Sunday, March 29, 2009

Other Owners Green With Envy?

825 N. Kings Rd. #4 (90069)
2BR/1.75BA, 1322 sq ft ($526/ft)

$100K Price Reduction. 2008 AIA Nat'l Housing Award recipient, Habitat 825 by Lorcan O'Herlihy Architects. Interlocking lime-green & Redwood volumes blend light, materials & color to create the sculptural facade & expansive courtyard. The urban semi-communal space is enhanced by Bamboo-themed landscaping. Green-design elements. Within open areas of living/dining, kitchen w/Boffi cabinetry Miele, Subzero, Toto, 2 beds/2baths, & prvt rear patio. Adjacent to The Schindler House. SXS parking

Last Sale - 8/07 - $797,000

Listed - 10/08 - $879,000

Reduced - 11/08 - $795,000

Reduced - 3/09 - $695,000

I have not seen these units, and aside from our prior discussion of the benefits/drawbacks of Kings Rd in general, can't speak for their appeal. Maybe someone who's seen them can chime in.

It does look like we have two potential situations going on here: a developer who's broken even, and shadow inventory.

From public records, it looks like the developer is into the property (including purchase of prior property and construction loan) for approx $11mm.

PropertyShark shows 11 of the 19 units as having sold. All but one show sale dates in August 2007 - not a stretch to assume that's when the building opened. Another was sold in December 2007. Total sales price = approx $12.5mm. So throw in some additional costs, for broker representation, etc, and it looks like the developer's essentially broken even.

But what about the other 8 units? No sales records anywhere. It's certainly possible that the developer(s) took a few as their own, in fact, it looks like that happened with at least one of the other units. With the developer at break-even, wonder if we see the unsold units come on the market?

As we can see, this seller has lost all or almost all of his/her equity, and the reduction process has been slooow. This also sets a comp (at least on a relative basis) for the other units in the building - maybe a sign of more distress to come?

And in case this hasn't been made clear previously, the point of these postings is not to point the fingers at the buyers (now sellers) of these properties and say "nah-nah, told you so". It's easy to get caught up in any bubble mentality - the fear and greed cycle is strong. The point is, you can (and people are) lose significant money in real estate, and this idea of past nominal prices was just a fairy tale. It's amazing that agents are still marketing properties with tag lines like "appraised for over $x 2 years ago" or "$100k reduction!". As we've seen before, there's a long way yet to go in this downturn, and by the time we look back and see the bottom, we'll have realized that affordability ultimately drives the real estate market.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Current Rates - "Too Good to Be True"?

I happened to flip by some real estate program on the radio this morning - "House Calls" on KFWB, I think - and the "hosts" - who I believe are just mortgage brokers showcasing properties - were talking about the current interest rate environment. Their basic point was that rates are so low now (4.5% on a sub-$417k loan and 4.75% on a sub-$625k loan) that you "can't afford to wait".

There also seems to be a steady inflation drumbeat out there that's gaining volume.

So, a question for the readers - will continued housing price drops make up for any near-term rate increases in terms of affordability? Will inflation really be a factor?

Anecdotally, for a place that costs $750k today, with 20% down and a 30 year fixed rate of 4.75%, you're looking at a monthly nut (including taxes) of approx $3900. If prices fall another 10% from here, the rate could move up to 6% and you'd be in roughly the same place economically, factoring the lower down payment and the interest you'd earn (albeit small) on the difference. And, of course, you'd have a lower basis. Granted, 6% is still a very low historical rate ...

Your friendly blogger's take? Getting locked in at these rates might make sense if you're looking for a rental property and can spend the time digging through bank-owned listings to find a real "gem" that's a screaming bargain they're looking to dump, or if you find your "dream place" that you're planning on being in for over 10 years. For the rest of us, I'm betting that any rate increases in the near term (next 12-18 months) will be offset by corresponding price decreases - and I'd rather have the lower basis.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Loft-y Expectations

Thanks to the Anon who alerted us to the near-completion of the new lofts at 901 Hancock Ave (90069).

