Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Inventory By Property Type

As a follow-up to the poll on property types (still time to provide your opinion), here are the latest WeHo inventory numbers as per Redfin

(numbers are approximates and include some WeHo-adjacent properties)

SFRs: 81
Large (>1500 sq ft) Condos: 98 (15 buildings with multiple units for sale)
Small Condos: 141 (20 buildings with multiple units for sale)

Getting Out Even? That's SO 2007 ... and so not "Great"

Thanks to those who have voted on the types of properties you'd like to see featured. Not surprisingly, SFR took the top spot, followed by large condos. Some SFR updates to come over the next few days, but a quick post on a large, high-end condo:

850 N. Croft Ave #403 (90069)
2BR / 2BA
1,606 sq ft ($747/ft)
On Market: 3 Days (no picture yet)
Stunning modern design combined with the finest materials create stunning living space ready for sophisticated buyers. Over 1600 sqft on the top floor with views, 2bd, 2ba and a den, Graphite maple hardwood floors, Ebonized cabinetry, custom window treatments, wired for entertainment. Cooks kitchen with top of the line stainless appliances open to living spaces. Low HOA's, Inside Washer/Dryer, 2 parking spaces. Great Location, Great Building. Great Value.

Sold: 9/07 - $1,180,000

Ah, 2007, those were the days ... the S&P 500 more than 60% higher than current levels, Bear Stearns, Lehman Bros and Merrill Lynch were still firms, and the world hadn't yet heard of Octo-Mom ... the Case-Shiller high-end Los Angeles index (always reported on a timely basis over at Westside Bubble) at a near-250 level vs. today's 160ish level ...

And $1mm condos? The "sophisticated buyer" in 2007 wouldn't be caught dead paying less than that!

Of course, we've seen at least 2005 rollbacks in even high-end areas, and at over $750/ft, this unit will likely need a "great" reduction in the near future to catch a bid.

We view condos of this size to be SFR substitutes, but can't see the $1mm high end staying firm.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Vote Early, Vote Often ...

I added a quick poll on the upper left of the blog ... let me know what you'd like to see featured. I plan on continuing to post about multiple types of properties, especially those with something "interesting" going on, but just like ancient Rome, it's all about pleasing the audience! Thanks for your participation.

Today's Marketing Award

1435 N. Fairfax #18 (90046)
1BR / 1BA
No sq ft listed

On Market: 288 Days

Fabulous DONE top floor gem off the Sunset Strip. Sunny, rear, quiet corner unit w/ outside entry. Totally redone w/ designer details. Bamboo floors. Newer kitchen w/ Caesar stone countertops & stainless steel appliances. Sleek bath w/ glass tile & countertop. Frosted glass doors, recessed lighting. Built-ins in the bedroom w/ lovely views of the hills. Sparkling pool & convenient to shops, cafes, & entertainment! Very clean & well maintained bldg w/ low HOD's. Listed 2007 for $489 -Such a deal!

Sold: 11/97 - $45,000

Sold: 2/98 - $51,500

Sold: 3/00 - $101,000 (Are we paying attention? This was less than 10 years ago. Plug your 5% appreciation onto this number ...)

Sold: 7/05 - $370,000 (a triple in 5 years, sounds about right ...)

Listed: 8/08 - $399,000 (no price change in 8 months ...)

Now, I don't get the sense that small 1BRs are necessarily appealing to the audience, but this listing caught my eye - and there are a number out there with a similar approach.

SERIOUSLY, now ... there has been a lot of comment discussion over at SMDM recently about Realtors (remember to emphasize the "real"!), most of it not very nice. I personally believe that there is a small, core group of agents who actually know the market, are ethical, and try to base their clients (whether buyers or sellers) in reality, depending on the market. Then there's the other 90% who passed their multiple choice exam during the bubble years, worked a few hours a week making some quick bucks, all the while answering "I'm not sure" to sellers' questions about a property, 'cause hey, who cared? You'd be getting multiple offers anyway - time to buy the Porsche.

