Monday, December 30, 2013

The Realtor buys a house: What I re-learned

If you've been reading this blog, you know that my husband and I bought a townhouse in Studio City.  This will likely be the last of the "Realtor buys a place" posts.  I go through all of this all the time with my home buyers and sellers, but somehow, when you do it yourself, it's...different.  Anyway, here's what I re-learned.

1.  No matter how excellent you lender and staff are, the loan paperwork is burdensome.  And some of what lenders ask for? It's unbelievable.  Thank God for the ability to scan.  Here's a picture of all the stuff we have to keep.

2.  Many of the disclosures are redundant, and after you've signed about 100, you tend to take them less seriously.  We signed a disclosure about the Mullholland Scenic Parkway (wha?) three separate times.  The disclosures are worth reading, though.

3. The inspection period is a little nerve-wracking.  Power through it.  With appropriate drugs if necessary.

4.  I still don't know what many of the closing fees are for.  After all these years, I can't get a straight answer from anybody at an escrow company or a title company about what they are, either.  I'm talking about "loan tie-in fees" and "sub-escrow fees" and miscellaneous other fees.  The best answer I got was "Oh, those are for doing all the paperwork." Okay, then what are the fee fees for?  Good news here: there are very few lender junk fees these days.

5. And, at the risk of stating the obvious, moving is hell!

Friday, December 27, 2013

Happy post-Xmas, and Big Bear, CA

Happy post Xmas and on to New Years, everybody. We just returned from a few days at a cabin in Big Bear, CA. Ever thought of buying property there and living, sorta, "off the grid"? There are a ton of r.e. offices, naturally, so there must be lots of homes, condos and cabins for sale. The mountains are lovely, the lake is beautiful and there are year-round outdoor recreation opportunities. There was even some snow, although the south of the state is really dry this time of year. But that's it. The town is cute but touristy, the restaurants don't offer much variety -- and are expensive. There aren't any real bears. And for culture or a variety of opportunities? Doesn't seem like there's much. However, if all you like to do is hole up in a cute cabin or A-frame and "cocoon" maybe Big Bear is for you. (We certainly enjoyed the solitude.) You'll need a four-wheel drive and you'll need to like cold weather. Forget mid-century modern architecture, Starbucks and EMO. The good news is that L.A. is only 2 hours away; Palm Springs is even closer.

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Realtor buys a home: why you need to read the Home Owners Association stuff.

If you’ve reading this blog, you know that my husband and I are in escrow on a Studio City townhouse.  We finally got the home owners association documents and they contained a few surprises.

HOA documents are usually voluminous.  They contain the Articles of Incorporation and the CCRS (covenants, conditions and restrictions).  These documents have a lot of boring legalese about how the “corporation” is formed, who is a member (you), how and when the Board can assess a dues increase, etc., etc. All of this is recorded at the county and legally binds the unit owner. The documents should also contain the yearly HOA budget, and income statement, and the minutes for a year’s worth of HOA meetings. If you’re going through this process, you’ll be so over the paperwork by the time you get these that you’ll be tempted to just glance at them.  Don’t.  There are things there that you really need to know.

By the way, it’s also a good idea to speak with the HOA president.  They will be able to give you the back story on everything and even tell you where the bodies are buried.

Back to the documents.  First, yes, you can lightly review the Articles of Incorporation and the parts about who is a member and who can vote, etc.  However, when you get time or want to put yourself to sleep, please read every word.  But then, turn to the rules pages of the CCRs.  This will tell you how many pets you can have, storage rules, how many cars you can park, and if/under what circumstances you can make changes to the exterior of the unit, among other things.  You cannot disregard these, although you may ask the HOA president if specific rules (like pet rules*) are strictly enforced.

