Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Waiting for a $300k house in the Burbank area? You might have to wait awhile.

If you're waiting to buy a Burbank home that's selling for 40% less than last year's median price, you might have a long wait. There was a flurry of sales activity in the area over the last few weeks, and just about all of the decent stuff is gone. Examples:

The top left home is 1910 Bonita. It's a 3+2, 1950 sf., 6136 sf lot, remodeled with guest house. It listed at $569,000 and went into escrow a few days later after having multiple offers.

The center home is 530 Cambridge. It's a 2136 sf., 5+2, 7400 sf lot home in the Jefferson school district. It listed at $679,000 and went into escrow a few days later after having multiple offers.

The bottom home is 1024 E. Orange Grove. It's a 3+2, 1153 sf, 7750 sf lot home that listed for $579,000 and yes, it went into escrow a few days after listing with multiple offers.

Those aren't the only ones that sold really quickly in December, but I got tired of cutting and pasting. Are there also single family homes for $300,000 that I'm not including? Not that I know of -- it seems like the $450k-$650k is the going price for a local homes below 2000 sf. Has the area reached it's "price discovery?" Are increased sales due to a dearth of listings? Have the lower interest rates made a difference? Will we continue to see prices decline? What do you think?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Happy Holidays!

There will be no posts here for a few days. I hope you and yours have a merry and happy.

Monday, December 22, 2008

NBC wants news

Earlier today, I received a call from an NBC Nightly News producer. He was looking for a Realtor whose business has increased since the recent mortgage interest rate cuts. He wanted to interview me and clients of mine who are now hot on the trail to buy a new home since rates have gone down.
Problem: most of my buyer clients are still too scared to make a move right now, regardless of the low interest rates. The one couple I have that are eager to buy now 1) has already written an offer on a short sale and 2) are leaving for a month in India tomorrow.
I'm hoping that my buyer clients will feel differently after the new year -- these rates are pretty spectacular. I'm also hoping that housing inventory will rise -- right now, if a home in my area is priced well, it sells right away.
On another topic, how about this old-school NBC logo?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Moritorium on evictions following foreclosures

The L.A. City Council just approved a new law that puts a one-year moritorium on banks evicting tenants when they foreclose apartment buildings and houses used as rental properties. The law was proposed after Countrywide pressured tenants in foreclosed apartments to leave their units in violation of L.A.'s tenant protection rules (which, yes, are labyrinth, but generally give tenants 60 days to vacate. Most people, including L.A. landlords, agree this is fair). Apparently, the law was proposed after the banks complained that they did not understand that tenant protections applied to them. Well, of course the poor banks didn't understand. Why, oh why, should normal laws EVER apply to the banks?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Santa comes to mortgage holders

You've probably heard this more in the past few days than The Little Drummer Boy: it might be time to buy or refinance, because mortgage interest rates are going D-O-W-N. There are predictions that the rates will go to 4.5%, and lender Dana actually had a rate last Friday below 5%.

For both buyers and re-fi'ers, you'll need to qualify and the loan can't be over $625,000. For re-fi'ers, you'll need equity in your home.

Here are the questions to contemplate if you're contemplating refinancing: First, how much will it cost me to refinance? Many banks and most lenders will charge closing costs. Second question: how much will I save by doing this? Obviously, if you already have a 5.125% 30-year fixed interest rate, you'll definitely want to hold off on refinancing until rates go to 4.5%. However, if you're paying over 6%, it might be worthwhile to start the process now.

I will be attempting to refinance my own mortgage later this week with Bank of America; I'll blog about how it goes.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Board-ups in Burbank

Rumor has it that the Von's on San Fernando in Burbank will be closing soon. It was kind of crummy, but now the only grocery store for the area will be the kind-of-crummy Ralph's across the street. No word on what might go into the space. So, at least for awhile, there will be more parking for Zankou Chicken.

And while Kohl's has made a deal to take over a lot of empty Mervyn's, the Burbank Mall Mervyn's isn't one of them. So, soon, Burbank is going to be awash in giant, empty retail spaces. Do you think the Burbank City Fathers and Mothers could persuade Whole Foods to give Burbank another try? Or should these spaces just all lease out to Korean and Armenian churches? I'm kind of worried that all of these board-ups will lead to blight.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Answer to condo/loft glut: lease 'em, don't buy 'em

Here's an article in today's LAT that says many of the recently rehabbed condo/loft building developers are now leasing their units because they have been unable to sell them in the current market. You don't say. The article says it is happening in downtown L.A. and to a lesser extent, Hollywood and the SFV. Wow. What a surprise. I have been wondering for a long time when this trend was going to end -- this is not a city like NY or San Fran where mixed-use happened because there was no other kind of use -- people have tended to live where they worked in those cities because, well, for many decades there was no other viable place to live or way to get to other housing. They didn't move downtown from the suburbs because for many decades, there were no suburbs. Our current move-into-an-urban-area-from-the-burbs trend is the reverse of what has occurred in the past.

