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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!

A Seller Success Story: 2030 Estes Road

Once in a while, everything comes together and the sale of a home exceeds everyone’s expectations. How does this happen? Is there a formula that can be used to at least maximize the odds?

Some necessary components:

  • A great house -- good bones, proper updates, a private, idyllic setting, a very livable floor plan, a prestigious location in the area.

  • A seller who knows how to prepare his home for sale, how to present the property during the showing phase of the sale, and, of course, how to choose a Realtor who will work with him to strategize the best plan to sell the house for the most money in the least amount of time and with a minimum of hassle.

  • A Realtor with the market and real estate knowledge to conceive and execute the plan.

  • A team of dedicated people to carry out the plan. This team includes the seller’s willing family, neighbors, and  competent professionals (Realtor’s staff, photographer, escrow and title companies, etc.) to execute the marketing and sale.


When I first met my Success Story Sellers in February, 2011, the highest sales in Eagle Rock in the past few months had been $749,000 for a much larger house and $675,000 for a house that was a foreclosure but was bigger and a popular Mediterranean style. The house at 2030 Estes was unlike any other house that had sold in the area in years, so how were we to arrive at the probable sales price? The sellers were hoping for more than $750,000 and I truly believed it should sell for much more. But how to get such a number when sales comparables were so low? Even if we found people willing to pay our price, it would never appraise for that value in the current conservative lending environment.

Out-of-the-box thinking was required. If the house sold for a price that wouldn’t appraise, we simply would insist that in order to be considered, an offer had to remove any appraisal contingency. We listed the property for $749,000, the same as the highest sale in the past few months.

Preparing the house for sale included planning how to deal with the seller’s family which included a dedicated and fabulous wife, two young boys, a dog, and a lot of personal stuff. After packing up or selling much of the stuff, the wife packed up the boys and took them away for the 8 days we were on the market. For every showing or open house, the dog went to the neighbors. More neighbors were enlisted to move their vehicles that had been parked on the street. The house looked like a Dwell magazine cover story for all showings.

We had five open houses in eight days including brokers’ open houses and a twilight open house. By the ninth day, we had 15 offers, 14 of which had no appraisal contingency. By the time counter offers came back, we had three offers over $900,000! The highest offer was for cash, closing in 10 days. Long intense story short, we closed 11 days later for $925,000, as-is, no repairs or termite work to be done.

As I said, this was an ideal situation: great house, great sellers, great team altogether. It’s rare to have it all. But isn’t it good to know that a house can sell with multiple offers way over the last highest sales price in this uncertain market?

Here is what the seller of 2030 Estes Road had to say:

videoscreenshot
Thank you to Kendyl Young for her fabulous video shooting and editing skills!
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Presenting Your Home for Sale

We’ve talked in the past about the popularity of staging a home for sale, whether done with a professional stager or by the homeowner. This time, let’s just talk about basics that set the stage for whatever staging (or not) comes next.

I visited another agent’s open house today and found myself being rather critical (what, me, a Virgo, being critical?) But we learn our lessons where we can. Mind you, I can tell you absolutely hair-raising stories about homes that I have sold that were way negative on the pristine show-quality staging effort:

* There was the one where the cats had been using the kitchen counter for a bathroom for a long time...really!  We sold that for $175,000 over asking with 43 offers.
* The one that the tenant had used to express himself whenever he got upset by either spraying graffiti or chopping holes in the walls. That one sold for $180,000 over asking with 80 offers! But that's a true “event price” strategy. Would these houses have sold for more if they had been clean and well-maintained? Most assuredly.
* Another had a note on the refrigerator that said “Dave, please remember, NO DRUGS! We really want to sell the house!” I'm not kidding. And the price was too high just at the time that the market started its downward trek. Sigh, I'm afraid that one never sold and eventually ended up in foreclosure.

But even the regular homeseller may overlook some simple dos and don'ts that will help sell the home. They don't necessarily cost any money, either.

Dos:
* Clean your house
* De-clutter your house

Here are some don'ts:

* Don't leave the toilet lid up
* Don't leave dirty dishes anywhere
* Don't leave anything in the path from the car to the door.

