“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?



Looking for something fun and challenging to do this summer? A way to get some great exercise? Do you or your kids love the water? Want to meet some new people at the same time? Then head over to one of Long Beach’s best kept secrets, The Pete Archer Rowing Center at 5750 Boathouse Lane. 

Throughout the summer the Long Beach Rowing Association and Junior Crew are hosting “learn to row” morning camps for teans and evening classes for adults. Learn the basics in their recently remodeled gym on the rowing machine, commonly referred to as an “erg.”  Get the hang of actual oars out on the dock in a stationary simulated shell. In very short order you’ll be out on the water in a “quad” or an “eight” accompanied by a coach in a motor boat known as a safety launch. Too shy to learn in a group or prefer individual instruction? Boathouse captain, A.C. duPont, will work out personal coaching sessions for a very reasonable fee.

The sport of rowing’s history can be traced back to Egyptian inscriptions recorded in 1430 B.C. Venetian fetivals in the 13th century called regatas  included boat races. Races are still referred to as Regattas (with an additional “t.”) Today there are many regattas held across the U.S. for racers of all ages and skill levels.

The Pete Archer Rowing Center is home to the Cal State Long Beach Women’s and Men’s Crew, Long Beach Junior Crew and many former olympic and world rowing champions. There is even an adaptive rowing program for people with physical challenges. Rowing, or crewing, as it is often called by collegiate or high school-level athletes, is a wonderful team sport for all kids, although often overlooked in the shadow of soccer, baseball and other more popular team sports.

College crew teams often workout in the early morning hours when classes are in session; Junior crew or high-schoolers after school during the school year. Each of the collegiate teams and the junior crew have their own fleet of shells, ergs and coaches.

Summertime is the perfect time to expose your high school age son’s and daughters to this fantastic team sport. It’s always a great time for adults to get out and get going. Think of it as therapy with benefits! But before you head over to the boathouse to sign up, you might want to brush up on your crew vocabulary

Cruising around on Alamitos Bay after work. Fantastic! Meeting some very interesting amateur rowers like yourself. Stimulating! Melting some lbs. off your legs, abs, arms and tush….Big bonus! Staying for the gorgeous sunset over Marine Stadium….PRICELESS!!!


Now that my still slightly shy, but adorable canine has become much more socialized, she is a magnet for every dog-loving fanatic that walks by my house. Erika loves to hang out and bask in the sun out front. Half a block from Starbucks and tons of other shops and restaurants on 2nd St., there is a lot of foot traffic past her yard.

With all the love and affection that abounds in the Belmont Shore neighborhood for “man’s best friend,” comes some pretty hilarious behavior, not so much from the canines, but from their human companions. I am witness to it on almost a daily basis.

It’s no secret that the majority of Belmont Shore residents love dogs. Just take a stroll down 2nd St., night or day, and you’ll find a very diverse group of people with a colorful array of furry friends. Twice a year (Easter and Halloween) the Shore is host to the Haute Dog Parade. Some 300+ pooches are in costume with owners in tow. It’s a real hoot to see, if you’ve never been. The once temporary dog beach between Granada and Roycroft Ave. has been given permanent status and Shore dogs are digging it.

A year ago, I adopted a very freightened, full-bred, 5-6 yr. old Border Collie named Erika. Poor thing had been abused and then abandoned in the desert. She had two litters of pups that were rescued but Erica was too fast to be caught. A very tenacious neighbor was finally able to coax her into his yard and keep her coralled until the wonderful volunteer adoptees could pick her up. Erika was reunited with her latest litter of pups until they were all adopted and then I was the lucky recipient of a wonderful companion, but scared she was!

I learned the meaning of “afraid of your own shadow” on one of my first walks with Erika. She would freak out and try to run away if the sun or moon was casting her’s or my shadow on the pavement in front of her. She didn’t eat for 5 days and was afraid of every noise, person or dog we encountered. Forget about tall men dressed in black!

Little by little Erica came out of her shell and started to trust. First it was me, obviously because I was the one feeding her and walking her. With a lot of socializing and reassurance, Erika now enjoys the dog beach, loves her walks and allows people to pet her when were on our walks. She is tolerant of other dogs, although she seems to be wary of some still. Cats don’t seem to phase her (never did.) It’s really quite amazing how far she’s come in a year.

