About Doug Willis

I see so many properties listed for sale that have absolutely no creativity or marketing plan. They are compromised by a poor description, terrible photography and a real estate agent that doesn't understand how to sell a property. If the most important issue to you is getting your home sold, allow me the opportunity to meet with you and show you the results a real marketing program will produce.

Low Inventory, Higher Prices

Could low housing inventory replace Location, Location, Location as the primary factor determining home values?

Buying a home today is analogous to enrolling a child in private kindergarten. The enrollment process involves visiting 4-5 area schools, paying an application fee and then waiting to see if your application has been accepted. To help eliminate the odds, you do this several times, hoping that one of the schools will accept your child for Fall enrollment. As you go from school to school, you begin to see the same people vying for those available few spots.

Buying a house today is much the same. A new listing hits the market, the agent holds an open house with a specific deadline to submit an offer. All of the offers are submitted, the better offers receive a counter and then one buyer is chosen. As you move from open house to open house, you begin to see the same prospective home buyers all previewing the same properties.

Another Sellers Market

If you are attempting to buy a house, you are well aware of the issues and obstacles you face. You know how tough it is. If you haven’t been following Pasadena Real Estate, you are more than likely unaware that we are in another sellers’ bull market. It pretty much appeared overnight.

Homes are selling within the first week, with multiple offers over asking price. There is a lot of cash out there all waiting to be invested. The market is advancing so fast that values are moving ahead of appraisals and creating problems for buyers with high loan to value ratios.

Low Housing Inventory is the New Location

Low Housing Inventory is the New Location

This market is anything but predictable, most never thought it would fall to the degree it did, let alone rise like a Phoenix so quickly. Predicting prices has become a moving target.

The house used in this post just closed escrow on April 1. Listed for $399,000 it sold for $525,000. Lots of character and charm in its 1153 square feet with 2 beds & 1 bath. However it sits right on the corner of the 210 freeway access road. This selling price is more characteristic of a home surrounded by other houses away from the busy intersection, speeding cars and emergency vehicles.

But then again, this market is unpredictable.

Homebuyer’s Beware of that New Car Smell

The salesman hands you the keys and says “take it for a spin”. You are now sitting behind the wheel of that new car you’ve been dreaming about. You melt into the seat, the radio plays softly and the smell, oh that new car smell!

Buying a new car and a new house have many emotional similarities with one exception, there is no Lemon Law for that new house you just spent several hundred thousand dollars acquiring. It’s yours with all of the amenities and all of the problems. “Problems, what problems” you say?

Buyer beware the house of cards

Look past the new kitchen and shining hardwood floors

The lure of a new house with its freshly painted grass, manicured flower beds and new granite kitchen is hard to resist, but underneath all of that spit-shine and polish, are you Buying a House of Cards?

Real estate flips, buyers and investors who buy a property, fix, remodel and resell have become commonplace in the last few years. Thanks to the highs, then lows of the real estate market, distressed properties for sale, short sales and bank foreclosures have offered increased opportunities for wealth. These properties are usually very easy to spot.

5 Common Characteristics of the Flip

  1. A Shiny New Appearance – new paint, new windows, new yard, refinished hardwood floors, new kitchen, remodeled baths.
  2. They are Vacant – the previous owner probably lost the home due to the inability to pay the mortgage
  3. Few Disclosures – don’t look for a lot of comments and in depth explanations. It’s hard to define the history of that 80 year old house when you have owned it for 3 months.
  4. Short Sale or Trustee Sale -the current owner purchased the property through a Short Sale or Trustee Sale. It’s much easier to add value and make money if you buy below market price.
  5. Entity Ownership -lastly, the current owner maybe a corporation or some form of Business entity.

Okay, we have identified the characteristics of the real estate flip, but so what?

At this point, most home buyer’s would walk in and immediately succumb to the new car smell. But what is under the hood, what kind of gas mileage are we talking here?

Systems of the House

It’s very easy to address the things you see and have an immediate attraction. But what about the things you may not be so familiar with. What about the systems of the house, more specifically the electrical, plumbing, foundation, HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) and the roof.

