Monday, November 16, 2015

The most expensive housing market is...

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My old stomping grounds where I grew up in the bay area made the list as one of the most expensive housing markets in the country.  With increasing demand for housing especially up in silicon valley I predict it to further increase even more as demand continues to outpace supply.

The most expensive housing market is...

newport beach 

Newport Beach, Calif., is the most expensive housing market in the country.

A piece of the American Dream can cost anywhere from $75,000 to $2.3 million. It all depends on where you live.

Newport Beach, California, is the priciest place to live with the average list price for a four-bedroom, two-bathroom home at $2,291,764, according to a new report from Coldwell Banker Real Estate.

The average listing price for a four-bedroom, two-bathroom home nationwide is $302,632, but buyers can snag one for under $135,000 in all 100 of the most affordable markets. At the other end of the spectrum, the 28 most expensive markets have an average listing price of at least $1 million, the report found.

In Cleveland, Ohio, which is the most affordable market, the average sale price is $74,502 -- 30 times less expensive than a home in Newport Beach.

When it comes to affordability, Middle America dominates with 45% of the most affordable markets located in the Midwest.

"Many of these markets were the very first to go into a housing correction," said Budge Huskey, president and CEO of Coldwell Banker Real Estate. "These areas have had a long way to recovery, they are still doing so."

Though half of the 100 most expensive housing markets in the U.S. are located in California, it's still not the most expensive state to buy a home. That honor goes to Hawaii, followed by Massachusetts, according Huskey.

While the booming tech industry caused home prices to explode in many areas in California, especially in and around Silicon Valley, Huskey pointed out many markets are still affordable in the state. "You can drive 30 to 45 minutes outside these areas and be in a very different price point."

Here are the most and least expensive housing markets in the U.S., according to Coldwell Banker:
Most Expensive: 

Newport Beach, Calif. ($2,291,764)
Palo Alto, Calif. ($2,066,600)
Saratoga, Calif. ($1,979,218)
Cupertino, Calif. ($1,659,297)
Los Gatos, Calif. ($1,569,615)
Arcadia, Calif. ($1,541,406)
San Mateo, Calif. ($1,463,455)
Sunnyvale, Calif. ($1,447,411)
Orono, Minn. ($1,384,270)
Redwood City, Calif. ($1,367,350)

Least Expensive:
Cleveland, Ohio ($74,502)
Riverdale, Ga. ($79,223)
Wilkes-Barre, Pa. ($79,480)
Detroit, Mich. ($81,616)
Alma, Mich. ($90,523)
Gloversville, N.Y. ($91,406)
Euclid, Ohio ($92,550)
Hastings, Fla. ($95,267)
Flint, Mich. ($95,482)
Lithonia, Ga. ($95,750)



Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Luxury-Home Developers’ Latest Pitch: Unspoiled Nature

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New demand for living around areas surrounded by unspoiled nature. The conservation easement has exploded in popularity as it protects land from development. The deed to the land needs to be protected in perpetuity. These high end homes fuel the desire for homeowners to help with nature preservation along with gaining their own benefits of living in it as well. A price worth paying for many. It's a win win for all.

Luxury-Home Developers’ Latest Pitch: Unspoiled Nature

Forget golf: A growing number of high-end home communities are being built around large nature preserves 

The living room, with steel beams, in the McMahons’ living room. The couple was drawn to Spring Island in part for its 1,200 acre nature preserve.

Some developers are dedicating part of their land to nature preserves, hoping to draw in people with a passion for the environment and the outdoors. 


Tuesday, November 10, 2015

California housing will get even less affordable, UCLA forecast says

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 While California housing keeps getting less affordable it is only going to get worse. Construction is unable to keep up with demand. Even with some units set aside for affordable housing demand is not able to keep pace. Total employment growth continuing to rise is good news with a drop in unemployment rates predicted but also directly affects a greater housing demand for the area. This drives up home prices.

California housing will get even less affordable, UCLA forecast says


Housing in California — already considered unaffordable to many — will become even less affordable over the next two years, with construction unable to keep up with demand, according to a UCLA economic forecast released Monday.

UCLA Anderson Forecast Senior Economist Jerry Nickelsburg wrote in his forecast that government agencies need to reconsider their policies surrounding affordable housing if they hope to make a dent in the problem.

“The economics are clear,” he wrote. “When affordable housing is provided, say by requiring developers to have a fixed percentage of their new units ‘affordable,’ then the demand for that housing will be in excess of the supply.”

Nickelsburg added that “the policy itself recognizes that building constraints -- natural or regulatory -- will not permit a sufficient number of new homes to be built to satisfy the demand at affordable levels.

“This being the case, affordable housing policy needs to be explicit about who the housing is for,” he wrote. “For example, one might advocate affordable housing so that teachers in public schools can purchase housing that would otherwise be difficult for them to acquire.”

Nickelsburg said the typical response of “just build more housing” is unrealistic since such a move would require major changes in zoning codes, environmental requirements and building regulations.

“Certainly some of this is happening, particularly along mass transit corridors, but to make a significant impact the changes would have to be quite dramatic,” he wrote. “Realistically, this is not going to happen in the coming few years.”

On an economic front, Nickelsburg predicted total employment growth in California of 2.7 percent this year, 2.2 percent next year and 1.4 percent in 2017. The unemployment rate will drop below 6 percent for the balance of the year, then average 5.2 percent next year and 4.8 percent in 2017.

On the national front, UCLA Anderson director Edward Leamer predicted GDP growth of 2 to 3 percent over the next two years, with a generally healthy economy.

“This comes with an improving labor market, declining unemployment rate and a rising employment to population ratio,” Leamer wrote.


