Wednesday, December 20, 2017

What the new tax plan means for Los Angeles area home buyers and sellers

Unless you've been doing last-minute holiday shopping 24/7, you know that the U.S. Congress passed a new bill that governs the federal taxes that you pay.  Without getting deep in the weeds about the details, here are the major issues that you should know about if you are searching for a home or selling a home in the Los Angeles area.

Re the mortgage interest deduction: it has been lowered from $1 million to $750,000.  That's the amount of the mortgage loan, not the total cost of the home.  Mercifully, it will not hurt affordability for most people who buy a home in the $400,000-$900,000 range -- and most properties in L.A. County are in that range -- so your MID is safe.  What does it mean for sellers? Not much. Your pool of qualified buyers will not shrink for median-priced homes and townhomes/condos.  And, if you are selling a very expensive property, your buyers are probably not as concerned as they already (presumably) have ample means to pay the mortgage and don't require a big yearly deduction.

Re the capital gains on home sales exclusion:  This is unchanged.  If you are a single person who has lived in your home two out of the last five years, you can still exclude up to $250,000 in profit from capital gains taxes.  If you are married, you can exclude up to $500,000 in profit.  For buyers, no concerns here.

Stay tuned, though.  I have a feeling that the U.S. Congress is not done tinkering with this tax plan yet.

Monday, December 11, 2017

3747 Berry, Studio City - sold! With challenges, of course

Although you can't see the house well, this is 3747 Berry in Studio City and it just sold to my friends and clients, Josh and Mac.  Josh and Mac have been looking for a home in the hills for several months now.  You know the drill: find the house, make an offer, get excited, only to find out that you are one of 18 other offers, don't get the house.  Our number must have come up this time because we got lucky and got into escrow at our offering price.

It was a challenge for a couple of reasons.  I won't go into detail here, but if you buy a house on a hill, please get a geologic inspection.  Also, please use a direct lender for your loan and not an investment company.  The investment company is very reputable and came through at the end, but the buyers had to jump through higher and higher hoops and the communication from the company was just plain bad.

Obviously, the story has a happy ending.  Josh and Mac intend to build an addition and are in the fun process of getting started on that now. 

Monday, November 27, 2017

Another sexy subject: How to paint your place

The first thing almost all buyers do when purchasing a new place is paint.  And often, sellers do this before putting their homes on the market.  Paint is the quickest way to begin decorating and freshen up the look of a house.  But it's such a hassle that many people outsource it to professionals, and that can get expensive.  However, yesterday's New York Times had a great how-to article on how to do it yourself.  It's really specific.  Click on this title for the link: A Pro Teaches You How to Paint Your Apartment.  My favorite "don't" in the article? "Don't shop for paint before 10 am or after 4 pm or you'll get caught waiting in line behind all the contractors."

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

3rd anniversary of Judy Graff Properties, Inc.!

Today marks the 3rd anniversary of the formation of Judy Graff Properties.  Three years ago, I made the move away from large agencies and opened my own full-service real estate company.  I have never looked back.  JGP is slowly growing, but will always be providing the difference, and leading with a heart for service.  Thanks to all the clients and agents that have made this endeavor such a success!
Graphic courtesy of Steve, of course.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

LA Times published my letter on affordable housing and density

I am tired of hearing about so-called "affordable housing" and I am tired of the L.A. Times support of  high-density as a way to produce more affordable housing.  (Yes, as a Realtor, I know that I benefit from more stuff to sell, but I also benefit as a human from a more livable city.) I wrote this letter earlier this week and it was published in today's L.A. Times.  First, the link:

To the editor: 
I am disappointed by The Times’ support of high-density housing near transit stops as a way to solve the “affordable” housing crisis. Getting people out of their cars plus giving them affordable housing are two separate issues and should be treated as such. (“L.A. obviously needs dense housing along the Expo Line. Why isn't the city planning for it?” editorial, Nov. 9)
Why not build affordable housing in neighborhoods where people actually live now rather than where we want them to live?
Let’s continue allowing granny flats and guest houses in neighborhoods that are not close to transit. Let’s allow spot zoning in residential neighborhoods for duplexes, triplexes and small-lot townhome developments — yes, with parking spaces.
A guest house that can be rented offsets the high cost of a single-family home and may put home purchases within reach for people of modest means. A guest house will surely rent for much less than a fancy new apartment in, say, downtown Los Angeles. Let’s stop trying to cram more people into areas that were never meant for high density in the first place.

Monday, November 06, 2017

Another great Yelp review

I love Abhi and Shweta.  I've seen them purchase their first home and now, their second home.  I've known them since they just had one baby -- now, they have two kids and the oldest is almost as tall as me.  Both of them are smart, focused and practical.  It has been an honor to work with them.  