It looks like these are just being finished (perfect timing) and have not yet shown up on the MLS or other listing sites. I drove by these a few weeks ago and there was still significant scaffolding outside.

I was able to cobble together a little info from realtor sites profiling the property, including:

Asking price: Starting in the $900,000s
Number of units: 31 one- and two-bedroom condos

"The building’s one- and two-bedroom units range in size from 1,000 – 1,800 sq ft. Seven affordable rental units and three retail spaces are built into street level. Tender Greens of Culver City is slated to occupy one of the retail spaces.

The building is an appealing amalgam of metal, glass and steel, and has a snazzy rooftop pool. The luxurious units are outfitted with Miele and Jenn-Air appliances and other high-end touches including “expansive, anodized aluminum windows with clear, dual-glazed, low-e glass” and “European walnut cabinetry with concealed, self-closing hinges, adjustable shelf supports and drawer slides” (sure to be a major attraction!)

Throw in central AC and a couple of walk-in closets, and you’ve got contemporary, pampered living at its best." (???)

We have profiled several new developments recently, all of which are showing signs of distress. If I'm reading the numbers right, a 1,000 sq ft unit is going to be listed for $900k. That's right, kids, $900/sq ft. Manhattan (and I don't mean Beach) type pricing. Ouch. It looks like a few of the units were initially going to be rentals - wonder if more will end up in the rental pool.

The location, in general, is certainly "in the mix", but despite the Hancock Ave address, these are right on Santa Monica Blvd, and as our Anon tipster put it, "For the life of me, I can't figure out who would want to spend that kind of $$ to live over a car wash." Amen.

At What Price Reality ?- Update #1

We first profiled 955 N. Vista St. in the "What Price Reality" post last month.

As a reminder, this is a bank-owned 3BR/2.5BA SFR on a small lot that "has been re-arranged", "Needs TLC" and "sold 'AS IS' ".

A number of commenters on the first post referenced other comparable SFRs and what the affordability of this place should be (remember one of our themes here).

Well, now we have an updated price that falls into our favorite "death by a thousand papercuts" category.

Listed - 8/08 - $815,900

Reduced - 1/09 - $759,900

Reduced - 3/09 - $715,900

It's amazing that in the current economic environment, and especially with the issues at banks, that they're holding onto these price levels for dear life. This place is easily $100k overpriced even at these levels, and I have no issue seeing it go to the low to mid $500k range in the next 12-18 months if a transaction doesn't happen.

At over 200 days on the market, this is getting stale fast, and sorry bankers, an approximately 5% cut ain't gonna get it done.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Back at it Shortly ...

Apologies to the readers ... your friendly blogger has been traveling for the past week. Will be putting up a number of updates in the next few days ... stay tuned. If there are any areas/topics in particular that you'd like covered, leave comments.

- WeHoHo

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


I do appreciate all comments to the blog (except obvious spammers), including this one from an Anon recently, which was right to the point:
"wow. this blog is pretty dull. spice it up boss."

Well, it is a real estate blog after all, and not even one that follows "celebrity" homes. Lots of numbers and stats, I know, it's just so ... difficult!

Anyway, I only exist for the readers, so I will do my best. In the spirit of "red hot & spicy", I proudly present ...

1140 N. Formosa Ave, #2, #11, #4

NEW CONSTRUC. Designed by Lorcan O'Herlihy Architects. A multi-colored metallic skin wraps the 11-home, 4-story structure, diffusing light & heat while defining views & privacy. Built by a park. Ten 2-story units comprise open living/dining/kitchen areas w study & bath on one floor, while 2 bedrooms, 2 baths occupy another floor. Each w balcony or roof deck. Unique front unit extends 3 levels. $598,500 to $678,500.

Has anyone checked out these units? There are eleven, per the listing. I show these three only on the MLS and #11 and #4 are "looking for backup" after having significantly reduced their prices (#11 from $698k to $588k, #4 from $798k to $598k).

