Skinny On Real Estate

Small lot in 90404 zip under $400K

Yes, you read that right, a very small (1,400 sq. ft.) lot with a house in a great location, just south of Wilshire and near Centinela with an asking price of around $400K.

The lot currently houses a 700 sq. ft. 1+1 house which isn’t very functional. This is a classic case of a flip gone wrong. The lot and house was bought for $490,000 in 2005 and the “flipper” had plans to add a second story master bedroom and reconfigure the 1st story. The only progress they made was to put a few upgrades into the 1st story before pulling the plug. With the second story addition, this can actually become a great condo alternative home with views. Perfect for a young couple or a bachelor.

This is a “short sale” which are difficult and can really test your patience. However, I see upside with this project over time, especially if you can pick it up for under $400K. Please contact me if you would like more information and possibly see the property.

The New Black Mold. . .Stinking Drywall?

In Florida, a handful of lawsuits have been filed against the manufacturers of a sulfur-tainted drywall manufactured in China and the builders that installed it during the housing boom.

The building product was distributed in many states, including California, and may have been installed in tens of thousands of homes, sickening residents and causing structural damage. They have likened the problem to the wave of construction-defect litigation over mold, which peaked earlier this decade.

Article: Lawsuits filed over Chinese-made drywall

West Hollywood and Venice take a big hit

The sales figures for West Hollywood and Venice (90291) mirror those I reported last week concerning other Westside cities. It is brutal out there.

Melissa Data, which lumps Single Family Residence’s and Condos together, gives an average selling price which is a great overall indicator of what is selling and what is not. We can clearly see from the data below the recent dismal sales activity is happening at lower price points.

West Hollywood 90069

Total Sales Volume – (2/2008) $22,865,000, (2/2009) $5,430,000 (-77.3%)

Average Sales Price – (2/2008) $1,345,000, (2/2009) $543,000 (-59.6%)

Venice 90291

Total Sales Volume – (2/2008) $10,087,000, (2/2009) $6,592,000 (-35.6%)

Average Sales Price – (2/2008) $1,441,000, (2/2009) $824,000 (-42.8%)

Startling Westside Sales Statistics

The Westside has seen sales decline steadily since mid 2007 with sale prices staying fairly steady compared to most of Southern California. Unfortunately, sales activity since the beginning of the 4th quarter of 2008 is at historically low levels and a strong price drop will not be adverted, especially in areas priced well above conforming loan limits. The sales for the first two months of 2007 and 2008 are included to provide the contrast in markets. If you would like more detailed information, please contact me.

Thru March 1, 2009:

Santa Monica:
Single Family Residences (SFR): 111 Active; 12 In Escrow; Sold= 9 (Down 79.6% from 2007 )
*Highest Sale: 3.7 million and the only sale over 3 million!
Number of Sales in the first 2 months of 2008: 33
Number of Sales in the first 2 months of 2007: 44

Beverly Hills:
SFR: 121 Active; 8 In Escrow; Sold=7 (Down 80.6% from 2007)
*Highest Sale: 8 million with 2 other over 3 million.
Number of Sales in the first 2 months of 2008: 23
Number of Sales in the first 2 months of 2007: 36

Pacific Palisades:
SFR: 193 Active; 14 In Escrow; Sold= 14 (Down 70.9% from 2007)
*Highest Sale: 14.5 million w/ 4 other sales over 3 million.
Number of Sales in the first 2 months of 2008: 45
Number of Sales in the first 2 months of 2007: 48

Malibu Beach:
SFR: 70 Active; 1 In Escrow; Sold=6 (Down 77% from 2007)
*Highest Sale: 14.6 million; next highest 4.6 with three over 3 million.
Number of Sales in the first 2 months of 2008: 5
Number of Sales in the first 2 months of 2007: 26

SFR: 160 Active; 17 In Escrow; Sold=16 (Down 55% from 2007)
*Highest Sale: 13.5 million w/ 7 selling for more than 3million.
Number of Sales in the first 2 months of 2008: 32
Number of Sales in the first 2 months of 2007: 35

Beverly Hills Post Office:
SFR: 146 Active; 13 In Escrow; Sold= 6 (Down 66.6% from 2007)
*Highest Sale: 3.7 million w/ 1 other over 3 million.
Number of Sales in the first 2 months of 2008: 16
Number of Sales in the first 2 months of 2007: 18

