Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Getting the rug yanked out...

Here's another names-and-details-changed-to-protect-bla-bla story. My buyer clients made an offer last week on a home that had been on the market for a few months. It was listed at $699k and hadn't had any takers. We came in with a very intelligent offer in line with the comparables. It went back and forth in counters for a few days. My buyers came up a little, the sellers came down a very little bit, etc.

Then, yesterday, another buyer got all aggressive with an offer, swooped in, and snatched it out from underneath my buyers. Not for much more, apparently, but for enough more to make a difference.

We're bummed, and I'm gnashing my teeth. And I face the undesirable prospect of encouraging all of my buyers to be way more aggressive with their offers than they are comfortable with.

And the biggest lesson here is for me: just because a house hasn't sold yet doesn't mean the interest in it won't suddenly spike in a crazy white-hot market. Like the one we have now.

30 showings in one day; 21 offers in one weekend. I know, I know; this news is getting old.

This is 5523 Strohm in North Hollywood. It's a 3+1 and is almost 1100 square feet. Yes, it's very cute, and many buyers have also thought so. It listed Friday night for $325,000 and had 21, yes, 21 offers on it by Monday night. Apparently, the sellers had over 30 showings on Sunday alone. Although I don't know what the actual sales price is, I think it's safe to say that it is probably considerably over the list price of $325,000. I'll say it again: we need more housing inventory on the market!!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Real estate gods bring multiple offers back. With a vengence.

Twice in the last week, I've submitted offers on properties that were over the asking price. Yes, each home was "priced to entice" -- listed low in hopes of getting a lot of offers quickly. Unfortunately, this strategy seems to be working all too well.

Each offer was from well-qualified buyers and was definitely in line with the comparable sales. One house was in the $750k range and another was in the $500+ range. And each offer was blown out in a multiple offer situation where the prevailing offer was much higher.

Colleagues tell me about 48 offers on a house on Margate, or 18 offers on this or that one in Reseda, 8 on a West Hollywood condo, etc., etc.

This isn't supposed to be happening. Aren't appraisals tightening up? Aren't buyers sitting on their hands? Well, obviously not. The real estate gods have turned this back in to a sellers' market.

This all may change if a lot of foreclosures come on the market soon. That should produce increased inventory, which will have a downward effect on prices.

It sold for HOW much?

What follows is the remains of a post regarding a recently sold home. The listing agent has demanded that I take down the picture and the address as she believed it maligned her client and the house. In the interest of good business relations and honesty, I have omitted the details and left the remainder of the post.

This is [address and photo of property removed at demand of listing agent]. It just sold. It is a tudor-style 3+2, 1748 square feet, 7000+ sf. lot. It was okay. The kitchen was big but needed a lot of work. It was in average condition. It listed for $545,000 which I thought was a good price for the size/condition.

It just reported sold for $585,000. What? Why? And what happened to the appraisal? I am seriously astonished it sold for this much.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Maybe there will be foreclosures on the market this summer after all

Lender extraordinaire Dana Dukelow sent me the following:
CA’s Foreclosure Moratorium a Sham… We’ve Been Lied To By Our State Government
By Mandelman - Last updated: Monday, June 22, 2009
Well, thanks to one of my loyal and eternally vigilant readers, Mandelman Matters has learned that California’s 90-day moratorium on foreclosures, which had the potential to be almost meaningless… well, as it turns out is actually much less than meaningless… it’s a sham.
Apparently, almost all of the lenders and servicers who were ostensibly not to be allowed to foreclose on homes during the 90-day period made possible by the moratorium on foreclosures passed by the legislature about a week ago, were able to get exemptions to the moratorium and did so BEFORE the foreclosure moratorium bill even passed the legislature! The exempted lenders and servicers don’t have to modify or prove they tried to modify a single mortgage before foreclosing on properties in California. In other words, nothing changed… essentially nothing… nada… not a thing.
Of course, what bothers me about this isn’t that the foreclosure moratorium won’t be effective, or that it won’t accomplish what it was supposed to accomplish… it never had a chance to accomplish much of anything anyway, which is why I chose to make fun of it in my article about how it’s purpose was to allow surfers to spend more time surfing summer breaks.
The point that offends me deeply is that our state government… and by state government I mean you, Arnold, flat out lied to us. And although I’ve come to expect that from many politicians, I don’t expect it from the Viennese weightlifter who is running things in Sacramento.
So, just so we’re all on the same page here…
Our state government announced that the legislature had passed a 90-day moratorium on foreclosures, saying that it would give people time to obtain loan modifications and the like. But, they also knew that something like 90% of all lenders and servicers in California had already applied for and received exemptions to the rule, effectively rendering the moratorium moot.
Are you kidding me? Did you guys really do this? Unbelievable. How dare you… Do you have no sense of what people are contending with out here in reality land. No, it’s all too obvious that you do not. You should be ashamed.
Here’s the link to the firms that are exempt from the California Foreclosure Moratorium:

