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.

Craigslist: Go-to spot for real estate and rental scam artists?

I recently received this email from one of the Realtors in my office: "FYI


My ads for a rental listing, have been scammed!

I have a lease property in Sherman Oaks, and it is at $3,250 per month.

Scammers have advertised the property on Craigslist for $1,500.

They say the the tenant just has to mail a check for $3,000 and they will mail them the keys.

If you call the scammers, they say that :

"the Real Estate Agent has priced the home too high,

and all I want is $1,500 per month, so let's bypass the agent...."

They are also sending out emails to people in Los Angeles, saying that they are the owners, and using the owner's name.

So before we represent a tenant and rent out a property, maybe we should check out the owner's ID.

People are knocking on the door of the house every day wanting to get inside to see this well priced home...

I have had over 25 people call me this week about renting the house for $1,500 per month."
In response, another agent emailed this:
They have been taking my for sale listings and posting them as rentals the same way. Also, if you have a vacant property don’t list it as vacant in the MLS or post pictures showing it as vacant. They are targeting these homes and breaking in and stealing the appliances and in one case all of the copper plumbing from under the house.
I won't be posting anything else on Craigslist!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

More affordable to rent or buy? In most cities, buy. Yep.

Thanks to Agent Genius for posting this Trulia article.  In most cites, survey respondents say that it is more affordable to buy rather than to rent.  The exceptions are NYC, Seattle and San Francisco.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The two delicious flavors of probate properties

I know, talking about probate properties is boring and has nothing to do with ice cream.  But you may need this info some day, and yes, if you're in the middle of a probate real estate transaction, you can get through this.  I'm posting this because I'll have a listing later this year that's currently tied up in probate court.

"Probate" is when the state (any state) steps in when somebody has died without leaving a will.  The state oversees the distribution of assets to remaining heirs and claimants.  Fair, no? But with regard to houses, there are two delicious flavors of probate proceedings: 1) probate properties that need court confirmation to sell and 2) probate properties that don't need court confirmation to sell and close.  Both processes are complicated, and that's why there are estate attorneys and whole bodies of law devoted to this. 

How do you tell one from another? If you're an heir or claimant to the estate, the court and attorneys will determine this for you.  If you're a buyer, the multiple listing service must say the property is subject to probate court and must also say which method is being used.  And if you're confused, please feel free to contact me for links and other info.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Staging video for 1106 N. Cordova

This is a really rough look at the living room staging for 1106 N. Cordova in Burbank.  This is my first "sequenced" video and I promise to improve my technique before posting anything else.  But at any rate, you can see the big difference that staging makes.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Um...exactly WHAT is being carved here at Tacos del Toro?

This is part of the wall mural at Tacos del Toro on Laurel Canyon at Oxnard in Valley Village.  The mural has cartoon pigs being put in cooking pots, tacos being made, etc.  But exactly what is going on in this section of the mural? And specifically what cuts of meat are being used in the tacos?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

With all the turmoil in the financial markets, how's the local real estate market doing?

Revision note: oops, the quote is from Franklin Roosevelt.  Heh, heh I knew that heh.

Will the current world financial market turmoil have a negative effect on real estate here in Southern California?  Sure. Dramatically? Nobody knows. Most experts who thought we were at the bottom of the market no longer think that. Just being honest here, folks.  Here's what I know for certain:
- Life goes on;
- You need a roof over your head;
- In most cases, you'll need to pay for that roof, either by renting it or buying it.
- The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.

I know what you're thinking: "Gee, thanks, Winston Churchill. That was sure profound."

