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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!
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NELA Real Estate Market: An Affordable Issue with a Special Twist

NELA Real Estate Market: An Affordable Issue with a Special Twist

What we're seeing in the Eagle Rock, Highland Park and Mt. Washington housing market is happening all  around the state.

Interesting things are afoot in the Northeast LA real estate market. Anyone keeping their eye on prices of homes in Glassell Park and Mt. Washington have noticed that prices up from where they were just a year ago. Those watching homes in Highland Park and Eagle Rock are noticing homes staying on the market longer. What does it all mean?

Good question! Here’s the latest news from the top. Leslie Appleton-Young is California Realtors’ Chief Economist and we are lucky to have her help us make sense of a very big subject: the real estate market.


The bottom line is we have been facing a big affordability issue here in our little corner of the Los Angeles real estate market. And it has gone viral state-wide. The average change in California’s year-over-year number of sales has decreased 5.5%. And the average sales price has increased 5.5%. Statewide!

Many of you readers might be muttering “I don’t really care about state-wide, I want to know about here, in good old NELA!" (That’s zip codes 90041, 90042, 90065.)

So here you go, Dear Reader: These are year-over-year, September to September 2017 to 2018 percentages for NELA and they are startling. Number of active listings is a whopping 56.7% more in 2018, while the number of sold is down 13.6% and the number pending is down 5%. Here is the interesting news—the average asking price is 10.2% higher in 2018 and the average sales price is 18.5% higher. So fewer homes are selling, but they sell for more.

What does this mean to you? It seems like this is an affordability issue, but with a special twist. Especially with the uptick in mortgage interest rates on top of still rising prices, who can afford to pay an average sales price of $972,000? And in Eagle Rock alone (90041 zip code) the average sales price was $1,133,000 in September 2018! Average! So what’s the twist? The prices are continuing to rise, that’s what. Ordinarily, too-high prices start coming down when the inventory increases and number of sales drop.

It seems like many Buyers (or think they wanna be buyers) want to just have a crash take us back to 2009 bottom of the Great Recession prices and stay there long enough for them to close escrow on their dream home at a bargain price 40-to-60% below today’s prices. And then spring back to today’s crazy high prices so they can feel like they got the deal they missed back in 2009-2012. But their dream homes wouldn't come on the market in such a case because their owners aren't going to lose all the equity they’ve gained in the last few years. Why not? Because they are not in distress! Homeowners will just sit tight and wait it out because they don’t have crazy loans that are going to adjust to an impossible payment like they did in 2008. And those homes that sold in 2009 were not your dream homes either. People who own dream homes don’t generally have to put them on the market at the bottom of a sales cycle. No one does that unless they have no other alternative.

So what about the increasing inventory? A lot of homeowners are still trying to cash in on the high prices and they are comparing their homes with cream of the crop “done” homes or super well-located homes with a lot of potential. But times have changed, folks—you can’t put a cluttered, dirty home on the market with a few bad cell phone photographs and expect to sell for a top price. You should expect to put in a lot of effort and possibly money to present your home in its best light, hire the best experienced Realtor you can find and do what they say. This thought that all Realtors are alike and do the same thing so you just need to hire the cheapest one and he will sell your house for a lot of money is as mistaken as thinking the diamond earrings you buy at the big box discount store are just like the ones you could buy at Tiffany’s for five times as much. Anyway, those sellers are the ones driving up the inventory numbers and when they expire, the numbers will go back down and only a few buyers will have the money to buy the good homes that are left. We just put two properties into escrow for over $200,000 above their list prices because they are special, well-prepared and well-marketed homes.

It’s not a logical situation, potential buyers aren’t squeezed out of this market because interest rates have ticked up, they are squeezed out by not being able buy the home of their choice at the price they can or want to pay and they can’t or won’t find an acceptable alternative. The only houses that sell quickly in a changing market like this one are super great prepared homes or super well-priced ones, just like always.

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Magical Thinking and this Crazy Real Estate Market

Magical Thinking and this Crazy Real Estate Market

Homebuyers and home sellers's expectations often clash with harsh realities of the market when it comes to the nitty gritty ... selling price and offers.