Judy helped my husband and me buy two houses.  She is a very sweet and skillful lady with a golden heart. I absolutely love her and her smart way of working. 

She understand the importance of time, therefore she will not show you any random house. She will first understand you and your choices and then filter the houses that will best match your requirement, your taste and also is a very good house according to Market.

The Best thing I like about Judy is her HONEST OPINION. She don't care about making more and more money, all she cares about is to do right what is right for you. 

I over looked and missed a lot of things in my both houses but nothing skipped from her eyes. The way she analyzed things and looked at every single details, shows her amazingly deep knowledge and experience in this business.

She entered in our life 9 years earlier as a agent but now she is like a family to me
She is an absolutely pleasure to work with and will HIGHLY HIGHLY HIGHLY  Highly recommend her.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Roof repair is so sexy

Californians, you probably haven't thought about your roof since the rains last year.  However, before it begins to rain again (if that happens), now is an excellent time to do roof maintenance.  You're probably thinking that I mean shingles.  Actually, the really important stuff is having the vents and pipes properly sealed (sealant wears out) because that's where moisture comes in.  And having the gutters cleared so they don't top out with water that sloshes back where the roof meets the house.  And shingles too.  Maintenance isn't expensive, and an ounce of prevention beats a pound of whatever, bla bla.  

Another reason to do this now: you can actually schedule a roofer now, something that will be impossible once the rains start -- these folks get all booked up really quickly. You don't want to be the person who wrestles a blue tarp up a ladder and over a leak.  It may be less expensive now than in December-January-February, too.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

My clients just closed on this cool Highland Park home

Clients Alison and Jason just bought this very cool 3+2 Highland Park bungalow.  Although the house is almost a hundred years old, it has been expanded and extensively rehabbed.  Even though I tried to interest them in other areas, the buyers had their hearts set on a Highland Park home.  They had made really good offers on three other houses prior to this one, and were quite philosophical about their previous disappointments.  Needless to say, we were delighted and went out for bubbly the night we learned that the seller had accepted our offer. (By "we," I mean me and Ali.  Jason is working out of town and has only seen the house once, for ten minutes, after it was already in escrow.  Risky? Yes, but in this hot market, none of us wanted to wait.)

My favorite thing about the house is its stellar location.  You can see and walk to the Occidental College campus from the street.  It's also very easy walk to The York, which is a very cool pub.  I hope Ali and Jason have many wonderful years here.

New price heights for L.A. area homes

I know, I know -- this blog is getting to be just a news clipping service.  But bear with me for yet another article from yesterday's L.A. Times by Andrew Khouri.  Here's the link.  The title is "Home prices in Southern California reach bubble-era highs." Among the other data points is this: L.A. County home prices have risen 9.5% this year to $505,000, which is $25,000 higher than the highest 2007 pre-recession price.  The article also states that economists aren't as worried this time around, since the rise is not driven by risky loans.  Instead, it is driven by an improving economy, historically low interest rates and a shortage of homes for sale.

Do I see prices getting soft and perhaps even dropping a little? Not in the foreseeable future.  I predict another rise in prices in the Spring.  I wish I could foresee more affordability instead.
Photo courtesy of  Brian Chan/Los Angeles Times

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Steal this Studio City midcentury rental

3541 Laurelvale has had another rent price reduction! The monthly rent is now $4300 and pets (with some restrictions) are allowed.  This great midcentury features 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, 2 car garage with pull-through for extra parking, appliances included, and serene hillside location.  Got kids? It's in the Carpenter School area.  Carpenter Elementary is one of the most renowned schools in the LAUSD district.  Get it while it's hot!

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Check out Milla's new listing at 4211 Redwood, Marina Del Rey!

Milla Goldenberg, my associate agent here at Judy Graff Properties, just listed this stunning condo in Marina Del Rey for $899,000.  It has two bedrooms and 2 baths and is almost 1200 sf.  The address is 4211 Redwood Ave., #202, Marina Del Rey 90066.  And it's open Sunday, 10/15, from 2 to 5 pm.  Here's Milla's description:

It's clear from the moment you walk in that a designer lives here, one who has tastefully upgraded every inch of this stunning condo. This exquisite unit in a newer building has had only one owner and is the only one that allows hardwood floors in both bedrooms. With its high ceilings, the open-concept living area extends to a cozy patio and succulent wall. The light-filled master bedroom features a spacious walk-in closet and master bath with marble tile in the shower and Caesarstone countertops. The gated complex includes two tandem parking spaces, a common area for grilling and a bike rack. With a walk score of 80, this unit is less than a mile from the ocean and close to shops, restaurants and theaters. Property also comes with many designer fixtures and furnishings, including high-end stainless steel appliances, stackable washer and dryer, an ethanol fireplace, patio chairs, Murphy bed in the guest room, George Nelson bubble lamps and a walnut console that has been custom built for the living room. All other furnishings are negotiable as well. Don't miss out on this move-in ready beauty that is missing nothing but you.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Price reduction on 3541 Laurelvale lease in Studio City!

