Monday, June 30, 2008

Foreclosure and homelessness

Many people who've been reading and posting on housing market blogs lately think that large numbers of foreclosures won't lead to serious social problems. The thinking seems to go, "If you're foreclosed on, no big deal because you can always rent." (Forget the kids' good schools and where the pets will live.) No-big-deal posters, here's an article for you. It's from AOL, and here's a quote:

"Nearly 61% of local and state homeless coalitions say they've seen a rise in homelessness since the foreclosure crisis began in 2007, according to a study released in April by the National Coalition for the Homeless. According to the study, which let respondents offer multiple replies when asked where they're headed once their property is foreclosed on, 76% of displaced homeowners and renters are moving in with relatives and friends. About 54% are moving to emergency shelters. About 40% are already on the streets. Nearly 61% of local and state homeless coalitions say they've seen a rise in homelessness since the foreclosure crisis began in 2007, according to a study released in April by the National Coalition for the Homeless. According to the study, which let respondents offer multiple replies when asked where they're headed once their property is foreclosed on, 76% of displaced homeowners and renters are moving in with relatives and friends. About 54% are moving to emergency shelters. About 40% are already on the streets."

Okay, you NBDs, if you think the government has no place in helping those whose homes are facing foreclosure, I think it's time for you to pony up and start contributing to homeless charities.

We have nothing to fear but fear itself...and high interest rates

Okay, in the grand scheme of things, my real estate world is pretty small. But in my experience: In the last week, three separate buyers of three separate properties got could feet about even making an offer. They're convinced that prices will go down, and are too afraid to buy now. I'm hearing this from every agent I work with.

And maybe there's good reason. Due to rising interest rates, another buyer client couple that I work with will be paying $500 more a month on the same mortgage amount that they would have paid in April, even though their own financial picture hasn't changed. Yikes.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Did you see me on the news last night?

If you saw Fox 11 news at 10 last night, or the Channel 13 news at 11, you saw an interview with me about the Countrywide lawsuit. I received a call from a reporter yesterday afternoon regarding this, and they met me at an early evening showing. I was quoted as saying that Countrywide gave away loans like candy, and anybody who could fog a mirror could get a loan. I also said that while Countrywide is the biggest mortgage lender who engaged in dubious loan practices, they were certainly not the only ones. I said more but it was edited down to sound bites, of course.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Your house hasn't sold? Maybe that's because it hasn't been shown.

If you are selling your home in the current market, you’ve probably spent lots of time and money getting your house in top condition. But if you have your agent conducting showings for you instead of installing a lockbox, you are not helping your sale.

As part of their services, most listing agent/Realtors in high-end areas set up appointments with buyers’ Realtors and their clients and then meet them at the property. However, it has been harder and harder to get showing appointments lately.

I’ve recently encountered the following:

  • In trying to schedule showings of five properties with a day’s notice, only two appointments could be arranged;
  • I had to call one agent five times to get one return call for a showing appointment.
  • One agent insisted that we meet her at precisely 3:00 pm. While we were there at 3:00, she was 10 minutes late, announced that we only had 20 minutes to see the house, and had scheduled two other showings at the same time.

I could go on, but you get it.

In my opinion, there are only two reasons that a lockbox shouldn’t be installed: 1) if uncontrollable pets are home alone; and 2) if children are home alone. All valuables and collectibles should be removed from premises prior to showing. That’s just common sense.

Electronic lockboxes and key pads are safe and reliable – only licensed agents have them, and they all have a pin code that must be input each time one is opened. Identity of an entrant can be easily, quickly tracked on line. An agent can call the listing agent or occupant to say they will be showing the house at a particular time, and then go to see the property directly. So if you’re a seller, do yourself a favor and have your Realtor install an electronic lockbox. Your number of showings will definitely increase. And the more showings you have, the sooner you’re likely to be in escrow.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Readying a house for sale

From the "Maybe if you don't believe me you'll believe it if you read it in the LAT" Dept.: Here's yet more Sunday reading from the LAT regarding readying a house for sale. While I think the "door" example is a little extreme, this is terrific, accurate information that helps homes sell faster and for more money.