Magical thinking and this crazy real estate market. What am I talking about? I have some examples.


The Home Sellers’ Magical Thinking

PREMISE: The house next door to mine sold last year for $1.1 million. It was smaller and there was only one house on the property. We have two houses and more square footage, therefore we should list ours for $1.2 million and get at least as much as that one.

FACTS: The house next door was small, but every detail was well designed and evoked a very emotional response. The landscaping was lush and serene, like a Zen retreat, a special relaxing haven in the midst of a harsh city.

The subject property lacked curb appeal and the landscaping was non-existent. Being a 2-unit income property, it is valued very differently and income properties are supposed to be valued on a formula based on its income. Historically low rents in a rent-controlled area do adversely affect the property’s value. That’s why vacant properties usually sell more quickly and at a higher price than ones that have been occupied by long-term tenants in a rent controlled area.

PREMISE: Why are these offers so low? I saw that a house sold just down this very street for over a hundred thousand more!

FACTS: There hasn’t been a sale this high on this street in over two years, and that one was a 5-bedroom, 3-bath redone Craftsman. This is a 2-bedroom, 1-bath home with a lot of view but no yard.

What am I saying? We don’t value our own property anything like a buyer or an appraiser will.

But sellers aren’t the only ones subject to magical thinking. In fact, homebuyers can really try to bend reality to suit their own agendas.

Homebuyers' Magical Thinking

PREMISE: Today, we have a Sellers' market that has actually been going strong for a good 6 years. Buyers are convinced that now is the time for what has gone up to come down, and down hard. We all remember the Great Recession, don’t we? In Northeast Los Angeles, we lost 40 to 50% of our average sales price in just 15 months. But buyers today have an even better fantasy: prices will fall to 2009 levels just long enough that they will be able to buy their dream home for a bargain price, then right after they close escrow, prices will rally back up to 2018 levels.

FACTS: Many facts belie this fantasy. Do those of you who were actually in the market in 2009 remember what the houses for sale were like? Many were distress sales, so forget about beautifully prepared homes, forget about pre-inspections, and forget about decent loans with low interest rates and 21-day closes. The loan process was so draconian only those who could prove they didn’t really need a loan could get one. Plus, even more properties were selling for cash than are today and most sellers rightly preferred cash sales over the obstacle course that was the loan process then. Owners who didn’t have to sell (such as owners who were not in trouble, owners who had pride of ownership and didn't have to deal with penny-pinching buyers who acted like their lovely home was just a piece of trash) just waited it out. What happens then? Low inventory and higher prices. This is known as unintended consequences.

There is a whiff of desperation in the air today ... 

Sellers want to time the market for the highest possible sales price, and buyers worry that if they buy now, they will close escrow the day before the market crashes and they will be left owning an overpriced turkey. What happened to owning a home as a place to enjoy your life, raise your family, and do whatever you want without a landlord telling you that you can’t? Even if you buy your home at the height of the market, if you hold onto it long enough, it will increase in value. And if you look at the prices over time, a correction almost never takes prices down to previous lows. Even the overblown prices of 2006-2007 are not seen today:

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So if you want to buy a nice house in a great neighborhood for a bargain price, you will most likely be leaving LA.

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What's Going On With This Market?

What's Going On With This Market?

Regardless of how confusing interpreting the market may be, one thing is clear: Buyers and sellers need an agent who understands the fine points of buying and selling.

After a long, steady period of seeing homes for sale in Highland Park and Eagle Rock selling fast and high, and homes in Glassell Park and Mt. Washington being snatched up with record multiple offers, there are signs that trend is changing.

Everyone is talking about it—the market seems to be slowing down! I’ve talked to Realtors, potential sellers, buyers, and the man on the street—they all feel the same. So are they right? Well, let’s see. Looking at the Trends analysis for Eagle Rock since May of 2012 we see this:

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NELA Real Estate: The Numbers - Jan 1-May 31, 2017/2018

NELA Real Estate: The Numbers - Jan 1-May 31,  2017/2018

Just when some said real estate prices can't climb any higher, guess what? They're still climing in Northeast Los Angeles.

