Thursday, June 30, 2011

Just posted 2nd qrtr home sale stats for Burbank and Studio City

I just posted home sale price ranges for March through June on my website at  Check the "About Burbank" and "About Studio City" pages.  Stats for Toluca Lake, Noho, Valley Glen and Glendale are coming soon -- as soon as the site manager restores those pages.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Why loan modifications aren't happening

Today's Michael Hiltzik column in the L.A. Times contains a great article on loan modifications and why so few of them are actually happening. The title should link; if not click here. IMO, here's the most pertinent text from the article:
The key to keeping a financially strapped borrower in a home is to modify the mortgage to cut the monthly payment, whether by cutting the interest rate or loan balance or by stretching out the repayment term. What makes this difficult is that often the loan servicer — the bank or office that bills the homeowner and tracks his or her payment history — doesn't own the loan, which has been packaged and sold to investors. The servicer's right to sign off on a mortgage modification may be murky, even if in the long run it will benefit the investor by keeping the home out of foreclosure.

In fact, servicers have powerful incentives to do the wrong thing — wrong for borrowers, wrong for investors, wrong for the economy. They make more money, and have better guarantees of payment, if they delay modifications, even if they force homeowners into foreclosure.

That's because they can continue to collect junk fees from homeowners while they stretch out the process. Although they have to advance interest payments (and sometimes principal) to investors even on delinquent or defaulting loans, they're first in line to be repaid from the proceeds of the sale of a foreclosed home. Under those circumstances, why would a servicer break a sweat to keep a home out of foreclosure?

Emphasis mine.  I've been wondering why more loan modifications, which make a lot of sense, aren't going through.  Thanks for nothing, servicers.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

WARNING: ADULT MATERIAL! Topless listing photos - Realtor do's or don'ts?

I've often wondered if nudity is a good real estate marketing technique. Does going topless increase Realtor business or sell homes faster? Now I have my answer: not necessarily, but it does get you "exposure" on national This is a house in Georgia, by the way, and yes, it is a real listing photo.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Recycled pirate news from Burbank and LA.Curbed

Back in 2007, I discovered this pirate ship from the alley of the 900 block of Angeleno in Burbank. I sent the pic to L.A. Curbed, they printed it then, and they reprinted it last Friday. Hey, backyard pirate ship news is ALWAYS worthy of a reprint.

Friday, June 24, 2011

The intersection of Hollywood and real estate is so glamorous Part 2: behind the scenes at HGtv's "Professional Grade"

See Part 1, below.  HGtv's "Professional Grade" filmed my clients, Ross and Tracy (here), as they redid their master bathroom.  I was present for the big reveal and video'd this at about 8:30 pm, before the cameras rolled.  Ross and Tracy hadn't slept the night before in order to get ready for the tv crew.  Did I mention that Tracy is 7 months' pregnant and they both worked their full-time jobs earlier in the day? Hollywood is just so glamorous! Tune in to the show in the early fall to see the actual work.

The intersection of Hollywood and real estate is so glamorous Part I: behind the scenes at HGtv's "Professional Grade"

HGtv's "Professional Grade" shot at clients Ross and Tracy's Burbank home last night.  We were present for the "reveal" of their brand new master bathroom.  This is the show's host and contractors, and I was the videographer for this clip (my video skills need work, obviously, but you get the cinema verite jist).  It took about 3 hours to shoot 30 seconds of the show. More coming up.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Appraisal problems

Appraisal problems are a fact of life in the real estate market these days, and I just had one. My listing at 1106 N. Cordova in Burbank appraised through Wells Fargo* for $14,000 less than what it is in escrow for.  The buyer had already waived the appraisal contingency, but the sellers and I wanted her to feel good about her purchase, so we cooperated with a second appraisal with her new lender, Great Western.  This time, I met the appraiser and brought area comparables along with the final cost sheet prepared by the contractor who had done the updates.  I also sent the appraiser copies of the other offers we'd received so he could see the range the "market" was willing to pay for the house.  Sure enough, this time the appraisal came out right at the sales price.  I'm sorry the buyer had to pay for two appraisals, but I'm sure she now feels even better about the purchase of this cute home.

