Housing Trifecta Returns to Pasadena


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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.

Pasadena on Parade


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As the clock approaches midnight on New Years Eve, the media focus and the national attention will begin to gradually shift from New York’s Time Square to the City of Pasadena.

All eyes are on Pasadena and the Rose Bowl Parade

All eyes are on Pasadena and the Rose Bowl Parade

As the television beams pictures of the cold and dreary east coast to the warm sunny skies in the west, local Pasadena residents can be proud that our city will be at the forefront of the college sports world as we host the BCS game on January 7th between #2 Texas and #1 Alabama. The Rose Bowl Stadium is familiar territory for Texas having played here in 2006 when they defeated USC in the final seconds 41 to 38.


Visitors to Pasadena will have plenty to do and see between the Parade and Rose Bowl game on January 1 and the BCS Championship game on the 7th. Prefer to watch the Parade at home? You can still have an opportunity to see the floats up close. If you have the chance to do this I would urge you to take advantage of it. Television just does not capture the beauty or intricate detail and design of these wonderful exhibits. Parade float viewing times are available from January 1 – 3.
The Texas Longhorns will play in the BCS Game in Pasadena

The Texas Longhorns will play in the BCS Game in Pasadena

California Dreaming

Many cities can put on their Sunday best for vacationers and visitors, but how many of them can do it in the dead of winter? With overnight temperatures dipping into the low 40’s lately, daytime temps have been in the mid to high 60’s. The crystal blue skies and mountain views are sure to leave an indelible impression as many visitors begin to how nice it would be to live here.

As for myself, I know it would be very hard to return to someplace that actually has winter. Now that you have visited you may begin to understand why the Los Angeles area does not have a professional football team. It was once explained to me, the weather is just to nice to sit inside and watch TV.

Short Sale Terms to Ease


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As the number of homes entering foreclosure in Pasadena continues to increase, homeowners are looking for some relief in the process known as a short sale. A short sale occurs when the proceeds of the house are not enough to pay off the existing mortgage balance. This process allows the homeowner to sell the property as usual, however it is sold with a contingency that the final approval must come form the bank.

Pasadena foreclosure filings are approaching 700 units

Pasadena foreclosure filings are approaching 700 units

Ask most real estate agents their opinion on short sales and you’re likely to receive a negative response. The reason …… a short sale usually consumes a lot of time and resources and there is no guarantee that the bank will approve the sale. The other reason that you are not likely to hear….the agent does not have the training or information involved on how to successfully complete a short sale.

Short sales can be encumbered by two loans on the property, usually a first and second and many times these are with two different lenders. If the loans are with the same company, there is an excellent chance that department within the same bank do not talk to each other. The negotiation and follow up skills of the real estate professional are critical.

Short Sale Submission Packet

Lenders are being inundated with reams of paper and short sale proposals, however there is certain documentation they require and they usually require it correct the first time or you may find your proposal back at the bottom of an ever growing pile.

Before an offer is received, lenders typically want to see 2 years of tax returns, two recent months of bank statements, recent pay stubs, a personal financial worksheet, a hardship letter explaining why you cannot make your house payment and the listing agreement. If your self employed they will want a profit & loss statement.

Once an offer is received, they require a HUD – 1, showing all of the costs as well as the final proceeds, the buyers pre-approval letter and proof of funds. I usually go a bit further and provide an explanation showing how many properties in the area are in foreclosure including a market analysis and also the complete listing detail of the property so that they can see how long it has been on the market and the price it was offered, as well as price reductions that were taken.

New Timelines Announced

As mentioned above, the time involved in a short sale can be extreme. However, it looks like all of that is about to change. new short sale guidelines announced by the Treasury Department are going to dramatically reduce the amount of time involved in the bank approval process. Previously decision times could come anywhere from 60 days to 6 months, however under the new guidelines banks will be required to inform the parties involved in 10 days. This is major legislation. I believe it will have much more impact than any of the previously designed assistance geared towards helping homeowners in distress and the less than favorable results that have been achieved.

Are Pasadena Home Prices Headed Higher?


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Pasadena home prices which were in a nose dive for about 2 1/2 years are rebounding. For all intents and purposes, it appears the bottom was reached in January 2009

Pasadena Home Prices

Pasadena Home Prices

and we have been in recovery mode since then. With the high recorded in December of ’06 at about $710,000 and then falling to $425,000 in December ’08. $300,000 in equity disappearing to the tune of about $10,000 per month.

