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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!

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Are California Homeowners Losing Insurance Coverage?

State Farm and Allstate have announced they will no longer sell new home insurance policies in California because of wildfire risks and an increase in construction costs. Here are some facts:

  1. State Farm and Allstate are not leaving the California Insurance Market:  State Farm and Allstate will continue to service and renew policies of existing clients in the state and will continue to offer new auto insurance policies. However, they will not be issuing any new property insurance policies for the time being in California.

  2. What are the implications of the decision for prospective homebuyers?  In certain high-risk areas of the state, there are very few insurance companies willing to write new policies. In some higher risk areas, State Farm was the last private insurance company writing policies. In those areas, unless the Insurance Commissioner is successful in its effort to get more private insurers to write policies in such areas, the generally more-costly California FAIR plan may end up being the only property insurance available.

  3. Why did State Farm and Allstate stop issuing new policies?  State Farm stated that it made the decision “due to historic increases in construction costs outpacing inflation, rapidly growing catastrophe exposure, and a challenging reinsurance market.” Allstate said the company "paused" its offerings "so they can continue to protect current customers." State Farm and Allstate's decision is not necessarily an indication of what other companies will do.

  4. Will more companies follow State Farm and Allstate's move?  There are still a wide range of companies writing policies in California. However, those willing to write new policies in higher risk areas in particular are declining and as stated above, with the departure of State Farm and Allstate, those in more high-risk areas may have no option than the FAIR plan. 

  5. What are the main problems for the insurance market in California?  The California market is heavily regulated and has various strict requirements for rate increases, which were put into place by Proposition 103 in 1988. However, there are two areas where possible changes could result in a better climate for insurance without requiring major changes to consumer-friendly rate increase requirements. Those include allowing insurance companies to have rates that better reflect their reinsurance costs and allowing insurance companies to utilize forward looking risk models. Current law only allows companies to look back when setting rates. However, given the issues with climate change, many insurance companies argue that looking backward does not allow companies to adequately capture risk.

  6. Where can you find more information if you are looking for homeowners insurance?  The California Dept. of Insurance provides several information guides, tips and tools to help you understand home/residential insurance so that you can make the best decision for your situation. You can also call the California Dept. of Insurance Consumer Hotline for assistance.

(information via CAR.org)

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Why Aren’t Home Prices Crashing?

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There have been a lot of shifts in the housing market recently. Mortgage rates rose dramatically last year, impacting many people’s ability to buy a home. And after several years of rapid price appreciation, home prices finally peaked last summer. These changes led to a rise in headlines saying prices would end up crashing.

Even though we’re no longer seeing the buyer frenzy that drove home values up during the pandemic, prices have been relatively flat at the national level. Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist at the National Association of Realtors (NAR), doesn’t expect that to change:

[H]ome prices will be steady in most parts of the country with a minor change in the national median home price.”

You might think sellers would have to lower prices to attract buyers in today’s market, and that’s part of why some may have been waiting for prices to come crashing down. But there’s another factor at play – low inventory. And according to Yun, that’s limiting just how low prices will go:

“We simply don’t have enough inventory. Will some markets see a price decline? Yes. [But] with the supply not being there, the repeat of a 30 percent price decline is highly, highly unlikely.”

As you can see in the graph below, we’ve been at or near record-low inventory levels for a few years now.

That lack of available homes on the market is putting upward pressure on prices. Bankrate puts it like this:

“This ongoing lack of inventory explains why many buyers still have little choice but to bid up prices. And it also indicates that the supply-and-demand equation simply won’t allow a price crash in the near future.”

If more homes don’t come to the market, a lack of supply will keep prices from crashing, and, according to industry expert Rick Sharga, inventory isn’t likely to rise significantly this year:

“I believe that we’re likely to see low inventory continue to vex the housing market throughout 2023.”

Sellers are under no pressure to move since they have plenty of equity right now. That equity acts as a cushion for homeowners, lowering the chances of distressed sales like foreclosures and short sales. And with many homeowners locked into low mortgage rates, that equity cushion isn’t going anywhere soon.

With so few homes available for sale today, it’s important to work with a trusted real estate agent who understands your local area and can navigate the current market volatility.

Bottom Line

A lot of people expected prices would crash this year thanks to low buyer demand, but that isn’t happening. Why? There aren’t enough homes for sale. If you’re thinking about moving this spring, let’s connect.

