The Biden administration recognizes that the best way out of the current housing crisis is to bolster supply through additional construction. In order to meet this goal, the new Housing Supply Action Plan was recently unveiled in a White House press release. The five-part plan is expected to solve the crisis within five years, and mostly addresses issues of financing.
The first part of the plan is aimed at directly assisting builders with increased resources and new programs. The plan also modifies federal grant prioritizations based on a new system of scoring for zoning and land use reform. Additional financing options will be provided for manufactured housing, ADUs, and smaller multifamily properties. In addition to new financing options, the plan expands existing Fannie Mae financing programs. The last part of the plan is unrelated to financing or construction; it prevents institutional investors from purchasing REO properties in favor of allowing them to be purchased by owners intending to occupy the property.
When getting a mortgage loan, that money generally comes from a bank. But it’s important to realize that a bank isn’t just an impersonal repository of money. Banks are businesses, and as such, they’re always looking for profit. This extends to deciding your interest rate, which is nearly always not the best rate you could get.
One of the ways banks pull a profit is by looking to the future of interest rates. They will frequently take an expected future average rate rather than the current average rate if they expect rates will rise soon. They get slightly ahead of the game this way. The other reason rates are often higher is not entirely within the bank’s control, although it is partially a result of their actions. A common method of reducing risk is for a bank to sell debt to an investor. This also frees up capital for the bank. But it introduces an additional party also looking for a profit, and the bank may need to make concessions for the deal to go through. Increasing interest rates is a way to recoup these losses.
Renovations can be expensive. Even if you can afford it, lowering the costs may end up being a better return on investment, even if the renovation is less extensive or lower quality than you wanted. Of course, if you can do the renovations yourself, that is by far the cheapest — though most time-consuming — option. But even hiring contractors has the potential to be much cheaper than you’d think.
When performing home renovations, the immediate assumption is that all the additions are going to be brand new. That doesn’t have to be the case. Gently used products may still be better quality than what you have now. The contractors you’re hiring may even have just taken some cabinets from a previous client — ask if they have anything suitable on hand that they would need to get rid of somehow anyway. You may even be able to do everything through one contractor. Though you’re still paying for every renovation, you may avoid repeated fees by not being charged by multiple companies. Of course, you may have to scale back your renovation plans to do this. Not every company is willing or able to perform every renovation.
One smart home feature you may not have heard of is smart windows. There are a couple reasons for that. First, they’re rather expensive and therefore not widely available except for industrial applications. Second, they’re actually a much older concept than what in modern days is called a smart feature. Smart windows originated in the 1980s and are a type of window that can be darkened or lightened by application of either electricity or heat, depending on the type of window, termed electrochromic or thermochromic.
Electrochromic windows are actually already in use, though generally not in houses — they are used on privacy screens, display panels, and vehicle windows or sunroofs. Thermochromic windows, while equally old in concept, haven’t been seriously produced until recently, with advances in two-way thermochromic glass. Old generations of thermochromic windows used a substance called vanadium dioxide, and a newer model uses a combination of water and hydrogel. Both are viable and have their own pros and cons. Cheaper models may be commercially available in about ten years, though they will still be more expensive than standard windows.
One of the most sought-after pieces of information to learn about a potential new neighborhood is the crime rate. No one wants to move to an unsafe area if they can avoid it. Even if you are required to move there because of a situation outside your control, you’ll want to know what you should be on the lookout for and how prepared you need to be. There are a few different websites to help you learn more about crime in your new neighborhood.
SpotCrime and CrimeReports are very similar. Both allow you to enter an address and gain an instant report of recent crimes in the neighborhood. They also both allow you to sign up for alerts. SpotCrime additionally lets you provide information to help others anonymously. Neighborhood Scout provides per capita crime rates in any neighborhood you select, not just your own, and also has a comparison feature that allows you to find other neighborhoods with similar crime rates. Family Watchdog has a more narrow purpose. It specifically looks for the locations of registered sex offenders and informs you if one is living in the area.
With high interest rates, more and more buyers are beginning to realize they can no longer afford to buy, or would prefer to buy something less expensive. Sometimes this moment of realization hits them after they’ve already signed a purchase agreement, and now they want to back out. This is entirely legal, but does come with some potential costs.
