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LA Digs - Northeast LA Real Estate Blog

Welcome to LA Digs, the real estate and Northeast Los Angeles community blog written by Realtors Tracy King and Keely Myres.

Here, we share tips, market updates, and local news bits to keep you informed on what's happening in Northeast Los Angeles and the surrounding neighborhoods. Read on to learn about the latest in your neighborhood!

Home Upsizing, Downsizing Or "Rightsizing"? That Is the Question

Home Upsizing, Downsizing Or "Rightsizing"? That Is the Question

When we consider the important elements of our lives - like buying and selling our homes - the words we use and how we think about it matters.

Helping homebuyers and home sellers buy and sell real estate in NELA for as long as I have, I’ve seen it all. Homes for sale in Mt. Washington, for instance, offer large modern homes as well as tiny bungalows. Homes for sale in Pasadena offer ginormous California Craftsman homes as well as very small ones. Many are buying and selling homes to upsize. They need more space. But we also see many trying to downsize. They require less space.

Rather than thinking “upsize” or “downsize”, for many good reasons, we might ought to consider the modern term “rightsizing”.


Right-sizing is often about our quality of life. Often a much larger home requires a lot more work and effort to maintain. That time could be better used for other endeavors. Time is the last luxury. We are ALL running out of it.

This is one of the 6 points that Leonard Steinberg, Compass' President, itemized in his daily email regarding downsizing, or  rightsizing as he calls it. I'm dealing with a couple of downsizing/rightsizing projects myself, and I know how stressful it can be. My husband and I often ask each other--how did we end up with so much stuff? Then there's my mother, who is 91 and facing the same issue with only my sister and me to help. And I'm 300 miles away! 

But enough about me. I loved Leonard's conclusion:

Scaling down your home often feels like a regressive, negative moment in life, but I see it as the exact opposite. I have bumped into clients months after they made this stressful shift only to find them happier, less stressed and with a new sense of freedom. Remove ego from homeownership and the decisions made are often much wiser.

The wisdom of removing ego from homeownership, and from all kinds of real estate transactions, is so true in so many ways. For instance, your house will not sell for more than a flipped completely done house that's bigger no matter what you think of their taste. It's not about you and how cool you think your house is. It's about buyers and what they think. And they speak with their feet these days.

"Why don't they make an offer?" Sellers ask this all the time. It's because they don't want to offend you, or they don't want to bother, or they've been trained to believe that you really mean your price.

Here's another example: real estate agents who try to dominate a transaction, like "I would never let my buyer get less than half the credit I told him to expect from the seller." What? This agent thought she had some eerie power over the seller and the buyer in this escrow. My seller said "Let's kick this buyer to the curb and go to the next one." We had a great backup buyer and we did exactly that.

We all have some interest in real estate. After all, we all live somewhere, even if it's under a bridge or on our buddy's couch. Let's figure out what we need and let go of at least some of what we want and maybe we will all be a little more content with our lives.

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NELA Real Estate Market: An Affordable Issue with a Special Twist

NELA Real Estate Market: An Affordable Issue with a Special Twist

What we're seeing in the Eagle Rock, Highland Park and Mt. Washington housing market is happening all  around the state.

Interesting things are afoot in the Northeast LA real estate market. Anyone keeping their eye on prices of homes in Glassell Park and Mt. Washington have noticed that prices up from where they were just a year ago. Those watching homes in Highland Park and Eagle Rock are noticing homes staying on the market longer. What does it all mean?

Good question! Here’s the latest news from the top. Leslie Appleton-Young is California Realtors’ Chief Economist and we are lucky to have her help us make sense of a very big subject: the real estate market.


The bottom line is we have been facing a big affordability issue here in our little corner of the Los Angeles real estate market. And it has gone viral state-wide. The average change in California’s year-over-year number of sales has decreased 5.5%. And the average sales price has increased 5.5%. Statewide!

Many of you readers might be muttering “I don’t really care about state-wide, I want to know about here, in good old NELA!" (That’s zip codes 90041, 90042, 90065.)

So here you go, Dear Reader: These are year-over-year, September to September 2017 to 2018 percentages for NELA and they are startling. Number of active listings is a whopping 56.7% more in 2018, while the number of sold is down 13.6% and the number pending is down 5%. Here is the interesting news—the average asking price is 10.2% higher in 2018 and the average sales price is 18.5% higher. So fewer homes are selling, but they sell for more.

What does this mean to you? It seems like this is an affordability issue, but with a special twist. Especially with the uptick in mortgage interest rates on top of still rising prices, who can afford to pay an average sales price of $972,000? And in Eagle Rock alone (90041 zip code) the average sales price was $1,133,000 in September 2018! Average! So what’s the twist? The prices are continuing to rise, that’s what. Ordinarily, too-high prices start coming down when the inventory increases and number of sales drop.

