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!
According to the Los Angeles Times, mortgage rates have dropped to under 6.8%, and are likely to provoke already surging sales.
Interestingly, several experts agree that anxiety is the primary factor that drives the Southern California market-the fear that a consumer won't be able to buy a home before rates rise or double digit price increases push desirable properties out of reach. Loan applications haven't increased much because most buyers are unaware that rates have dropped.
In fact, the current feeling among the general public is that interest rates are bound to go up significantly soon. Every month that the economic news is not as positive as expected is a month when interest rates stay low.
There is a certain amount of unemployment in the Los Angeles area, but most people in "regular" jobs are in a very good position to buy property now.Why have rates dropped?
Many investors are putting money into mortgage-backed securities which offer higher yields than other fixed-income investments like money-market funds. That increased investment has pushed down the cost of borrowing and lowered rates.
Analysts are predicting that mortgage rates will begin rising by late summer if the economy continues to improve. As I recall, I said the same thing a couple of issues ago and ended up with egg on my face as mortgage rates remained low. Really, how can any of us predict anything?
I'll take a big breath and predict this: home prices are not going down in the foreseeable future.
Eclectic Eagle Rock Home Tour Turns Three
It was a great day on May 19. The weather was cool and although it drizzled in the morning, it turned out to be a perfect day for a home tour.
We sold almost 700 tickets, not much different than last year. I think there were too many other interesting events going on that day-the Venice Artwalk and the Arroyo Museum Day to name two. Of course, our event was the most interesting that day. Well, I think so.
Is It Worth It?
It's a lot of work to put on a home tour. Is it worth it? A few days before the tour, I'm sure you would have had several opinions on that from the committee.
A few of us had our doubts the morning of the tour when the shuttles that the City Council office was supposed to provide didn't show up for two hours. When they finally did, they were too big to go up Linda Rosa Street-which was what we wanted them for in the first place.
At the end of the day, though, I think we all agreed it was well worth it. That day, we saw hundreds of people strolling along Hill Drive and?oh my gosh?even strolling along Floristan south of Colorado! We saw shops and cafes on Colorado and Eagle Rock Blvds filled with customers.
We welcomed new people to the community, and some people who had moved away came back to see what Eagle Rock was up to now. Several long-time residents decided to become more involved as volunteers and instantly ran into people they hadn't seen in years.
I gave away lots of Should I Stucco My Wood House? brochures.
The Home Tour Committee always has an after-party to thank our volunteers and home-owners and celebrate the day. This year's after-party featured a live harpist, lots of food and drink, and was held at the Puthuff house, a wonderful two-story Craftsman which was featured on our 2000 home tour. Homeowners Bill and Jackie Stutz created a fabulous garden complete with fish pond for our pleasure.
Planning Next Year
Soon we'll have a summing up meeting and then we'll start planning for next year. Actually, we already have begun planning because next year is the 90th anniversary of the 20th Century Women's Club.
The Home Tour committee is a terrific group of talented, dedicated volunteers. Thanks again to all of you.
Mold Grows as Sticky Problem
Let me tell you, mold is quite a sticky issue these days.
If you can't see it but have reason to suspect its presence because, say, a wall is warm and damp or you smell a musty odor, you can spend a thousand dollars very quickly just finding out if it's there and how to get rid of it.
For home owners and potential sellers I offer this advice: if you have a leak somewhere, don't just patch it, make sure it's really thoroughly fixed and that there are no musty odors or funny looking damp patches or discolored areas left behind. You will end up many dollars ahead by replacing a roof properly rather than continually patching a roof at the end of its life.
"You will end up many dollars ahead by re-placing a roof properly rather than con-tinually patching a roof at the end of its life."
Leaks have a way of trickl-ing down along rafters and soaking into insulation for a long time before it becomes evident on your ceiling or wall. By then, you could have mildew and mold on lots of wood and drywall in inaccessible areas that will cost you a lot of money to replace.
For those of us who have flat roofs-you really have to maintain them by making sure they are free of debris buildup and that there is no standing water on them. Preventive maintenance will save you thousands of dollars. If you have gutters, make sure they are clean so that water can drain away properly.
So you think it's too dry to worry about roof leaks. Okay, then check your plumbing. Any leaks anywhere?