When prices are increasing, breach of contract isn’t a huge deal, but can annoy sellers who have to delay their home’s sale. But when prices are decreasing, as is beginning to happen now, sellers have more to lose. Which is why they have a few different options to remedy the situation: they can enforce the purchase agreement, relist their property, or just withdraw the listing and wait for a better time. If the seller chooses to relist, they may be entitled to compensation from the buyer who breached contract. If the profit from the sale after relisting is less than what it would be given the original contract amount, the amount of the buyer’s deposit that would be returned to them is decreased by the amount of the seller’s losses. There may be cases in which there was an agreed-upon limit to this amount, in which case the agreed-upon limit is used, plus an interest rate of 10%.
There’s a lot of talk about first-time buyers, from their impact on the housing market to advice to help them secure the home they want. Not as many people talk about first-time sellers. Of course, many first-time sellers already have some experience with the real estate process. They probably bought the house they’re trying to sell, though it’s possible they inherited it. But that doesn’t mean they have experience with selling, and they could still make mistakes.
First-time sellers are often thinking about how much money they can get, rather than whether or not they even can sell successfully. While getting too little money for the sale is a bad idea, you won’t get any money at all if your house doesn’t sell. Instead the primary focus should be on making sure you get offers, then you can enter negotiations. Don’t try to cut corners by selling without an agent. It is an extra expense, for sure, but most prospective buyers won’t even know your property exists without the help of an agent. The agent can also help you set a realistic listing price. If it’s too high, you won’t generate interest, and if it’s too low, people will assume there’s something wrong with the property. Even once you get offers, don’t just pick whichever offer is highest. Take a look at the terms of the offer. The buyer could be asking you to pay for certain costs, which could make a slightly lower offer actually a better deal. In addition, a slightly lower full cash offer avoids financing headaches and possibly some closing costs.
We’ve said for years that land on the Palos Verdes peninsula is undervalued. We may not be able to say that much longer. Last month property on the Hill took another big jump upward in median price. That’s the second time in six months. When that yellow line peaked in February we found several new construction homes closed escrow in the same month boosting the median price dramatically.
This time we found two homes, selling in the same month, at over $10,000,000. To put that in perspective, during the past 12 months only four properties on the Hill have reached the $10M mark. So what are these rarefied houses that bring in over-the-top median prices? Let’s take a closer look. (Photos at link.)
The listing agent described 2005 Paseo del Mar as a single level with 5 bedrooms, 4 1/2 baths, formal living and dining rooms, 2 family rooms, pool, 4 car garage with gated entry and circular driveway. So what makes it worth $12.4M instead of $2M?
It seems 4582 square feet of house sitting on over an acre of land on the bluffs above the Pacific Ocean is worth about $10M more than if it had an inland address.
Similarly, 1417 Lower Paseo la Cresta is a grand estate offering over 15,000 square feet of lavish living space spread over 3 levels, with 9 bedrooms,13 bathrooms and two full kitchens. Additional highlights include the custom 15-seat theater, Italian Fantini mosaic pool, elevator, generator and an extensive home automation system.
Beach Cities Sales Down -34% From 2021
The Inland cities clearly leap-frogged the other three areas in volume of sales for June. Sales in the Inland area out-paced the rest of South Bay, erasing a -17% decline from May of this year and adding a +13% increase for June .
The next closest monthly sales volume was a +2% at the Beach. Harbor area sales showed the poorest comparable performance, dropping by -4% for the month, continuing a three month slide. Monthly sales volume in the Harbor area has declined 135 units just since March.
Let’s focus on the Harbor and that red line on the chart for just a moment. Remember this is an entry level market, where a little rise in the mortgage interest rate can quickly price a new buyer out of the running. Notice that sales in the Harbor area were at about 300 homes per month in January. By February a few buyers had noticed the interest rates climbing and took the leap.
Then March became the proverbial “last chance” to buy in the fast moving current market. Sales volume shot through the ceiling with a 61% increase in homes sold. Since then we have watched a classic collapse with prospective buyers melting into the woodwork, waiting for another opportunity.
Annual statistics are still reflecting the impact of two plus years of pandemic. Compared to June of last year, sales were down dramatically. The Inland area fared the best, coming in with a drop 0f -6% from 2021. Sales in the Beach cities and the Harbor area fell the farthest with a -34% and a -29% respectively.
Total Dollars Sold Up 71% In Just Two Years
Back in 2020, the first six months of the year had netted slightly over $3.1B in South Bay home sales. Fast forward to the first six months of 2022 and total sales is slightly over $5.3B. Restated, that’s a 71% increase in dollars spent on real estate in just two years.
Much of that increase was the result of the phenomenally low interest rates created by the Federal Reserve Bank (Fed) to offset the financial impact of the pandemic. It was good for all those people who wanted homes and had down payment money. Investors did especially well, though we saw another big expansion of the inequality gap.
