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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!

Another Scam Alert!

When times get tough, some of the underemployed become more creative. Here is another small sting to watch out for from the Title Compliance Board, Department of Records Retrieval. For a mere $79.00, they will send you a certified copy of your deed from the County Recorder's office. Great. They probably will send it to you, but you can order it for yourself for only $6.00!

Just go to the link: LA County Recorder for complete instructions.

But the real question is, why? Your deed is on record with the County Recorder. If you decide to sell your house, the title company verifies your ownership during the escrow process. You don't need to show anyone such records. Why else might you be required to prove your ownership? After a fire or some other disaster? Your insurance company already knows you own the property. In the off chance that you don't have insurance (which is a problem you need to address), your only recourse is a Federal agency and they will verify your ownership. It's not a bad idea to have the documentation on your property, but you received it when you bought the property. If you can't find it, you can get a copy from your title company. Ask your Realtor who that was. Or ask me and I can look it up for you.

Asking for a small amount like $79 is the easiest kind of scam to succeed at. They are providing a service, they are just creating a need that isn't real for a document that is easy and cheap to obtain. It's not illegal, really, just unnecessary. I'm sure you can find something useful to spend $79 on. Or put it in your piggy bank to add to your down payment fund.

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First-ever Realtor Float in the Rose Parade!

To celebrate the 100th year of its existence, the National Association of Realtors has entered a float in the Rose Parade. So, for the first time in the 28 years I've lived near the Rose Bowl, I volunteered to help on a float. It's quite an experience and I recommend you try it sometime.

There are many organizations that enter floats that rely on volunteers to do a tremendous amount of the final work to get it ready for New Year's Day. We have the towns of South Pasadena and Sierra Madre, we have companies like Kaiser Permanente, and professional organizations like the Realtors.

It's a lot of fun, it's a great way to meet like-minded people that you might never meet otherwise, and it's an honor to participate in such an ambitious effort. These floats take a lot of money and energy to make them ready for showtime. I know the parade is going to mean more to me because I contributed even my tiny small part to it.

I hope you'll think of participating in some way yourself in years to come. Anyone over 12 years old can be put to some kind of work. Check out the Tournament of Roses for complete information on all the related events.

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Have You Made the Right Plans?

The Box

The Box

You're invited: January 24, 2009. 2 pm, Center for the Arts, Eagle Rock, 2225 Colorado Blvd., LA 90041.

Iku Kiriyama presents "The Box: How to do the Most Important Planning of Your Life" Smoothing the transition for those who are still here after you pass on.

It is a major act of love to prepare our affairs in the event we should pass away. Yet we avoid, rationalize and delay preparing for the inevitable. The greatest gift you can give those you leave behind is to plan for what you know will happen sooner or later.

Really, none of us gets out of here alive.

Ms. Kiriyama shows us what is in the box she wished she had when her husband passed away.

The presentation lasts about an hour, with time for questions afterward. Light refreshments will be served.

The event is free to the public and we invite you to bring a friend or five. Please RSVP so we can have enough chairs and treats. We are considering providing child care, so please ask if you need it.

Sponsored by "The Avon Walk Four" -- Tracy King, Paula Walker, Kendyl Young, Liz Johnson

Thanks to the Center for the Arts, Eagle Rock for the generous donation of the hall.
RSVP to Tracy at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 626-844-2256 anytime.

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Scam Alert: Property Tax Reassessment

I received a letter today from this company which says they will file for your property tax reduction for a fee of $179 per property. Folks, you might as well flush $179.00 down the toilet! My letter said the deadline to reply is January 7, 2009. According to the real Los Angeles County Tax Assessor's form RP-87 (the real official form to use, not this bogus letter) - This form MUST be filed by December 31, 2008. Applications received after that date will not be processed. For assistance, please call 213.974.3211 or 1.888.807.2111.

The bogus letter looks very official, but if you read the fine print on the backside, it says that "Property Tax Reassessment is not a government agency and at no time should the service fee be construed as mandatory unless you wish Property Tax Reassessment to perform services on your behalf." Interestingly, they say if you don't pay by January 7, you will owe $209.00. That makes it look official, doesn't it?

Don't be fooled. If you are one of the property owners whose market value is now less than your assessed value, you can file for the reduction yourself, or contact me and I will help you for FREE. But the deadline is December 31, 2008, which means you should mail the application by December 29. So you need to start on this right away or ask me now if you want my help. I gave you complete instructions in a previous blog post. It's not difficult if you know what to do, which I do.

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Los Angeles Real Estate, Then and Now

Stumbling across the April, 2007, issue of Los Angeles Magazine, I found a key to the disaster we see before us. The title of the cover article was Real Estate 2007, When Will the Bubble Burst? And Other Burning Questions.

It is a game, as they say in the article. The game is "Do I Buy/Sell Now?" In 2007, the key to the bubble not bursting was that our local economy was still good. In hindsight, we can see that the real estate market "bubble" has actually been slowly deflating since 2005. The number of properties sold has been going down since then, even though prices appeared to remain high overall. The prediction in 2007 was that we would see prices soften and modestly decline through 2008, maybe by 2 or 3 percent per year. Today, December, 2008, we see prices have dropped anywhere from 15 to 50 percent, depending.

Depending on what? Real estate is a local business, and in my neighborhoods of Northeast Los Angeles and the San Gabriel Valley, the housing stock varies on a street-by-street basis - no two homes are alike and so no two values are alike. The Case-Shiller index measures the value of a home that sold at a particular time compared to that same home that sold at another time, which is meaningful for that particular home and not many others. See how tricky this all is?

The key to everything is the health of the local economy. Last year, Los Angeles was doing fine. This year, the whole world is in economic disarray. In the early 1990s, the scene of the last big downturn in the Southern California market, we had more local problems that were not felt so much in the national scene, like earthquakes, fires, riots, and the complete restructuring of our economy from defense-related to service-based. So we had an exodus of folks finding jobs elsewhere. I don't think we are seeing that now - times are tough almost everywhere. Now, we have been living in an economy where businesses operate on a line of credit as a matter of course. This was not risky behavior, it was standard operating procedure for any number of law firms, medical practices, and other businesses all over the world. Today, some of these businesses have had to lay off hundreds of people because they can't get their normal credit anymore. This is just one example of the kind of unexpected fallout that is affecting our own little piece of paradise. I know people who have had their own lines of credit on their homes and credit cards reduced or eliminated for no apparent reason.

Credit is basically a promise to pay. The givers of credit have lost faith that those people will repay. This in turn causes the very problem the creditors seek to prevent the loss of the ability to repay. It's all very well to say that we should all return to a cash economy, but few of us operate that way. I feel like I'm watching Jimmy Stewart in "It's a Wonderful Life" all over again. I'm actually feeling a little like Donna Reed, dependent upon Jimmy's ability to restore his depositors' faith in the system for her family's survival. Only today, our Jimmy is President-Elect Obama.

Look at the decline of companies like the Los Angeles Times. They've laid off dozens and dozens of people as their product has become affected by the change in the global way of obtaining information and by the downturn in advertising dollars spent. And this affects me personally because I have many clients who work or have worked for the Times.

And so it goes, from the big picture to our own backyard. In the next installment, I'll talk more about our own microcosm of real estate here.

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