The numbers are in and there are no surprises. Homes in Highland Park and Hermon, Eagle Rock, South Pasadena, as well as Mt. Washington and Glassell Park homes are selling well, selling fast and selling for a lot.

Let's look at zip Codes 90041 (Eagle Rock), 90042 (Highland Park-Hermon) 90065 (Glassell Park-Mount Washington), and 91030 (South Pasadena) averages.

Note: All data is taken from , except the last column in 2018 is the percent increase from 2017 to 2018. The first column is first the year, then the average sales price for all single family homes in that zip code, the zip code with just the homes that sold for $1 million or more. AV SF is "average square feet", AV $/SF is "average price per square foot". The DOM is "days on market". LP is the "average list price" when the property went into escrow. The LP/SP is the list price/sales price ratio—a number over 100 is what percent the sales price exceeded the list price. And then #SALES is "number of sales" for that category January 1-May 31. %YOY$ is the percent increase in sales price from 2017 to 2018.


 

2017 AV SF AV $ / SF DOM LP $ SP $ LP/SP # Sales
90041 1630 588 53 882,659 900,602 105 60
90041
$ Million
2508 513 83 1,287,643 1,299,509 102 14
90042 1330 599 41 696,853 724,068 104 110
90042
$ Million
2473 441 22 1,049,200 1,124,380 109 5
90065 1540 549 48 772,614 790,986 102 112
90065
$ Million
2473 501 52 1,131,187 1,166,733 104 15
91030 2338 659 40 1,405,591 1,460,193 105 44
91030
$ Million
2484 662 40 1,498,526 1,556,803 105 38

 

2018 AV SF AV $ / SF DOM LP $ SP $ LP/SP # Sales % YOY $
90041 1781 628 40 1,035,928 1,062,825 105 60 12.72
90041
$ Million
2437 622 54 1,144,392 1,465,333 104 24 12.76
90042 1525 611 41 809,800 845,285 105 128 16.74
90042
$ Million
2072 574 31 1,070,463 1,139,133 107 30 1.30
90065 1548 625 36 852,667 888,339 105 126 12.30
90065
$ Million
2266 587 28 1,183,485 1,247,163 107 33 6.87
91030 2353 746 35 1,627,598 1,687,116 105 43 15.54
91030
$ Million
2461 744 37 1,708,633 1,769,667 105 39 13.69

 

Yes, you’re right—the market has continued to climb in Northeast Los Angeles. And it has climbed even more in South Pasadena. I’m sure this will spark more discussion of “are we in a bubble?” but I have been hearing from financial and real estate insiders that we have at least until 2020 before there are any signs of a major correction. And I have also heard  “it can’t go on like this,” with several compelling reasons why not. There is a lot of gray between “bubble burst”, “flatten out” and “keep going up.”

If you keep saying the same thing about the market, it will eventually be true—because real estate and financial markets are cyclical. The difficulty is exactly “when” markets will change, not “if” they will change. It’s sort of like predicting exactly when someone will die. You can be sure that it will eventually happen, but when exactly is based on so many variables, any prediction is only a guess. Maybe it’s a very educated and well-reasoned guess, but that’s not the same as knowing. Because NELA and South Pasadena have very few developments and most of the single family homes are custom built, it’s especially difficult to make general rules about their value.

This is what I’ve seen: the homes that sell for the most money tend to be those that are in great condition, great style, great locations, and/or have great potential. Location seems to be the most important, but great and stylish updates are a close second. That means that if your house is in great shape but needs updating and it’s not the best location, you aren’t going to get top dollar. However, you might be surprised by how much you do sell for in this market. It will almost certainly be more than you ever would have made before now.

Thinking that now might be a good time for you to sell? We know some stuff about how to strategize getting you the most possible now for your home. Call us for a consultation.

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The 2017 Million Dollar Story Exceeds Expectations (Well, Mine Anyway)

The 2017 Million Dollar Story Exceeds Expectations (Well, Mine Anyway)

An investment in homeownership in NELA isn't just a sound investment in the good life. It's a good investment period. The numbers tell the story and they don't lie.

It's official. Owners of single family homes in Highland Park, Eagle Rock, Mt. Washington and even Glassell Park homes are asking - and getting - a million dollars or more. Let's face it: There's never been a better time to be a homeowner in Northeast Los Angeles. The numbers are in!

