Sunday, January 17, 2016

From today's L.A. Times: L.A.'s hottest zip codes

Today's LAT has published an article called L.A.'s hottest zip codes. It details the areas with the greatest home price appreciation in 2015.  No surprise: both the east side and the beach areas saw the greatest gains.  Also no surprise: a lot of the home sale price appreciation in these areas reflect prices for smaller homes.  Developers are buying these smaller homes at a premium, tearing them down and putting up much larger homes.  Anyway, re the east side, Lincoln Heights and Elysian Valley (which used to be called Frog Town) saw home sale prices rise 14.6% -- and the median price there is still a relatively low $458,500.  (And by the way, if you're looking for a house on the east side, I can help you.)  Of course, Marina Del Rey's and Manhattan Beach's price have much higher median prices.  Toluca Lake/Studio City was listed as well, with a median price appreciation of 3.2%.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Coolest, most affordable house on today's caravan: 10400 McCormick in Toluca Terrace

On today's caravan, I checked out several homes for sale in Studio City, Sherman Oaks, Valley Village and the Toluca Lake area.  The coolest house, and the most affordable one at $759,000, is 10400 McCormick, located in tiny Toluca Terrace.  This home has lots of original charm, top-notch maintenance and upgrades, 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, plenty of closets, a nice backyard, two-car garage, PLUS a complete guest house with 3/4 bath and kitchen, pictured below.  (I don't know about permits.)

My other favorite features of McCormick include the kitchen table which folds into the wall (pictured below), outside fire pit, gorgeous quiet street and stellar location. Toluca Terrace is bordered by Magnolia, Chandler, Pass and Cahuenga.  If you're a home buyer looking for a combination of cool style, price, condition and location, McCormick might be for you.

Friday, January 08, 2016

Listing your home for sale? Here's an easy way to make it smell really g-o-o-d

Happy new year! If you're showing your home for sale, it always helps if it smells really nice.  You already know the tricks of baking cookies (save me some), lighting scented candles, sending Fido and Puff to daycare, etc. You may know about this too, but if not, here's something even easier -- homemade potpourri. (Thanks, Serafina Magnussen!)

In a medium pot, put a few cinnamon sticks (not the ground kind pictured above; I just didn't have any sticks today), some whole nutmeg pods, whole cloves, orange peel or lemon peel, cover with water and simmer.  After a few minutes, your home will smell really wonderful.  You don't have to keep it simmering for long as the scent will linger, and you can reuse the same mixture over and over -- just make sure to add more water before you simmer. You might even like to do this when you're not showing your house.

A couple of other hints: feel free to experiment with savory spices, bay leaves, rosemary twigs, apple peels, etc.  And cinnamon sticks in the Hispanic section of your grocery store are half the price of the ones on the spice aisle.  Happy home selling.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Cool Studio City house

My favorite home for sale on today's broker caravan is at 4540 Beck Ave. in Studio City.  This four bedroom, 3 bath, 2017 sf house is a perfect 1940's progressive-style mid-century house time capsule.  The picture above?  It's the refrigerator, not the kitchen cabinets. (The listing agent, Karen Medved, provided the sandwiches and snacks.)  The electric stove top burners have push buttons.  All bathroom fixtures are pink.  Coved corners, two stone fireplaces and knotty pine cabinets complete the picture  There's olive green shag carpeting too (okay, that's 1970's). It's on a huge lot (12,000+ sf).  Is anybody out there a 1940's house geek? If so, this may be for you.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Another great Yelp review for me

Andy and Lynette and I worked together three years ago when they bought their home in the Magnolia Park area of Burbank.  In the meantime, their little family has grown from two kids to three kids and they've completed several remodeling projects on the house.  I recently assisted them again with their refinance transaction and Andy just wrote this wonderful Yelp review for me.  Thanks, A&L!

Judy is a fantastic agent! She helped us buy our home 3 years ago; she made it a clear and low stress process. Even after we closed we've stayed in contact with Judy and she has been an indispensable resource as we worked on a refinance. Judy knows the market and is incredibly supportive. 6 stars for this one; she is the best!