SFR: 271 Active; 24 In Escrow: Sold= 8 (Down 70% from 2007)
*3 sales in the 3 million in range. Lowest was 1.6 million
Number of Sales in the first 2 months of 2008: 15
Number of Sales in the first 2 months of 2007: 26
Less pricier areas of the Westside:

Mar Vista:
SFR: 80 Active; 26 In Escrow; Sold= 21 (Down 59% from 2007)
*Highest sale 1.7 million w/ 3 over 1 million and one over 750K.
Number of Sales in the first 2 months of 2008: 43
Number of Sales in the first 2 months of 2007: 51

Culver City:
SFR: 46 Active; 25 In Escrow; Sold= 14 (Down 50% from 2007)
*3 sales over 750 K w/ highest at 850K.
Number of Sales in the first 2 months of 2008: 27
Number of Sales in the first 2 months of 2007: 28

SFR: 62 Active; 23 In Escrow; Sold= 20 (Down 52.4% from 2007)
*3 sales over 750K w/ over 1 million.
Number of Sales in the first 2 months of 2008: 30
Number of Sales in the first 2 months of 2007: 42

California won’t get much housing relief

The Obama administration’s plan to stave off foreclosures could fall flat in California, where nearly one-third of mortgage holders are underwater on their loans — many of them by amounts that would disqualify them for government-sponsored refinancing.

Earlier this week, Zillow was projecting only 9% of California mortgages met the parameters for assistance.

Hmm, maybe we should let the market naturally find the bottom. The near term will be tough but I bet we would recover faster.

LA Times Article: Obama plan won’t help many California homeowners

Luxury Homeowners Falling Behind on Mortgage Payments

Per the Bloomberg news: An informative article on luxury homeowners falling behind on mortgage payments at the fastest pace in more than 15 years. The numbers pale in comparison to the sub-prime mess, but the delinquencies are becoming more prevelant in the luxury home market and it is something to keep track of. Article: Jumbo Loan Defaults Rise at Fast Pace as Rich Suffer

Here is another informative article that explores the problems in the jumbo loan market and how the new economic stimulus package does not address the issues facing this segment of the population: Jumbo Mortgages, Jumbo Headaches

Scam Alert regarding property tax reassessment

If you’re a homeowner, you may have received an official-looking letter recently informing you that your property needs to be reassessed for tax purposes. The cost of the reassessment is $179, but you’ll have to pay an additional $30 if you don’t mail in your application within the next few weeks.

“It’s a scam,” Los Angeles County Assessor Rick Auerbach said.

The letter is actually from a company called Property Tax Reassessment, which gives a Los Angeles post office box as its address. Read more about it at the Los Angeles County Tax Assessor’s website, where it is noted: “There is no reason to pay for a review that will be done for free.”

Refinancing or buying in today’s market

Though everyone knows that lenders have tightened their rules about making loans, most people don’t understand what that means when they are shopping a loan for a purchase or a refinance. If the only real estate loan a borrower has obtained was within the last seven years, they are in for a shock.

The conforming loan limits in Los Angeles have raised to $729,750 but these loans, known as conforming Jumbo loans, have a higher rate, about a half a percent, then loans under $417,000. If you want a jumbo loan (over $729,750) you will need a big down payment along with excellent FICO scores. You will also need to be patient as most lenders are no longer offering jumbo loans. As late as last year, loan brokers had access to over 80 different banks offering jumbo loans. The number is now less than 15.

What constitutes great credit in 2009?: Two years ago a good FICO was 700 or better. In today’s world a 700 FICO will cost you money. If you check out a chart of Fannie & Freddie rate fees you can see that a credit score under 740 is going to cost you upfront fees in addition to the points the lender wants. These fees are for conforming loans. If you are looking for a non-conforming loan (jumbo) the best rates are for those with FICOs of 780 or higher.

Income is 1099 based = Tough: Today many lenders turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to 1099 employees. There are a few lenders making stated income loans. 1099 based borrowers must have large reserves, great credit and proven income minus tax write-offs over the past two years.

20% down might not get it done: On a conforming loan ( $729,750-) 20%-25% down and good credit (720 FICO+)will usually work. If you want to utilize an FHA loan then you can have as little as 3% down and a slightly lower FICO score but you will get a higher rate and pay upfront fees.