Coming out of the pandemic, we’re seeing the four areas moving erratically. The steep climbs of 2020 and 2021 seem to be leveling off, as the Fed tries desperately to slow what is viewed as a runaway real estate market.
Total sales dollars in 2019 were $7.9B, in 2020 up to $8.7B, and in 2021 up again to $12.1B. Since mortgage rates are still climbing, it’s a little early for forecasting, but we anticipate 2022 total sales to come in at about $11.3B.
Where Are We Going?
Comparing last year’s market to 2022 shows a continuing decline in sales, while simultaneously a continuing increase in median prices. That may still change before the end of the year.
In May we saw the quantity sold drop into the red numbers across the South Bay. For June the sales volume is only off in the Harbor area, but the Hill and the Beach are both marginal. We expect sales to gradually slow as the year closes. Indications are the Fed will ratchet up the mortgage interest rate another 2% which should bring transaction volume down substantially.
May also saw the median price drop at the Harbor. Then in June the median fell for the Beach cities and the Inland areas, while the Harbor bounced back. We expect both the median and the sales volume to fall back into the red zone by the end of the year.
Sales volume should move first. Then as sales slow and buyers become more selective, sellers will begin retrenching on price. We don’t anticipate major price reductions until 2023. However, there are a lot of moving parts to this years economy. Events on the other side of the world may still make big changes here.
If you’re in a situation in which you think you’ve settled on an area for your new home, but aren’t getting your offers accepted, you may need to think a bit creatively. Chances are you’re only looking at homes that are currently listed for sale. This may seem obvious, but it’s not the only possibility. Though it most commonly only happens between people who already know each other, it’s not illegal to make offers on off-market homes.
A good way to skirt the opposition is to look for recently expired listings rather than active listings. Your agent can easily set up this search for you. If a listing expired recently, it means the seller probably did want to sell, but wasn’t getting offers. It could also mean the seller wasn’t very serious about selling, but you won’t know which unless you contact them yourself. There’s also another option that’s less likely to work, but more likely to get you what you want if it does work. If you see what you think is your dream home, but it wasn’t on the market at all, you can still try contacting the owner. For the right price, they may be willing to sell even if they weren’t trying to. There are certainly some homeowners who aren’t listing their home only because they think they won’t get a buyer.
At about 7pm on the third Tuesday of every month, we indulge our taste for live music. Jodi Siegel created the Songwriter Showcase as a means to bring original songs, performed by the original songwriters, to local people. There isn’t a bad seat in the house, and by 7pm every seat is filled with music lovers. Come on down and check it out! Here’s this month’s program.
Tracy Newman : Tracy is founding member of The Groundlings Improv Theatre, which is one of the main farm companies for SNL. She was a TV writer/producer for 16 years, starting as a staff writer on Cheers. In 1997, she won an Emmy and Peabody Award for co-writing the groundbreaking “coming out” episode of Ellen. In 2001 she co-created the ABC comedy, According to Jim. Tracy has been playing guitar since she was 14 and is now a full-time singer/songwriter, doing shows for both adults and children. She has a new company called Run Along Home, focusing on age-appropriate lyrics for very young kids. Tracy’s CDs for adults: A Place in the Sun, I Just See You,and That’s What LoveCan Do to Your Heart. Her CDs for children: I Can Swing Forever, Shoebox Town, and Sing With Me. Websites: www.tracynewman.com and www.runalonghome.com.
David Plenn: Singer-songwriter-guitarist, Plenn has developed a career as a in demand sideman, a producer as well as a professional songwriter. His “Easy Driver” was a 1978 chart entry for Kenny Loggins, while “The Forecast (Calls for Pain)” — produced by another important musical mentor, writer-producer Dennis Walker — appeared on Robert Cray’s 1990 album “Midnight Stroll.” His tunes were heard on such hit TV shows as Beverly Hills 90210, Melrose Place and Touched By an Angel.