Friday, December 04, 2015

The Federal Reserve says they are definitely, positively going to raise interest rates.

Check out this article from today's L.A. Times.  Click here for link.  Yup, the Fed now says that there is no doubt they'll raise interest rates, and soon. Nooooo!  The good news is that the rise will come gradually, so it doesn't shock the economy.

What that means for home buyers: interest rates have been gradually inching up this fall anyway, but it means that buyers will have higher mortgage payments than in the recent past.

What this means for home sellers: there will be fewer buyers, especially for starter homes and condos.  There probably may still be multiple offers on properties, because inventory is short.  However, if a house for sale sits on the market for more than a few weeks, a price reduction is probably warranted.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Today is a GREAT day for an open house

Home sellers, if it's not too late, today -- the Sunday after Thanksgiving --  is a terrific day to hold your house open.  People are sick of being in the house with their relatives, the exciting football games are over for the weekend, and home buyers are going stir-crazy and itching to get out of the house.  You'll have more people traffic than you'd expect. Really.

Friday, November 27, 2015

This is maybe the best song about trying to buy real estate, ever.

Check out Depreston by Courtney Barnett.  You buyers out there will totally get this, and there's a lot of poignancy to this song too. It's available on iTunes, of course.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Anniversary party and awards banquet for Judy Graff Properties

One year ago, I left big real estate brokerages behind and opened my own brokerage, Judy Graff Properties.  This year has flown by and has been really wonderful! I miss my old colleagues, of course, but otherwise I wish I had made this leap sooner.  All props and thanks go to my superb clients, who have made this venture a success.

We had an awards ceremony the other evening (produced by Steve and bff Paula); here's a pic of the swag.  Also, I am thrilled to report that my sales production places me at #1 in the office!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The east side of L.A. is hot, as if you didn't know

This is my client, Samantha and her dog Willis.  They are standing in front of the brand new #HighlandPark home that they just bought with Sam's boyfriend, Robin. Just in case you're new to L.A., Highland Park is on the north east side, and that whole part of L.A. has gotten insanely trendy.  It includes Silverlake, Eagle Rock, Glassel Park and Mount Washington. (It may include Atwater, Boyle Heights, Los Feliz, and other communities, depending on who you ask.)  Sam and Robin looked for a year and a half before they found this house.  They had been in escrow once before and had written countless offers.  But we finally found this brand new from the foundation on up beauty and all the stars aligned.  

The house was built by a pro flipper and the escrow went really smoothly.  Of course, there were several items that hadn't been completed by our inspection (no surprise) but the builder took care of everything.

This was Willis's first look at his new house.  Shortly after the photo was taken, he gave everything a thorough sniff and seemed to like what he found.  Best wishes on your new home, Sam, Robin and Willis!

Monday, November 02, 2015

Pounced on by Realtors at an SFV open house?

I applaud my buyer clients who go to open houses by themselves and most home buyers do that nowadays. They've viewed the home on line and only have Saturday or Sunday to see it.  But here's what often happens:  a buyer innocently walks in to an open house and is immediately assaulted by the Realtor there and peppered with questions -- what are you looking for? Are you preapproved? How much are you preapproved for? What do you want your monthly payments to be? Are you working with an agent?  What do you have for a down payment? The poor buyer, who was compelled to sign in, finds themselves called, emailed, texted, sexted, you name it.  I used to do this kind of hard sell when I was a new agent too -- until I realized that people hated it.

Do you think that they are doing this because they are working hard for the seller? Nah. They are trying to pick up business -- your business -- any way they can.  (Again, disclaimer: I used to do this too back when I was a new agent and the earth was still warm.) There are lots of hungry Realtors out there.

Here's my client's experience from yesterday, and it's all too common: What I failed to tell you about my experience at ... open house yesterday is what a hard sell I ran into. I was met by 2 agents AND a mortgage broker. I felt like I was at a Mercedes CPO lot and everyone was trying to meet their month-end quota. I was "required" to fill out their guest sheet and now I'm getting calls and emails. 