The deflation of the bubble still has a long way to go, and when all is said and done, there will have been a natural weeding out of most of those types of agents (if not the bulk of the "agent" business in general). In the meantime, I guess we're going to have to live with the blind leading the blind in terms of listing techniques/tactics.

For the love of multiple offers ... do we really think that comparing the current listing price to a "2007 listing" has any relevance? (Although, in another "realtor favorite", there's a typo here ... if the property was actually listed for $489.00, even I couldn't have resisted ...)

I know your living is dependent on keeping up the illusion that "everything is OK", but your property has languished on the market for over 9 months. Do your clients a favor and tell them (and yourself) to GET REAL.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

2003 Rollback = Approaching Reality??

818 N. Doheny Dr. #303 (90069)
2BR / 2BA
1,545 sq ft ($388/ft)
HOD: $807/mo (full service bldg)
On Market: 311 Days

APPROVED!! LET'S OPEN ESCROW TODAY! Best deal in the building! Fantastic opportunity to live at Doheny Plaza, a 1st class full service condominium building across the street from Beverly Hills! Unit is fully remodeled and move in condition! 2bd/2 full baths with travertine and granite mixed. Custom counter-tops & shower. Huge master bedroom with large walk in closet. Recessed lighting, custom bar. Below market value. Seller motivated!!

Sold: 7/03 - $405,000

Sold: 2/04 - $525,000 (+30% in 7 months)

Listed: 7/08 - $750,000

Reduced: (and in one case, increased) a bunch of times until the last reduction to $600,000 in March of this year.

I won't dwell on some of our "favorite" listing tactics (really, this is "below market value"? Whose market?). Although this doesn't show as a short sale, the "Approved" in the listing indicates it might be, unless the real estate broker/clerk is happy that their client "approved" this "below market" price ...

Anyway ... I'm assuming that the "fully remodeled" happened after the 2004 purchase. If that's the case, can we all please see the extent of the bubble - this unit resold for a 30% increase in a 7 month period between 2003 and 2004. If the remodeling happened during that time, this seller was even more delusional with their original listing price.

I'm officially calling this a 2003 rollback because 1) it's languished on the market another 60+ days since the last price decrease, suggesting it needs to drop further, and 2) assuming the seller put $50k or so into the place, you're looking at a true "net" of probably close to $500k (or lower) when all is said and done.

So, the question is ... at $500k, with the high HOD, you're looking at $3000/mo or so after tax cost. This is, of course, in a low rate environment. Would this rent for $3000? Our "affordability" test would indicate that someone making $150-175k or so a year should be able to afford this at $500k - does that feel right for this type of property?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Swimming Naked, Errr ... "Nude"

551 Huntley Drive (90048)
3BR / 2BA
2,370 sq ft ($738/ft)
No Picture

Fabulous Architectural home with "Nude" pool in prime WEHO. Completely remodeled to create an open, spacious, "Resort-like" setting. High ceiling in the Great room that opens thru French doors to deck & pool. A formal dining room is served from the large kitchen with granite counters & stainless appliances.The huge master suite opens thru a wall of French doors to the very private pool. Two additional well separated bedrooms. Oak hardwood & granite floors. Security sys. Wired for sound. Elegant.

Sold: 8/01 - $508,000

Sold: 4/03: $1,179,000

So what exactly is going on here? In "prime WeHo"? OK, I'd agree with that. But wait, we have a more than doubling in price in less than two years between the last sales. So I'm going out on a limb and guessing that the 2001 price was for a scraper/land value. Which begs the question, was the sale in 2003 already "completely remodeled", and if so, what level of delusion do you have to expect a roughly 50% appreciation from 2003? And if the remodel was after 2003, what happened between the prior sales.

Of course, our favorite couple, "granite and stainless steel" live here, making this smell even more like some kind of a flip situation.

Also ... first one to educate me on what a "nude pool" is wins the WeHo Homes home game and other lovely parting gifts. It's just one of those terms that doesn't motivate me to even Google it.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Friday Night Fights Vol. 7 - Death to the Bloated

The title was too long, otherwise I would have called this "I see your bloated, 'death-by-a-thousand-papercuts' listing and raise you a lower-priced (and seemingly - GASP! - reasonably-priced) unit ..."