As of December 29, 2017 (the last day of the year that sales could be recorded by the County), zip code 90041 had 51 single family homes sell for over $1 million each, including the highest sale ever recorded here. And now in January, 2018, an even higher highest sale ever closed escrow! Yes, after 7 years of trying with various agents, the almost 3-acre historic Bekins estate at last sold to a comedian and his heiress wife for $5,250,000!


The following table shows the number of $million homes sold over the last 6 years in Eagle Rock (zipcode 90041), Highland Park (90042), Glassell Park (including Mt. Washington--90065) and for some contrast, South Pasadena (91030).

Million $ Single Family Homes

  Zip Code 90041
Eagle Rock
90042
Highland Park
90065
Glassell Park
Mt. Washington
91030
South Pasadena
 
  2012 0 1 2 30  
  2013 0 1 4 63  
  2014 10 3 5 76  
  2015 20 7 18 95  
  2016 34 10 27 97  
  2017 51 19 50 95  

What is going on? Are we in a bubble? This is the question so many people are asking now. Respected real estate experts (and it seems like everyone else) have been asking this question since 2012. These very same experts have been absolutely certain that these price increases are unsustainable. And yet they continue. Why? Partly because we continue to experience low interest rates and low inventory. Also, Northeast Los Angeles is still cheaper than most communities to the west of us like Los Feliz, Silverlake, even Echo Park. We are considered the closest “decent” neighborhoods to downtown according to many buyers. Others are beginning to look at other neighborhoods like El Sereno and Lincoln Heights who are seeing prices go up accordingly.

Let’s face it, prices go up and some people can no longer afford to buy where they want to. This is not a new story, but it’s painful if it’s your story.

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The new Tax Reform Act: How will it affect your real estate life?

The new Tax Reform Act: How will it affect your real estate life?

The newly passed Tax Reform Act supplies perks based on investments in property, but not everyone benefits and there is a downside.

It's been all over the news. Pundits have been spinning the plusses and minuses of the newly passed Tax Reform Act. Some say homeowners are going to get the shaft. Some say there will be a windfall for homeowners and investors. As a long-time real estate professional, my inbox has been inundated with questions from those who just purchased homes in Highland Park and Eagle Rock this year, as well as those looking to invest in homes for sale in Pasadena, Mt. Washington and other areas of North East Los Angeles.

The long and short of it? I have good news and I have not-so-good news. The good news is, the new tax reform act that was just passed by both houses of Congress isn't as bad as it could have been for those who have some financial interest in real estate. The not-so-good news is, it's not going to be as good for real estate as it has been over the past several years.


  1. We can still write off some state and local taxes up to $10,000. The bad news is that is actually a tax increase for those of us who have more than an $800,000 house and/or still pay some other state or local taxes.

  2.  We still have the mortgage interest deduction, but only up to a mortgage of $750,000, instead of the $1,000,000 it has been.

  3. The $500,000 capital gains exclusion is not affected! If you have lived in your primary residence for 2 of the last 5 years, you and your spouse can each deduct up to $250,000 of your net capital gain when you sell your house.

So there it is. The basic nuts and bolts. The rules haven't changed. When it comes to investing in any sort of real estate, the rule is, take your time, perform your due diligence, be well informed and understand the benefits and potential pitfalls.

It has always been advisable to consult your tax consultant before making any decisions regarding your real estate activity. This is certainly true today.

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Priced Out of Prime NELA Real Estate? There's Still Hope For Something Affordable and Close By

Priced Out of Prime NELA Real Estate? There's Still Hope For Something Affordable and Close By

Let's face it: When buying a home, the word "affordable" is relative, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't look at what the numbers say.

The big question plaguing many wannabe homebuyers today is, where can I afford to buy? They say they can’t afford the high sticker price of homes for sale in Mount Washington, Eagle Rock or Highland Park. For many buyers, even homes for sale in Glassell Park - once up-and-coming and affordable - is out of their reach.