These are just a few things to start with when preparing your home for sale.  For more, see our feature on Vern Yip's Design Tips to Sell Homes.
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Trusts, Wills, and Real Estate

When it comes to planning and organizing our “stuff” and making arrangements for our eventual demise, we act like we think we will live forever. The stories range from “my kids will get to deal with this” to “oh, we have a will and everything is set.” My guess is, 1 out of maybe 50 or even 100 people actually have sensible and useful arrangements made for what happens to themselves, their stuff, and their heirs after they pass on.

Without naming names, let me just share that there are people near and dear to me that  are among the majority of people unwilling to address the details of what to do with what they leave behind. Members of my family have had to play guessing games about “what would she have wanted us to do with ?” that cover a range of subjects from cremation or burial to who’s name is the house in? I’m not really pointing fingers, I know I should address some subjects like this for myself as well. I understand the reluctance to come to grips with the fact that none of us get out of here alive. But my husband and I did have wills and a trust drawn up a number of years ago.

Scenario 1: These days, many people live together without benefit of formal marriage. Yet, if one person owns a property separately and there is no will, the “partner” may have no legal standing to claim the property.

Scenario 2: A married couple have no children and no will. Let’s say the wife inherits property from a deceased parent in co-ownership with her brother. What happens if she passes away with no will? The probate laws will govern who inherits her share and very likely her husband will have a claim on the property even if she wanted it to go to her brother’s family. Or the property will have to be sold to settle the estate.

Scenario 3: An elderly couple have a will but no trust. The will was drawn up 40 years earlier and the laws have changed since then. One of the couple has a stroke and is no longer able to sign or understand a legal document. The other spouse no longer wants to live in the house and decides to sell it. He has to go to court and be declared his wife’s conservator in order to sign the deed on her behalf.

A very important fact that few people understand is that even if you have a will, your estate will have to be probated. This is an expensive, time consuming and cumbersome process. The best way you can escape probate court if you have property is to have a properly drawn up trust. Many people have thought that the joint tenancy method of holding property will take care of any issues and often that is true, but again you have the question of who eventually inherits and the state’s view may be different than what you really want.

A very simple and complete description of everything you need to have in place and why is here: http://www.amerilawyer.com/living_trust.htm. I don’t know anything about the law firm, but their website is very easy to understand and use.
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Turn your lawn into a Food Forest!

*Turn a Lawn into a Garden*

"Swan Song for the Lawn" with Larry Santoyo of Earthflow Design Learn how to transform a water-guzzling lawn into a garden paradise.

Join us Sat & Sun, March 12/13, 10:30 am to 4:00 pm in Eagle Rock$25 per day ($40 for both days with one payment)In this hands-on workshop you will learn the basics of Food Forestry, garden design, sustainable landscape construction and more.

Spread the word! RSVP for details and to pre-register via paypal to reserve your space toJoan Stevens 323-630-4673 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

*Please, no persons under 18 years old -no pets

Posted via email from Tracy's LA Real Estate

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How to sell a house

Price it right and people will come to see it.
My friend Kendyl's listing at 1973 Ashington in Glendale is a good example.

Sent from my iPhone

Posted via email from Tracy's LA Real Estate

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Winterizing Your Home

The change of seasons from fall to winter is a great time to check that your home is still in good shape.  Even in sunny Southern California, we need to think about “winterizing” our homes.

If you are a homeowner, the best single thing you can do is schedule a periodic inspection of the major areas that can affect how safe, warm and dry you will be this winter.

Here’s a list of points you can use to make sure your home is ready for winter (however mild it may be here!):

Safe:
1.       Are your doors and windows secure?  It’s easy enough to check all your locks, knobs and handles. Also, if you have recently moved into your home, have you had your locks re-keyed? It’s not expensive and can prevent someone else’s old friends from wandering in.
2.       Is your house safe from bugs? A termite inspection every year or two is such a smart thing to do. Take it from the person who waited nine years and had to go through a fumigation, wood repair, repainting…a whole lot of work that could have been easily prevented!
3.       Is your house safe from fire? Have your chimney cleaned and inspected.
4.       Are all your systems operating safely? A professional  general inspection will tell you if you have electrical or plumbing issues that you might not know about otherwise. I once listed a house in which the electrical system was so old and worn that the inspector warned them a fire could start at any moment. They re-wired the house immediately, but would not have known to do so otherwise.
Warm:
1.       Have your furnace inspected and serviced. Are you changing your filters as often as recommended? You will ensure safe and efficient operation, plus you can save on your heating bills—a clean filter lets more warm air through with less energy used.
2.       Have you checked your doors and windows for air leaks? You can apply weather-stripping yourself with inexpensive supplies from the home improvement store.
Dry:
1.       Have your roof inspected.
2.       Check your yard. Is the ground sloped away from the house so that moisture doesn’t flow or wick toward your foundation?
3.       Do you have rain gutters? Clean and inspect them often, especially if you have trees nearby. A clogged gutter can cause water to collect on your roof and drastically reduce its life.
If you don’t have gutters, you might want to investigate having them installed—they can help keep water away from your foundation.
4.       Back to plumbing—How often do you go under your house? It is very common in older homes to have a plumbing leak that is small enough that you don’t notice it, but it can do a lot of damage over time. Or it can provide a breeding ground for mold, dry rot, or pest infestation.

