Thursday, December 29, 2011

In your opinion, what was the best and worst real estate trend of the year?

Friends and fans, what did you think about real estate this year? Short sales and foreclosures: too much, not enough? Real estate prices: too high or too low or just right? Real estate agents: too many, too few, too dumb? The real estate market in general: good, bad or indifferent?  I'll post my bests and worsts in the next few days.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The short sale on Verdugo in Burbank has closed, and my nightmare is over.

Well, okay, 2012 W. Verdugo in Burbank wasn't really a nightmare, it was just a typical short sale.  Took way too long, involved a bitter divorce, a seller that wouldn't commit to moving, a loan that was sold at the last minute, etc. etc.  Kudos to our buyer, George, for hanging in for six months.  Thanks to everybody who expressed interest in the house.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Cougar Cubs in Burbank

Two baby mountain lions were found in Burbank this week (their mother obviously wanted to raise them in a neighborhood with excellent schools), and are now safely ensconced in a wildlife rehab facility.  Title should link; if not, check the L.A. Times story here.  These poor babys hadn't eaten in quite awhile, so the mother is presumed missing or dead.  Somebody was hitting these poor little things with a broomstick, which makes me want to hit whomever was doing it with a really big broomstick.  Note to all wildlife in the San Fernando Valley: I may not take you into my home, or feed you, but I won't hurt you and promise to call the wildlife rehab folks for you, and I hope every other human will do the same.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Love Tudor-style architecture? Check out my pocket listing in Burbank

This beauty is just as adorable inside as it is outside and yes, it's for sale but not on the multiple listing service.  And it's huge: 4 bedrooms, 2.5 baths, guest house with 3/4 bath (permitted as rec room), basement, built-out loft, and about 2900 square feet.  Other features include hardwood floors, newer dual-zone a/c and heat, formal dining room, updated bathrooms, tons of storage space, fireplace, country kitchen and fabulous hillside neighborhood.  Asking $780,000; please call me for a private showing or more info.  I'll have more pictures in January.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

More drama on the Verdugo short sale, or why is BofA still selling toxic junk?

Just when I thought the short sale on 2012 W. Verdugo, Burbank was finally going to close, we had another crisis this week.

Backstory: Lender Dana Dukelow had told me the following story: he had funded a loan on a short sale, and it was about to close, when the title company discovered that the lien/loan was no longer owned by the bank that had approved the short sale on the property.  That bank was BofA.

Why is this important? Because there is no longer a valid short sale approval since the original approving bank has nothing to do with it anymore.  The transaction can’t close until – and if – the new bank approves it.  People are trying to move, their cash is tied up, etc, etc.

Dana’s story alarmed me and I decided to check on Verdugo’s BofA loan.  (Citimortgage owns the second loan; it too has been approved for short sale.)

Sure enough, it showed that BofA sold this non-performing loan to HSBC on November 4, 2011, several days before BofA issued the short sale approval – on a loan they no longer owned.

We all were running around with our hair on fire.  I spent several hours on the phone, and so did the short sale negotiator and escrow officer.  There was no record of the loan at HSBC (just so you know, HSBC’s customer service is very spotty).  BofA had no record of the loan being sold, although it had recorded as such at the county recorders.

The story has a happy ending due to a series of coincidences.  Turns out that BofA is the servicer of HSBC/Merrill Lynch loans.  So their guidelines meet HSBC’s guidelines, and the original approval still stands. 

We are some of the lucky ones.  Other Realtors that I’ve talked with are in limbo/hell on their BofA transactions.  One was told by BofA, “We sold 9000 Freddie Mac loans and are behind on our coding.” Great, just great.  So while the bank processes paperwork, buyers and sellers are sitting on boxes, holidays are ruined, foreclosures are proceeding, etc.

Okay, I’m not so savvy on the inner workings of high finance, but this brings up another question: why are the banks selling these toxic assets underperforming loans to other banks?  Who benefits?

And yes, we're on for a 12/23 closing.  Please cross your fingers and hold your breath.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Is the Burbank Board of Realtors tone deaf? Or are they really secret members of the 1%?

I received the above engraved invitation to the annual Burbank Board of Realtors installation dinner.  WTF? Lakeside Country Club? Black Tie? Big Band? Really? For Burbank, which is not exactly the hoity-toity-est of cities to begin with? Is this appropriate in this economic environment? When we're in the middle of a recession and most of our seller clients have lost 10-20% of the value of their homes? And our buyer clients can't afford to buy no matter how low interest rates are? No wonder there's such a downward pressure on the Realtor commission structure.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Thinking about moving to get your kid in a great LAUSD school? Read this first.

This appeared on the editorial page of today's L.A. Times, and describes -- sort of -- the point system that's used to select children for the "better" LAUSD schools.  Yikes! I'm glad that I have cats instead of children.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Monday, December 12, 2011

Check out this beauty in Burbank

Former clients Anika and Todd are in the process of giving their Burbank house a facelift.  They've pulled out some old landscaping (new landscaping is on the way), painted the door, porch and trim, removed the porch overhang, installed the planter boxes, etc.  Here are the adorable results (picture is crooked because I had too much coffee).  I'm envious of their design talent and will be excited to see their additional renovations.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Home owners association meetings -- what really happens

Have you ever wondered what goes on at an HOA meeting? I bet you think it’s all wonky budget review and discussions of how to beautify the complex over coffee and cookies. Good laughs all around and concensuses reached, right? Think again. Here’s an edited version of our complex meeting last week. Names changed to protect the inane innocent.

President: We need to discuss upcoming repairs.

Interrupter #1: The hot water is too hot.

President: That’s because we just had the recirculating pump replaced. Remember when we had no hot water at all?

Interrupter #2: I never noticed; I only take cold showers.

Interrupter #1: The hot water is too hot. A toddler could get burned (Note: no toddlers live in the complex)

President: The stolen metal garage grates need to be replaced and we have quotes here.

Interrupter #1: Let’s just get plastic grates made and painted to look like wood, sort of like they do at Disneyland. Cars can roll over plastic grates, right?

Interrupter #2: We need to put up fake security cameras so nobody will steal them again.

Vice President: But people still steal from 7-11 all the time and they have real cameras.

Interrupter #3: I have a “sniper” sticker on my car and an NRA sticker in my window.

Interrupter #4: What kinds of guns do you have? (Long digression about preferable guns ensues. Several residents appear to have a survivalist streak and we all discover that the complex is extremely well armed).

Interrupter #2: The dumpster area is too dark and I can’t take out my trash anymore.

Vice President: There are several hours of daylight every day wherein you can take out your trash.

Interrupter #2: We need a better light over the dumpster.

President: I’ll have the management company get a quote. Now, back to the grates…

Interrupter #1: We have a lot of new bugs around. It’s probably because nobody is taking out their trash because the dumpster area is too dark.

President: What do the bugs look like?

Interrupter #1: They are long green things with many legs. They look like centipedes, but are not. They are probably here for the garbage.

