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.