Thursday, July 17, 2014

I view SFV condos and townhomes so you don't have to

Lately I've been viewing and showing condos and townhomes in Studio City, Sherman Oaks, Burbank, Toluca Lake, North Hollywood...there are lots of nice, and not so nice, properties on the market now.  Here's a sample of what I've seen.

First, there's 11485 Camarillo #3 in Studio City (pictured above) for $409,000.  Another fixed up unit in the building was on the market for months, and never sold.  So I thought the price for this might be a little high.  But no -- I'm told it is already in escrow (after three days on the market) for over list price.  Just shows what fixing and staging can do, and it doesn't hurt that the townhouse is very close to Tujunga Village.

If you're looking for good deals on condos and townhomes, Granada Hills has several.  Most of the units there have nice square footage, private garages, and are in large complexes with amenities.  The one pictured above, on Crestview, has a gorgeous view of the entire San Fernando Valley.  Yes, Granada Hills is quite far north, and the community doesn't have a lot to boast about, but you can get units like this in the lower $400,000's.

Here's another great townhome on Camarillo in Toluca Woods.  It's in escrow now.  It has three stories, the building is beautiful, and it has a roof-top patio.  Less than 1,000 sf, it was listed for $390,000.  Worth every penny, IMO.

It's common for buyers to want to overlook condos in older buildings.  I get it, but that might deserve a re-think.  I've seen several condos in older buildings on Dickens in Sherman Oaks, like the one above.  Yes, they look like apartments inside, but huge apartments! And the buildings are amazingly well-kept up by their activist HOAs.  Condos in buildings like this can go for the $340k's up to $500's, with most being in the low to mid-$400's.

Finally, there's this one in Burbank.  It's the cheapest unit on the market at $320,000.  There's a reason it's so cheap.  The best I can say about it is that the neighborhood is nice.

Inventory is not as short for Los Angeles condos and townhomes, so there are still plenty of nice units out there.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Home buyers and (some) home sellers are coming out of the woodwork in the San Fernando Valley

Something must have happened during last weekend's rockets' red glare, because all of a sudden, everybody I know is busy with several sets of home buyers and some home sellers.  What happened to you, people?

Perhaps buyers realized that lots of home prices might come down a bit in the next few months.  That often starts to happen in early July. Maybe sellers realized that prices have peaked for the year, too.  And then, interest rates are still low and haven't seen the predicted rise.

Nobody can predict the market, but I would recommend that sellers sell now, especially in the areas of Burbank and Studio City -- people want to buy homes in good school districts before their kids start school.  And, if interest rates do go up, as all experts predict they will by the end of the year, that will have a negative effect on home prices.  And I would recommend that buyers buy now -- interest rates won't be this low much longer.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Think you're paying too much for housing in the L.A. area? You are.

Today's L.A. Times reports that housing costs are a greater burden here in the L.A. area than in any other metro area.  It's nice to have it confirmed, eh? That's not just for mortgages, it's for rent, too.  And this statistic is from a study was done by Harvard.  The study sites stagnant wages as the primary contributing factor. (photo credit: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg; article by Tim Logan)

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Country Club Park and HPOZs

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to show property in Country Club Park, a lovely area that I had never explored before.  Where’s that? It’s just off of Wilshire and Olympic in mid-central L.A. That’s an area, or at least an intersection, that most of us have all been in before.  However, like much of Los Angeles, residential neighborhoods can be dramatically different from the commercial parts of the nearby main roads. (BTW, the house pictured above and below is the Milbank Estate.  That wasn't the property I showed, unfortunately.)

Country Club Park was once the western edge of the city.  In the 1920’s, large homes were built that reflected the popular architectural styles of the times: craftsman, Tudor Revival, Spanish Colonial Revival, and Mediterranean Revival.  Of course, land was relatively easy to come by then, so big lots, broad lawns, and mature foliage are characteristic of this neighborhood.

