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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!

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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Just Sold in Sherman Oaks: 4015 Stone Canyon Avenue

4015 Stone CanyonToday we closed escrow on this charming house in Sherman Oaks. Our buyers fell in love with 4015 Stone Canyon Avenue the minute they saw it. With three bedrooms, two baths, hardwood floors, French doors opening to the back yard, and a separate structure for guests/office/media room, this home meets all their needs. Congratulations to our clients!

Property Details:
Listed for $799,000
Sold for $799,000
3 bedrooms, 1.75 baths
1,885 sq. ft. on a 6,699 sq. ft. lot
Built in 1940

Stone Canyon Living RoomStone Canyon KitchenStone Canyon MasterStone Canyon YardListing courtesy of Amy Pell, Coldwell Banker

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Is Cash Always King?

Cash buyers are exerting downward pressure on prices, according to a report in DSNews.com, quoting a study from HousingPulse Survey. This article points out that with distressed properties, the investors with cash dominate the market and that sellers often take lower cash offers because the deal can be closed faster with fewer problems. As a result, the first-time and FHA buyers are shut out of the entry-level distressed property market. This is a funny kind of capitalism in action. Free market means that the seller does not have to take the highest offer, they are free to choose a lower offer with cleaner terms.

But if you are a cash buyer and you want a really nice home, you don’t necessarily have the same influence on price. You may still get the deal, but only if you do offer the highest price. I could quote several stories over the last several years in which the winning bid in multiple offers was cash for homes that were not at the low end of the price range. I represented a buyer last year who purchased a couple of homes in La Canada and Pasadena by either paying cash or agreeing to no loan or appraisal contingencies. One of the highest sales in Eagle Rock last year was all cash, and this year I have seen cash buyers competing with each other on good properties, driving up the price as a result.

Where is all this cash coming from? Lots of places: investments that have been earning a fraction of a percent interest in CDs, sales of businesses, inheritances, divorces, lawsuits, and retirement accounts, even savings. Another source is the Bank of Mom and Dad, which sometimes is a gift and sometimes is a gift that is expected to be returned at some future time.

What does all this mean?


  1. Don’t make the assumption that if you have cash you will always win at a bargain price.

  2. Don’t believe everything you read about how bad the market is. There are a lot of people who are serious buyers today because they have faith in the value of real estate over the long term.  And a lot of them have cash.
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