These inspections don’t have to be expensive. A reputable termite company might charge $75-$125 to inspect your home. Start with that and a chimney cleaning ($75-250) and go from there.
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The Box Revisited

Almost 2 years ago I blogged about “The Box,” a presentation by Iku Kiriyama, who, as a public service, shares her experiences when she lost her husband to a fatal disease and realizing what she could have done to have made the process much easier. This is disaster preparedness of the highest order and applies to a fire, a hurricane, or the loss of a spouse. What kind of information do you need to be prepared? Get the notes from that presentation here.

One of the women in my knitting group recently lost her husband, and she told me this evening that “The Box” had really helped her. I’m very gratified that Iku’s desire to help others made a difference. Since that presentation, I’ve learned about a couple of websites that can make the process of organizing your important papers even easier and safer. You can scan all your important documents and store them in two different places online and be able to access them from any computer.

www.Carbonite.com: Online backup of your documents. It’s automatic, it’s reasonably priced, it works. Check the reviews and comments on their site, and you can even sign up for a free trial. Did you know that 43% of computer users lose their photos, documents, data every year?

www.Dropbox.com: Also an online backup system set up differently. It’s free, you can share files with other people and the documents (photos, files) that you save to your Dropbox folder are updated automatically.

I use both these websites. And check this out, they can work together to save you even from yourself! One day I accidentally moved some files from Dropbox on one computer. I went  to another computer to restore them, but I had done something odd and the files weren’t there. But I could go to Carbonite and restore them from there. Double indemnity! This is priceless.
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Linoleum, a misunderstood flooring option

Recently, I recommended linoleum as a good choice for a kitchen floor and the homeowner laughed at me! She had a tile floor that she had installed in recent years and thought it was much superior. Well. Everyone is entitled to their opinion about design choices, but here is my case for linoleum.

First, it’s linoleum I‘m talking about, not vinyl.   Real linoleum is made from natural ingredients including linseed oil, cork dust, wood flour, tree resins, ground limestone, and pigments, pressed into a jute backing--a product originally patented by Frederick Walton in 1863.  Cheaper vinyl flooring came along in 1947, is made from hydrocarbon products like natural gas or petroleum, came in lots of bright colors and patterns and linoleum appeared drab in comparison. Besides being made from non-renewable resources, vinyl offgasses volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which make many people ill.

But today, real linoleum is back as an eco-friendly flooring. Armstrong, the main U.S. manufacturer of vinyl flooring,  bought the world’s second largest linoleum producer, Deutsche Linoleum Werke, and we can now buy green and buy American. Linoleum is also back as an interesting design element as it now comes in a number of fun colors. Some artistic types have created wonderful patterns and designs with the flooring and have added real excitement to the fairly boring world of flooring decisions.

Another feature is that linoleum is as appropriate for historic homes from the Victorian and Craftsman eras as it is for modern homes today. There is a  book called Linoleum by Jane Powell which has great photos of interesting vintage and newer lino designs. You can look at some pages and also order a copy from Amazon.com.  Check out the Wikipedia entry for linoleum and see one of the fun styles from the 50s.

True linoleum (also called Marmoleum, which is a brand name by Forbo) is not only made from renewable resources, but it is anti-static which makes it easy to clean. It is also antibacterial, hypoallergenic, and recyclable. It offgasses as well, but it is from the linseed oil, which is not pleasant to some, but many other people enjoy the fragrance.

But why linoleum instead of tile? It’s true that linoleum is not as impervious to water as tile is, so if you’re the type to leave standing water, or if you want to be able to power wash your floor down at night like in a commercial kitchen, lino is not for you. But if you are a serious home cook, you will enjoy the cushioning effect of linoleum which will be better for your feet, legs and back, and much less likely to destroy your china should you drop it on the floor.