Country Club Park is also designated an HPOZ, or historic preservation overlay zone.  This zone preserves the distinct architectural character of the neighborhood houses, provided that they conform to the style and period being preserved.  If you are a homeowner in a HPOZ, and you want to change the exterior of your historic home, you’ll need to get permission from the 5-member HPOZ board.  Minor repairs are easy to approve, of course, but if you want to substantially change the outside, it will take longer and may not be approved.  Of course, you can change the inside without the board’s permission.  L.A. City’s Office of Historic Planning provides a guide to maintaining your historic home.

Here’s another benefit to owning a historic home in a HPOZ: you may qualify for tax savings through the Mills act. Qualifying owners can receive a potential property tax reduction and use the savings to help rehabilitate, restore and maintain their historic homes.

For more info on HPOZs and the Mills Act, please visit preservation.lacity.org.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Something that you would not expect to find growing in Studio City: blueberries!

Who knew? Along with citrus fruit, pot pomegranates and figs, blueberries can grow in Studio City.  The beauties on this tart were grown by my Tujunga Village/Woodbridge Park.  He harvested four gallons from one bush this year.  If you would like to plant a blueberry bush, my neighbor tells me that you will need to put a net over the bush or birds will do the harvesting for you.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Please visit my Examiner.com page

I am now writing short features about San Fernando Valley real estate and the home buying and selling process for Examiner.com.  Please visit my page there at http://www.examiner.com/real-estate-in-los-angeles/judy-graff and subscribe.  Thanks!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Los Angeles and San Fernando Valley home sales are stabilizing, says the LA Times


Here's a great article from today's L.A. Times. It states that the market is settling down, there aren't as many price escalations, etc. Here's a quote:

"More and more, the market hinges on regular people buying houses with normal mortgages, and with lending standards still tight and the economy still feeling soft, there's only so much those people will pay.
"We're bumping along a ceiling. I really can't see values going up much more," said Steven Thomas, of ReportsOnHousing.com, which analyzes Southern California housing markets. "Buyers are homing in on trying to pay a fair value. A year ago, everyone was willing to pay extra. Now that bidding up is not happening."

This doesn't mean that multiple offers are over, however -- just that there won't be 20-40 offers for the same property, we hope.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

3 common mistakes that home buyers make

Have you been looking for a home in the San Fernando Valley or Los Angeles? Have you been disappointed with the kinds of homes that you have seen? Have you made offers, only to lose them out in multiple bidding situations? Here are three tips to help you.

Be realistic about your finances and what you can afford. Home prices have rebounded from the recession.  They have risen, too, since you first began considering making a purchase. Home inventory is really low as well which results in more buyers chasing the same few homes. If you find yourself in a multiple offer situation, price is going to matter to your seller much more than your good looks. If you love a home, but will be really stretched to afford it, or if you do not have a decent down payment for the home price range that you are looking in, you may want to wait awhile and save up more money.

Before you begin home shopping, get pre-approved for a mortgage loan by a local lender. I've said this before. Now is the time to shop for a lender and rates, not on a Sunday night after you have visited the open house of your dreams. This is important because most sellers and listing agents will look at your financial qualifications before they review your home offer. Your lender will be able to look at your financial profile and determine how much you can comfortably pay. A good lender can also coach you regarding cleaning up credit, straightening out financial issues, and qualifying for the best loan programs.

Write good offers. A home purchase offer contains much more than just the price, and your Realtor will be able to advise you on how to make your offer stand out. Put down a decent deposit. Find out in advance what your sellers' moving dates are and try to accommodate them. Shorten your contingency periods if you can. Think twice about asking the seller to pay for any of your closing costs. Yes, a letter explaining who you are and why you like the house will usually be helpful, too. Make sure to include a picture of your kids and pets.


Hopefully, you will now be better prepared to get the house you want. Happy house hunting -- your perfect home really IS out there.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

What I saw on today's Studio City Realtor caravan

Today, I saw some pretty interesting things on the Realtor caravan, in addition to three homes for sale in Studio City.

