2009 End-of-Year Roundup: L.A. County Home Values

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Say it ain’t so!! Sorry, but all those  rumors that home values are finally rising again are just silly rumors. Values are slipping less than before, but, countrywide, values continue to decline by about 1/2% per month.  As always, location is terrifically important. It matters greatly where your home is located or where you want to buy. Some areas are tanking while others are increasing slightly.

So, which is which? Do we want the good news or the bad news first? Let’s mix it up a bit. S0me local areas that continue to sink in value include Pomona down around 10% in all ZIPs to around a median of $200,000. El Monte took a pretty big hit dropping about 18% to a median of around $250,000 in all ZIPs. Remember the Station fire? Buyers apparently do as La Canada Flintridge values are down 27% to a median of $876,000. La Puente which has already lost huge value has sunk to a median of about $250,000 across all ZIPs. Trendy during the boom, both Highland Park, Eagle Rock are down substantially [18% and 32% respectively, to medians of $286,000 and $365,000].

So, is there any good news? Well, yes, some local areas are doing quite well, thank you very much. Glendora has slipped less than the county average to a median of $378,000 in 91740 down 2% while 91741 is down almost 7% to $470,000. LaVerne is down 4%, less than the county average to a median of  $420,000, though San Dimas has sunk 25% to a median of $378,000. Covina dropped by about the county average across its ZIPs to about $330,000.

But, there are a few standouts. Altadena has posted a healthy 23% gain over last year to a median of $517,000. Alhambra in 91801 and Monrovia are  up by about 1% to a median of $549,000 and $490,000 respectively. Alhambra’s other  ZIP is down about 1% to $426,000. But, buyers are also flocking to Arcadia, up 8.5% to $807,000 and up 17% to $970000 in 91007.

 

Then, there’s Pasadena also a winner overall. This is where buyers seem to want to live and they are driving up the prices. 91103 is up 5% to $405000, 91104 and 91107 are  up by whopping 23% and 26% to  medians of  $550,000 and $670,000, 91106 is up 1% to a median of about $1.1 mil–not bad! 91105 is the only Pasadena loser, down by a substantial 28% to $675,000.

What about trends? Any new trends across the county? It’s a bit early to say, but it looks as though more pricey areas, especially at the beach are starting to lose value. Palos Verdes is down 44% to a median $1.17 mil along with Rancho Palos Verde down 20% to $850,000. Manhattan Beach is down slightly to a median $1.139 mil. Malibu is down 36% to a median of $1.363 mil. 

Why might this be happening? Rich folks may be different from you and me, but they can count pretty well. Being underwater by $200,000, $300,000 orn $400,000 just doesn’t make economic sense even if you can afford the payments. Better to just walk on by, and that’s what many wealthy home owners are now doing. My big prediction? More will do the same in 2010 as prices continue to decline.  Buyers today, rich or moderate income, are all interested in only one thing: value for their money. Pasadena appears to offer that–at least for the time being–while Malibu does not.

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Why Do You Have Trouble Getting Help With Your Mortgage?

Where’s all the money going? We all have our  ideas… This past week, almost under the radar, the Congress passed yet another “Supplemental” war spending bill–$97 billion for our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan… And, these wars are accomplishing exactly what? Nobody seems to know.  We do know this money is supplemental to the already bloated Defense Department budget which consumes nearly 40% of the total U.S. budget.

How does it break down? Well,f or the 2009 fiscal year, the base budget rose to $515.4 billion. Adding emergency discretionary spending and supplemental spending brings the sum to $651.2 billion.  This does not include many military-related items that are outside of the Defense Department budget, such as nuclear weapons research, maintenance and production (about $9.3 billion, which is in the Department of Energy budget), Veterans Affairs (about $33.2 billion), interest on debt incurred in past wars, or the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (which are largely funded through extra-budgetary supplements, about $170 billion in 2007). As of 2009, the United States government is spending about $1 trillion annually on defense-related purposes.

Military discretionary spending accounts for more than half of the U.S. federal discretionary spending, which is all of the U.S. federal government budget that is not appropriated for mandatory spending. Every year it rises, but it is not sustainable. Soon, the government will not be able to make mandated payments, such as Social Security and Medicare, which are in direct support of its citizens–US–since it will be too impoverished  supporting military adventures abroad and monstrous military expenditures at home. Altogether the US is spending HALF  of the entire world’s military budget, over 8 times as much as the next biggest spender, China.

