Sunday, August 30, 2009

... Just Not Necessarily a "Smart" Investor?

8835 Betty Way (90069)
2BR / 1BA
806 sq ft
Lot Size: 2,000 sq ft

Equity sale, cute Spanish bungalow. 2 bedroom with one car garage. -Near everthing. Nice cul-de-sac street. Must sell due to illness. Tenant would love to stay, good for investor. New stove was just put in. Single family home, Laundry area in garage. Sold in it present condition.

Sold: 12/99 - $245,000

Sold: 10/03 - $497,000

Your monthly P+I on this place, assuming 20% down and a generous 5% rate, is approx $3000. Add in taxes and take out some deductibility, depending on your personal situation, you're still at least in the upper $2,000 range, if not mid-$3,000. Anyone think this rents currently for close to that? I'm sure there's a reason the "tenant would love to stay"!

[BTW - if anyone knows if the City of WeHo lists Max Allowable Rent by property address, a la Santa Monica, let me know. The city website has limited info, and not specific to any properties.]

People can debate the virtues of cul-de-sac Betty Way, but the reality is you have a condo-substitute "starter home" (am I Ok to use that term for this? I know we've had debate in the past about what's "starter") on a tiny lot with limited, if any, room to expand.

Strictly from an investor perspective (unless I'm missing something about the possibility to build multi-units here), I think this will need to get back near its 2003 price.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

No Guests on "The Vue"

We highlighted "The Vue", located at 912 N. San Vicente (b/w SMB and Cynthia), in one of a couple posts back in March discussing new construction projects.

At that point, this particular project looked like it was just getting finished, and the description boasted:

A state-of-the-art condo development, 1 blk from famed Sunset Strip in WeHo. Just blocks from Bev Hills & Pacific Design Center, these luxury 4-story twnhms epitomize luxury & convenience. The main floor dining & living area boasts a 2story ceiling w/sweeping metal railings along the mezzanine. All units incl priv rooftop decks, & 20-ft high walls of glass in the LR's, affording a vw of the entire city. Hand scraped maple floors, SS appl's, caesarstone counters & more.

Now I see 3 of the 5 units having been officially listed back in June, at prices currently ranging from approximately $1.1 - $1.3.

These are larger units, with seemingly nice amenities. Three problems:

1) Awfully busy part of San Vicente (although I guess you're not RIGHT next door to the 90069 P.O.!)

2) Per an Anon's comments on the original post, and now visible, there is development slated for the lot next door. You would think that the Vue developers did some homework on what size property could be put up, so that the "vues" were protected, but who knows ...

3) Like most artist renderings/mock illustrations, this one is laughable. You see the small, quaint street that it appears the units look out over with their "walls of glass"? Uh, no - that would be the lot next door. You know, the one slated for development. What appears to be the side of the building is actually the part on San Vicente (so at least they had the foresight to shield the units somewhat).

I went running (unfortunately, without my smoke respirator) the other night, and ended up on San Vicente. Of course, all dark here. Only listed for a couple months and I would guess we need to see these knocked down a few hundred grand to get in the ballgame.

Get Me Off the Island

With apologies to "Lost", you know we at WeHoHo love a good MLS description. Thanks to "Full Disclosure" for alerting us to this new listing.

1011 N. Crescent Heights (90046)
[picture coming]
$895,000 - SHORT SALE
2BR / 1BA
1,398 sq ft
Lot Size: 6,650 sq ft

Description: 3BD/2BA home in West Hollywood. Subject to short sale acceptance by EMC. Hostile tenant. Offers subject to interior inspection. Complete file submitted on 8/23/09.

Sold: 11/02 - $500,000

Sold: 1/07 - $1,065,000

Sold (bank buyback): 7/20/09 - $944,126

An Anon had already suggested that we'd see this property come on the market, when we profiled its neighbor in our "So It Begins" post in early August:

Where to begin, but to say that following upon the Harland Street Trifecta (now a doubleheader) is the new Trifecta of 1015, current listing 1011, and 1005 N. Crescent Heights. All sold in development-crazed WEHO during the boomdiada days about 2 years ago.

Appears that 1011 (last sale $1,065K in 1/07) and 1015 (last sale $1.070K in 2/07) were a package development deal now gone horribly sour. Zoning would have allowed 10 or 11 units total on both parcels after demolition of the SFRs. 1005 CH went for $1,000K in 3/08 to another purchaser.

My research shows that indeed, this property and our previously-profiled 1015 N. Crescent Heights have the same owner. Good information, thanks for the heads-up.