It appears the developer is serious about moving these places with those kind of price cuts after what appears to be only a few months on the market. Neither Zillow not Propertyshark show records yet of prior sales in the building, assuming other units have sold?

So, is this a case of a developer with "shadow inventory", not wanting to flood the market.

In any case, the "appetite" for this red-hot property doesn't seem to meet the taste test.

Fire away ...

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Defining "Entry-Level"

I was watching one of my guilty pleasure shows the other day - TLC's "Deals on the Bus". This is where they schlep a group of would-be buyers around in depressed-price areas (Vegas, Stockton, Dallas) and show them a bunch of homes over the course of a few hours.

The show generally makes me laugh, as the voice over guy intones about how a house "was priced in 2006 at $425,000, now being offered at the bargain basement price of $275,000 ...", which I complete by saying "and it should be $150,000!"

The show was set in Vegas the other day, and one of the houses, a fairly basic 3BR/2BA stucco job in a tract development, was listed at $97,000. It needed some work, so let's say the all-in price would be $125k. That, to me, is the definition of an "entry-level" home. Of course, we can make all the arguments about how renting should make sense for a large % of the population, but if you're a working, lower-middle class family making $30-40k/year and want your slice of the American Dream, a house priced in the low $100s could be justified.

Which got me to thinking, how would "entry level" be defined in WeHo? And should an area like WeHo have "entry-level" housing?

I'll take a stab at it ... and I'm generalizing for all neighborhoods here ...

The per-capita income for WeHo (2000 census, but close enough) was approx $38k. So let's take a two-earner household making double that, or approx $75k/year.

With the current lending environment, that income would support a PITI monthly number of approx $2,200. I'm assuming a 35% DTI ratio.

With rates where they are, and assuming 10% down, the purchase price would need to be $350k or less.

Current number of properties on the market in WeHo for less than $350k? Twelve

The largest? A 1BR/1BA, 954 sq ft condo near the Beverly Center, a short sale at $300k.

All the listings are condos, either studios or 1BRs.

Doesn't exactly scream "entry-level", does it?

Friday, March 13, 2009

Norma Triangle Pt. 3 - C'mon in, the Water's Fine ...

8960 Cynthia St. #101
1BR, 1BA / 775 sq ft.

$459,000 ($592/ft)
On Market: 163 Days

Sold: 4/04 - $349,000
Listed: 10/08 - $499,000
Reduced: 11/08 - $489,000
Reduced: 1/09 - $479,000
Reduced: 4/09 - $459,000

8960 Cynthia St. #106
1BR, 1BA / 771 sq ft.

$459,000 ($595/ft)
New Listing

No sales data found

8960 Cynthia St. #116
2BR, 2BA / 1196 sq ft.

$620,000 ($518/ft)
New Listing

Sold: 7/05 - $605,000

This will be the last of a three-part series on the Norma Triangle neighborhood (for now).

There's an interesting situation going on in the building at 8960 Cynthia, and one that's repeating itself throughout the real estate market.

Notice the first unit (#101), which has been on the market nearly 6 months, with the seller taking our favorite "death by 1,000 papercuts" approach to pricing. The listing says the unit has been "re-done", so maybe the seller didn't have a lot of room from the purchase price, but these minor price cuts mean nothing in a rapidly-moving market.

Now, enter unit #106, a nearly identically-sized 1BR. I couldn't find any sales data for this unit, which leads me to believe that it was purchased a while ago. The listing says the "bathroom and kitchen have been updated". A rational seller would probably look at unit #101, which has been sitting on the market, and price slightly (if not more than slightly) under it. Instead, they try to get cute and list it for THE SAME PRICE. Now, potential buyers have two units competing at the exact same price, instead of one priced lower than the other. And yes, I think even a minor difference ($10-15k) in this market actually makes a big psychological difference. If this is a long-time owner with pricing room, I'd look for a quick, significant cut here in the next 30 days. The issue is that unit #101, languishing on the market, may need to cut sooner than that, leading to a potential price war.

