Thursday, March 31, 2011

All your real estate good news/bad news reading in one convenient post!

If you regularly read the L.A. Times or any other major news source, you know that there's conflicting news out there about the economy and real estate.  Here are the latest links from the last week:

First, from Fortune Magazine: It's time to buy a house again.
I'd love for this to be correct.  One thing though: we never had a lot of new homes here in the center metro area of L.A., unless you count condos.  And a lot of those new condos still haven't sold.

Next, from Rob Hahn via AOL, a rebuttal to the above article: Is it really time?
Rob slices and dices the stats used in the Fortune Article and comes up with a different take.

Then, from yesterday's L.A. Times: Banks may be forced into agreeing to short sales.
I read this with delight, until I got about half-way through the article.  Then, it said that banks can still refuse the short sale if they don't like the sales price.  So, what's the point?
And finally, from A. Lazo in today's L.A. Times: There really is a shadow inventory, and it's depressing prices.
I don't want to argue with the statistics experts -- Core Logic in this case -- but it bears repeating that no one set of statistics can be applied to hyper-local real estate markets.

What's your take on our market, dear reader?

I heart New York

We just returned from a biz (my husband's) and pleasure trip to the Big Apple.  I always love visiting there.  On this trip, we stayed at a friend's apartment in the Financial District, just one block away from Wall Street.  The neighborhood was bustling, eateries and bars were busy, etc.  Mind you, this is just my own myopic observation, but all the men and women I saw coming and going from the financial institutions that run this country seemed to have pep in their steps, a smile on their lips and a song in their hearts.  The crowds certainly didn't reflect the economic realities in the rest of the country.  Perhaps there really is a disconnect between Wall Street and Main Street.

But anyway, of course I scanned Manhattan real estate prices.  (That's me, above. [Cameras can correct for red eyes. Why can't they correct for big butts too?]) It is possible to buy a studio in a decent neighborhood for $400k.  The prices seemed to go to $700k for one bedrooms, and of course seven figures is common as well.  Brooklyn seems to be about as expensive as Manhattan.  Space is at a premium, so if you're contemplating a move, you'll need to get rid of a lot of your stuff.  Needless to say, you won't need a car, but subway rides are $2.20 each way, so you won't save a lot of money by not driving. 

Would I live there if I could afford it? Hmmm....

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Not to brag, but...

Dilbeck Real Living held its annual awards ceremony last week.  Yours truly placed #3 in our Burbank office, right behind our two commercial producers.  I also won the Award of Achievement (for a certain dollar level of "production"), a Winners Circle award (for a sustained level of production over five years) and a Premier Service Award, which is based on a high level of customer satisfaction as reflected in customer surveys.  I'm thrilled.  Sadly, Dilbeck does not award a best/worst blogger award at this time.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Cute short sale for aviation buffs

(Disclosure: my client made an offer on this property. So have about a dozen other buyers. Currently, no more offers are being accepted. No, we don't know yet if our offer prevailed.) This cutie is 11558 Cantlay in North Hollywood. It's a 3+2, 1545 sf. short sale for $249,000. It's as nice inside as it is outside -- yes, hipsters, the style IS a little suburban. has a spacious galley kitchen with new Corian counter tops and lots of storage, all the windows are new, new paint inside and outside, decent bedrooms, well maintained, attached two-car garage, nice backyard and side yard, etc. etc.

All around, this is a very nice home. If you like planes. It's just north of the Bob Hope airport. I mean just about 1000 feet from the runway. A plane landed while we viewed the home and I could count its rivets.

In spite of the location, this home sold for $507,000 at the height of the market.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Foreclosures and REOs - there is a differnce.

I'm often asked by potential property buyers if I will help them find a foreclosure. My buyer clients often think that these properties are offered for prices below market, and perhaps need just a little fixing to make them habitable. Umm, that's not quite correct.

First, there are two delicious flavors of foreclosure: plain foreclosure and REO. The differences bear repeating. A foreclosure property has not had its mortgage or other obligations paid in several months, and the lending institution is in the process of taking the home back from the owner. There are several stages to this; and the foreclosure can be "cured" at any of these stages. If the default is not cured by a certain date, the house usually goes to a trustee sale, which is often held on county courthouse steps. Very important to know: these homes are not on the multiple listing service, but you can find them on paid sites like Anybody can go and bid on a house at a trustee sale, but potential buyers will have to exceed the amounts owed to the lender on the property.

