Wednesday, April 26, 2017

I know you are tired of hearing about the run up in So.Cal. home prices, but...

CANOGA PARK, CALIF. - APRIL 2, 2017. Realtor Houman Zahedi holds an open house at a three-bedroom,Here's another L.A.Times article which confirms your fears about low inventory and high prices.  I think I showed the home in Burbank that the article references.  I couldn't believe it was listed that high.  What to do? If you are a seller, sell (call me first).  If you are a buyer...no easy answers here.
Photo courtesy of Luis Sinco/L.A. Times

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Home shopping? Please get your financial info together. Like, now.

As we all know, one of the biggest mistakes home buyers make is not working with their lender before they make an offer on a house.  I know, I know; you were planning to do this.  But you went home shopping on a lark over the weekend and found the perfect place.  And now you are scrambling to become pre-approved for a loan before somebody else buys the house.

Not a  problem, you say.  You looked at an online service and they say you are qualified for a purchase of up to a zillion dollars.  But online lenders are not the same as local lenders who really delve into what you actually can and cannot afford.  Most listing agents will not look at loan pre-approvals that are not from a local, verifiably qualified lender (yes, we are pretty good at spotting who is a bona fide lender and who is really your cousin).

Here is another reason to get this done in advance:  so your lender can look, really look, at your whole financial picture.  And your lender needs time to do that.  It is not an instant process.  The worst time to have your lender start working on your pre-approval is the Monday morning after you have found the house of your dreams on Sunday.  Your lender is probably getting the same request for other people, too, or trying to help an already-pre-approved client get an offer accepted.

Another reason to begin working with a lender in advance of making an offer is that you will find out how much you really qualify for – it may be more than you think, or not.  And your lender will give you a pretty good idea of what your monthly payment will be including property taxes, insurance, etc.  And what your closing costs will probably be.  There may also be V.A. programs or local first-time buyer programs that can help you with your transaction.  It takes time to work through the qualifications for these, though.

If all this were not enough, you can also shop lender rates when time is not of the essence.

So, let us review what you need to dig out of the garage what you will need to submit to your mortgage broker:
-          Your filed federal taxes for the last two years (state is not needed)
-          Most recent pay stubs for the last 30 days
-          Most recent statements for all of your assets, including savings, checking, stocks, bonds and retirement.  Submit all pages, please.
-          2015 and 2016 W2’s and/or 1099s.

The best thing to do is gather these materials up while you are initially thinking about making a home purchase.  (I know you have been intending to do this, but….) You will have more time then, and will not be scrambling to find everything at the last minute.  Scan your documents to a pdf file or two that you can keep on your laptop or computer.  (Fun fact: a lot of lenders can’t accept Google Docs or Dropbox stuff.)  Then, shoot them over to your preferred lender (or two) for review.  Congratulations! You will be ready to rock as soon as the perfect place comes along.

Photo licensed under Creative Commons.org

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Are small-lot homes the solution to L.A.'s so-called housing crisis?

You may have seen these in Van Nuys, North Hollywood, Silverlake, Venice and elsewhere: small-lot homes.  L.A. City passed an ordinance allowing these kind of buildings about 10 or so years ago. These aren't "tiny" homes. Instead, they are a condo/single family home hybrid.  The unit is separate from its neighbors (but not by much), has a two-car garage, and usually a small yard.  There are no HOAs although there is usually a fee for common area upkeep (such as a shared driveway or trash pickup.) There are two to six on a regular residential lot, and there can be developments of 30 or more in outlying areas. Are these the solution to L.A.'s "need" for density?

Not everybody is a fan of these.  Personally, I think these are great ideas.  Now that Measure S has been defeated, what would you rather have -- four units on one lot on your residential street, or a three-story, 18 unit condo complex on the corner? If we must shoe-horn more and more people into residential areas (I'm not sure we do, but everybody else says we do), this can be a great option that preserves neighborhood character.  Just like the old-fashioned bungalow court apartment units.  Fun fact: none of my buyers want one of these, but I expect that may change as homes get more and more expensive.
Photo above: 2872 Allesandro, L.A., courtesy of TheMLS.com

Saturday, March 25, 2017

From the New York Times - Home inspectors and their weirdest discoveries

Here's some Sunday newspaper reading, one day early.  The article from the New York Times is titled, "Home inspectors on their weirdest discoveries."   The title should link.  The photo above is just one of many from the sometimes bizarro world of real estate.  Enjoy and let's hope that none of this is present during your next inspection.