And check your sprinklers-are they spraying water against the side of your house? Apparently, that was the culprit at a house I recently had buyers reject because of damp walls. Day after day of sprinkler spray can soak through stucco and wood and down onto your foundation, all bad places to have water.
Remember, warm, moist, dark conditions are what mold loves. Think about places where that can exist at your house. Get rid of them!
This is another reason for a homeowner to invest in a physical inspection before putting a house on the market. Whether you've lived in the house for 2 or 20 years, you may not notice conditions that are red flags to inspectors and buyers today. An inspector will point out stains on beams or dry wall that will indicate past leaks. Have you noticed prob-lems in the past and repaired them? Remember that when you are preparing to sell and make a note of that on the Transfer Disclosure Statement.
A common problem with copper piping installations is using improper fittings to connect to the remaining gal-vanized pipes and having the pipes corrode there. It is really rare to have 100% copper pipes.
"Whether you've lived in the house for 2 or 20 years, you may not notice conditions that are red flags to inspectors and buyers today."
As your Realtor, I can point out things to watch for, but I'm not an inspector, and I'm not crawling around in your attic or under your house-and 99% of the time, neither are you.
If you spend $400 on inspections ahead of time, you can often save yourself a lot of headache during the buyer's inspection, and end up with more of the sales price in your pocket.
Although every inspector is different, they should all catch the big stuff. Then you can either fix or disclose or explain them before they become an issue to a nervous buyer who has just paid a lot of money for your house.
So you say, heck, the chimney didn't work when I bought it so what do they expect? Well, chances are they are paying many thousands more for your house than you did and they might be expecting everything to work unless you already told them up front what didn't.
What are you going to expect when you pay more for your next house?
Scenarios to Educate Buyers and Sellers
In just the last month, the market has become even more competitive and intense as interest rates not only stay low but go lower, and as housing inventory actually becomes even more scarce than before.
Let's look at how this is affecting the various people involved in a home transaction.
Some sellers are confused by how quickly the market is rising and worry that they are selling too cheap. What if they had waited another couple of weeks before going on the market? Would they have made more money?
If, as a seller, you've already made your arrangements for your next home whether it be a rental or another purchase, you will be much less worried about your price because you will have made an acceptable deal for yourself based on the market at that time.
I sold my house just 1 ½ years ago and recently was thinking, gee, I could have gotten so much more for that house today! Really, my old house would probably be worth $75,000 more today. But what about the house I bought back then? It's worth over $100,000 more than I paid for it, possibly even more than that compared to recent sales within just a block of me. So I'm happy. I am so happy with my house.
As a buyer, you may find sellers feeling they sold "too cheap" hard to believe, but what was ridiculously high in May now looks like a good deal. Buyers are really feeling abused today. A buyer offers full price and is rejected. A seller receives, say, three full price offers the day after coming on the market and decides his price must be too cheap and raises the price $20,000.
Ten people offer anywhere from full price to 5% over the asking and the seller comes back with "make your best and final offer." Where is this going to end? It is understandable that a buyer feels taken advantage of in this market.
I think we are close to having the bottom of the market rise out of reach of the first time buyer in the entire San Gabriel Valley-Northeast Los Angeles area.
Here are more scenarios, and most of these are from my own clients.
A good two bedroom, one bath house above Colorado in Eagle Rock comes on the market at $369,000 and immediately receives three offers, one for $389,000, which the seller accepts with the caveat that the house is being sold "as-is." The buyer discovers during the inspection that the roof needs to be replaced and a few other significant defects exist. Suddenly the house doesn't look so desirable anymore and the buyer drops out.
How could this have been prevented? If the seller had had a pre-listing physical inspection, all this could have been avoided and we'd be closing escrow about now.
But just a couple of weeks later, after replacing the roof and damp drywall, the house is going back on the market for $399,000.
A house in Highland Park has a real estate sign out front that the buyers find as they are driving around. They stop and ask the resident (the owner's son) about the house. It's in their price range, they take a quick look around, and call their agent, who promptly calls the listing agent.
Now the listing agent says the seller didn't want the house to be shown, it wasn't really on the market yet (so why is the sign up?).
At last, the listing agent calls back to say that the seller has raised the price $20,000 and is ready to show the house. The buyers look again, raise their price $20,000 and their agent is told that the seller likes their offer and is going to sign it.