Blogger's note ... after re-reading my post, my seeming (and out-of-character) "cheerleading" on #2 makes it seem like I have some axe to grind there. Not the case here, or with any of my postings.

(a/k/a "Bloaty Von Bloat")
838 N. Doheny Dr. #707 (90069)
2BR / 1.5BA
1,105 sq ft ($480/ft)
HOA: $833/mo
Full-service building

On Market: 275 Days

Ready? Ok, here we go ...

Sold: 2/04 - $441,000

Listed: 8/13/08 - $779,000
Reduced: 9/19/08 - $719,000
Reduced: 9/24/08 - $701,100
Increased: 9/25/08 - $719,000
Reduced: 10/8/08 - $701,100
Reduced: 11/6/08 - $669,000
Reduced: 12/18/08 - $649,000
Reduced: 1/27/09 - $587,500
Reduced: 3/3/09 - $549,900
Reduced: 4/4/09 - $529,900

I mean, HONESTLY? The process and numbers speak for themselves. We're going to give the sellers the benefit of the doubt as it looks like they re-did the unit somewhat since the 2004 purchase, but since we all know that 2004 rollbacks are starting to happen, the original price is delusional. And the price INCREASE in September last year. Tricky! Bottom line, they cut too slowly and the market would have left them to their own little devices, until ...

(a/k/a "Reality IS an Option")
838 N. Doheny Dr #505
2BR / 1.5BA
1,218 sq ft. ($378/ft)
HOA: $1,025/mo

On Market: 7 Days

Sold: 9/78 (no price listed)

So, here it looks like we have a long-time owner (who appears to have done some upgrades over time) undercutting the current listing on a similarly-sized listing. I can't speak for either unit, but that aren't that far apart in terms of floor, and both appear to have been upgraded somewhat and have similar amenities.

For unit #505, you're looking at approx $3500 pre-tax on a monthly basis. Not for everyone, but for a unit this size in a full-service building, this seems to be getting close to a reasonable rent level. Will be interesting to see if the sellers of Unit #505 are willing to cut quickly if they don't get initial interest, and how #707 will respond.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Give Me a "Flippin" Break!!!

Excuse your normally friendly blogger for being in a foul mood today.

Hmmm ... let's see ... the real estate bubble brought us so many great things, like agents-turned D-list celebrealityites with their own shows and plastic-surgery enhanced faces, "owner has real estate license" listings, and of course, the flip for a quick buck.

How 'bout a listing that encapsulates them all? Without further ado, we present ...

8828 Rosewood Ave (90048)
1159 sq ft ($1,078/ft)
Days on Market: 202

Make Me An Offer. Rare Opportunity to own "FLIPPING OUT's" Jeff Lewis original design. Designer done traditional with newer kitchen, stainless steel appliances, roof, plumbing, electrical, dark hardwood floors, central heat/air, paint, landscape and hardscape, newer baths, interior and exterior spa tub, guest house. Easy to show. Adjacent to trendy shops and restaurants. Owner has a real estate brokers license.

Sold: 10/02 - $595,000

Sold: 3/03 - $715,000

Listed: 10/08 - $1,299,000

Reduced: 1/09 - $1,249,000

I think my head just literally exploded. First off, based on public records, it appears that our "flipper" did his work (and likely made some money) between the 2002 and 2003 sales. So, the question is, did the existing owner do anything to the property after that? You'd have to assume so, I mean, they couldn't be so delusional as to think that the exact same place that sold for the $700s in 2003 is now worth over $1.2mm?

You know what, who cares if they did do a bunch of work. "Make you an offer?" OK, I offer $716,000.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Fri. Night Fights Vol. 6 - "Fountain(s) of Pain"

8455 Fountain Ave (90069)
Fountain & La Cienega

Condominium w/94 units

6 Units on the market

Lots of data points here. These are larger units; there are four 2+2 units for sale, ranging from 1350 sq ft to 1800 sq ft, and two 3+3s at 1900 and 2200 sq ft.

