When comparing loans, buyers frequently only look at the interest rate. However, that’s not the entire story. There’s another number that lenders are required to supply, but that lendees rarely pay attention to. That number is the annual percentage rate, or APR. This shows an estimate of the actual percentage of the loan amount that you pay each installment period. It takes into account the interest rate, principal loan amount, and loan length, as well as any lending fees or closing costs.
Even though the APR gives you a better idea of how much you’re actually paying, the interest rate by itself is still important. This is because APR doesn’t take into account compound interest. If the interest rate is high, the amount you pay each installment period could increase significantly over time. This means a loan with a lower APR could potentially cost more over time if it has low lending fees. If two loans look very close and you’re concerned about exact numbers, you may also want to look into the APY, which is the annual percentage yield. This value does take into account compound interest. As such, it’s going to be slightly different each year, but knowing the APYs across multiple years will give you the best idea of how much you are actually paying.
When people think of a lien, what most people think of is a mortgage lien, whereby the mortgage lender retakes possession of a property in the event of missed mortgage payments. Most don’t realize that the lien is actually created as soon as you get the mortgage loan; it merely doesn’t have any effect unless the contract is breached. Lien is a rather general term that applies to any situation in which one party has the right to possess another’s property until a debt is paid or waived. One type of lien is a mechanic’s lien, which is the type a contractor can place to use your property as collateral for their work.
There are two broad categories of liens, consensual and nonconsensual. Mortgage liens are consensual because they are initiated by the property owner when they get a loan. On the other hand, mechanic’s liens are nonconsensual, and can’t be placed unless the contractor is legally able to. This means that while a mortgage loan is always in effect in case of a breach of contract, a mechanic’s lien that occurs as a result of the breach of contract can’t be placed until the breach occurs. Breach of contract is only one reason for a mechanic’s lien, though. It can also be placed in the event of nonpayment, unpaid property taxes or fees, deceptive practices by the property owner, or disputes over the work performed.
A glance at the table below confirms that year over year statistics are overwhelming the monthly numbers. Buyers were out there buying in March, and they were buying more than they did in February, which was up from January. That’s to be expected. We report actual numbers, as opposed to “seasonally adjusted,” so coming from the depths of winter into spring always increases real estate activity.
Because of that simple fact, the year over year statistics are far more important as an indicator of where the market may be headed. The big increase in March sales doesn’t offset how far down sales volume has gone since last year. Nor does it hint at the level to which median prices are taking a hit.
Compared to last year, sales volume is off by a third in nearly all areas of the Los Angeles South Bay. Median prices haven’t dropped nearly as large a percentage, but we can clearly see the direction. The Federal Reserve System (Fed) comment in the April “Beige Book” said it all: “Residential and commercial real estate activity fell, and lending activity declined substantially.”
Beach Cities Median Still Rising
As the over-all real estate market begins a dive into the depths of a Fed-induced recession, we find the Beach Cities as the only remaining local market with year-over-year positive median price growth. It’s not much. A mere 1% growth over March of 2022 is hardly an investment recommendation, especially with inflation running around 6%. And, the rest of the Los Angeles South Bay is already negative compared to this time last year.
This is the second time in 2023 buyers at the Beach have nudged the median price up while the rest of the residential market fell. January showed a 6% increase which collapsed February in a 17% free fall. February’s dismal numbers contributed to what looks like a good March in the month to month measurement.
Staying positive in March appears to be predominately the result of a single sale in Hermosa Beach. At nearly 5000 sq ft, with stunning ocean views, the property was bid up from its $5M dollar list price to just over $6M, closing with a cash offer in only 12 days. Without that transaction the Beach Cities marketplace would have stood at 0% growth.
The big story at the Beach is the sales volume versus the most recent “normal” year of real estate business. The chart below shows the number of homes sold in each of the South Bay areas, with seasonal shifts.
Notice that 2019, the last normal year, begins low, with few sales in the winter months. Sales peak in quarter three, in the heat of summer, then decline back down to about where they started.
Compare that to what happened in 2022, when everything seemed to head down.