Always being mindful that the median price of affordable places like Detroit, Michigan ($36,000), Harlingen, Texas ($84,000) or even nearby Desert Hot Springs ($188,000) is what more people think of as "affordable", there are some communities in Los Angeles, not too far from Eagle Rock, that are a bit more affordable as you can see in the table below.

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NELA's Low Housing Inventory - Here's Part of the Story

NELA's Low Housing Inventory - Here's Part of the Story

Experienced realtors understand that real estate sales is a numbers game. Why are there so few homes on the market? Let's look at the numbers.

While homes for sale in Highland Park, Eagle Rock and Mt. Washington are still greatly in-demand, there are fewer homes on the market in Northeast Los Angeles. This is true of real estate in Altadena, Pasadena and surrounding areas.

In the quest to understand why Northeast Los Angeles is experiencing such low housing sale inventory, I thought it might be helpful to start with some actual numbers.

There is quite a bit of talk about how many more people there are in Northeast Los Angeles than there used to be. For some perspective, I have also included nearby South Pasadena.

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Is the Holidays the Best Time to Put My NELA Home on the Market? If Not, When Is?

Is the Holidays the Best Time to Put My NELA Home on the Market? If Not, When Is?

When it comes to selling a home in Northeast LA, conventional wisdom tell us, if you have a great home to put on the market, it will be in-demand no matter what time of the year.

They say "timing is everything" about, oh, everything and they're probably right. It's certainly true about buying and selling real estate. This is especially true in the red-hot Northeast Los Angeles real estate market, where homes in Mt. Washington, Highland Park and Eagle Rock are in high demand and real estate in Pasadena, Glendale and Altadena continue to surge.

Many potential sellers believe, for instance, that the holiday season is not an ideal time to put their NELA home on the market. Are they correct? This question is more complicated than it seems, but there is a way to understand it all.

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What Does the Million $ Real Estate Market Look Like in Eagle Rock 90041?

What Does the Million $ Real Estate Market Look Like in Eagle Rock 90041?

Eagle Rock homes are now selling in the millions of dollars ... for turnkey homes and fixers. What does this mean to buyers and sellers?

Everyone from homeowners, homebuyers, home sellers, Eagle Rock realtors and market analysts have been keeping a close eye on the Eagle Rock real estate for a long while. The long, steady growth of the market has been the talk of the town. Now enough data is in and the information we can glean from the numbers is telling indeed.

There are so many interesting things to note in this table (all data from TheMLS):

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2017 Northeast Los Angeles Market Update

2017 Northeast Los Angeles Market Update

By studying the available data and comparing year-over-year market performance in NELA, there's much to surmise.

The Northeast Los Angeles real estate market continues to be strong, if not for how many homes are on the market, than strong in terms of the average final price of homes sold. Homes in Eagle Rock and real estate in Glassell Park and Highland Park continue to be in-demand. A quick look at the data confirms that even in 2017, it's still a perfect time to sell your home and, if you're seeking to buy, there are still some good deals out there to be had.

Let’s see how some popular zipcodes compare in terms of some of the factors we have to consider when looking for that dream house. This table looks at how competitive a marketplace is in terms of available listings of single family homes to buy and their average sales price, as well how much and what direction the market has changed since end of summer 2015.

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Looking to Buy a Home in Eagle Rock? Now Is a Good Time!

Looking to Buy a Home in Eagle Rock? Now Is a Good Time!

Whether for homebuyers or investors, getting a great deal on a home in Eagle Rock is all about good timing.

The Northeast Los Angeles region's real estate market is always in flux. Many potential homebuyers are waiting by the sidelines for the perfect time to buy homes in Eagle Rock or invest in Highland Park real estate. The question for them is, "when is the perfect time?". The answer: Now.

So far this year, the Eagle Rock market has been almost as low in active listing inventory as it was in 2013, when the market caught on fire in the face of withering inventory and rapidly increasing prices. That means that there were usually fewer than 20 homes for sale then and now.

Suddenly, we have 26 homes for sale, and 7 of them are listed for over $1 million! Hold on to your hats—one is even listed for over $2 million!

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Homebuyer? Home Seller? You’re Gonna Want to Know Home Values

Homebuyer? Home Seller? You’re Gonna Want to Know Home Values

What is the best way to obtain an accurate value of your home? There’s a simple answer.