These are the not so glamorous parts of the house. These are items its harder to place a value on because as a home buyer you tend to place a value on the things you see. You can see the value in a new kitchen, but can you see the same value in new copper plumbing?

Chances are you cannot and this is why that shiny new home may have some underlying issues you need to carefully investigate. Real estate investors / flippers are in it solely for one reason…profit. The more money they put into the house, the less that goes into their pocket.

New roofs are expensive as are new copper pipes. There is a certain amount of money someone will invest to turn it around and make money, so you put it into the amenities that add the most value.

The best way to protect yourself is to hire a very good and thorough home inspector. But don’t just stop with a general inspection, check the fireplace and the sewer lines. These require specialized inspections and may prove very costly later on if you are facing repairs.

Of particular note, if some parts or areas of the house, don’t exhibit the same quality as the remodeled interior, that may be a tip off. The owner may have reached their budget and decided to leave those repairs up to the new homeowner.

If that’s you, just make sure you have investigated the condition of the house as best you can. Lemons are for ice tea!

The Debut of “The House of Pasadena”

Should a blog about real estate include exclusive content which only addresses the local real estate market?

Our goal was always to inform and to educate and throw in a little humor from time to time. However, even I must admit market facts and statistics become dry after a while, and dry can be just this side of boring. Over the course of the last several years we have looked at different alternatives to keep things new and exciting. Restaurant reviews, points of interest and entertainment; well there were plenty of other sites doing that, therefore our challenge was to offer articles and anecdotes that no one else was creating.

The “House of Pasadena” to Debut

In consumer products the key to category growth is new products. Authoring a real estate web site is not really any different. You have to produce content that keeps people engaged, wanting to read what you have to say. In the late 90’s, everybody wanted to be a day trader as the stock market reached new highs. Then the bottom fell out and a lot of people lost interest in following the market. Real estate was the same way as many novice beginners loved the label “investor” when in fact the only qualification was just purchasing a book at the book store and had never really owned any property.

If you only offer articles on real estate, people will generally visit your site when they are in the market to buy or sell a home. Our challenge became, “How do we provide creative content that remains real estate focused but also provides entertainment value?

The House of Pasadena

There's more to real estate than contracts and escrow

We will soon introduce an ongoing series about life in the Pasadena real estate arena.

There’s more to real estate than just contracts and escrow. A lot more.

These stories will feature a fictionalized account (could be some truth to that) of our protagonist and the characters he/she has to work with on an ongoing basis. You will experience the dramatics and the emotion that this agent deals with and how they get past the insincerity and the phoniness that has become so pervasive in this business. Many agents outside the Pasadena area have spoken about the “uppity” attitude of agents in the Pasadena area, who single handedly think they are responsible for increasing home values.

The author has assured us that the names will be changed to protect the guilty agents who make this industry so fun, exciting and complete with drama.

Pasadena’s Eaton Canyon Golf Course

Mention playing golf in Pasadena and your first thought is probably Brookhaven Golf Club. 36 holes of golf around the Rose Bowl. Two great options for local residents who want to tee it up and imagine they hear the gallery roar “You da Man” as a tee shot rips of the face of a driver as big as a catcher’s mitt.

Greens at Eaton Canyon are fast and in great shape

Over on the other side of town in the Hastings Ranch area is another option for Pasadena golfers. Eaton Canyon is a 9 hole course which offers several challenging holes and tests your skill at shot making. I had the opportunity to play it last week and like many areas of Pasadena, it too suffered extensive damage from the recent high winds.

Billy, Billy, Billy

I knew I was going to enjoy Eaton Canyon immediately. When I went to the driving range I got to practive of real grass. Not the artificial turf mats that are like a rug remnant and so commonplace. Hitting off of real grass makes such a differnece to me and the purists of the game but from a cost and maintenance standpoint has to be much more expensive to maintain than the shag carpet found elsewhere.

A couple of other things I really liked about Eaton Canyon was the fee for 9 holes was less than $20. Where else can you find a bargain like that? On top of that, the greens were magnificent. Lightning fast, but impeccably maintained. Very surprising for a small 9 hole golf course.

