Mortgage rates continued to fall today as the Federal Reserve furthers its action plan to help stimulate demand for homes. Freddie Mac announced that mortgage rates that are hovering around 5.19% this week for a 30-year fixed mortgage haven’t been this low since 1979. Today rates were at 5.0%. Now we’re back to 1971! Earlier this week the Fed cut the federal funds rate to a range of 0 to .25%.As mentioned in the last post, rates are expected to continue falling into January when they may hit 4.5%!
What does that mean if you are trying to refi? Real estate loans always come in two parts: the borrower and the property. Each has to qualify. Banks now, of course, have considerably tightened their lending standards. Gone [for the most part] are the sub-prime loans, the option ARMs and the stated income, Alt-A, loans. Now, you will have to qualify for your mortgage, so you need the income. And, you still need good credit. Above 720 is for primo rates with descending steps down to about 680. Below that, you may have trouble getting the loan.
That’s one part. The other part of the loan, as always, is your house. This is where things get very dicey as potential refiers have to come out of denial and admit that their home has lost probably at least 30% of value. Banks today will give primo rates only to those wanting loans of 75% LTV, meaning you have at least 25% equity in your home or property.
Psychologically, all of this is very hard to swallow. The enticing cheap homes are there for buyers with income. Unfortunately, the unemplyment rate is soaring. The great deals on refis are there now, too. Then comes the kicker: prices have dropped so much that even good borrowers may not be able to refi because they no longer have the equity they need. Go figure.
Prices continue to slide. June median home value in L.A. County has slipped to $425,000, down $10,000 from last month and 26.7% over May of last year. Our neighbor Orange County is down a remarkably similar 25% to a median of $550,000. Remember prices started their precipitous drop starting last August when the sub-prime mortgage crisis first hit the news and lenders in a panic changed their guidelines almost weekly if not daily. Prices plummeted starting last August so we still have a couple of months to go…
As always, the biggest drops, up to 50% and even above are in Lancaster and the Antelope Valley. Add to that Watts with a 52% drop to a median of $196,000, Compton and other parts of the City of Los Angeles. Similar blue-collar areas in the San Gabriel Valley did better, though it’s still catastrophic. El Monte dropped by about 20% to a low of $350,000; South El Monte took a 30% hit to a median of $342,000. LaPuente is down 35% to about $300,000. Baldwin Park is also down 30% to a median of $300,000. Azusa clocks in at 30% down toa median of $320,000. Pomona averaged over a 30% loss to a median of about $300,000. Duarte is holding up surprisingly well, having lost only 18% to a median of $392,000.
A big surprise is Hacienda Heights which has lost 40% of its value, down to a median of $392,000. Other cities in the San Gabriel Valley aare dipping below the L.A. County median–West Covina to about $399,000, Whittier with five residential ZIPs has three averaging around $350,000, but 90602 and 90603 while still losing 20% in value show median prices of around $475,000. Pasadena, our largest city, is also a mixed bag. Altadena has dropped by 24% over last year, but still posts a median of $524,000, well above the county average. Southwest Pasadena posted an eye-popping 50% increase in value to a median of $1.250,000, while Pasadena 91103 which includes Linda Vista dropped a stomach-churning 58% to an average of $446,000.
So, which areas are still making it? Well, San Marino, not unexpectedly, is still raking it in with a 22% rise over last year to a new median of $1,699,000. Obviously, some buyers are still out there. South Pasadena jumped over 50% to a new median of $1,270,000. Collapsing freeways running through the town apparently don’t deter the very well-off. Our previous champions, Palos Verdes and Rancho Palos Verdes, both have now dropped about 5% to just above the $1,000,000 median mark. Must be tough.
Our own Glendora, San Dimas, La Verne are not doing too badly. Glendora has dropped by about 8% to a median of around $480,000, while San Dimas has dropped 15% to $450,000 and La Verne has plummeted 28% to a median of $479,000. Covina is down around 20% to a median of about $400,000.
Each month continues to show declines. The drops are less radical each succeeding month, yet it is hardly much consolation to homeowners who watch their equity fall away with each passing minute. This crisis is not over yet. Prices most likely will continue to decline for the next few months at least. What most of us homeowners can do now is simply: hang in there…
Think things are getting better? Not really…at least not in the housing market. The good part is that homes are actually selling. The bad part for homeowners is that prices continue to slide.
Median home prices in L.A. County–remember it’s one of the biggest, if not THE biggest county in the entire country–are down 26% from May 2007 to $435,000.
Some parts of the county are far below that–Palmdale, down a whopping 46% to a median of $170,000, La Canada/Flintridge down 36% to a measley $905,000 median, Maywood down 45% to $286,000. There are others, of course, but the outlying areas are hardest hit, followed by working-class cities where folks are the first to feel the effects of a recession in job loss.
Of course, our government continues to tell us we’re not in recession with facts and figures to prove it. For most of us out here in the trenches, it sure feels like a recession.
What about the San Gabriel Valley? How are we doing? For the most part, we are doing better than average. Azusa is down 26% to a median of $334,000. That’s an average percentage drop for the country and Azusa’s median price was always lower. Baldwin Park, LaPuente, Pomona and El Monte are all down more than average [30%, 28%,28%, 34% respectively]. The new medians in those cities are $311,000; $315,000; $295,000; $307,000. All are lower than the county median and always were. Again, these are lower-income communities where the recession will hit first. The foreclosure crisis is hitting here hardest as well.