While I think urban living is a fabulous idea for many, I also think the market for buyers has been more limited here due to there being no schools and few essential services (grocery stores) available anywhere close to the condo/loft communities.

And this trend also tells me that developers, inspite of whatever research they may do, are as susceptible to fads as anybody else.

But hey, if I was 25 and had lots of money, I bet a downtown loft would be a really cool place to live!

Monday, December 08, 2008

CSI: Real estate and private mortgage insurance

For many years, buyers who put less than 20% down on a home have had to pay private mortgage insurance. This is a percentage fee, tacked on to a monthly mortgage, that protects the lender against default on the loan. The loans are insured. And "pmi" isn't inexpensive for the borrower.
I'm sure this has occurred to many of you before this, but: if there was so much insurance on mortgage loans, why are lenders in such trouble from all the defaults? Where did this insurance money go? Who collected it? Where is it now? Why hasn't it helped stabilize the real estate market? Does anybody know?

Thursday, December 04, 2008

4.5% interest rate? Believe it.

Today, rates for conforming loans dipped under 5%. Experts say the interest rates may go as low as 4.5%. This is the lowest rates have been since I've been in real estate.

This is great news for buyers, and also great news for home owners: If this happens, refinancing may save you a lot of money. Caveat: you have to have equity in your home, and otherwise qualify.

I'm sure you know this, but the questions to ask your lender are: 1) how much will it cost to refinance? and 2) how much will you save on your mortgage payments per month if you can get this low rate.

I hope this is helpful. Of course, please let me know if you'd like a referral to a great lender.

Open Saturday, 12/6, 1-4 pm: 1321 Virginia, Glendale

I'll be holding 1321 Virginia in Glendale open this Saturday, December 6, from 1 to 4 pm. Yes, it is this gorgeous. You can see more pictures on the "Featured Listings" page of my website at www.judygraff.com. Here are the details: 3 beds, 2 baths, guest house with 3/4 bath, pool, spa, 1825 sf house, 14616 sf. lot (yes!), a/c, gorgeous hardwood floors, big kitchen, fireplace and more.

Here's the mls description: Gorgeous Spanish home in Northwest Glendale! This home has it all - 3 large bedrooms with crown molding, remodeled bath with dual vanity, distressed hardwood floor and recessed lighting, open living room with dramatic fireplace and coved ceiling, formal dining room with stain-glass window and coffered ceiling, lovely tiled floors in kitchen and breakfast room. Other amenities include a guest house, pool and spa, awesome covered patio overlooking the grounds, and the list goes on and on. Due to the sellers circumstances, this is a short sale listing and all terms and conditions are subject to lender approval.

Yes, it's a short sale. No, the family isn't buying it back (see below). It is listed at $879,000. Please stop by and see me!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Toluca Lake Holiday Open House

This year's Toluca Lake Holiday Open House takes place Friday, December 5, from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. All of the Riverside Drive merchants will be open and spreading lots of holiday cheer. If you haven't been to this event before, it's a blast, it's free and it's fun for the whole family.

I will be at Tamara Dahill's Salon along with husband Steve Fisher, who will be signing copies of his book, The World is Your Litter Box. Please stop by and say hello if you're in the neighborhood.

Short sale scam

Maybe I'm naive, but I just heard about this short-sale scam yesterday. Apparently, here's how it works. A seller lists his home for a short sale price. The buyer is a relative with a different last name -- so as far as the bank knows, it is certainly an arms-length transaction. The seller goes on living in the property after close of escrow, making much lower payments, through the relative on title, on the same house. The lender is none the wiser.

There is also subtle discouragement of other buyers and showings in order to further the scam. For example, the property is listed on the wrong mls, it is never available for showings, a potential buyer is told that there are so many offers in that the seller and bank will not look at any more, etc.

The vast majority of short sales are legit. But if a buyer you know encounters a difficult-to-see-buy short sale home, this kind of scam may be going on.

No wonder so many lenders are just not responding to short sales and just going ahead and foreclosing.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

"What is your tolerance for loss?" and a bright note

It should come as no surprise that many sellers are still quite unrealistic about what their houses are worth in the current market. Even sellers who will soon be short sellers. Our manager suggests that we ask prospective sellers who want to list high: "What is your tolerance for loss?" See, not just risk, but loss. And who says the brokerage managers aren't realistic? Okay, our manager also wants us to cold call and door-knock for new business, but still. On a brighter note, interest rates are down again and some believe they may dip below 5%!.