Only 83 homes were sold in March of this year, and only 181 homes sold across the first quarter of 2023. In 2019 the area averaged monthly sales of over 100 units; approximately 425 homes per quarter. That amounts to a 43% decline in the number of sales compared to pre-pandemic levels.
As this is written there are 152 homes available in the Beach Cities with an average of 62 days on market. Both, the level of inventory and the time on market are increasing daily. Those factors, especially working together, will cause price decreases. With a constantly increasing mortgage interest rate, there’s little doubt the valuation gains of the pandemic era will not hold up to the recession in the world of real estate.
Harbor Area Sales Volume Plummets 39%
The Sales Volume, by Quarter chart above shows relatively synchronous movement across time by three of the four areas. The fourth area, the Harbor, floats at the top of the sales volume chart. Similarly, the Harbor area sinks to the bottom of the median price chart.
Homes in the Harbor area are typically what’s known as “entry level.” They are small homes, often condominiums, and are priced at the bottom of the scale. These are the homes newly wed couples buy, and the homes that house growing families. They are the type of properties occupied by most Angelenos, whether they be homeowners or tenants.
None of that explains the huge swings, though. What does is family economics—cash flow. When both prices and interest rates are low, the entry level market sings. When the cost of home ownership rises, this is the first area to fall and it usually falls the deepest. March sales across the Harbor dropped by 39% from March of 2022. At the same time median pricing at the Harbor dropped 2%–not nearly enough to offset interest rates that are running in the 6%-7% range. Until the mortgage interest rate goes down, or the asking price drops, or both, this market is going to be slow.
Inventory is currently 336 homes on the market, with time on the market averaging 60 days.
Median Down 20% for Homes on the PV Hill
Even more volatile than the Beach, homes on the Palos Verdes Peninsula dropped over a half million dollars in median price from the first quarter of 2022 to the first quarter of 2023. That steep yellow line on the chart below shows the downward direction of home prices in the area. Interestingly, the Beach Cities and the PV Hill declines have been almost exactly the same for the past 90 days.
As noted above, the Peninsula, with its large lots and relatively few homes, invariably shows a lot of volatility. The 20% drop in year over year median price is matched by a 33% drop in sales volume since March of 2022. Much of the median price increase seen last year resulted from a series of new construction sales. Those newly built homes came in at top dollar and helped elevate the median price nicely.
Builders are now anticipating a long, slow recession/recovery, so the PV market is not likely to see that benefit come back for a few years.
This newsletter focuses on residential, but it should be noted the Palos Verdes commercial marketplace has also taken a significant hit since the pandemic. Retail lease prices are at rock bottom and lots of space is available. It would not be surprising to see some of the older commercial space re-configured to meet residential needs. Such a transition could help the cities on the Hill meet their obligation to the State for additional residential construction to alleviate the housing shortage.
Inventory today shows 83 homes available, with an average time of 80 days on the market.
Stability Marks the Inland Area
The “family friendly” Inland Area is surrounded on three sides by the Beach Cities, PV Hill and the Harbor Area. It’s a quiet environment, usually without the drama and speculation found in the more upscale Beach and Hill areas. Anchored by Torrance, the market direction is normally the same as the rest of the South Bay, without the more radical ups and downs. March real estate activity reflected that nature in price and sales volume compared to March of last year.
The “Median Price by Quarter” chart above shows a year over year decrease of 6%, in keeping with annual results from the Hill and Harbor areas. The chart also shows a long, steady green line that doesn’t offer surprises, or dramatic movements in any direction. The current recession is expected to bring prices down somewhat, making the Inland area an excellent target for home buyers, or investors during the coming months.
Available as of this writing, are 130 homes. In keeping with the Inland image of slow and steady, the statistics still show only an average of 47 days on the market. Compare that to 80 on the Hill and 62 at the Beach. Buyers are more abundant here, as long as mortgage interest rates are affordable.
The areas are: Beach: includes the cities of El Segundo, Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach and Redondo Beach; PV Hill: includes the cities of Palos Verdes Estates, Rancho Palos Verdes, Rolling Hills and Rolling Hills Estates; Harbor: includes the cities of San Pedro, Long Beach, Wilmington, Harbor City and Carson; Inland: includes the cities of Torrance, Gardena and Lomita.