AND, one of the agents was trying to steal my business, "I know you have an agent, but I might be able to find you some things."  

Sure, buyers, there are lots of great Realtors out there who are doing open houses.  They'll greet you, and give you the information about the property that you seek.  And then get out of your way. Sellers, please keep agreeing to open houses.  They work.  But you might want to reign in your agent's obnoxious hard sell enthusiasm. Buyers, please keep attending open houses.  They're a wonderful way for you to see a property when your agent can't be with you.  But be firm with pouncing Realtors.  Or take your pepper spray with you.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

No interest rate hike in 2015? That's good news for buyers.

Check out this article from today's L.A. Times here.  Interest rates, including mortgage interest rates, won't be going up this year. This contradicts pretty much everything the Fed has been saying about interest rate hikes since the beginning of 2015, but hey, I'll take it.

Friday, October 09, 2015

99 Homes -- powerful new movie about real estate

I have often found it odd that there are no contemporary films or fictional tv shows about real estate. (Feel free to correct me on this.) After all, isn't the r.e. crash what caused our Great Recession? Perhaps HGtv has sucked up all the interest in the topic?

99 Homes, a new movie about the r.e. crash in Florida, changes that. I saw it last night. It has the unique distinction of being realistic with both language and details about the housing downturn (I even learned about some scams I haven't heard of before).  The most riveting -- and cringe-worthy -- parts are the several scenes of people being evicted from their homes.  It's really worth seeing "lest we forget." Here's hoping this never happens again.

Sound interesting? Or not?  It's rated really highly on Rotten Tomatoes and I highly recommend it. Here's the Google synopsis and two review blurbs.

A desperate construction worker (Andrew Garfield) reluctantly accepts a job with the ruthless real-estate broker (Michael Shannon) who evicted him and his family from their home. 
99 Homes is a stunningly effective melodrama of flipped houses and mortgaged souls.
-The perils of illegally gained One Percent privilege make for engrossing, high-stakes viewing

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Before and after with JB and Karen

Clients JB and Karen bought a 2 bedroom, 2 bath condo in an older Sherman Oaks building last year.   As you see, the kitchen wasn't anything to write home about.  The remainder of the unit is pretty basic, too.

And here's the after picture.  Karen and JB both have full-time jobs, aren't flippers, haven't done this before and just got married as well.  Even though they only got to this project on weekends, they managed to turn the kitchen/dining area into a show place.  Kudos, guys! I look forward to seeing what else you do with the condo.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Another great Yelp review

I just received another great Yelp review from my clients Briana and Mike.  Their condo was really hard to sell due to HOA issues that most lenders don't like. Other posts about the unit can be found in the archives here -- the address is 5227 Denny Street #101, North Hollywood.

Anyway, we were able to get the unit sold and get Briana and her family into a particular home that they've always wanted.  It's been wonderful working with them over the years and I can't wait to see what they've done with their new place.  From Yelp:

We've worked with Judy for 6 years now. First, when we bought a condo in 2009 and just a couple of months when we sold said condo and purchased a house. Our condo situation was not ideal. It was unwarrantable and near impossible to sell and somehow Judy did it. It was a flawless transaction and I still can't believe we got out of it.

As far as our new home, we had mentioned a couple of times we loved it overt he years as we walked by it all the time. She happened to be the agent for the people who purchased it years ago and mentioned it to us that they were looking to sell. Being that our condo was "unsellable" we thought it was a complete long shot that we would be able to sell it and some how get this new home.  Apparently Judy is a miracle worker because she did it. We closed the condo and moved in to are new home all within days of each other. I cannot thank her enough for putting up with a very stressful me and making this happen. Then, on top of that she thanked us with a thoughtful gift. Judy is the real deal and she just basically makes shit happen. Thanks Judy!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

The Fed is leaving rates unchanged

For now, the Fed is leaving rates unchanged. Whew! What will this mean for Southern California real estate? Buyers won't have to worry about their interest rates spiking, and sellers won't have to worry about a lot of buyers being knocked out of the real estate market due to high rates.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Need to rent a home in the Studio City hills?