The mid-century modern Studio City hillside living fantasy just became a little less expensive.  Yes, less.  3541 Laurelvale is now listed at $4475 a month.  This 3 bedroom (one bed converted from office), 2 bath home features almost 1500 sf, a spacious kitchen and pantry, flat backyard, 2 car garage with pull-through for extra cars, and a peaceful, quiet neighborhood.  Appliances are included without warranty.  Pets are allowed too with breed and weight restrictions.  And, walking distance from Carpenter School. Contact me to view this special property.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Best editorial about CA housing crisis EVAH. Thanks, Mike Gatto.

From today's L.A. Times comes this editorial about the current housing crisis, 10 points to keep in mind about housing affordability in California.  The writer is Mike Gatto, who was a CA assemblyman for several terms.  Click here for the article.  My favorite sentence: While having a roof over your head is a human right, being hip is not.

I would add this one thing: Developers build where they build in order to make a profit.  That's why they build/flip expensive stuff -- because there is more money to be made.  Could California come up with a way for developers to make a profit in less expensive areas without cutting corners? I don't think it's a matter of zoning as much as it is a matter of profit. Thoughts?
Photo courtesy of L.A. Times.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Priced for drama or priced for sale?

It’s no secret that much of L.A. real estate sells for more than the asking price.  And it’s no secret that Realtors sometimes price their properties for a little less what they will certainly sell for in order to quickly get offers.  The sales price of a particular property – what qualified buyers are willing to pay for a property, along with availability of funding, comparable home sales and property condition – usually winds up being exactly what the home is worth in the current market.

But how much is too much when it comes to underpricing? Recently, I have been looking for properties for clients on the popular eastside of L.A.  And I have seen places deliberately priced for more than $100,000 under what they will eventually sell for.  Yup, One. Hundred. Thousand. Dollars. Less.  The Realtors know it.  The sellers know it.  A lot of buyers don’t know it, though, and get excited about the prospect of buying in their desired neighborhood. A lot of buyers’ hearts get broken.

Why is this extreme underpricing necessary? All it does is disappoint many, many potential buyers who will never be able to really afford the particular property.  It wastes everybody’s time.  And it creates a lot of unnecessary drama around the showings and the marketing process.  Who benefits from this approach? In a hot market, the sellers are going to get the best price the market will bear anyway.  Is it bragging rights? Do the Realtors and sellers need that much attention?  C’mon, guys; let’s try to bring some fairness to a process that’s already pretty unpleasant.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Midcentury modern lease in Studio City

Want to lease a home with a tranquil canyon vibe and a midcentury modern design? 3541 Laurelvale in Studio City will be just what you're looking for. Two bedrooms plus convertible office, two baths, big outdoor area/backyard with tree-top view, large kitchen, dining area, 2 car garage with pull-through for extra parking and more. Yes, pets are allowed (with restrictions) and it's in Carpenter Charter school district too.  Available in early October; $4800 a month and minimum one-year lease. Call me for an appointment to see.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

From today's L.A. Times: Young couples are buying again. Yes, but that commute!

Today's L.A. Times' biz section has an article entitled A new generation of  young home buyers is tiptoeing into the market.   The number of first-time, under-35-year-old home buyers has ticked up since the recession.  Yes, the article does go into how tough it is for most first-time buyers and how unaffordable most r.e. is.  One of the profiled couples (pictured above) bought in the Riverside County "exurb"of Murietta and are delighted by their new big house.  Of course, the man now has a 75-mile commute to work.  Seventy-five miles.  Let that sink in...
Photo courtesy of Glenn Koenig/LA Times

Monday, August 21, 2017

It was all about the schools -- 2023 Karen in Burbank just closed

Do people move for good schools? Yup. Does moving to a particular school district guarantee admission in that school?  Nope.  My clients, the Guptas, bought a house nine years ago in Burbank.  That home is in a good school area, but they wanted an even better school area for their growing family. So they looked in the Jefferson School area within Burbank and found 2023 Karen St.  They had made offers on other properties before that hadn't been accepted, so we were thrilled when we were told the sellers had picked our offer.  It was the right size -- five bedrooms -- and was just up the street from the school.