Don't have time to post on all of the units, but let's look at two that are comparable from a size perspective:

Unit #203
2+2, 1351 sq ft ($444/sq ft)
HOA: $450/mo
On Market: 107 days
"Needs TLC"

Sold: 6/76 (yep) - $57,000

Listed: 1/09 - $525,000

Changed: 2/09 - $600,000 (did they get indications this was priced too low?)

Unit #527
2+2, 1439 sq ft ($409/ft)
On Market: 15 days
Appears to have some upgrades (kitchen)

Sold: 11/95 - $109,000

Here we have one of these situations that doesn't seem to make sense/may involve a delusional seller. Unit #203 appears to have a ton of pricing flexibility given original purchase price and what appears to be little to no upgrading. However, after an initial price INCREASE (?), it's still on the market with no price change for a few months.

Now here comes #527, which appears to be comparable in terms of size, has pricing flexibility (although not as much given original purchase price and what appears to be some upgrading), and undercuts #203.

It would appear that #203 needs to wake up to the current market - both generally and right on their doorstep.

Buying Opportunity or "Knife-Catching"?

I've been traveling so a little late in posting this week.

By now, no doubt you've seen the LA Times article from last Sunday, "House Hunting? It's Not a Buyer's Market Everywhere".

We are known in these parts to bash our colleagues in the real estate transaction business, but here I have to say "kudos" to the RE industry for winding up the marketing/hype machine given the current combination of low rates and RELATIVE low pricing.

Some of my favorite nuggets (sense of bitterness, anyone?) from the article:

"The biggest problem," said agent Phyllis Harb, "is that people are overreacting to housing statistics, thinking they can come in and make an offer 20% below price."

Ummm ... since when is offering a price you think is fair, in a capitalist society, a "problem"?

Said Slusher, "Nobody wants to be the sucker who paid too much, so they combat that fear by offering unrealistically low amounts. But if you're trying to time the bottom, you're going to end up with junk. It's always the best houses and cheapest houses that sell first."

"Unrealistically low" = "what they can actually afford"?

Look, I'm not saying that some of the outlying areas haven't bottomed, and the affordability index might be making sense there. Nor do I think that higher-end areas will see as much pricing pressure. Also, if you're a buyer who's looking for a home for the next 15+ years and you find a property that you love and the pricing works for you, it certainly doesn't make sense to time the market - as long as you're realistic that if you're forced to sell in the next 5-10 years, you might still be underwater.

For those who can afford to wait it out, unlike the Vegas casinos, where time is the enemy, in markets like WeHo, it's your best friend.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Our First Ever "WTF?" Pricing Award

9058 Lloyd Place (Norma Triangle)
3BR / 3BA
1,508 sq ft ($656/ft)
DOM: 464

REDUCED!! A wonderful bit of Nantucket in the Norma Triangle. Storybook cottage with beautifully landscaped garden in front, lovely picket fence. Completely move-in. Designer perfect. Fireplace and cozy bay window in living room. Bookcases and built-in cabinets throughout. Very detailed with hardwood floors. Pine kitchen with updated appliances. It has great attached guest/maids quarters with kitchenette, also with its own separate entrance, great office area potential. Picture perfect.

There are obviously many other examples, but this Norma Triangle property hit my radar the other day after yet ANOTHER price change. Yes, you're reading things correctly, it's been on the market for over 460 days. Assuming the current owners are the same people who paid less than $400k for the property in 1997, I can only suspect one of a few things going on here that would lead to our favorite "death by a thousand paper cuts" strategy: use of the property as an ATM during the bubble years, a family/estate arguing over how to price this following the owner's death, or pure delusion.

Again, assuming the same owners as those who bought in 1997, they have their own mini-bubble example based on their purchase from the prior owners, who paid only slightly less for the property some 8 YEARS EARLIER!