There you have it. In case you’re wondering why you get no help with health care or your mortgage, that’s why.

tents

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Where Have All the Auto Dealerships Gone?

Nissan Motor Company, Limited Nissan Jidosha K...
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I listen to the news and try to keep up, though it’s pretty hard these days, so I knew that automakers were in trouble. I just didn’t realize how bad it was until last week when I was asked to do a BPO or a mini-appraisal on a vacant auto dealership in El Monte.

Around my home here in Glendora, the Hyundai dealership located in the new Diamond Ridge mall had only been there 3 or 4 years, but last year–kaputski. The cars vanished and overflow from the Toyota dealership filled the vacancy. The vacant one in El Monte had been a Hyundai dealership as well, and, it turned out, the vacant one across the street from it had been a Chevy dealer. That area on Santa Anita near the 10 is supposed to become a regional mall, so I guess there’ll be a good use for the space. The City of El Monte will no doubt want something capable of sending in those now-lost  sales tax dollars.

A BPO requires sold comps and active listings to support the new valuation of the property. What a shock! These comps of disused auto dealers  were everywhere. How had I not noticed the big holes where auto dealerships used to be?  It’s true–I’m not a car person. I can vaguely identify certain brands, but the models or the years are way beyond me.  Nevetheless, auto dealerships are usually BIG and they are usually RIGHT NEXT TO THE FREEWAY. You’d have to be almost blind not to see they were disappearing faster than frogs and toads.

As always, the comps I had were too big or too small; they should be about the same size as the subject , if possible,  kind of like the Three Bears. Also, the comps should be  put to the same use.  Well, that one was easy, vacant turned out to be the normal use these days even if the property had recently sold. So,  we have an active listing in  La Crescenta, a vacant dealership on Foothill.  The most expected buyer?  Someone who will put it to a new use, maybe a government agency or a medical center or an educational institution.  Those are the fail-safe uses, I guess, but I don’t see too many sales tax dollars there.

Then, I did find several sold dealerships in Long Beach both near the Los Coyotes Diagonal.  At least one appeared to be still in business. Hanging on by he fingernails?  Two giant lots had sold in Norwalk,  and I went to take a look. The properties, side by side,  both had enormous newer-looking buildings with plenty of steel buildings in the rear sued for auto repair and the like. One building  is now a used car and rental car company and seemed to have a few customers. The other one  was selling car parts.  Nobody was in the parking lot when I was there. Even the pawn shop across the street had a sign saying “Going Out of Business.”

My subject was a reasonably large dealership, so I couldn’t even look at the myriad of small dealerships that were up for sale just about everywhere. No takers there.  Another sold comp  I actually went and inspected was in the Puente Hills Auto Mall along the 60. That one really gave me a turn. Six acres, a former Nissan dealership sold for about $7 million–imagine 6 prime acres right next to the freeway exit, visible from the freeway–now vacant with a chain link fence preventing egress to the giant lot, most of which didn’t even have enough time as a dealership to get paved over. It’s just dirt.  When I stopped to take a picture of the devastation, signs of life emerged–a security guard was right there watching the entire 35 second procedure.

Not only the Nissan dealership, but almost every other dealership in the mall was empty–one after the other. It’s a regular ghost town over there…All this happened and I hadn’t even noticed. That’s pathetic… Now that I think of it–aren’t there a bunch of dealerships going vacant along the 10 in Montclair? Where else are these ghost dealers?

row_of_cars

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L.A. County Home Prices: February 2009

South Pasadena City Hall
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The news is still grim and grimmer for February 2009. L.A. County median home value has now sunk to an almost unbelievable $295,000. This represents a 37% drop over the previous year, but that’s only part of the story as prices had already sunk more than 10% by that date. Remember prices started to slide in September, October 2007.

Part of the reason for the precipitous drop in home values, as mentioned here repeatedly, is the wipe-out occurring in outlying areas, such as Lancaster [over 50% decline] and Littlerock [64% decline] which were offering many new homes to commuters. These homes are now almost worthless and dropping all the time due to adjustable mortgages, sub-prime loans and repossessions, in short the panoply of ills we have all learned about in the last year as our economy has tanked. Other areas of massive decline in L.A. County include Watts [61% down], Firestone Park [-52%], Eagle Rock [-51%] and Boyle Heights [-55%].

