But wait. Apparently the banks aren't rushing to get on board. "Out of the five major mortgage servicers — Bank of America Corp., Wells Fargo & Co., JPMorgan Chase & Co., Ally Financial and Citigroup Inc." only Ally Financial is on board.

And free-market proponents won't like this: "By keeping some cheap foreclosed properties from reaching the market, the program could give a boost to home values in general."

More details: "The biggest of the plan's four parts allocates $875 million as temporary financial help to people who have seen their paychecks cut or have lost their jobs, providing as much as $3,000 a month for six months to cover home payments and associated costs. The second-largest chunk of money, $790 million, is slated for a principal reduction program that would write down the value of an estimated 25,135 underwater mortgages.

Another piece would use $129 million to provide as much as $15,000 apiece to help homeowners get current on their mortgages, and another would take $32 million to provide moving assistance for people who can't afford to remain in their homes."

To qualify in L.A. County, a family could not earn more than $75,000 annually. Yes, that's a lot. I predict that, just as they are not doing now, the banks just won't get on board. And foreclosure help will continue to elude many homeowners.

News on Burbank lofts too!

And if the news that Americana at Brand in Glendale is almost sold out didn't rock your world, brace yourself: the Burbank Collection is almost sold out too! Only 13 units are left for sale in downtown Burbank's new loft building, and they're going at close-out prices.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Glendale lofts - an idea who's time has come, apparently

Rick Caruso was right all along, and we were wrong. Americana at Brand only has twelve residential units left for sale! Thanks, Phyllis Harb, for blogging about this. But don't worry. Even if you've been procrastinating about buying a Glendale loft, you'll still have an opportunity when the Circuit City project opens in 2012. Read all about it here, courtesy of our friends at Curbed L.A. The artist's rendering above is via Tropico Station.

Dilbeck Realtors is now part of the Real Living network of real estate companies

My company, Dilbeck Real Estate, is now Dilbeck Real Estate Real Living. The Real Living association has provided us with a pretty spectacular suite of on-line tools, and soon I'll be able to direct you to a super new mls search site. It's quick, easy, and you'll get more info on properties than you do on the regular public mls search. The site administrators are still de-bugging, so I hope to have this available to client-searchers next week.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Breaking Bad in Noho: my non-experience with a home's meth contamination

My buyer clients are in escrow on a property just outside of Burbank in North Hollywood. It's a flip (address to be revealed later). Through the grapevine, we heard that the former residents were either on drugs, were drug dealers, or something like that. Naturally, we became concerned as we've all been scared by the very real possibility of methamphetamine contamination on a property. Meth contamination is actually even an optional disclosure on the Natural Hazard Disclosure that every California buyer must receive. The sellers had never lived there, had bought it at auction, and knew nothing. I had not experienced the need for this test before, either.

So I went to the internet, fountain of all wisdom, to find meth testing labs here in So. Cal. Easy, right? Cal is a consumer-friendly state and we have inspectors for everything, right? And drugs have been done just about everywhere here, right? But no. Surprisingly, an inspector was hard to find. I had to really drill down on Google to get any info. (Although meth inspectors are easy to find in Utah, of all places, if you're in escrow there.)

But I finally found somebody, and here's where I give a shout-out to a vendor who gave me good info for free. The guy is Steve at and he spent quite awhile on the phone with me. He explained about the different levels of contamination, what his services cost ($400), what to look for, etc. While he didn't discourage my buyer from using his services, he eased my troubled mind when I gave him details about the condition of the house. In the meantime, we learned that the former residents maybe were just weirdos and not addicts/dealers after all. So my buyer decided not to have the test and go forward with the sale.

So thanks, Steve, and may I never need to use your services.

Friday, February 04, 2011

You can subscribe to me! Huzzah!

Want to get all the up-to-the-minute dope on real estate and homes for sale in Burbank, Studio City, and the east San Fernando Valley? Can't wait to know everything from the sublime to the ridiculous about same? Then subscribe to this blog in a reader! Just click on the little "RSS - subscribe to me in a reader" icon to the right and it practically does it for you. Enjoy and please give me your feedback.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

From Time housing still has a ways to go

This article about the housing market will be appearing in Time Magazine tomorrow. While I can't/don't argue with such esteemed economists, I can say this: all housing markets are local. While I don't see price rises on the horizon, it's hard for me to believe that home prices in more "middle class" areas like Studio City and Burbank are still set to drop by double digits. If that is so, why haven't they gone down further already?