An REO stands for "real estate owned" -- by the lending institution that held the defaulted mortgage. This designation comes at the trustee sale when nobody has outbid the bank (frequently, nobody does). The lending institution now owns the property. The lending institution will eventually place the now-vacant home with a Realtor, and it will be available on the multiple listing service. And here's more bad news: once it goes on the multiple listing service, it usually goes out at market prices as well. There aren't usually deep discounts.

Yes, there are other details, and sometimes homes go for auction. (See post below.) But these are the main differences.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

We test-drive a new North Hollywood gastropub

As an occasional public service of this blog, we go out and research neighborhood hot spots so you won’t have to. Last night we visited the new-ish Federal Bar on Lankershim in North Hollywood, and we can confidently report that it is safe for you to visit, too.  This sort-of gastropub is a really welcome addition to the NoHo arts area and is just across from the train station.

Federal Bar has been elegantly carved out of an old brick bank building by the same folks who brought you the Knitting Factory.  It has a quasi-Prohibition theme and it’s slightly more upscale than your average gastropub hang.  There are two main rooms, each with its own long bar, plus an upstairs party room with its own bar and a stage.  The place was pleasantly busy when we got there at 5:00 – hey, we’re old – but the restaurant and bars were packed when we left at 6:30.  And if you’re single, or like beer, by all means just go for the lively bar scene.

The wait staff is stellar.  Our lovely server, Ashley (pictured above; she should be America’s Next Top Model) could not have been more enthusiastic or knowledgeable about the menu and the drinks.  She truly seemed to be on a mission to make sure we enjoyed ourselves.  And gracious manager Carl gave us a complete tour of both upstairs and downstairs.

The plan was for the three of us to have a drink and an appetizer.  One finely-made cocktail turned into, uh, more, with beer chasers all around – there are over 20 beers on tap.  And the appetizers turned into meals.  The menu features several reasonably priced small plates, burgers and entrees. Since we ordered a lot, our final bill wasn’t particularly small. The food was good and I especially liked my friend’s fish and chips.  My husband enjoyed his burger, too. 

The North Hollywood renaissance continues…
The Federal Bar on Urbanspoon

Friday, March 18, 2011

Do-It-Yourself-ers, HGtv wants you!

Ronica Harris, the casting producer of HGtv's "Professional Grade," is looking for do-it-yourself-ers in the San Fernando Valley who are about to begin a home remodeling project.   It could be a kitchen, a bathroom, or maybe a master bedroom suite.  The producers are not limiting the renovation to those rooms in particular; they're looking for people with personality (naturally).

Here's the notice that Ms. Harris sent me: HGTV’s hit new renovation show “Professional Grade” is back for a 3rd season.  In the show, homeowners go toe to toe with the professionals for a chance of having their home renovation paid for by HGTV.  Our last BIG winner from last season took home $40,000. Homeowners act as their own “GC’s” and when the renovation is done, our experts price out the job based on the quality.  If their estimate is higher than what our homeowners spent, the homeowners pocket the cash difference. 

If you are interested, or know somebody who is (I've already contacted two sets of clients), please call Ronica at 303.872.8708 or contact her by email at For an application, click on:  Good luck! Please let me know if you are selected!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

921 N. Frederic, Burbank

I just saw 921 N. Frederic on Burbank's weekly caravan and I am impressed.  This 1104 sf 3+2 is listed for $549,000 and has been remodeled with a nice new kitchen, parquet and bamboo floors, new windows, redone bathrooms, etc., etc.  It feels much bigger than the 1104 sf to me.  It also has a bigger-than-usual grassy backyard and a good Magnolia Park location.  I recently sold a home on Frederic about a block away for $620k that was larger.  Query: there are lots of kids on this stretch of Frederic.  Is that a good thing or a bad thing?

