Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Burbank City's Response

In response to my query about the monster-sized house (see post below), here's the response I received from Burbank city senior planner Patrick Prescott: "I did not receive the photos you attached, but I have spoken with Tom Zartl and reviewed the plans for 1053 East Elmwood. The home in question is built at a four foot side yard setback. This setback meets the minimum requirement for side yards, which is 10% of the width of the lot. The average width of the lot is 45 feet; therefore, the required side yard setback is four feet. The lot size is 12,940 square feet and the floor area (including the 34 square foot portion of the garage over 600 square feet) is 5,162 square feet. The floor area ratio for this property is 40%, which is the maximum lot coverage allowed. The maximum height in the R1 zone is 30 feet. The highest point of the home at 1053 East Elmwood is 29’-10”, which complies with code." I still say this violates the spirit, if not the letter, of the anti-mansionization codes.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Just in Time for Halloween: a Monster (-Sized) House!

It's a Walmart!...It's an apartment building!...no, it's the side and front views of a single family home being built smack in the middle of a residential street in Burbank. How did something this big make it past Burbank City's Planning Department or the permitting people? And what's become of our vaunted anti-mansionization laws? How'd the builder manage to encroach on the neighbor's property? Are Burbank lots subdividable after all? If you know the answers to any of these questions, please blog back.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Housing Price Article (I'm Quoted) From Burbank Leader

This appeared in the Burbank Leader on 10/20/07. A disclaimer about the stats: I read these off the mls, and encouraged the reporter to check them with Dataquick, the data service for the real estate industry. I don't think he did. Even though this is for Burbank, it pretty much reflects what we're seeing all over L.A.
Housing prices take a fall
Average price of a single-family home in Burbank in September was $658,000, compared with $692,000 in August.
By Jeremy ObersteinBURBANK — The average price for a single-family home in Burbank dropped almost 5% from August to September, and the number of residences listed on the open market in the same period increased almost 50%, according to the National Assn. of Realtors.“There’s a decline, no doubt about it,” said Judy Graff, a broker in Burbank.The average asking price for a single-family home in August was about $692,000 and about $658,000 in September, she said.In August, 229 properties were listed on the open market, while 336 homes and condos were listed by Sept. 30, she said.Graff tied the decrease in housing prices and increase in homes for sale to the credit crunch by which many Americans have felt squeezed.
“There’s a credit crisis in this country,” she said. “Up to 40% of people who were able to get loans back in July can’t get loans anymore.”The robust housing market of the 1990s and early 2000s, in which potential home buyers could easily secure a loan, seem to be a distant memory, said Ken Fears, an economist with the National Assn. of Realtors.“The housing boom [lasted] from 1998 to spring 2005,” he said. “The housing market has been slowing down since then and, since July 2007, home sale prices have sharply decreased.”That has directly affected Burbank residents, Graff said.“It used to be that if you could fog a mirror, you could get a loan,” she said. “Now, lenders want to see a 10% down payment and excellent credit scores. If the median price of a single-family home is $700,000, you would need to have $70,000 sitting in the bank. How many young couples have that kind of money?”The decrease in sales can be tied to the fallout in the mortgage-backed securities market, which specifically affects Burbank, Fears said.“What hurts Burbank is the lack of financing in the jumbo market, defined as any loan over $417,000,” he said. “Mortgage-backed securities stopped buying jumbo market loans, driving prices up and causing more homes to be listed on the open market.”As a result of loan defaults, many homes are staying on the market longer than anticipated, Graff said.“We have 11 months’ worth of inventory on the market,” she said. “Homes are staying on the market for a much longer period of time. What it comes down to is, there are less transactions now.”However, Fears does not expect the damaged jumbo market to be down for too long, nor does he believe the credit crunch will drive a national recession.“In terms of the jumbo market, it could be back within months. I’m not too worried,” he said. “The underlying economy is doing very well. Now, the [lending problem] is caused by increased interest rates. It’s a good economic backdrop for this painful housing market.”The problem remains prevalent in Burbank but may not be an impediment to ownership for all, Burbank Assistant City Manager Mike Flad said.“Cost of housing is one of our largest obstacles,” he said. “But the cooling-off is a plus for some who can enter the market with lower prices.”
 JEREMY OBERSTEIN covers City Hall and public safety. He may be reached at (818) 637-3242 or by e-mail at jeremy.oberstein@latimes.com.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Refi Info & Taxes