The first home I saw is way up in the hills, on Wrightwood.  It's about $2.5 million.  As you can see, it's all about the view -- that's Universal City in the distance.  The house was nice, too; built in the 1960's, lots of high ceilings, redone kitchen and baths, etc.  But the pool and view is certainly the best part.

The next noteworthy item is this very whimsical front yard, on Alta Mesa.  As you see, not all homes in the Studio City and Hollywood Hills are modernist semi-masterpieces.  It may not be visible in this pic, but the yard contains statues or plaques of Jesus, Mary, Joseph, an angel, a scarecrow, lots of butterfles and a hula girl, in addition to lots of flowers. It is very pretty in a really different way.

And finally, here's a kitchen with all-steel countertops.  This is in a nice home on Bloomfield.  I am seeing steel being used more and more for kitchens.  Think about this if you're planning to remodel your kitchen any time soon -- this is the latest thing, and granite countertops are looking a bit dated already, believe it or not.

Friday, June 06, 2014

Ask me anything: planning to sell your home? Here are 6 ways to find a good Realtor.

Well, first, hire me.

Next, go through all the Realtor flyers that have been left on your doorstep or in your mailbox for the past several years.  Pick the cutest guy or gal.

Seriously (I was serious about the “call me” part if you’re in L.A.): there are several ways to pick a good listing agent.

1. Do you think that the Realtor who sold you the house did a good job? If they are still in the area, give them a call and discuss your needs.

2. Visit open houses in your area.  Chat up the Realtor, but do not mention that you live nearby and are thinking of selling – the Realtor will stalk you.  We are really good at that.  Anyway, see what impression you get.  Do they seem engaged with the people they are meeting? Do they offer extra information on the home? (Do they even know anything about the home they are selling?) Can they (intelligently) answer questions? Do they know your neighborhood? Remember that many listing agents send assistants to cover these things – you will be able to determine who’s who very quickly.

3. Presuming that you are still in touch with them, ask your former neighbors, who have sold and moved away, for referrals.  You will soon learn the good, the bad, and the ugly about the folks that have sold real estate in your neighborhood.  Of course, you will also learn about how quickly the news spreads that you are selling.

4. Ask your friends who have just sold for referrals to their agent, presuming they are generally in the same area. And presuming your friends think their Realtor did a great job.

5. Ask folks who have recently bought homes in your neighborhood for referrals.  Buyers’ agents for your neighborhood often make the best listing agents – they are familiar with everything that has been sold there lately.

6. Check out the doorstep and mailed flyers are usually circulated by Realtors who work in your neighborhood.  By all means, contact these folks if they have a track record in your neighborhood. Don’t forget to Google who you pick.

In another article, I will list qualities of a good listing agent. And soon, I will post several ways NOT to hire a listing agent. Stay tuned and please contact me if I can help you in any way.  I can be reached through JudyGraff.com. 

This post originally appeared with edits in Examiner.com.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

New 5-star Yelp review from my seller of a Burbank home

It was my privilege and honor to help Laura when she transitioned from working to being retired.  She sold her home in north Burbank and here is her Yelp review of me.

After retiring at the end of 2013, I decided to sell my Burbank home of 28 years.  Luckily, after some diligent Yelp and Zillow research, I found Judy Graff.  Judy is a fantastic real estate agent and a consummate professional.  Judy made some suggestions that helped me prepare the house for sale, and once the house was listed, she was on top of every detail so that all phases of escrow proceeded smoothly.  Judy listed my home on 03/31, and it was sold at the open house which followed on 4/7.  And, it also sold for 10,000 over list!  Who can ask for more than that!!  It is obvious that Judy loves her work because she does it so well.  Besides helping me through every step, she was even of service to the buyers of the property.  I had to leave the property before escrow closed and Judy oversaw an emergency repair to a gas pipe I discovered the night before I left.  I simply cannot say enough good things about Judy.  She is courteous, professional, wise, and the perfect person to advise you about buying or selling real estate.  I would definitely use Judy again, and I would recommend her to my friends and relatives without hesitation.  Judy exceeded my expectations in every area.  She also has some excellent references for professionals you might need during the process, i.e. plumber, electrician, and even a rubbish guy.  5 stars for Judy for sure!