In the San Gabriel Valley, the eastern part of the L.A. County, the situation is not so bad, though, as always, working-class areas are hardest hit. In fact, only Pomona in the San Gabriel Valley comes close to the dire drops of northern L.A. County. Across its three ZIPs, Pomona has lost 40% to a median of $200,000 in 91766, 37% to a median of $195,000 in 91767 and in 91767 anothrer 37% drop to a median of $185,000.  Marching these declines are only Azusa at 47% drop to $235,000, followed by South El Monte at negative 38%.

The biggest surprise has to be  La Verne down 38% to a median of $369,000. If this trend holds, in fact, this would make LaVerne the biggest bargain east of the 605 because it has housing stock that is for the most part very well maintained along with a very good school system and plenty of infrastructure support.

For the rest of the east, Baldwin Park is down 31% to a median of $255,000,  Covina is down about 20% to a median of about $350,000 except in the South Hills where it’s down barely 2% to a median of $478,000 with just a couple of sales. Sales are weak  in Glendora 91740 where the median has dropped 25% to  $350,000; even more anemic sales in 91741 show a rise of 36% to a median of $660,000. Neither figure is reliable as sales are too scanty to know what is going on there.

Rounding out the east, Claremont has essentially held its own for the year with a median of  $570,000. Diamond Bar has dropped 11% to a median of $451,000. San Dimas has gained 10% over last year with a median of $543,000. Over its three ZIPs, West Covina has lost over 25% of its home values falling to a median of about $410,000.

On the west side of the 605 Sierra Madre has gained 2% to a median of $745,000. San Marino has gained 36%, but that is based on only 4 sales and so means little. South Pasadena has remained stable with a median of $725,000, again based on only a couple of sales. Arcadia has taken quite a dip-42% in 91006 to $485,000 and 14% negative in 91007 to $750,000. Some of these medians may seem high,but when you’ve paid more than a million dollars for your property, it’s no picnic watching it plumment to even $750,000.

Duarte is down 27% to $295,000 while Monrovia is down 30% to a median $400,000–both based on quite a few sales. Altadena is down 19% to a median of $443,000. Our major city, Pasadena, as always shows mixed results. In prestigious 91106 the median value is still over $1,000,000, a slight increase, again based on a negligible number of sales. 91107 shows a drop of 10% to $630,000, 91105 a 16% drop to $773,000, 91104 13% negative to $557,000 and 91103 a 34% drop to $310,000 median.

The situation does not appear to be improving significantly, but I can say that many of the stats were based on so few sales as to make them meaningless.  Few sales is also a negative in itself, of course, but  the coming of Spring to the Southland also opens the homehunting season for buyers who this year have an amazing array of help available to them in tax credits, higher FHA loan limits, and various city and county grants.

On the positive side,  perhaps Obama’s Plan will help some of these underwater homeowners. I am always available for discussion at 626-641-0346 or email at drdbroker@yahoo.com. The new administration has presented some plans to help those suffering from the precipitous drop in home values.

Figures are courtesy of MDA DataQuick in LaJolla, supplied by L.A. Times.

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First-Time Home Buyers: Help from City of Pasadena

beautiful-building-of-city-hall-in-pasadena-ca-s

In previous posts, I’ve discussed federal help for first-time home buyers. First-time buyer means anyone who has not purchased a home in the past 3 years.

All financial aid programs have financial limits, but  a variety of  LOCAL programs are available for low-income first-time home buyers.These programs are offered in many Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Orange County cities. These counties also all have programs to aid first-time home buyers.

In this area, the City of Pasadena has a program for buyers under certain income limits. And, buyers who meet these limits can receive up to $200,000 on a home price of up  to $425,000! That’s terrific! Here’s the chart:

Family size 1

$50,300

Family size 2

$57,400

Family size 3

$64,600

Family size 4

$71,800

Family size 5

$77,500

Family size 6

$83,300

At the moment, the City of Pasadena’s program, like most of the other ones offered, is OUT OF MONEY. Beginning in the new fiscal year, July 1, City of Pasadena program and several others in our area will be funded again.

Right now, I am gathering a list of buyers so we can prepare and be ready with a property set to go as soon as the program funds again. Working closely with a local lender who specializes in these programs, I plan to help my clients be among those who benefit from these plans BEFORE THE MONEY RUNS OUT.  The money does run on fairly quickly, so, if you think you might qualify, call now!!

Call me to get on the list of buyers. Call me for info about programs in other cities and other counties.

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Obama’s Housing Plan: Problems for California

Obama’s recently announced Housing Stabilization Plan is good as far as it goes, and it goes $25 billion worth. California will get a good chunk of that taxpayer dough, but many homeowners here will not be able to benefit from the plan.