It seems like many Buyers (or think they wanna be buyers) want to just have a crash take us back to 2009 bottom of the Great Recession prices and stay there long enough for them to close escrow on their dream home at a bargain price 40-to-60% below today’s prices. And then spring back to today’s crazy high prices so they can feel like they got the deal they missed back in 2009-2012. But their dream homes wouldn't come on the market in such a case because their owners aren't going to lose all the equity they’ve gained in the last few years. Why not? Because they are not in distress! Homeowners will just sit tight and wait it out because they don’t have crazy loans that are going to adjust to an impossible payment like they did in 2008. And those homes that sold in 2009 were not your dream homes either. People who own dream homes don’t generally have to put them on the market at the bottom of a sales cycle. No one does that unless they have no other alternative.

So what about the increasing inventory? A lot of homeowners are still trying to cash in on the high prices and they are comparing their homes with cream of the crop “done” homes or super well-located homes with a lot of potential. But times have changed, folks—you can’t put a cluttered, dirty home on the market with a few bad cell phone photographs and expect to sell for a top price. You should expect to put in a lot of effort and possibly money to present your home in its best light, hire the best experienced Realtor you can find and do what they say. This thought that all Realtors are alike and do the same thing so you just need to hire the cheapest one and he will sell your house for a lot of money is as mistaken as thinking the diamond earrings you buy at the big box discount store are just like the ones you could buy at Tiffany’s for five times as much. Anyway, those sellers are the ones driving up the inventory numbers and when they expire, the numbers will go back down and only a few buyers will have the money to buy the good homes that are left. We just put two properties into escrow for over $200,000 above their list prices because they are special, well-prepared and well-marketed homes.

It’s not a logical situation, potential buyers aren’t squeezed out of this market because interest rates have ticked up, they are squeezed out by not being able buy the home of their choice at the price they can or want to pay and they can’t or won’t find an acceptable alternative. The only houses that sell quickly in a changing market like this one are super great prepared homes or super well-priced ones, just like always.

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Magical Thinking and this Crazy Real Estate Market

Magical Thinking and this Crazy Real Estate Market

Homebuyers and home sellers's expectations often clash with harsh realities of the market when it comes to the nitty gritty ... selling price and offers.

Magical thinking and this crazy real estate market. What am I talking about? I have some examples.


The Home Sellers’ Magical Thinking

PREMISE: The house next door to mine sold last year for $1.1 million. It was smaller and there was only one house on the property. We have two houses and more square footage, therefore we should list ours for $1.2 million and get at least as much as that one.

FACTS: The house next door was small, but every detail was well designed and evoked a very emotional response. The landscaping was lush and serene, like a Zen retreat, a special relaxing haven in the midst of a harsh city.

The subject property lacked curb appeal and the landscaping was non-existent. Being a 2-unit income property, it is valued very differently and income properties are supposed to be valued on a formula based on its income. Historically low rents in a rent-controlled area do adversely affect the property’s value. That’s why vacant properties usually sell more quickly and at a higher price than ones that have been occupied by long-term tenants in a rent controlled area.

PREMISE: Why are these offers so low? I saw that a house sold just down this very street for over a hundred thousand more!

FACTS: There hasn’t been a sale this high on this street in over two years, and that one was a 5-bedroom, 3-bath redone Craftsman. This is a 2-bedroom, 1-bath home with a lot of view but no yard.

What am I saying? We don’t value our own property anything like a buyer or an appraiser will.

But sellers aren’t the only ones subject to magical thinking. In fact, homebuyers can really try to bend reality to suit their own agendas.

Homebuyers' Magical Thinking

PREMISE: Today, we have a Sellers' market that has actually been going strong for a good 6 years. Buyers are convinced that now is the time for what has gone up to come down, and down hard. We all remember the Great Recession, don’t we? In Northeast Los Angeles, we lost 40 to 50% of our average sales price in just 15 months. But buyers today have an even better fantasy: prices will fall to 2009 levels just long enough that they will be able to buy their dream home for a bargain price, then right after they close escrow, prices will rally back up to 2018 levels.

FACTS: Many facts belie this fantasy. Do those of you who were actually in the market in 2009 remember what the houses for sale were like? Many were distress sales, so forget about beautifully prepared homes, forget about pre-inspections, and forget about decent loans with low interest rates and 21-day closes. The loan process was so draconian only those who could prove they didn’t really need a loan could get one. Plus, even more properties were selling for cash than are today and most sellers rightly preferred cash sales over the obstacle course that was the loan process then. Owners who didn’t have to sell (such as owners who were not in trouble, owners who had pride of ownership and didn't have to deal with penny-pinching buyers who acted like their lovely home was just a piece of trash) just waited it out. What happens then? Low inventory and higher prices. This is known as unintended consequences.

There is a whiff of desperation in the air today ... 

Sellers want to time the market for the highest possible sales price, and buyers worry that if they buy now, they will close escrow the day before the market crashes and they will be left owning an overpriced turkey. What happened to owning a home as a place to enjoy your life, raise your family, and do whatever you want without a landlord telling you that you can’t? Even if you buy your home at the height of the market, if you hold onto it long enough, it will increase in value. And if you look at the prices over time, a correction almost never takes prices down to previous lows. Even the overblown prices of 2006-2007 are not seen today:

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So if you want to buy a nice house in a great neighborhood for a bargain price, you will most likely be leaving LA.