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Navigating Home Prices in 2023

Over the past year, home prices have been a widely debated topic. Some have said we’ll see a massive drop in prices and that this could be a repeat of 2008 – which hasn’t happened. Others have forecasted a real estate market that could see slight appreciation or depreciation depending on the area of the country. And as we get closer to the spring real estate market, experts are continuing to forecast what they believe will happen with home prices this year and beyond.

Selma Hepp, Chief Economist at CoreLogic, says:

While 2023 kicked off on a more optimistic note for the U.S. housing market, recent mortgage rate volatility highlights how much uncertainty remains. Nevertheless, the continued shortage of for-sale homes is likely to keep price declines modest, which are projected to top out at 3% peak to trough.”

Additionally, every quarter, Pulsenomics surveys a panel of over 100 economists, investment strategists, and housing market analysts regarding their five-year expectations for future home prices in the United States. Here’s what they said most recently:

 

So, given this information and what experts are saying about home prices, the question you might be asking is: should I buy a home this spring? Here are three reasons you should consider making a move:

  1. Buying a home helps you escape the cycle of rising rents. Over the past several decades, the median price of rent has risen consistently. The bottom line is, rent is going up.

  2. Homeownership is a hedge against inflation. A key advantage of homeownership is that it’s one of the best hedges against inflation. When you buy a home with a fixed-rate mortgage, you secure your housing payment, so it won’t go up like it would if you rent.

  3. Homeownership is a powerful wealth-building tool. The average net worth of a homeowner is $255,000 compared to $6,300 for a renter.

Experts are projecting slight price depreciation in the housing market this year, followed by steady appreciation. Given that, you may be wondering if you should move ahead with buying a home this spring. The decision to purchase a home is best made when you do it knowing all the facts and have an expert on your side.

Bottom Line

Reach out to a local real estate professional to make the most informed decision about your next move.

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Why Today’s Housing Market Isn’t Headed for a Crash

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67% of Americans say a housing market crash is imminent in the next three years. With all the talk in the media lately about shifts in the housing market, it makes sense why so many people feel this way. But there’s good news. Current data shows today’s market is nothing like it was before the housing crash in 2008.

Back Then, Mortgage Standards Were Less Strict

During the lead-up to the housing crisis, it was much easier to get a home loan than it is today. Banks were creating artificial demand by lowering lending standards and making it easy for just about anyone to qualify for a home loan or refinance an existing one.

As a result, lending institutions took on much greater risk in both the person and the mortgage products offered. That led to mass defaults, foreclosures, and falling prices. Today, things are different, and purchasers face much higher standards from mortgage companies.

The graph below uses data from the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) to help tell this story. In this index, the higher the number, the easier it is to get a mortgage. The lower the number, the harder it is.

This graph also shows just how different things are today compared to the spike in credit availability leading up to the crash. Tighter lending standards have helped prevent a situation that could lead to a wave of foreclosures like the last time.

Foreclosure Volume Has Declined a Lot Since the Crash

Another difference is the number of homeowners that were facing foreclosure when the housing bubble burst. Foreclosure activity has been lower since the crash, largely because buyers today are more qualified and less likely to default on their loans. The graph below uses data from ATTOM to show the difference between last time and now:

So even as foreclosures tick up, the total number is still very low. And on top of that, most experts don’t expect foreclosures to go up drastically like they did following the crash in 2008. Bill McBride, Founder of Calculated Risk, explains the impact a large increase in foreclosures had on home prices back then – and how that’s unlikely this time.



“The bottom line is there will be an increase in foreclosures over the next year (from record level lows), but there will not be a huge wave of distressed sales as happened following the housing bubble. The distressed sales during the housing bust led to cascading price declines, and that will not happen this time.”

The Supply of Homes for Sale Today Is More Limited

For historical context, there were too many homes for sale during the housing crisis (many of which were short sales and foreclosures), and that caused prices to fall dramatically. Supply has increased since the start of this year, but there’s still a shortage of inventory available overall, primarily due to years of underbuilding homes.

The graph below uses data from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) to show how the months’ supply of homes available now compares to the crash. Today, unsold inventory sits at just 2.7-months’ supply at the current sales pace, which is significantly lower than the last time. There just isn’t enough inventory on the market for home prices to come crashing down like they did last time, even though some overheated markets may experience slight declines.