From Peter Viles' LA Land, the L.A. Times real estate blog:
A question about refinancing
This is one of those posts where we seek your wisdom and guidance, so pay attention, please.
We were reading the transcript of the President's news conference today, and noticed this quote: "...we need to change the tax laws. You're disadvantaged if you refinance your home. It creates a tax liability. And if we want people staying in their homes, then it seems like to me we got to change the tax code. That's why I talked to Senator Stabenow the other day and thanked her for her sponsorship of an important piece of tax legislation that will enable people to more likely stay in their homes."
Our first, knee-jerk response was this: The president is more clueless than ever -- There's no tax disadvantage in refinancing! What's he talking about? And doesn't he know that the Stabenow tax relief bill is not about keeping your house? It's about selling it at a loss and not owing income tax on the amount of your loan that is forgiven? This is about avoiding taxes on short sales; it's about selling your house, not keeping it.
But then we looked at the Stabenow proposal, and found that the President might be right. In some cases, it would help homeowners avoid owing taxes when they refinance -- in a scenario we haven't heard much about: "... if a family owns a home with a $100,000 mortgage and can’t afford to make their payments, the bank can step in and refinance the house at a lower value to better reflect the decreased market value. Under current law, if the bank values the home at $80,000, the family would have to pay taxes on the $20,000 difference between the new and the original mortgages."
I echo what Peter had to say. It is not well known (because it hasn't happened in years) that refi-ing for a lower rate (as if the banks will jump on this as a solution) creates a "debt forgiveness" for the homeowner.

Monday, October 15, 2007

More Bubble News & Local Stuff, too

For those of you who are interested in news and stats about declining r.e. prices (and who isn't?), here's another blog: Bubbletracking.com. This is great for the blog roll, too. Anecdotal flipside: I've heard about two multiple offer situations in the last three days. Apparently, both properties were really terrific and really well priced for the current market.


Okay, so it's true, but not so bad. We've got 'em for 3 more years. And the property is to be sold to media companies. For a second, I was worried that there might be a huge expansion of Forest Lawn or another Grove-type mall coming to those 34 acres.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


From La.Curbed.com, 10/10/07:
Rumor Mill: NBC Going to NOHO???
Wednesday, October 10, 2007, by jwilliams
We're just saying. An insider emails: "The NBC studios in Burbank will be relocating to NOHO and their studios' site will be placed on the market." Rumor confirmation and development ideas for the soon to be vacant Burbank studios welcome.
UPDATE, 4:19 PM PST: A second trusted insider emails us confirming the rumor: "It's true." Good news for Los Angeles and all the tax revenue to be generated. Maybe the City can finally afford to build some more subways and stuff.
UPDATE, 5:26 PM PST: More info on where in NOHO/Universal City the NBC project will go here.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Pirates of the Burbankean

Aaargh! And you thought Burbank was dull. Here are shots of a full-scale pirate ship that a local property owner (Captain Hook? Captain Jack Sparrow?) on Angeleno has built in his backyard. The pictures barely capture the amazing detail. This was built probably to plunder other ships from the Burbank Maritime Provinces. Thanks, Lily, Mark and Sue!

Smokey the Burbank Bear

Among Burbank's other distinctive architecture: here's a picture of a bear statute in front of a house on Tufts. The house is very nice and very lodge-y; kudos go to the owners for anti-suburbia style. Plus, I'll bet the bear keeps the local deer from eating the plants!