Tuesday, October 6, 2015

What You Need to Know About the New Mortgage Rules

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Improvements to the mortgage application process will allow borrowers more time to understand the entire process with more visibility of actual related costs but may slow the closing process.

What You Need to Know About the New Mortgage Rules 


Applying for a home loan soon should get easier and less confusing. That is the goal, at least, of changes to the mortgage application process required by the 2010 Dodd-Frank banking reform act, which finally kick in Saturday.

Clearing up confusion

If you have taken out a mortgage, you know how confusing the process can be. The law has required lenders to reveal in writing the fine points of the loan. But the documents that must be used are hard to understand for anyone who’s not a lawyer or a real estate professional.

Timing has also been a problem. The final details of a mortgage typically have been dumped in borrowers’ laps along with the final loan papers, meaning that, typically, a borrower has to take in the costs and terms of their new mortgage only minutes before signing the papers that commit them to hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt.

Stories of confused borrowers signing complex, risky mortgages they didn’t understand were commonplace at the end of the housing bubble. Congress’ effort to correct that led to a number of changes, including those going into effect now.

Two new disclosure forms

Starting now, lenders will use two new forms to explain the details of their mortgages — a loan estimate (shown here at the CFPB), which must be given to a borrower no later than the third business day after the borrower applies, and a final closing disclosure, which borrowers will receive three business days before a mortgage deal closes.
The two forms look similar, which should help borrowers line up the lender’s initial offer with the final deal, better revealing any bait-and-switch discrepancies in fees, rates or settlement costs.

More time to review the purchase


Lenders now will need to give borrowers the closing disclosure form breaking down the final costs and loan details at least three business days before the mortgage papers are signed.

This will give borrowers the time necessary to:
  • Understand all of the loan’s terms and costs.
  • Compare the final product with the offer they received initially.
  • Ask questions about points of confusion.
  • Enlist help from a lawyer, trusted friend or family member.
  • Think about whether they can truly afford the mortgage they are considering and — if not — back out.

Brace for a rocky start

Lenders will need time to adapt to the changes, experts said. Expect that the process may be bumpy at first, said Tammy Felenstein, executive director of sales for Halstead Property in Stamford, Connecticut, talking to The New York Times. She advises borrowers to ask their real estate agents or an attorney for guidance. “Go with a lending institution that has prepared for these changes and knows what they’re doing,” she said.

The process is likely to create longer closing times. Borrowers can keep things moving by organizing their documents early, turning them into the lender quickly and scheduling inspections immediately, advises Diane Evans, the president of the American Land Title Association, in an interview with The Times:
Some real estate agents are planning to write contracts with 45-day closings, instead of 30, Ms. Evans said, adding, “if you’re prepared for a little more time and it takes less, everybody leaves a little happier.”





Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Southland home sales hit a nine-year high; prices up 5.5%

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Home prices all time high up 5.5%. Los Angeles County's median home price is $492,000 with sales up 13.5% from a year ago. Most economists still predict continued appreciation but at a slower pace due to the increased cost of housing.

Southland home sales hit a nine-year high; prices up 5.5%

By Andrew Khouri - August 18, 2015

The Southern California housing market is enjoying a summer almost as hot as the weather.

Home sales reached a nine-year high in July, while the median price climbed 5.5% from a year earlier, according a report out Tuesday from CoreLogic.

The data represent a housing market that's picked up steam from a sluggish 2014, as an improved economy gives more families the confidence to buy a home. June sales also were at a nine-year high.

"Much of today's demand stems from job growth, low mortgage rates and a more confident consumer," CoreLogic analyst Andrew LePage said.

The 16.9% increase in sales from July 2014 comes as investors pull back from the marketplace, leaving more breathing room for families.

In July, absentee buyers, who are mostly investors, bought 21% of all homes sold, the smallest share since June 2010. All-cash transactions, often the sign of an investment deal, also fell to 21.7% of sales, the lowest since November 2008.

Real estate agents say some families have jumped into the market given all the talk about a coming rise in interest rates if the Federal Reserve raises its short-term benchmark rate later this year, as expected.

The robust demand pushed sales up in six Southland counties: Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego and Ventura.

The six-county region's median price ticked down 0.9% from June to $438,000. But LePage said such a month-to-month dip is not unusual and probably represents a shift in the mix of homes selling.

Most economists predict continued price appreciation ahead, though at a slower pace than in recent years as families struggle to afford the increased cost of housing. The California Assn. of Realtors expects that by the end of December the median price for a California single-family home will have risen 5.3% in 2015.


Thursday, August 6, 2015

Banks Are Loosening Up on Jumbo Loans

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The jumbo loans market is getting bigger with some banks only requiring a 15% down payment for jumbo loans up to $1.5 million.  It's been a 58 percent increase in new loan originations from a year ago and an area of the mortgage market that has recovered more than any other sector since the housing crisis.

Banks Are Loosening Up on Jumbo Loans

As lenders try to capture more of the high-end housing market, J.P. Morgan Chase announced that it's loosening the underwriting standards for issuing jumbo mortgages, those that exceed $417,000 in most parts of the country or $625,500 in pricier areas. The bank is lowering its minimum credit score and down payment requirements for mortgages up to $3 million.

Chase's decision follows similar steps from Bank of America Corp., Wells Fargo, and other banks for jumbo mortgage requirements.

As such, the jumbo market is getting bigger. Jumbo originations in the second quarter climbed to an eight-year high of $93 billion – a 58 percent increase from a year ago, according to Inside Mortgage Finance estimates. Jumbo mortgages issued by lenders last year accounted for about 20 percent of all first-lien mortgages, up from 5.5 percent in 2009.