However, we were saddened to learn that Jefferson School was full and not taking any other new students.  Yes, that can happen in public schools as well as charters and private schools.  The Gupta children were wait-listed with no promises given of ever getting into Jefferson.  The family decided to roll the dice and purchase the house anyway.  But by some sort of magic (that's the only thing we can figure), they received a call last week telling them that there was room for the kids in the school! Whew! I am sure the family will be really happy in the new home and at the new school.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

10962 Kittridge - amazing activity in North Hollywood

This is 10962 Kittridge, in North Hollywood.  It looks like a townhouse, but it is really a single family home and was built under L.A.'s small lot subdivision ordinance.  It closed yesterday for $575,000.

This home is newly built (2014) and has three bedrooms and three baths in over 1600 sf.  It has a double garage but no yard.  Since it isn't in the "nice" redeveloped part of North Hollywood (some people call this area No-No Hollywood) we weren't sure what the activity would be, and we priced it along with the comps -- at $530,000.

Within four days after listing, we already had seven offers, and the price started to climb.  In some cases, agents and their buyers were not even waiting for counter offers, they were just throwing new, higher offers at us instead.  The seller and I finally cut off all the bidding at $575,000 and accepted one of the offers.  Would their be an appraisal problem? Probably, but all of the high bidders had removed the appraisal contingency.  This means that even if they couldn't get a loan for the whole amount, they'd bring in the extra funds to bridge the gap between the loan and the sales price.  For what it's worth, we did not select a cash offer and picked one with a loan instead.  The buyers had written a very sincere letter to the seller -- yes! that helps -- and the lender was a known entity, so we did not believe there was a risk.  Who knew that No-Noho was so hot? I'm sure the buyers will be really happy in their new home, and needless to say, my seller was delighted with the results.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Remember the invest-in-r.e.-outside-of-CA thang? Here's NYT's take

As you may recall, earlier this year I began brokering single family rentals in other parts of the country.  The rental homes have been rehabbed, have tenants, are managed, and offer a little income every month.  Plus appreciation.  These are all in cities where r.e. is much, much less expensive than L.A.

Anyway, NYT has an article about this very thing:  They mention one of the national companies, HomeUnion.  I have a relationship with HomeUnion but they don't do their own management.  If you would like to explore this further, please contact me.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Milla Goldenberg joins Judy Graff Properties

I am thrilled to announce that Milla Goldenberg has joined me as a real estate agent. I've known Milla for nine years -- we both posted regularly on L.A. Times' late r.e. blog, LA LA Land.  Here's Milla's bio, in her own words and from her website at

Like many people, for a long time I wondered what I wanted to be when I grew up. And like many more, I got it wrong with several different jobs before finally getting it right with real estate. The detours were often fun and interesting, including stints as a journalist for NPR, GEEK magazine and various entertainment publications, which took me to Comic-Con and landed my byline in "The New York Times." Other times, they were less fun, like those dreary 11 years I spent working in financial compliance.


It seems obvious to me now that real estate was my true calling and my biggest regret will be that I didn’t switch careers sooner. I also regret not becoming a homeowner sooner, as I truly believe homeownership is the best path toward financial security. When I did finally buy my little fixer in 2008, a foreclosure in Highland Park, I was a single woman with limited means up against a big bank that refused to negotiate. The entire experience was stressful and isolating, with tons of jargon I didn’t understand being thrown at me daily and the creeping suspicion that everyone involved was only interested in making money off me, my agent included. While lousy at the time, that experience helped shape my philosophy about the kind of real estate agent I promise my clients I will be: one who is patient, not pushy, puts their interests above everything else, is committed to excellence, and believes in total transparency.


It’s the promise I make to you as well, whether you’re looking to purchase your first home (and uneasy about the implications) or ready to sell and trade up. I promise to stay by your side every step of the way and do everything I can to ensure a stress-free experience. And as a native Angeleno (who attended both UCLA and USC -- go, Brojans!), I know Los Angeles well, particularly Northeast LA, and not just the neighborhoods, but the restaurants, coffee shops, art walk and community events as well. I'm happy to answer any questions about them while addressing all of your real estate needs. Call me today to get started.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Think it would be cool to own commercial property in L.A.'s arts district? You will need deep pockets.

Wouldn't it be cool to own a warehouse in L.A.'s arts district? Close to funky restaurants, art experiences, and hipsters?  Think of the businesses you could start! Be warned: what was once really cheap -- that's the reason the artists moved there in the first place -- is now super expensive.  Warehouse property is now selling for $600-$700 a square foot.  If you want to lease a warehouse there, it will cost you about $1.75 per square foot per month.  I think we all need to find a new, cheap arts district.