David’s new album, produced by Plenn and Lloyd Moffitt and comprising 10 beautifully crafted, emotionally affecting original songs, finds the veteran Southern California performer backed by a group of longtime colleagues who rank among the region’s best-known players: legendary singer-songwriter-arranger Van Dyke Parks (architect of the Beach Boys’ Smile), drummer Jay Bellarose (Elton John, Bonnie Raitt, Aimee Mann, etc.), bassists Jenny Condos (Bruce Springsteen, Jackson Browne, Stevie Nicks, etc.) and James “Hutch” Hutchinson (Willie Nelson, B.B King, Linda Ronstadt, etc.). Several other contributors — Moffitt, vocalists Tara Austin and Llory McDonald, bassist David Jenkins, drummer David Goodstein — backed the late singer- songwriter Jerry Riopelle during Plenn’s decades-long association with the musician. For more about David, go to his website https://davidplenn.com/
Michael McNevin: Michael’s songs read like short stories, full of heart, humor, and a keen eye for detail. Winner of the Kerrville New-Folk award in Texas, Performing Songwriter Magazine “DIY Artist Of The Year”, 7-time grand finals “Song Of The Year” winner for West Coast Songwriters. Accomplished guitar work and seasoned vocals underscore the characters and places he comes across in his travels. He grew up in the train town of Niles, CA, in the east bay hills the San Francisco Bay Area. He started out playing underage in East Bay bars, mixed in a six-month stint busking the streets and subways in New York and has has since logged 25 years on the U.S. songwriter circuit.
He’s shared hall stages with Johnny Cash & The Carter Family, Donovan, Shawn Colvin, Richie Havens, Iris Dement, Greg Brown, Christine Lavin, Robert Earl Keen, and many of others. He’s been a main-stager at Strawberry, High Sierra, Kerrville, Redwood Ramble, American River, SummerFolk in Canada, and the Philadelphia Folk Fest. He’s also been a 3rd place finalist at both the Rocky Mountain Folks and Telluride Troubadour Competitions in Colorado, and was nominated Artist Of The Year by the National Academy of Songwriters. He tours as a solo act in the US and parts of Europe, and occasionally gets a band together as McNevin & The Spokes. In addition, Michael is an Etch A Sketch artist of some renown, delighting and dumbfounding audiences. Not kidding, he illustrates his songs on the little red toy. Michael has been a guest on CBS “Evening Magazine”, plus segments on NBC, ABC, and dozens of cable music shows.
When he’s not on the road, Michael also owns and operates the Mudpuddle Shop, in downtown Niles, a former barber shop. Now in it’s 14th year, it is a 15’x15′ creative hive for showcases, workshops, song swaps and jams. His Etch A Sketch drawings hang on the walls, waiting for an earthquake.. https://michaelmcnevin.com/
Jodi Siegel: Jodi was born in Chicago, IL. The Home of the Blues! She eventually relocated to California and began playing and singing in countless blues, R & B, pop and original music bands throughout Orange County, San Diego and Los Angeles. Over the years Jodi has opened for and or shared the stage with many respected musicians including: Albert King, Robben Ford, Robert Cray, J.D. Souther, David Lindley, Fred Tacket and Paul Barrere (Little Feat) and countless others. Her songs have been recorded by Maria Muldaur (“So Many Rivers To Cross,”-cowritten with Daniel Moore and “If I Were You”-cowritten with Danny Timms) Marcia Ball (“So Many Rivers To Cross.”) and Teresa James (“Come Up and See Me Sometime”-cowritten with Danny Timms)
MEET OUR NEW SONGWRITER’S SHOWCASE SPONSORS I adore these two wonderful folks! Everybody’s cheerleaders in the music community!
It’s rather common for neighbors to get curious about open houses and just pop in for a look. Most of the time, they aren’t planning to buy anything, let alone a house right next to where they already are. This has the potential to frustrate some sellers who are perceiving more interest than there actually is, but the neighbor is not necessarily simply being a nuisance. Open houses are an excellent opportunity for people planning to sell, as well.
Buyers usually don’t look in their own area, but as a seller, you can definitely use prices in your own area for a general assessment of the value of your own home. This is especially true if the homes are similar, but even a vague less than/greater than guess is better than nothing. Just keep in mind that it’s only a loose estimate. The price point isn’t the only information you can gather from an open house, though. Recently remodeled homes are great pointers for current trends, and can help you decide on how to remodel your own home. You can also pick up general decor tips. Even the things that you find wrong with the house can tell you what not to do.
Commercial real estate has been struggling in recent years, just as many other sectors of the economy have been struggling. However, one advantage that most commercial buyers have over residential buyers is that they’re more willing to take on debt because their living expenses are likely a lower percentage of their income. As a result, loan originations for commercial properties increased dramatically in the first quarter of 2022.
As can be expected, the effect is greatest in the areas either least affected or most in demand as a result of the 2020 recession. These include hotels, industrial, retail, and healthcare. Loan originations for hotels increased a whopping 359% from 2021. Mortgages for the industrial sector also increased over 100%, by 145%. Increases in retail and healthcare were also significant at 88% and 81% respectively. Lesser increases were noted for multi-family dwellings at 57% and offices at 30%, but these still increased, not decreased. However, one should note that the available data isn’t entirely up to date. Mortgage rates have increased significantly since Q1, so despite the fact that they’re starting to slip back down just now, there may have already been a downward trend in commercial loan originations that we haven’t noticed yet.