"There's no question that the jumbo market has probably recovered more than any sector of the mortgage market since the housing crisis," says Guy Cecala, publisher of Inside Mortgage Finance.
J.P. Morgan plans to lower its minimum FICO credit scores for jumbo mortgages from 740 to 680 for loans on primary single-family purchases, second homes, and some refinances. The bank is also allowing a 15 percent down payment for loans up to $3 million. That is less than other banks such as Bank of America and PNC Financial Services Group Inc. which allow a 15 percent down payment for jumbo loans up to $1 million and $1.5 million, respectively.

The housing recovery has been strong in the higher-priced tier. Existing single-family home sales priced between $750,000 and $1 million rose 21 percent in June from a year prior, according to the National Association of REALTORS®. Meanwhile, sales of homes priced between $100,000 and $250,000 rose 12.5 percent. Homes priced lower saw sales fall 3 percent.


Friday, July 17, 2015

Mortgage Limits May Increase

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That's good news as it's easier to qualify for a conforming loan than a jumbo loan. Also, jumbo loans due to higher loan amount comes with a higher price tag on the interest rate. If baseline jumbo thresholds rise more it should encourage more to buy and move into higher priced homes.

Mortgage Limits May Increase

With home prices still climbing, baseline jumbo-mortgage thresholds may be raised for the first time in a decade.


Friday, June 26, 2015

Silicon Beach is Officially Spreading to the Venice Boardwalk

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Tech businesses continue to spread and booting out other businesses in their path. A brand new 28,000 snazzy building is coming offering a huge office space on the Venice Boardwalk. 

Silicon Beach is Officially Spreading to the Venice Boardwalk
ocean fron walk.jpg
Thursday, June 25, 2015, by Bianca Barragan

The Silicon Beach effect is spreading through all of Venice like wildfire, with tech businesses flocking to the area and, in many cases, booting other businesses out so they can move in. On the Venice Boardwalk, the creep has been slow and steady: totally-not-just-for-sexting app Snapchat began in a rented former pot shop on the Boardwalk, then later moved into a spot in the Thornton Lofts (and with a bunch of other nearby locations). Now there's a possibility that an actual full-on, glassy office building could be coming to what's now a parking lot right on Ocean Front Walk, says Yo! Venice, and word is that there's already a tech tenant circling.

The plan calls for a snazzy, 28,000-square-foot structure that, from the available rendering, appears to be three stories tall. According to city planning documents, about 22,800 square feet of that would be offices, with about 5,200 square feet of retail space and one residential unit. There are also two levels of underground parking planned. The architect who designed the building, Venice-based Glen Irani, says there's an "active permit" for the site that allows a building of roughly the same size on the lot, but one that would be retail and restaurant space—more in line with what's already on the Boardwalk.
Irani says he told the owner that restaurants are gross and that an office would be better for the spot:

"It's an economically viable option, but certainly not the highest and best use nor the most neighborhood friendly use. Such a use would entail numerous deliveries every day, food trash odors, homeless lurking for food trash, constant vehicular traffic, and possibly a bar or two with loitering drunkards after-hours as most every bar does have," Irani says. It's rumored that there's already a tech tenant waiting in the wings for the office complex to be built (Yo! Venice suspects it's Snapchat, which is currently spread out across several locations that are close but not unified and seems constantly to be signing more and more leases.)

Neighbors who were present at a community meeting to discuss the potential development seemed mostly worried about the loss of the parking lot, which many of them actually use.


Friday, June 19, 2015

New owners plan $30-million face lift for Promenade at Howard Hughes Center

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Howard Hughes Center mall on the Westside is getting a major makeover to meet the demands of the changing demographics of the area as thousands are moving into area of Playa Vista which is within walking distance. It will be another positive addition which was spurred in part by the purchasing power due to the proximity of both residents and employees who live and work in the area.

New owners plan $30-million face lift for Promenade at Howard Hughes Center

The Promenade 

A rendering of the changes at the Promenade at Howard Hughes Center in Westchester. (Laurus Corp.)

By Roger Vincent - June 18, 2015

The Promenade at Howard Hughes Center, a prominent but dated mall next to the 405 Freeway in Westchester, has been sold to Los Angeles investors who plan to give it a $30-million face lift.

Howard Hughes Center, the neighborhood where the mall is located, has a collection of high-rise office buildings and a growing number of apartments. Soon it will have a total of 1.3 million square feet of office space and 3,200 apartments, said Jean Paul Szita, president of Laurus Corp.

The mall is also close to Playa Vista, an office, residential and retail development being built on land that once was home to the aviation empire of business mogul Howard Hughes.

The investment was spurred in part by "the purchasing power of the residents and employees who live and work in such close proximity," Szita said.

Laurus Corp. bought the mall from Passco Cos. last week. Terms of the sale were not disclosed, but real estate data provider CoStar Group Inc. valued it at about $100 million.

The mall's new design, by Los Angeles architect the Jerde Partnership Inc., calls for more indoor-outdoor uses such as courtyards with landscaping. The installation of south-facing escalators and a new pedestrian crossing on Center Drive aims to make the mall easy to access by pedestrians.

The courtyard adjacent to the Cinemark theater complex will become the new center of the mall, with a new outdoor screening area and fire pit, as well as new restaurants, an outdoor dining area and casual lounge space. The team will also update the current Art Deco retail facades throughout the center to reflect a more modern aesthetic.

The Playa Vista area is experiencing a growth boom. In recent years many technology and media firms that found themselves priced out of Santa Monica and other Westside office markets have gravitated to new and renovated buildings in Playa Vista.

Internet titan Google Inc. last year bought nearly 12 acres at Playa Vista that is zoned for new offices or studios. Google is also expected to lease the massive 1943 hangar where aviator Hughes built his "Spruce Goose" airplane. Yahoo Inc., another huge Internet company, said in January that it will move regional operations from Santa Monica to Playa Vista.