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Yet one more reason that Burbank rocks: the Mayor is your parking valet!

Gary Bric, Burbank's mayor, is also the owner of Gary Bric's Ramp, a workingman's steakhouse and watering hole by the Hollywood Way/5 Fwy off-ramp. (Does this sound like the outline for a sit-com?) If you don't know the Ramp, you should. The non-descript building and paneled dining room have been offering up pretty terrific steaks, etc. at reasonable prices for a few decades now. And on Friday night, was Bric behind the bar, in the kitchen, or counting receipts? No! He was parking patron's cars! For hours! For free! With a smile and wave! (The parking lot is postage stamp-sized.) No, he was not accepting tips. Somehow, I just can't see Villaraigosa or Bloomberg doing this.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Nicest house of the week, so far

I think it's time to be positive about something (for a change; don't get too used to this), so here's the nicest house I've seen so far this week. It's 5124 Daver in La Crescenta, and features 4 beds and 2 baths in 1600+ square feet. The lot is over 8,000, but some of that is upslope. It's on a pretty cul-de-sac in the hills and is listed at $759,000. It's really beautifully decorated and just showing it lifted my spirits. Seriously.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

No more foreclosures for awhile

California has put another three-month moritorium on foreclosures. That means that there won't be bunches of REOs on the market until mid- to late Fall. It also means that there probably will be more short sales (banks: get your act together on this) and inventory will be short this summer. I think.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Median So. Cal. home prices rise slightly

Dataquick is reporting that the median home price in So. Cal. rose slightly last month. Here's the story from the L.A. Times. However, before you go getting all excited: experts and economists say that this is because the higher end properties are actually selling for less, not that prices are actually rising.

Still, doesn't that mean that the middle and lower-end properties are holding steady? "May's median price bounce marked the fifth straight month the Southern California price median has held steady at roughly $250,000."

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Extreme home makeover, Disney-style

Since Burbank is the home of Disney, it should come as no surprise that the city is also the home of some mighty Disneyesque architecture. For example, here’s 911 Harvard. This house used to look like this:
Then, it sold for $575,000 in 2003.
And now it looks like this:

Yup, pardners, there are lots of western touches inside, too. Frontierland, here we come!

That's not all. After the re-do, somebody bought it in either '06 or '07 for $1,375,000. It had originally been listed in ’06 for $1,899,000. You read that right. Now, it’s a short sale (coincidence that the street numbers are 9-1-1?) and has come down to $999,000. Unbelievably, It has been listed for 460 days. It’s hard to show – the seller was furious when I showed it on a recent Saturday (hey, my buyers were only in town for the day! – and they seriously considered making an offer on this! but made an offer on something else instead because, surprisingly, western kitsch is not quite their style). One would think upside-down sellers would be happy to have serious buyers consider their house. But no.

However, in keeping with our Disney architectural theme, I’m hoping that some brave Burbankian will soon turn their modest Burbank bungalow into Adventureland. I think Burbank could use some fake crocodiles and hippos.