Monday, July 10, 2017

10962 Kittridge is live on the mls

Here’s the property you’ve been waiting for – stunning 3+3, 1600+sf stand-alone townhome in newer Noho development with low, low association fees. This beauty features a huge designer kitchen with a long bar and lots of cabinet space, newer appliances, wood flooring and newer, plush carpet, big secluded patio, attached two car garage, den/retreat upstairs, big master and tons of closet space.  Other features include gorgeous shutters, wiring for surround sound and two built-in ceiling speakers, Nest thermostat and Wink home monitoring system. Since the units stand alone with no common walls, the association fee is only $38! (No, that’s not a misprint.)  The location is close to all that Noho has to offer, including restaurants, a bike path, and the subway.  Here’s your opportunity to have the place of your dreams before Noho prices explode. Listed for $530,000. Call me for a showing or visit from 2-5 pm at the Sunday, 7/16 open house.

Monday, June 26, 2017

This is the house that I ALMOST closed on in Kansas City

Here's the Kansas City house that I was in contract to purchase for $125,000.  Isn't it cute? And in a nice neighborhood too! It had been (well, maybe not so much) totally rehabbed.  I was planning to rent it for $1250/month and have it managed by a local company.

I had it inspected and -- alas -- it didn't do so well.  There were minor issues that I could have either over-looked or had inexpensively repaired.  But the roof that I thought was brand new was really just patched, and there was a serious (and expensive to repair) water intrusion issue in the back of the house and the basement.  With a heavy heart, I cancelled the escrow.  I guess the takeaway is "buyer beware, even if you're a Realtor." I haven't given up on Kansas City, although this week I am looking in Memphis.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Never mind the Federal Reserve rate raise. Mortgage interest rates are WAY down today.

Interest rates for conforming loans (under $425k) just hit freakishly low rates.  You can get a 30-year fixed rate for about 3.875% interest today.  If you are brave enough for an ARM (ask me), they are even lower -- in the high 2%'s.

And jumbo mortgage interest rates -- up to $725k -- are even lower still.  You can get a 30-year fixed today for 3.75%.

Yes, I know it seems like there is nothing to buy, and lots of competition for what is out there.  But don't give up while the rates are this low...

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Need an ocean view? Consider San Pedro

Image result for San Pedro Los angeles
If you are like me, you probably think the port city of San Pedro is nothing but an industrial port with huge cranes, shipping containers, cruise ship docks and the like.  But no.  The residential neighborhoods are really nice and so is the housing stock.  Best of all, 3 bedroom 1600+ sf homes with ocean views are selling for under $700,000.  That’s not a typo.

I learned about San Pedro when I helped my clients JB and Kristie buy a home there – we closed last week.  The residential neighborhoods grew up in the 1920’s on the hill above the harbor.  Most of the homes were built for port workers.  The port is still quite active and there are lots of attractions around it, including a sailing marina, Ports Of Call (several good restaurants), a huge brewery, and the U.S.S. Indiana.  Ports Of Call is being gentrified to the tune of many millions of dollars – check it out in a year or two.

Back to the housing stock.  Most of the homes seem very well maintained.  The few we saw all had basements, which were still being built in the 1920’s, and had layouts typical of the pre-war time period.  Didn’t see any mid-century homes.  With a couple exceptions, we also didn’t see a lot of mansionization.  The most surprising thing for me was the ocean view at that (relatively) low price.  It took about 25 minutes to get there from downtown L.A. – not a bad commute if you work on the west side of town.  This area is certainly some place to consider for home buyers for the price, the view, and the housing stock.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

It's not the Avocado Toast

Here's a great article from today's L.A. Times.  It is titled "Why you can't afford a house (Hint: it's not the avocado toast)." The title should link.  The premise: some experts say that you can't afford a home because you are spending too much on life's little luxuries, such as lattes and avocado toast, and you're not saving enough.  

Not true, say the three experts interviewed for the article.  First time home buyers are as financially cautious as any other generation, and to say otherwise is, well, kinda moralizing.

And by the way, the article also cites a statistic that shows that California is the least affordable state for first time home buyers.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

This is my new house. It is in Milwaukee. I am not moving

My husband and I just bought this darling rental property in Milwaukee.  Sight unseen, sort of, which I tell home buyers never to do.  How in hell did it happen?

This home has just been rehabbed.  Here's the video. The tenant has a year lease, and there is positive cash flow at the end of each month, even after paying the mortgage, taxes, etc. Perhaps most importantly, it is professionally managed by the same company that did the rehab. Management is key when an investor is so far away.

Yes, I did the research on the neighborhood (I researched several other similar properties as well, in Milwaukee and other cities).  And, I researched the appreciation trend in Milwaukee -- the city r.e. is rising in value.

Why didn't I buy rental property in L.A.? Because it's too damn expensive.  Other parts of the country are so much less expensive than other areas.  Shockingly so.  This home cost $112,000. That's not a typo.