Vice President: Those are caterpillars. They will turn into butterflies and fly away, and it will be beautiful, just like in the 1960’s…

Interrupter #2: Somebody peed on the garage gate.

Interrupter #1: It was probably a coyote.

Interrupter #2: No, it was too high up for a coyote. I’m tired of the building being attacked. We need fake security cameras…

The meeting went on just like this for another 30 minutes. The interrupters continued to interrupt, but eventually repairs were discussed and a sort-of consensus was reached. Stay tuned for next month’s updates from our complex. Here’s hoping all HOA members either bone up on Roberts’ Rules of Order before then or take their meds.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Major price reduction on 2007 N. 6th, Burbank

Big news: 2007 N. 6th Street in Burbank has just had a price reduction to $450,000.  That's down from $485,000, folks.  We received several all-cash offers -- this is a serious fixer and won't qualify for a loan -- but they were all lower than what the sellers want to take.  Some details about the house: it's a 3 bed, 2 bath, 1712 sf, on an 8989 sf. lot.  It's in a great neighborhood and has a lot of upside potential.  But it is a serious fixer and not a DIY project. Do you know anybody that would like to live here and is a contractor?

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Lowest price and highest price active listings in Studio City, Sherman Oaks, Valley Village and Toluca Lake

Thanks to our manager, I have the stats on the lowest and highest prices for homes for sale in Sherman Oaks, Studio City, Valley Village, and Toluca Lake as of this day.  These are all active as of today, and it lumps condos and single family homes together. Sorry, Burbank, no stats for you right now:
Sherman Oaks lowest home price: $329,923
Sherman Oaks highest price: $2,495,000

Studio City lowest price: $489,000
Studio City highest price: $10,000,000

Valley Village lowest price: $379,000
Valley Village highest price: $1,595,000

Toluca Lake lowest price: $525,000
Toluca Lake highest price: $8,299,000

OMG! The 2012 W. Verdugo, Burbank short sale is fully approved!

We received the short sale approval from the 2nd lender today! Yay!  This will close at the end of December.  It's the longest short sale I've ever been involved with and has taken nearly six months for both approvals -- and that's with an outside negotiator.  More details to come.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

4604 Norwich in Sherman Oaks closed yesterday at $592,000

4604 Norwich in Sherman Oaks closed yesterday for $592,000.  It was listed at $550,000.  We had six offers in the first week from qualified buyers and the lowest was $565,000.  Although that sounds like it was probably an easy-peasy deal for me, it had serious challenges all the way through.  I blogged about the weird appraisal earlier and may expand on that some day.  Other issues: there was no money in the HOA reserves -- this was my very first time dealing with that, and we had to come up with ways to get it funded.  Oh, the list goes on.  As I said, I may blog more about this in the future.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

How can I use catvertising to promote my real estate services?

The burning question on my to use cats in my advertising?

5703 Troost in North Hollywood is closed

I brought the buyers for this 3+2 in a great little North Hollywood pocket. The neighborhood is close to the subway, restaurants (Federal Bar! Eclectic Cafe! Coley's!), night spots and the police station.  Lots of young couples are buying there these days.  I brought the buyers, who are 8 months pregnant.  The house needs a little work but has lots of potential, and Mr. Buyer is very handy.  Unfortunately, the buyers were unable to get a loan, but the parents rode to the rescue and bought it for all cash -- it closed at $362,000.  Yes, there's nothing like the impending arrival of a little one to loosen parental purse strings.  And yes, I've asked to be adopted into the family

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Did everybody have a good holiday week? And what's on the horizon...

There's no "house of the week" this week because I didn't see any real estate for sale last week.  We had family stuff, and I was too busy with the existing escrows and listings. Here are the issues -- and my worries -- for the upcoming week.
- Will Norwich close without any further shenanigans or claw-backs from the buyers?
- Will Troost close before the buyer has her baby?
- Will the seller of 2012 W. Verdugo vacate by the bank's "must close" date of Dec. 23?
- Will I get some decent offers for the 2007 N. 6th Street property?
- Will the buyers' cash come in for the house on Skyline?
- What will the other sellers on the other house on 6th decide?
- And what of the possible Glendale short sale?
Stay tuned for all answers...

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Botched appraisals -- this just happened to me on the Norwich condo

Here's an article on botched appraisals from today's L.A. Times.  If you scan posts below, you'll see that this just happened to me on the Norwich condo.  We got the appraisal reversed.  Yes, it is possible.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Properties of the week -- 2 condos in Burbank

I viewed two condos for sale -- units #210 and #204 --  at 345 Alameda Ave. in Burbank and they are my properties of the week.  Why? Because they are so nice and so relatively inexpensive.  Unit #210 (top picture), which has been extensively upgraded with a lot of high end finishes, is $299,900.  And unit #204, (bottom picture) which is a two-story townhome, is listed at $260,000.  I never thought I'd see "nice" units in Burbank at this low price again.  The last time I showed units in this building was two years ago and beaten-up ones were still going for $330k. I don't think units in this building were this cheap when they were built in 1992!  Both units are 2 beds and 2.5 baths.  Unit #210 is 939 square feet and #204 is 1012 square feet, the building is very well maintained, and the home owners' association dues are $230/month.  Yes, Alameda is a busy street, but the building is really close to Disney, the 5 Fwy and the Equestrian Center.  I don't think buyers looking for condos in Burbank could go wrong with these -- and no, they are not my listings nor my office's listings.  Okay, I'll quit gushing now. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Why my listing at 2007 N. 6th in Burbank must be purchased for cash

2007 N. 6th Street in Burbank needs to be purchased for all cash because it is a FIXER. Yes, there are some FHA programs and banks that will loan on fixers, but not one that's below minimum standards like this one.  This house has been vacant for many years and needs way beyond the typical DIY coat of paint and new windows.  So, do you know anybody with $485k in cash that wants a project?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

If buying a house seems hard, that's because it is.

I recently worked with some first-time buyers in Studio City who made an offer on a gorgeous foreclosed condo.  They were very qualified, had 20% down, made a really good offer, were told they had it -- and then they freaked out.  And backed out.  Why? The process was really painful for them.  Issues arose that they had no previous idea that they'd have to deal with. (And yes, it was a huge time-suck for me, too.)

So let me set the record straight, first-time buyers: buying a home is no day at the beach.  Here's what you need to know:
There is pain in every transaction.  This is true whether the pain is in the negotiating or in the physical inspection or in getting the loan.  There are lots and lots of moving parts to a real estate transaction.  If you're a buyer, no matter what kind of offer you make, there will be a time when things don't go your way.  And opening escrow can be just the beginning of the story.  But if you stay focused on the end result -- how you're going to be living in the house -- it will be a little more bearable.
All your friends and family will tell you a horror story and likely try to talk you out of buying.  Your friends and family are well-meaning, especially in this economic environment, but they can't live your life for you.  I myself had such a first-time buyer horror story that I became a Realtor so nobody else would go through what I did.  Let's talk about your fears.
I have no magic that I can use that will counter-act a seller's mental illness.  A seller can be crazy as a bedbug and still have a very nice house to sell.  If it seems they are being mean and recalcitrant, they probably are.  Their emotions are running very high, too. We just need to get through this; you won't remember their name in six months.
Sometimes it's not meant to be.  Don't give up even if you have to cancel a transaction; the right house is out there for you.  Educate yourself about the process, be prepared and you'll find it.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

New Burbank listing coming tomorrow! Probate fixer!