Then, what about the rest of the San Gabriel Valley? Well, the rest is mostly better than the county average, though home prices are still considerably lower than last year. Covina in all ZIPs is down about 20% to around $400,000. Glendora in 91740 is down 20% to $390,000 while 91741 is down 16% to $496,000. Most Pasadena ZIPs are down. Diamond Bar is down 17% to $557,000.
In some of the better news, some cities are down by far less than the county average. Claremont is down, but only by 13% to $485,000. San Dimas is down 15% to $434,000 and LaVerne is down 14% to $527,000. The shifts from month to month are mainly due to the number of homes sold. And which homes are sold. More and more now, only the lowest-priced homes are selling quickly or the highest-priced homes which are, nevertheless, priced considerably less than last year.
East L.A. County even has a couple of success stories. San Marino continues to do well, rising 15% over last year to a median of $1,800,000. Pasadena’s prestigious 91105 is up 16% to $1,800,000 and 91106 is up 18.5% to $736,000. Well done, Pasadena! Whittier is down in all ZIPs, except 90601 which is up 6% to $491,000.
What does this good news say? To me, it says that buyers are just waiting to snap up bargains, even to the point of driving prices up to get into desirable neighborhoods. The proof is in the rest of L.A. County where other areas are also increasing in value–Rancho Palos Verdes, Palos Verdes Peninsula, Bel-Air, Venice, though areas perceived as over-priced are still losing–Brentwood, Beverly Hills, most of Santa Monica, Malibu...
Values are shifting. Buyers are selecting bargains and leaving the rest.
The lesson? If you’re a buyer, now’s a good time to buy, particularly as mentioned in a previous post, mortgage rates are starting to rise. For homeowners who are happy in their homes–please ignore this and just continue to live there. Prices will rise again in a few years. If you do want to sell, though, you must price your property appropriately or it will never sell.
Here we are almost to June, and now we have the April real estate prices for L.A.County.
As we’ve come to expect, prices are DOWN. For April 2008 as compared to April 2007, prices are down 21%. Since last year the sub-prime crisis hit in August and lenders almost stopped lending for about 7 months, we can expect that downward total to keep plummeting until at least August 2008. And, yes, prices will keep going downward, though at a slower rate until the end of 2008 and into 2009.
Again, as mentioned in previous posts, this is not so shabby really as prices were rising at a rate of 20% and in some places almost 30% for four years straight. The Affordability Index sank to an all-time low and sales stagnated. Now, at least, led by foreclosures and short sales, prices are down to more affordable levels for buyers. And, buyers, especially first-timers, so vital to a healthy real estate market and missing in action for years are returning.
So, where are we this month? L.A. County prices are down 21% for single family homes to a median of $450,000 and condos are down 14% to a median of $307,000. Given the vastness of L.A. County, that doesn’t mean much because everything depends on location.
Thus, Malibu prices are down 20% to a median of $1,735,000, while Pomona’s three zip codes are down 36.7% to a median of $273,000–big difference…. Then, we have Rancho Palos Verdes, a seeming winner just a couple of months ago, down almost 19% to a median of $968,000. Compare that to Baldwin Park down 21.7% to a median of $365,000.
So, which areas are the big winners? There are very few…In the San Gabriel Valley, San Marino’s values jumped 20% to a median of $1,465,000; San Dimas managed a 7% increase in value to a median of $530,000. Claremont and Glendora  eked out a 3% increase to a median of $550,000 and $619,000 respectively. Way to go! Other cities increasing in value include parts of Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, Culver City and Hermosa Beach.
The rest of county posts pretty grim numbers—unless you are a buyer, of course.
Pomona was one of the hardest hit in this area followed by Arcadia [down over 20% to a median of $696,000 averaging its 3 zips], Azusa [ down 23% to a median of $355,000], Covina [down 24.4% to a median of $401,000 averaging its 3 zips] and the beat goes on… Diamond Bar is down 7% to $560,000; Duarte is down 8% to $442,000; even Sierra Madre lost almost 30% to a median of $680,000, while Monrovia is down 9% to $543,000. La Verne leads the pack with a whooping 31% loss in value to a median of $450,000. Pasadena has lost double-digit value in every single area even prestigious 91105.
To better understand what is happening, we do need to keep in mind several factors. First, home owners in some of the originally more inexpensive areas such as Baldwin Park, Covina, Pomona have more modest incomes and so are more likely to suffer in the current economic downturn, losing their homes to foreclosure in greater numbers. Foreclosure sales are about the only game in town at this point, and so are leading the downward price trends in the more inexpensive areas as first-time buyers come into the market.
Conflicting information for properties in more desirable areas–San Marino way up, for instance, while neighboring Arcadia and South Pasadena are way down, San Dimas is up while La Verne is way down when both share the same school district–is more problematic. Often, as with Rancho Palos Verdes, for instance, a few more months of statistics will give us a better idea. Initially, RPV looked immune to the crisis, but as this month’s stats show, it’s turned out to be every bit as vulnerable as neighboring Redondo Beach down about 21% over its 2 zip codes. Time will tell what is really going on.