Landlord Laurus Corp. has more than $1 billion in assets under management and is affiliated with real estate private equity firm Ethika Investments.


Monday, June 15, 2015

Is Another Housing Price Bubble Looming?

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Real estate is stronger than ever so put the worries aside as another bubble is probably unlikely. There have been many changes since the last bubble in 2006 which eliminate the threat of a bubble like the last one. These factors are the following:
  • Appraisals tend to err on the low side today, rather than on the high side as was the case during the bubble.
  • Alternative documentation rules that allowed many borrowers to qualify without adequate financial capacity, are gone; full documentation is the rule.
  • The private secondary market in mortgage-backed securities, which financed most of the sub-prime mortgages written during the bubble period, collapsed during the crisis and has barely begun to recover.

All these were important changes that make it fairly impossible to support another bubble as lessons have already been learned.

Is Another Housing Price Bubble Looming?

Jack M. Guttentag  Professor of Finance Emeritus at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania

Many of those commenting on the question, however, don't understand what a price bubble is. It is NOT a marked rise in prices. Sharp price increases are common, and pose no threat to the stability of the economy whereas price bubbles are rare and do pose a threat.

A price bubble is a rise in price based on the expectation that the price will rise. Sooner or later something happens to erode confidence in continued price increases, at which point the bubble bursts and prices drop. What makes it a price bubble is that the cause of the price increase is an expectation that the price will increase, which sooner or later must reverse itself.

Bubbles can only arise in markets where the stock of items is very large relative to new production. If a rise in price immediately stimulates an increase in supply, any bubble will quickly disappear.

Housing meets that condition because the stock of houses is large relative to new construction, but ocean liners have an even longer production cycle than houses, and to my knowledge that industry has never been hit by a price bubble. Something else must be involved and it is quite possible that there is no single explanation.

The expectations of price increases that drove the house price bubble of 2000-2006, which led to the financial crisis, was not limited to consumers looking to buy houses. It also engulfed the lenders who financed their house purchases, and the investors here and abroad who purchased the securities that were issued against home mortgage collateral. Indeed, they were the crucial players in the bubble.

Rising home prices convert virtually all mortgage loans, even those that violate the most sacrosanct underwriting rules, into good loans. For example:
  • The borrower with an adjustable rate mortgage can't meet the new higher payment on the first rate adjustment date in two years. No problem, after two years of price increase, the house will then have enough equity to allow the lender to refinance the loan with a new lower payment.
  • The borrower has no money for a down payment. No problem, after two years of five percent price increases, the borrower will have equity of more than 10 percent.
  • The borrower is a poor credit risk with a high likelihood of defaulting. No problem if he defaults, the price increases will cover the foreclosure costs and we'll get our money back.
The presumption that house prices could only rise was supported by a long record of house price increases interrupted by only occasional declines in specific areas that were moderate and short-lived.

Prior to 2006, there had not been a national decline in house prices since the depression of the 1930s. The premise that this pattern would continue was entirely plausible -- so much so that it was generally accepted by regulators who did nothing to deflate the bubble. Wholesale acceptance by lenders, investors and regulators of the premise that house prices could only rise led to the bubble, which invalidated the premise when the bubble burst -- as all bubbles do.

House prices generally fell between 2006 and 2012, and have been on the rise since 2012, with the increases in some areas bringing prices above the highs reached in 2006. Reports of large price increases are now invariably accompanied by concerns about whether or not another bubble may be brewing.

My view is that we are a long way from another house price bubble. Home buyers, lenders, investors and regulators now understand that a nationwide decline in house prices is possible -- because we recently lived through one. Probably it will take another generation to forget what we learned.

Even if the lesson was forgotten tomorrow, changes that have occurred in the housing finance system as a result of the crisis and the recession would make it very difficult if not impossible for the system to support a bubble. Among the more important changes:
  • Appraisals tend to err on the low side today, rather than on the high side as was the case during the bubble.
  • Alternative documentation rules that allowed many borrowers to qualify without adequate financial capacity, are gone; full documentation is the rule.
  • The private secondary market in mortgage-backed securities, which financed most of the sub-prime mortgages written during the bubble period, collapsed during the crisis and has barely begun to recover.
In many respects, these changes went too far and made the housing finance system less effective, but they did eliminate the threat of another housing bubble. I don't expect to see another one in my lifetime.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

The Point, South Bay’s new $80 million ‘living room,’ on track for July 30 opening

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The new "Pointe" is on track to open its doors end of July.  It's a new shopping, entertainment destination in El Segundo midway between the South Bay and the Westside. It's central location will feel like a living room of sorts with a contemporary beach feel theme filled with hand picked tenants. Another exciting destination for folks to check out and a definite positive addition to the community.

The Point, South Bay’s new $80 million ‘living room,’ on track for July 30 opening

All the retail spaces open out into a park-like setting at The Point, located in El Segundo at Rosecrans Avenue and Sepulveda Boulevard. May 12, 2015. (Brad Graverson / Staff Photographer) 

Posted: 05/12/15, 7:16 PM

Six months ago, it was a towering mound of dirt. Now, the 45,000-square-foot central plaza finally resembles just that — a lush, grassy patch of land surrounded by trees and shrubbery, with a fountain and fire pits just waiting for final touches.

This is the South Bay’s future “living room,” say developers of The Point, the $80 million retail, dining and office space at the corner of Rosecrans Avenue and Sepulveda Boulevard, next door to Plaza El Segundo. The center is set to open on July 30.