My BofA refinance, chapter 732

For those of you following the saga of our personal refinance, Bank of America called us yesterday. They asked for authorization to re-run our credit report. You see, the original report, which they ran in January when they approved the re-fi, has expired. Gee, what a way to bring your "A" game, BofA!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Increased German Shepherd sightings

In the past few days, I've shown three homes that each had German Shepherds. That's a lot of one particular kind of dog breed to encouter in such a short period of time. (They were all nice dogs.) Plus, all of a sudden, I've seen a lot of German Shepherds being walked here in Burbank. WTF? Is this:
- just a coincidence;
- an indication of a rise in a need for guard dogs;
- a message from the cosmos;
- or just ridiculous bs?

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Sunday reading from the L.A. Times

Here's a great article about loan limits and how they are affecting the real estate market. Recall that the limit thresholds here in L.A. are $417,000 and $729,000. Any loan above that amount is a "jumbo" loan.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

...And client Sheila's take on the La Crescenta showings (below)

Sheila and her husband, Paul, and I are hunting for a house for them. She was with me during the somewhat-odd showings in Montrose/La Crescenta and here is her hilarious take:

" [I] have not had a chance to chat with [Paul] about that Oakdale property with the $20,000 hand carved marble statuary fireplace and the valiumated guard dogs... It certainly has potential...But it is a lovely piece of property that went into the wrong hands, obviously. I really liked that area. I also liked the area over by Oak Circle, where I drove up to a vacant house for $799K after we split. However, the ... comedians were at it again, and placed travertine tiles from top to bottom along the corners of the front of the house, and, of course, a couple of columns (doric or ionic, not sure...) to let you know you are entering the Manse. Seriously though, WTF. These lovely little cottages all around it, all very just so. And here comes the new hybrid: cottage cum eastern european temple. But the travertine wasn't the highlight. No, leave that to the unique, and uniquely placed, brand new outdoor laundry room on the dining deck out in the backyard. Sip your margarita, watch the sunset, and oh - did you spill? - no problem, we'll just toss in the washer and dryer in our OUTDOOR LAUNDRY ROOM! Convenient for parties, because it doesn't have a door to jam your thumb in when you're already too soused to keep your drink in your mouth, which is why it's running down your shirt in the first place. Why, we can even sit here, sip our drinks and listen for the buzzer to tell us when your shirt is dry! I really need to do some kind of life, soon.

Please find me a house soon so I can stop this."

Girl, if you're going to be this hilarious, I might just have to prolong your agony just to keep laughing!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

La Crescenta showings, livestock and locked-up models

I showed two homes on Oakendale in La Crescenta early this morning. The area is absolutely beautiful. If you’ve never been there, it has lots of old-growth trees and verdant hillside views. La Crescenta is known for good public schools as well. And you pay for that old growth and decent school system.

We had showing appointments at both homes. The first home had a nice layout. The owner extensively remodeled it and it is now a short sale. The seller owns the quietest Rottweiler and German Shepard that I’ve ever encountered. This home is listed for $729k, has 3 beds & two baths, and is about 1800 sf.

Then it was down the street to 2912 Oakendale (pictured), listed at $739k. Nice layout. Nice dog. Nice view of the wash and the Verdugo mountains. That’s it for the nice. The housekeeping was extremely poor and I don’t think the garbage had been taken out recently. This four bed, 3 bath house had one bedroom locked up so we couldn’t see it. We thought somebody might be in that room, which is not exactly an optimal showing situation. The listing agent later told me there indeed was a 20-yr-old model in that locked room. Sorry, but locked-up models do not add value to a home for sale.

None, I repeat none, of the toilets were flushed, which is totally disgusting. People, if my clients and I are going to set our alarms and travel to specifically see your home in order to maybe pay three-quarters of a million dollars for it, can you please flush? But I digress. There was a cloth cord tied to the foot of one of the beds. Hmm. A rifle leaned against an outside patio wall – take that, woodland creatures! The Tiki Hut barbecue is used to hold tools, paint, tackle blocks…There were some cute little kangaroo rats (yes, really; see the picture) playing in the ivy next door.