*Note that I'm bashing the big banks once again.  Yes, this is a common theme of this blog.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The rental market in the San Fernando Valley is hot

In the last few weeks, I've been working on getting a long-time associate a place to rent. I don't usually handle rentals as most landlords don't go through Realtors to rent their places. Anyway, it's been very difficult. Rentals are going in multiple offers, often with (ridiculous) landlord demands. For example, at one house, the tenants are forbidden to use the laundry, garage or driveway although on-street parking is restricted. And that house is renting for $2400 a month. At another home for lease, the landlord didn't want to remove a beehive. Yikes. Our friends at have written an article about this new, emerging market -- click here to read.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Deal of the weekend in Valley Village

This house at 5236 Bellaire in Valley Village impressed me.  It’s a 2+1.5, 1310 sf on a 6982 sf lot, with an added-on den and a screened-in patio and has a new roof, new windows, and sparkling pool.  The decorating is completely dated but the house is priced to sell at $525k.  There is real pride of ownership here -- you can tell that the senior owner has expertly fixed and improved anything that has broken there for the 40+ years he’s lived there. I bet there’s not a single screw that needs tightening on the property.  Again, the decorating is dated, but the house is in pristine condition and is in a terrific location, too.  And since yesterday was Fathers' Day, here's my belated shout-out to all the senior dads and grandfathers who knew how to fix absolutely everything!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Nicest house I saw this week that my clients didn't want to buy

This is 5908 Troost, North Hollywood.  It just came on the market for $469,500 and it's a 3+2, 1600 sf.  Yes, it's a flip, and a really nicely done one.  Check out the pictures on the mls.  It was the nicest house that I saw this week in the price range that my clients didn't want to buy.  I know what you're thinking: North Hollywood is sketchy.  But this area is improving pretty rapidly.  I sold a home just a half block away to clients last year, and they are deliriously happy there.  The North Hollywood police station is just down on Burbank Blvd. and "Noho" is turning into a fun destination.  True, the public schools aren't anything to write home about, but for those without children in this price range, this area -- and this house -- might be an excellent option.

Friday, June 17, 2011

How important are home photos to the selling process, anyway? OMG, they're everything!

Agent Genius had an article about home staging a couple of days ago. One of the comments was so true: the four things most responsible for a successful home sale are (in order): the home, the price, the photos and the staging. We’ll talk about staging another time, but to me, good interior pictures are key. 

There’s nothing like well-lit, professional quality pics to motivate a buyer to drive across town to see a home for sale.  Everybody has been watching HGtv for years now, and everybody has access to all sorts of real estate porn gorgeous home photos. Buyers have high expectations and many properties to choose from. Good property photos increase interest, which equals more showings sooner which equals quicker sales.   Even if the property isn’t glamorous, professional photographers can light otherwise dark corners, great angles can be used, and a house for sale can really look its best, online at least, for potential buyers.

So I’m puzzled as to why more Realtors aren’t having pro photos taken? (Unless the house is a truly scary tear-down.) Yes, there’s the cost, but we’re supposed to be spending money on our marketing, yes? (Or did I not get the memo?)  Buyers, would you go running to see the house above? Sellers, I can’t think of a single reason that your Realtor can’t hire a professional photographer – the cost is minimal for the return you’ll get.  And sellers, when the photographer is coming to shoot the house, it’s a good idea to tidy up – or at least put the butter away unless it's included in the sale.

R,I.P., fatest cat in Burbank

It's with great sadness that I announce that Gregory, the fatest cat in Burbank, has passed away.  See my post 4/8/11.  I don't know the details, but I hope he'll be very happy in his next nine lives. Condolences to his parents and house mates.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Check out my website redesign at!

Please visit my newly re-designed website at  The title should link.  Hopefully, this will make your search for real estate information even easier.  I wanted to have this redesigned to go with my new company and my new picture, and we're still getting some bugs out.  I also wanted it to be a little more colorful.  I hope you like it!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Property showings in Valley Glen, Toluca Woods and Burbank. And the nicest house is...

I showed a client homes for sale in Burbank, Valley Glen and Toluca Woods today.  We encountered no drunken neighbors today (see post from April) but I think that may have been a temporary Burbank phenomenon.  The nicest home, at 1311 Naomi in Burbank, is pictured above.  It's small, but cute, clean and updated.  It also has a permitted bonus room that could be used as a guest room. 

The runner up is 2707 Wyoming, Burbank and could have been a contender until we realized the upstairs has no bathroom.  And it has almost no yard.  For $490k. 

I continue to be impressed with the housing stock in Valley Glen that's between $400k and $500k. However, nothing ranked today, not even the flip that didn't have air conditioning. 