So, what's the progression here? Buy with the intent of developing, and while you're getting permitting/capital/etc together, figure you'll rent the place in the meantime to get some cash flow to cover part of your holding costs? Now the world has gone pear-shaped, your tenant has "gone native", Jacob's dead, as is the real John Locke, and Juliet's down the well (sorry).

Banks as the savior - maybe I'll pitch that to JJ Abrams and crew for the season finale next year ...

Sunday, August 23, 2009

WeHo East SFR Sale

Catching up on some recent sales ... with the caveat that, in a nod to some of the prior posts about what's actually "WeHo", this block falls just to the south of the WeHo boundary ...

Remember our "At What Price Reality" post back in February with updates in March and July on the SFR at 955 N. Vista, which was a bank-owned 3+2.5, 1558 sq ft "fixer" that ultimately sold in late June for $700k after being listed starting at $819k last August.

At the time of the July posting, "Bubblewatcher" commented:
'In the meantime, this was the second lowest priced three bedroom sfr for sale in all of WeHo, according to the MLS. And there's another on the same street at $849K looking for backup. I think the lure in these instances is probably lot size and square footage compared to the other 3 bed listings, as well as price.'

I'm guessing the property being referred to is the 3+1, 1384 sq ft 942 N. Vista, which closed on July 24th for $812,500, with a prior sale in 2001 for $412,000. Lot size is 6100 sq ft as opposed to the approx 6500 sq ft of 955 N. Vista.

I either don't have access to, or am too lazy to find, the listing history on this one, although Bubblewatcher's comment would indicate only a slight prie reduction. Anyone remember if this one was upgraded, etc?

UPDATE: Some additional research shows that there were only two 3BR condos of comparable size sold in the past three months (in fairness, August data is not yet posted). Both were at 718 N. Croft Ave, aka the "Croft Villas", which we profiled as one of our very first posts back in February as an example of new-construction developer distress:

#201, a 3+3, 1700 sq ft unit sold June 17 for $850,000. "List price" from the Croft Villas website shows $1,099,000.

#301, with the same specs at #201, sold for $890,000 on May 28 following an initially absurd/"party like it's 2007" list price of $1,249,000.

Now, the Croft units are also technically not in WeHo, but some might argue they sport a better overall location to the 900 block of Vista.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

West vs. East - "Starter Homes"

Recently on the market, two properties that I would deem starter homes.

Significant lot size and property differences - but does the coveted "WeHo West" trump these attributes for some people? Where would you live (if either)?

A WeHo West Sliver aka "The Condo Substitute"
8875 Cynthia St (90069)
[no picture yet]
2BR / 2ba, 912 sq ft
Lot Size: 2100 sq ft

Description: Updated Craftsman Oasis. Complete restoration with detailed upgrades. Featuring Italian Granite, Travertine baths & Asian Maple floors with all stainless steel appliances (fully equipped).

Sold: 12/03 - $450,000

Sold: 3/07 - $840,000

Here we have a somewhat realistic seller. "Realistic", meaning that unlike others who are delusional, they at least recognize that the market has significantly changed in the past 2 years. Those cynics among us would argue that we were already well into the bubble by the end of 2003, so this property would need to get back to that pricing level. I'll give the benefit of the doubt that the upgrades were done between then and the 2007 sale. Should we be talking high $500k range for this condo substitute with a tiny lot?

The Eastern Bungalow aka "Get Yer Vitamin C"
1418 N. Orange Grove Ave (90046)
3BR / 1 BA, 1,653 sq ft
Lot Size: 6700 sq ft

Description: The best street in the neighborhood. Such a great location; walk to great shopping, entertainment and wonderful restaurants. For the first time on the market, this wonderful California bungalow is filled with charm and character. Lots of curb appeal. Classic bungalow floor plan with tremendous potential to be anything you want it to be for today's lifestyle. An abundance of wood casement windows for a soft Natural light. Fabulous backyard with Orange trees. (The Oranges are delicious).

A prior commenter took some offense (maybe rightly so) with my suggestion on the recent "Room to Move" post that some people would prefer nicer condos vs. dinky SFRs, depending on lifestyle. The property on Orange Street, from the pictures, doesn't look to be very upgraded, but of course you have a large lot to "do what you will". It's a decent size, at least for a small family, and assuming you could easily put in another bathroom, probably works "as is" for the time being. Of course, if it's cosmetically OK but actually a teardown to make it workable, you're still talking lot value of $1mm which seems high.

Anyone seen these places?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Room to Move on Crescent Heights?