Still, isn't this risky? Yes, but it depends on what your investment goals are.  IMO, it is only slightly riskier than managed funds, and less risky than hiding money in a mattress.  I intend to purchase more properties like this in the coming months.  If you would like me to find a property like this for you -- with positive cash flow each month and increasing in value -- please don't hesitate to contact me.

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

8 ways buying real estate in other places is different than buying in L.A.

I am about to close escrow on a residential income property in Milwaukee, of all places. I am also brokering some other residential properties in other states. I will do a tell-all post about this another time.  Sure, some things are the same; but some things are really different. Here goes:

Disclosures: here, we have about 100 disclosures for every single property sold.  Some are just boilerplate; some are specific.  Half the work here is getting disclosures to each party, getting them signed, and returning them.  In other places, not so much.  As a matter of fact, there were none in Milwaukee outside of the normal contractual ones. None.

Contract: here, we have four pages of mandated stuff to sign before we even get to the ten-page contract.  There, it's just the ten pages or less.

Doing business: here, most Realtors return your calls or texts or emails promptly; if not within the hour, at least within half a day.  In other parts of the country, they (ahem) take a little longer.  For example, in the south, you are lucky to get a call returned within 24 hours, even if it is time-sensitive.  I guess "time sensitive" really is a fluid concept, no? But they seem to do as much business, which leads me to wonder if we are all needlessly killing ourselves working here.

Termites: are bad, they're nationwide.

Septic tanks: far more common than we think, even if we don't want to think about them at all.

Loan charges and closing costs: are about the same across the country, with a few exceptions.  Appraisals cost about the same, as do title policies.  However, in most cases there are no escrow companies, so you do save some money there.  A title company and/or closing attorney (we don't have CAs here) does everything.

Biggest difference: properties in other parts of the country can be super-cheap.  Really cheap. Very, very cheap. Terrific cheap. So much cheap that you will get tired of cheap. Okay, I will knock off the presidential impersonation.  But try this on for size -- 50 houses in Georgia for a total of $1.3 million.  Here, that amount would get you about two dirt lots in the San Fernando Valley.

If you'd like more details on anything here, feel free to email me at

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

I know you are tired of hearing about the run up in So.Cal. home prices, but...

CANOGA PARK, CALIF. - APRIL 2, 2017. Realtor Houman Zahedi holds an open house at a three-bedroom,Here's another L.A.Times article which confirms your fears about low inventory and high prices.  I think I showed the home in Burbank that the article references.  I couldn't believe it was listed that high.  What to do? If you are a seller, sell (call me first).  If you are a easy answers here.
Photo courtesy of Luis Sinco/L.A. Times

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Home shopping? Please get your financial info together. Like, now.

As we all know, one of the biggest mistakes home buyers make is not working with their lender before they make an offer on a house.  I know, I know; you were planning to do this.  But you went home shopping on a lark over the weekend and found the perfect place.  And now you are scrambling to become pre-approved for a loan before somebody else buys the house.

Not a  problem, you say.  You looked at an online service and they say you are qualified for a purchase of up to a zillion dollars.  But online lenders are not the same as local lenders who really delve into what you actually can and cannot afford.  Most listing agents will not look at loan pre-approvals that are not from a local, verifiably qualified lender (yes, we are pretty good at spotting who is a bona fide lender and who is really your cousin).

Here is another reason to get this done in advance:  so your lender can look, really look, at your whole financial picture.  And your lender needs time to do that.  It is not an instant process.  The worst time to have your lender start working on your pre-approval is the Monday morning after you have found the house of your dreams on Sunday.  Your lender is probably getting the same request for other people, too, or trying to help an already-pre-approved client get an offer accepted.

Another reason to begin working with a lender in advance of making an offer is that you will find out how much you really qualify for – it may be more than you think, or not.  And your lender will give you a pretty good idea of what your monthly payment will be including property taxes, insurance, etc.  And what your closing costs will probably be.  There may also be V.A. programs or local first-time buyer programs that can help you with your transaction.  It takes time to work through the qualifications for these, though.

If all this were not enough, you can also shop lender rates when time is not of the essence.

So, let us review what you need to dig out of the garage what you will need to submit to your mortgage broker:
-          Your filed federal taxes for the last two years (state is not needed)
-          Most recent pay stubs for the last 30 days
-          Most recent statements for all of your assets, including savings, checking, stocks, bonds and retirement.  Submit all pages, please.
-          2015 and 2016 W2’s and/or 1099s.

The best thing to do is gather these materials up while you are initially thinking about making a home purchase.  (I know you have been intending to do this, but….) You will have more time then, and will not be scrambling to find everything at the last minute.  Scan your documents to a pdf file or two that you can keep on your laptop or computer.  (Fun fact: a lot of lenders can’t accept Google Docs or Dropbox stuff.)  Then, shoot them over to your preferred lender (or two) for review.  Congratulations! You will be ready to rock as soon as the perfect place comes along.

