Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Taste Burbank, er, Chicago

I was thrilled to note that today's L.A. Times' food section listed Burbank's own Taste Chicago in their list of the most excellent hot dog stands in the L.A. area. The deep-dish pizza is pretty excellent, too. LAT says, "The excellent balance of elements makes this the most satisfying Chicago dog around."

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Listing news - Coming soon and update

Update to the update: the price on Idlewood has been reduced to $585,000 as of May 1!
Update on 848 Idlewood in northwest Glendale: this house is all spiffed up and shows really well. If you saw it before, you may want to see it again. Here are the details: 3 beds, 2 baths, living room with fireplace, dining room with fireplace, den, a/c, hardwood floors and new carpet, big galley kitchen, almost 1800 sf., offered at $620,000.

Coming soon in Magnolia Park: a rare (for MP) four bedroom, 2-1/2 bath remodeled Tudor, redone kitchen and baths, separate dining room, office in garage, fabulous floor plan, vintage charm plus contemporary updates, gorgeous landscaping and more. It will be offered at $749,000 and should be available to show by May 5. Pictures will be coming soon.

Sunday Morning Reading from the New York Times

Our favorite Republican business columnist, Ben Stein, has another great article in today's New York Times (the title should link, but if it doesn't, here's another link here.) For those of us who have wondered exactly how this credit crisis could happen, Ben spells it out by quoting investor David Einhorn extensively. One of Ben's quotes about Wall Street: "It looks to me as if the inmates are running the asylum. One truth, that deregulation is sometimes a good thing, has been followed down so long and winding a road that it has led to an immense lie: that deregulation carried to an extreme will not lead to calamity." You tell them, Ben.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Swat Team on San Jose - Update

Update 4/30/2008: This is hearsay, but a coworker says it was a gang-related shooting. Great. And Burbank P.D. doesn't want to publicize it, because they don't want even MORE gangs here. It's 3:00 pm, and San Jose from Glenoaks to 6th is blocked off. A Burbank PD swat team is assembling, and there appears to be a covered up body in the road. Anybody know what's happening?

Friday, April 25, 2008

Beam Us to Aroma for More Celebrity Sightings

Everybody's favorite ironist and space ship captain, William Shatner, was spotted at Aroma the other day. Aroma, in Tujunga Village is one of the best coffee places/cafes around and is profiled on my "Best of Studio City" page on my regular website. It goes without saying that WS knows what's cool.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

L.A. county foreclosures by zipcode

What we've all been waiting for. You can now search for the number of foreclosures per county zipcode, thanks to the L.A. Times. This link will give you monthly statistics, but won't give you actual addresses. Thanks, Peter Viles of LALand! Okay, so I just checked my zipcode. There were four foreclosures at this time last year, and now there are eleven. Out of 8700+ properties. I read all the bad foreclosure news, too, and expected a much greater number based on what I've read. Just goes to show that all real estate stats, like politics, are local.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

New Loan Restrictions on New Condo Complexes

This is a rumor, but if it's true, it's not so great news for condo developers: As of May 1, Countrywide will not fund any purchase money loans for condos in developments that aren't at least already 50% sold. For example, if you'd like to buy a condo in a new development with, say, 40 units, at least 20 units need to be already sold for you to get a loan from Countrywide. Okay, you may not want a loan from Countrywide (who would?) but this is just another restriction on your choice of lenders. And if Countrywide is going this way, expect the rest of the lending industry to follow.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Rising Rents - Just as I Predicted

Here's another side effect to the foreclosure crisis -- the cost of rentals is rising. Check an AOL article here. As more people lose their homes and have to rent, and as more renters wait for home prices to drop, rental unit inventory drops and rental rates rise. The statistics are frightening: a prediction of 5% rise overall, with some markets, like San Francisco, going up much, much more.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Difficult Loans for 2nd Properties

Mortgage loans are still hard to get. I won't name names or give addresses here, but an escrow of mine just bombed. The buyer already owns a home and wants to downsize. He was in escrow on a smaller house and planned on renting out the house he currently owns and occupies. The underwriter didn't like that somebody who wasn't retired wanted to downsize without selling, and would only approve the purchase as investment property.

So what's the problem? Investment property requires a down payment of more than 20%. My buyer had 20%, but not more. And the interest rate was higher. Bye bye escrow. While my buyer is pretty philosophical, the people who are really hurt here are the sellers. They are not in good health and were counting on the sale proceeds for help.