Refinancing becomes an option for some because Obama’s plan allows for refis up to 105% of equity. Say you owe $300,000 on your home. You could borrow up to$315,000. That’s a better deal than the normal 80% of equity allowed for a refi, but it’s hardly going to help much in California where prices have tumbled 25% to 50% or even 70%, depending on the area,   in a bit over a year.   Plus, of course, anyone who refinances must have the income to qualify.

Then, there’s the loan modification option, also sweetened considerably by Obama’s plan. For one, borrowers who have struggled to stay current are now eligible for loan mods as well as those who have missed payments. Here’s the problem, though, if you want a loan mod, you need to show income and unemployment is not acceptable. With California’s zooming unemployment rate, many who need loan mods won’t be able to get them for lack of income. Across the country, nearly 12% of homeowners are in arrears on their mortgages or already in foreclosure. This is a disaster not only for the homeowners, but for all of us . In California, the latest figures show 13% in arrears or in foreclosure as compared to, say, Florida where 20% are in that position. .

Besides job loss, another huge factor is loss of value. Estimates of homes  with  negative equity vary, but it’s around  12 million homeowners, about 25% of all homeowners in the U.S. either now owe more than their homes are worth or are within 5% of being so. Almost 2 million Californians are in that unfortunate situation with about 300,000 in the L. A. area. A research firm, First American CoreLogic, estimates that 723,000 California mortgages are in “severe” negative equity with loan amounts 125% or more of the home’s value. That’s about one-third of the country’s 2.2 million such loans.

house-in-watersmall

Other states have greater percentages of loans in trouble, but smaller populations and so fewer loans. Nevada, for instance, has 330,000 underwater loans, very similar to the L.A. area, but that represents an astounding 55.1% of all loans in Nevada. Michigan, economically sick for a long time, has 459,000 such loans or 40% of all loans in the state. Arizona has 31% of its loans underwater or 407,000. Florida, far more populous, has 30% of its loans in negative territory, but that’s 1, 284,000 loans. California, as mentioned, has 1, 900,000 or 29.5% of its loans underwater. Thus  the Big Four which  account for almost half of all the foreclosures in the nation. Rounding out the top ten are Georgia [23%, 335,000], Ohio [23%, 435,000] Colorado [21.5%, 225,000], New Hampshire [20%, 33,560] and Virginia [19.6%, 219,282].

Obama’s plan will help California, but, clearly, with our gigantic population so many cannot be allowed to go under. Obama and company need to come up with more creative ways to help California’s underwater homeowners.

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Southern California Home Values: More Bad News

As noted here, L. A. County home values have now dropped 36% in one year.

But, that time period does not show the depth of the plunge. Southern California median home values have dropped 50.4% from the peak of the housing bubble. This is partly a statistical anomaly: few top-of-the-line or new homes were selling. This 50% figure is an aggregate of all SoCal counties. Some counties have it far worse and we know which they are. Riverside prices have plunged 55% from $432,000 median to $195,000. San Bernardino had it worse: median values are down from their height of $380,00 57.4% to $162,000.

Adding to the general misery is the news that about 20% of all mortgage holders in the U.S. are underwater or owe more than their homes are worth. California’s rate of negative equity is 30% of mortgage holders placing it on a par with Florida–in 5th place. It’s not quite so bad in L.A. County even with the statistical drag of  the Antelope Valley and the High Desert areas. In L.A. County about 23% of homeowners are in negative territory.

Of course, owing more than the home is worth is a difficult situation for homeowners. It hardly seems worth the struggle to make the payment. In fact, many don’t. They may have made a” business decision” [does it make sense to pay on a $400,000 mortgage when the house is worth $300,000?]  More likely,  they can no longer afford the payment due to job loss, job cutbacks or readjusting mortgages. Across the country,  4% of mortgage holders were at least 60 days late in the last quarter of 2008. A year earlier, the figure was 3%.

How’s California doing? Not so good, as we might expect, given the rising unemployment statistics. Of California home owners 6.9%  were categorized as delinquent in Q4 08. This compares to Florida, highest in the nation with 9.5% rate. We are still behind also Nevada and Arizona.

4-horsemen

But, these four populous states really are like the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Their condition does presage disaster for the rest of the country. We four are huge markets for the rest of the country and the world. California alone has something like the 10th largest economy in the world. If our economic engine is stilled, what will happen to our trading partners and our fellow citizens in other states?

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