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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!

Time to Think Outside the Box

How to navigate today's mortgage environment, Part 2.

First, have you been reading the newspaper lately? Well, stop it.

Let's look at other options for finding out what's going on in the lending markets. For starters, I called Ann Bedrossian at Lockheed Federal Credit Union (818-621-2758). She says they have lots of money to lend right now, their deposits are way up. And if you have decent credit and at least 10% down, you can get under 6% mortgage interest on a 30-year fixed loan up to $1 million. To join the Lockheed Credit Union, you pay a $25 application fee, that's it! Call Ann for the latest rates and programs, you might be pleasantly surprised.

I know there is scary news out there. I know everyone thinks the real estate market is on the biggest slide downward ever. But now is the time to be a contrarian! Do what Warren Buffet says, get greedy when everyone else is afraid.

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Mortgage News

If you are in the market for purchasing or refinancing a home today, you need to pay close attention to the mortgage news, and listen to responsible, knowledgeable professionals.

From Kirk Thomson, How To Plan Ahead For The New, Lower Conforming Mortgage Loan Limits in 2009. Conforming mortgages are limited by loan size, based on average housing costs around the country. Since 1980, as home prices have increased, so have conforming loan limits. The current conforming loan limit on a single-family home is $417,000. Earlier this year, as part of the Economic Stimulus Act of 2008, Congress authorized temporary increases to the conforming loan limit in high cost regions, as defined by median home sale price. In Manhattan, for example, where more homes sell for more than a million dollars than sell for less, mortgages as large as $729,750 are considered "conforming".

Beginning in 2009, however, that loan limit changes. Effective January 1, conforming mortgages will be capped at $625,500 in high cost areas, and $417,000 everywhere else. Therefore, homeowners in high cost areas whose mortgaged amounts exceed $625,500 are now operating on a defined timeline. Switch to a cheaper conforming home loan prior to December 31, 2008, or risk paying the "jumbo premium". This includes homeowners with: Two mortgages -- one for $417,000 and one for "the difference." An ARM that was begrudgingly accepted because jumbo fixed rates were too high. An expensive jumbo fixed rate mortgage. In addition, home buyers in the $800,000-900,000 price range may want to move up their closing dates. Today, at those price levels it takes a 20 percent downpayment to get access to conforming money. In 2009, it will take 30 percent.

My comment: In the last couple of months, FHA financing has been a great alternative to jumbo or "jumbo light" programs, because it is the only way many people have been able to obtain loans with less than 20% down payments. Keep in mind that FHA loan limits will also be decreased from $729,750 to the $625,500 limit. We'd better go shopping!

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My Take on the Current Housing Situation

As a Realtor, the most common conversation opener when I meet anyone today is, "How are you doing in this terrible market?" Well, I'm doing okay, thank you. I'm focusing on the people who need to buy and sell right now, I'm paying a lot of attention to my business, and it's working. I opened 3 escrows last week, and yesterday closed escrow on the biggest sale of my career.

You see, people are always changing and that means that they are always moving. Everyone lives somewhere. The four big reasons why people buy or sell homes are: birth, death, job change, divorce. Those things don't stop when the economy gets bad, now do they? So life goes on, real estate goes on.

The next thing people say to me is "When do you think we're going to hit bottom?" My answer is that my crystal ball is in the shop. We'll know we hit bottom when we see that prices have begun to go up.

I was reading the April, 2008, Fortune magazine recently an interview with Warren Buffet, the financial guru of Omaha, Nebraska, and head of Berkshire Hathaway, one of the most respected stock holding companies in the world. Hm, what would something Mr. Buffet said in April look like in the light of what has happened in the last few months?

Mr. Buffett is a smart man. I didn't read one word of prophecy, nothing we can examine 6 months later and say, "Well, that didn't happen the way he said it would!" He did say this in reference to investing, though, "I always say you should get greedy when others are fearful and fearful when others are greedy." Do you feel a bit of fear in the market today?And he said in response to the question, "But you’re still bullish about the U.S. for the long term?""The American economy is going to do fine. But it won’t do fine every year and every week and every month." Mr. Buffett is a rational investor, one who holds stocks for the long term. I encourage you to read his interview and substitute the words "real estate" for "stocks" in what he says. I think his words are meant for any investor in any market. Here's the interview.

I have a thought for some of you who are sitting in your homes, wanting to get top dollar to finance your move to the next phase of your life, whether it be a retirement home, a sailboat, or a loft downtown. This could be a time to consider financing your buyer yourself. If you own your home free and clear, you could help an earnest young family purchase your home and make a decent return on your investment as well. Consult your tax and financial advisors and let me know what you think.

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Real Estate Market Update

Slight downward movement in mortgage interest rates was reported yesterday, Sept. 4, 2008:

Freddie Mac (NYSE:FRE) today released the results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey® (PMMS®) in which the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 6.40 percent with an average 0.6 point for the week ending August 21, 2008, down from last week when it averaged 6.47 percent. Last year at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 6.67 percent.

The article also reported increased home buyer interest and activity.
For the complete report, click here.

According to Itech MLS, in Eagle Rock (zip code 90041), active listings today hover at 44, with 10 of them short sales and only 1 a foreclosure. So 25% of the active listings in Eagle Rock are "distress sales," of which maybe 2 or 3 will actually ever close escrow in the next 6 to 12 months. That's a pretty low inventory of properties truly for sale, folks. All of the short sales are listed for under $580,000, which means that 45% of the properties below the median price of $584,000, are not really viable listings. It makes the real numbers point to a more normal market than a buyer's market in terms of how many months it would take to sell everything currently on the market.

Sellers, don't think this means that the market is back to 2006 price levels. No. Many properties are really more at 2004 levels today. If you have the equity to price your home there, now you're looking at some excitement from the buying community. Call me.

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Tuesday's Crop of Propertunities

Every Tuesday, the Coldwell Banker offices and a couple of MLS organizations have Broker caravans where we look at the latest listings to come on the market. I thought I'd share the news with you, as several I saw today are really good deals! If you want to make an offer, call me! I would love to represent you.

1575 N Los Robles1575 N. Los Robles, Pasadena, only $384,900! Near Howard St in NW Pasadena, this is a 1905 Craftsman, over 1200 sqft with really high ceilings, 3 bedrooms, a big lot (8841 sqft), and a super price! It's a bank-owned, sold as-is, but has copper plumbing, central air & heat, and still some character touches.

278 W Altadena Dr, Altadena278 W Altadena Dr, Altadena, $449,000. Another bank-owned, this one is 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, a Janes Cottage on a 8612 sqft lot.

4577 Jessica Dr, Mt Washington4577 Jessica Dr, Mt. Washington, $538,000. Cape Cod style cottage with 3 BR, 1.5 baths, nestled under the trees and in Mt. Washington Elementary area.

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5315 Buchanan, Highland Park5315 Buchanan St, Highland Park, $499,000. A former bank-owned that was rehabbed extensively into a surprisingly nice 5 BR, 3 bath home with entirely new systems and interior. It's not a high-end neighborhood, but this is a real deal for someone who needs this much space.

4840-hartwick.jpg4840 Hartwick St, Eagle Rock, $699,000. This is all about the backyard. If you want a kid's paradise where they can play as if they lived out in the country all in your own backyard, this is your dream come true. First, sit out on the deck overlooking it with a lovely south-facing view. It's a good house, too, with 4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, in good condition. Located at the end of a culdesac in the heart of Eagle Rock.

2059 Windover, Pasadena2059 Windover Rd, Pasadena, $1,100,000. A midcentury on a huge lot, great style but potential to be really stunning.

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