Bottom Line

If recent headlines have you worried we’re headed for another housing crash, the data above should help ease those fears. Expert insights and the most current data clearly show that today’s market is nothing like it was last time.

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What Buyer Activity Tells Us About the Housing Market

Though the housing market is no longer experiencing the frenzy of a year ago, buyers are showing their interest in purchasing a home. According to U.S. News:

“Housing markets have cooled slightly, but demand hasn’t disappeared, and in many places remains strong largely due to the shortage of homes on the market.”

That activity can be seen in the latest ShowingTime Showing Index, which is a measure of buyers actively touring available homes (see graph below):

The 62% jump in showings from December to January is one of the largest on record. There were also more showings in January than in any other month since last May. As you can see in the graph, it’s normal for showings to increase early in the year, but the jump this January was larger than usual, and a lot of that has to do with mortgage rates. Michael Lane, VP of Sales and Industry at ShowingTime+, explains:

“It’s typical to see a seasonal increase in home showings in January as buyers get ready for the spring market, but a larger increase than any January before after last year’s rapid cooldown is significant. Mortgage rate activity this spring will play a big role in sales activity, but January’s home showings are a positive sign that buyers are getting back out there . . .”

It's important to note that mortgage rates hovered in the low 6% range in January, which played a role in the high number of showings. What does this mean? When mortgage rates eased, buyer interest climbed. The jump in home showings early this year makes one thing clear – while rates may be volatile right now, there are interested buyers out there, and when mortgage rates are favorable, they’re ready to make their move. 

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An Expert Gives You Clarity in Today’s Housing Market

The housing market has been going through shifts lately. That’s why it’s so important to work with an industry professional who can be your guide throughout the process.

A real estate expert uses their knowledge of what’s really happening with home prices, housing supply, expert projections, and more to give you the best advice. Someone who can provide clarity like that is critical right now. Jay Thompson, Real Estate Industry Consultant, explains:

“Housing market headlines are everywhere. Many are quite sensational, ending with exclamation points or predicting impending doom for the industry. Clickbait, the sensationalizing of headlines and content, has been an issue since the dawn of the internet, and housing news is not immune to it.”

Unfortunately, when information in the media isn’t clear, it can generate a lot of fear and uncertainty in the market. As Jason Lewris, Co-Founder and Chief Data Officer at Parclsays:

“In the absence of trustworthy, up-to-date information, real estate decisions are increasingly being driven by fear, uncertainty, and doubt.”

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Buying a home is a big decision, and it should be one you feel confident making. You can lean on an expert to help you separate fact from fiction and get the answers you need.

The right agent can help you understand what’s happening at the national and local levels, and they can debunk headlines using data you can trust. Experts have in-depth knowledge of the industry and can provide context, so you know how current trends compare to the normal ebbs and flows in the industry, historical data, and more.

Then, to make sure you have the full picture, an agent can tell you if your local area is following the national trend or if they’re seeing something different in your market. Together, you can use all that information to make the best possible decision.

After all, making a move is a potentially life-changing milestone. It should be something you feel ready for and excited about. And that’s where a trusted expert comes in.

Bottom Line

For expert advice and the latest housing market insights, let’s connect.

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Real Estate Market Update First Quarter 2021

Let's take a look at the numbers comparing the real estate activity in the first quarter of 2021 to the same time period in 2019 and 2020.

 First Quarter
Year Over Year

 Eagle Rock 90041  Highland Park 90042 Glassell Park/
Mt Washington 90065 
El Sereno. 90032 Altadena 91001  South Pasadena 91030

2019

#Sold/

Av List $/

Av Sold $

 

52

973K

1,003K

 
 

81

859K

880K

 

90

901K

921K

 

66

641K

636K

 

102

989K

1000K

 
 

38

1333K

1362K

2020

#Sold/

Av List $/

Av Sold $

 

52

984K

1010K

 

 

84

890K

916K

 
 

56

871K

893K

 

43

671K

682K

 

 

89

949K

962K

 

 

29

1546K

1612K

 
 
2021

#Sold/

Av List $/

Av Sold $

 

103

1150K

1233K

 

 

189

995K

1036K

 

 

169

1026K

1061K

 

 

124

774K

777K

 

 

189

1197K

1202K

 

 

78

1,810K

1,737K

 