I will be listing 2007 N. 6th Street in Burbank tomorrow for $485,000. This probate fixer offers stellar upside opportunities and expansion possibilities.  And it's right across from Jefferson Elementary, one of the best elementary schools in Burbank.  It's 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, 1712 sf on a 8989 sf lot and has a bonus room, attached garage, fireplace, big backyard, etc.  But people, this is a serious fixer and NOT a DIY project, so contact your contractors.  It won't qualify for a loan, so offers will need to be all cash.  And it doesn't need probate court confirmation, but there are special probate procedures involved.  If you're interested, please contact me at my email address and I'll send you an information sheet.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

BofA called to help on my short sale, but didn't

BofA's social media team has been monitoring their online reputation, because after I last bashed them online, they contacted me to ask if they could help with the short sale on Verdugo.

Short answer: they didn't help at all.

Back story: I have used a third-party negotiating company on this transaction.  That's not uncommon.  The 3rd party company is listed as the authorized contact.

So the first thing the nice BofA lady told me was that she had indeed looked up the transaction -- and I wasn't authorized to talk about the sale because I wasn't the listing agent.  I tried to correct that, but she wasn't having any.  She said that the real listing agent should contact them through Twitter, and perhaps then BofA could escalate the short sale.  When I explained this to the 3rd party negotiator -- he's the listing agent according to BofA -- his jaw dropped in astonishment (he's only had about a bajillion live-person conversations with BofA staff about this).  So he's contacted @BofAhelp, but has not received a response.  And they are not answering their phone either.

So much for managing your online reputation, eh? I wish BofA would devote as much manpower to getting their short sales wrapped up as they do to social media.

Friday, November 04, 2011

237 S. Reese, Burbank is sold!

Buyer clients Shelley, Theron, and baby Hunter are the new proud owners of 237 S. Reese in Burbank.  The buyers have been looking for about a year and even had previously made an offer on a property in the Burbank Rancho.  However, they immediately fell in love with this property.  A senior citizen has lived there, and the house needs updated decorating, but is structurally very sound.  That's right up Shelley and Theron's alley.  My partner on this, Bryce, says it's the smoothest escrow he's ever had.  The buyers made a full price offer on the weekend that the property listed and okayed the inspection immediately, too.  I'll be eager to see how they transform the property.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Canadians and Australians are investing in L.A. area real estate

Apparently, a significant number of Los Angeles real estate investors are coming from Australia and Canada, and many are paying all cash for homes for sale in L.A!  Will it be long now before California secedes and becomes part of the British empire? Do you know anybody in either of those countries? If so, please let them know that you know a top Realtor. By the way, the pic above is Australia on the left and Canada on the right.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Now BofA wants to know if they can help me

For those who don't think social media has an effect: BofA Help has tweeted me several times since I posted the item below.  I've tweeted back that they can help me by telling me what is going on with my short sale.  Now, they've promised to call me tomorrow.  I wish they'd spend more time clearing their backlogs of short sales and less time managing their online reputations.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

How my short sale is going, chapter whatever, or BofA is the bitchenest bank of all time!

We've been in escrow for three months now on 2012 W. Verdugo in Burbank and our stalwart buyer is hanging in there.  BofA and Chase, the lenders, verbally approved the deal about a month ago. But we still need their approval letter.  What's the hold-up? Our outside negotiator learned this week that his cohort at BofA had been fired, and now there's a new person to deal with there.  O BofA, I love you so.  The latest is that the file is with the investor for approval, and once that happens, we'll get our approval letter.  Short sales are being streamlined? Not in my world.

Thursday, October 27, 2011 - get to know your neighbors in cyberspace just launched, and so far it looks like a pretty cool idea.  It's a way for real neighbors to meet each other and communicate with each other online.  Go to for an introductory video.  As the video shows, it's great for the "lost a cat" or "block party this weekend"-type of communication.  Since it's so new, you can go on and become a "founding member" of your particular neighborhood if it hasn't already been registered (I intend to go on for my neighborhood in Burbank).  Is the devil in the details here? Of course. Will the law of unintended consequences apply? Sure.  But let's all watch and see what happens next.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Coolest place, ever, in Toluca Lake -- The Red Door

For those of you wanting a fabulous, hip bar/restaurant experience without going over the hill, check out The Red Door in Toluca Lake.

We had been told about this place and were curious. As regular readers of this blog know, we’re always looking for a great cocktail experience to help take the edge off the ever-changing world of San Fernando Valley real estate. So we gave it a go on Monday night.

The unmarked entrance – except for a red door -- is from the alley behind Paty’s coffee shop. Right there, Red Door gets kudos for its intimate, speakeasy vibe. (The actual address is 10057 Riverside Drive.) Inside, the red theme is carried on with splendid, non-matchy-matchy d├ęcor, including a long wooden bar, leather banquettes and high top tables, and objects d’art found at estate sales. Yes, there are big-screen tvs over the bar, but they only show old black and white movies. There’s a great, old-school Pandora mix on the p.a. We were there with the early crowd at 6:30 and a ladies’ birthday party (or some sort of celebration) was taking place. Toluca Lake resident Gary Marshall was there with a couple of babes as was noted character actor Chuck McCann (below). We are told that the place gets packed on the weekends.

Red Door has a full bar, a carefully curated menu, and the prices are reasonable. We had drinks, of course – whiskey for husband and vodka for me -- and wonderful mini pork sliders along with lots of great conversation with Mike and Doc, the owners/proprietors. That’s them in the picture. If you’ve hung around in Toluca Lake, you may know Mike from his bartending stints at Timmy Nolan’s and Lucy’s 51. And Doc is a local wildlife rehabilitator.

We had such a nice experience that we had to restrain ourselves from going back on Tuesday – this place has such a classy, warm vibe that it could easily become a habit!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Burbank house for sale comes with 100-lb. tortoise!

This is 415 S. Fairview in the Burbank rancho.  It recently listed for $795k and has 2 beds, 1 bath and a double lot.  It also has four horse stalls for you folks with lots of really large pets.  As if that wasn't enough, I'm told it also comes with a 100-lb tortoise! (That's a stock photo, not the actual resident tortoise, up top.)  I hope to see this next week.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Refinancing underwater home loans to get easier, maybe.

Breaking news from the L.A. Times! Refinancing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac home loans that are underwater should be easier now, thanks to the Obama administration.  The title above should link; if not, here's the article.  However, don't get too excited yet.  Here's a quote:

"Even with the new rules, only borrowers with mortgages taken on by Fannie and Freddie on or before May 31, 2009, can qualify. Their loan amounts must top 80% of the current market value of their homes. And they must be current on their payments, with no late payment in the last six months and no more than one late payment in the last 12 months."