I also viewed 1505 N. Pass in Burbank. It's also noteworthy.  It's a 3+2 and is a flip.  The kitchen is really spacious.  The only downside: there's no landscaping in the backyard.  It is listed for $495,000.  Last year, I sold a house just down the street for $485k which was a 3+1 and nowhere nearly as upgraded, so this seems like a fair price to me.

Those are today's standouts.  Tomorrow I'll be on caravan in Toluca Lake and Studio City.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Here's your chance to learn about property auctions

Our friend Ashley at just emailed me about an upcoming property auction that should be lots of fun (this is not to be confused with Trustees' sales that take place at courthouses).  Here are the details:

Sunday, March 27 is our Southern California residential auction at the Riverside Convention Center. We host a pre-auction event called “#coffeeandtweets” from 8-9a where attendees can enjoy a complimentary light breakfast and coffee, meet the auctioneer and bidding assistants, learn more about the real estate auction process and hopefully join us on the social networks. We are encouraging brokers to attend the event and bring their clients as part of our broker co-op program.

Ashley also tells me that there's an auction at the L.A. Convention center on March 26.

More event details can be found on Facebook:

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Kendyl rocks multiple offers

My friend and top producing colleague, Kendyl Young, wrote a great blog post last week about how to deal with multiple offer situations.  It was so succint that I asked and received her permission to re-post it here (the italics are mine):

Last week I told you about a hot Glendale Home on Ridge. It was 3 bedrooms, 2 baths and had a pool with a lovely view. My friend, Anne, listed it for $499,000. She had multiple offers. The home is now in pending status and I thought a few details of what happened could help those of you who are active buyers.

First of all, Anne set a low price on purpose. This home was sold as a trust and the attorney wanted an auction-like scenario. Frankly, she could have created that with a price of $599,000- but $499,000 worked.

She received 40 offers.

Now, Anne is a true professional and she is not about to tell me what price was accepted, but she indicated that it was “high”.

There are some useful insights to be learned, here.

* With proper marketing and exposure, it is impossible to underprice a home

* There are a lot of buyers who have the ability to buy- don’t assume you are the only one.

* If you think it is a great deal everyone else does, too.

* Processing 40 offers is an insane amount of work. Make an offer designed to appeal to the listing agent as much as the seller.

* Know home values in the area you want to buy. Your offer should reflect exactly what you think the home is worth and not a reaction to the list price. (I would add that a low offer probably won't work and may not even get you to the counter-offer stage.  Brutal, but true. - Judy)

So here is a question for you. If the home of your dreams has 40 offers- what would you do? Make an offer or walk away? Would the number of offers influence your feeling about that home’s value?

Another free event from Burbank Green Alliance

Our friends at Burbank Green Alliance are hosting another free film premiere. The film's title is The Economics of Happiness.  Here are the details:

Date: March 31st
Time: 7-10pm (7pm booths, 7:30pm screening)
Location: Fletcher Jones Auditorium, Woodbury University 7500 N. Glenoaks Blvd. Burbank, CA 91504

Reservations: $10 suggested donation (no-one turned away.) Donate online at or email

Event Details: The evening is dedicated to sustainable communities and a better quality of life. There will also be booths and a panel of speakers dedicated to economic localization

"Economics of Happiness" finds local solutions to global problems. It shows that countless initiatives are united around a common cause: rebuilding more democratic, human scale, ecological and local economies – the foundation of an ‘economics of happiness’.

Discussion to Follow:
· "Complementary Currencies & The Woergl Experiment" w/ Hollis Doherty
(Screenwriter, The Miracle in Woergl)
· "New Economics & Responsible Investing" w/ Gregory Wendt, CFP
(V.P. Sustainable and Responsible Investing EP Wealth Advisors, Inc. & Green Business Networking)
· "Food Localization & Sustainable Communities" w/ Deborah Eden Tull
(Sustainability Coach & Author, The Natural Kitchen: Your Guide to the Sustainable Food Revolution)
· "Echo Park Time Bank" w/ Autumn Rooney (Co-Founder, Director)

Saturday, March 12, 2011

OMG, cheapest condo EVER in Burbank

Pigs are flying.  I'm looking for a hat to eat.  And Burbank has its lowest-priced listing that I ever remember.  And it's not even a dump!  355 Maple, #114 in the Entourage development just listed at $99,000.  It's a 480 sf. studio and the building has lots of amenities.  It's close to the studios, too. Is it priced according to comparables or is it an auction price? I vote auction.  A similar unit there sold for twice this just last fall.  And in November, my buyers closed on a one-bedroom condo on Bethany which was the cheapest thing to list on the market in over a decade and it was $180,000.  And prices haven't dropped 50% in four months.  So yes, I do think it will go out much higher...still...stay tuned!