What does all this mean?  You can interpret these numbers different ways, but the basic truth would seem to be across the board that prices are going up!  That’s surprising as all you read about the economy says that we can’t sustain these prices.  Many of us wonder where these people are getting the money to pay these prices.  Prices went up in 2020, too, even though Altadena’s average sales price didn’t.  I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that the ones who made offers on some of the houses in Altadena, and found that they were competing with as many as 50 offers didn’t think that the market was slowing down.  In other words, well-priced, well prepared houses did well.  Those owners who over-priced their homes or didn’t see why they should make their home attractive to a buyer didn’t do as well. And that’s in every market. There is a lot of thought and experience that goes into pricing and marketing for higher sales prices even though it looks like you can put any price you want on a house and you’ll get it.  

Low interest rates were credited with much of the activity.  Interest rates have increased lately, but mostly to 2019 levels, still under 4%.  Still low by historic levels. And the numbers of houses sold has doubled since 2019 levels, so current interest rates are not affecting number of sales or average sales prices in the first third of 2021. Will it continue?  I wish I knew because I could make much more money if I did, and you could, too. But as they say, my crystal ball is in the shop now.

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Our Local Market Continues to Heat Up Through the Summer

We are looking at both July and August for this article (see previous months in my last market update). Comparing the two months to last year at the same time gets even more interesting. Only Altadena has a lower average sales price and fewer sales this year over last, and just in August, not July. And that’s contrary to my impression of Altadena sales because it seemed like those sales were going higher and higher. That’s why we compare these things over time. One month doesn’t a market make.

In general, waiting for recessionary price reductions is counter-productive: prices are trending up and sales volume is generally up. I credit the low interest rates that seem to be lasting at least through the end of the year, according to the Federal Reserve (which doesn’t really speak to mortgage rates but it does influence them). 

The trick is qualifying for a loan either to buy or refinance a home loan.  If you are lucky enough to still be working you can lock in rates at their lowest ever!  Even South Pasadena is up in both volume and price after a disappointing May and June, when we usually see the robust result of the spring buying season.

If you’ve figured out where you can live cheaper and work from home, now is a really good time to sell.  And who wouldn’t like to lock in a sub 3.0% interest rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage!?

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What's Happening with the Real Estate Market During a Pandemic?

First, the numbers. This spreadsheet compares the number of active and sold properties in each zip code, compared to the same time last year, and the average list or sales price. For a PDF version, click here.

market activity chart June

This is very confusing, right? Stay with me here — we are looking at real estate trends and in the light of all that’s gone wrong this year—Coronavirus, civil unrest, job losses, restaurants and bars closing (so you can see where my head’s at), life as we knew it—real estate should be devastated, right?

Well, it’’s not. Sure, there are fewer sales this year than last—after all, we have experienced an incredible loss of jobs and money. Lenders are nervous, people in general are nervous, but true buyers in a certain price range (and it’s generally not the highest range with exceptions) see their chance and are going for it!

We are representing buyers who are up against 10, 39, 40 offers! Some of our buyers have all cash! And they can lose to someone who has more. Once in awhile, we pull off unlikely deals —like we were actually quite a bit lower than the highest offer on one house but we got it because the buyers wrote a great letter and we represented them instead of the out of area unknown agent. The sellers cared about such things. Some do, some don’t. You never know.

If you compare the average sale price of 2020 and 2019, you see that they are higher this year over last year, in every zip code except South Pasadena. This is not the sign of a recession.

What conclusions can we make from all this? You might be thinking that to get the most for your money, you should save on the commission. Not true. You get what you pay for, just like a lawyer or a doctor. 

1. Choose the best agent you can who is experienced and trustworthy (not the same thing as the cheapest or your cousin who just got into real estate) and do what they say! 

2. If you’re a seller, price your house right, and prepare it correctly in line with your price. 

3. If you’re a buyer, the choice of your buyer’s agent can make a difference as well—your cousin from Santa Clarita doesn’t really know this area or how things are done here, and the seller’s agent is more comfortable with someone she knows will get the job done. The possible savings on your cousin’s kicking back some of his commission is not worth what they don’t know and the fact they could be the reason you don’t get the deal. All this is nothing new, but because there are fewer sales than before, you really need to bring your best to the table.

