Thursday, April 30, 2009

Westlake Village, Thousand Oaks, El Segundo, La Canada...covering the waterfront 4 u

Yesterday I showed property in Westlake Village and Thousand Oaks. I haven't been out there in awhile, and I was delighted to find many very nice properties at real prices. And the two school districts there are outstanding. For example, the house pictured above, 3117 Rikkard in Thousand Oaks, is almost 2000 square feet with 3 beds and 3 baths. And it's listed at $568,800! Gosh, not to bash on Studio City, but that hardly will buy you a condo there! Everything I showed was nicely maintained, spacious, a decent price, and in a nice neighborhood. Okay, so the commute is hellish and some people have described the area as soul-less. I say it's a good option for home buyers, nevertheless.

I have been enjoying searching for homes in areas other than my usual territory. Last week I was in La Canada, and next week I'll be in El Segundo. And I plan to return to Westlake/Thousand Oaks, too. If you or somebody you know is looking in other areas, I'd be happy to help them with their real estate needs.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Worst. Showing. Ever.

Yesterday, I took buyers Laura and Mark to see the home pictured above. The address is 2945 N. Buena Vista in Burbank, it's a short sale listed at $545,000 and it has 3 bedrooms and 2 baths in 1604 square feet. I had previewed it a couple of weeks ago, and on Saturdday I set up the appointment to show it Sunday.

We walked into a mess. Junk everywhere. Loud tv blaring. Pit bull running through the house. And best of all, a naked body face down in a bed, screaming at us to "GET OUT!" No, the buyers did not like the house.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Why loan modifications aren't happening

Today's New York Times business section has an interesting column regarding why more loans aren't being modified. Check the story by Gretchen Morgenson here. In short, there are two reasons: fear of lawsuits from investors, and fear that servicers of loans will make out like bandits, while leaving the owners of the loans high and dry.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Pig surprise for new Burbank home owners

My buyer clients, Shane and Stephanie, recently closed their purchase of a house on Pass Avenue in Burbank. Yesterday, they learned from the neighbors that the house had previously been used as a Vietnamese pot-bellied pig rescue sanctuary! One of the previous owners kept anywhere from 15 to 20 pigs on the property at any time -- and kept it secret from the City of Burbank, too. Nice work. We wondered about a 1-foot deep hole dug in the backyard and what it had been used for. I'm now guessing that it was a pig wallow. While I am surprised, I'm always happy to know that some humans are kind enough to protect animals. And my clients are waiting for a stray pig to come to their door some day and ask for sanctuary.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Maybe we are crazy here in So. Cal. Or at least in La Canada.

I looked at property yesterday in La Canada. Some properties were lovely; some not so much. A couple of homes, such as the one pictured, were right off freeway on-off ramps, but were still priced over $800,000! I know La Canada is a beautiful community and the public schools are outstanding. But $800,000 to live by the freeway? That rushing sound is NOT a river. No wonder people in other parts of the country think we're out of our minds about real estate.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Another week, another FHA issue.

Don't get me wrong; I love FHA. Without it, most buyers could not get loans. But it is certainly a new world. Two weeks ago, my clients fell out of escrow on a Burbank house they were purchasing because it would not appraise for the purchase price -- and FHA is very strict about the comparables used. This is a good thing, but was very disappointing for the buyers. Last week, some other buyer clients learned they had to pay FHA PMI up front at closing. Big, unpleasant surprise for us all. And now, another client couple has learned that the house they want to buy has a really bad roof -- rightfully, an FHA no-no. A good thing to know, but also a wrench in the works. Stay tuned.

Monday, April 20, 2009

I'm on Twitter.

I have a Twitter account now. You can "follow" me at At least I think that's it. I'm not sure how much I'll be tweeting or how useful this will be or how many people really care what I'm doing every minute, but whatever.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Good news from LAT about the housing market, sort of.

I am a day late with this news and I apologize. Los Angeles Times has reported that home prices for the lower half of the So. Cal. market may be stabilizing. According to Dataquick, the median price has remained unchanged for the last three months. But I think LAT really buried the lead on this story. Further into the article is the statistic that March home sales are up 52% over March 2008. Is L.A. Times being cautious? I think this is a pretty impressive stat, and it dovetails with what I've experienced.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

So much for loan modifications

I received this email this morning from former clients. Their loan is through GMAC Mortgage.

"We have been attempting to do the loan modification program however we cant seem to get anywhere - We have fed ex'd the paperwork - faxed the paperwork and have made appx 14 phone calls in cluding to supervisors - they say we have not recived your paper work or it has not been updated in your file. we have provided them with proof of delivery and they say they can not do anything. they say it takes 5 days to update the files its been a 3 weeks since it went 3/23 it was signed for and faxed twice - two weeks ago and last week - again today. The Mortgage modification program otherwise called loss mitigation is run out of texas and you can not get the same person twice - it takes about an hour to two hours to get thru on the phone and they go thru the spiel again and ends with sorry we dont have your paperwork cant help you. its getting really ugly now and we have no recourse... From wht they tell us its all out of texas. We have tried everything possible and made them put our pphone call in the file and the fed ex number. We are so frustrated at this point Hope yu are having a better time of it. "

Wow, talk about a run around! And coincidentally, here's info on how to get around the loan mod run around from LAT's LaLand. Do banks want to have a lot of foreclosed homes to sell? IMO, if these banks are taking taxpayer money to stay afloat, they have a responsibility to help those same taxpapers.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Appraisals. Yes, they are still very tight.