For a loan over $729,750 then 20% and good credit isn’t enough. You may find lenders wanting 35%-50% down with great credit (750+ FICO) and a good chunk of cash in reserve.

Adjustable rate mortgage might not make sense: Borrowers got used to having a number of choices in the types/terms of adjustable loans. There are more choices for conforming loans but if you are seeking a jumbo loan you may find your choices limited to a 1/1 or a 5/1 term . A number of lenders are not making 7/1 or 10/1 loans as they are not sure where rates will go in the future. However, a few private banks and wealth management companies are offering extremely competitive rates for 7/1 and 10/1 terms provided you have great credit and strong cash reserves. For interest only loans, add at least another .25% or more to the rate.

Refinancing can be tough: Some lenders are looking for 30%-40% equity on a refinance in markets they feel are trending downward. Lenders are not real crazy about cash out refinancing. There are some who have those programs but the fees are high.

In today’s market the best way to ensure you get a loan is to do your homework. If you are buying a home you need to be fully approved before making an offer and be ready to throw in additional cash if necessary. If you are refinancing, don’t expect the process to be easy. Remember, cash in the bank can buy a lot of goodwill and provide you with a great opportunity to take advantage of this market.

Glut of Inventory on the Westside 2-1-09

An ever growing supply of high-end listings is leading to long awaited price cuts, which will be the theme of the high-end real estate market in 2009.

According to the Concord Group which tracks the luxury home market, resales of $2 million-plus homes declined 28% in the fourth quarter of 2008, compared with the same period in 2007. Meanwhile, sales in all price ranges for the fourth quarter were up 34% — fueled by foreclosures. A look at the Multiple Listing Service provides strong evidence the recession is hitting the luxury market and it is finally starting to sink in with sellers.

Santa Monica inventory finished the year up 24% (year-end 2008 over year-end 2007) for less than $3M asking price, and up 155% for over $3M. Similarly Pacific Palisades inventory is up 147% for less than $2M and up 54% for over $2M.

Through January, new listings and previously expired or withdrawn listings have flooded the market and most with a cut in price. Pacific Palisades provides three strong examples.

1141 Maroney Lane, Pacific Palisades “PP”- List Price “LP”: $7,945,000; 6-16-08- $9,450,000; 5-15-08- $10,500,000; 9-24-07- $12,500,000 total percentage difference: 46%

431 Alma Real Drive (New Construction), PP- $9,275,000; 11/3/08- $10,695,000; 8/15/08- $11,900,000; 2/19/08- $12,900,000 total percentage difference: 30% **within a week of the original listing they had an accepted offer that fell out of escrow.

958 Chautauqua (internally remodeled after 2005 purchase), PP –LP: $2,795,000; 1/31/08- $3,295,000 (Leased for $13,000 thru 08); 4/23/07- $3,995,000 total percentage difference: 32% Note: 2/15/05- sold for $2,508,695

Over the past week, 15 net new listings each for Santa Monica and Pacific Palisades plus relistings of the previously expired and withdrawn. In Santa Monica, evidence suggests low-end north of Montana sales are tipping below $2 million and mainstream low-end Sunset Park is tipping below $1 million. Currently, the inventory of desirable homes is still weak but in my opinion, it will be increasing significantly throughout the next two quarters.

Unfortunately, the demand side, even for upper-end houses, is also suffering and growing weaker.

Income in Los Angeles’ recently top-earning industries, finance and entertainment, is falling. Check out the LA Times lead article last Friday “A Bleak Picture for Big Studios”. Not to mention hedge funds and mortgage lenders’ bonuses being mostly non-existant, especially in 2009.

Huge losses in the stock market in 2008 and/or equity losses in previous houses sold to move up restrict cash available for purchases.

Jumbo interest rates have not fallen like conforming rates have, and qualifying standards are up, including higher down payments just as buyers have fewer assets.

However, some sunshine does exist. I expect jumbo rates to begin to decline around the second quarter and we are also seeing private banks provide very competitive rates for highly qualified jumbo buyers.

The high-end glut will happen and with that bring opportunities. In the long run, The Westside/South Bay is always a great investment if you can afford it. Especially, when you can take advantage of a declining market while securing a very good interest rate.

Sources: MLS, LA Times, Westside Bubble

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Thank you for visiting my Blog. This will be an extension of the Skinny on Real Estate newsletter and will be updated daily and packed with important news and information that effects the world or Westside/South Bay real estate.

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