3541 Laurelvale in Studio City is now available for lease for $4,500/month.  This serene mid-century home features 3 beds, 2 baths, A/C, big sunny kitchen with new appliances, separate dining room, flat backyard, lots of storage, and an attached 2-car garage with "pull-through" for extra off-street parking.  It has been recently spiffed up and features new flooring, new paint, newly landscaped front and backyard, and a brand new washer, dryer and refrigerator. The cul-de-sac location guarantees lots of privacy. It gets even better -- this home is in Carpenter School District! Pet cats are allowed with an extra deposit.  Please call me for details or showings.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Four don'ts for home buyers

It’s a tough world out there, real-estate wise.  I know that you home buyers are beaten and bruised and just may not care about the other party’s emotions.  And I know there are a lot of nutty sellers (and buyers). However, it’s always a good idea to keep your transaction going as smoothly as possible – good will goes a very long way in Southern California real estate.  Here are some don’ts for buyers:

- Don’t make disparaging remarks about the house or neighborhood when the sellers are present.  All sellers, even flippers, want to start home sale transactions on a positive note.  Being a hater gets you nowhere.

-         -  Don’t make a purchase offer that is way lower than it should be for the comps or condition.  No matter how adorable the home sellers think you are, they don’t love you so much that they are willing to lose money. Yes, there are unrealistic sellers who have priced their home too high. And of course you don’t want to overpay for your property. But don’t get crazy low on the price if you want a response. Your Realtor can guide you to making an offer and counter offer with a realistic chance of being negotiated.

-          - Don’t miss contractual dates.  Performing the purchase contract’s tasks (yes, there are things you need to do after the agreement) by the agreed-on dates should not be a problem for a serious buyer.  Missing those dates makes you look flaky and can even get you kicked out of escrow.  If you truly need an extension of time (for an appraisal, for example), your Realtor can request one in writing.

-          - Don’t ask for silly stuff after your home inspection.  If the seller knows that you plan to do a $50k home remodel, don’t ask for $500 for “miscellaneous." That just looks greedy.  Also, please know that just because a property element or system is at the end of its useful life, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to immediately fail the minute you take possession.  Unless something is really broken, or is a safety hazard, keep in mind that you’ve agreed to take the property “as is” per the contract.  Also, your home warranty policy will help with repairs for your first year.

In great transactions, the seller gets almost everything they want, and the buyer gets almost everything they want.  Almost is the key word.  Smooth sailing, buyers and sellers.    

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Need a gorgeous Sherman Oaks condo on a blissfully quiet street? Check out 14560 Benefit #207, 2+2, $525000

I just listed this sublime, move-in ready condo below the boulevard in Sherman Oaks.  It's next owner is going to be really lucky -- the front balcony faces the peaceful, green street (no views of stucco here), it's 1518 sf, has a big kitchen with all appliances included, fireplace, new carpet, some new paint, and lots of closet space. The master closet is bigger than my first apartment.  The bedrooms are suite-like and can be closed off from the rest of the unit, which makes this a perfect roommate set up. The well-managed security building has a pool, rec room and spa.  It's walking distance from all of Sherman Oaks' fun stuff, and the local public elementary school is the excellent Sherman Oaks Charter.  The first brokers' open house is Tuesday, 8/4 from 11 to 2 and the first public open house is 8/9 from 2 to 5.  Please call with any questions!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

It's back-to-school time in the SFV. What does that have to do with real estate? Plenty.

Public neighborhood schools have a huge impact on community desirability and housing values. Many home buyers face the dilemma of paying higher home purchase prices to get their child into a good public school, or else paying a premium to send their child to a private schools. Although public elementary schools in Burbank, Toluca Lake and Studio City all have pretty high ratings, other areas have superior schools too.  Remember that schools with the highest rankings tend to have more extra study programs and enrichment programs, which are often paid for by the children's parents. And parental involvement in children's education is also key.  A home's local school can be found on the LAUSD website. For SFV school ratings, including the Burbank and Glendale areas, please visit this website:

Thursday, July 23, 2015

3rd time's the charm: 5227 Denny #101 in North Hollywood has sold. With a VA loan, no less.

