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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!

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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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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