Dylanfest is an 8-hour celebration of the music of Bob Dylan. Local favorites, Andy Hill and Renee Safier started it in 1991 and have been holding the event ever since. The show started with their band and a few friends doing an evening of songs by Bob Dylan, and it has grown to an 8-hour event with over 40 musicians performing over 60 Dylan songs. This year the festival will be held on Saturday, May 27th, from roughly noon until 8pm.
Food and drinks (including beer and wine) will be available on site during the event. Music is continuous with breaks only as entertainers move on and off the stage.
The band, Hard Rain, is the “house band”, and is joined by solo artists, full bands, and instrumentalists throughout the course of the day. The show is held at the Torrance Cultural Arts Center in the Torino Plaza. Bring a jacket for later. In case of rain, the event will go on, and we will move inside.
General Admission Tickets ($35-4/2-5/26; $40 at the Door). VIP tickets are $110 and come with some extra goodies (Entry fee, Event T-Shirt, Dylanfest Tote Bag, Dylanfest Mug, Post-Dylanfest VIP Party, VIP Hanging Tag). Kids ages 7-14 years are $10. Tickets at https://andyandrenee.com/tickets-tips-merch
Torino Plaza, Torrance Cultural Arts Center, 3300 Civic Center Drive, Torrance, CA 90503
The Grand Annex Music Hall is a rare neighborhood gem, a 150-seat cabaret venue run by Grand Vision in the heart of San Pedro’s thriving arts district. This May they are presenting three fabulous concerts of original music.
Small Glories – Saturday, May 13 / 8PM
Multi-award-winners Cara Luft and JD Edwards are taking the North American folk scene by storm. Cara Luft is an original member of the Canadian folk trio, The Wailin’ Jennys.
Wine Tasting 7PM led by sommelier JP Molinari.
Bella & Rudy – Friday, May 19 / 8PM
Born and raised in San Pedro, this incredibly talented duo is rapidly gaining attention for their acoustic and indie-inspired music. Hear their insightful originals and beloved covers.
Patrick Landeza & Sons – Saturday, May 20 / 8:30PM
A night of guitar, Hawaiian style featuring Two-time Nā Hōkū Hanohano Hawaiian Grammy Award winner and master slack key guitarist Patrick Landeza with PJ Landeza (bass guitar) and Justin Firmeza (steel guitar).
“Slack Key & Steel” Workshop at 7PM led by Patrick Landeza and Justin Firmeza.
The Grand Annex Music Hall is located at 434 W 6th Street, San Pedro Ca 90731.For more information about the performances and the venue go to their website https://grandvision.org/grand-annex/.
Grand Vision Foundation The Grand Annex Music Hall | Meet the Music | Friend’s Group to the Warner Grand Theatre 434 W. 6th St., San Pedro, CA 90731310.833.4813 | www.GrandVision.org
Real estate agents and experts will frequently declare that the market is either a seller’s market or a buyer’s market. There isn’t some esoteric industry secret formula, though. Figuring out whether it’s a buyer’s or seller’s market is actually fairly straightforward, as long as you have access to relevant data. There are three indicators of a seller’s market: low inventory, high demand, and low construction.
Of course, these statistics are interrelated. If construction has been consistently low, there will be fewer homes on the market. If inventory is low, buyers will be more competitive, driving up demand. But it’s actually low demand and high inventory that reduces construction rates in the first place, resulting in a cyclical effect. Moreover, each of them are affected differently by factors external to the cycle. So, in order for there to be a seller’s market, all three factors are probably true.
So what should you do if you find yourself under the conditions of a seller’s market? Well, if you’re a seller, everything is great — you’ll probably find a buyer, and be able to sell at a high price, as well. However, even if you’re a buyer, you can work the seller’s market to your advantage. Be aware that prices will be higher in a seller’s market, so a home that looks overpriced may actually be perfectly priced in a seller’s market. If you see something that fits the criteria you’re looking for, be ready to make an offer. It’s likely that multiple buyers are looking at the same thing you are. Make sure to get a pre-approval so that sellers know your offer is serious. In a high demand climate, sellers may get so many offers that they won’t even look at offers that don’t seem genuine.