FHA may shut down "gift" programs

For your Sunday reading pleasure, here's an article from today's L.A. Times regarding the charitable gift "programs" that allow sellers to give a lot of money back to buyers. The way it works is this: a seller contributes up to 6% of the sales price to the organization like Nehemiah, which is set up as a charity. Then, for a fee, the charity gives it back to the buyer as a grant for their home. There are restrictions on both sides, of course -- but I've often wondered why this isn't looked upon as money laundering. So this comes as no surprise to me.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

New listing at 13523 Bessemer, Valley Glen

I've just listed 13523 Bessemer in Valley Glen. I hope to have pictures and details up on the regular website later today. This great 3+2, 2000+sf has been immaculately maintained and features one of the nicest kitchens I've seen, which opens to a vaulted-ceiling den. There are gorgeous hardwood floors, updated bathrooms, new custom paint, a spa, and lots of upgrades. List price is $659,000.

And, the sellers of 934 N. Avon (see below) in Burbank have accepted an offer. We'll open escrow tomorrow. Plus, 848 Idlewood in Glendale is closing next week.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Another explanation of how it all happened -- population estimates were very inflated

For your Sunday reading, here's an article from the Arizona Republic (I'm in Phoenix). This is a fascinating look at how a government's own statisticians can be way off the mark in estimating future populations, and the serious consequences those predictions can have. It looks at the community of Buckeye, which was a hell hole and not even a suburb yet when I grew up in Phoenix. Somehow, however, the estimators predicted that this place would have a population of 2 million by 2030, and it began to grow accordingly. Now, it's ground zero for the foreclosure bomb (although I have to say, the other vast suburban metro areas of Phoenix don't appear to be hit that hard at all).

Friday, June 13, 2008

The Short Sale Process

There's a very good article about short sales in It will be in the Sunday LAT as well. Here's the link. Keep in mind, the banks lose more if they foreclose than if they allow a short sale. They have to manage the property, pay the costs of the sale, keep the insurance up, etc.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Don't open the champagne yet, but pending sales are on the rise

Let's not get too excited yet, but today's L.A. Times reports that pending sales rose last month. Here's the link to the story. The numbers are national, not local, but that would dovetail with what I've been seeing. Increased lending equals increased home buyers, equals increased sales. The end of the article contains a quote from L. Yun, the spokesperson for National Association of Realtors. I'm not sure he's right about a rebound in 2010, but let's dare to dream.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Another great open house

Attendance was terrific as yesterday's open house. See below for a picture and details about 934 N. Avon. I was a little nervous beforehand due to our gloomy economic news on gas and food prices, but attendance was actually better than it was at the first open house I held on Avon. It was actually even better than the usual attendance at open houses during the "boom" years. Once again, the majority of buyers were young couples with kids. No surprise, since this home is on the same street as Roosevelt Elementary, an outstanding public school. But did the house sell? Stay tuned...

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Open house in great school district

If you've read any of my blog posts, here or elsewhere, you know how important good public schools are to a neighborhood's real estate market stability and a particular home's desireability. If you're looking for outstanding public schools, come see 934 N. Avon in Burbank. It will be open on Sunday, June 8, from 2:00 to 5:00. You can check the latest API ratings on my regular site on the public and private school page. Roosevelt Elementary, just down the street, posted APIs of 850.

This gorgeous tudor features 4 bedrooms, 2.5 baths, 1647 square feet, lots and lots of updates including a remodeled kitchen, dual zone a/c, all copper plumbing, newer electrical, newer windows, etc. It is listed at $729,000. You can find more pictures and info on my website, or call me for more info. I hope to see you on Sunday.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

A little glamour here...

No, I have nothing to do with Britney Spears' real estate (how lucky could a little Realtor-from-the-Valley schmo get?). But for those of you that bemoan the lack of celebrity stuff on this blog, please check out "10 Most Beautiful, Unique and Amazing Celebrity Homes" here. This was sent to me by a new site, International Listings, or What do you think?

Monday, June 02, 2008


Update June 12: This little guy/lady (or someone that looked just like him/her) was scampering across the top of my patio fence last night. I love urban wildlife.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

My Downtown Trip

The husband and I spent two days at the L.A. Convention Center this weekend. The occasion was Book Expo America, the annual publishing business trade show convention. It rotates cities (NYC, D.C., LA, Vegas) every year and this year was L.A.'s turn.

This was my second BEA convention and my first trip to the L.A. convention center in many years. The crowd seemed to be about half that the NYC BEA had last year, and I'm told that NYC publishing industry people don't like to come to L.A. because of the vast distances, lack of public transport, etc. For me, I think the Convention Center has a really confusing layout. And believe it or not, it needs more Starbucks and eating options.

I worked downtown for many years and really enjoyed the area even before it was gentrified. It has truly changed since then and I can sorta see what attracts people to expensive lofts. What is still missing, though, seems to be essential services: drug stores, grocery stores (I didn't see the new Ralphs), dry cleaners, street parking, mechanics. Are they out there?