Monday, June 02, 2014

I work with a fabulous bunch of people. Heather, you are my hero.

Please read below from our manager, Susan Jacobs.  Heather Wexler, pictured above, is our administrator, any my hero.

You may have heard what happened last Friday at the office.  Heather and Michelle were outside at the front of the building when a woman riding a Vespa hit the curb and she minus the Vespa went sailing into the planter and wall of the building.  Lead by Heather, the office mobilized to help this woman . . . called the paramedics, got her cell phone and called her husband and MOST IMPORTANTLY stayed with her and spoke comfortingly and reassuringly until her husband and the paramedics came.   Heather checked on her progress on Saturday and the woman said she could not remember too much that happened but what she did remember was that she didn’t feel alone—that she was surrounded by people who were looking after her and comforting her.  Special acknowledgement to the following: Scott Nell, Steve Sax, Dion Tretta, Vicki Watson, Ian Marks, Joel Vendette, Michelle Mandel, Rose Fahey, Tony Catalano, Rose Osman, Kevin Driscoll, Michael Razak, Joel our Valet, Mary Baldwin.  Please forgive if I have forgotten anyone.  We all agreed on one other important thing:  If you ever find yourself in trouble, please be sure that Heather is with you.  Never seen a woman mobilize so fast!  She never noticed until it was all over that she had blood all over her pants.   Thank you to everyone who dropped what they were doing to lend aid.

Sunday, June 01, 2014

Excellent adaptive reuse - bedroom fridge turned into a jewelry case

Don't need a refrigerator in your bedroom anymore? Don't get rid of it, just adapt it like this clever person did.  Unplug it first, of course.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Termites and tree roots and tear-downs o my! What to expect from your property inspection.

If you are purchasing a new home, you are likely going to be getting a property inspection.  While most Realtors see these as routine, most buyers will find them scary.  Hopefully, this will dispel some of the fear about your soon-to-be-new home's condition.

Your inspector will be checking out the house’s major structures and its systems.  These include the roof, the foundation, the electrical system, the plumbing, the garage if there is one, and the HVAC.  The other structures he or she will check are most of the appliances, windows, doors, floors, and safety items.  No house is perfect, not even brand-new ones.

Here is what very commonly comes up on home inspections.  This is mostly for single family homes, but some of the items pertain to condos, too.

First thing to know: most of the houses around here were built several decades ago.  Yes, they are old, but hopefully they have been decently maintained.  Even if they haven’t been well taken care of, remember that everything can be fixed (yes, for a price). 

Plumbing – water is a house’s enemy and some plumbing item almost always needs to be fixed or properly installed.  Also, each plumber does everything differently from every other plumber (why IS that?) and they all complain about their predecessor’s work.  The water heater almost always needs something fastened or replaced. See below about sewer inspections.

Electrical system – Most electrical panels need to be upgraded from time to time to handle new electrical loads.  The chances are that your electrical panel may not be sufficient for your power usage.  And even if your house is rewired, the previous owners may not have rewired the garage, or it may not be rewired to code. Codes change all the time.  And, in 95% of all home inspections that I’ve attended, some breaker will be wired incorrectly.  The electrical system’s problems are safety items, so please take care of the issues right away if your seller doesn’t do so.

HVAC – These systems are usually adequate unless the heater or a/c unit is really old.  Sometimes the inspector will call for the units to be fastened down better than they currently are.  Inspectors almost always call for the filters to be changed which is really easy to do.

Roof – Even if the roof is newer, the inspector will probably call out maintenance items like sealing pipes, fastening a few shingles down, replacing the ridge cap, etc.  The good news is that maintenance like this is not difficult or expensive.  Once you own the house, have a roofer check this stuff out from time to time and don’t forget to clean your gutters out.