For people who don’t necessarily have a lot of cash on hand but are willing to invest over longer periods, buying a home in need of repairs is often what they look to. This may be in to live in or to resell the home later, but in either case, you may need to finance the repairs, the purchase itself, or even both if you’re low on ready cash. Fortunately, there are loans that are designed specifically for this situation. One such loan is the FHA 203(k) rehab loan.
The FHA 203(k) rehab loan can be used to finance both a purchase and repairs simultaneously, preventing the need for multiple loans, credit usage, or a line of credit. This can definitely save you money in the long run, especially if you are able to qualify for a low interest rate. There are two types of FHA 203(k) rehab loans: a standard loan and a streamline loan. The standard loan is designed for long-term, larger projects, such as renovating entire rooms. This type has no limit on the portion of the loan used for repairs, unlike the streamline loan, which has a limit of $35,000. It’s quicker and easier to access funds from a streamline loan, which makes it more suitable for smaller projects, like installing an HVAC or repairing plumbing.
With how much discussions of real estate tend to pit buyers and sellers against each other, it’s easy to forget they’re often actually the same people. Many sellers are also buyers, either planning to buy to replace the home they’re selling, or already bought another home. This isn’t always the case, of course — it’s entirely possible that someone could have never purchased anything, inherited two homes, and sold one of them. But this isn’t most sellers. What this means is that market conditions that are generally considered to primarily affect buyers will also affect sellers.
Such as right now, where it appears that the high interest rates that are holding buyers back are also making sellers hesitate. The majority of homeowners now have an interest rate lower than the current rates, especially if they took advantage of ultra-low rates such as the rates during the pandemic. If these homeowners were to sell and buy a new home, they would be losing their low interest rate and gaining a high interest rate. For 82% of them, that may not be worth it. Over half of those considering selling right now are deciding to wait until interest rates drop.
Transitioning from renting to buying a home can be exciting. However, make sure not to get too excited too early before you’ve terminated the lease. It’s not at all uncommon for a renter to not want to deal with their landlord any longer than they have to, and simply leave. But that could actually be costing you money or leaving you open for a lawsuit.
Lease agreements will always have an early termination policy. It may look like ignoring the policy and ditching is just a way to skip the fees, but it’s actually not. You’re still on the hook for rent payments until the lease is actually terminated, and the early termination fee could be significantly lower. There may not even be a termination fee — the rules vary widely by region and by property manager. Don’t be afraid to talk to your landlord, either. They’re much more likely to be sympathetic to your situation if they’re aware of it. If you tell your landlord you’re terminating the lease early, the worst they can legally do is charge a termination fee.
There was a time that smaller homes and multi-family living were common in Long Beach. Over the decades, that has transitioned to condos and then to single-family residences. But in 2020, Long Beach municipal codes were revised, reducing the minimum square footage requirement to just 220 square feet. The original aim was probably not co-living, which wasn’t on the radar given that it occurred around the start of the pandemic. Nevertheless, builders now are seeing the opportunity to build apartment buildings consisting of small units with shared common area.
Derek Burnham is a former Long Beach city planner and now works at a development firm, and is excited about the idea. Burnham has already planned about 48 units, which are going to be roughly the same size as hotel rooms, around 350 to 500 square feet. The target audience for this project is people who want to be near jobs and transportation, but can’t afford the typical apartment or condo unit. But builders don’t yet know how receptive people will be to it — after all, the transition away from shared living towards single-family residences was cultural and not pragmatic. Because of this, the plans are flexible, allowing anything from private units to shared units to miniature family units.
Two measures went into effect this spring, Measure GS in Santa Monica on March 1st and Measure ULA in Los Angeles on April 1st, both of which enact an additional transfer tax on the sale of very expensive homes, dubbed the Mansion Tax. Measure GS affects properties sold at over $8 million and Measure ULA has two tiers, one affecting properties sold at over $5 million and another affecting properties sold at over $10 million.