Primarily as a result of actions by the Federal Reserve, mortgage rates have been trending upward since January. The rates peaked in June, and have now begun their decline in July. ARM rates are currently more volatile than FRM rates, and may continue to flip-flop, but they are still lower than FRM rates.
The 30-year FRM rate peaked at around 5.7% in late June. It’s since dropped slightly to 5.3% as of the first week of July. The 15-year fixed rate followed a very similar trend line, albeit at a lower peak rate of just under 5%. This is normal; the 15-year rate has always trended lower than the 30-year rate. The ARM rate was 4.34% at its highest in June, and has now dipped below 4%.
It’s pretty typical for first-time homebuyers to purchase a starter home, one that is cheaper and smaller, but that they aren’t planning to live in for an extended period of time. First-time homebuyers expecting children soon, or even who already have children, will instead tend to purchase a larger home that their kids can grow up in. But kids aren’t the only reason to skip the starter home, if you are able to afford something better.
While it’s true that any home you live in will build equity, this is mostly proportional to the value of the home and time owned, barring dramatic shifts in neighborhood desirability. Therefore, a cheaper home that you live in for only a few years will build less equity than a more expensive home that you live in for decades. In fact, if your time spent there is unusually short, it may not even cover the costs of selling the property. There are also less tangible benefits to going straight for your forever home. Getting settled in a community can take a number of years, especially in high-density areas where there is typically a larger percentage of low-income housing than in medium-density areas. If you’re moving out in a few years, you may never feel established as part of the community or be able to form lasting connections.
It’s common for sellers to perform a few upgrades to their home just prior to selling, in the hopes of fetching a higher price. But there are some upgrades that simply aren’t worth it. Of course, if you’re planning to stay living there, you can go through with these upgrades for yourself. You shouldn’t expect them to help you get a profit, though.
Bathroom remodels are tricky. While remodeled bathrooms are appealing to buyers, they’re also rather expensive. The return on investment usually isn’t very high. Also, if any problems arise, it could result in a much larger amount of time and money spent than expected. This could delay the sale significantly and reduce your profit, even if the end result does bring in interested parties. Living room updates are neither in high demand nor quick. Moreover, if it’s not done in a way potential buyers would want, it could actually reduce interest. While many people nowadays want home offices, unless you need one for yourself, don’t break down walls to convert existing bedrooms. Bedrooms are far more versatile, as they can be used as offices without any structural renovations, or used for their intended purpose. A home with 3 bedrooms and no office is worth more than a home with 2 bedrooms and an office.
Wood floors are in high demand and significantly increase the value of your home. Unless buyers are specifically looking for the softness of carpeted flooring, even false wood is more appealing than carpet. Of course, hardwood is always going to bring the highest increase in value. Because of this, you may think that if you already have hardwood floors, you don’t need to change anything. But you should still consider replacing it, since new hardwood is even a significant improvement over old hardwood.
It’s fairly simple for buyers to tell if your flooring is old. Hardwood gets scratched and its color dulls. Heavy use and oversanding are easy to spot. Some of these issues can be fixed by simply refinishing it, but if the damage is more than simple wear and tear, such as nails sticking out or boards coming apart, you absolutely want to replace it. Your buyer is going to anyway, so you may as well get more value for your home while improving buyer interest. Even more importantly, old flooring can pose structural issues. This can be spotted anywhere the floor seems to move too much when walking on it.
A certain element of the homebuying process that sometimes crops up, especially in competitive markets, is the homebuyer love letter. This isn’t actually a declaration of love, except possibly for the home they’re trying to buy. A love letter is simply a personalized note included with an offer in an attempt to connect to the seller on an emotional level. Sellers respond to this variously, and may simply ignore them if they’re receiving them constantly.
But the major issue with love letters isn’t the question of their effectiveness. The problem is why they have the ability to be effective. If a seller has a reaction to a love letter — whether positive or negative — and uses this in their decision of which offer to select, it means they’re biased based on some personal detail of the buyer. Most of the information a buyer would provide doesn’t have protected status, but if it does, the seller could be sued for discrimination. Of course, it’s very difficult to prove exactly why the seller accepted one offer over another, so this rarely actually happens even if the buyer suspects discrimination. But this is exactly why some states have banned love letters, or, in the case of Oregon, are trying to ban them.