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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!

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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Northeast LA Area Market Update Through May 2020

I thought it would be interesting (to me and hopefully to you, Gentle Reader) to follow the market month by month, comparing it to last year. 

chart

What does all this mean? Not what it appears to mean on the surface, my friends.  Believe it or not, we are in a very hot market. It’s a smaller market than it was just recently, but homes are selling in multiple offer bidding wars. Yes, really. Looking at the numbers you see drops in the number of houses on the market, sold, and average prices in all 5 of our zip codes. However, Eagle Rock had a higher average sales price in May than it did in April. 

Anecdotally, we are having bidding wars even now, something you wouldn’t be aware of by just looking at the numbers. Unless, of course, you have been a buyer or a buyer’s agent in the last 8 years.

Today it matters even more how good a negotiator the agent is, and how motivated the buyer and seller are.  If you want to sell your house, is it important to you how much you sell it for?  I would guess the answer is yes, duh.  It’s in the strategies of pricing, folks, the same as it’s always been—but now it’s even more important to have your agent on your side, ready to do battle for your price but ready to change that price strategically. It’s super important to be really honest with your agent about what you will and won’t do. And that isn’t based on your wish price. Plus you do have to be sensitive to what similar homes are listing and selling for. And I said “sensitive to” not “enslaved by.” Oh, and you probably want to work with an agent you trust and feel like you can confide in.

You’ll notice a greater variation in numbers in May as opposed to April.  I think that’s largely due to timing during the COVID crisis than a true market. A lot of people are losing or are afraid of losing their jobs who didn’t see that happening in March when we thought/hoped we were only going to be quarantined a couple of weeks.  Even if we see the real estate market contract to the same extent that we’re seeing the employment figures contract which we’re hearing might be 20%, there are still a lot of employed folks who want or need to move. And a lot of houses that need to change hands because of life changes—death, divorce, marriage, having children, having children grow up and move out—the usual things.

So is this a good time to sell or buy? Just like always—yes, if you have a good reason to. And if you’re selling and buying in the same market, you can’t go too wrong. If your house is worth less, so is the house you buy. But it's not a good time for people who clutter up the market with “wish” prices that will never sell. Is it ever?

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Walking Tour of Bungalow Heaven

Bungalow Heaven, in Northeast Pasadena, is bordered roughly by Lake Avenue on the west, Orange Grove Blvd to the south, Hill Ave to the east, and Washington Blvd to the north.  What gives the area its name is about 800 Craftsman-style homes (plus non-conforming structures filling in) built between 1900 and 1930. For pictures, history and descriptions of Bungalow Heaven and the annual tour which happened every year for 30 years (until the pandemic this year), go to BungalowHeaven.org. There is lots of information and photos and even some merch you can order to support them. I ordered their cookie recipe book because it has a signature recipe written by a Bungalow Heaven resident and volunteer that uses real rose petals. Had to have it! And it was delicious - a delicate butter cookie with a faint rose flavor and studded with flecks of color from the rose petals and then rolled in chopped pistachios before it was baked. Yum!  Next I'm going to try the Tangerine Thyme Chocolate Cookies.

My friend, Kendyl, and I met at a house that was in escrow with my team’s buyer (so much character!), and started off on our walking tour. We learned that most of the houses were bungalows with lots of individuality—colors, landscaping, and style—though the main points of similarity were the large porches perfect for sitting on to catch the breezes and the overhanging eaves which defined the original Bungalow style (originally designed to deal with the extreme heat in India). The idea is the longer eaves make breezes more likely to cool the dark interiors.  Thoughtful landscaping helps with deciduous trees providing shade in the hot summer and sun in the winter. The judicious placement of evergreen trees can provide a constant shady presence where needed. Passive solar is not a new invention!

Did you know that in Pasadena with a house address, you can research all kinds of historical data about that house? Or you can search by house style, historic designation, all kinds of information. For Bungalow Heaven and more, go to the Historical Resources Inventory Database, click on Search for Historic Properties and explore!

And did you know that back in the day (1905-1940) you could order a kit from the Sears catalogue to build your own house? Yes, all styles and sizes were available. Visit the Sears archives. They give the history of the program and all sorts of detailed information. What I found almost as interesting as the exterior styles were the floorplans and the costs!  And once you’ve seen the pictures, you’ll see lots of houses in Pasadena that you’ll be sure were kit homes originally. The things we can learn from a walk!

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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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