Foundation – Many, if not most, houses are bolted, but they may not be bolted to current codes.  That does not mean that they are unsafe, but you may want to upgrade the bolting once you own the place.

Termites – This is a separate inspection from the general inspection.  Almost every house here is made of wood.  (Forget what your relatives back east tell you – you don’t want a brick house in earthquake country.) If your new home is like 99% of all homes here, it will have termites, because termites eat wood.  You may have negotiated a termite inspection and correction with your seller.  If not, you will want to have a licensed termite company take care of this.

You may also get a sewer check and a fireplace/chimney inspection.  These are difficult to critique because we can’t see what the inspector sees.  One thing, tho: I have never, ever seen a fireplace or chimney inspection that didn’t show problems. I promise you that your chimney/fireplace will not be perfect.

If there is a tree anywhere near your property, you will likely have tree roots in your sewer.  If there are just a few, don't worry.  If they block the entire sewer, you could have plumbing backups.  Watch the video with the inspector and ask a lot of questions.


I will continue to update this list as I think of other items.  Please contact me if I can help you find your soon-to-be dream home. 

Thursday, May 22, 2014

1034 N. Evergreen, Burbank, Debbie Reynolds, and throw-back Thursday

For throw-back Thursday: This is a picture of Debbie Reynolds in front of her home at the time, 1034 N. Evergreen in Burbank.  For those of you who don't know, Debbie was a popular movie-star of the 1950's and 1960's -- see Singing in the Rain. Anyway, I listed and sold this house last October for $657,500.  The house looks almost exactly the same 65+ years later! If these walls could talk...

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Yes, some home sales can go smoothly in every way - such as 2008 N. Rose in Burbank

This is 2008 N. Rose in Burbank and it closed last week for $515,000 after listing for $505,000.  My seller, Laura, had just retired and wished to move out of the area.  She had kept the house up nicely and had remodeled the kitchen and baths.  The buyers are a young couple and this is their first home.  Everybody moved through the escrow very smoothly and we faced no big hurdles.  Yes, that's a surprise to me, too! East West Bank did a very impressive job at getting the appraisal done, getting the loan documents early, and closing the loan right on time.  I will miss Laura, and I wish the buyers lots of luck.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Mortgage rates defy expectations -- by moving down

Today's L.A. Times states that mortgage rates are moving lower! Click here for the article.  This is in contrast to expert forecasts that rates would be steadily going higher and would be at 5% by the end of the year.  This is the news we need to help buyers get off the sidelines and into the local real estate market.

Thursday, May 08, 2014

New listing in Magnolia Park, Burbank

This is 907 N. Lima in Burbank's Magnolia Park. It features 4 beds, 3 baths, 2400 sf and has been completely redone inside.  Lima is one of my favorite streets in this terrific neighborhood, and this house is very close to all the cool stores and restaurants.  Plus, it's in the award-winning Roosevelt Elementary district.  Although it's not my listing, please call me if you want to see it -- it's priced at $918,000.

L.A. Times' Ted Rall and megamansions

As a Realtor, I know I shouldn't post this.  But Ted Rall is such a genius...

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Too good/horrific NOT to repost

Thanks for this, #Terriblerealestatephotos from Tumblr! I guess if you don't mind going in the kitchen, you also don't mind doing it in front of a large window.

Groupon and real estate

Groupon now has a "deal" for "express" real estate licensing classes. Great.  Just what the world needs -- more barely-knowledgeable Realtors.

Monday, May 05, 2014

It's the beginning of May -- where are the L.A. area houses for sale?

