Thursday, June 26, 2014

Think you're paying too much for housing in the L.A. area? You are.

Today's L.A. Times reports that housing costs are a greater burden here in the L.A. area than in any other metro area.  It's nice to have it confirmed, eh? That's not just for mortgages, it's for rent, too.  And this statistic is from a study was done by Harvard.  The study sites stagnant wages as the primary contributing factor. (photo credit: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg; article by Tim Logan)

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Country Club Park and HPOZs

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to show property in Country Club Park, a lovely area that I had never explored before.  Where’s that? It’s just off of Wilshire and Olympic in mid-central L.A. That’s an area, or at least an intersection, that most of us have all been in before.  However, like much of Los Angeles, residential neighborhoods can be dramatically different from the commercial parts of the nearby main roads. (BTW, the house pictured above and below is the Milbank Estate.  That wasn't the property I showed, unfortunately.)

Country Club Park was once the western edge of the city.  In the 1920’s, large homes were built that reflected the popular architectural styles of the times: craftsman, Tudor Revival, Spanish Colonial Revival, and Mediterranean Revival.  Of course, land was relatively easy to come by then, so big lots, broad lawns, and mature foliage are characteristic of this neighborhood.

Country Club Park is also designated an HPOZ, or historic preservation overlay zone.  This zone preserves the distinct architectural character of the neighborhood houses, provided that they conform to the style and period being preserved.  If you are a homeowner in a HPOZ, and you want to change the exterior of your historic home, you’ll need to get permission from the 5-member HPOZ board.  Minor repairs are easy to approve, of course, but if you want to substantially change the outside, it will take longer and may not be approved.  Of course, you can change the inside without the board’s permission.  L.A. City’s Office of Historic Planning provides a guide to maintaining your historic home.

Here’s another benefit to owning a historic home in a HPOZ: you may qualify for tax savings through the Mills act. Qualifying owners can receive a potential property tax reduction and use the savings to help rehabilitate, restore and maintain their historic homes.

For more info on HPOZs and the Mills Act, please visit

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Something that you would not expect to find growing in Studio City: blueberries!

Who knew? Along with citrus fruit, pot pomegranates and figs, blueberries can grow in Studio City.  The beauties on this tart were grown by my Tujunga Village/Woodbridge Park.  He harvested four gallons from one bush this year.  If you would like to plant a blueberry bush, my neighbor tells me that you will need to put a net over the bush or birds will do the harvesting for you.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Please visit my page

I am now writing short features about San Fernando Valley real estate and the home buying and selling process for  Please visit my page there at and subscribe.  Thanks!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Los Angeles and San Fernando Valley home sales are stabilizing, says the LA Times

Here's a great article from today's L.A. Times. It states that the market is settling down, there aren't as many price escalations, etc. Here's a quote:

"More and more, the market hinges on regular people buying houses with normal mortgages, and with lending standards still tight and the economy still feeling soft, there's only so much those people will pay.
"We're bumping along a ceiling. I really can't see values going up much more," said Steven Thomas, of, which analyzes Southern California housing markets. "Buyers are homing in on trying to pay a fair value. A year ago, everyone was willing to pay extra. Now that bidding up is not happening."

This doesn't mean that multiple offers are over, however -- just that there won't be 20-40 offers for the same property, we hope.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

3 common mistakes that home buyers make

Have you been looking for a home in the San Fernando Valley or Los Angeles? Have you been disappointed with the kinds of homes that you have seen? Have you made offers, only to lose them out in multiple bidding situations? Here are three tips to help you.

Be realistic about your finances and what you can afford. Home prices have rebounded from the recession.  They have risen, too, since you first began considering making a purchase. Home inventory is really low as well which results in more buyers chasing the same few homes. If you find yourself in a multiple offer situation, price is going to matter to your seller much more than your good looks. If you love a home, but will be really stretched to afford it, or if you do not have a decent down payment for the home price range that you are looking in, you may want to wait awhile and save up more money.

Before you begin home shopping, get pre-approved for a mortgage loan by a local lender. I've said this before. Now is the time to shop for a lender and rates, not on a Sunday night after you have visited the open house of your dreams. This is important because most sellers and listing agents will look at your financial qualifications before they review your home offer. Your lender will be able to look at your financial profile and determine how much you can comfortably pay. A good lender can also coach you regarding cleaning up credit, straightening out financial issues, and qualifying for the best loan programs.

Write good offers. A home purchase offer contains much more than just the price, and your Realtor will be able to advise you on how to make your offer stand out. Put down a decent deposit. Find out in advance what your sellers' moving dates are and try to accommodate them. Shorten your contingency periods if you can. Think twice about asking the seller to pay for any of your closing costs. Yes, a letter explaining who you are and why you like the house will usually be helpful, too. Make sure to include a picture of your kids and pets.

Hopefully, you will now be better prepared to get the house you want. Happy house hunting -- your perfect home really IS out there.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

What I saw on today's Studio City Realtor caravan

Today, I saw some pretty interesting things on the Realtor caravan, in addition to three homes for sale in Studio City.

The first home I saw is way up in the hills, on Wrightwood.  It's about $2.5 million.  As you can see, it's all about the view -- that's Universal City in the distance.  The house was nice, too; built in the 1960's, lots of high ceilings, redone kitchen and baths, etc.  But the pool and view is certainly the best part.