Erika’s breed is in the “herding” catagory of dogs. She doesn’t bark unless some one she is not sure of is invading her space; usually her favorite spot on the front porch step. Even then she rarely gets vocal about it. As herding dog’s temperaments go, they are usually very high energy dogs, love to play and do very well in agility exercises. They are extremely smart.  True to her breed, Erika has been very easy to train. I taught her how to walk on my right side only and how to shake (paw to hand) in two days, not at the same time. I don’t even have to ask her for her paw now, she puts it up, lightening speed!

Un-be-known to all of Erika’s admirers and advocates, I am sitting at my desk just behind the front security screen door. From the outside, they cannot see through the screen door. I cannot believe the things that these people say and try to do with my dog!

One woman, I now know as Stephanie, has 2-3 minute conversations with Erika almost daily on her way to and  from Starbucks. Yesterday she brought dog biscuits back and tossed them over the fence to Erika, who was staying as close to the door as possible on the top step. After she sent the treats flailing over the fence she said “I hope your mom doesn’t care.” I  moved closer to the door to see what was being thrown at my dog. I decided to let it go, as I’m familiar with Starbuck’s dog biscuits. Erika didn’t make a move for them. Didn’t even flinch. Next comes “What’s the matter? Don’t be afraid. Aren’t you hungry?”

Later, Stephanie returns and I decide to poke my head out the door to let her know that my beloved pet is not left outside all day on her own. (I’m thinking that Stephanie could be the one that I heard a week or so ago, chastising Erika’s owner for not having water outside for her.)

I say “Hi, I just want you to know that I work from home and that my dog is not left outside without water and food all day. She loves to be outside and watch everything that is going on, but she comes in and out several times a day.” The look on Stephanie’s face said it all. Busted! I continued with “The dog bowl that you see overturned is for my upstairs neighbor’s Bull Mastiff , known as Buzz, when he is outside.”

Stephanie then introduced herself; told me that she owns two dogs and is thinking about getting another; said she adores Erika and wanted to know what breed she is. We had a 10 minute conversation and she departed with a new understanding of Erika’s past and present care.

Today when Stephanie came by with a friend, Starbucks cup in hand,  she stopped at the gate and explained Erika’s complete history to her friend. Then in a voice meant only for little children and adored pets, told Erika to “enjoy your day in the outdoors” and “I’ll see you again soon.” Like don’t worry, I’ll be back.

Throughout all of this attention and admiration, Erika sits on her step and just looks as if she has no interest whatsoever. I’d love to know what she’s thinking!

 My neighbors know my dog better than they know me, as I recently found out while I was holding an open house two houses down from mine. People would tell me they lived in the neighborhood and I’d say “I do too.” Then came trying to explain exactly where I live. It soon became clear that describing my dog was the quickest way to an understanding of where I lived. Only in Belmont Shore!

I would like to get a video camera to record and share all of little Miss Erika’s daily visitors. It’s an ongoing comical interlude to my day when I’m officing from my home. 

Too be continued……..

Here is the latest real estate market trend report from June 8, 2007:

Long beach currently has 1,920 active listings for single family homes and condos, an increase of 23% over last year this time and 433 properties in escrow, constituting a 4% decrease as compared to last year.

The current statistics by zip code as of today’s date, June 8, 2007, are as follows:

Single-Family & Condo

Zip Code      Active     Pending       Sold (2 mos)    Attrition Rate

90803              184            47                   64                6 mos.

90804              181            37                   32               11 mos.

90807              192            37                   53                 7 mos.

90815              153            47                   46                 7 mos.

90802              343            72                   66               10 mos.

Residential Income (2 units or more) – combined totals for zip codes above:

                         179             32                  28                 6 mos.

*This information provided by the SOCAL MLS

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.

What a wonderful opportunity to visit and view so many wonderful galleries and places in the ecclectic East Village Art District in Long Beach, CA. Tour des Artistes talkes place Saturday, June 9 from Noon to 10 P.M. Ticket holders of the Tour have unlimited access to bus transportation for the day on the Passport buses, Georges Greek Cafe’s trolley and of “the Big Red Bus,” an original London double-decker. Parking for the event will be at the city parking lot on 3rd. St. just east of Pine Ave in downtown Long Beach. The $10 ticket price for the Tour des Artistes includes parking for the day. (Tickets are free to all city employees including fire, police, teachers and military with valid ID.)You may also board the Passport bus in Belmont Shore at any of the stops along 2nd St.