Unit #116 is not truly "comparable", since it's a 2BR unit, but interesting that it just came on to the market as well, also priced over $500/ft. Here, the sellers have no wiggle room - with commission, they're already losing money on this trade, but as we've seen documented by our friends at SM Distress Monitor and Westside Bubble, 2004 rollbacks are already happening, so the chance that this seller gets above $600k is slim to none.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Norma Triangle Pt. 2 - Trifecta on Harland Ave.

Your friendly blogger has been under the weather recently, so this will be a quick update. Hopefully I'll be fully recovered in a few days and back to regular postings ...

9048 (on left), 9052 (right) and 9056 (no pic) Harland Ave.

9048 Harland Ave
2BR/1BA, 800 sq ft
On market: 90 days (no price change)
Last Sale: 1973 (?)

9052 Harland Ave
2BR/1BA, 1005 sq ft
On market: 90 days (no price change)
Last Sale (?): 1979 - $210,000

9056 Harland Ave
3BR/1BA, 1230 sq ft.
Listed 2/08 ($789k?)
Re-listed several times
Withdrawn 2/09

Thanks to a couple Anons who alerted us to these properties, including:

There was a for sale sign at 9056 Harland but it's gone the last I saw, and it was last being offered at $789K. It, along with 9048 and 9052, were a trifecta presentation early last year for an outrageous $3 million. No offers, so then these individual listings appeared. And, yes, I think the owner better reconsider the current asking prices.

In doing a little research, these properties do appear to be owned by the same person. PropertyShark shows the last sale(s) happening in 1973, although Redfin shows a last sale on 9052 Harland in 1979.

The two active listings reflect that both properties are being rented on a month-to-month basis.

I won't speculate about the motivations of the seller, but with last purchases in the 1970s, even given upgrades/renovations, you'd have to think these places are cash flowing nicely. There don't seem to be any additional "transactions" for the properties suggesting someone was using them as an ATM during the funny money times, so all things being equal, you'd assume the seller has room to move on the prices.

With 90 days on the market and no price cuts, sounds like the seller needs to get serious. Would it surprise anyone to see these ultimately go into the mid to low 600s (if not lower)? As a "reality check", a purchase price of $650,000 means a (pre-tax) monthly nut, including property taxes, of approx $3500. Anyone think these are renting for even close to that?

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Norma Triangle Pt. 1 - "How Booms & Busts Work"

Thanks to the Anon who commented about the "Million Bucks" post, in saying that some areas of WeHo should hold their value better than others. I agree - while my comment about prices coming down was general, like many cities/areas within greater LA, the one thing RE agents still get right is that eventually, it's location (x 3).

One WeHo 'hood that gets attention as being among the most desirable is Norma Triangle. For those not familiar, it's the area bounded by Santa Monica to the south, Doheny to the west, San Vicente to the east, and Cynthia to the north.

I thought I'd focus on this area for a few posts, since there always seems to be the "not here" attitude in falling markets, where the "nicer areas" claim to be immune from the pain.

For this post, here's a good example of 1) how cycles work, and 2) another seller who either isn't really motivated, is still a bit delusional, or both.

9061 Keith Ave, #110

2BR, 1.75BA / 1079 sq ft
$575,000 ($533/ft)
Dog, I assume, not included ...

Beautifully redone with many designer finishes. This move-right-in Condo also boasts an unbeatable location off Doheny Dr. Bamboo floors throughout. French Doors off Living Room and Master Bedroom lead to terraces. Sleek Showcase kitchen with Italian Glass Tile, Bosch & Miele Appliances. Bathroom's feature Waterworks fixtures as well as gorgeous pebble tile. Closets built-out by California Closet. The complete package.