The next noteworthy item is this very whimsical front yard, on Alta Mesa.  As you see, not all homes in the Studio City and Hollywood Hills are modernist semi-masterpieces.  It may not be visible in this pic, but the yard contains statues or plaques of Jesus, Mary, Joseph, an angel, a scarecrow, lots of butterfles and a hula girl, in addition to lots of flowers. It is very pretty in a really different way.

And finally, here's a kitchen with all-steel countertops.  This is in a nice home on Bloomfield.  I am seeing steel being used more and more for kitchens.  Think about this if you're planning to remodel your kitchen any time soon -- this is the latest thing, and granite countertops are looking a bit dated already, believe it or not.

Friday, June 06, 2014

Ask me anything: planning to sell your home? Here are 6 ways to find a good Realtor.

Well, first, hire me.

Next, go through all the Realtor flyers that have been left on your doorstep or in your mailbox for the past several years.  Pick the cutest guy or gal.

Seriously (I was serious about the “call me” part if you’re in L.A.): there are several ways to pick a good listing agent.

1. Do you think that the Realtor who sold you the house did a good job? If they are still in the area, give them a call and discuss your needs.

2. Visit open houses in your area.  Chat up the Realtor, but do not mention that you live nearby and are thinking of selling – the Realtor will stalk you.  We are really good at that.  Anyway, see what impression you get.  Do they seem engaged with the people they are meeting? Do they offer extra information on the home? (Do they even know anything about the home they are selling?) Can they (intelligently) answer questions? Do they know your neighborhood? Remember that many listing agents send assistants to cover these things – you will be able to determine who’s who very quickly.

3. Presuming that you are still in touch with them, ask your former neighbors, who have sold and moved away, for referrals.  You will soon learn the good, the bad, and the ugly about the folks that have sold real estate in your neighborhood.  Of course, you will also learn about how quickly the news spreads that you are selling.

4. Ask your friends who have just sold for referrals to their agent, presuming they are generally in the same area. And presuming your friends think their Realtor did a great job.

5. Ask folks who have recently bought homes in your neighborhood for referrals.  Buyers’ agents for your neighborhood often make the best listing agents – they are familiar with everything that has been sold there lately.

6. Check out the doorstep and mailed flyers are usually circulated by Realtors who work in your neighborhood.  By all means, contact these folks if they have a track record in your neighborhood. Don’t forget to Google who you pick.

In another article, I will list qualities of a good listing agent. And soon, I will post several ways NOT to hire a listing agent. Stay tuned and please contact me if I can help you in any way.  I can be reached through 

This post originally appeared with edits in

Thursday, June 05, 2014

New 5-star Yelp review from my seller of a Burbank home

It was my privilege and honor to help Laura when she transitioned from working to being retired.  She sold her home in north Burbank and here is her Yelp review of me.

After retiring at the end of 2013, I decided to sell my Burbank home of 28 years.  Luckily, after some diligent Yelp and Zillow research, I found Judy Graff.  Judy is a fantastic real estate agent and a consummate professional.  Judy made some suggestions that helped me prepare the house for sale, and once the house was listed, she was on top of every detail so that all phases of escrow proceeded smoothly.  Judy listed my home on 03/31, and it was sold at the open house which followed on 4/7.  And, it also sold for 10,000 over list!  Who can ask for more than that!!  It is obvious that Judy loves her work because she does it so well.  Besides helping me through every step, she was even of service to the buyers of the property.  I had to leave the property before escrow closed and Judy oversaw an emergency repair to a gas pipe I discovered the night before I left.  I simply cannot say enough good things about Judy.  She is courteous, professional, wise, and the perfect person to advise you about buying or selling real estate.  I would definitely use Judy again, and I would recommend her to my friends and relatives without hesitation.  Judy exceeded my expectations in every area.  She also has some excellent references for professionals you might need during the process, i.e. plumber, electrician, and even a rubbish guy.  5 stars for Judy for sure!

Monday, June 02, 2014

I work with a fabulous bunch of people. Heather, you are my hero.

Please read below from our manager, Susan Jacobs.  Heather Wexler, pictured above, is our administrator, any my hero.

You may have heard what happened last Friday at the office.  Heather and Michelle were outside at the front of the building when a woman riding a Vespa hit the curb and she minus the Vespa went sailing into the planter and wall of the building.  Lead by Heather, the office mobilized to help this woman . . . called the paramedics, got her cell phone and called her husband and MOST IMPORTANTLY stayed with her and spoke comfortingly and reassuringly until her husband and the paramedics came.   Heather checked on her progress on Saturday and the woman said she could not remember too much that happened but what she did remember was that she didn’t feel alone—that she was surrounded by people who were looking after her and comforting her.  Special acknowledgement to the following: Scott Nell, Steve Sax, Dion Tretta, Vicki Watson, Ian Marks, Joel Vendette, Michelle Mandel, Rose Fahey, Tony Catalano, Rose Osman, Kevin Driscoll, Michael Razak, Joel our Valet, Mary Baldwin.  Please forgive if I have forgotten anyone.  We all agreed on one other important thing:  If you ever find yourself in trouble, please be sure that Heather is with you.  Never seen a woman mobilize so fast!  She never noticed until it was all over that she had blood all over her pants.   Thank you to everyone who dropped what they were doing to lend aid.

Sunday, June 01, 2014