And the listing agent tells me the sellers will not accept anything less than full price. Good luck.

Interest rates are up and tax credit news

Bad news: interest rates are up. This will likely put the brakes on our local market somewhat. The good news for buyers is that houses will likely be staying on the market longer.

Remember HUD's move to monetize the $8000 first-time buyer tax credit? So a buyer could actually apply it towards down payment or closing costs? Guidelines and details are still not out on that yet. I predict that very few people will actually be able to use the credit this way.

And speaking of: did you know there are income caps on the $8k tax credit? If you are single, and make more than $75,000, the credit is reduced. If you make over $100k, it is eliminated. For couples, the salary threshold is $150,000.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

A star-crossed closing on 848 N. Avon

Yes! 848 N. Avon in Burbank closed! I had the pleasure of representing buyer clients Todd and Anika in this deal. We had been in escrow on another property on Lomita in Burbank, but it fell out of escrow because the appraisal came back lower than the purchase price. Imagine our surprise and delight to find this house soon after. There were no appraisal or poor condition problems on this one; it is really nice.

Which is more than I can say for the seller. She is an amateur astrologer, and the planets had to be perfectly aligned for her to contemplate moving. Of course, they didn’t align until after closing and the date for possession in spite of her assurances to her agent that she’d move out on time. Well, she didn’t, so on behalf of my clients, I had to light a fire under her moon-is-in-Aquarius rear end to move the horoscope along. Sometimes, real estate isn’t pretty! But she’s out now; and I’m looking forward to seeing how Todd and Anika will decorate the house.

Monday, June 08, 2009

The past week in real estate and a big DON'T for sellers

This past week brought "more of same" as far as real estate goes. I toured Valley Glen, Valley Village, North Hollywood and Burbank for homes that are 3+ beds, 2+baths, 1200+ square feet, and between $450k and $600k.

You would think that would describe every home on the market in the SFV.


I found four homes that were more-or-less decent in that price range. One, on Mariposa in Burbank, faces the back wall of Costco. Another in Burbank was decorated with a highly-developed devotion to knotty pine (as versus the medium-developed devotion so common in the Valley) and a third house had no windows in the master bath.

Which brings me to the fourth house in Valley Village, which is arguably the nicest of the bunch. But: the owners made a 1/2 bath of the master bedroom closet. The master was already small. Sellers, putting toilets where they don't belong is a big turn-off to buyers. Toilets belong in proper bathrooms, not in closets, laundry rooms, garages, or back patios. I've seen them in all those locations in homes for sale, and those homes invariably stay on the market for a long, long time and sell for less than comparable sales. So if you're thinking about adding a "bathroom" in say, the hall closet, for the love of God don't.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Glendale is safer for prostitutes. How fabulous.

The Glendale News Press reports an upswing in prostitution in Glendale. "The ongoing recession is attracting more out-of-town prostitutes to Glendale and Burbank, which reportedly produce higher-paying clients in safer environments, authorities said." Wow, how much better can it get for Glendale -- first Americana, and now a safer place for hookers! The article profiles several prostitutes, and surprisingly, none are former Realtors.

It's also common knowledge that one of the big bakeries on Glenoaks Boulevard was recently busted for running a prostitution ring from its second floor. Apparently, "I'd like some baklava, please" had a different meaning at the establishment.

Gorgeous redone Mission-style in, yes, Burbank

I saw this splendid listing at 1004 Sherlock in Burbank today. It made me so giddy that I just have to blog about it. Yes, it is listed at $1,298,000 but would probably go out around $1.6mil in, say, Studio City or Los Feliz. Secluded and private, the house features 3 beds, 5 baths, a view and 2754 square feet. It was originally built in 1921, but every inch of the inside has been beautifully restored -- see more pics on my site at www.JudyGraff.com. The park-like backyard has a man-made creek and art studio. And, it even has a natural bedrock cave for the family bear! Sorry for gushing, but it's just that nice.