The only nice thing I can say about the other homes had a nice Wedgewood stove and cute pig statuary.  My very patient client and I couldn't get out of a couple other homes fast enough.  And by the way, brokers and sellers, it would be nice if you could try to eradicate the cat urine smell before you put a house up for sale.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Tried to get a loan mod lately? Was it difficult? You weren't alone; read this

I know business news is boring, but this article from today's L.A. Times is a must read.  The headline says it all: "3 banks lose loan mod incentives" from the federal government.  Those three are BofA, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo.  The government says these banks need to improve their loan modification practices to qualify for the money.  I'll say. Several other loan servicers were judged to be poor performers too: Ocwen, American Home Mortgage Servicing, Citigroup, GMAC, Litton, OneWest Bank and Select Portfolio.

Some short sale experts I've spoken with believe that the small amount of money that the government is offering these banks is a joke, and this article quotes others who say the same.  And the U.S. House of Representatives recently voted to end the program. To me, whether or not the banks get money for modifying loans, it's bizarre that banks would force their own customers into foreclosure instead of knocking points of their interest rates.  How does that scenario make sense?

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Yet another reason to love the east San Fernando Valley: 9 most Doom-y statements about 405 Fwy closure

Unless you've been living under a rock, you know by now that the 405 Freeway will be closed for 56 hours in mid-July.  It's being called carmageddon -- lol.  Curbed.LA has compiled the 9 most doom-y statements from public officials and they're doozies!  Oh, I am so not sorry I live in the un-hip part of our region.

Burbank home is in escrow

The sellers of 1106 N. Cordova, Burbank received multiple offers and accepted one this a.m. Of course, the house is still available for backup offers.  I am thrilled to have had a listing that was so nicely redone and I am grateful that the sellers took my advice and had it professionally staged.  More details on this escrow as it goes along.

Monday, June 06, 2011

BofA gets foreclosed on! Way to go, homeowners!

Bank of America wrongfully forclosed on home owners who paid cash for their home.  So, as you'll see in this video, the homeowners foreclosed right back in order to get their legal fees paid.  There's a little twist at the very end of this, so you'll want to watch all the way through.  I know; I shouldn't be so gleeful, but it is the evil empire Bank of America, after all!

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Open house on Sunday, 6/5, 2 - 5 - 1106 N. Cordova, Burbank 91505

This beauty is open today from 2 to 5. It is listed for $459,000.  Features: updated and redone throughout, 2 beds, 1 bath, fabulous Magnolia Park neighborhood, new a/c, new windows, new interior and exterior paint, new light fixtures, fireplace, refinished hardwoods, big backyard, and a regular sale! There's nothing else in this stellar neighborhood in this condition for this price. Come visit me and special guest Steve (who'll be there with his playlist, of course). More pics can be found at

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Judy's house hunters' iTunes iMix! Any suggestions for this list?

Real estate shouldn't be all blood, sweat, tears and money.  And you need some tunes for the car as you're driving to all those open houses, right? About five years ago, I put together the following house-related song list for home buyers and sellers. (Sorry, no hip-hop -- I'm old -- but feel free to suggest...). You can go on my website and click on links that will take you right to iTunes if you'd like to buy these, or just create a list on your own. I hope you enjoy this list as much as I enjoyed putting it together. I welcome your suggestions for home-related iMix no. 2.

1. Baby, Let's Play House - Elvis
2. Blue House - Marcia Ball
3. This House - Yellow Man
4. Who Says You Can't Go Home - Bon Jovi
5. Home - Alexi Murdoch
6. Come On-A My House - Rosemary Clooney
7. Red House - Jimi Hendrix
8. Going Home - Sly & Robbie
9. Happy House - Siouxsie and the Banshees
10. Home - Bonnie Raitt
11. House of Blue Lights - Commander Cody
12. Home - Lene Lovich
13. I'm Coming Home - The Spinners
14. House Where Nobody Lives - Tom Waits
15. Take Me Home, Country Roads - Toots and the Maytals
16. Our House - Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young
17. Bring it on Home to Me - Sam Cooke

18. Don't it Make You Want to go Home - Joe Tex (suggested by Robert Hilburn when I sent him the original list.)

And by the way, husband Steve, former radio dj, will be guesting at tomorrow's open house at 1106 N. Cordova with his special playlist.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

For those of you that fantasize, as I do, about moving to Paris

I fantasize about chucking it all and moving to Paris, and I subscribe to French Property Insider.  The following article from FPI has made my fantasies not quite so fantastic.   L.A. is still a better deal.  What a surprise.