Good News - Cheap Ice Cream!

How much better can it get?! 31 cent scoop night is back at the Burbank, Toluca Lake and Studio City stores (and all stores nationwide) Baskin-Robbins stores on April 30 from 5:00 to 10:00 pm. Is this promotion a sign of a recession? Isn't ice cream a steady seller during both good and bad economic times? Who knows! Who cares! At this price, get two scoops and worry later about the calories.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

The World Is Your Litter Box

Happy Passover, humans. This isn’t about real estate but I hope you’ll indulge me anyway. Here’s the cover of my husband’s cat’s new book, The World Is Your Litter Box. It was written by Quasi with minor help from (husband) Steve Fisher and is a wildly funny how-to manual for cats. While it is all-age appropriate, it's not a kids' book. Published by Sterling, it’ll be out May 6, but we received an advance copy yesterday and we’re thrilled. I’ll post book signings as they are scheduled but the first is at the Encino Barnes & Noble on June 12.

The link to the book’s website is above, and Quasi’s blog is Cat blogs are more fun than real estate blogs, if you can believe it. The latest post is the cats’ story of Passover, which is referred to by cats as Purrover.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Elmwood Finally Closed

Finally! After six months and seven offers, 1047 E. Elmwood in Burbank finally closed. It had been listed at $849,000 and the sale price is $800,000. It's a two bedroom, one bath with a redone kitchen and guest house. What made it so desireable? The flat, buildable 15,000+ square foot lot.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Good Articles from Sunday's New York Times

Here are links to a couple of good real estate articles in today's (April 13) New York Times Business Section. The first, by columnist Gretchen Morgenson, is entitled "So You Thought You Had an Equity Line" and is about the increasing bank freezes of home equity lines of credit . Yikes. The second is from sometime-tv-star Ben Stein (see my post on him from February), and is yet another call -- from a Republican, no less -- for more regulation of the financial markets.

Coyote Sighting

We've heard over and over that urban wildlife is getting bolder and less afraid of humans. Here's more evidence. On Friday, at 10:30 in the a.m., I saw a very healthy-looking coyote galloping down Kenneth towards Alameda. That's pretty far into human territory. That's pretty late in the day, too -- usually they're hiding after dawn. He/she was making no attempt to hide, either. Please keep your kitties indoors.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Another Distinguished School in Burbank!

Joaquin Miller Elementary here in Burbank has been named a California Distinguished School for 2008, after a rigorous, months-long application and assessment process. Read the Burbank Leader article here. This is huge -- now all of Burbank's elementary, middle and high schools have received the award at one time or another. This is another reason that Burbank rocks as a community and a good place to live. For you folks without children (and I'm one), a community with good schools is still a preferred place to live because good schools tend to keep an area, its housing stock, and values more stable.

Friday, April 11, 2008

More graven animal images in Burbank -- this elephant guards a bar

What we've all been waiting for...more graven animal statues in Burbank! This elephant guards the alley entrance of a cool bar in Burbank called The Blue Room. Note that he's ready to fire his gun at any wrong-doers. I don't know what the hoop in the other 'hand' signifies...perhaps something having to do with a sobriety test? And he only has one tusk. But considering this is an all-drinking-ages bar is peaceable, I don't think he'll need more than one. The Blue Room is located on San Fernando just above Alameda, and is the coolest tavern in Burbank now that Bar 21 is closed.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

NOT another point-of-sale mandate!

If you have bought or sold a home lately, you know that there are many closing costs. They're about 3% for the buyer, and can go up to 8% for the seller. The seller's costs include mandatory retrofit requirements. The city of L.A. also collects $4.50 per thousand of profit (although Burbank and Glendale don't) as a city tax. Now here comes another expense.
I’m all for energy efficiency. But Cal State Assembly Bill AB 2678, among other things, requires that ALL homes and commercial property in California have a $400 energy audit at point-of-sale – before your escrow closes -- and that mandatory energy efficiency investments be made. If enacted, AB 2678 could add thousands of dollars to the cost of purchasing a home, including the aforementioned $400 just to have a home “audited.” AB 2678 will be considered by the Assembly Utilities and Commerce committee on Monday, April 14th.

