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!
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:
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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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?
We all have to live somewhere—even if it’s under a bridge. Most of us don’t live under bridges, though, and herein lies the story—it’s very hard to be a buyer in today’s market. I know this because I just sold my home (of 18 years), and now I need to buy a new one. Buyers today (me too) hope that the market is changing—in their favor of course. But, as a Realtor, I do understand all sides of this issue--Buyer, Seller, Realtor.
It's painful to try to buy a house in the Los Angeles area today, unless you have unlimited funds and are willing to spend a lot of them. A surprising number of folks do have a lot of money, and they all seem to like the same houses I do!
People are paying crazy amounts of money to live here. We have been in an increasing price sales cycle for ten years. People say “It can’t go on,” and yet it does. Even so, the market is very discriminating and the standard of quality or style has really been raised. Homes that you wouldn’t put on your Pinterest Dream Home board just sit there—they even have price reductions!
Back when I first began my real estate career, people in the business jeered at sellers who felt that their house was worth more because they “used heavy-duty nails,” which was code meaning they had used quality materials in their maintenance and remodeling efforts. The only way to increase value then was to increase square footage. That has never been entirely true, but “style, design, and functionality” has now come into play like never before. High-end finishes do add value these days, and the more stylish, the better.
Why is that? Because what house buying is about these days is “How does this house make me feel?” or “Does this house have the potential to make me feel the way I want to?” Yes, folks, buying a home today is all about the emotion, not price per square foot or recent comps. If you don’t believe me, fine, but you won’t buy a house in this market, or you are not interested in buying a home you love, or you can love a house because it fits into the average price per square foot.