Spending the afternoon at Eaton Canyon is a good test of golf and a fun alternative to the other golf course in Pasadena.

Victory Park in Pasadena

Victory Park Guide
One of the attractions of Northeast Pasadena is Victory Park. I think if you had to map the center of the Northeast Pasadena rea, your compass would fall right in the middle of Victory Park. Located at the intersection of Paloma and Altadena Drive, it provides an excellent opportunity for the weekend athlete to reminisce about the glory days of years past only to be reminded again on Monday morning that our body isn’t in quite the shape we thought it was in.

The facilities at Victory Park provide the youth of the area the chance to develop their skills and sportsmanship through an assortment of activities including AYSO Soccer, Pop Warner Football, and Baseball. For the bicycling enthusiast, paved paths provide a nice tour around the perimeter of the park and there are also picnic facilities available for friend and family gatherings as well as birthday parties. If you plan on hosting an event it is probably a good idea to check with the City of Pasadena to make reservations or acquire a permit.

Saturday Farmer’s Market

From the hours of 8:30 to 12:30 every Saturday, local residents are treated to one of the best Farmers Markets in the area.

Victory Park in Pasadena

Victory Park in Northeast Pasadena

An abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables are trucked in and set up and the process seems to be organized as well as any grocery store you could visit. There are fresh flowers, honey, nuts, fish, some entertainment, coffee and fresh bread. It’s worth checking out and just visiting for the experience. We make it a point to take our guests when they visit so they can get a flavor of what we have here in Northeast Pasadena.

If your desire has been to live close enough to the park you can walk, you might want to check out the local neighborhoods of Daisy Villa, Victory Park or Brigden Ranch.

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South Pasadena Home Sales June 2010

Over the last couple of weeks I have been commenting on home sales in Pasadena, noting that sales have begun to soften and market statistics have been reflective of what was happening on a national level. As is the case, the Pasadena housing market is not an indication of what is necessarily going on in South Pasadena.

Months Supply of Inventory

Take inventory or the number of homes for sale as an example. In Pasadena, inventory increased by 27% from June to July. For the same period, inventory only increased by 3% in South Pasadena. However we need to quantify this number and add some perspective. The past 12 months in Pasadena produced sales of 829 Single Family Homes. In South Pasadena this number represented only about 15% of the market size or 122 unit sales of Single Family homes.

South Pasadena Home Prices per Square Foot

There are several ways to gauge housing market activity. Individually each measure may produce results that are misleading until you have an opportunity to do further investigation. This often leads to an explanation such as “things aren’t exactly as they seem”. In other words, just reading the headlines without the full article may present a distorted and an inaccurate view of current results. Sales price per square foot can often be misleading. The mix of houses which are sold can have a big impact on this measurement. By most accounts, sales per square foot decreased from June to July. In South Pasadena, the numbers were $471 in June, but decreased to $424 in July. Pasadena had the same experience with $391 in June, and $388 in July. Keep in mind however there were 11 recorded home sales in South Pasadena in June and 12 in July. Pasadena recorded 82 home sales in June and 76 in July. Due to the small number of home sales in South Pasadena, monthly variations can be proportionately much, much wider.

The Number of Homes for Sale

One of the best indicators of a slowing housing market is the increasing amount of unsold inventory. Remember, one month does not a trend make. However, when trends develop based upon 2-3 concurrent months and also upon a “this year” versus “last year” basis, its more than just an unexplained monthly blip. This is one area where Pasadena and South Pasadena apparently find some coexistence. Inventory increased 16% for both cities on a month to month basis. The 42 single family homes which were for sale in South Pasadena were the highest monthly level based upon the last 15 months.

What’s Next

The issue that has many analyst concerned about a slowing market is based upon a couple of indicators that normally indicate a very bullish market. Mainly, interest rates are very attractive and people’s housing dollar is going much further. Low interest rates translate into more affordability bringing more people into the housing market, typically. This time of year market conditions dictate we should be witnessing increased activity. Economic conditions however are overriding conventional wisdom.

