Month: May 2011

Hillside Ordinance Will Have Major Impact on Hillside Areas of the Westside

The landmark Baseline Hillside Ordinance, approved by the City Council, was signed by Mayor Villaraigosa on March 25 and went into effect May 9. This ordinance will have a major impact on future single family building projects in hillside locations much like the approval of the Baseline Mansionization Ordinance that was past a few years ago limiting the size of a home that can be built based on a calculation involving the size and width of the lot. Hillside properties were previously exempt from the Baseline Mansionization Ordinance.

This is the third step in the City’s attempt to prevent out-of-scale single-family development in the city of Los Angeles. The ordinance will apply to approximately 133,000 lots.

The Baseline Hillside Ordinance will reduce the allowable area for a site, change the way in which area is calculated, change the height limits and how they are calculated, and create limits on the amount of grading that can be done to a site. Like the Baseline Mansionization Ordinance, this ordinance will allow individual neighborhoods to adjust the baseline limits to better fit their community’s character and scale through an overlay option.

The ordinance’s proposed FAR (building size to lot size ratio) is based on lot size, zone, and steepness of slopes on the property.

A survey is currently required for a hillside lot. The new ordinance  requires that the surveyor prepare a Slope Analysis Map that delineates the portions of the property which fall under each Slope Band (interval) and include a tabulation of the total area of the lot (in square feet) within each interval.

To determine the Maximum Residential Floor Area, one must multiply the area of each Slope Band times the percentage allowed for that slope. Then, add up all the amounts to get the total area allowed for the site. Residential Floor Area bonuses are also provided for (as in the Baseline Mansionization Ordinance), with additional options related to hillside massing and grading.
Important exemptions and criteria have been established but they are difficult to explain. You are strongly encouraged to an architect who specializes in the Los Angeles area and you can also visit the City of Los Angles City Planning Web-site.

(Source: Palisades Post, LA Times)

Friendly Reminder: Get your Air Conditioner Maintenance and Sewer Line Snaked and while you are at it…

While June gloom hangs around LA, it is a great time to get maintenance done on some key systems in your house.

  • Air Conditioner– Prepare early for summer heat waves and call your local licensed Air Conditioning professional to make sure your system is operating properly. Yearly maintenance cuts down on future expensive repairs and also helps you avoid the untimely breakdown during a heat wave. While they are out checking the Air Conditioner, kill two birds with one stone and have them check the heater as well if you don’t have a combo unit.
  • Clean out the Sewer Line– An item that is often forgotten about after purchasing a property is the sewer line which can become a very costly problem if a blockage pops up and a section needs to be replaced. Having the sewer line snaked every 1 to 2 years at a fairly negligible cost ($100-$200) will help you avoid a $3k-7k problem.
  • Check Fire Extinguishers– Every house should have a fire extinguisher, especially in the kitchen area. Check the date and make sure it is not time to get a new one.
  • Test the Smoke Alarms in your house to make sure they are operating properly.
  • Clean out Gutters– Make sure your gutters are free of any major build-up of leaves and dirt that would lead to a blockage during a rain storm.
  • Protect your house from unwanted moisture- Check to make sure sprinklers aren’t spraying up against the house, especially those with wood siding as this leads to dry rot and potential moisture intrusion into the foundation.
  • Clean your Refrigerator Coils– Dirty coils (usually on the back of a refrig), which easily attract dust, hair, etc. is the #1 cause of refrigerator malfunctions. This only takes a few minutes with a handheld vacuum and will extend the life of the unit.
  • If you have any questions or need a referral for any work that needs to be done around the house, please feel free to contact us and will be happy to line you up with someone who has been highly recommended.

    Mortgage Rates Fall to Lowest Level of 2011

    Fixed-rate mortgages are at their lowest point of the year, declining for the fifth consecutive week amid mixed economic and housing data.

    The 30-year fixed-rate loans averaged 4.61% and the 15-year, 3.80%. Borrowers would have paid 0.7% of the loan amount in upfront lender fees to obtain the rate, Freddie Mac said.

    Last year at this time, the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 4.84%, according to Freddie Mac, which surveys rates lenders are offering to well-qualified borrowers who make down payments of at least 20% or have that much equity in their homes if they are refinancing.

    As rates fall, applications for home loans have risen. The Mortgage Bankers Assn. said Wednesday that applications for new loans last week were 7.8% higher than in the previous week.
    Source: LA Times

    PLAN AHEAD: 405 Closed July 16th thru early morning of the 18th!!

    Starting just after midnight July 15, the San Diego (405) Freeway will be shut down in both directions from Getty Center Drive to the 101 Freeway for 53 hours, so that the south side of the Mulholland Bridge can be demolished.

    The freeway section is expected to reopen at 5 a.m. July 18, according to Metro officials.

    An estimated half-million cars, trucks and buses use this freeway on a typical summer weekend. The closure is part of the ongoing freeway-widening project, which will create a 10-mile northbound carpool lane on the 405 between the Westside and the San Fernando Valley.

    Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky’s refers to this planned shutdown as a “midsummer night’s nightmare for motorists heading to LAX, the beach, or other destinations.”

    Two Articles Worth Checking Out

    Here are two articles that we felt were particularly good reads from the LA Times:

    April home sales prove lackluster in Southern California: This article discusses the current “macro” market situation as increasingly dire with sales falling 5.5% from March to April. This is obviously not the case in higher end areas where activity has picked up.