This of course is an over simplification but it does suggest just how quickly market forces can affect change. Many people thought that if the market did change it would be gradual and exhibit more of a round curve as prices quit rising, began to level off and then eventually decrease.

The Future of Home Prices

Can the same be said when home prices begin to rebound? With the upward spike seen over the last several months the question has to be asked “Are we headed for another bull market in the housing market or are we just seeing short term optimism”? The rise in housing prices during the first part of the decade was associated with low interest rates and a very friendly monetary policy where everyone who wanted a loan and could sign a loan application received a mortgage. It’s not that easy anymore. Now only one of those criteria exists in the form of low interest rates.

Our home prices here in LA County and along the right and left coast may always be more volatile than other parts of the country simply because we have a fixed supply of housing. Our increases will be sharper and our declines will be deeper. Real estate price increases or decreases of +/- 3% are found in middle America.

The recent run up in real estate activity locally and nationally may prove one thing. Low interest rates have the ability to overcome economic conditions that are not exactly ideal. Maybe this has to do more with people’s approach to housing and the fact that you have to live somewhere, you can either pay rent or pay a mortgage and the possibility that when people do buy real estate they are looking long term.

Delacey Place, Pasadena’s New Address of Elegance


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Delacey Place is Pasadena's New Luxury Address.

Delacey Place is Pasadena's New Luxury Address.

Located just south of Old Town is Pasadena’s newest condominium development, Delacey Place. Delacey follows the construction trend of “mixed use” which combines commercial / retail office space on the first level followed by residential units on the upper floors. This concept was recently incorporated into Pasadena Place, Lake @ Walnut, The Dalton and the soon to be completed Raymond Renaissance.


Delacey Place has one very distinguishing characteristic. The residential units are high end, very high end. According to the i-Tech MLS, 5 of the 30 units in the project are currently listed for sale or are in escrow. Prices range from $899,000 for a 3 bed/3 bath with 1665 sq feet to 3/3 with 2746 square feet, showing “back up” status at $2,099,000. HOA fees start in the range of $600/month and residents have an on site gym along with a pool. As you walk into the lobby, stained glass artwork is illuminated by translucent glass allowing sunshine to brighten the lobby area. I very much admire the innovation and unique features incorporated into this design.


I had the opportunity to tour the project at a recent open house. The residential unit I toured included exquisitely appointed with hardwood floors/ceramic & porcelain European tile, high end fully featured gourmet kitchens with stainless steel kitchen appliances, surround sound systems, central vacuum, whirlpool tubs, steam units in master baths, solid doors and much, much more. Subterranean parking also is available and some of the units come with private garages.

The DOM, Housing’s Most Misunderstood and Abused Measurement


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Is it really taking houses that much longer to sell?

Is it really taking houses that much longer to sell?

DOM or more commonly known as Days on Market is one measurement used in the housing market that is often misunderstood. The reason being is it is so easily and often manipulated. Many times the data supposedly represented actually provides false or misleading information. Its intention was to provide a quick indication of how long a particular property has been for sale. Too long and home buyers begin to wonder what is wrong with the house, why it’s becoming stale. The most obvious answer lies with the price, as in overpriced and too expensive. The seller is pricing according to their pocketbook and not to the market. One approach is successful, the other one is not.

Explaining the Numbers

Current vs. Cumulative – For the month of June, the Pasadena MLS indicates of all the properties that were sold the “days on market” were 97/187. The first number is the current measurement. The second number, the cumulative number. The number 97 represents all of the properties being sold in June that are listed under the current listing agreement. The second number “187” indicates the same property may have been cancelled or could have expired, but represents the total number of days regardless of the listing agreement. So say broker “X’ listed 123 main street and it was not sold and expired 60 days later. Then broker “Y” relisted the property two weeks later, but was more successful. The contract went pending in 30 days. Therefore the days on market would be 30/90.

Back Up vs. Pending – one of the main reasons we are seeing such an increase in the days on market activity is not solely because properties are taking longer to sell. It also has to do with the way the status of a property is changed. In this market, when most agents receive an offer they change the status to “back up”. Now for all intents and purposes, most people do not make offers on properties listed in a “back up” position. Even though the property is under contract, the days on market meter is still running. Consider a short sale entering escrow, it is changed to back up and takes the bank 60 days to accept the contract plus the buyer may have another 17 days to inspect. That’s 77 days the property has been basically off of the market, but due to the manner in which the measurement is calculated, it still continues to add days to the total.