Another conclusion we can come to is that this isn’t bargain-hunting time. And this is the time when sellers who are pricing their homes to sell are succeeding. Sellers who are wishing for a high price are sitting on the market getting stale. And buyers who actually want to buy a house, not “play the market,” can do so.

 

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How to Show a House in a Pandemic

We are living in a strange new world, and it is still not business as usual anywhere regardless of what people try to tell you. In the real estate part of it, there are a lot of rules and prohibitions regarding seeing houses listed on the market, and people are finding many of the rules very confusing. Plus, just when you think you have it all figured out, the rules change! Here are the high points first, then at the end of this article are some of the actual forms that detail everything. Every state is different, and within states, some counties are different and even some cities are different.  So this is about California, Los Angeles County. Keep in mind, the most restrictive rule is the one that dominates.  Did you know that in New York City they don’t allow any showings at all?!?  The old saying that real estate is a very local business is more true than ever. Remember, we are trying to protect ourselves and everyone else from being exposed to a silent, invisible killer. 

The days of dropping by a new listing’s open house are gone. You have to make an appointment, you have to sign a form that states you don’t have symptoms of COVID-19, and that re-states all the rules regarding a showing. And you’re supposed to do it electronically before you access the property. The property must be sterilized before and after you view it, you generally have to provide proof that you can afford the property (not a law but most listing agents require it), you have to give your contact information, you have to wear a mask and wash or sterilize your hands as you enter the property. 

Then there are more rules about how many people can be in the property at one time, who they can be, and that the occupants of the house must be out during the showings. And there can be no paper changing hands—no flyers, no signed forms, no information regarding anything—everything is to be electronic. And tomorrow, this could all change, depending on the pandemic. 

You’ll notice there are lots of  “musts.” Each one is a limitation that the listing agent is primarily responsible for. You might think there is less that the listing agent does, but the responsibility, paperwork, and liability have increased exponentially. The listing agent generally has to do more negotiating to protect their sellers’ bottom line than they have done in the past. There are many more escrows cancelling than before—both from buyers losing their jobs or having to take a cut in pay, or fear of the future.

And yet properties do sell right now. Buyers go shopping online first, then they generally commit to their own buyer’s agent, lender, get pre-approved, and have their agent arrange for showings. And (here in Northeast Los Angeles and surrounding areas) there are multiple offers on well-priced properties. This is actually a good time to buy or sell, because the marketplace isn’t cluttered with unserious people.

Here are the official rules for showings:

Posted Rules for Entry
Best Practices and Guidelines

(These are the rules and regulations as of June 28, 2020; they can change at any time).

 

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Social Distanced Walking

Thanks to the Corona virus shelter-in-place rules changing, people are thronging to all the hiking trails and approved walking paths like the Rose Bowl Loop. This has resulted in the very crowded conditions we are trying to avoid and so they might be closed again soon. Since you can get ticketed and fined for defying the rules, you need to read the news just about three times a day to stay on the right path for your walk. How about avoiding all those popular places and checking out some of the roads less travelled? 

Pasadena and Altadena are treasure troves of historic neighborhoods with gorgeous houses that have documented styles, architects, famous owners, and stories that supply conversational material along with eye-candy to add interest to your walk. As the philosopher Kierkegaard said, “If one just keeps walking, everything will be alright.”

You can access maps, addresses, interesting lore and historical facts, walking and driving tours  and more on the www.CityofPasadena.net site. They even have an app for your phone called Historic Pasadena and you can follow the Bungalow Courts, (walking or driving tours), Victorian tours, Mid-Century tours, even a Neon Signs tour (who knew Pasadena still had so many?) and more! 

My walking buddy Kendyl and I were big users of the Rose Bowl loop until it closed and then we walked the length of South Grand from South Pasadena north to the famous Colorado Street Bridge and back until it became crowded. Now we have walked a few of these historic tours plus some neighborhoods in Altadena and have discovered a wealth of interesting sites and secret places (to us, that is) which I’m going to share with you, dear Reader. Hopefully, you will want to add a bit of your own special twists. Please share!

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Northeast LA Market Update

How are you doing? What’s happening with your job? What do you think is going to happen with it post-Corona? 

These questions and more are in the air along with all those droplets we are avoiding. We can only ask, actually, on the phone or on those endless Zoom calls (for those of us who are trying to live with the new normal physical distancing, yet stay in touch).  We all wish we were Mr. Zoom. He is definitely going to profit from this pandemic.