On Tuesday, representatives of owner Federal Realty Investment Trust offered a first-look VIP tour of the 115,000 square feet of retail space, soon to be home to 30 high-end, unique retailers and eateries such as Superba Food and Bread, Mendocino Farms, Soul Cycle, Athleta and a one-of-a-kind Lucky Brand flagship.

The developer on Tuesday announced even more tenants, many the first of their kind or the first in Southern California, including Lou & Grey (sibling of Ann Taylor Loft), prAna, SIX:02 fitness, No Rest for Bridget, Planet Blue, Marmi and Michael Stars. Also included on site is 25,000 square feet of second-floor office space overlooking the plaza.

The development, however, is anchored on nearly each side by in-demand restaurants such as hopdaddy, True Food Kitchen, ShopHouse, North Italia and a new concept by Manhattan Beach restaurateur Mike Simms called Craft Shack.

The developer has lauded its carefully considered mix of tenants.

“We’re always trying to figure out who can play in the sandbox together,” said Bob Baker, leasing consultant for Federal Realty. “Putting together the right mix gives you the right productivity.”

The buildings themselves are a blend of dark wood, navy blue and splashes of bright orange, designed to emit a “contemporary beach casual” feel, with various building heights, pop-outs and scales.

“The materials feel very warm as opposed to coming in and doing all stucco,” said Jeff Kreshek, Federal Realty’s vice president of West Coast leasing.

But the pièce de résistance is clearly the project’s bright, open central plaza. The grassy oasis is already booked for parties, outdoor movies, s’mores by the fire pits, yoga and more once it opens. On Tuesday, construction workers were building the children’s play area, complete with a colorful miniature lifeguard stand on which kids can climb.

“When you look at what’s up and down Rosecrans and Sepulveda, while they’re fantastic properties and very productive, they all lack the sense of place The Point is creating,” Kreshek said. “This 45,000 square feet of effectively park gives you a place where the function of shopping goes away. It’s an experience.”

Nodding to nearby shopping centers and even the big-box stores in Plaza El Segundo next door, Kreshek said The Point was developed to stand out from the rest.

“When you’re going to Best Buy, you go for a function. We wanted something more experiential as opposed to functional,” Kreshek said. “Otherwise we’re just another retail outpost where you drive up, come in, get what you need, get in your car and leave. This is the customers’ place. You can have events here. Go to yoga in the park here. Kids will run around here.”

To keep with the theme of a gathering place, every restaurant in the center will have a large outdoor patio or community space.

“So you’re not just contained in there and pushed out another door on your way out. The (restaurants) are designed to free flow between indoors and outdoors,” Kreshek said.

The architects did their best to make the space feel intimate, but also spacious. It takes about 5 minutes to walk around the entire property.

The Point will have two entrances — one off Rosecrans with a full traffic signal and one off Sepulveda Boulevard — as well as 689 surface parking spaces. The center does not connect to Plaza El Segundo next door because of the active railroad lines in between the two parcels, Kreshek said.
Despite sitting at one of the busiest intersections in the South Bay, the development is not expected to have a significant impact on travel patterns and offers an abundance of parking, Kreshek said last year.

The Point was originally approved by the city in 2005, along with the proposal for Plaza El Segundo, which is also owned by Federal Realty. The City Council at the time enacted a limitation on the total number of car trips for the project.

“That trip cap is not being exceeded with the completion of The Point,” said Kim Christensen, the city’s planning manager.

The traffic effects identified during the environmental review of both projects have been offset through various improvements, including deceleration lanes, the signal at Village Drive off Rosecrans, the extension of left-hand turn lanes and the like, she said, adding that the city feels confident that all environmental and traffic issues were addressed.

The owners of Manhattan Village mall in Manhattan Beach, directly south of The Point, have proposed a $110 million remodel, featuring open-air village-like retail shops and a central plaza, nearly a decade ago. Those plans finally secured city approval last December and continue to move forward.

But Federal Realty is not concerned about the mall remodel, confident in the unique blend of uses at The Point.

“We’re not trying to win Black Friday or back to school. We want to fit into people’s lives,” Baker said. “It’s not a shopping center. It’s a place to go. It’s a place to meet friends. You can have all kinds of events here. There’s a tremendous opportunity we have here.”



Friday, May 22, 2015

It's getting more expensive to be a renter

Rents have been rising at it's fastest pace up 4% compared to a year ago. Rental affordability continues to get worse and is outpacing home prices as there has been no slowdown since 2000. Even with high rents and incomes not keeping up with increases there is still a strong demand. 


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golden gate bridge 

Rents have increased faster than home values since last summer in San Francisco, according to Zillow

Rent checks are getting bigger.

Rents in April were 4% higher than a year before, according to a report from Zillow. That's the fastest increase in two years, outpacing home prices which rose by 3%, the report showed.

Rental affordability is getting worse, and it doesn't look like it will be improving anytime soon. "This is here to stay," said Svenja Gudell, senior director of economic research at Zillow. "We will continue to see rental increases, and affordability will worsen before it gets better."

Rents have been steadily rising since 2000 and unlike home prices, which took a hit when the bubble burst, there's been no disruption to slow rent prices, explained Gudell.

"Income hasn't kept up with rental increases. You are having to spend much more your monthly income on rent and it's a concern. It's a national concern."

Rents increased faster than home values in 20 of the 35 largest markets.
But even as rents climb, there is still strong demand for rentals, creating a housing crunch in some cities.

"Places hard hit like Seattle, San Francisco and Denver are having a hard time keeping up and building enough units to satisfy demand," said Gudell.

Renters in San Francisco face a nearly 15% rise in payments while rents in Denver went up 11.6% in April from last year, according to Zillow's Rent Index. Only two cities on the list experienced a drop in rent from last year: Chicago and Minneapolis.