So, as usual, the devil is in the details and the proof is in the pudding and all that. 

Here's another article from today's L.A. Times regarding the administration's efforts to help people refinance their loans.  It details other, non-Freddie/Fannie efforts.  The article is skeptical in tone and so am I.

I think writing down interest is a great idea; I think writing down principal will never happen.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Unpermitted square footage and your lender

If you've been searching for real estate in Los Angeles and San Fernando Valley, you already know that many homes have been added on to since they were originally built.  Some of the additions are really nice and make a lot of sense; others are really funky.  Some are permitted; some are not (back in the day, a lot of do-it-yourselfers didn't bother to pull permits.  It would have increased their property taxes to do so.)  And this usually becomes a freak-out issue for most buyers.  Here are some things to know.

Here's what your lender is concerned about vis-a-vis unpermitted square footage.  Caveat: this has nothing to do with what the city or your insurance company thinks about unpermitted square footage.  That's another thing entirely. Your lender, through the property appraisal, will be concerned with:
  • The addition must be done in a workman-like manner with decent construction standards. Nothing with cinderblock bricks instead of a foundation, for example.
  • It can't have a kitchen.  This is a big no-no for most municipalities, too.
  • The addition's square footage will not be counted towards the square footage of the house.  You can't say your house is 400 sf bigger because somebody drywalled the garage.
  • There must be comparable or similar additions, permitted or not, in the neighborhood.  For example, if the homes on your street were built with carports instead of garages, but subsequently everyone enclosed their carport, it's probably okay with your lender.
How do you tell if the square footage is permitted? Two ways.  You can either visit the city building and safety department and pull the permits on the house.  Or contact  Or you can look at the County Assessor's tax records (easy to find online).  Sometimes, though, for whatever reason, all square footage hasn't been recorded by the tax assessor; if there's a dispute, definitely go to the municipality.  In another post, I'll go into what unpermitted additions are probably NOT okay.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Spooky house of the week video (in Burbank). Please excuse thumb.

Here's the house of the week in Burbank -- no, it's not for sale, but the Halloween decorations are terrific! Please excuse the thumb in the video and the jerkiness -- I'm still on a learning curve with my video camera.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Foreclosure info AND loan modification info for So. Cal.

The Los Angeles Times had two interesting articles about our local real estate market yesterday.  The first is titled Foreclosure activity soars in third quarter, ending lengthy lull.  No, this isn't the much discussed "shadow inventory" hitting the market.  It's just that the lending banks have stopped suspending foreclosures due to the robo-signing scandal.  Other salient facts from the article, as if you didn't know: "Defaults hit lower-cost neighborhoods harder. Areas with a median home sale price below $200,000 saw 11 default notices filed for each 1,000 homes, compared with 8.1 per 1,000 homes statewide and 2.8 per 1,000 homes in areas with a median sale price above $800,000." And people wonder about the 99% protestors.

The second article is titled Plan would allow refinancing of some underwater mortgages.  Don't get excited yet.  The article states: "The new proposal would apply to people who are underwater on their homes but making mortgage payments on time. Only mortgages owned by banks — about 20% of all mortgages — would be eligible. Most mortgages are owned by investors as part of mortgage-backed securities."  How and who is this going to help? I think the amount of mortgages owned by banks are much less than 20%.  Why not just write down the interest rates if people aren't behind (yet) on their mortgage payments? 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

4604 Norwich, Sherman Oaks is sold

The seller of 4604 Norwich has accepted one of the several offers that we had on this property.  Yes, it went well over the asking price of $550,000 in seven days of marketing.  We had a total of five offers in, and four were over asking.  I will share the price once it closes.

Monday, October 17, 2011

4604 Norwich in Sherman Oaks - tons of activity and four offers are in

In spite of it being difficult to show, we've had almost 40 showings of the luxe condo in Sherman Oaks in the past week.  That has produced 4 offers, which is the level that I would expect.  The seller and I will discuss these tomorrow -- stay tuned.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Clientele at Mucho Mas in North Hollywood

This lovely girl was spotted in the parking lot of the famous Mucho Mas, in North Hollywood.  She was no doubt waiting for an order of tres tacos.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

4604 Norwich, Sherman Oaks - heaviest activity that I've seen in a long, long time

Showings begin for my new listing at 4604 Norwich, Sherman Oaks today.  It's by-appointment-only as it's tenant-occupied.  Sixteen separate buyer groups have made appointments today -- that's really, really a lot, and way more than I was expecting.  Is it because interest rates are so low? Or is it because the townhouse is gorgeous, and it has four bedrooms, 4 baths, a bonus room, an attached garage, luxe kitchen, etc, etc.?  Stay tuned for more details.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Every-day, all-day wine tasting in Glendale

Winos (like me) rejoice! Glendale is now a destination for us. I popped into Red Carpet Wine at 400 East Glenoaks Blvd. yesterday.  If you're not familiar with Red Carpet, they have a complete stock of everything booze, and a knowledgeable staff to help you find what you're looking for.  RC also has a cool space for wine tasting with two new-fangled automatic pour wine tasting machines, one for red wine and one for white.  Here's how it works: you buy a plastic card with a set amount of money on it, then swipe it into the machine.  Next, you pick your particular wine and your particular-sized pour -- you can get one ounce, one half-glass, or a full glass.  When your card runs out of money, you just add more dollars again, just like at Starbucks.  And you can do this during Red Carpet's hours of operation.  Red Carpet also has several "event" nights -- Octoberfest is on the 12th -- with food trucks outside and tastings inside.  Check out their website at (and RC, I'm ready for my endorsement glass of wine now).

Friday, October 07, 2011

Set your DVR's to HGtv on Sunday at 5:00 a.m.(!) PST for Professional Grade

Clients Ross and Tracy will be on HGtv's Professional Grade on Sunday a.m. with their remodeled bathroom. Watch the big "reveal" and you'll likely see me in the background.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

House of the weekend in Studio City -- four days late

This lovely post-and-beam is located at 11776 Laurelwood in Studio City and is listed for $629,000.  Alas, it's a short sale, but that's the only negative about it.  It's been wonderfully maintained -- lots of wood and beams, naturally, with a stand-alone fireplace and a den that could also be used as an office.  The kitchen and bath have been redone, too and were both large to start with.  The master is big, and the second bedroom is not, but oh well.  Perhaps my favorite thing about it is how it terraces up the hill.  The owners spent lots of money engineering the railroad-tie and concrete steps up the hill and in creating pads at every terrace level.  There's a view of the SFV valley at the top of the hill, too.  This area is so close to everything that Ventura Boulevard has to offer -- CBS is about spitting distance away (if you're so inclined) and so's one of my favorite restaurants, Laurel Tavern.  The famous Carpenter Charter Elementary is just a little bit past the end of the block.  I wish I could think of something snarky to say, but...