Agent Manipulation – If a lisiting agent has had the property listed 90 days and it did not sell, instead of immediately relisting it, they might wait 3-4 weeks hoping the cumulative days would reset, so when it was relisted it would now show as 1/1 instead of 1/91. There have been some attempts to correct this in the MLS along with some new policies implemented that prohibit agents from cancelling the listing, just to renter a few days later as new to reset the current DOM clock.

Many times, most agents have access to the property history that shows when it was listed along with a record of pricing changes and the number of days between changes. One thing common in today’s market is price reductions. Most initial price reductions are in the range of 2.5% to 4%. Before you make an offer on a property that has been listed for a few weeks checking the pricing history is always a good idea and one of the many things to research.

Helping Pasadena Homeowner’s in Foreclosure


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About 650 Homes in Pasadena are in some stage of the Foreclosure process

About 650 Homes in Pasadena are in some stage of the Foreclosure process

If you are a homeowner, the word foreclosure can send chills up your spine. It can be an intimidating process simply because you don’t know what to do, where to turn or what help if any is available. Now is not the time to become timid, but rather this is your opportunity to be proactive and explore the options you have available to you. Don’t be misled, the clock is running. The actions you take today may help you keep your home or at least delay the foreclosure process.

Investigate Your Options

If you have been late on your monthly mortgage payments, you are likely to receive phone calls from your lender as well as notices in the mail. DO NOT IGNORE THIS! I an assure you that inattention will not make it go away. You absolutely need to develop a line of communication with your lender. All of them. If you have a second on your home, discuss your situation with them as well. Get the name and phone number of the person you speak with and tell them you would like to discuss a loan modification. The State of California recently announed a 90 day moratorium on foreclosures. Also the Obama administration just increased the loan ratio’s to help more homeowner’s qualify for this program, since the previous ratio’s were too tight and did not offer much assistance for California home owners. These programs seem to be changing quickly with new ones being offered and exisiting ones being altered.

The Short Sale Option

If a loan modification cannot be worked out, there is still an alternative to foreclosure. It’s called the short sale. This happens when the market value and corresponding purchase price are less than the balance owed on the property. A short sale will more than likely offer you a better alternative than a foreclosure. Its been reported that it will have a much less negative impact on your credit score than a foreclosure and if an offer is submitted to the bank they may halt the foreclosure process long enough to consider allowing you this option. One thing however, just because you agree and accept an offer, it is still contingent upon the banks final approval.

The unique benefit of a short sale is there is usually no increased cost passed on to the homeowner. The bank will typically agree to pay the title and escrow fees, the real estate commissions, back taxes, HOA dues, city transfer fees and maybe some miscellaneous expenses. Now I will also preface that by saying this may depend on how your loans are structured. If you have a first and a second, one of the parties to the transaction (buyer or seller) may be asked to pay a contribution which is usually in the form of $3000 (example) to payoff the second lien holder which in many cases is likely to receive nothing other than a total write off.

The Paper Trail

Navigating the short sale process can be very cumbersome for the uninitiated. Dealing with the banks who may not return calls or the mountain of paper that must be submitted can be overwhelming if you are not prepared. The short sale submission package will usually include a hardship letter (why you have to sell and cannot pay the mortgage), pay stubs, bank statements, tax returns, and your mortgage statement.

All that is left is the waiting & waiting. A short sale I am involved with took about two months to provide an approval and this is one of the better banks to deal with. Then add another 30 day escrow period.

Summary

There is no doubt that this can be a very stressful time for you. However the worst thing you can do is to not do anything. We would be glad to come out and review your situation and discuss your options. I guarantee you it will be a very informative and productive meeting and I would welcome the opportunity to meet you. Please give me a call at 626-432-4615 or email me.

Will California Extend The New Home Tax Credit?


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Will California Lawmakers Extend the Home Buyer Tax Credit on New Construction?

Will California Lawmakers Extend the Home Buyer Tax Credit on New Construction?

The State of California may be laying off school teachers, furloughing state employees and attempting to come up with some creative accounting to address the budget deficit, but one thing appears to be sacrosanct. Real estate, or more specifically home buyers who are purchasing new construction may receive “most favored” status as the program that was limited in rebate funds seeks an extension. The program originally budgeted at $100 million appears to be out of money. The proposal is to extend it until March 2010.

Checking the California Franchise Tax Board website the $100 million now appears to be allocated. They will continue to accept additional applications to account for duplicates and invalid applications, but once they receive their number of 12,000 applications, the number will be disconnected. They currently have approximately 11,000 applications.