If you are searching for a home in the SFV or elsewhere in the L.A. area, you may be wondering why there aren't more homes for sale.  Or you may be wondering where the homes for sale are.  You're right -- inventory is very, very short, except for condos and townhomes.  And many, many other buyers are looking for a home as well.  Here's what you can do: 1) consider a different area.  I know you want to live in Silverlake or Studio City, but why not consider neighborhoods in Glendale or North Hollywood? Prices will be lower there, too, and most neighborhoods offer lots of attractions that you may like. 2) If you don't have a family, consider a smaller home or a condo.  You can usually always add on to a single family home, and if you need a home office you might be able to convert your dining room or garage space (I bet 95% of garage spaces are used for storage and not for parking.) I know, I know; this is all so easy for me to say.

If you are thinking about selling your home, you are probably wondering: a) where you're going to go.  The homes you may move into are just as expensive as the house you're selling.  So there goes your profit. And b) you want to stay put for your commute or your kids' school or another good reason.  Selling and moving will be really tough.  I don't have suggestions here, except: home prices have come roaring back.  If you are considering making a life change, this year may present great opportunities for you, at least as far as home profits go.  Will home prices continue to increase? Nobody knows.  If you're thinking about selling, I'm happy to prepare a comparative market analysis for you that will show you what you may gain -- just call me.

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Pet Adoption Fair in Burbank this weekend

Need a new, four-legged member of your household? (You know you want one. Or two.  And it's kitten and puppy season.) Or just need your furry kid microchipped or vaccinated? Please come to the Tour for Life Pet Adoption Fair in Burbank's #MagnoliaPark this Sunday, May 4, between 11 and 3.  It will be held in the BofA parking lot at 3400 W. Magnolia. I'll be there helping out at the #MagnoliaPark table.  Please stop by and say hi.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Game of Thrones comes to Sherman Oaks

An agent in my office just sold Lena Headey, aka #Cersei of Game of Thrones, a home in Sherman Oaks. Is a war for control of Sherman Oaks about to take place? Does this mean that the San Fernando Valley is now part of the seven kingdoms?

One hundred degrees in So Cal today?!

Yikes! It's going to be hot today. Stay inside and stay hydrated.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Ask me anything: is Spring the best time to buy or sell a house?

Is spring the best time to buy or sale a house? If you live in a place that's buried in snow four months a year, yes.  Not here.  Here, the best time to list or buy is whenever it's the best time to list or buy for you.  Here's what I can tell you about seasons (what are those?) and Los Angeles area real estate:
- Because the days are longer, you can squeeze more showings into the spring and summer months;
- Inventory usually is shortest in December.  But that doesn't mean that houses don't sell -- they do; and just as rapidly as any other time if they are in good condition and priced well.
Please let me know if I can give you any other insights into good times to list or buy a home.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Know anybody that wants to buy a townhouse in Studio City?

I think a townhouse is coming up in our Studio City building.  The unit is empty, and workers have been there all week painting, fixing, and installing new floors.  And...I just noticed the telltale lockbox installed on our front railing.  The unit is 2 beds, 2.5 baths, den and probably around 1600 sf.  I imagine that it will list for $525k or more.  Please contact me if you're interested, and if you'd like nice neighbors.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Prices rising, sales declining, says L.A. Times

Today's L.A. Times headline was Southland Home Prices Surge, but Sales Plummet.  Hey, welcome to my world! Click here for the article.  Here are some of the article highlights:

"The market for high-dollar homes is hopping, with sales on the rise and buyers launching bidding wars. But sales of low- to medium-priced homes have plummeted during the same period — with many potential buyers priced out.

Housing affordability is really taking a bite out of the market," said Leslie Appleton-Young, chief economist for the California Assn. of Realtors. "We haven't seen this issue since 2007."


and

"...declines came even as sales of high-end homes increased. Sales of homes costing $800,000 or more grew 12%, while sales of homes costing less than $500,000 fell at twice that rate.

So if it seems like a case of "the rich and the rest," it is. 

If you are even remotely considering selling your home in the next two years, it's a good idea to start your preparations now.   Nobody knows how long this market will last.  Please call me to discuss the procedure, your home's value, and the near future.