After three times on the market, this North Hollywood Arts District condo sold on Monday.  5227 Denny #101 was first on the market two years ago. And was listed for the second time a few months later. We had lots of interest, but because of lending restrictions on certain types of condos and home owner associations, we couldn't sell it to anything but cash buyers, and it never sold.

Mortgage lending has changed and loosened up in the last two years on condo units like this.  The unit sold this time to a buyer with a Veterans' Administration loan.  The VA part itself amazes me.  Most lenders, myself included, will run like hell away from offers with VA loans.  No shade to veterans, but VA loans have always been exceedingly restrictive, have taken a long time to close, and have required lots of extra stuff from both sellers and buyers. But this isn't your father's VA loan program -- it went through without any problems (well, okay, the appraisal took a long time) and closed on time.  Thank you to the buyer's excellent agent Adam Martinez for talking us into taking his buyer's offer!

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Read Steve Lopez in today's L.A. Times, then read my not-really-contrarian blog piece.

Here is the Steve Lopez link and here's the link for my last post. Steve bemoans the current real estate market, with its high prices and cash buyers.  He isn't wrong, and yes, the middle class is being priced out of most of the local r.e. market. And yes, buyers who need a mortgage loan are often being beaten out by cash buyers.  However, his example was South Pasadena.  Home prices have always been crazy there, because the public schools are so. damn. good.

Monday, July 06, 2015

Think it's easy to buy L.A. real estate with $1+ million in cash? Think again.

Not to give you home buyers out there even more reasons to be disappointed, but.  Some former clients of mine returned to town after moving to the San Francisco Bay area some years ago.  They had made cash offers on properties in Berkeley and the Oakland hills but were aced out on price each time.  It's not that they were submitting low-ball offers -- most of their offers were over asking -- but they were repeatedly beaten out by offers over $100,000+ more than asking.  The Bay Area real estate market is too crazy, they said.

It's not that bad here, I said.  I was wrong.

In the course of one week, we made three offers on properties in Studio City, Sherman Oaks, and Glendale.  All of the offers were all cash.  All were over the purchase price -- some significantly -- and all were $1.4 million or thereabouts.  Yes, million.  You'd think sellers would be crawling over themselves to take these wonderful, beaucoup-bucks cash offers, but you'd be as wrong as I was.

The first property went for significantly over the asking price for all cash.  We offered $50k over asking on the second property but seller terms were a little grab-y and it went into multiples anyway.  My buyers offered significantly over the list price, all cash, on the third property.  Plus gave the sellers a free 60-day rent back (unheard of in a normal market).  The sellers dithered.  And dithered.  And finally accepted on a Saturday afternoon.  We buttoned up the deal.  And the sellers changed their minds Sunday morning. Ugh.

My poor clients were very philosophical about all of this, and went on vacation to lick their wounds.  And in the meantime, they've decided the Bay Area is not so bad after all.

As for me, sure; these are not great experiences for a Realtor.  Yes, there's the income issue.  But also, it takes just as much work to not get an accepted offer as it does to get an accepted one. Sigh. Onward!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

629 N. Keystone, Burbank is closed -- what a difference five months can make in real estate!

If you've been reading this blog, you know about this home in Burbank at 629 N. Keystone.  Great house with lots of improvements, great neighborhood, open floor plan -- very un-Burbank.  I originally listed this for $779,000 last September. We had lots of activity, but no offers, so we took it off the market just before Halloween.

I relisted Keystone again in April.  Again at $779,000.  And immediately got three offers, all over the purchase price.  We sold it three weeks ago for $805,000.  That wasn't even our highest offer -- we received an offer for $820,000 but were afraid that it wouldn't appraise.  The $805k offer was all cash.  The point is that the housing market is certainly on fire here in the San Fernando Valley.  We went from no interest to heavy, willing-to-pay-more interest in just a few short months.

FYI, a large portion of the buyers that came through my open houses this spring were new parents from over the hill who are looking for decent housing stock and good schools for their children.