South Pasadena Single Family Homes For Sale

Take a look at all homes in South Pasadena for sale.
Take Me To The Map


Pasadena Home Prices Trend Higher

Pasadena home buyers continue to express optimism in our local real estate market as evidenced by the housing statistics for the month of April. While “SALES” and “PENDED” Single Family units were basically flat in April ’10 vs April ’09, there were other signs of encouraging news. The median price increased to $710,000 last month compared to only $550,000 in April ’09 (+29%) and was also up from the most recent March number of $629,000 (+13%). Now median prices don’t portend to tell the whole story, but they are a good barometer of trends happening in our market.

Prices Per Square Foot Increasing

A good check and balance is to also see what is happening with prices on a square foot basis. There is more good news here as the Price per Square Foot increased to $426 up from the March number of $379 and well above the April ’09 figure of $384 per square foot. The mix of property being sold also affects the Price per Square Foot. Last year we were seeing a higher number of homes sold in the lower price ranges as many of the foreclosures and bank owned property entered the market below the $500,000 price point. In April 2009 there were 25 recorded home sales at a price of $500,000 or below compared to last month when there were only 17 sales.

Also this year, sales of higher priced homes are beginning to reappear. Qualifying restrictions for a jumbo mortgage has also become easier than it was last year evidenced by the number of homes sold over $900,000. In April ’09 only 11 homes sold in this category compared to 21 last month, an increase of 90%.

Impact of Home Buying Incentives

As we approach the end of tax incentives which are supposedly designed to get people off of the fence and into a house, what will happen once they expire? I don’t believe we will see much of an impact due to the price of Pasadena real estate. Incentives make a difference when you purchase a home for $100,000 as you can in many parts of the country. With our median price of over $700,000 and a return to higher priced homes, incentives are a marginal part of a home buyers decision. The main key to continuing prosperity will be the price of money. In the last few days, interest rates on 30 year fixed rate conforming loans have tested 50 year lows. Interest rates which influence affordability and how much home someone can buy will be the key to continued improvement.

Price per Square Ft Pasadena

Single Family - Average Price / Sq Ft

Single Family, sold and pended

Single Family - For Sale, Sold & Pended

Median Price of Pasadena Single Family Home

Pasadena Single Family Home Median Prices

Where are Pasadena Condo & Townhome Prices Headed?

If your Pasadena home search has been somewhat frustrating trying to find that nice 3 bed, 2 bath traditional for under $600,000, you may want to take a second look at the condo and townhome market. These two markets although similar in

The sales cycle has been harder to predict than in Single Family homes

nature are also marked by sharp contrasts. According to the Pasadena home search, there are about 230 condominium properties for sale in the city. What is not being reported is all of the recent new construction properties that are for sale, but are not listed in the MLS.

There is a very good reason for this. The developers do not want you to see how many of these units are currently unsold. If you knew you might be more aggressive on your offering price. Many of these new units now for sale were being purchased and planned several years ago when the market was red hot and appeared there was no end in sight. The other misfortune assumed that Pasadena had a voracious appetite for high end units. With most of this development happening in the downtown and in the high retail areas, land was selling at a premium. The assumption was people would pay more to live in areas with so many walkable amenities.

Current Market Conditions

These two graphs present different stories. The reason being the top chart is based on actual closed sales and the bottom is based on what is currently “for sale”. The median price of units sold in the last couple of

Increasing Inventory Means Lower Prices

months have ranged form $425.0 to $450.0. Whereas the bottom chart indicated that the median price has fallen about $45,000 since January 1, 2010 and currently resides around $500.0. On the flip side inventory has also increased around 10% from the first of the year also.
So what does this mean?
What this really indicates is some softness in the upper end condo market. It could also be evidence of trade up buyers opting for single family homes as opposed to a different lifestyle associated with communal living.

Price Direction

Unlike the current activity in the Single Family market, we don’t see multiple bids on condos and townhomes, nor do we see evidence of closing prices above current asking prices. Home sellers in this category are going to have to remain negotiable for the foreseeable future and developers may resort to interest rate buy downs in lieu of reduced prices.

