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Archive for the ‘House’ Category

Flip This House Logo

Are you flipping houses or condos for a living? Are you outgoing, opinionated and willing to share your flip team’s experiences? If you answered “Yes!” to these questions, you may be chosen for the next season of A&E TV’s next season of Flip This House.

Flip This House, A&E’s #1 rated lifestyle show, has been to Charleston, Atlanta, San Antonio, and New Haven. Which city will be next?!!

Steve Grant, a casting director from 813 Casting, sent us an email asking for our help in their search by posting the following to the Long Beach Living blog:

“813 Casting and Departure Films are conducting a nationwide search for the new cast of characters who will be featured on the upcoming season of Flip This House! Will it be your team? We’re looking for confident, charismatic, motivated and opinionated people who “flip” residential properties for a living. We want real-estate adrenaline junkies who love the high risk, high reward nature of their jobs and who are devoted to doing a great job! If you would like your team to be featured on the upcoming season of Flip This House, send an email to fth@813casting.com. Please include:

  • contact information
  • bios on you and your team
  • some reasons why your team should be the next to be featured on Flip This House!

Teams should consist of four or more people.”

Good luck and don’t forget to let Long Beach Living know if you’re chosen, so we can post a great blog about your team and up-coming programs featuring your flips. For more about the show

If you’re just thinking about the possibility of flipping houses, a great book that will thoroughly walk you through the entire process is Flip: How to Find, Fix and Sell Houses for Profit by Rick Villani and Clay Davis. The authors have flipped over 1000 homes and have recently written this manual with their formulas for success. It’s a great educational tool for all who are toying with the idea of flipping for profit.

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As an update to a recent post titled Mansionization Concerns in Many Areas of Long Beach, I wrote about a specific property at 181 La Verne Ave. in Belmont Shore. The owner was looking to the city’s Building and Planning Commission for a height variance to forgive the already built, third-story storage room adjacent to the roof-top deck.

At the time of my last post, the city Planning staff was of the opinion that the owner be given the varience due to the fact that the building had already been done and that it was at the back of the home, far away from the street.

Thankfully, a group of neighborhood residents noticed the code violation (city inspectors had not) and then strongly opposed the variance as part of their  concerns for “mansionization”  and over-building in Belmont Shore.

Low and behold, the Planning Commission, with a unanimous vote, did not approve the owner’s petition for a third-story variance.   The builder must now make corrections to the home to bring it back into code. Hopefully this will bring a very positive light to the need for keeping the historical value to a wonderful beach community of Long Beach and let other builders know that the city is, perhaps, not going to allow a “build it now and forgive later” policy for those who try to exceed code limits.

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Arguement

“To each his own,” I say. Your perfect house is not mine, and vice versa. Now that the real estate market has shifted slightly to the buyer’s advantage in Southern California, I’m finding more buyers are dead-set on finding the “perfect house.” As house inventories rise in many states and communities across the country, buyers are now reciprocating what they went through in the past, when it was a seller’s market. They’re passing up the “less-than-perfect” homes and continuing to look for the ever-elusive “home of their dreams.”

When the slight number of homes on the open market was at a dirth in the 2003 – 2006 market, buyers were often left hanging out in left field as sellers were combing through multiple offers on their freshly listed homes. “You don’t have substantial dollars to shell out for a down payment? You’re not waiving the loan, appriasal  and home inspection contingency? Sorry Mr. or Mrs. buyer, you’re not even in the running for purchasing my home.”

Skip forward one year. Ah, yes.The tide has turned! Buyers are not settling for anything that is even romotely close to what their dream home is in their minds. That is, unless the price is considerably lower than what the home needs to “meet their standards.”

Sellers, forget about listing your home for higher than what you think it’s worth, just for negotiating sake! Buyers are walking right by homes that are over-priced. They won’t even go to see them let alone consider making a lower offer than the asking price. Hello! There is too much inventory on the market. They move on to the next home that is closer to their price-point and nearer to what their dream home would look like.

The way I see it, we’re at a stand-off between buyers and sellers in the So Cal real estate market today. Some sellers are not willing to be realistic with the price that their home should be marketed at. They’re still thinking that their home is special and stands out above the competition in the neighborhood. “We have to at least try to get our price,” they say.