Friday, March 10, 2017

5544 Ventura Canyon in Sherman Oaks finally closed last week

5544 Ventura Canyon is a beautiful flip done by colleagues/friends of mine.  It closed last week at $888,000.  That was the third time it had been in escrow.  Yes, it fell out of escrow twice, which is a record for me.

Why? The house attracted very well-educated buyers who expected the home to be structurally pretty. They wanted the bones and guts of the house to be as top-notch as the finishes and top-off.  Alas, there were items that were just not up to that standard.  The flippers wound up fixing and redoing a lot of the structural stuff.  Finally, we got just the right buyers and the house closed last week.  The obvious moral of the story is that flipping houses can be very un-lucrative.  If you are considering flipping a house, make sure that you inspect, inspect, inspect beforehand.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Yes on S

If you live in L.A., you probably know about Measure S. It’s the proposition that limits development in the city for two years. Obviously, as a Realtor, I stand to gain everything from this measure going down in flames.  There will be lots of new properties to sell – yay! However, perhaps surprisingly, I support passage of Measure S.

Before I get into why I support this, here is a quote from a column in yesterday’s L.A. Times from none other than Richard Riordan. Mr. Riordan was the L.A. Mayor for two terms.  He says, “The current political environment is rife with corruption and backroom deals servicing land speculatiors and luxury housing developers over the needs of citizens.  If passed, Measure S. will give the decision-making process back to the people.  It will make City Hall work for us, not for the developers, special interests and lobbyists.” Remember, Mr. Riordan has already served his term with the city, seen this up close, and has no dog in this hunt.

Tracy Jeanne Rosenthal is a member of the L.A. Tenants Union and she wrote a column for yesterday’s L.A. Times opinion page as well. Here’s a quote from Ms. Rosenthal: “The housing market doesn’t produce homes; it produces opportunities for investment.  The goals of maximizing profit and making the city livable are at odds.”

I support Measure S for the following reasons.  In my work, I have seen L.A.'s development up close in many neighborhoods.

First, “affordable housing” is anything but.  Builders aren’t building it.  Instead, they are building either McMansions in expensive private neighborhoods or luxury apartments close to transit stops. Developers are not in business out of the goodness of their hearts.  As Ms. Rosenthal indicates, developers need to make a profit.  And they make it by putting maximum-saleable square footage in the most expensive neighborhoods possible.  If the city truly wants affordable housing, it will need to subsidize it in the neighborhoods where people need it. At the risk of stating the obvious, the so-called “housing crisis” is not helped by luxury units or McMansions.

Second, I think high-density proponents need to rethink their support for density, and their opposition to Measure S.  Again, small units in high rises in expensive neighborhoods are a developer’s dream, but not necessarily anybody else’s. There are several other ways to achieve more density in existing L.A. neighborhoods.  Look at the P.U.D.s in Van Nuys, for example. These are single family houses that are next to each other but have limited yard space.  And allowing more granny flats or guest houses in single family neighborhoods with ample lots increases density and helps solve needs of multi-generational families.

Let’s not even get started on traffic.

Finally, developers are running amok. See my blog post from November about my client’s wall being knocked down without their permission. By developers. The clients complained to the city inspector who issued the permit; he never called back.  Let’s keep developers and city officials accountable for their actions.


Whew! That’s it. If you have read this far, thank you.  And please don’t forget to vote on March 7.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Eagle Rock is no longer affordable, as if you didn't know

This A-frame in Eagle Rock just sold for $969k in a bidding war.  Almost a million dollars...in Eagle Rock.  Let that sink in for a minute.  Yes, it's pretty, but this is just another nail in the coffin of affordable L.A. areas.
Photo courtesy of Deasy/Penner & Partners.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

What a Realtor conference is like and predictions for 2017

I just came back from the National Association of Realtors Broker Summit in San Diego.  Everybody has been to at least one convention in their lives, right? If not, and in case you are wondering what these are like, here's the skinny.

It was held at the Grand Del Mar Fairmont in northern San Diego.  This is a triple luxury hotel that looks like an Italian palace.  Miles from anything and super-expensive, so I didn't stay there.  Nice cocktail parties, though.  The pic above is the lobby centerpiece.