Then a day passes and after many more phone calls, the listing agent finally calls back to say that another offer has come in that is higher and the seller likes it better.
The buyers' agent asks for a counter offer, but not only does one not materialize, the listing agent doesn't return repeated phone messages.
How could this have been avoided?
(Continued next issue)
New Local Business Performs Home Preservation Inspection
Paradise Home Inspections is a new inspection business in our area with a hot new idea: The Home Preservation Inspection. John Wagner, who is a certified home inspector and member of CREA (a professional organization for home inspectors), is offering this special for $50 off his fee for a regular inspection.
The Home Preservation Inspection is designed for people who just want to have a checkup on their home's condition to make sure there is no problem that they haven't noticed. John spends a couple of hours or more looking at all the systems of the house and gives you a written report of what he finds. What a great idea for those of us who have lived in our homes a long time and never go under the house or up on the roof.
Staying Cooler Doesn't Always Demand Central Air
Everyone in Southern California seems to think that central air conditioning is a necessity of life.
I've never owned a house that had it, and every time I think that I really must have it installed for the 10 or 20 days we need it a year, I get a couple of wildly different estimates and give up on the idea again.
Dishwasher a Must
Lest you think I'm just too reactionary, I know a couple of people who have never owned a dishwasher! Hah! I won't live in a house without a dishwasher!
Even if you have central air now, you may be interested in keeping your electric bill in line with, say, your mortgage payment.
Here are some tips from the Department of Energy as reported by writer Michelle Dawson for Realtytimes:
Use light colored surfaces on your roof and the exterior walls of your home.
Install sun-control or combination films on your windows to improve efficiency.
Insulate, weather-strip, and caulk-especially in the attic.
Shade your house with trees. A well-placed tree can reduce indoor temperatures as much as 20 degrees.
Use exterior shades like landscaping, awnings, and shades. On a personal note, after we had to cut down some of our trees last year, the house became really hot in one area. My husband hung up a simple bamboo shade outside and it made a huge difference in making the house cooler. Interior shades can work also.
Don't use heat-generating appliances during the day. Try to cook outside.
Buy energy efficient appliances. Ceiling fans can make a room seem several degrees cooler.
Check for Rebates
Check for rebates from the utility companies for buying energy-efficient appliances. The gas company and DWP have been offering up to 50% rebates on solar powered systems and energy efficient cooling systems. Check out www.cleanla.org, www.dwp.com, www.greenla.org, www.socalgas.com
Should Real Estate Bail Out Leaking Sectors of New Economy?
There was a thought-provoking article in the Sunday, May 19 Los Angeles Times.
At first glance, it appeared to be talking about a real estate "bubble." Many of the people who missed the lower housing prices a few years ago are anxious to read of any signs that today's high prices are a temporary spike and will turn back, returning to 1997 levels.
Further reading showed that the high housing prices tend to fund bubble-like economic development in other sectors (like Wall Street). So, in this case, it's actually that the real estate market is bailing out the boom and bust excesses of other sectors.
The cautionary note is a good one, though. Because home equity can be turned into cash by refinancing or equity lines of credit for any purpose, it does tend to stimulate almost a gambler's mentality. If you borrow $20,000 to take a flier on a promising but risky stock, it hurts a lot less if you lose it all but are only paying $75/month to pay it back than if you had saved up every penny from collecting soda cans.
To quote the article, "The nation's mortgage market and tax system were built to facilitate home ownership, not provide wealthy investors with another source of capital." That lending institutions are a little concerned about this phenomenon is evidenced, I think, by how conservatively refinance appraisers are valuing property.
Beyond Intent of Tax Laws
Buying a new boat or car with your home equity, or buying a new wardrobe or 1000 shares of Microsoft are not what was originally intended by the folks who designed our tax laws.
Another reason people are borrowing against their equity is that they are investing in more real estate. Now that's a good reason!
Leveraging Real Estate Investment
Whether you use the equity to give yourself a "swing loan" to buy the next place before you put your current one on the market, or you decide to buy some investment property, leveraging your investment in real estate can be a profitable move today.
Read more about this in the next issue.
Coats of Many Colors Reward Savvy Sellers
Check out my website soon under Favorite Links for the before and after picture of my old house. I couldn't believe what a difference the color made!