This looks like a nice little property, and we've covered the allure of Norma Triangle in prior posts, but these sellers need to decide what they're doing fairly quickly. Anyone NOT think this place would have sold relatively quickly a little north of $1mm last fall if the sellers had woken up to reality, or at least the reality of there still being some willing bagholders around?

Sold: 9/89 - $335,000 (near top of past RE bubble)

Sold: 5/97 - $359,000

Listed: 1/24/08 - $1,450,000

Delisting/Relisting game played in the interim ...

Reduced: 8/2/08 - $1,390,000 (4% cut)

Reduced: 8/13/08 - $1,329,000 (4% cut)

Reduced: 12/5/08 - $1,285,000 (3% cut)

Reduced: 3/10/09 - $1,159,000 (10% cut, waking up but too late)

Reduced: 3/25/09 - $1,059,000 (9% cut)

Reduced: 4/21/09 - $989,000 (7% cut)

UPDATE - "The Milano"

We last posted about the new Milano condo project back in March, and thanks to readers, were able to discern that several of the units seem to have been sold, although others might be waiting in the "shadow inventory".

Well, now we have an update on one of the units that appears to have been in that shadow inventory:

1248 N. Laurel, #102
2BR / 2BA
1,620 sq ft ($524/ft)

Originally Listed: 9/10/08 - $999,000

Reduced: 9/24/08 - -$989,000

[appears to have played the delisting/listing game for a while ... MLS shows "233 days on market" but not sure if it's actually been in the inventory]

Reduced: 5/2/09 - $849,000

Rough monthly pre-tax payment including taxes, assuming 20% down, 5.5% rate over 30 years and $350 HOA = $5,000

We'd argue that the comparable rent on a unit like this would be in the $4,000 range, so the rent/own discrepancy seems to still be significant even at the reduced price.

Friday Night Fights - Vol 5 - WeHo "East" SFRs

In looking back at recent posts, I realized that a lot of time has been spent on western or mid-WeHo neighborhoods.

This installment of "Friday Night Fights" (yes, I know, one of these days I'll actually be able to post on Friday night!) looks at two newly-listed SFRs in the Poinsettia/Greenacre neighborhood, between SMB and Fountain in eastern WeHo.

These are both "challengers" as they've each been on the market for just a week:

1139 N. Poinsettia Pl. (90046)
2BR / 1BA
1,331 sq ft ($675/ft)
Lot Size: 5,800 sq ft


Sold: 9/06 - $760,000

1236 Greenacre Ave (90046)
2BR / 2BA
1,209 sq ft ($702/ft)
Lot Size: 4,900 sq ft

This unique, ultra chic 40's bungalow sits at the end of a little known cul-de-sac in West Hollywood's hot east side. Gated and hedged with a romantic courtyard, and spacious backyard. Natural light and greenery abound with 2BR/2BA, eat in kitchen with separate laundry area, huge liv room with gorgeous fireplace, original built-in bookcases, deep chocolate hdwd flrs throughout - an entertainers dream! This one of a kind home offers peace, quiet and lots of privacy, a true in town retreat!

Sold: 12/97 - $295,000

Sold: 3/03 - $600,000 (100%+ in 6 years)

Sold: 1/05 - $806,000 (+35% in 2 years)

So here we have two similarly-sized "starter-type" homes in a nice neighborhood on good-sized lots.

1139 Poinsettia probably doesn't have much room to work in terms of pricing since it looks like the fairly significant upgrades were done after the prior purchase.

1236 Greenacre - well, the history on that one reads like a poster child for bubblicious pricing. A double in value in 6 years from 1997 to 2003, and then a greater than 30% increase from there in 2 more years? It's difficult to tell what upgrades may have been done during those periods, but at a minimum, based on other properties we've seen, we're probably at least at a 2005 rollback price. Any coincidence that $849k less a 5% agent commission of $43k equals the $806k purchase price from 2005? "Break-even", anyone?

Of course, we would argue that small, albeit nice, homes like this should be affordable to a household in the $150k income range, meaning "true" pricing around $700k in today's low-rate environment, and somewhat lower when rates move up ...