Sold: 5/91 - $220,000 (just after peak of last RE boom)

Sold: 10/00 - $239,000 (seller breaks even after 9 years)

Listed: 12/9/08 - $599,000

Reduced: 3/5/09

This looks like a very nice, re-done condo. The pictures on Redfin suggest that it's been completely updated. Assuming that the current owner spent $150k ($200k?) on upgrades, their cost basis would be around $400k. This unit hasn't been on the market to the point where it's getting stale yet, but the economic climate has worsened in the past 3 months, and a $24k cut probably isn't going to get it done.

"The Vue"

"The Vue"
New Construction - 5 Units
912 N. San Vicente (b/w Santa Monica & Sunset)

Ultra sleek townhomes are "The Vue". In the heart of West Hollywood centered between the famed Sunset Strip and Santa Monica Boulevard. This contemporary setting is just steps away from West Hollywood's finest night life, dining, shopping and entertainment.

Each one of these New Town homes ranges from 1709-1830 square feet with 3 bedrooms 2.5 baths and a mezzanine. Gourmet kitchens include top of the line stainless steel appliances and some of the finest amenities. Floorplans feature 18-foot ceilings, commercial grade windows, rooftop decks and views of Los Angeles and the Pacific Ocean.

Recall our prior posts on new construction at 718 N. Croft and The Milano.

Here we have a building that looks like it's scheduled to be finished in the next few months. I ran by it the other day and it's basically a shell at this point.

There's no pricing info on the building website, but a link to the agent's website shows a mock listing for one of the units, priced at just under $1.2mm.

As you'd expect, these are "sleek" and "hip", at least from the virtual renderings on the site. In the current economic environment, makes you wonder what corners will be cut - will those Sub-Zero fridges become Fridgidares and the Viking Ranges become GEs?

And I like the nod to "commercial grade windows", which will no doubt be appreciated, since the building is right on one of the busiest parts of San Vicente.

That said, the drawings do look pretty cool. Not sure if you'll really have "vues" of the ocean, but the building is set up slightly on that incline going up to Sunset from Santa Monica.

"Pied-a-Terre" = French for "Overpriced Studio"

960 Larrabee St., #219 (90069)

0BR, 1BA / 431 sq ft

$289,000 ($671/ft)

Sold: 11/02 - $151,500

Listed: 5/08 - $319,999

(a few small reductions and then ...)

Re-Listed: 11/08 - $299,000

Reduced: 2/24/09

Days on Market = 298


To be fair, I'm only picking on this particular unit because I love the "fish-eye" picture, which I only assume is used to make the unit look bigger. There are several other studio/"pied-a-terre" listings in a similar situation.

Here we have an OK-sized studio (I've lived in smaller spaces). Basically, the size of an average hotel room.

The very use of "pied-a-terre" suggests that it's for someone who's, say, bi-coastal, or using it as a crash pad while in town.

I've seen a couple of units in this building. While I agree that the location is very good, the building itself is just OK. I guess my point is, if you're someone at the job/income level to have a "pied-a-terre", wouldn't you want something a little nicer? The carrying costs at this price, even with tax deductions, are around $1500/month. Assuming $250/night for a decent hotel, that's 6 nights a month for the same price - without putting any money down.

I'd argue that units like this, even more so than larger condos, should be priced around fair rental value. In looking at Craigslist, studios in this area seem to go for around $1200/mo. That would mean a price closer to $200k. It appears from the sale records that this seller has some flexibility to cut the price, and they should get serious and do so. This is another example of a seller, who, if they had more aggressively cut the price after 30 or so days on market last year, probably would have been able to make a sale and still walk away with a nice profit.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Hey, You Look Like a Million Bucks!

There's been a decent amount of commentary over at SM Distress Monitor and Westside Bubble about what a million dollars will buy these days. The days of sellers being able to get $1mm for a 2+1 shack are certainly long gone, but what, exactly, does a million bucks buy these days?

The answer? It depends. For this search, I looked at single family residences (SFRs) listed between $900k and $1.1mm. Seven properties came up, and as you can see from the details below, the listings range from "wine and cheese" vintage, to slightly delusional, to slightly less delusional.