Monday, June 08, 2015

What happens if either a buyer or seller passes away during an escrow?

This is one of the strangest sales I've ever been involved in. Names and address withheld here.  Recently, I represented a buyer couple with an off-market sale in Laurel Canyon.  They wished to buy their neighbor's house. The actual seller was the neighbor's mother and the family lives in Utah.  The seller family hates Realtors (o what a surprise) and they represented themselves in the deal.  That is never easy and working with the sellers was like trying to pull a mule up a ladder.

It took a long time to get the property in escrow, but the buyers really wanted to purchase it.  In the middle of the escrow, the seller passed away.  Without a will or a trust.  Which means probate court in both California and Utah to properly dispose of the seller's assets, including this house.

What happens with a property transaction when a party to the sale passes away? It stops the escrow, and often ends it.  Things didn't look good here -- I thought it would be hard to get the whole seller family to agree on anything having to do with the disposition of the assets.  That's what the probate process is for. But my buyers were determined.  They found a California probate attorney that claimed to be able to get the probate done in 60 days (it can sometimes take 6 months).  And they helped the Utah folks find an attorney in that state.  It's a much quicker process in Utah.

Anyway, surprise! The property went through probate in two months, the sale was back on, and it closed last week. Kudos to my buyers for their very hard work and perseverance.  Where there's a will, there's a way, no pun intended.

Friday, May 29, 2015

View Park, LA - my latest neighborhood discovery

You can live in L.A. for decades and still discover new places and neighborhoods.  That's why I love Los Angeles.  Last weekend's discovery was View Park and Windsor Hills.  I was completely knocked out by the stunning housing stock, the manicured landscaping, and the very quiet neighborhoods.  The rolling hills reminded me of Beverly Hills.  Much of the housing stock is large 1950's and 1960's homes, but there are also 1920's and 1930's character homes here. It was hard to spot any home that wasn't expertly kept up. This area is largely unincorporated, which means lower taxes when you sell and private water companies. While prices are soaring there as everywhere, the neighborhoods are still a bit cheaper than corresponding SFV ones -- $800's and $900's for larger houses, $600's for light fixers.  If you absolutely must live on the Westside, this neighborhood may be an excellent option.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Price reduction on 5227 Denny in Noho -- now listed at $430,000. Plus bonus for buyers.

Even though we haven't been on the market even a week, the sellers have decided to lower the price on this gorgeous 3+2 condo to $430,000 from $449,000.  Also, the sellers will credit their buyer $1000 towards closing costs for a less-than-30-days close.  If you're thinking about moving to this up-and-coming area, please come check out 5227 Denny #101 during the open house on Tuesday, the 26th, from noon to 2 pm.  More open house info to follow.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Gorgeous 3+2 condo in Noho for $449,900

This beauty is 5227 Denny, #101 and it's in the rapidly developing area of North Hollywood Arts District. Features include a front-facing unit, huge kitchen that opens to the sunlit living room, long Caesarstone countertops, glass tile backsplash, bamboo floor, custom paint throughout, decorator window treatments throughout, high ceilings, fireplace, and big, sleek bathrooms with modern fixtures. 2 balconies allow for barbecuing and gardening. This unit has 2 dedicated, private storage rooms downstairs and the building has a bike room, too. Security bldg with guest parking, too. Close to the Red Line, Chandler Bike Path, cool restaurants...there is simply nothing like this unit in the neighborhood. Please call me for a showing.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Movies about real estate: "5 Flights Up"

Today's New York Times has an article about a new Diane Keaton-Morgan Freeman film, "5 Flights Up."  Link here.  I hadn't heard of the movie, but it's apparently about a late-middle-aged couple who are selling their Brooklyn apartment.  And making an unexpected fortune, of course.  And naturally, there's at least one venal, grasping Realtor in the film, because hey, that's who we are. Or who Hollywood thinks we are (don't get me started on who we think they are).  But I guess there would be no story if there wasn't a bad Realtor guy driving the action. Anyway, the article contains many comments from NY real estate agents about how our biz is portrayed. Personally, I can't wait to see it!