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What's Going On With This Market?

What's Going On With This Market?

Regardless of how confusing interpreting the market may be, one thing is clear: Buyers and sellers need an agent who understands the fine points of buying and selling.

After a long, steady period of seeing homes for sale in Highland Park and Eagle Rock selling fast and high, and homes in Glassell Park and Mt. Washington being snatched up with record multiple offers, there are signs that trend is changing.

Everyone is talking about it—the market seems to be slowing down! I’ve talked to Realtors, potential sellers, buyers, and the man on the street—they all feel the same. So are they right? Well, let’s see. Looking at the Trends analysis for Eagle Rock since May of 2012 we see this:

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NELA Real Estate: The Numbers - Jan 1-May 31, 2017/2018

NELA Real Estate: The Numbers - Jan 1-May 31,  2017/2018

Just when some said real estate prices can't climb any higher, guess what? They're still climing in Northeast Los Angeles.

The numbers are in and there are no surprises. Homes in Highland Park and Hermon, Eagle Rock, South Pasadena, as well as Mt. Washington and Glassell Park homes are selling well, selling fast and selling for a lot.

Let's look at zip Codes 90041 (Eagle Rock), 90042 (Highland Park-Hermon) 90065 (Glassell Park-Mount Washington), and 91030 (South Pasadena) averages.

Note: All data is taken from , except the last column in 2018 is the percent increase from 2017 to 2018. The first column is first the year, then the average sales price for all single family homes in that zip code, the zip code with just the homes that sold for $1 million or more. AV SF is "average square feet", AV $/SF is "average price per square foot". The DOM is "days on market". LP is the "average list price" when the property went into escrow. The LP/SP is the list price/sales price ratio—a number over 100 is what percent the sales price exceeded the list price. And then #SALES is "number of sales" for that category January 1-May 31. %YOY$ is the percent increase in sales price from 2017 to 2018.


 

2017 AV SF AV $ / SF DOM LP $ SP $ LP/SP # Sales
90041 1630 588 53 882,659 900,602 105 60
90041
$ Million
2508 513 83 1,287,643 1,299,509 102 14
90042 1330 599 41 696,853 724,068 104 110
90042
$ Million
2473 441 22 1,049,200 1,124,380 109 5
90065 1540 549 48 772,614 790,986 102 112
90065
$ Million
2473 501 52 1,131,187 1,166,733 104 15
91030 2338 659 40 1,405,591 1,460,193 105 44
91030
$ Million
2484 662 40 1,498,526 1,556,803 105 38

 

2018 AV SF AV $ / SF DOM LP $ SP $ LP/SP # Sales % YOY $
90041 1781 628 40 1,035,928 1,062,825 105 60 12.72
90041
$ Million
2437 622 54 1,144,392 1,465,333 104 24 12.76
90042 1525 611 41 809,800 845,285 105 128 16.74
90042
$ Million
2072 574 31 1,070,463 1,139,133 107 30 1.30
90065 1548 625 36 852,667 888,339 105 126 12.30
90065
$ Million
2266 587 28 1,183,485 1,247,163 107 33 6.87
91030 2353 746 35 1,627,598 1,687,116 105 43 15.54
91030
$ Million
2461 744 37 1,708,633 1,769,667 105 39 13.69

 

Yes, you’re right—the market has continued to climb in Northeast Los Angeles. And it has climbed even more in South Pasadena. I’m sure this will spark more discussion of “are we in a bubble?” but I have been hearing from financial and real estate insiders that we have at least until 2020 before there are any signs of a major correction. And I have also heard  “it can’t go on like this,” with several compelling reasons why not. There is a lot of gray between “bubble burst”, “flatten out” and “keep going up.”

If you keep saying the same thing about the market, it will eventually be true—because real estate and financial markets are cyclical. The difficulty is exactly “when” markets will change, not “if” they will change. It’s sort of like predicting exactly when someone will die. You can be sure that it will eventually happen, but when exactly is based on so many variables, any prediction is only a guess. Maybe it’s a very educated and well-reasoned guess, but that’s not the same as knowing. Because NELA and South Pasadena have very few developments and most of the single family homes are custom built, it’s especially difficult to make general rules about their value.

This is what I’ve seen: the homes that sell for the most money tend to be those that are in great condition, great style, great locations, and/or have great potential. Location seems to be the most important, but great and stylish updates are a close second. That means that if your house is in great shape but needs updating and it’s not the best location, you aren’t going to get top dollar. However, you might be surprised by how much you do sell for in this market. It will almost certainly be more than you ever would have made before now.

Thinking that now might be a good time for you to sell? We know some stuff about how to strategize getting you the most possible now for your home. Call us for a consultation.

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