Bonjour French Property Insider Subscriber,
The report is out. Paris property prices are up 20.8% this past year -- from first quarter 2010 through first quarter 2011. And that's an average! In one district, the 7th, prices have soared as high as 27...%. Crazy?! "Au contraire." It was to be expected. Interest rates remain low and available housing on the market struggles to increase, therefore demand is up and owners are reluctant to sell. So, it's not a surprise that sales actually diminished by 12% over the same period.
Much to the dismay of the politicians who are scrambling to find affordable housing for their constituents, the idea of holding on to property and renting it at a profit grows in both the French and by foreigners who see an investment opportunity...just like us.
The average price per square meter in Paris is up to 7,780€, but certain central districts have risen over the 10,000€ per meter mark -- the 4th, 6th and 7th. Only the 19th district is still under the 6,000€ per square meter line. For the first time in four years, the 7th district (11,880€/m2) has surpassed the 6th (11,870€), followed by the 4th (11,080€). A fourth district passed the 10,000€/m2 bar -- the 1st with 10,030€/m2. In contrast, the least expensive district remains the 19th at 5,970€/m2, followed by the 20th (6,380€/m2) and the 18th (6,830€/m2).
This period has shown the strongest growth in the last 20 years measured at between 16.4% (2nd) and 27.3% (7th). Per square meter prices vary between 5,900€ in the Amérique quarter of the 19th and 12,710€/m2 in Les Invalides of the 7th.

There has been a lot of discussion about the French property market heading toward a "bubble" that could break at any moment...but there is enough evidence to show this isn't true. Prices trending upward has more to do with a lack of inventory and that doesn't appear to be solvable in the near future -- particularly in Paris where historic districts are protected and new builds are virtually impossible. Interest rates are creeping up, which will diminish demand, therefore prices may tend to level, but there is no sign of a burst of the so-called bubble!

How high can prices go? As long as investors have the funds, lenders are willing to lend and inventory remains low, there is no telling. What's of primary concern is how rental rates are not keeping up with cost and therefore return on investment from the perspective of rental revenues, is lessened, even if appreciation remains strong.
Is it a good time to buy? My opinion is 'yes.' At today's low interest rates (under 4%), it's a perfect opportunity to get your toe in the proverbial water and in five, ten or 20 years, you'll be very happy you didn't pass up the so many are doing now when they had the same chance a few years ago!

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

And CoreLogic has another take, courtesy of Calculated Risk

Thanks, Calculated Risk, for this:

CoreLogic: Home Price Index increased 0.7% between March and April

by CalculatedRisk on 6/01/2011 01:55:00 PM

Notes: Case-Shiller is the most followed house price index, but CoreLogic is used by the Federal Reserve and is followed by many analysts. The CoreLogic HPI is a three month weighted average of February, March, and April (April weighted the most) and is not seasonally adjusted (NSA).

From CoreLogic: CoreLogic® Home Price Index Shows First Month-over-Month Increase since mid-2010

CoreLogic ... today released its April Home Price Index (HPI) which shows that home prices in the U.S. increased on a month-to-month basis by 0.7 percent between March and April, 2011, the first such increase since the home-buyer tax credit expired in mid-2010. However, national home prices, including distressed sales, declined by 7.5 percent in April 2011 compared to April 2010 after declining by 6.8 per cent in March 2011 compared to March 2010. Excluding distressed sales, year-over-year prices declined by 0.5 percent in April 2011 compared to April 2010.
"While the economic recovery is still fragile and one data point is not a trend, the month-over-month increase based on April sales activity is a positive sign. ..." said Mark Fleming, chief economist for CoreLogic.
I was expecting the CoreLogic index to increase over the summer because it is not seasonally adjusted, however the seasonal increases usually start in June (when the Spring home purchases start to closes). This is just one data point, but it is possible this index will have small increases all summer.

I'll have more later (and hopefully a graph).

Home sale decline numbers - calm down, everybody

I'm sure nobody has missed the latest headlines -- real estate prices are down.  And not to put a glossy spin on this, BUT: Los Angeles is only down 1.7% from March 2010.  Remember, all real estate is local (property investors and flippers are out in full force right now).  The good news is that the national bad news has caused interest rates to go down, still, again. I personally am seeing many buyers in all price ranges in Studio City, Burbank, Encino, North Hollywood, etc. So please, don't anybody panic!