Regardless of how much cooler a white house may be than a sage green one, I would go for color everytime. There was a great article in the spring, 2002, American Bungalow magazine about historic colors, and the websites they provided are terrific.
Paint companies offer a number of resources to help you pick colors, see what colors work with each other, and what colors are typical of any given architectural period or type.
Also, Glidden paint company is helping paint classrooms. They paint a certain number of kindergarten class-rooms every year for free! Check out www.gliddenpaint.com for details.
If you're a kindergarten teacher or know one, you can download the application form from their website.
Sherwin-Williams has a great site with color palettes for the various styles popular in America. It's at www.sherwin.com.
Local Businesses Strive To Improve Your Life
I'm still having fun and feeling healthy with my fresh organic produce delivery from LOVE.
So how much is this great service? Starting at $25 a box, depending on size, up to $50 for Love Supreme. Institutional boxes are also available. I guess you need to call them to find out the cost for those.
The small box is good for a family of 2?3, though it de-pends on whether you want to buy all your produce this way or just part of it.
Go online at www.lovedelivery.com and you can fill out the questionnaire of your fruit and vegetable prefer-ences and sign up for weekly or every-other-week delivery.
Also, if you refer a friend and they sign up for at least 3 deliveries, you get a free box! Mention my name when you sign up, OK?
It really opens a whole new dimension to menu planning at my house. For instance, how to use up what's left before the next box comes?
Or what in the world should I do with Ruby Swiss Chard? And we've been having the most interesting fruit salads lately with apples, oranges, mangoes, dates, and strawberries mixed with baby lettuce.
The LOVE lettuce is so fresh, it keeps for days in the refrigerator, if you don't get around to eating it right away.
Experts Simplify Moves, Life
The Eagle Rock Valley Historical Society had a road show recently, and the expert antique appraiser turned out to be Sharon Hindson of Turnabout Teacup in La Canada.
I sold some furniture and other items on consignment through her store when we moved a couple of years ago. I knew her as the mother of one of my daughter's gymnastics friends, but she is a great re-source for people who need to move, as well as the owner of a charming tea shop and antique store.
Sharon works with many seniors who are moving to retirement homes or scaling down their possessions, but don't let youth be a barrier to checking out her shop.
It's a really fun place to browse and find some wonderful things to buy, and it's a business that can perform a real service for you if you have household items you want to sell and aren't sure of their worth or how to market them.
Turnabout Teacup1432 Foothill BlvdLa Canada Flintridge, CA 91011-2107818.790.3342
Here's another great resource for people of all ages who are moving, but an especially great help to those who are downsizing.
At Carol's Antiques, Carol won't do estate sales for just anyone, but mention my name and she might consider it. She and her crew price everything, set it up, and donate the left-overs to charity for you.
Carol's Antiques1866 N. Allen Ave.Pasadena, CA 91104-1613626.798.1072
The Huntington Collection in Pasadena also performs a great service, but they will only take items valued over $100 on consignment and will take the rest as a charitable donation for which you receive a receipt for your taxes.
All these places are great places to shop for interesting and bargain finds, besides being a great help when you're moving.
The Huntington Collection766 S Fair Oaks AvePasadena, CA 91105-2602626.397.3078
New Chef at Cafe BeaujolaisEarns Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhs
This is great news.
The new chef at Café Beaujolais just started June 5, and the food is fabulous.
We swooned. The waiters cheered. You'll love it. Be sure to make a reservation.
The waiters were so excited about the menu the night we went, you'd think they'd cooked it themselves. If you haven't been to one of Eagle Rock's best restaurants in awhile, you'll find it trans-formed.
Cafe Beaujolais1712 Colorado Blvd.Los Angeles, CA 90041-1338323.255.5111
Eagle Rock Augments Its Growing Commerce
Looking forward to Camillo's on Colorado Blvd.any day now and Target at the Eagle Rock Plaza in July!
Can commerce get much better in Eagle Rock? Yes! How about a bookstore? But we've come a long way in a couple of years, haven't we?
Coming soon also is another Savon at the corner of Figueroa and Colorado, in the triangle across from the Eagle Rock post office. Oh, and Walgreen's wants to put up a stucco box in place of the Shopping Bag Building.
How has Eagle Rock managed to attract all these drugstores? Do we need Walgreen's? Do we need another Savon? Do we need BOTH of them?