But you are reading this post because it’s about real estate, right? So what’s going on with the housing market? In our little corner of the real estate market, Northeast Los Angeles and surrounding areas, it’s always interesting and seldom like the national or even the California picture.

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Forbearance Does NOT Equal Forgiveness

As news and information about relief assistance swirls around in the midst of this crisis, there are lots of questions about what to do with your mortgage payments. To some, it can be interpreted that if you just don't pay your mortgage payment right now all will be forgiven. This is not true, and can have some serious affects on your financial health, and truly the health of the economy as a whole. 

Here is information from a lender friend of ours, Scott Groves with Movement Mortgage, that explains forbearance and how it works:

"If you, or your clients, are in dire-straights and having to make the toughest of financial decisions - like, what bills do I pay or how do I buy food - then I understand that you must do EVERYTHING you can to improve your cash-flow situation.

That being said, applying for a FORBEARANCE on your mortgage payment should be an ABSOLUTE LAST RESORT when it comes to your finances.

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Real Estate Now Considered an "Essential" Business

Things are changing every day in these wild times we live in!

Per the California Associaton of Realtors - "On March 28, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) updated its list of essential services during the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis and expressly included residential real estate. Since Governor Newsom’s March 4, 2020 order incorporates this list, the order now includes residential and commercial real estate, including settlement services, as essential services in California. However, if a city or county has an order with a more restrictive standard regarding what qualifies as an essential service, or more restrictions on activities, those guidelines will still govern the activities of a licensee.

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Real Estate Must Be Virtual, For Now

Chaos! Every day brings a new interpretation of the current edicts given by all the heads of state—the president, the governor, the mayor, CAR (which is the California Association of Realtors), the police, I’m sure there’s more. As of Thursday, March 26, 2020, basically, we are supposed to stay home except to procure food, health care, to walk, or perform an essential job. Therefore, we Realtors are in a curious Catch-22 situation: we can’t meet buyers or sellers at a property, we can’t order inspections because inspectors aren’t considered essential (but sellers can hire them to find out if they need repairs if they want or need to do),  buyers can get loans and appraisers can do desktop appraisals, escrow companies can work, counties can record sales, movers are considered essential, but if sellers sell and they need to buy another home can they? If you see some inconsistencies in all that, you are correct! 

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Coronavirus and Local Real Estate

So as of today, March 12, 2020, Coronavirus cases are spreading - first there’s one case reported, then 2, then 100, then a thousand. Universities and other schools aren't having live classes. Germy kids get to stay home and only infect family members and caregivers. The NBA has suspended the season. Wow! And mortgage interest rates are so volatile that lenders aren’t publishing them. In fact, some lenders aren’t taking any new or refinance business because they have more than they can handle. 

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Should You Buy a House in 2020?

Should you buy a house in 2020? Of course, this is a question that has a very complicated answer.
Two reasons that the answer is no: prices are high and inventory is low. Yes, interest rates are historically low which makes paying these historically high prices a little more bearable. Low inventory means a couple of things: it's hard to find the home of your dreams at the price you feel you can afford; it's extremely competitive in our market (we had 47 offers on one home in January, and we heard of another house nearby that had over 50 offers and is going $400,000 over the asking price!); also, it means the thought of buying your dream home (or any home) contingent on the sale of your current home is a losing proposition. Would you entertain a contingent sale on your own home? Probably not, because you want to minimize the things that can go wrong with the sale so you can move to the next step in your life without depending on variables you have little or no control over (like the price of the contingent home or the skill of the agent involved).

Despite those issues, I'm in the camp of yes, this is a good year to buy a home. I know what you're thinking - of course the Realtor thinks everyone should by a house right now! But the reason why?
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It Pays to be an Older Homeowner

At last, a reason to be glad you’re older: California Proposition 60/90! If you or your spouse are 55+ and you’ve owned your home awhile, you might find this interesting.

Basically, you can take your property tax with you one time if you purchase a primary home that costs the same or less as your current home! This can be a huge savings, since in California, property tax is calculated on the original purchase price of your home. So, if you paid $325,000 for your home in 2000, sell it in 2019 for $1,250,000, then buy a replacement home within 2 years of its closing date for 1,250,000, you will pay about $5,333.00 per year instead of $15,625.50 per year!