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Please use flash

Doesn't this picture make you want to run right over to view this house?  Gee, so surprising that it just had a major price reduction! To the Realtor who published the above photo on the mls: invest in a camera with a flash setting, okay?

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Coming next week in Sherman Oaks: huge, super-deluxe townhome (and better pics, too)

I'll soon be listing this gorgeous, huge townhome at 4604 Norwich Ave. in Sherman Oaks.  It has four bedrooms, 4 baths, a bonus room, 2-car garage, open floor plan, roof-top deck, high-end finishes throughout, and 2400+ square feet.  It was built in 2008 and there are only 4 units in the complex.  The home owners' association dues are a low, low $144/month.  The complex is on a quiet, green residential street but it's close to Ventura Boulevard and all its attractions.  It will list at $550,000.  This is a terrific option for those looking for lots of "done" square footage at a lower price. 

This is an REO, which means it was foreclosed on and is now owned by the original lender.  For those of you that don't know, these types of sales usually go much more smoothly -- and quickly -- than short sales.  I will have much better pics later this week.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Redfin sets the blogosphere on fire, along with lots of agents

Late last week, Redfin announced an important addition to their site -- an agent scouting report.  Now, you'll be able to look up just about any agent anywhere in the country and see their statistics -- average sales price, number of buyer and seller transactions, map where those transactions occurred, etc. 

The r.e. blogosphere has gone crazy over this. I'm a Redfin Partner agent myself, and I often look at the Redfin site to get property info that I can't get on the mls (yes!).  I don't think this will be useful for many, many reasons.  My main area of concern is this: real estate is not baseball, and statistics don't really tell potential customers much.  Stats simply measure number of properties bought and sold, and as we all know, a real estate transaction isn't necessarily a unit that can be measured.

We'll see how this plays out in the coming weeks.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Cutest house of the week -- in Atwater!

I showed this home at 4122 Edenhurst ($495,000) in Atwater today.  Even though it's not large, it was totally impressive -- completely redone, yet period details intact and freshened up.  It has a cute (not permitted) guest unit, too and a lovely green backyard.  And the neighborhood...!  I don't show there very often, but I'm going to pay A LOT more attention to it from now on.  Atwater has totally come around in the last few years, the residential homes have been spiffed up and there's lots of pride of ownership evident now in the area.  The home prices are less than what you'd find in similar areas.  It has cool restaurants, golf courses and horse stables nearby (I stepped in a road apple) and a bike path now runs along the L.A. River.  Well, okay, it still has LAUSD schools, but it also has its very own Costco (what more could you want, right?).  If you work downtown, in Pasadena or even the east SFV, it's really well-located.  It would be a great option for those looking for homes in the $450k-$600k range.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

U.S. to lower the size of mortgage it will guarantee - but I don't think that's going to have too much of a negative impact

Here's an article from today's L.A. Times about lower loan limits that will go into effect at the end of September.  While many of my colleagues are wringing their hands over this change, I'd like to point out three things. 1) The limit is reducing from $729,750 to $625,500.  So any loan amount over $625k will now need to have jumbo financing. Therefore this will really only impact home buyers, and home prices, between those two loan amounts only -- that's only a price spread of $104,000+.  2) Jumbo rates are at an all-time low. 3) Yes, many of the areas I serve have high home prices; but a greater amount of neighborhoods have home prices that don't exceed $600,000 in the first place.  So will there be wide-spread harm? It remains to be seen, but I doubt it.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Questionable mls pictures on otherwise cute homes for sale

This is 916 N. 6th Street in Burbank.  It's currently for sale at $549,000.  Although it's not my listing, I've been in this home several times over the years. In spite of the creepy Alice-in-Wonderland-with-a-knife, it's really nice -- it has 3 beds in 1481 square feet and lots of original details have been preserved.  Only one bathroom, though.  This house and the two next to it (one of which I sold) were built by the same builder in the late 1920's and it's in a great Burbank hillside neighborhood.  The current owners are selling this at a loss.  Now, I know weird listing pictures are nothing new at all, but for the sake of marketing, don't you think this interior picture of Alice (there are four angles) should have been left out?  Somehow, weird interior pics just don't make me want to buy otherwise splendid character homes.  Other shots show Frankenstein's monster in the living room, skeletons, etc.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Burbank - Toluca Lake townhouse of the week

This unit is located at 330 N. Maple #D in Burbank and the pictures don't quite do it justice.  It's a 2 bedroom, 2.5 bath, with a large bonus room that leads directly to a common parking garage.  The bonus room would make a great office, media room, etc.  Plus, this is in a great location -- it's just down the street from Warner Bros and close to all Toluca Lake restaurants, Starbucks, etc.  The master bedroom is large and sunny and -- oh, I'm gushing.  Plus, the HOA is $309.  Oh yes, the price is $369,000 but I bet the owner would listen to all offers.  Seriously, although the decorating needs some updating, this has lots of potential.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

How the short sale at 2012 W. Verdugo in Burbank is going

We are now two months into the short sale process on 2012 W. Verdugo in Burbank and maybe, just maybe, we're getting close to approval.  The short sale package, including an accepted offer, went to both BofA (1st lender) and Chase (2nd lender) in late July.  Subsequently, the banks put my seller through several paperwork hoops.  They also had a full appraisal done about 3 weeks ago.  Usually, banks have just had a Realtor (not the listing agent) do a broker price opinion, but I'm told that more and more frequently they are ordering appraisals now.

At any rate, the banks finished their collection processes a couple of weeks ago and submitted the packages to their investors for approval.  I'm hoping we'll hear something this week or next week.  Keep your fingers crossed...

Monday, September 19, 2011

Houses of the weekend, or not

I've seen a bunch of new properties in the San Fernando Valley in the last few days and here's my take on them.  In some cases, here are my clients' takes on them, too.

3833 Ridgemoor, Studio City (pictured above) is a 2 bed, 2 bath + den in the hills for $549,000.  It has been listed for awhile.  The setting is gorgeous and green and I love the organic look of the wood siding.  But the house seems a little precariously pitched against the hill.  There are some signs of displacement and the floors slope, which is not uncommon in this area.  But that's not what my clients were looking for.

14312 Califa, Sherman Oaks but really Van Nuys is a 3+2 plus bonus room for $569,500.  This area is tricky, as are many SFV areas -- the major artery streets look beaten up and a little scary, but once you get off those and into the residential areas, the neighborhoods get very nice and peaceful.  Anyway, this house has been professionally redone and looks really nice.  It may be a flip.  We were a little put off, however, by the Realtor's flyer -- "On the Market Three Days and Already has Offers!"  That's really not what first-time buyers want to see, especially when, as in this case, it's not true, as the agent later confirmed.

12414 Albers, Valley Village is a 3+2 for $598,000.  Great neighborhood and a nicely updated done house with a great floorplan.  Some of the countertops and other finishes look like they're from the last remodel.  Nothing wrong with that, just saying. 