REMAX in South Pasadena, Pasadena

The decision to join or affiliate yourself with a real estate company in Pasadena or South Pasadena offers many choices. We looked at several before we made the decision to join REMAX. Ballooncorrected2

Not to say it was an easy decision, but when we considered the strength of the REMAX brand, their ongoing commitment to National TV advertising, the educational opportunities available to the brokers and agents, and the charitable support provided to the Susan G Komen foundation and the Children’s Miracle Network, the decision became quite obvious.


We also considered the advantages REMAX represents in our area and believe the opportunities are numerous. Upon joining REMAX agents have access to the following:

  1. REMAX University – ongoing training from some of the best instructors in the industry, allowing agents to obtain professional designations (ABR, CRS, SRES, etc.) while improving their selling and marketing skills.
  2. REMAX Mainstreet – an individualized portal with industry topics, current news and events and an access point to everything REMAX.
  3. REMAX Design Center – includes thousands of templates and designs allowing REMAX agents to create flyers, postcards, and virtual tours all within a few minutes to successfully market your property for sale.
  4. REMAX Leadstreet – offers each agent a customizable web site, contact management and email campaigns. Plus buyer and seller leads are distributed to each agent at no cost which offers a huge benefit compared to some of the other companies.
  5. CompensationREMAX agents are consistently some of the highest producers in the industry. When you join REMAX, you become part of this wonderful organization that is committed to more than just real estate.

Buying or Selling a Home?

REMAX provides their agents the technology tools necessary to sell your home in today’s market. While most companies leave marketing to the individual budget of the agent, REMAX continues its National TV campaigns and billboard advertising driving consumers to REMAX.com. When would be home buyers see a REMAX sign in the front yard, they know they will be dealing with a professional.

Call Us For A Personal Meeting

We are excited about the opportunities we have and would appreciate the opportunity to speak with you. If you are considering buying or selling a house or thinking about your real estate career, work with the best name in the industry. We can be reached at 626-432-4615.

Housing Trifecta Returns to Pasadena

Pasadena home sales which have been on the decline for the last few years have apparently bottomed out and are beginning to show some positive signs. Unit sales for ’09 were 1362 units compared to 1097 for 2008 and increase of 24%.

Total Annual Home Sales in Pasadena

Total Annual Home Sales in Pasadena

What Homes Were Selling?

The market also shifted in terms of price points and the values at which homes were sold with lower price homes comprising a bigger market share of the overall volume. Homes under $600,000 were 64% of overall home sales in Pasadena. In 2006 that number was 42%. It’s not that the under $600,000 market was the just the price of choice, but it is also an indication of the Pasadena housing dollar going further as well as mortgages were much easier to obtain. Many home buyers found that mortgage money available in the $750,000 and above price range was harder to find, especially in the first half of 2009, but conditions began to ease as the year progressed.

Stability Returns

One of the positive signs of 2009 was the consistency of the monthly sales volume. Going back to 2005 and 2006 there was much more of a seasonality factor.

Pasadena Monthly Unit Sales - Residential Real estate

Pasadena Monthly Unit Sales - Residential Real estate

Homes sold in the spring and summer. Last year we really did not see the peaks and valleys in the sales cycle. There were several months where unit volume was centered around 100 units, a good indicator that consumer confidence had returned.

Interest Rates, Home Prices and Time

The adage in real estate has always been location, location and location. However, I think its time we should give careful consideration to introducing a new housing trifecta.

  1. Interest Rates – home prices here in Pasadena are much higher than national averages. As a consequence interest rates have a bigger impact on affordability since we typically borrow more money to pay for our homes. Interest rates this past year have been very low by historical standards, therefore people could qualify for more house.
  2. Home Prices – I think its safe to say home prices have fallen around 20% from their historical highs compounded with the increasing rate of foreclosures. Home prices were more favorable and affordable in 2009.
  3. Time – it takes time to heal a broker heart and for housing markets to recover from the initial shock and bad news that precipatates declines. We spent 2008 adjusting to the shock. When 2009 rolled around home buyers were ready to get back into the market to take advantage of lower rates and prices.

There is much speculation as to the economic recovery and the manner in which it will progress. Lets hope the housing market takes on the “V” shape with 2008 being the bottom and 2010 building on the momentum we have just experienced.