This is the wrong approach to marketing a home in today’s market. In order to get top dollar in our current market, the seller(s) must be willing to do the following:

  1. Make all repairs that are known to you and man.
  2. Creat great curb appeal by planting seasonal flowers, have GREEN grass, and give your house punch to make it stand out from the rest on the block and your competition.
  3. Pack up all personal photos and items that clutter shelving, table-tops and counter space.
  4. Neutralize paint colors that may not appeal to the masses.
  5. Get rid of pet paraphenalia and pet odors.
  6. Maximize outdoor views and outdoor spaces to add the feeling of more living space.
  7. Make the entire home spotless, including: washing windows, scrubbing out the tub, power-washing decks, siding, etc.
  8. Remove excess furniture in every room to show the actual living space and size of each room.
  9. Return rooms that have been used for their purposes to the intended purpose of the room; ie. dining room used as an office.
  10. Clean up the yard; no toys, yard ornaments, or dead anything left hanging around to turn-off buyers.

Buyers, on the other hand, have to be able to look past some one else’s faux pas. In the beach areas of Southern California, there isn’t much new construction. Many areas, such as Long Beach, are land-locked. There is so little “new construction” unless it is going “up,”  as in high-rise condo projects.  It’s more of a reality than not, that buyers wanting to live in beach communities will have to consider purchasing  homes that were been built between 1920 – 1955. Some up-grades my have been made, but not chances are,  the entire home has not been completely refurbished. Buyers should be asking themselves these questions:

  1. Does the neighborhood and floorplan of the home suite my needs?
  2. With some paint and minor cosmetinc alterations, will this home suit my/the family’s needs?
  3. Is the price of the home comensurate with the condition and alterations that I would like to make?
  4. Is the yard the type of landscaping that I can realistically live with and keep up with?
  5. Can I offer less than the asking price and hopefully come to an agreement with the seller and feel good about my purchase?
  6. Can I realistically afford to make the improvements in the time-frame that is completely necessary for me to live in the home?

The big “Ah Hah!” is that, there is no PERFECT home. Not  with newly constructed homes or with existing homes. Period! There is always something that the you would change; do different; get rid of; turn into something else, if you could, once you’ve lived in the home for a while. That’s just the nature of our beings.  We live with something for a while, evaulate it, and then re-invent it.

My best advice is to work with a seasoned real estate agent, evaluate each home on the criteria above, and then have your agent explain the most recent, comparable sales (comps) to you. After that, make an offer that is best suited to the seller’s criteria for an acceptance with your goals in mind. (An experienced agent representing you will call the listing agent and discuss the details of the offer, including a lot of the fine points that the seller is going to be very picky about.) It doesn’t take much sometimes, to get sellers to see the light and for them to lower their price to accommodate an offer. If you, as a buyer, don’t put pencil to paper and write an offer, you’ll never know what the seller may have conceeded.

Cant find what you’re looking for in the neighborhood that you’re smitten with? I am somewhat of an Home & .Garden T.V.  junkie in the late evenings and on weekends. There is an excellent show on the H.G. network called “Hidden Potential.”  The show highlights 3 different homes that are not up to the buyer’s standards, but are below their price-point. The designer/architect shows buyer’s how they can re-create the space to make it their own, while staying within their budget. Great show! Too many buyers don’t have enough vision as to what the home ccould actually become when they put their own stamp on it. I say, GET CREATIVE! Look outside the box! Or at least learn to look for the “potential” of a home.

To buyers: There are so many fantastic homes for sale from many different eras. What would happen to these landmarks and historic mavens if nobody had vision to turn them into their own “perfect house?”  Look for the home’s best attributes where your criteria is concerned and figure out, with the help of your experienced agent, what you can negotiate on the price with the seller.

Sellers: Put your absolute best foot forward from day 1! The day your house goes active in the Multiple Listing Service (on the open market,) your home should be in primo condition. You want to WOW! buyers and leave them with the impression that they can move right in without doing anything to the home.

Everybody, can we just learn to get along in this housing market?

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McMansion being built

It seems as though builders and/or property owners in and around Belmont Heights, Belmont Shore and the Peninsula, along with other areas of Long Beach, are ignoring building codes causing residents to start fighting to preserve the character of their neighborhoods. The term “mansionization” refers to the alarming trend for builders and homeowners to purchase smaller homes, tear them down and erect a home that is much larger and not in character with the other homes in the area. 

Third District Councilman, Gary DeLong  along with Seventh District Councilwoman, Tonia Reyes Uranga asked the City Council for a new “Neighborhood Character Stabilization” plan to slow this trend at this week’s Council Meeting. In turn, the counsil asked it’s Housing and Neighborhoods committee to come back to them in 45 days with something similar.