Prior to these measures, the transfer tax in both cities was a small dollar value per $1000 of purchase price regardless of property value. Including county taxes, this value is $5.60 in Los Angeles, and Santa Monica has two tiers, one at $4.10 per $1000 and another at $7.10 per $1000. Measure GS added a third tier to the Santa Monica system, which is a significantly higher $56 per $1000 value for homes over $8 million. Los Angeles still only has one base value of $5.60 per $1000, but with an additional tax of 4% for homes between $5 million and $10 million, and 5.5% for homes over $10 million.
Spring is already halfway over, so if you’re planning to sell your home this season, you should get on it quickly. Especially since you may need to do some sprucing up to get a good deal. If you bought your home during or shortly before the pandemic, this may be your last chance to benefit from the spike in prices. But buyers aren’t simply snatching up any home they see, like they were during the pandemic. They’re being more deliberate, so you need your home to be appealing.
This means all the standard procedures for increasing your home’s appeal apply. These include things such as repairs, upgrades, repainting, curb appeal, and staging. In some markets, you can get away with not doing these things, or only doing some of them, because the buyers are happy to purchase a cheaper home and perform the upgrades themselves. Not the case this spring. The seller will have to make the investment, which hopefully translates to a higher price as well.
Having a 20% down payment used to be a requirement for nearly all loans. That hasn’t been the case for quite some time, but it’s still touted as the conventional wisdom. In many cases, that may be true, but it’s not always the best idea. There are both advantages and disadvantages to putting 20% down.
If you have the money available already, it’s quite likely that the benefits heavily outweigh the drawbacks. Even though 20% down is no longer a requirement to get a loan, it is still a requirement to avoid mortgage insurance fees. Putting 19% down, for example, simply makes no financial sense at all, regardless of your financial situation. It’s also good to put down as much as you feasibly can in order to reduce the loan amount, thereby reducing your payments. The 20% mark is important if you can reach it.
If you still need to save money in order to achieve a 20% down payment, you’re going to need to crunch some numbers and also make some predictions in order to arrive at the correct solution. If you’re close to being able to put down 20%, it may be in your best interest to continue saving up to avoid mortgage insurance fees. But if you aren’t close, it may be best to simply forget about it. Even if you are definitely able to save money, by the time you get to the point that you can put down whatever 20% is now, home prices are likely to be significantly higher. In that case, it may be better not to wait. You also need to consider other costs and where you’re getting the money. If you need to take out a loan or draw on investments to reach 20%, this is probably not a good investment, unless it’s the only way you can viably make a home purchase.
If you’re planning to renovate your home, whether you intend to continue to live in it or to sell it at a profit, you need to think about how to pay for the renovations. Of course, it’s possible you have the cash on hand, which is great. But if not, there are a few financing options you can look into. It’s common to get a home equity line of credit (HELOC) or simply take out an additional loan. However, another option you may not be aware of is cash-out refinancing. It works by refinancing to a loan amount higher than your current loan balance, and taking the difference as cash.
The most important thing to consider when determining if you should get a cash-out refinance loan is the interest rate. It very likely won’t be the same as your current interest rate. If the rate is higher or even the same, it’s probably financially negative in the long run unless you can increase your home’s value significantly with the renovations. That’s why it’s a good option specifically for renovations. On the other hand, it’s entirely possible the rate is lower, or simply lower than traditional loans or HELOCs, in which case it’s a good financing option for any purpose. However, you may not want to use cash-out refinancing for large projects. Since you don’t receive the entire value of the new loan, but only the difference between the new loan balance and old loan balance, you’d need to increase the principal significantly to finance large projects. This could increase your interest payments by quite a bit even if the rate is lower.
The business lobby in California, and in particular the California Chamber of Commerce, has had quite a lot of success taking down bills that they deem “job killers.” Many of these bills are not at all designed to kill jobs, but rather to improve conditions for employees. To the business lobby, these are the same thing, but these are often the types of bills that the majority of the populace in California would tend to support.
One of the bills the California Chamber of Commerce is targeting is a bill to tax total wealth on individuals with a net worth of $50 million or more. Introduced by Milpitas Democratic Assemblymember Alex Lee, the bill would be the first of its kind if it passes. Obviously, there have been taxes on income, but so far, none on net worth. Lee’s argument is that the stocks and properties owned by the ultra-wealthy allow them to legally borrow and transfer funds in a way that avoids a significant percentage of income taxes. According to the chamber, this would simply convince the ultra-wealthy to leave California, rather than increase tax revenues.