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What a Difference 15 Years Make!

eaglerockhomeforsale

It’s interesting to look back fifteen years and compare 2019 and 2004 because 2004 was a year of big fear and doubt. Many people questioning “will the economy go up? Down? If I buy a house now am I buying at the top of the market?”  Sound familiar? These are the same questions we're hearing from our clients now!

Let's take a look at the numbers, and then I'll dive into my interpretation:
data

Look at things like the $500,000 difference in the South Pasadena List Price/Sales Price this year—that issue would seem to be that the higher end of sales isn’t selling as much as the lower in South Pasadena. Makes sense, right?

Obviously, home sales prices have gone up a lot in 15 years in all these communities. The average number of sales has gone down and the days on market is all over the place. We aren’t seeing the general interpretation by experts on the market that we hear on the news—which is that days on market is increasing everywhere while the sales price is going down.   In these areas, the sales price keeps going higher and higher.  But why are we seeing the number of sales drop? Affordability? Choice? Probably a little of both. Less inventory, that is, far fewer available listings are on the market now than in 2004 and this has been the case since 2012. The higher end of the sales today in most of these zip codes are primarily high-style flips or new construction. That wasn’t the case in 2004 at all. 

Flipping with style really started as a result of the glut of foreclosures and short sales in 2008-2011 and it started in places like Highland Park, where a few flippers bought foreclosures really cheap, fixed them up nicely and stylishly, then resold them at fairly reasonable prices to first-time buyers with some money of their own or with help from their families. Now the flips are the high end of the market.

Altadena is really interesting because the average sales price was almost $100,000 higher there than Eagle Rock in 2004, and the average sales price this year is almost the same as Eagle Rock.  What does this fact mean? More choices in Altadena? We have sold several houses in Altadena this year because our buyers felt they had better choices in their price range—more house, more lot size, and sometimes the basic ability to purchase a home now for what they could afford instead of waiting to save more money or win the lotto or find some windfall somewhere. Eagle Rock has appeal because of its location—close to downtown, close to the studios, easy to get around in town and to get out of town. Also it’s neighborhoody (great community feel), has decent public schools, and is kind of a Mayberry-type suburb of Metro LA. And it’s cheaper than Los Feliz and Silverlake.

There is no clear conclusion to draw from all this, except that prices are still going up with no end in sight in these areas, so waiting for the crash is likely futile for the time being. When will the bubble burst? Maybe not for several years, maybe never. Only time will tell. It's usually luck that allows people to "time" the market. We often tell our clients that the best time to make their move is when they are truly ready!

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Today's Version of Irrational Exuberance

Remember when Alan Greenspan, former chair of the Federal Reserve, talked about the irrational exuberance in the stock market? You might not, because the quote is from a speech he gave all the way back in 1996! I see some of the same enthusiasm in the pricing of some houses on the market in our dear corner of Northeast Los Angeles. But the exuberance Greenspan referred to had to do with actual business being transacted. In today’s real estate market, I’m seeing irrational exuberance in some list prices, not in actual closed sales.

I’m dedicated to attaining a fair market price for our real estate. But that doesn’t mean that sellers should be listing their homes at overly ambitious prices, because that does nothing to firm up actual sale prices.

Let’s imagine that you are in the market for a home. You are pre-approved for $800,000 and you want a 2 bedroom 1 bath home in Eagle Rock. You look on the computer every day to see if something new has come on. Although you think $800,000 is a lot of money to pay for a small home, it is not easy to find a really good property in the right neighborhood for that price.

One day a property comes on that fits your criteria but it’s listed for $829,000. You wouldn’t even see it on the Internet because your search is limited to properties in the $450,000 to $825,000 range. But let’s say you are out one day and see an open house sign and stop in. Hmm. $829,000? Out of your league, you figure, and you leave.

Another day comes with a new listing for $825,000 that is pretty nice, but not quite big enough. Eh, you let that go because it’s at the top of your range and probably not worth it to you.

Another day you are looking and you see a small but perfect property for $675,000. Wow. You rush to call your agent and hurry over. There are already 5 other prospective buyers there with their agents and the buzz is loud. What’s the plan for multiple offers? How much do we need to offer to be in the running? Can we expect a counter if we offer enough over or are they going to take best and final? Do you think I can get the lender to pre-approve me for $830k? $850k?

Which property do you think might get the highest final sales price?

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