    Foreclosure rate slows as repossession timeline lengthens: This article discusses the length of time it is taking for borrowers to be pushed into foreclosures, resulting in fewer bank-owned properties being released into the market

    Pacific Palisades Full of Multiple Offer Activity

    This past week has felt like a trip back to 2004-2007 for many realtors that work the Pacific Palisades market. Four homes hit the market and all have multiple offers with rumors having at least three of the four going for over asking. Here is a look.

    555 Muskingum- Major Fixer/Tear Down on a 8,799 sq. ft. lot hit the market for $1.295M and immediately received multiple offers and is currently in escrow at over asking.

    527 Muskingum- 3+2, approx. 2K sq. ft. on a 7,870 sq. ft. lot with ocean views. $1.849M list price. Cute beach cottage home in very good condition with strong emotional appeal. Word on the street is this property received four offers and they accepted an offer yesterday. We do not know the price range.

    737 Almar- 4+4, 2,954 sq. ft. on a 5,837 sq. ft. lot located in the El Medio bluffs. $1.949M list price. Cute Mediterranean style home that has a nice lay-out and needs a little bit of updating but something someone can easily move into. Limited yard space but good appeal. They received two offers right after the broker caravan on Tuesday and are rumored to be in escrow at asking or above.

    878 Galloway- 4+3.5, 2,958 sq. ft. on a 5,867 sq. ft. lot located in the Alphabet streets in a prime walking location. Beautiful East Coast traditional with a ton of emotional appeal. It was bought in 2007 for $2.725 and was listed at $2.295M. Apparently they received 5 offers and are in counters above the asking price…

    SFR Sales Data for April

    *click graph to enlarge
    Unlike the Condo market, sales volume increased in April compared to last month and was stronger than April 2010 in the areas we track. With inventory decreasing and demand continuing to pick up, the market is definitely the hottest it has been in the last 4 years. Homes in good condition that are priced anywhere from 17-20% off the market heights of 2006-2007 are usually garnering multiple offers. The difference between original list price and sale price continues to decrease though Beverly Hills and Marina Del Rey increased in the discrepancy. Sales volume has increased % over April of last year while still % behind sales volume in 2007.

    In looking at the broad picture the graph presents, Pacific Palisades, Westchester and Venice doubled its sales volume compared to last April while Cuvler City, Marina Del Rey and Bel-Air doubled sales volume compared to last month.

    A quick look at a few individual sales:

    Brentwood-510 North Kenter, a 4+3, 2,150 sq. ft. house on a 20,298 size lot sold for $1.775M – 7% above the asking price and went out in multiple offers after being on the market in twelve days. This was a very stylish contemporary home with a pool and open kitchen.

    Pacific Palisades- 15976 Alcima Ave- 5 +3.5, 2,982 sq. ft. house on a 18,300 size lot. This was a tear down and sold for $1.90M, 21% below the original list price .

    Down the street, 15920 Alcima, a 4+4, 5,241 sq. ft. house on a 20,470 lot sold for $3.185M, just below the $3.195 M list price and was only on the market for 5 days. This was a well-maintained home with great ocean views and only needed a little cosmetic work.

    The bottom line is that people are paying a premium to move into homes that don’t require much work while the better deals are falling into the hands of those willing to remodel.

    Condo Sales Data for April

    *click graph to enlarge
    According to the MLS, overall sales volume for condos in the areas we cover decreased in April and was lower than sales in April of last year by 5.5%. However, this is not surprising since we have been writing about decreasing inventory. In fact, the market has heated up with the spring and summer selling season and that is evident with the average days on market and % difference between original list price “OLP” and sales price is decreasing significantly. For example, the % difference between OLP and sales price in March had 3 areas in the double digit range and many hovering around 7-9%. April only had one area in double digit % (Westwood/Century City 11%) and most were around 4-6%. Earlier in the year, the majority of the areas we cover had a double digit discrepancy.

    As many of you know from reading this blog, the recent surge in buyer demand has been fueled by low interest rates, an influx of buyer’s from tech companies relocating office space to the Westside and a general feeling that the economy seems to be on solid ground. The frustrating thing for buyer’s is that inventory is artificially low because so many people have a loan that is higher than what the property is worth and the bank’s continue to unload properties at a snail’s pace.

    A quick look at the overall volume of sales shows that Beverly Hills and Mar Vista saw a drastic reduction in sales compared to last month and only Westwood and Brentwood showed an increase in sales volume over last month. In comparison to April 2007, sales are off 88%.

    Mortgage Rates Drift Lower

    Freddie Mac reported on Thursday the lenders it surveys were offering 30-year fixed-rate mortgages at an average rate of 4.71% early this week, compared with 4.78% the week before.
    Rates for 15-year fixed loans, a popular option for homeowners looking to refinance mortgages, averaged 3.89%, down from 3.97%.

    Buyers would have paid 0.7% of the loan amount upfront to the lenders to obtain the rates, according to Freddie Mac.

    The initial rates for floating-rate mortgages fell as well, Freddie Mac said.

    WSJ: Buyer’s Market? Stressed Sellers Say Not So Fast

    This article that appeared in Monday’s Wall Street Journal is in line with articles that we have been writing lately in regards to the difficulty buyer’s are currently having. Though this article paints a broader stroke and touches on some issues that are not impacting the Westside market, it is a good read – Article

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