Who would have thought 20 years ago that the rising values of homes in Highland Park and Eagle Rock - as well as real estate in Mt. Washington and Glassell Park - would be the talk of the town? If you own a home in one of these regions - or are looking to buy - odds are that home values are on your mind.

Regardless of whether you’re looking to buy a home or sell a home, it only makes sense that you will eventually want to gain an understanding of your own home’s value, if you’re selling, or the value of a different home if you’re buying.

But with all the information, articles, blogs and website tools out there offering home evaluations, its become easy to get, well, confused. That’s because as you’re performing your research and due diligence, the first thing you’ll notice is that there is little consistency in the values offered. One evaluation will be wildly different from the one before or after.


The reasonable question is, why? How? There’s a simple, straightforward answer: There are actually two types of values of homes - automated home values and manual evaluations.

Automated home values are very useful as a general reference tool, to give you a rough idea of what your home or any other home may be worth in the current market. And sometimes a general, rough idea is a good place to begin.

Let’s be honest, though.  

Every home is unique. This is especially true in the neighborhoods of Northeast LA where tract homes don’t really exist. Most every neighborhood in the region is dotted with custom homes and it’s rare to find one that is like another.

Also, there are all sorts of renovations, upgrades and features that aren’t reflected in automated home values.  Added up, these renovations and upgrades can make a considerable difference in price.

For instance, there is no way possible that an online tool can know if a home owner has refurbished the kitchen or the master bath. It doesn’t know if all the 80’s era carpet has been replaced with beautiful bamboo or magnesite. It might not even know if a room addition occurred since the last time the home was sold.

So the next reasonable question is, how do you as a home seller learn the true value of your home?

That’s where I come in.  As a local professional real estate agent, I know what sells ... and what doesn’t.  I know what buyers will pay more for, and how much that renovation really will net you in a home sale. Most importantly, I can provide you with a much more accurate and precise value of your home.

One last question …

When is the best time and date for me to stop by?

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The Internet is Driving the Northeast Los Angeles Real Estate Market Like Never Before

The Internet is Driving the Northeast Los Angeles Real Estate Market Like Never Before

Hot Markets like Eagle Rock, Highland Park and Mt. Washington Owe their Heat to Online Listings

If you’re a potential home seller, you’ve probably noticed that home prices are through the roof in Northeast LA. Homes in Pasadena are always in high demand, and real estate in Highland Park, Glassell Park and Eagle Rock don’t stay on the market long.

If you’re considering selling your Northeast Los Angeles home, a good question to ask yourself is: “How did I find my existing home?”. For most people it was either online, from a Realtor, or from seeing a yard sign.
 
Statistically speaking, you probably utilized the Internet at some point during your search process if you’ve purchased your home in the last 10 years.

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A Home is the Perfect Valentine's Day Gift ... If the Time is Right

A Home is the Perfect Valentine's Day Gift ... If the Time is Right

There couldn't be a better gift for your Valentine than a house! But is this a good time to buy?

The best time to buy a house is when you think about it, almost or already have the money together, and see a house you like. But how about the market? Isn't it time for the bubble to burst?

Here are some facts for you to chew on as you consider your options:

For real estate in Northeast Los Angeles (zip codes 90041 (homes in Eagle Rock), 90042 (homes in Highland Park) and 90065 (homes in Glassell Park)):

Average sold price increased 9.6% from November - January 2015/16 to Nov-Jan 2016/17

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Post-Election Market Update

Post-Election Market Update

Has the Northeast Los Angeles real estate market been affected post election? Is the fact that premium homes in Highland Park, Eagle Rock, Pasadena and elsewhere are selling quickly with a dwindling inventory telling us something has shifted? If so, what is changing?

As of about a month after the unexpected results of the Presidential election, we continue to see things happen that were not predicted. The biggest change in the real estate world right now seems to be an uptick in mortgage interest rates. Rates have gone up around ½ to ¾ percent. I’ve talked to several lenders over the last few weeks and no one really knows what will happen next. Will they keep going up? Will they go down? Who knows? But it doesn’t look good for those of us who didn’t get around to refinancing at under 3.5%.

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