As with all conventions, there is music over the public address system between speakers.  I always expect hits of the '80s but this time it was hits of the late '60s and early '70s -- Doors, Hendrix, Jefferson Airplane, Creedence...seemed a little weird to me, to be honest.  But then the average age of  the Realtors there was about 55. Perhaps the convention organizers thought it was age-appropriate, but there is something incongruous about hearing "Bad Moon Rising" just before an economist takes the stage.

The speakers were excellent and I learned a a lot.  Here are my take-aways for you.
- 2017 is going to be about the same as 2016 for real estate.
- However, prices will show a slight rise.  So will interest rates, but we knew that.
- Shortness of inventory is a major problem all over the country. (You knew that.)
- Affordability is a major issue, too. (You knew that too.)
- Student debt is stopping many millenials from buying homes.
- Home ownership is down across the country, and expected to go lower.  We may soon become a nation of renters.
- Our recent election and its aftermath has caused uncertainty in all sectors, but not enough to hurt the economy in the long run.

Here's the deal on crystal ball predictions -- they are just predictions.  We won't know what's really happening until it happens. In the meantime, I will continue to give my own predictions and also real stats to keep you engaged and aware.

Monday, February 06, 2017

Glamorous downtown Burbank condo listing tomorrow

Wanna live close to all the action in downtown Burbank? I have a gorgeous, redone, top-floor condo coming on the market tomorrow.  The address is 427 E. Orange Grove, #308.  It features 2 bedrooms, 2 baths, redone kitchen and bathrooms, high ceilings, balcony/patio, 2 side-by-side parking spaces, and a view of the mountains.  Even better: it will list for $490,000 and the HOA is only $325/month.  It is walking distance to restaurants, movies, the public library, shopping, gyms and more.  On Saturdays, the Burbank Farmers Market is right across the street.  It will be open for brokers on Thursday and open for the public from 1:00 to 4:00 on Sunday. Check out more pics and details at www.427orange308.com.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Local home prices jump and sales fall. Yes, again. Or still.

L.A. Times sez: the shortage of available homes for sale here in Los Angeles has caused housing prices to jump.  See the article here.  The same number of buyers chasing limited choices tends to bid up prices, of course.  When will there be more inventory and when will the rise in prices end? According to the article, it won't be this year.  Home prices are expected to rise about 4% by year's end. Photo credit: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

FHA loans will be a little more expensive on Monday than they were on Friday

In case you didn't know, you can get a fixed-rate mortgage with less than 20% down. You can even get a conventional, 30-year loan up to about $636,000 for as little as 5% down.  Most of these loans are guaranteed by the Federal Housing Administration, or FHA, which we also refer to as Fannie Mae.  The catch is, and always has been, that you need mortgage insurance if you are putting down less than 20% -- and that can add a lot of money to your monthly payment.

The good news was that the mortgage insurance rate was reduced recently, which means a significant savings for home buyers.  But that was last week.  The bad news is that the new administration's Housing and Urban Development Department raised the insurance rate back up to where it was yesterday.😭This erases a savings of about $1500 annually for FHA buyers in L.A.  Read about it here from today's L.A. Times.

Thursday, January 05, 2017

And if that wasn't enough...a new price for the new year

5544 Ventura Canyon in Sherman Oaks is now listed at $888,000! This splendid re-do features four beds, 3 baths, all the bells and whistles, and is in a fab neighborhood.  I will be holding it open Friday from 11 to 2 and again on Sunday, the 8th, from 1 to 4 pm.  More details can be found in my previous post and at JudyGraff.com.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Open Friday and Sunday - 5544 Ventura Canyon, Sherman Oaks

Happy New Year! Need a redone, sexy 4 bedroom, 3 bath home in a fab neighborhood? For $909,000? Come visit me on Friday the 6th from 11 to 2 or Sunday the 8th from 1 to 4 at 5544 Ventura Canyon in S.O. With inspired finishes throughout, the home features an open plan with European Oak engineered wood floors, dining room, and a gourmet kitchen with quartz countertops, custom cabinets and Viking stainless steel appliances.  Rebuilt for today's living with upgrades including LED lighting, dual paned windows, new HVAC, new electric 200 amp panel, and a new roof. The spacious master suite has a customized walk in closet, and a luxurious bathroom with marble counter, double sinks, & an over sized shower.  Each bedroom has exquisite sliding glass doors.  Pretty, green backyard is a canvas for future projects or even a pool. I look forward to seeing you.