Photo licensed under Creative

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Are small-lot homes the solution to L.A.'s so-called housing crisis?

You may have seen these in Van Nuys, North Hollywood, Silverlake, Venice and elsewhere: small-lot homes.  L.A. City passed an ordinance allowing these kind of buildings about 10 or so years ago. These aren't "tiny" homes. Instead, they are a condo/single family home hybrid.  The unit is separate from its neighbors (but not by much), has a two-car garage, and usually a small yard.  There are no HOAs although there is usually a fee for common area upkeep (such as a shared driveway or trash pickup.) There are two to six on a regular residential lot, and there can be developments of 30 or more in outlying areas. Are these the solution to L.A.'s "need" for density?

Not everybody is a fan of these.  Personally, I think these are great ideas.  Now that Measure S has been defeated, what would you rather have -- four units on one lot on your residential street, or a three-story, 18 unit condo complex on the corner? If we must shoe-horn more and more people into residential areas (I'm not sure we do, but everybody else says we do), this can be a great option that preserves neighborhood character.  Just like the old-fashioned bungalow court apartment units.  Fun fact: none of my buyers want one of these, but I expect that may change as homes get more and more expensive.
Photo above: 2872 Allesandro, L.A., courtesy of

Saturday, March 25, 2017

From the New York Times - Home inspectors and their weirdest discoveries

Here's some Sunday newspaper reading, one day early.  The article from the New York Times is titled, "Home inspectors on their weirdest discoveries."   The title should link.  The photo above is just one of many from the sometimes bizarro world of real estate.  Enjoy and let's hope that none of this is present during your next inspection.

Friday, March 10, 2017

5544 Ventura Canyon in Sherman Oaks finally closed last week

5544 Ventura Canyon is a beautiful flip done by colleagues/friends of mine.  It closed last week at $888,000.  That was the third time it had been in escrow.  Yes, it fell out of escrow twice, which is a record for me.

Why? The house attracted very well-educated buyers who expected the home to be structurally pretty. They wanted the bones and guts of the house to be as top-notch as the finishes and top-off.  Alas, there were items that were just not up to that standard.  The flippers wound up fixing and redoing a lot of the structural stuff.  Finally, we got just the right buyers and the house closed last week.  The obvious moral of the story is that flipping houses can be very un-lucrative.  If you are considering flipping a house, make sure that you inspect, inspect, inspect beforehand.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Yes on S

If you live in L.A., you probably know about Measure S. It’s the proposition that limits development in the city for two years. Obviously, as a Realtor, I stand to gain everything from this measure going down in flames.  There will be lots of new properties to sell – yay! However, perhaps surprisingly, I support passage of Measure S.

Before I get into why I support this, here is a quote from a column in yesterday’s L.A. Times from none other than Richard Riordan. Mr. Riordan was the L.A. Mayor for two terms.  He says, “The current political environment is rife with corruption and backroom deals servicing land speculatiors and luxury housing developers over the needs of citizens.  If passed, Measure S. will give the decision-making process back to the people.  It will make City Hall work for us, not for the developers, special interests and lobbyists.” Remember, Mr. Riordan has already served his term with the city, seen this up close, and has no dog in this hunt.

Tracy Jeanne Rosenthal is a member of the L.A. Tenants Union and she wrote a column for yesterday’s L.A. Times opinion page as well. Here’s a quote from Ms. Rosenthal: “The housing market doesn’t produce homes; it produces opportunities for investment.  The goals of maximizing profit and making the city livable are at odds.”

I support Measure S for the following reasons.  In my work, I have seen L.A.'s development up close in many neighborhoods.

First, “affordable housing” is anything but.  Builders aren’t building it.  Instead, they are building either McMansions in expensive private neighborhoods or luxury apartments close to transit stops. Developers are not in business out of the goodness of their hearts.  As Ms. Rosenthal indicates, developers need to make a profit.  And they make it by putting maximum-saleable square footage in the most expensive neighborhoods possible.  If the city truly wants affordable housing, it will need to subsidize it in the neighborhoods where people need it. At the risk of stating the obvious, the so-called “housing crisis” is not helped by luxury units or McMansions.

Second, I think high-density proponents need to rethink their support for density, and their opposition to Measure S.  Again, small units in high rises in expensive neighborhoods are a developer’s dream, but not necessarily anybody else’s. There are several other ways to achieve more density in existing L.A. neighborhoods.  Look at the P.U.D.s in Van Nuys, for example. These are single family houses that are next to each other but have limited yard space.  And allowing more granny flats or guest houses in single family neighborhoods with ample lots increases density and helps solve needs of multi-generational families.