The second bill was proposed by Los Angeles Democratic Senator María Elena Durazo. The bill would increase the minimum wage for health care workers to $25 per hour. According to Durazo, health care workers — especially whose who are women or people of color — frequently take home poverty wages, despite working multiple shifts due to being understaffed. The chamber argues that increased payroll costs for health care facilities would simply be passed onto patients, reducing health care affordability.
The chamber has a similar argument against the proposal to increase the required minimum paid sick days offered per year from three to seven, claiming that either the costs will be passed to consumers or the employers will cut benefits or lay off workers. Long Beach Democratic Senator Lena Gonzalez, who introduced the bill, says that the current sick leave is not adequate and forces employees to either forego pay to stay home or risk infecting coworkers.
For the past couple of years, house prices had been rising dramatically across the country. Here in California, we’re now starting to see prices drop since the start of this year. Prices are now falling in all 12 major housing regions west of Texas, as well as in Austin, TX. The same can’t be said everywhere, though. In the 37 largest metros east of Colorado, excluding Austin, TX, prices are still rising. Of course, markets can differ drastically by state, but such a clear divide between eastern and western US may be unprecedented.
Falling home prices was the expected result of the federal benchmark rate hikes. It seems to be working in the western US, as prices become too unsustainable to continue to increase. The regions with the most significant price drops are the ones that were rather expensive. But there are still other factors at play in the eastern US, driving prices still upward. Some areas, such as Hartford, CT and Buffalo, NY, never reached unsustainable home prices and remain rather affordable. They also have rather low inventory. These factors combined are keeping prices from dropping, leading to an 8% increase in prices in January. Florida is attracting many new employees with multiple financial companies relocating to Miami in 2021 and 2022. Prices are expected to eventually start falling even in the east, but don’t expect anything drastic. Low inventory across the country is preventing any sudden market collapse.
Short sale is the term for the sale of a property when the seller owes more on their mortgage than the listing price. The extra regulations that apply to a short sale typically apply to the seller, but that doesn’t mean the buyer doesn’t need to do their research as well. Much of the homework that goes into buying a short sale property is best done ahead of time, so these types of transactions work most smoothly when the buyer is specifically looking for short sale properties.
If you know you’re looking for a short sale property to buy, make sure to find an agent that specializes in short sales, or at least has a large amount of experience with them. Expert short sale agents will have the best idea of a reasonable purchase price and what types of offers will be most attractive to the seller. You may have heard the common advice to get a pre-approval for your mortgage. In the case of a short sale, it’s best to go a step further and get a full approval. Nearly everyone who offers on a short sale will be pre-approved, so that alone won’t make you stand out, but a full approval will. And whether you’ve planned on purchasing a short sale property ahead of time or not, it’s important to be patient. Short sales typically take longer than traditional home sales. In fact, buyers often drop out of short sale negotiations because they simply don’t have the time, leaving you with less competition if you’re patient.
SB 9, also called the HOME Act of 2021, is a California law requiring cities to allow homeowners to subdivide lots into potentially up to 4 units. This law makes it significantly easier to built accessory dwelling units (ADUs). Huntington Beach has decided it doesn’t like this, and is willfully ignoring the law, stating that they won’t process ADU applications. The City Council has even gone as far as to enact an ordinance declaring that they are exempt from some of the requirements of the Housing Accountability Act (HAA). The HAA streamlines the approval process for low- and moderate-income housing. Huntington Beach is not compliant with HAA requirements, and so the city is attempting to declare that the regulations simply don’t apply to them.
This is entirely illegal on the part of Huntington Beach, and so naturally, it hasn’t gone over well. The city has received letters from the Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) and has been sued by the California Office of the Attorney General (OAG). Knowing that the state does have authority in this regard, the Huntington Beach City Council is starting to backpedal. But this probably isn’t the end, nor was it the beginning. Huntington Beach has already been sued previously by the state for housing law violations, settling in 2020 and losing millions of dollars in state funding.