While point of sale mandates are always well intentioned, they are ineffective because they only apply to a small portion of the housing stock that changes hands every year. Not to mention the hurt put on sellers who may be stretched very thin as it is. Not to sound like a conservative, but why can’t we accomplish the same through property-tax credits?

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Trials and tribs of being a 1st-time L.A. home buyer

I've recently started to read Milla's blog. She came to my attention as a poster on LALand, and she just bought her first home in Highland Park (that's it, above). If you want to know (or remember) what it's like to go through that first-time buyer experience (again), her post offers a really intimate look at the process and her emotions. Plus, it's well-written, heart-felt, and funny, too. So much so that I've put one of her posts, in its entirety, on my short sales and foreclosures page on my website at

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

WaMu takes its business to another level -- and it's not good

Washington Mutual announced today that it would no longer make wholesale loans. What does that mean? A regular broker can no longer get a buyer a deal through WaMu. If you want a WaMu loan, you must go to a WaMu office. This is just another way that consumer choice is being eroded now in our new lending "climate."

$1.25 Tacos Rock!

Another reason Burbank is a superior community: Barragan's Mexican Restaurant has a $1.25/taco special on Monday nights in its bar. You have a choice of chicken or beef, you can add guacamole, it's a la carte, and they're great! Good margaritas, too. Barragans is located at 730 N. Victory in Burbank. Get there early for parking and a table -- this place is popular.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Sales Prices Over List Prices in Burbank

Is the market here in the Valley coming back? Or reverting to its old self now that loans are a little easier to get? The bottom picture is 428 N. Orchard in Burbank. It's a 3+2, 1400+sf, and was on the market for 7 days. It listed at $505,000 and sold above that price at $521,000. The top right house is at 2301 Chandler. It's a 2+1, 1364 sf, and has kind of a funky floor plan. Plus, it's on Chandler, which people either love or hate. Nevertheless, it was listed at $499,000, and sold in 9 days for $511,000. The left house is at 435 Stanford and is 3+4, 1943 sf., and no, it hasn't sold yet. But it's in escrow after only 3 days on the market.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

The New York Times Explains Proposed Govt Housing Help

There's an excellent article on the front page of today's New York Times about proposed government help for homeowners. I'm not sure if the eblogger link is working, so here it is again here. There's also another article titled "A Plan to Prevent Foreclosures" which explains how it might work. Here's something from the main article which should make everybody happy:
"Advocates say that the program would help owners keep only the home they live in, not vacation or investment property, and no taxpayer money would be used to pay down mortgages."
My reading is that the plan would force lenders to take huge write-downs on existing loans. Since the lenders got us into this with free money, I think it's fair that the lenders get us out of this, too.

Friday, April 04, 2008

And We Thought Flipping Was Over -- Not in Hollywood Hills

Here are two pictures of 2269 Canyon Dr., above Franklin in the Hollywood Hills. I listed the red brick one in June of 2006 for $1,299,900. As you can see, it's a pretty lovely Georgian with 2,578 sq. ft. (big for neighborhood), pool (rare for neighborhood) and it was splendidly maintained. Still, it took a long time to sell and finally closed in December of 2006 for $1,050,000.

Cut to now, a year and three months later. The house has had a re-do, the brick has been painted yellow, and it looks far more "New Orleans." It is back on the (declining) market at $1,399,000. Yes, the new owners did completely remodel the kitchen. From the pictures, it appears that the pool and deck were re-done. I'm sure there were other changes, but those are the major ones. No square footage was added. Yes, it has been nicely decorated, although it was nicely decorated before. But this is a price increase of $350,000 or over 30%! I wish the new sellers luck. I think they may need it.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Senior Care, The Housing Market, and the Law of Unintended Consequences

I've been thinking about the following since I returned from Phoenix. Arizona seems to have senior citizen care down. Lots and lots of independent living places, assisted living places, and senior group homes. Which got me thinking: hasn't the explosive growth in senior housing been largely fueled by the rise in home equity? That's how most seniors are paying for their care-based living arrangements, yes? From the (huge) profit they make when they sell the family home? For example, Belmont in Burbank charges (I think) a minimum of $5,000 a month. A care facility can easily cost much more. So, what happens to our seniors and their living arrangements when home equity takes a dive and they no longer have the ability to pay? I think we are going to see many changes in the senior housing industry, and they won't be good.