Is the Incentive Producing Incremental Sales?

I think the question on everyone’s mind would be “What is the State getting for its $10,000?” With signs beginning to point to a turnaround in the real estate market, is it necessary to extend the tax credit? The credit only applies to homes/condominiums that have not previously been lived in. In Pasadena, that limits the program to primarily some of the new condo projects in town. With interest rates at very competitive rates, is there a need for additional incentives? New home builders have also been more creative in selling their inventory as buyers have found themselves with increased negotiating power.

Why the Tax Credits?

I would surmise the intent of the tax credits is twofold (1) to move some of the existing housing inventory and (2) to increase the tax base and ultimately the contributions to the general fund. Why incentify someone who is buying a previously owned home, where the taxes are already being paid and quite possibly the change of ownership will reduce the property taxes since the new value is less than what the current owner paid.

My guess is this may be a hard bill to pass. It’s going to be tough to justify based on the current political climate and economic conditions.

Pasadena’s Million Dollar Homes For Sale


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30% Of Pasadena Homes for Sale are >$1MM

30% Of Pasadena Homes for Sale are >$1MM

There has been much talk lately about the Pasadena real estate market and where home prices are headed. An article appeared this week in the Pasadena Star News in which I supplied many of the statistics that were used in the feature story. I have also chronicled the increasing activity we see in the under $500,000 price arena, including how many buyers are running into frustration as they are up against multiple offers. Despite the fact that you can get an FHA loan with a 3.5% down payment just doesn’t guarantee that you will find someone willing to accept your offer.

But now lets flip the coin and look into Pasadena’s other housing market. This is a market you don’t hear too much about. It just doesn’t make news if a recent home sold at $3,250,000, down $500,000 from two years ago. As of today the available inventory of homes for sale over $1 million is about 100. Looking back at the Pasadena real estate market report for May, we saw 324 single family homes available for sale; therefore 30% of the current available inventory in Pasadena is over $1 Million. Now consider the homes sold in May, and only 10% of them were over $1 million.

Financing

A recent discussion with two mortgage lenders assured me that loans are available provided you have the necessary down payment, which in this case is 20%. What we are really experiencing is a tale of two housing markets. Going back and looking at the beginning of the financial crisis in early to mid 2007, we saw just the opposite. The market for low end homes all but shut down and it seemed the only homes that were selling, were the more expensive high end.

Since all of the focus has been on kick starting the housing market and getting many of the foreclosed homes sold and off the banks financial statements, don’t look for any incentives on luxury homes. This market has to be self sustaining because the mood in Washington, oh well I think you know the mood in Washington.

Below are all of the homes currently listed for sale in Pasadena over $1 million. It’s best if you create your very own VIP account and set up a custom search. You can also subscribe to buying and selling newsletters and have new properties sent to you via email once they arrive on the market.

Pasadena’s Summer Music Season


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The Levitt offers a Great Atmosphere for Fun and Music

The Levitt offers a Great Atmosphere for Fun and Music

The summer music season kicks into full gear this Sunday, June 21, with Make Music Pasadena, an all day event featuring various musicians at locations and times throughout town. There is a full lineup of entertainment and all of the locations are within walking distance of each other. What a great way to spend the day, enjoy a picnic and be entertained.

Music at the Levitt

The main event of the Pasadena summer musical season is the Levitt Pavilion, located at the intersection of Holly and Walnut. If you have never experienced the Levitt, you must give it a try. The official season begins Wednesday, June 24 and runs through Sunday, August 30.

The location in Memorial Park is ideal for music. Its slightly elevated grassy grounds offer wonderful and comfortable viewing in a family atmosphere and once you go, you will want to know what’s on tomorrow night. The Levitt’s schedule of free summer concerts offers a broad mix of musical entertainment 5 nights a week from Wednesday through Sunday. Each night has a different theme. Wednesday’s kick off the week devoted to the kids, and at 7pm this is the place to be as it comes alive with sing along and interaction, sans the purple dinosaur.

If you cannot make it on Wednesday, then I am sure you’ll want to try one of the other night’s selections. The Levitt offers a rotating mix of music that eveyone can enjoy:

    Thursday, 8pm – “Patchwork of America
    Friday, 8pm – “World Rhythms”
    Saturday, 8pm – “Musica Latina”
    Sunday, 7pm – “Jazz Night”

I encourage you to attend one of the upcoming events at the Levit. Take a blanket or small chair, a food basket and something to drink. Enjoy the entertainment under the stars. I promise, you will be back.