Low mortgage rates make home buying an attractive option, but large rent checks can make saving for a down payment tough. On a national level, homeowners can pay an average of 15.3% of their income on mortgage payments each month, the report found, while renters will dish out roughly 30% on rent. Gudell said tenants in high-income areas can expect to pay closer to 50% of their income on rents.

"There are bunch of things keeping renters on the sidelines and that means usually the folks that would be normally making the switch to become homeowners are still taking up the rental units."
Here's how much rent prices rose in the largest markets in the country in April from last year, according to Zillow's Rent Index:

San Francisco, 14.9%
San Jose, 12.9%
Denver, 11.6%
Kansas City, Mo., 9.5%
Portland, Ore., 8.6%
Charlotte, N.C., 6.6%
Austin, Texas, 6.2%
Cincinnati, Ohio, 6.2%
Seattle, 6.2%
Houston, 6.1%
Detroit, 6.0%
Sacramento, 5.9%
Los Angeles, 5.6%
Dallas-Fort Worth, 5.5%
Phoenix, 5.4%
Boston, 5.2%
San Diego, 5.1%
Atlanta, 4.9%
San Antonio, Texas, 4.6%
St. Louis, 4.5%
Pittsburgh, 4.4%
Riverside, Calif. 4.2%
Tampa, Fla., 4.1%
New York, 3.4%
Miami-Fort Lauderdale, 3.2%
Philadelphia, 2.8%
Baltimore, 2.7%
Columbus, Ohio, 2.6%
Cleveland, Ohio, 2.4%
Las Vegas, 2.1%
Washington, D.C., 2.1%
Orlando, 2.0%
Indianapolis, 1.5%
Minneapolis-St. Paul, -0.3%
Chicago, -1.0%


Thursday, May 21, 2015

Sales of existing homes cool off again

 My website:

Median home prices have climbed 8.9% compared with a year ago. Sales have slowed due to tight inventory in many parts of the country. Homes are selling in an average of 39 days which is the fastest since June 2013 which is driving prices up. Demand is strong due to an improving job market and relatively low interest rates.

Sales of existing homes cool off again in April amid tight supply

Home sales 

By Tim Logan - May 21, 2015

The U.S. housing market's stop-and-start recovery slowed again in April as home sales dipped.

Sales of previously owned homes fell 3.3% in the month, according to figures released Thursday by the National Assn. of Realtors. The median price climbed 8.9% compared with a year ago, the 38th consecutive month of annual gains.

The Realtors group's chief economist, Lawrence Yun, pegged the sales dip -- which came one month after existing home sales hit their highest level in almost two years -- on tight supply in many parts of the country. Homes are selling in an average of 39 days, their fastest clip since June 2013, and that's driving prices up.

"April's setback is the result of lagging supply relative to demand and the upward pressure it's putting on prices," Yun said. "Housing inventory declined from last year and supply in many markets is very tight, which in turn is leading to bidding wars, faster price growth and properties selling at a quicker pace.

Demand from buyers remains strong, the Realtors say, fueled by low interest rates and the improving job market. That could cool off again, Yun warns, if prices continue to rise faster than incomes.
Sales in the West fell 1.7%, while prices climbed 10% from last year.



SoCal home sales, prices show gains

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Home prices climbing once again. It's once again a sellers market as inventory remains tight. Prices are up a moderate 6.2% with sales outpacing new listings.

SoCal home sales, prices show gains 

Home sales 

Prospective buyers meet their real estate agent at a house in Westchester. Home sales and median prices both climbed in Southern California in April.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

By Tim Logan - May 19, 2015

Southern California home prices and sales climbed in April for the second straight month after a period of stagnation.

The gains, however, may signal a tough summer ahead for buyers, who face a dwindling supply of homes in most areas.

The price and sales gains in April, reported Tuesday by real estate firm CoreLogic, followed a long cooling-off period after the torrid price gains of two years ago. This spring's market appears more healthy, with prices up a moderate 6.2% from April 2014, to a median of $429,000 across the six-county Los Angeles metropolitan area. Sales volume climbed 8.5%.

Those sales are outpacing the number of new listings, according to the California Assn. of Realtors.
In Los Angeles County, for instance, every home on the market would sell in 3.6 months at the market's current pace, down from a three-year high of 5.2 months in February — which was close to what economists consider a balanced market between buyers and sellers.

Shrinking supply could signal higher prices and fewer sales ahead.

“Unless this increase in prices encourages more people to come out and list their home, I don't see how it continues,” Selma Hepp, the state association's senior economist, said of the trend of rising sales.

Meanwhile, more buyers are crowding into the market, drawn by an improving economy and the prospect that historically low interest rates may soon rise, said Steven Thomas, who tracks the Southern California market at Reports on Housing.

“There's a bit of a flock to purchase right now,” he said. “It's like, ‘Everyone can go to Disneyland!' But the lines are really long. So not everybody gets to ride.”

A more extreme version of this dynamic played out two years ago, when supply was tight, bidding wars routine and prices climbing 20% or more on a year-over-year basis.

Two years ago, many homeowners couldn't list their homes for sale because they still owed more on their mortgage than the house was worth.

That's less of a problem now. CoreLogic estimated just 6.7% of mortgages were underwater in the fourth quarter of 2014.

That doesn't necessarily mean owners are itching to sell, Thomas said. The ups and downs of the last decade, he says, may have convinced more owners that staying in one house for a long time has some value.

“Everyone's just kind of staying put,” he said.

One traditional solution to tight supply has been new construction, but home builders remain cautious. Permits to build single-family homes fell 12% in Los Angeles and Orange counties in the first three months of the year, according to Census Bureau data. And while permits are up 7% in Riverside and San Bernardino counties, they remain far below the pace set during the Inland Empire's home-building heyday a decade ago.