Let’s not even get started on traffic.

Finally, developers are running amok. See my blog post from November about my client’s wall being knocked down without their permission. By developers. The clients complained to the city inspector who issued the permit; he never called back.  Let’s keep developers and city officials accountable for their actions.

Whew! That’s it. If you have read this far, thank you.  And please don’t forget to vote on March 7.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Eagle Rock is no longer affordable, as if you didn't know

This A-frame in Eagle Rock just sold for $969k in a bidding war.  Almost a million Eagle Rock.  Let that sink in for a minute.  Yes, it's pretty, but this is just another nail in the coffin of affordable L.A. areas.
Photo courtesy of Deasy/Penner & Partners.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

What a Realtor conference is like and predictions for 2017

I just came back from the National Association of Realtors Broker Summit in San Diego.  Everybody has been to at least one convention in their lives, right? If not, and in case you are wondering what these are like, here's the skinny.

It was held at the Grand Del Mar Fairmont in northern San Diego.  This is a triple luxury hotel that looks like an Italian palace.  Miles from anything and super-expensive, so I didn't stay there.  Nice cocktail parties, though.  The pic above is the lobby centerpiece.

As with all conventions, there is music over the public address system between speakers.  I always expect hits of the '80s but this time it was hits of the late '60s and early '70s -- Doors, Hendrix, Jefferson Airplane, Creedence...seemed a little weird to me, to be honest.  But then the average age of  the Realtors there was about 55. Perhaps the convention organizers thought it was age-appropriate, but there is something incongruous about hearing "Bad Moon Rising" just before an economist takes the stage.

The speakers were excellent and I learned a a lot.  Here are my take-aways for you.
- 2017 is going to be about the same as 2016 for real estate.
- However, prices will show a slight rise.  So will interest rates, but we knew that.
- Shortness of inventory is a major problem all over the country. (You knew that.)
- Affordability is a major issue, too. (You knew that too.)
- Student debt is stopping many millenials from buying homes.
- Home ownership is down across the country, and expected to go lower.  We may soon become a nation of renters.
- Our recent election and its aftermath has caused uncertainty in all sectors, but not enough to hurt the economy in the long run.

Here's the deal on crystal ball predictions -- they are just predictions.  We won't know what's really happening until it happens. In the meantime, I will continue to give my own predictions and also real stats to keep you engaged and aware.

Monday, February 06, 2017

Glamorous downtown Burbank condo listing tomorrow

Wanna live close to all the action in downtown Burbank? I have a gorgeous, redone, top-floor condo coming on the market tomorrow.  The address is 427 E. Orange Grove, #308.  It features 2 bedrooms, 2 baths, redone kitchen and bathrooms, high ceilings, balcony/patio, 2 side-by-side parking spaces, and a view of the mountains.  Even better: it will list for $490,000 and the HOA is only $325/month.  It is walking distance to restaurants, movies, the public library, shopping, gyms and more.  On Saturdays, the Burbank Farmers Market is right across the street.  It will be open for brokers on Thursday and open for the public from 1:00 to 4:00 on Sunday. Check out more pics and details at

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Local home prices jump and sales fall. Yes, again. Or still.

L.A. Times sez: the shortage of available homes for sale here in Los Angeles has caused housing prices to jump.  See the article here.  The same number of buyers chasing limited choices tends to bid up prices, of course.  When will there be more inventory and when will the rise in prices end? According to the article, it won't be this year.  Home prices are expected to rise about 4% by year's end. Photo credit: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

FHA loans will be a little more expensive on Monday than they were on Friday

In case you didn't know, you can get a fixed-rate mortgage with less than 20% down. You can even get a conventional, 30-year loan up to about $636,000 for as little as 5% down.  Most of these loans are guaranteed by the Federal Housing Administration, or FHA, which we also refer to as Fannie Mae.  The catch is, and always has been, that you need mortgage insurance if you are putting down less than 20% -- and that can add a lot of money to your monthly payment.

The good news was that the mortgage insurance rate was reduced recently, which means a significant savings for home buyers.  But that was last week.  The bad news is that the new administration's Housing and Urban Development Department raised the insurance rate back up to where it was yesterday.😭This erases a savings of about $1500 annually for FHA buyers in L.A.  Read about it here from today's L.A. Times.

Thursday, January 05, 2017

And if that wasn't enough...a new price for the new year

5544 Ventura Canyon in Sherman Oaks is now listed at $888,000! This splendid re-do features four beds, 3 baths, all the bells and whistles, and is in a fab neighborhood.  I will be holding it open Friday from 11 to 2 and again on Sunday, the 8th, from 1 to 4 pm.  More details can be found in my previous post and at