5732 Wilkinson, Valley Village is a 3+2 with a pool for $579,000.  This was my clients' favorite.  It has really pretty light wood floors, a custom remodeled kitchen and a stand-alone fireplace separating the living room and dining area.  The backyard is all tile, and while the pool looks recently redone, the yard slopes towards the house.  Needless to say, this is bad for drainage -- the last thing you want is a pond of water up against your foundation.  Fixable? Very likely, but for a price.

11641 McCormick in Valley Village is a 3+2 for $519,999.  It, too, has been nicely redone and just had the price reduced.  However, the location is really less than ideal.  You can hear the 170 Fwy, there is plane noise overhead, and you can see North Hollywood High (yikes! teenagers!) at the end of the street.  The backyard needs to be sodded, too.

One of the houses had a bidet (!) but I can't remember which one.  If a bidet is on your housing wish list (is it? be honest), call me and I'll put my memory hat on.

My house of the week, however, is another Burbank townhouse at 230 Bethany #119.  It's an REO and is listed for $347,000.  It has two huge patios, and nobody above or below it.  Plus, a bonus room has been designed to be a third bedroom or den.  This is a very popular complex in Burbank and in my opinion, this is a killer price for a unit this nice in this location.

 More later!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Colfax Elementary in Valley Village is too good for its own good

This article by Cathy Flynn just appeared in the North Hollywood/Studio City Patch.  Also, I just noticed that a former Valley Glen elementary school is now Ararat Charter.  Anybody got any info on that?

Colfax Reaches 910 API and Closes Its Doors to New Enrollment

This highly sought school becomes a little too popular.

Can a school be too good?
With all the news these days of failing schools, falling test scores and high school graduates who are not prepared for college, the schools that are doing well make the headlines, are celebrated, and publicized as a goal for other schools to emulate.
And then there’s Colfax Charter Elementary School in Valley Village.
It used to be a well-kept secret that Colfax was a great little gem of a school – kind of like Carpenter without the bucks. The school is diverse, with a very active parent base. Its charter dictates that its core academic curriculum be integrated with arts, science and technology, and Colfax’s graduating students easily excel at the middle school level along with high-performing private and public elementary schools that are much more affluent.
Three weeks ago, API (Academic Index Report) scores were announced and Colfax hit an astounding 910 (anything over 900 is considered very impressive). But Colfax is not hanging up its banner to publicize the good news.
Colfax has reached its capacity, and new students – even if they live in the Colfax district – are now being turned away and forced to go to nearby Riverside Drive Elementary School in Sherman Oaks.
In 2008, with just over 500 students, Colfax became an affiliated charter, which means that they are still a part of the Los Angeles Unified School District, but they have flexibility in instructional programs and budgets.
Ten years ago, Parents Association of Colfax Elementary (PACE) had an annual budget of about $3,000 to pay for capital projects and extracurricular activities. Today, the budget has increased 100 fold to nearly $300,000. Parents collectively pay for classroom aides, extra science and math programs, a working farm (with both plants and farm animals), violin and keyboard instruction, chorus, orchestra, visual arts, theatre, dance, a computer lab and laptop carts.
Early this year, principal Susana Gomez-Judkins could see that Colfax was filling up. A well-publicized first day registration in April attracted a line of about 80 families rushing to enroll their children for the fall. More families registered in the following months. A preschool class for special needs children was relocated to Riverside Drive to make room for the additional enrollees. Late spring, an LAUSD redistricting committee closed the option areas that Colfax shared with nearby Carpenter Community Charter School in Studio City, Riverside and Rio Vista in Toluca Lake. But on Aug. 31 – exactly one week before the start of the 2011-2012 school year – Colfax had reached its capacity limit.
“We would love to take everyone in the area and accommodate all the kids,” says principal Gomez-Judkins, but she is adamant about keeping the school small.
She is reluctant to consider constructing additional buildings or bungalows for the school.
“It would impact the ability for us to provide a quality program.” She notes that the original charter dictates that Colfax serves approximately 500 students, yet that number has mushroomed to its current population of 647.
“Obviously we have an obligation to serve all the neighborhood kids,” Gomez-Judkins states, and she finds it heartbreaking to turn away children who live walking distance from the school. Yet she must abide by the policy of  “last one in, first one out” when it comes to enrollment.
Although it may at first glance seem like a ruthless task, Gomez-Judkins is actively pursuing families who have lied about their residency and actually live outside the Colfax district. A spot taken by someone who should legally be going to a different school prohibits someone else who rightfully lives in the area from being allowed to attend.
This has sparked occasional rumors from parents who speculate that other students may live outside the area. Gomez-Judkins intends to keep inaccurate rumors from turning into a witch hunt by having parents tell her directly.
“It’s not hearsay, it’s not a rumor, it’s not some other person told me,” Gomez-Judkins advises. “If you have first-hand knowledge about it, don’t gossip about it with your friends. Tell the front office and don’t tell anyone else. That limits the witch hunt mentality.”
An example would be if they were invited for a play date and the house was in Van Nuys. Gomez-Judkins has been known to knock on the door of the home listed on the enrollment form and ask to see the child’s toothbrush.
The principal used to have a hard time playing bad cop in kicking out the families who lied on their application, but now she feels like it’s a necessary evil that’s required to protect the families who deserve to be enrolled.
The cap will have an even greater affect on next year’s enrollment because overcrowding may prompt the necessity for fewer kindergarten classes.
Gomez-Judkins suspects that Colfax grew more popular when it became an affiliated charter.
“But Riverside Drive is now an affiliated charter. Carpenter is an affiliated charter. Sherman Oaks Elementary an affiliated charter,” the principal states. “Increasingly there are more options for people to pursue in the affiliated charter area. There are a lot of great things going on in the local schools. Colfax doesn’t have to be the only one drawing in these kids. There are a lot of other schools looking for those families to change their school communities.”
Perhaps it will be just a matter of time before Riverside Drive Elementary becomes the hot new affiliated charter school and they, too will need to cap their enrollment and send students off to yet another public school.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Refinancing a bubble?

The following editorial appeared on the opinion page of today's L.A. Times.  I think it's worth printing in its entirety, and my take is at the bottom:

Rock-bottom mortgage interest rates offer borrowers the opportunity to free up a significant amount of cash by refinancing their loans and lowering their monthly payments. Unfortunately, that option isn't available to millions of borrowers because plummeting property values have left them owing more than their homes are worth, rendering them ineligible for a better loan. Others are trapped by poor credit ratings or restrictions imposed by their second mortgages. The Obama administration, which has tried without much success to help some of these borrowers refinance, is looking for ways to enable more of them to do so. There are trade-offs, but it's an effort worth making.

At issue are several trillion dollars' worth of mortgages backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that charge interest well above today's prevailing rate. Enabling these borrowers to refinance could save them hundreds of dollars a month. It also would help more of them avoid foreclosure, reducing the amount Fannie and Freddie lose to defaults. That's good for the taxpayers, who are covering the companies' losses. Cutting the borrowers' payments, however, would necessarily trim the revenue collected by Fannie, Freddie and the investors who purchased securities based on those mortgages — potentially by billions of dollars.