835 N. Crescent Heights (90046)
3BR / 1BA
1,166 sq ft
6,000 sq ft lot

Adorable Spanish architecture home with lovely archways, jazz walls, barrel ceilings, hardwood floors, French doors, a wonderful large updated kitchen, charming original bathroom, copper plumbing, formal dining room, and beautiful fireplace in living room. There is a utility room leading to the very large backyard and the home is located within walking distance of trendy West Hollywood restaurants and shops. Seller to select services.

Sold: 6/88 - $250,000

No, the title isn't meant to poke fun at the size of this SFR. Rather, given the previous purchase, perhaps the current owner has some room to work with the price. I couldn't find any home-as-ATM indication data, although the owner is probably kicking themselves for not getting this place appraised at over $1mm a couple years ago and buying the Porsche and Range Rover.

Of course, we profiled up-the-street 1015 N. Crescent Heights in our "So it Begins" post a little while back, which has a slightly larger lot but looks to be a tear-down, listed as a short sale for $895,000.

I'm guessing places like this will set current "lot values" for this area, when sold. From the pictures, this place looks in reasonable shape, although certainly small. I laugh when people talk about the benefits of SFRs vs. condos. So, you're going to start your family in a 1BA place with less than 1,200 sq ft? All for the privilege of having a backyard that looks like this?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Green With Envy - Update 2 (The "Out of the Shadows" Edition)

We profiled the architecturally interesting (funky/cool/ugly, depending on your taste) 825 N. Kings Rd complex first in March when unit #4 went on the market, and updated the sale in July, which saw a relatively significant reduction from list.

We also contemplated whether, given the # of units shown sold in the building, there was additional "shadow inventory" here.

It appears we might have been on to something, as two additional units have come on to the market in the past few weeks. Neither have prior sales history, which would seem to suggest they were developers' units. In addition, the description for one indicates that it is "also for lease".

We disclose a lot of public info here, but I don't like putting individuals names, or even an insinuation of who they are, on the blog - just seems to go too far. Suffice it to say that it appears the original development group and/or "backers" still owns both of these.

Keep in mind that #4 was a 2BR/1.75BA, 1322 sq ft unit that ended up selling for $682,500 in July (prior sale 8/07 for $797k).

Both of these units look to be larger, more upgraded, and better-positioned in the building than #4. Will be interesting to see if they command a 50-100% premium.

825 N. Kings Rd #7
2BR / 2 BA
(sq ft not listed)
Beautiful split-level dramatic unit in award-winning masterpiece by architect Lorcan O'Herlihy. Soaring ceilings & Amendium hardwood floors accentuate the sleek minimalist design. Sophisticated kitchen with Boffii cabinets, Miele appliances & large walk-in pantry opens to spacious living & dining area. Ceilings & walls converging at unique angles, the eco-conscious design is light & airy. Upstairs are 2nd bedroom & large master with private patio & well-appointed baths. Also for lease at $5,850.

825 N. Kings Rd #14
2BR / 2.5 BA
1,490 sq ft
Unbelievable opportunity to own the BEST unit for sale in West Hollywood, in the award winning Habitat 825 by acclaimed architect, Lorcan O'Herlihy. Highly upgraded, this TOP floor split level floor plan (1 common wall) features walls of glass w/3 exposures, custom walnut flooring, a customized dual sided fireplace in liv rm that opens out to the enormous private patio. Boffi kitch w/Miele appliances, upgraded closets, upgraded master bath, custom window treatments & built-in sound. A must see!

Revisting Rent vs. Own

One of our not-rocket-science theses here at WeHoHo has been the need for pricing to reach a rent-equivalent level.

Now, we would agree that there's some intangible factors that come into play with owning vs. renting, and wouldn't expect a nice property in a nice area (particularly an SFR) to be purchased with a view to it being cash flow positive if rented out tomorrow.

That said, in the condo market, the rent vs. own analysis should still be alive and well, as potential buyers are likely weighing the "deals" in the current rental market with the pros and cons of buying, including: need for a significant % down payment, pride of ownership, have prices bottomed, no more "quick buck flipping" as in the past.