Still, some builders see opportunities.

Griffin Residential, a century-old home builder based in Corona, had shifted into buying and renovating foreclosures to survive during the downturn. Now it has begun shifting back to its main business of building new again, with six developments, totaling about 200 units, in the pipeline in
the Inland Empire. Sales on the first one to open, in Yucaipa, have been strong, said Chief Executive Ian Griffin. He expects that will continue.

“We've had good sales, good demand,” he said. “I think it'll gradually increase.”
Listings of existing homes are also up significantly in the Inland Empire, unlike many areas of the region.

The number of listings in Riverside and San Bernardino counties is up 24% compared with a year ago, according to data from brokerage firm Redfin. Paul Reid, a Redfin agent in Temecula, said that's allowing buyers to take their time and find a house they truly want.

“When you're rushed and paying more than you want, it's not a fun experience,” he said. “But I think the inventory and relatively flat prices are giving people more confidence.”
Closer to the coast, though, the race is on.

Simon Mills, whose Mills Realty in Toluca Lake specializes in helping sellers, says he has seen well-priced homes get multiple offers fast. That's still driving up prices, maybe still too fast to be sustainable.

“It's not leading to a healthy market,” he said. “There needs to be more supply to feed the demand.”



Thursday, April 16, 2015

Southern California home sales jump, prices rise in March

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Median home prices have climbed 2.4% from February to $425,000. Compared to a year ago home prices have climbed 6.3% which is a much slower pace than the previous year of 15.8 % in March 2014. That is good news as shows the housing market is stabilizing. The slowing appreciation is more realistic of a normal market and while boosting equity for homeowners also gives those who who want to buy a more realistic opportunity to do so.

Southern California home sales jump, prices rise in March

Home sales 

Signs direct home shoppers to open houses in Huntington Beach last June. Southern California home prices are up, after remaining essentially flat for nearly a year. (Bryan Chan / Los Angeles Times)

That’s according to numbers out Thursday from real estate firm CoreLogic that show home sales jumped 11.1% in March from a year earlier -- the first gain in three months.

Prices were up too, after remaining essentially flat for nearly a year.

With few homes on the market and more families searching for a house during the typically busy spring season, the median price climbed 2.4% from February to $425,000.

The median -- the point at which half of homes sold for more and half for less -- had held around $415,000 since May.

Compared to a year earlier, prices increased 6.3%, a slower pace than the 15.8% annual pop seen in March 2014.

Economists have said slowing price appreciation should give more families a chance to purchase a home as the economy strengthens, while still boosting equity for existing home owners.

Home sales jumped across Southern California in March, rising in Orange, Los Angeles, Ventura, Riverside, San Bernardino and San Diego counties.


Friday, April 3, 2015

Is Snapchat's rapid growth changing Venice's funky vibe?

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Snapchat is another new successful tech start-up which in only two years has grown to 200 employees in the Silicon Beach area. This is one of the great examples of small companies turning into large corporations and changing the city scape of Venice and surrounding areas to continue attracting the well heeled techies who've made Venice even more expensive to live and do business.

Is Snapchat's rapid growth changing Venice's funky vibe?


Snapchat leases a handful of buildings along Market Street in Venice.
(Katie Falkenberg / Los Angeles Times)

By Paresh Dave - March 31, 2015
Snapchat first set up in Los Angeles in a funky old bungalow on Venice Beach, a little start-up with only 14 employees. Two years later, the messaging app is rich, famous and expanding fast.

The company is still in Venice, but with 200 employees it has far outgrown its cozy house on the beach. It's about to nearly double its footprint in Venice with a lease for 40,000 square feet in several buildings at Venice and Abbot Kinney boulevards, according to real estate experts and property records.

Snapchat expansion: In the March 31 Section A, an article about the expansion of tech company Snapchat in Venice Beach said that Google was moving its operation from Venice to Playa Vista. Some employees will remain in Venice. In addition, the article misspelled Venice resident Jack Hoffmann's name as Hoffman.

Some residents say the tech company's rapid expansion will alter the character of Venice, a longtime enclave for poets, artists, musicians, roller skaters, beach freaks and unclassifiable eccentrics. They gripe about a continuing influx of well-heeled techies who've made Venice a more expensive place to live and do business.

As "Silicon Beach" expands, it's bound to transform the laid-back environment that has attracted dozens of start-ups. Snapchat, the most famous — and highest-valued — start-up in Los Angeles, serves as a lightning rod for foes of gentrification.

"The clock can't be turned back after Venice is built out to support large corporations and not small businesses," said James Briggs, chief executive of Briabe Mobile Inc., a mobile marketing company and tenant at the Abbot Kinney complex since 2007.
The frictions caused by tech industry gentrification are not new. Similar dramas are playing out in San Francisco and other old-line communities disrupted by Silicon Valley companies. Luxurious private buses filled with tech workers have become a vivid metaphor for the widening wealth gap in San Francisco.

Snapchat Chief Executive Evan Spiegel, who grew up in Los Angeles and attended Stanford University, said he chose Southern California to escape both corporate and Silicon Valley culture. Walks on the beach helped Spiegel and his business partner Bobby Murphy dream up new features for the app.

If it continues to expand in Venice, though, it will have to grow horizontally. And growth for Snapchat, with a reputed value of $15 billion, a growing list of features, and millions of users around the world, appears inevitable.

Snapchat leases


Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Pending home sales jump 3.1% in February, Realtors say

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The gain in home sales looks promising for the spring buying season. A spring rebound may be in play due to an improved job market as well as low mortgage rates.