Remember our theme of who SHOULD be able to live here, and that even in the current low rate environment, assuming 20% down, the monthly nut on a million dollar place is around $6,000 (before factoring in maintenance), suggesting an approx $200-250k annual income to "afford" the payment.

The real question ... much like the NASDAQ hitting 5,000 in 2000 (and possibly with the markets in 2007), will the mystical $1mm listing price for "typical" homes become forever banished to the history books for most of our lifetimes?

8467 Willoughby Ave
3BR, 2BA / 1562 sq ft.
$949,000 ($608/ft)
Lot size: 3,432 sq ft
See previous post here

943 N. Edinburgh Ave (90046)

3BR, 2BA / 1528 sq ft.
$949,000 ($621/ft)
Lot Size: 6,550 sq ft

SOLD: 3/31/99 - $298,000

SOLD: 11/5/03 - $725,000

On Market: 17 days

8723 Rangely Ave (90048)
2BR, 2BA / 1068 sq ft
$990,000 ($927/ft)
Lot Size: 5,052 ft.

SOLD: 1/9/04 - $719,000

(Updated ???)

LISTED: 12/12/08 - $990,000
(83 Days on Market, no reduction)

8260 Marmont Lane (90069)
2BR, 3BA / 2,119 sq ft
$995,000 ($470/ft)
Lot Size: [to come]

SOLD: 5/25/76 - $80,000

On Market 33 Days

8414 Clinton St. (90048)
4BR, 2BA / 1626 sq ft
$1,050,000 ($646/ft)
Lot Size: [To Come]

SOLD: 8/20/98 - $280,000
SOLD: 10/2/01 - $335,000
SOLD: 10/26/04 - $635,000
SOLD: 8/14/07 - $825,000

Listed: 10/13/07
(On market 509 days, no price change)

522 Norwich Dr. (90048)
2BR, 2BA / 1214 sq ft
$1,099,000 ($905/ft)
Lot Size: [To Come]

SOLD: 8/29/90 - $325,000

SOLD: 10/31/96 - $285,000 (note the length of cycle here)

Listed: 9/26/08 - $1,250,000

Reduced: 1/27/09

8745 Rosewood Ave (90048)
3BR, 1BA / 1016 sq ft
$1,100,000 ($1,083/ft)
"Fixer" (per listing)
Lot Size: [To Come]

Listed: 1/20/09 - $1,325,000

Reduced: 2/26/09

Sunday, March 1, 2009

"The Milano"

1248 N. Laurel Ave, 90046
Late 2008 Construction

16 Units

The Conceptual design for "The Milano" was to give their clients the ultimate in luxury & metropolitan living spaces, designed w/ very large floor plans inspired by the best of Italian architecture. Features include large master suites, state-of-the-art kitchens, dark bamboo floors, huge balconies, frameless glass rain shower w/ separate tub & much more. Located in the heart of West Hollywood walking distance to Sunset & Santa Monica. Seller financing available.

Several readers have mentioned this building, so thought I'd do a little more homework. I was able to do a drive-by this weekend, albeit at dusk, so I didn't get the best view of the exterior. There seems to be a lot going on with this building, so buckle up for a fairly lengthy post. And, as always, I look forward to comments from readers with more knowledge, or to correct me where I'm off-base.

My initial observation is ... the architecture isn't terrible. I don't know about "inspired by the best of Italy", but it looks decent enough, as a lot of these builders are going for some sort of faux-[fill in the European country] look.

The problem is, it dwarfs the neighboring buildings, most of which are typical 2-story apartment/condo buildings. When you check out the pictures on the building's website, it's obvious that they were trying to build as high as permitted to get some units with downtown or hill views. I wonder if a special variance was needed here. All that I found was a Feb 2005 WeHo Planning Commission report approving the demolition of the exisiting 10-unit building at the address and the construction of this building.

This building would be right at home in Santa Monica, another area where I have some familiarity, as a lot of new townhome and condo projects are 3-4 stories. But here, it's a bit of a sore thumb. I don't know what the prior building looked like, so I can't comment as to whether the space was just extended vertically, or if they used more land on the ground level as well.