In the meantime, some residents are fighting specific projects that exceed the building codes or are asking for a variance. Belmont Heights Neighborhood Association reported to the council that there are a dozen or more homes right now in their neighborhood in danger of being torn down and replaced with much larger structures.

Today, the Planning Commission will rule on a home being built at 181 La Verne Ave. where construction was halted after residents brought to the city’s attention that the home’s height exceeded building codes. The owner says he didn’t know the storage unit adjacent to the roof-top deck exceeded the height of the building code. His apology is not disuading the residents that reported the violation to the city. They oppose allowing the builder to finish the home. The building department, on the other hand, is suggesting that a variance should be granted due to the fact that the violation is well off the street. What does that have to do with anything? Isn’t it possible that the height of this home could block another homeowner’s view (if not now, in the future) from their roof-top deck? Aren’t variances for hardship cases? And, what kind of precidence is that setting for future building projects?

I agree with the neighborhood activist that seek to eliminate or greatly reduce the number of variances granted. It should be consistant across the board. There are too many cases where the building goes up and the variance comes after the fact. It’s becoming too easy for builders to complete a project and ask for forgiveness afterward.

There is also a trend to build to the extreme edges of lot lines and to go as high up with the building as the code allows. While this is not a violation, in many cases these “McMansions” (homes) do nothing to enhance the character of the neighborhood and usually take away from it. In the Shore, one particular builder has built the same “McMansion” numerous times within a three block radius, painted all of them the same color and put the same front door on them. Several of my prospective buyers, as of late, have noticed these look-a-like homes and have pointed them out to me. One of the reasons people buy in the Shore or the Heights is because the homes are so architecturally different from each other. The Neighborhood Character Stabilization plan will consider the “maxing out” of properties and hopefully will address the copy-cat building as well.

Some activists are calling for story poles to be erected. These are wooden poles put up weeks before any approvals are given by the building department, allowing neighbors to see the height and massing of the proposed building to be erected. Although commonly used in communities such as Laguna Beach, Newport Beach and the like, Long Beach does not require their use. I think it’s an excellent idea, giving neighbors an opportunity to view their site lines and research the building’s specifications before it is built and construction has to be haulted.

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sold-available.jpg  As of April 4, 2007 – The City of Long Beach had 1591 Active single-family homes and condominiums for sale and 428 sales pending. In the past month the number of listings has crept up by approximately 100, while the number of escrows opened has remained relatively the same. Currently, Long Beach has roughly 20% more inventory than the same time period in 2006 and 14% fewer pending sales.

 The current numbers of Active Listings, Peding Sales and Closed Sales (within the last month) are as follows by Zip Code:

 90803 – 145 Active – 50 Pending – 27 Closed

90804 – 141 Active – 27 Pending – 23 Closed

90807 – 155 Active – 40 Pending – 27 Closed

90815 – 118 Active – 46 Pending – 34 Closed

90802 – 261 Active – 76 Pending – 32 Closed

*This information was taken from the SOCAL MLS

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kitchen-scales.jpgI came across this very unique Renting vs. Buying interactive graphing tool today on the New York Times news blog and thought I would share it with you. You can plug in your current rent along with the property appreciation statistics for the area that you’re thinking about purchasing in, the purchase price and interest rate on the mortgage loan,  and this tool will graph out how many years it will take for you to benefit from buying vs. renting. Way cool! So cool, in fact, that I’m going to make a permanent link to it on this blog.

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In the midst of the sub-prime loan debacle, Inman News reports that the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has put before Congress a plan for modernizing FHA loans. In recent years FHA loans have been all but extinct in states with high housing costs, due to their maximum loan limits. Buyers turned to riskier adjustable-rate loans as a means to get into home ownership without, in some cases, as illustrated by the increase of mortgage defaults, full knowledge of how high their payments could reach when the loan adjusted.The proposed plan would allow for higher loan amounts, eliminate the mandatory 3% down-payment and would be flexible with more options. Californians looking to purchase a home with little or no down-payment would certainly benefit from this new FHA loan over-haul; as would home-sellers by having a bigger pool of qualified buyers that are able to purchase their homes.

This important update to FHA home loans, could be a very vital component in keeping our housing market healthy by allowing more buyers safer loans that they can afford. Let your CA State Senator know that you think this is of importance to you. Look for updates in future posts.

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