Another advantage of linoleum is that it is easier to install or remove, and it is less expensive than quality ceramic tile. Linoleum costs about $7 to $10 per square foot installed, while ceramic tile can cost from $6 to $30 per square foot installed, and stone, granite and marble can cost even more. These costs vary wildly for custom designs, special preparation or underlayments of the sub floor. And the variety of styles and quality of tile varies hugely. Linoleum is only manufactured by a few companies, and they   all produce  the same high quality.

In my opinion, while some people might prefer ceramic tile over linoleum, linoleum is a more affordable, more neutral flooring. And if you are careful to pick a linoleum style and color that is consistent with the period and color scheme of your home, you will have a floor that will look stylish far longer than the ceramic tile that is currently in vogue.
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Did you know? The deal on paint law

By now, we all know that lead is not-so-good for our general health.  Unfortunately, the U.S. did not ban the use of lead-based paint until 1978.  This means that hundreds of thousands of homes still contain lead paint, and when these older homes need remodeling, the lead can be released into the air, soil, and water it contacts.

Finally, on April 22, Earth Day, of 2008, the Environmental Protection Agency issued a rule that requires lead safe practices by contractors who perform any renovation or repair projects that disturb lead-based paint in home, child-care facilities, and schools built before 1978.  No longer can a contractor just go in to a home and start demo work, or even just sanding, without being certified and following specific work practices to prevent lead contamination.

A little background on lead -- did you know that some scientists believe that the lead used in some ceramic glazes and in the water pipes helped destroy the Roman Empire? Yes, the long term effects of lead poisoning leads to decreased bone and muscle growth, damage to the nervous system, kidneys, hearing, seizures and unconsciousness in children. In adults, effects can include everything from fatigue to infertility, anemia, high blood pressure, and dyspepsia. In general, lead poisoning makes humans sickly and weak, and therefore easily conquered.

If every one of us were all-knowing and filled purely with concern for humanity, we wouldn’t need government intervention. But consider the banning of the use of lead in paints. Did you know that some nations in Europe banned lead-based paint in the 1920’s to protect painters? Meanwhile, the U.S. government endorsed the use of lead in paint because it helped make paint more washable, thereby allowing homes to be cleaner and reduce the incidence of infectious disease. There is a lot written about how in the 1950s scientists found lead in paint to be the cause of lead poisoning among children who lived in poorly maintained homes (with peeling paint).

So, while even more regulations on how you can work on your own home can be annoying,  one of the most important jobs a government can do is to protect you from things that you can’t see.

For the complete information on the rule and the certification and regulation of professionals, go to www.epa.gov/lead/pubs/renovation.htm.
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The Joys of Home Ownership: Termite Edition

We try to be responsible home owners, but we lead busy lives and all of a sudden, ten years have passed since we bought our current home and had it fumigated for termites. When our painter said she couldn't paint the trim on a window because the wood was too termite-damaged, we realized we had to deal with it, and now. An inspection from my trusty termite expert revealed the worst: a complete fumigation for house and carport was required.

Rule #1:  have a termite inspection at least once every 2 years.  Most fumigations come with a 2-year guarantee—just do it. No fumigation will prevent a re-infestation. Be vigilant.

If time slips by and you have to fumigate, here are a few things we have learned that might save you some trouble.

Rule #2: don't be a pack rat, especially about food. Any food or drink that is still factory packed or sealed is ok, but think about all your spices, condiments, flours and sugars. You will have to either remove them or double bag them in special plastic bags the termite company will give you. Everything in your freezer and refrigerator that has been opened has to be bagged also. All your pet food. As my husband was clearing out our pantry, he held up one plastic bag filled with old boxes of tea. Who knew all that was in there?

Then there are medications and vitamins. I think we could open a health food store with what we found.

Basically, anything you ingest needs to be sealed, bagged, or removed.

All plants must be removed from inside. All vegetation near the house must be cut back or removed. If not, water it really well and hope for the best. Most established plants will come back even after turning brown.

All animals, including fish and birds, must be removed. Do you have a fishpond nearby? If the tent is going over it, you'll have to remove the fish or they will die. That was fun to do at 8 o'clock the morning before the fumigation.