Point is, I don't know if it's a good time to buy or sell or rent or short sale for you until I know your specific, particular situation. Nobody else knows either. So please feel free to reach out to me.  Because one other thing I do know for certain is that I can help you sort out your options.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

3 Factoids about Los Angeles Architecture! Amaze and delight your friends!

John Aaroe Group's new architectural division is sponsoring educational classes for its Realtors (I know we all think Realtors are expert on everything, but surprisingly, that's not the case...). I took the first class yesterday, taught by expert Eleanor Schrader Schapa, and learned many, many things.  Among the factoids and tidbits about L.A. building styles:
 - We all know adobe is basically sticks and mud.  In the 18th century, the binder used to hold it together was donkey pee.  I did not learn how the donkey pee was collected.
- "Craftsman" homes were so named because any craftsman/builder/dad-that-could-swing-a-hammer could put them together.  Sears Roebuck even sold craftsman homes in kits that contained all necessary building materials.
- Many people, including me and Walt Disney, have been enamored by the French Normandy style homes with their turrets and "witches' caps." In Europe around WWI and before, those turrets were actually bird coops.
I can't wait for the next class.

And now for a little good news

The Federal Reserve Bank has announced that they will keep the prime rate low for two more years.  This likely means that mortgage interest rates will stay low, too.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

I said I'd tell you how the Burbank short sale is going

Well, it's going fine. So far.  The buyer has been a real trooper and has already removed his physical inspection contingencies.  All paperwork is into the banks -- yes, there are two -- and my negotiator thinks somebody will be assigned to the files next week.  I expect a call to schedule a brokers price opinion visit anytime (that's like an appraisal, but is done by a Realtor that the bank hires).  Stay tuned.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

The Riverside townhouse in Burbank seemed too good to be true...

This unit at 400 W. Riverside #4 in Burbank has been on the market for awhile, but just had a MAJOR price reduction down to $344,500.  That's a very low price for a 3-bedroom, 2.5-bath unit that's over 1500 square feet.  With its own attached garage. And they were offering a 3.5% credit!  In the Burbank Rancho -- your horse could live nearby! And redone inside with a new kitchen, smooth ceilings, relatively low hoa fees, a pool, bla bla bla.  My clients and I went racing over there last night.  It seemed too good to be true...

Alas, it was.  The listing agent told me this a.m. that they were probably going to accept an over-full-price offer today.  No time for my clients to write one.  Jeez, that was fast, especially for a foreclosure.  And so disappointing for us, too.  But as I said below, the best cure for the "home that got away" is always another home. Sigh.

How buying and selling real estate is like dating -- Rule #1

Remember everything your mom told you when you had your heart broken by your sweetheart?  (Cue Celine Dion singing "My Heart Will Go On") The same advice holds true for buying and selling homes: The only cure for the house that got away is another house.  For sellers, ditto on buyers that got away.  Stay tuned to this blog for other posts on how real estate is like being single and dating.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Winner homes -- and not -- of the weekend

We were all over the place this weekend.  I won't give the address of the "winner" house since my clients are interested in it, but it is in Toluca Lake and has very fanciful decorating.  The bathroom picture is above.

The second pleasant surprise was at 543 Stocker in Glendale.  This is a typical 80's townhouse.  I have a bit of a prejudice against these as they're usually in neighborhoods that are way over-built by now, but was clean and nice and has 2 decent-sized bedrooms.  The living room is a little small, but for $299k...

And then there's 4276 Kling in the Burbank portion of Toluca Lake, which is a short sale.  Everybody, including me, loves this complex.  I could probably sell five townhomes there today alone if the price was low enough.  Alas, it just wasn't for my buyers. 

And now for the losers:  The first is a 1960's condo in Glendale.  The neighborhood is okay, and the place was clean, but it looks like the complex your grandmother lived in during the 1960's.  Just very apartment-y.  And there's no laundry in the unit.  And the home owners association dues are $429, but that includes all utilities.  This poor little unit just had nothing about it to love.

Then there's the condo on Oxnard in Valley Glen.  My clients and I have tried to see this twice.  The first time we were told it couldn't be shown because the bed wasn't made.  This time, we had an appointment and somebody was going to meet us there to wrangle the large dog.  But we were stood up.  My clients were very good-humored about it, but I felt really badly that their time had been wasted.  I think that just might be it for condos in Valley Glen, but you never know.