We're Not Home Yet
By Rana Foroohar

At a bargain-basement auction of foreclosed homes held on Jan. 29 in a New York City Sheraton hotel, one of the music tracks that played as bidders prepared to pounce on distressed properties was James Brown's "Living in America." It was either a major planning blunder or a brilliant thematic choice. Either way, the song's lyrics ("everybody's working overtime ...") were a strangely fitting sound track to a new American reality: while corporate profits rise and economic growth returns, the housing market is only getting worse.

The latest figures from the Case-Shiller home-price index, showing a fifth straight month of price decreases — including major drops in cities such as Boston, Washington, Las Vegas and Dallas — have economists worried that we may be headed for a double dip in the housing market this year, which could restrain the economic growth we're finally starting to see. And 2011 was supposed to be the year housing recovered; now, analysts are betting on anything from a 5% to 20% price decline.

A rising number of foreclosures, tied to persistently high unemployment, is smothering housing's rebound. According to the Mortgage Bankers Association, there are already 4.5 million homes in some stage of foreclosure. Some experts believe an additional 1.5 million may be added to the pile this year. With that kind of distressed inventory on the market, it could take four to five years for prices to come back up, according to Capital Economics senior U.S. economist Paul Dales.

What's particularly troubling is that data suggests a good number of those properties belong to lower-income, higher-risk borrowers who had already gotten a break on their mortgage payments via federal programs designed to reduce defaults. November data (the latest available) on these so-called modified loans showed that 45% of them had been canceled, meaning that the borrowers very likely redefaulted, even after the payments had been adjusted.

This is yet another example of the bifurcated nature of America's economic "recovery." The Fed can keep interest rates low to encourage lending, and the government can dole out tax breaks to encourage spending, but as Dales points out, "If you don't have a job, you aren't going to be able to pay your mortgage." Indeed, the biggest factor in mortgage defaults is unemployment — and as we all know by now, the unemployment rate is still unnaturally high for this point in a recovery, especially among vulnerable groups like minorities and those without college degrees.

Unfortunately, the trouble in the mortgage market contributes to the trouble with job creation. "Lower home prices don't help jobs, because they constrain consumer spending," notes Yale economist and housing expert Robert Shiller. Job growth is tied to spending, because without more expected sales, companies won't hire. But people whose homes are decreasing in value won't spend; it's the wealth effect in reverse. So the poor housing market is holding back everything. Shiller, who just returned from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, believes that the world leaders and policymakers who were there "don't really realize the extent of the suffering that's occurring. They are too insulated. But it's a vicious cycle that can make people feel worthless."

Don't get too comfortable if you live in an area that hasn't suffered big price cuts, because the problem could spread in the coming months. The latest numbers indicate that the lower end of the housing market is seeing the sharpest declines. But those declines could well drag down the value of higher-priced properties. Given that U.S. households still keep about a quarter of their wealth in property, the implications for consumer spending are sobering. "More than keeping interest rates low, the best thing that Washington could do for the housing market is to try and create some jobs — quickly," says Dales.

In lieu of that, policymakers might also get more creative about how mortgages are structured. In his 2008 book, The Subprime Solution, Shiller suggested a drastic fix to the current problem — a continuously changing mortgage balance that would be reset periodically based on both home prices and unemployment. Thus, mortgages would reflect ongoing economic reality, and banks would have to keep lending. Meanwhile, to help banks cope with the risk involved, a market would be created to let them trade home-price futures, rather than splicing and dicing baskets of high-risk mortgages and then passing the risk on to investors. (A small market of this kind already exists at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.) "We need to be creative. It's all about democratizing finance and bringing more of the benefits of it to individual consumers," says Shiller. These and other housing-market reform ideas were deemed too radical when the crisis began. As it is now, they might not be radical enough.

— With reporting by Mackenzie Schmidt / New York

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Yes! Pizza boxes are recyclable in Burbank, Glendale and Los Angeles

Your pizza boxes are indeed recyclable in Burbank and Glendale, as long as the greasy parts and food remnants are removed. I know what you're thinking: I can sleep again at night now! I can enjoy the Superbowl and still be green! Thanks to the Los Angeles Times for this info; it applies to L.A. as well.

If you're wondering about the best pizza in Burbank, my vote goes to either Dino's or Tony's Bella Vista. You can check my site's Best of Burbank page for other completely subjective picks for local restaurants and merchants.