Pending home sales jump 3.1% in February, Realtors say

Home for sale 

A home for sale last year in Huntington Beach. (Bryan Chan / Los Angeles Times)

 By Andrew Khouri ; March 30, 2015

Pending home sales rose more than expected in February, a trade group said, a sign the housing market may be in for a spring rebound.

Signed contracts for previously owned homes climbed 3.1% from January to the highest level since June 2013, the National Assn. of Realtors reported Monday.

The February increase is a positive sign ahead of the typically busy spring selling season. Pending sales reflect signed contracts, and they usually become final within one or two months.

Prospective buyers are being lured into the market by an improved job market and low mortgage rates, said Lawrence Yun, the Realtors' chief economist.

“These factors bode well for the prospect of an uptick in sales in coming months,” he said.
Pending deals fell in the Northeast and the South, but climbed 11.6% in the Midwest and 6.6% in the West.



Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Southern California home prices rise, sales fall in February

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For the month of February, in Los Angeles county the median housing prices increased 9.2% to $465,000 while sales fell 2.5%. The year is off to a slow start but we will see what happens as spring and summer seasons arrive as that's when the market typically picks up momentum if inventory increases.

Southern California home prices rise, sales fall in February

Prospective home buyers tour a house for sale in Westchester in December.

Prospective home buyers tour a house for sale in Westchester in December. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

By Tim Logan - March 17, 2015  10:29am

Spring has not sprung yet in Southern California's housing market. Home prices in the six-county Southland in February stayed about the same as they have been for nine months, while sales volume drooped compared to this time last year. That's according to new figures out Tuesday from CoreLogic DataQuick.

The San Diego-based housing data firm reports that the median price of homes sold in the region was $415,000 in the month, up 8.4% from February 2014 but roughly in line with where they've been since May 2014.

The number of sales fell 2.7% compared to last February, the 15th time in 17 months they have declined on a year-over-year basis.

January and February are typically slow times in the housing market here. The next few months will tell the story of whether the region's housing market will pick up speed or continue the slow-but-steady pace it's been on for about a year and a half now, said CoreLogic analyst Andrew LePage.

"This feels a lot like early 2014, with home sales off to a slow start as many would-be home buyers struggle with inventory constraints, credit hurdles and reduced affordability," he said. "And just like a year ago, one of the big questions hanging over the market is whether we'll see a sizable jump in inventory this spring and summer."

There are some good signs on the inventory front. On Monday, the California Assn. of Realtors reported 5.8 months worth of homes unsold on the market in Southern California, just shy of the six months that economists consider "normal" supply. In Riverside County, there are seven months of inventory available.

Around the region, price growth was strongest in San Bernardino County, with the median up 11.1% to $250,000. It was weakest in Orange County, up 4.2% to $590,750.

Home sales grew 9.8% in Ventura County and 1.1% in San Diego County but fell 11.5% in San Bernardino County and 1.5% in Orange County.

In Los Angeles County -- the biggest chunk of the six-county market -- median price grew 9.2% to $465,000 while sales fell 2.5%.


Friday, March 6, 2015

Mortgage rates fall; 30-year fixed at 3.75%, Freddie Mac says

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Rates continue to stay low and fall due to a downward revision of economic growth figures along with a decline in consumer prices.  Also there is an increase in mortgage credit availability. Freddie Mac will begin backing mortgages with just 3% down this month. This will help with home price affordability for home buyers. There is cheap money out there for those that can qualify for it.

Mortgage rates fall; 30-year fixed at 3.75%, Freddie Mac says

Mortgage rates 

Long-term mortgage rates fell this week, making it less expensive to buy a home. Above, a Los Angeles house up for sale in January. (Richard Vogel / Associated Press)

Mortgage interest rates fell for the first time in four weeks, with Freddie Mac's survey showing lenders offering conventional 30-year fixed-rate loans at an average of 3.75%, down from 3.8% a week ago.

The 15-year fixed-rate home loan, a way to build equity and pay off debt faster, was averaging 3.03% compared to 3.07%, according to the survey, released Thursday.

A downward revision of fourth-quarter economic growth figures and a decline in consumer prices contributed to the easing of rates, said Len Kiefer, the deputy chief economist at Freddie Mac.
Rates for fixed 30-year loans have remained below 4% since late November, remarkably low by historical standards. They are now at levels last seen in May 2013, Freddie Mac said.

However, high prices and tight supplies in many housing markets have offset the benefits of cheap money for those who can qualify for loans.

Nationally, sales of previously owned homes fell in January to their lowest level in nine months and sales of new homes have plateaued. Southern California had a slow start to the year, with sales dropping and prices flat.

In a more upbeat report, a trade group said Thursday that mortgage credit availability increased slightly in February.
A Mortgage Bankers Assn. index was at 118.6, compared with a baseline of 100 in March 2012, when lending standards were drum-tight. The number rises when credit loosens.

The MBA’s chief economist, Michael Fratantoni, attributed the latest easing to increased availability of jumbo mortgages and of Fannie Mae-backed loans requiring down payments of only 3%.

Freddie Mac is to begin backing mortgages with just 3% down this month, Fratantoni noted.

Freddie Mac asks lenders each Monday through Wednesday about the terms they are offering on mortgages of up to $417,000 that can be backed by Freddie and Fannie, the finance giants that jointly guarantee about 60% of U.S. home loans.

The borrowers in Freddie Mac’s survey are assumed to have 20% down payments and to pay about half of 1% of the loan amount in upfront lender fees and discount points. Payments for such services as appraisals and title insurance are not included.

The survey provides a consistent gauge of mortgage trends, but actual rates adjust constantly and are influenced by many factors.

In addition to borrowers’ credit histories and debt loads, the factors include whether the borrowers opt for zero-cost loans at higher rates or pay extra to lenders initially to lower the rates.