Advocates say that the public would come out ahead because the reduced payments would be more than offset by the reduction in defaults and the benefit to the economy. The Congressional Budget Office agreed in a recent report based on one possible implementation of a refinancing plan. Even so, it's not a slam dunk. Some barriers to refinancing, such as those posed by second mortgages, are stubbornly hard to overcome; that's one reason the existing refinancing program for "underwater" borrowers has helped only a fraction of the number anticipated. Nor would the program do much for those most at risk of foreclosure, given that borrowers who have fallen behind on their payments aren't likely to be eligible.

Nevertheless, the government should try to enable more people whose property values have plummeted to refinance. These borrowers are caught in a trap not of their own making; if not for that trap, Fannie, Freddie and investors would have seen their revenues cut long ago. Lowering more borrowers' monthly payments won't cure all of the housing market's many ills, but it will brighten those households' financial outlooks. That will boost consumer spending and avert some foreclosures, helping the communities hit hardest by the housing slump. 

I agree that underwater homeowners should be allowed to refinance.  The alternatives -- either short sales or foreclosures -- only drag down property values for all the other non-underwater neighbors.  Plus, the end result is the same -- no, the investors won't see the profits they were promised, but they wouldn't either if these homes are short saled or foreclosed.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

New, improved loan fraud through independent "loan coordinators"

A lender told me the following story yesterday: a buyer came to him for a purchase money loan on a particular property.  The buyer had an independent "loan coordinator" working with him in addition to his own Realtor.  Sufficient documentation, including several Wells Fargo bank statements, paycheck stubs, and verification of employment were turned into the lender with the loan application.  Everything was proceeding along just fine.

Then, one of the lender's staff did the last minute check to make sure the bank statements matched the bank records.  They didn't.  The Wells Fargo bank statements were forgeries.  Excellent forgeries, says the lender. 

Needless to say, the loan didn't go through.  The lender says that the independent "loan coordinator" wanted to know exactly what triggered the denial.  The lender thinks the loan coordinator wants to know how to do his job better next time.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Meet the new neighbors in Glendale -- coyotes!

Residents in North Glendale got a somewhat unwelcome surprise when a family of coyotes moved into an abandoned, fire-damaged house on Brockmont Drive.  Read about it here in the L.A. Times.  As many as seven coyotes may be living in the house, and some of them are in teenagers.

The powers-that-be in Glendale are currently deciding how to deal with the coyote family, which while making all the neighbors a bit nervous, has not caused any real harm...except for the fact that the teenage coyotes stay up late at night partying and playing music by Howlin' Wolf and Three Dog Night at peak volume.  Also, the Acme Supply Company truck has been seen outside the house delivering dynamite and other items used by at least one "wily" coyote to catch roadrunners.

There is no indication in the article about whether the coyotes plan to rehab/remodel the house and whether or not they've applied for any building permits.  The coyote family has not yet rsvp'd for the annual Brockmont block party, but if they come they plan to bring their special rodent kabobs.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

House, er, townhouse of the week in Toluca Lake

This is 4354 Cartwright in Toluca Lake.  The picture doesn't quite do it justice.  It's a 2 bed, 3 bath, 1380 sf. with an attached direct-entry 2-car garage, a loft and four -- yes, four -- decks or patios.  Two of the decks are roof-top and have views.  The building is mid-block away from busy streets and is in a nice residential neighborhood.  You can even walk to Firenze! Or the BMW dealership on Lankershim! Or St. Charles!  And if all that isn't enough, it just had a price reduction to $349k.  And the hoa is a low $230 a month.  I'm very impressed by this townhouse complex -- so much so that my husband and I made an offer on another unit here for ourselves last November (alas, we were outbid.)

Now for the bad news: it's a short sale.  But if you're willing to wait out the process, you'll have a really nice unit.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Tune in "Professional Grade" on HGtv and watch Ross and Tracy remodel their bathroom!

Professional Grade is a new HGtv show that runs on Saturday mornings. Here's the official blurb: Savvy and resourceful homeowners tackle a room renovation trying to achieve professional quality results on a limited budget. If they can fool a team of master contractors into thinking they spent more money than their actual out-of-pocket costs — the homeowners will win the difference.

Please make sure to record this on your DVR, because clients and Burbank residents Ross and Tracy Necessary will be the subjects of an upcoming episode.  They remodeled their master bath and did a breathtaking job.  I was on-hand for the "reveal" and shot a couple of videos of the process which you can watch, below.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Let's be careful out there in Studio City and Van Nuys

From a forwarded email:

Hi everybody:

An agent in the Studio City office forwarded this email from a friend

Monday to warn us about

a dangerous man in the area. Please read the email below with the

expectation you will take

extra precaution.

"Please pass this along to your friends, family and co-workers in the

L.A./Valley areas!

I am sending this out to friends in the area to be extra-aware. There is

a serious criminal who

has car-jacked three women in the last two weeks in the Valley (two in

Studio City and one in

Van Nuys). I was one of the victims (see below). This man was just

released from a maximum

security prison and is a junkie. He is about 6'5" tall, black hair down

to his waist (it was

in a pony tail), appears either Hispanic or American Indian, and is

suspected to be in the

North Hollywood area. Each case was a woman alone, sometimes pumping


Last Friday evening, I was car-jacked while exiting the CVS at Laurel

Canyon and Ventura Blvds.

in Studio City. Thank God, I'm OK (only a big bruise) but he got my car,

purse, keys and all my

ID. Studio City is considered a safe area, and there were lots of people

around at the time.

This was a brazen act of opportunity by a dangerous man.

Please spread the word, and take extra care. I am extremely cautious,

but let me tell you it

only took 10 seconds..."

Happy New Year! Four months early and not a moment too soon

September has always felt like the beginning of a new year to me, no doubt because this is when the new school year starts. Real estate-wise, it has always seemed like the end of one selling season and the beginning of another. After all, buyers are looking to buy because interest rates are down and homes are more affordable.  Sellers, inventory is low (actually, lack of inventory is the r.e. market's biggest problem right now, IMO) and some houses which previously had price reductions have now sold over list price.   So let's declare it a new year for real estate in Los Angeles, too. Let's pop the cork on some champagne, put the past behind us and start fresh, si? At least until the traditional Xmas slowdown...