Our thoughts and prayers go to the people of Japan in the aftermath of their terrible earthquake and tsunami.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

L.A. Times "message" from C.A.R. re short sales

I was surprised and pleased to find a full-page "message" from the California Association of Realtors in the first section of today's (3/10) L.A. Times.  (Since it's a paid announcement, there is no link.) It is an impassioned plea to streamline and speed up the short sale process.

'Bout time.  CAR claims to have advocated for improvements to short sale guidelines with major banks, U.S. Treasury officials, government-sponsored entities and others to standardize the process, comply with federal guidelines, increase staffing, etc.

CAR is also "calling on regulators, elected officials, nonprofits, business organizations, companies, and individuals resolve this issue and others that get in the way of a recovery."

Here in So. Cal., you know that short sales can be up to 50% of a particular local market.  I also believe short sales -- or the way they are NOT conducted by the banks -- are partially responsible for the current market slowdown in many areas.  They are a large part of the market inventory, and nobody wants to go through the long, agonizing process of trying to buy one. (Seriously, I'd take 10 court confirmation-required probate sales over one short sale.) Hopefully, the C.A.R. message will be heard by our major mortgage servicers.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

5233 Strohm, Toluca Terrace - not in multiple listing service yet

5233 Strohm in Toluca Terrace is an absolutely adorable 905 sq. ft. cottage with 2 bedrooms and 1-1/2 baths.  It features lots of character details, hardwood floors, a/c, a big back yard, above-ground pool, white picket fence and much, much more.  I can attest to its adorableness as I've been a guest in the house many times (although it's not my listing).  It will be in the multiple listing service at the end of the week, but is available for viewing now, and will be listed for $439,000.  If you're looking for this neighborhood and a home in great condition, this is an excellent deal.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Sellers, please be aware: First time buyers are picky, picky, picky

Thank you, L.A. Times, for running this story about picky buyers. (Title should link, too.) Now maybe you'll believe me.  I experience home buyer pickiness all the time -- buyers are much more educated than in years past and are much more savvy about finishes, appliances, construction, cabinets, etc.  We can thank our favorite channel, HGtv, for this.  Plus, many buyers are completely financially stretched after purchasing and don't have the time or money for fix-ups.  So if you're thinking about selling your home, spending a little money on fixes and repairs -- and especially, thorough decluttering and cleaning -- can go a long way.  If you can't afford to make any fixes, consider making the price reflective of the current condition by, yes, lowering it.  If you're considering selling your Studio City, Burbank or San Fernando Valley home, please call me and I'll consult with you about the easiest, cheapest ways to maximize the look and condition of your home.

Friday, March 04, 2011

What's my house worth? New feature!

What's your house worth? Click on the brand-new link to the right to get an idea of your home's value.  (Or click on the title above.)Whether your home is in Studio City, Burbank, or Charlotte, this new feature should work for you.  I gave it a test run with my own home and it looks...okay.  This feature is brought to us by Realist, the tax-assessor mapping service.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

6212 Auckland, North Hollywood closed yesterday

6212 Auckland in North Hollywood closed yesterday.  I represented the buyers and it was a very smooth transaction.  This house had been flipped by a group of professional flippers who were really great to deal with.  Seriously!  And of course, the stalwart Dana Dukelow at Prospect Mortgage was wonderful, as always.

Here's what was different about this transaction.  For the first time ever, I never once spoke to the listing agent.  I only talked with his staff.  And again for the first time ever, I never once spoke with the escrow officer either, although she did leave me a voicemail when the transaction closed.  Why? In the harsh economic climate, we're seeing many companies consolidate (if they remain in business at all).  These companies need to do a high volume of business to survive.  And alas, a high volume business and high-touch customer service don't usually go together.  I predict that we will see more consolidation in the industry, however.