Which brings us to Rule #3: Make sure you talk to the termite company in detail about what you need to do to prepare. Ask if you need to meet with the fumigator—because most termite companies subcontract the actual fumigation. My termite guy (whom I’ve worked with for many years, remember) said he told the fumigator to check out the property and to let him/us know what was needed since we have a hillside house and it probably needed extra staff and tenting.

According to all the literature, Vikane (sulfuryl fluoride, the poison used to kill the termites) leaves no toxic residue and once the gas is gone, the house is safe to re-enter. I spoke with a client who wondered if the teargas (chloropicrin) they mix with the Vikane has a damaging effect on anything. I haven't found any literature on that yet. He removed all his computers and other electronics when he was fumigated. I decided to take my chances with that.

Back home after 3 days. As we expected, a few plants were browned. The fish were okay, even the one that eluded our efforts to remove it from the pond. All the electronics were fine. Much as we would have wished differently, the ants were unaffected as well.

Is this the only way to get rid of termites? No. However, the only other method recognized by the California Department of Consumer Affairs for a complete fumigation is the heat method, where your home is heated to about 150 degrees, so the wood core will reach 130 degrees. According to a paper published in 2002 by the University of California Integrated Pest Management Program, the only negative side effect of the heat system is the possibility of damage to the roof when walked upon, and to some heat-sensitive furnishings.  What might those be? This could be big—plastics, cable wiring, computers and CDs, obviously candles and chocolate. Also, consider antique furniture with old fragile glue or varnish. The plusses are that you don’t have to move out or bag your food, and the process takes one day instead of 3. And there are no poisonous gasses.

When we first bought this house, we had the place tented with the heat method. We had it redone within the first year under their guarantee. I didn’t like the company we used and they were the only ones who did the work in Southern California at the time, so I conveniently forgot about keeping up on the termite inspections. Also, it seemed like it would be about the same amount of trouble to remove all the meltable items as it would be to bag the food. And I started hearing more about the things that could melt at temperatures of 150 degrees.

Another method is the orange oil treatment. Check out the details at Eco LA Termite. Bottom line, the orange oil treatment people themselves say that they are best for local treatment.

Another good source for good information about termite is at Los Angeles County Agricultural Commissioner's website.
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What your front yard should look like.

Mostly edible landscape in Eagle Rock.

Posted via email from Tracy's LA Real Estate



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ReBlog: What is Magnesite Flooring?

A unique formulation of magnesium oxychloride cement with inert fillers and aggregates, Magnesite installs over any structurally sound sub floor. It can be applied in a countless variety of textures, patterns, designs, and finishes to achieve the look and effect you’ve only dreamed about with other surfaces.
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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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Does your property qualify for a tax reduction?

Many of us are dealing with the fact that our real estate is worth less than it was. Good news! For those of us who own property that is worth less than its current assessed value, we can apply for a temporary tax reduction. In 1978, California voters passed Proposition 8, which allowed for this. All the details can be seen at at the County Assessor's website, or from right here: decline-in-value-form.  An application can be requested by calling 888-807-2111. You have until December 31, 2008, to file the form. Here's the press release from the Assessor: Press Release.

Note that we are talking about the assessed value, which you can see on your Annual Property Tax Information Statement at the bottom of the upper portion, not an appraised value or the fact that it might be worth less than what you currently owe on the property. Also, the property value is assessed as of January 1, 2008. Note that the biggest reduction in value in many areas has happened since that time, so the tax reduction may not be nearly as much as you might hope for or imagine. I asked someone who works for the Assessor if we can file again next year for a further decline in value even if we get one this year, and I was told yes. So don't despair, but you'll have to be patient, because you may not see much of a reduction until next year.

If you purchased a single family home or condominium between July 1, 2004, and June 30, 2007, you were already evaluated for a tax reduction and were notified in October if you qualified for one. If you don't agree with the findings, you can appeal. Start the process by calling your local Assessor's District Office. You have to file an appeal by November 30, so you'd better get on this.

If you purchased your real property before or after those times, or you own something other than a single family home or condo, you can download the Decline-in-Value form from the Assessor's website. To establish the value of your property, you can search on the Assessor's website, or as a public service, you can contact me and I will help you if I can. Be sure to read the press release on the Assessor's website, they warn of people who charge hundreds of dollars to help you. Now I'm not going to fill out the form for you - that's your responsibility, but even the Assessor says it's really easy.

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