Monday, September 05, 2011

From Sunday's L.A. Times: Read the second part of the headline first. Home prices soar (what?) AND monthly payments are more affordable

Sunday's L.A. times had a syndicated column by Lew Sichelman entitled Home prices soar in some areas as buyers opt for more expensive properties.  Lower mortgage rates are making monthly payments more affordable.  Does it seem that those are two different subjects to you? Well, the first part of the article says,
"[Prices] didn't just rise, though. They shot up by double digits, as much as 54.5% in Kansas City [Kansas City? Really?], almost 39% in Detroit and nearly 28% in Indianapolis from the second quarter last year, according to a survey of the nation's 32 largest metro areas by the Federal Housing Finance Agency.
Of course, house prices didn't really soar that much in a year's time. What's far more likely is that people in those places and several others bought more than the usual number of expensive properties in the April-May-June period." Okay, that explains it.  
The article then switches horses in mid-stream and discusses low interest rates. 
One consultant states, "Buyers also shouldn't worry about whether prices will continue to fall... because mortgage rates have only one way to go, which is up. Even a small jump in rates will wipe out any savings buyers might achieve by waiting for prices to drop further." And here's an interesting mathmatical take-away: " If prices remain flat and rates rise a full percentage point, to 5.5% from 4.5%, the same $200,000 house will cost 12% more each month to own, Yamano said. And if rates should spring up 2 percentage points, to 6.5%, your mortgage payment would jump 25%."  I don't think anybody needs to worry about interest rates rising today, but the article is correct: they have no place to go but up, and I think it's a good idea for would-be buyers AND sellers to be mindful of this.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

House (tale of woe) of the week and news you can use

The house pictured above is a foreclosure in Burbank's Rancho district.  My clients, who are well qualified and have been looking for a home for over a year, made a very smart, clean offer on this cutie. The dollar amount offered was in line with comparable neighborhood sales.  Alas, we learned that another higher offer came in at the same time.  We countered, but ...sigh.  Stay tuned for the outcome.

Now on to the really good news: mortgage interest rates are hovering around 4%, with points, for a conforming loan.  Jumbo loans have rates at low as 4.75%! Nobody is predicting an interest rate rise any time soon, either.

And here are a few tidbits for condo owners.  California has passed a law permitting solar panels to be installed on any condo.  An HOA can issue restrictions, but those restrictions can't be prohibitive.  Also, all condo projects and HOAs must now allow pets! Yes, once again, an HOA can issue restrictions (like a weight restriction, for example) but the restrictions can't be prohibitive.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Calculated Risk: Real House Prices and Price-to-Rent

Have you checked out Today's post has lots of info about the national real estate market. Check out the graphs here -- they basically say that we're back to year 2001 as far as price appreciation goes.
Calculated Risk: Real House Prices and Price-to-Rent: Case-Shiller, CoreLogic and others report nominal house prices. However it is also useful to look at house prices in real terms (adjusted fo...

Monday, August 29, 2011

One in four male Realtors packs heat!

Thanks to our friends at Agent Genius for reporting this.  Now, I'll have to look around my office and wonder who is or isn't ...uh...loaded.  I wonder how many Realtors have actually used their guns on the job, although I'm sure that 100% of all Realtors, male and female, have wanted to use guns on the job.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Toluca Lake home for sale -- nicest from yesterday's caravan

The nicest house that I saw on caravan yesterday was 4355 Clybourn in Toluca Lake (pictured above).  It's a 2+2 with separate office and pool for $749k and it has a really comfy ambiance.  That's a terrific price for this neighborhood, too. (You may recall my posts on the short sale that's catty-corner across the street, 4362 Clybourn -- I've just heard that the foreclosure sale has been post-poned again -- that makes about six postponements.)

I also saw another Toluca Lake home that is on a cut-through street and is priced at about $1.5 mil.  It just wasn't that awe-inspiring, unless you count the Michelob tab at the wet bar, the bidets, and the pet bunny.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A not-so-open letter to potential buyers

My buyer clients recently had a disappointing experience with a deliberately under-priced home in Burbank.  It was originally on the market for $600's+ and had a $100,000 (!!!!) price reduction after 30 days.  That's really a big drop for a home in great condition and it immediately drew four offers. Yes, even in this market, some underpriced houses are drawing multiple offers.  Here's the heavily edited post-mortem email that I wrote them.

"[Buyers] I know the [street name] house was a disappointing situation.  But here's some "back story": ...[Some Realtors] are known for deliberately underpricing their properties in order to attract multiple bids and sell them quickly...The strategy is very controversial, but [some agents] and their sellers find it successful. My experience has been that properties sell just as quickly when they're priced correctly, but that's me. 

Additionally, [some agents] often have their own buyers for their properties -- who they then have bid against each other for the under-priced houses.
  The [street name] house was really under-priced for that many square feet in Magnolia Park, so I wasn't surprised that it drew so many offers so quickly, even in this market.

So the take-away is that if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Here's what you can do so you're ready to rock next time:

- Follow through with [buyers' lender] and obtain a full pre-approval.  Those mean more to listing agents and sellers than a pre-qualification.  Also, be able to show proof of funds to close in a liquid form.  In other words, your entire down payment, plus about 2%-3% for closing costs, should be readily available on a page or two from a bank or financial institution.

- Most listings are added to the mls Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday.  We can check every day, and if something is appealing, get in before the open house.  [Of course, this requires that you use a Realtor in your home search.  Just saying - ed.] And also, not all homes are open every weekend.  This way, you won't miss anything.

 - ...[Adjacent areas] to your [dream location]...may be worth considering.  [They may]...have great housing stock, and prices might be coming down.  It might be worth considering.  Perhaps you'll let me give you a tour sometime...

Anyway, please call me with any questions and know that I'm here to help."

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Hotpads Map of Homes for Sale here!

Check out the bottom of this page.  A new widget has just been added -- a map of L.A. homes for sale, courtesy of  I hope you like it.

For real estate, these are the "dog days"

Regardless of how the r.e. market is doing, every mid- to late-August, the local real estate market slows down.  Of course, it's doing that this year, too.  I often refer to this period as "the dog days of summer."

The official definition of "dog days" on Wikipedia is really interesting; here's a quote: "A casual survey will usually find that many people believe the phrase is in reference to the conspicuous laziness of domesticated dogs (who are in danger of overheating with too much exercise) during the hottest days of the summer. When speaking of "Dog Days" there seems to be a connotation of lying or "dogging" around, or being "dog tired" on these hot and humid days. A similar myth asserts that the time is so-named because rabid dogs are supposed to be the most common then. Although these meanings have nothing to do with the original source of the phrase, they may have been attached to the phrase in recent years due to common usage or misunderstanding of the origin of the phrase."

Why does the real estate market slow down? People are getting in their last-minute vacations, getting kids ready for school, no longer feeling the imperative to close before the end of the summer, etc, etc.  Of course, bad economic news has an impact as well, but trust me, it's always slow at this time of year.

If you're a buyer, and are disappointed by how few homes there are for sale in Burbank, Studio City, Toluca Lake, Valley Village, etc., please know that you're not alone.  Inventory usually picks up about the second week in September.  And of course this is the time for price reductions on homes that have been on the market for awhile.  Remember, you're only looking for one house.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

A really nice surprise in Valley Village

This home is the nicest surprise of the week. It's located at 5523 Voletta Place in Valley Village, and is now listed at $709,000.  The neighborhood is very cool in a late 1970's-early 1980's way as the same developer built all the homes in this and adjacent cul-de-sacs.  The house has five, yes, five bedrooms, 3 baths, a big redone kitchen, a pool, new windows, attached garage, lots of system upgrades and more in 2500+ sf.  I personally think this is a fabulous deal in this neighborhood for somebody that needs a lot of space.