Frequent readers will have noticed my preference for bullet points or numbers when discussing properties with a lot going on, and here is no different. Let's examine, shall we?

1) What's REALLY been sold?
There are 16 units in the building. The price sheet (linked as a PDF) that's put out by the realtors representing the Milano indicates that 7 units have been sold, and 2 are in escrow. Anecdotally, my drive-by showed evidence of activity in at least two units (no, I wasn't spying!), so someone's living there. The units were sold too recently to show up in any public records as of yet, so I'll keep my eyes open for that, which should be telling. I still believe that in the current market, builders are playing games by either putting units in "shadow" inventory by saying they're sold, only to re-list them later, or claiming they're "sold" to the builder himself, and are being rented out for cash flow.

2) What's the PRICING like?
The units that show as still available range in price from $769k (2BR/2BA, 1700 sq ft) to $1.079mm (3BR/2BA, 1740 sq ft). They go out of their way to mention the # of patios for each unit. Interestingly, both the lowest and highest-priced units have only 1 "patio" (note to realtors, "patios" are on the ground floor, regardless of their size ...). There are some remaining units with 2 or 3 "patios" - ahem - balconies.

It's a little difficult to get a sense for the overall pricing, given that only the units showing as still available have prices. In general, the price per square foot seems to range from $450 to $620.

3) What's the LAYOUT on these units?
If any readers have seen the interior, I'd be interested in your comments. The layouts or appointments must be different, or a significant premium is being put on the location (for units on the same floor) in the building. For example, Unit #103, a 3+2, 1740 sq ft unit with 3 patios, is listed at $869k, while Unit #102, a 2+2 with 1620 sq ft unit with 2 patios, is listed $100k higher, at $969k.

The pictures available of course show professional staging, and look very slick. I wonder if, like many of these new buildings, the finishes are high-end Home Depot or Ikea, based on form, not substance. Not that there's anything wrong with that - although at close to a million bucks, I'd like a little higher quality.

4) What kind of PAIN can the builder take?
It looks like the prior building was bought for $640k. Maybe someone with more knowledge can clue us in as to demolition and building costs, but I'll take a guess:

$640k land
$100k demolition/permitting
building = approx 30,000 sq ft * $250/ft = $7.5mm

So an all-in cost of just over $8mm. Factor in carrying costs, and you could argue that the builder breaks even by selling 10-12 units at original listing prices. So even if the sales figures are right, the builder's not out of the woods yet, although might be close.

Could this lead to aggressive discounting on remaning units? Recall my post on 718 N Croft, also a new construction building that was seeing price reductions on remaining units. The builder needs to be careful, given that at least a few of the other units have sold, theoretically at higher prices than current market will bear. It's buyer beware, of course, but you could be facing some PO'ed tenants (not that they can really do anything about it).

5) So, are they WORTH it?
I'll let you be the judge. Remember that here at WeHo-Ho, we like to look at:

a) what a comparable unit would rent for, and
b) who "should" be able to afford these places.

At an average list price of approx $900k, and with some reasonable assumptions, including tax deductions, you're looking at an all-in monthly nut of approx $4,500. In a "real" lending environment, I think that would require approx $200k annual income.

So, ask yourself: would similar places rent for more or less than $4,500 (and don't forget the opportunity cost of putting almost $200k down), and should these be affordable to households making less than $200k/year?

UPDATE 3/3/09:

Thanks to "Bubblewatcher" and an Anon reader for their comments about the probable original purchase price for the entire property, and the recording of other sales.

In looking more closely at Propertyshark, here's some updated data:

April '08
Transaction for $1.7mm (assume purchase of the lot + existing structure)

June '08
Unit #301 sold for $867,000
Unit #302 sold for $1,150,000
Unit #202 sold for $940,000

November '08
Unit #201 sold for $640,000

So that accounts for 4 of the units, and I guess it's possible that a couple others have closed and not yet been recorded ...