Some buyer clients of mine opened escrow on a Burbank house two weeks ago. I received a call from the assigned appraiser this week. She suggested saving my clients the cost of the appraisal by cancelling it, because her preliminary work indicated the house would not appraise for the sales price.

The appraiser told me that the comparable sales indicated the house should sell for $25,000 to $30,000 less than the agreed-upon purchase price. She also informed me that all comparable sales have to be less than 90 days old, and no farther away than one mile from the subject property. This applies to both FHA and conventional loans. And, if the loan amount is over $417,000, there will be a second appraisal, from a different appraiser, prior to closing. She also had obtained a copy of the physical inspection report, and knew that the upgrades to the property would not make up for its physical issues.

Okay, the buyers and I knew the appraisal might be an issue. And we hoped that if that was the case, the sellers would come to their senses and negotiate a lower price with us. They didn't. And our escrow has cancelled.

Another perk for first-time buyers - job loss insurance

Thanks, Mr. & Mrs. Hill, for pointing out another new perk for first-time home buyers in California: the C.A.R.H.A.F. Mortgage Protection program. This gives first time buyers free mortgage insurance in case of job loss. Check out the link here. (This is not to be confused with lender mortgage insurance.) Here are the requirements:
  • Be a first time buyer or have not owned a home in three years;
  • Close before December 31, 2009;
  • Use a California Realtor (it is a CAR program, after all); and
  • Be w-2'd, not self-employed.

A qualified buyer who has involuntarily lost their job can be eligible for up to $1,500 a month in mortgage payments for up to six months. A co-buyer can be eligible for up to $750 a month for six months.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

The New Yorker profiles a local foreclosure specialist

This week's (April 6, 2009) New Yorker profiles Leo Nordine, a successful foreclosure listing agent here in the Los Angeles area. This link only provides an article abstract, but you can still pick it up on the newsstands. The amusing article, by Tad Friend, also discusses our local foreclosure market. Leo Nordine is what I call a mega-REO lister. His is one of several local operations that have hundreds of foreclosure listings.

The article discusses Nordine's problems in getting a doctor out of a Burbank townhouse. My clients made an offer on the same townhouse (8000 Via Pompeii in the Cabrini development) last month. Alas, it went into multiple offers and my clients didn't get it -- they were getting their loan through an FHA program, and I was told the seller bank did not want to accept an FHA offer. That's wrong, in my opinion. However, Nordine's office was good to work with, as far as the mega-listers go.

One thing the article didn't say: this same foreclosed townhouse owner took all of his food, including milk, sugary stuff, etc. out of the refrigerator and cabinets and placed them along walls of the living room and dining area. The food was still sitting there each time my buyers and I saw the unit. I suppose he may have been trying to encourage a big-time bug and rodent infestation. I told Nordine's office about it during the offer process; I hope they were able to clean it up before the crawlies and critters got there!

Friday, April 03, 2009

Spikes at 10862 Bloomfield, Toluca Lake

This is 10862 Bloomfield in Toluca Lake. This 22-unit building was built in 2006. It has three short sales and two foreclosures on the market -- at least it did until this week. One foreclosure has been listed since December for $317,900. It sold over full price last week with cash multiple offers. No surprise, that's a pretty low price. The second foreclosure has just been listed for a couple weeks at $355,500. It is on the same floor as the first foreclosure and has the same features, size, etc. It has also sold with multiple offers and may close (depending on variables including the appraisal) as high as $370,000!
There's two ways to look at this. The first way is the foreclosures-have-halved-local-equity way: that's a lot of foreclosures/short sales for condos that originally sold for $600,000-$800,000. The second way is the market-is-rebounding way: that's quite a sales price increase for two essentially-the-same units in the same building (I've seen several units in this building).
The short sales are comparably priced, too, but as we all know, short sale offers are difficult to get accepted.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

West Hollywood wants to ban open house signs

Just when you thought local city governments couldn't get any sillier: West Hollywood wants to ban Realtor open house signs on its city corners on Sundays. Read the L.A. Times article here.

Good luck, Weho. The City of Burbank went through the same process a few years ago. The reason given for the city's ban was that "somebody could fall on one of the signs and get hurt." A year and lots of hearings later, Burbank relented -- as long as Realtors observed many restrictions AND paid a permit fee.

Currently, local Realtors are working to be able to put flags up in the front yards of Sunday open houses. Again, this "issue" has been kicked around the City of Burbank for close to a year. Mind you, this has to do with flags on private property. There is no limit on how many campaign signs one can have in their front yard, but I guess that's different.