I thought this property was an interesting case study:

1222 N. Olive Dr #306 (90069)
1 BR / 1BA, 598 sq ft
For Rent: $2,295/mo

Bright and open unit with blond bamboo floors throughout along with updated kitchen and bath. Walk in all glass shower. Views of the Hollywood Hills and downtown Los Angeles. Safe and secured parking. Ideal WeHo location walking distance to Sunset Strip, Santa Monica Blvd and La Cienega's restaurant row. Located on one of the most beautiful streets in West Hollywood with tons of parking. The building is very quiet with an absolutely amazing pool that gets great sun. Utilities incl. PriceNeg

Sales History:
12/20/06 - $385,500

3/2/05 - $328,500

6/20/00 - $109,000

6/17/99 - $88,000

8/19/91 - $119,000

5/7/90 - $115,258

Lots going on here. Let's review:

1) Answer to the "how long can a cycle be" question with a sale around the prior top in the early 90s, and an 8 year span resulting in a sales price approx 25% lower

2) A bubbilicious 3x increase in less than 5 years from 2000 - 2005

3) A close-to-recent-peak last purchase

4) A current owner potentially waiting out the market/trying to recoup costs? I won't speculate, as there could be any number of things going on here

5) A seemingly way-above-market rent. Yours truly has been researching rentals in WeHo recently, and given the current market, you can get a nice 2BR in a nice area for around $2k. This is in a decent location, but almost $2,300/mo for a small 1BR?

However, it starts to get more clear if you make some reasonable assumptions on the monthly nut this owner is likely carrying:

$385k purchase
20% (being generous for the time) down
5% rate (again being generous, assuming a recent re-fi at low rates)
$300/mo HOA (probably at least that since bldg has a pool)
+ taxes
= $2,377/mo expenses

I think this has to get under $2K/mo to rent, meaning the owner is eating around $400+/mo, not including repairs or other related expenses. Not terrible, given the relatively small numbers, but some pain likely to be felt nonetheless.

Oh, yeah - and assuming $1900/mo rent (which I think is still too high), the purchase price equivalent would be around $285,000.

After posting this earlier, I noticed another unit in the same building for sale, which makes the plot thicken:
1222 N. Olive Dr #314
$414,900 (REO)
2 BR / 2BA, 812 sq ft

Last Sale: 11/18/04 - $415,000 (100% financing and looks like at least 2 subsequent cash-outs)

The real evidence of "funny money" going back 5 or so years ago continues to drip out. Will be interesting to see where this sells. Any bets that they get less than the $385k last sales price of the 1BR above?

Friday, August 7, 2009

And So It Begins ...

I was driving down Highland (the stretch of primarily SFR between SMB and 3rd St) the other day during the late evening rush, and remarked to my carmate - "you couldn't pay me to live on Highland". Her reply: "yeah, or Crescent Heights".

I remember visiting a few SFR open houses a year or so ago on Crescent Heights, probably just after the market had peaked, and there were still relatively few data points of weakness. One open house in particular, the listing agent was going on and on about how $1.5mm was "very reasonable" for a 1500 sq ft house on Crescent Height. I know, I know, so what did I expect him to say?

In any case, one data point does not tell a story, but back to our not-rocket-science hypothesis of the downturn slowly rolling from lower-end 'hoods to nicer locales, I would put SFRs on this stretch of Crescent Heights in the "decent area but horrible street" category. In other words, not the first to fall, and not the last, but this is one of the first signs I've seen of cracking here.

The listing would suggest that this might be or an expected flip, or just a "project home" for someone who's hit rougher times. In any case, at a minimum, this will be an interesting "lot value" data point for this part of town

1015 N. Crescent Heights (90046)
$895,000 (SHORT SALE)
3BR / 1BA
1,558 sq ft

3BD/1BA Spanish charmer in need of TLC. Lot is zoned R3 with potential to build condos. Buyer to check with city of West Hollywood. Short Sale Subject to Lender Approval. Shown by appt only. Do Not Disturb Occupants

Last Sale: 2/9/07 - $1,070,000

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Enjoy Your Mai Tai - It's On the Taxpayers!

901 Larrabee St (90069)
1BR / 1BA
565 sq ft
2,350 sq ft lot

1 BEDROOM 1 BATH PER TAX ROLL- Has bonus room; Cozy, secluded cottage in a great part of West Hollywood, within walking distance of the heart of Sunset Blvd. Cute living room with fireplace and a separate dinning room with French doors opening to an enclosed patio deck. Large bedroom with a partially vaulted ceiling. Great starter home in the West Hollywood/Sunset Strip area! Don't miss this one! No garage; NEEDS SOME WORK - AGENTS: PLEASE SEE PRIVATE REMARKS FOR OFFER DETAIL-Thank you.

Sold: 11/18/99 - $319,000

Sold: 5/22/02 - $318,000

Sold: 8/24/05 - $825,000

Sold: 11/21/06 - $950,000

Sold (bank buyback) 1/22/08 - $795,960

Yeah, I'm feeling ornery tonight. Maybe it was the backhanded (although well-deserved - being backhanded, I mean) compliment in the comments about the blog not being "scintillating".