This year’s focus of the Tour is to highlight living spaces for creative professionals. Tour des Artistes Committee Chair, Ryan Smoler points out that “… Tour definitely extends behond art; it’s really about how people are creatively using the East Village Arts District in their lives to do what they want.” Several units in the historic Cooper Arms building will be open for viewing, as will units in the Temple Lofts and Courtyard Lofts. Several units in the recently converted Masonic temple will feature a photo exhibit curated by Sarah Vinci of Cal State University of Long Beach’s University Art Museum.

With more than 60 events taking place throughout the day, every part of street life in the area is being shown off. Vin de Pays will have a wine tasting, Broadlind Cafe is offering a free cup of coffee, Basement Lounge has half-off entry and more.

A small sample of the Tour’s activities includes:

  • Entry into the Long Beach Museum of Art and picnic space on the bluffs overlooking the beach
  • Display and auction of the SPIN bicycles sculptures displayed around town during February’s AMGEN tour
  • Art shows in more than 20 galleries
  • Photo exhibits of life in Cuba and Iran as seen through the eyes of Long Beach residents
  • Boys and Girls Club of Long Beach’s Childrens Festival
  • Access to Temple Lofts, Jet Lofts, Courtyard Lofts and more
  • Artist Olympics with prizes for participants of the challenges
  • Wine label making at the La Muse Garde Cafe

Don’t miss this low-cost open house for the arts-related assets that the Long Beach coastal community has to offer. The Tour des Artistes is a great opportunity to check out all the different things that downtown has to offer, so later you can come back to visit all your favorite spots or some of those that you couldn’t fit in. For tickets, Tour maps, driving directions, events and more visit:  http://www.eastvillageartsdistrict.com/#event

Federal Reserve Chairman, Ben S. Bernanke, spoke via satellite to the International Monetary Conference gathered in Cape Town, South Africa, June 5th, 2007.  With regard to the Housing Market and the effect that the sub prime lending practices of 2004-2005 ares having on the housing market, Mr. Bernanke had this to say:”Recent developments in the subprime mortgage market add somewhat to the usual uncertainty in forecasting housing demand.  Subprime mortgage borrowing nearly tripled during the housing boom years of 2004 and 2005.  But decelerating house prices, higher interest rates, and slower economic growth have contributed to an increased rate of delinquency among subprime borrowers.  This increase has occurred almost entirely among borrowers with adjustable-rate mortgages; delinquency rates for fixed-rate subprime mortgages have remained generally stable.  Some of the increased difficulties now being experienced by subprime borrowers are likely the result of an earlier loosening of underwriting standards, as evidenced by the pronounced rise in 2006 in “early payment defaults”–defaults occurring within a few months of mortgage origination.  All told, the rate of serious delinquencies for subprime mortgages with adjustable interest rates–corresponding to mortgages in the foreclosure process or with payments ninety or more days overdue–has risen to about 12 percent, roughly double the recent low seen in mid-2005.1  The rate of serious delinquencies has also risen somewhat among some types of near-prime mortgages, although the delinquency rates in those categories remain much lower than the rate in the subprime market.  

Tighter lending standards in the subprime mortgage market–together with the possibility that the well-publicized problems in this market may dissuade potentially eligible borrowers from applying–will serve to restrain housing demand, although the magnitude of these effects is difficult to quantify.  Subprime and near-prime mortgage originations rose sharply in 2004 and 2005 and likely accounted for a large share of the increase in the number of home sales over that period.  However, originations of nonprime mortgages to purchase homes appear to have peaked in late 2005 and declined substantially since then, and by more (even in absolute terms) than prime mortgage originations.  Thus, some part of the effect on housing demand of the retrenchment in the subprime market has likely already been felt.  Moreover, indicators such as the gross issuance of new subprime and near-prime MBS suggest that the supply of nonprime mortgage credit, though reduced, has by no means evaporated.2  That said, the tightening of terms and standards now in train may well lead to some further contraction in nonprime originations in the period ahead.  We are also likely to see further increases in delinquencies and foreclosures this year and next as many subprime adjustable-rate loans face interest-rate resets.

We will follow developments in the subprime market closely.  However, fundamental factors–including solid growth in incomes and relatively low mortgage rates–should ultimately support the demand for housing, and at this point, the troubles in the subprime sector seem unlikely to seriously spill over to the broader economy or the financial system. ”

More of Mr. Bernanke’s remarks…..