Next, please review the budget, income statements, and minutes.  This will tell you a lot about your new neighbors – do they spend money to keep the place up? How much? Do they spend money frivolously?  Are dues projected to go up? What repairs has the building needed and what is anticipated? Have they done any termite remediation?  Are there disagreements at the HOA meetings? If so, about what?  Remember, you and the other owners are all in this together. These HOA folks will be your neighbors (gasp!) and will have an impact on your life and home while you live in your condo/townhouse.  You’ll want to know as much as possible about them and how they view the HOA.

*Digression re pet rules: The vast majority of HOAs (but not all) allow domestic pets but may limit how many pets you can have.  And some HOAs have breed restrictions.

Okay, back to us.  Our new building does spend a lot on upkeep, and it shows.  The building has had a few special assessments for painting and termites.  And it seems as if the other owners are a convivial bunch.  At least we hope so.  All in all, we think we’re pretty lucky about our new place.

Coming soon: what are condo and townhouse HOA dues for and why they are worth it.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Check out my new Yelp Realtor review!

Cathy D has just written a glowing Yelp review about me. I recently represented Cathy and her family members in a Burbank home purchase.  I've worked with this family for over a decade and this is the fifth transaction that I've helped them with.  Needless to say, I've become extremely fond of the family and look forward to our next real estate fun.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Need vintage clothes or goods? Burbank's Magnolia Park has you covered

I've posted before about the plethora of vintage clothing and merchandise shops on Burbank's Magnolia Blvd.  Today, the L.A. Times features an article about the Burbank treasure trove of vintage stores.  Click here to read.  The article focuses extensively on the gigantic Playclothes store (pictured above) and its services to the entertainment industry, but the whole area features lots of retro goods (check out The Blue Pig) and is a pretty fun walking area, too.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

1215 Sparks in Burbank has sold in spite of Union Bank and a Realtor that was off his meds

This is 1215 Sparks in Burbank, and it just sold to my clients Carly and Ulises.  Carly and Ulises are a wonderful young couple who have already faced many challenges together.  I was delighted to help them in their search and had helped other members of their family before this.

Once we got into escrow, the fun started.  The buyers chose a loan program from Union Bank.  And we have all now learned that Union Bank is really, really slow to get things done.  And they want a ton of financial info from buyers, naturally.  The loan and escrow looked like they were going to close a week late.  The listing agent, who moved to New York City in the middle of the transaction, was fine with that.  Or so he said.

Well, he wasn't so fine with it after all, especially when it looked like it was going to close two weeks late because of the bank.  Nobody likes this, by the way, and I've been on the other side of this, too.  He began to have tantrums, complete with insults and name-callings.  He wrote long, rambling emails IN ALL CAPS to both my manager and me and declared that we were responsible for all ills in the world, including the derailment of the middle east peace process. (Good to know.)  We were thankful that he was 3000 miles away!

Anyway, it closed; thankfully we've heard nothing more from the listing agent.  I wish Carly and Ulises much happiness.

Monday, December 02, 2013

LA Times Article: Many buyers find the home loan process unpleasant. You don't say!

Yesterday's L.A. Times featured an article about the unpleasantness of applying for a mortgage loan.  Click the link here to read.  Among those surveyed by the National Association of Realtors, 1 in 4 said they'd rather gain 10 pounds than go through the process again. Seven percent would prefer having a root canal or spending a night in prison.  And many were more comfortable being around snakes than applying for a loan again.

Most of the distress came from first-time buyers, of course. Craig Martin, director of the financial services practice at J.D. Power says: "First-time buyers often have questions and should not be afraid to ask prospective lenders about the specifics of the mortgage process and how they will be kept informed. Much of the stress with borrowing comes from a lack of information and knowledge during the process. Asking when you will be updated and how that information will be provided are two key questions that may help improve the borrowing experience."

Of course, if you're applying for a loan (or refinancing) and would like to work with a great lender than I've personally vetted for customer service, please check my website at and click on the "Resources" tab.  Then please click on "Local Partners." You'll find several lenders who are always available, have great rates, and explain the process thoroughly.

Photo courtesy of Chuck Burton/AP via Los Angeles Times.