Maybe it's the fraud that's becoming more and more evident. Someone - oh, wait, the taxpayers - paid $950k for this palace at the end of 2006.

Maybe it's the ever-cheerful-even-when-the-sky-is-falling-and-your-2007-vintage-Porsche-payments-are-past-due attitude of the REAL-tors. I was going to pick apart the listing description, but honestly, why bother? Step right up and get your "starter home". What a joke.

*Deep breath*

OK, now I feel better. I'll put an end to the (blatant, at least) mean-spiritedness. Let's move on, shall we? ...

Seriously, What the Hell?

818 N. Doheny Dr. #806
1 BR / 1BA
1,154 sq ft

REO Large south-facing unit with city views, designer recessed lighting and built-in sound, bamboo floors. Spacious bedroom with walk-in closet and city views. Full-service Building. HOD includes all utilities and basic cable.

Sold: 3/1/05 - $950,000

Sold: 6/28/05 - $600,000

Sold: 2/3/06 - $820,000

Have been reading several interesting stories recently about the rampant fraud that occured (not surprisingly, I suppose) during the bubble period. You know the drill ... buy a place, see the "appraised value" shoot up a few hundred grand, take out a HELOC/additional mortgage, cash in on the difference, and decide to get foreclosed on. Walk away with a nice chunk of change (and a temporary ding on your cedit rating, but who cares?)

I'm not suggesting (OK, maybe I am, subtely) that there was fraud occuring here. Maybe I just need an education on how to read the paper trail on this one. Propertyshark shows a bunch of "reconveyances" and trust deed exchanges. Not surprisingly, a number of the parties involved had defaults at one point and/or owned a number of other properties in the 2004-2006 timeframe.

So, did someone really pay $950k for this place? Or even $820k, for that matter? I guess anything was possible during the Great Era of Funny Money. The bank's price still seems too high (approx $3600/mo pre-tax) given current rent levels, but since this building is full service, a rent-equivalent in the high 2,000 range is probably in-line, which would put the price in the high $300k/low $400k range. Even if it sells at current levels, goes to show you that "prior sales", especially in the 2006 vintage, were so overinflated it's laughable.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Welcome to the Jungle ... Toilet Paper Provided

1033 Carol Dr. #T5 (90069)
2BR / 3BA
1,579 sq ft

Garden 3 story town home in rarely available and desirable award winning west-side/Sunset Strip building with amenities. 2beds, 3 baths, galley dining, kitchen, den with wet bar and step down living room with access to private patio. New hardwood floors, new carpet and freshly painted.

Last Sale: 12/88 - $325,000

Nothing to really see here ... another large "SFR-substitute" townhouse in a decent (although backing up to Sunset commercial lots) area.

Our friends over at Santa Monica Distress Monitor have a good post up about high-end townhomes in their slice of the world, and how pricing seems to be holding up in the summer "selling season". Will be interesting to see, particularly if SFR sellers hold their asking prices at the $1mm level, if we see some larger condos and townhomes move in the $700-800k range.

For a lazy Sunday, honestly, I just thought the pic was interesting ...

Saturday, August 1, 2009

My God, Man ... It's Only a Condo

935 Westbourne Dr. #103
3BA / 2.5BA
1,800 sq ft
$697/mo HOA
"flip condition"

Highly sought after 3 bedroom 3 bath SINGLE story unit located on one of the most desirable street's in West Hollywood. Unit has been completly remodeled including granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, wood floors thorough out. Unit features 2 balconies one east facing one west facing offering views of both the street front and the buildings private pool and gym. 2 wood burning fireplaces Living room and Master suite. Contact me quickly and bring your most discriminating buyers . .. this one will not last long !!

I know there is a market for "high-end" (nice area, large living space, amenities) condos. In fact, I'd put yours truly in that category - no kids, "mobile" lifestyle, etc.

However, even in today's still low-rate environment, it's really dawned on me recently how absurd a nearly $1mm condo seems (and you can put smaller SFRs in that category as well). With 20% (yes, that's almost $200k) down, you're looking at approx $5k/month for this property, given the high HOAs.

I said "flip condition" due to our favorite twins of SS appliances and granite countertops, although in fairness, I couldn't find a prior sale. There does appear to be a past NOD which seems to have been recently resolved, and it looks like the building might have some kind of assessment being paid (Redfin shows an "Dues #1" of $697 and a "Dues #2" of $50).