2014 Market Predictions brought to you by CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®
Before lighthouses were installed along the Pacific Coast, shipmasters took their chances near the coastline, particularly loathing the dangerous stretch of coastal waters along the Palos Verdes Peninsula.
On May 1, 1926, the U.S. Lighthouse Service began operating what was considered “the brightest beacon” in Southern California: the Point Vicente Lighthouse, a cylindrical-style lighthouse. Still in operation as a navigational aid, the 67-foot tall lighthouse marks the northern end of the Catalina Channel on the Pacific Coast, and helps warn mariners of the rocky coast.
The lighthouse was built on plastered, reinforced concrete, and is similar to the one on Anacapa Island in the Channel Islands. Using a 1,000-watt bulb which is focused through a five-foot lens, the lighthouse’s beam is visible over twenty miles. This particular lens was hand-ground by Paris craftsmen in 1886 and was in service in Alaska for forty years prior to installation in the Point Vicente Lighthouse. In the early days, the Keeper, Assistant Keeper, and their families lived in nearby cottages which are still standing nearby.
In 1934, the radio station and the radio navigation beacon were added. For many years, Coast Guard radiomen at Point Vicente monitored the international distress frequencies, ready to help vessels in need. However, the last radioman locked the doors in 1980 when this responsibility was transferred to another station. The radio station buildings of that facility are still here, although the old equipment is long outdated.
During World War Two, the 1000-watt bulb was replaced by a tiny 25-watt bulb, significantly dimming the light source so as not to aid in enemy navigation. After the war, the bright rotating beam became a glaring disturbance to local residents and a hazard to nearby motorists. Lighthouse keepers coated the inside of the inland-facing windows with white paint to end the flash of the beacon on nearby residents’ homes.
Today, the lighthouse keeper has been replaced by electronic sensors and automated controls. The nearby housing facility is home to Coast Guard personnel assigned to nearby ships, stations and offices. The former radio center is now manned by volunteer civilian members of the Coast Guard Auxiliary that track distress calls from boaters in the Catalina Channel.
Through the decades, there have been reports of ghost sightings at the lighthouse. Legend has it that a tall, forlorn-looking woman in a flowing gown slowly paces the tower’s walkway. Some believe the “Lady of the Light” is the ghost of the first lighthouse keeper’s wife who fell from the edge of a cliff one foggy night. Others believe she waits for the return of a lover lost at sea. Yet another tale says that she is the shadow of a heartbroken woman who threw herself from the cliffs when she found herself abandoned by her intended. Explanations that this “phantom” is caused by reflections from the huge lighthouse lens haven’t discouraged those who believe the Lady walks here on a nightly basis.
The Lighthouse is located at 31550 Palos Verdes Drive West in Rancho Palos Verdes. The grounds and lighthouse are normally closed, but the tower and a small museum are open to the public from 10:00 A.M. to 3:00 P.M. the second Saturday of every month. Admission is free. In March, the tower and museum are open the first Saturday of the month from 10:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M. to coincide with the City’s popular “Whale of a Day” event. Children under 7 are not allowed in the tower and pets are not allowed on the Coast Guard grounds. For recorded information, please call (310) 541-0334.
A long-vacant warehouse at the Port of Los Angeles dating from World War II is soon to get busier than ever with the arrival of a master beer brewer and a popular young chef.
The pair intend to turn the old redwood structure into an active brewery paired with a full-service restaurant as part of a larger plan by port officials to revive a once-bustling area of San Pedro.
The port district of Los Angeles that was once dominated by the fishing industry is the focus of major redevelopment activity intended to capitalize on the appeal of the busy industrial waterfront. The funky Ports O’ Call Village mall is in line for a full makeover, and an old pier is set be turned into a $500-million marine research center.
“Let’s celebrate the idea that Los Angeles does have a waterfront,” said Los Angeles developer Wayne Ratkovich, who is working to upgrade Ports O’ Call.
The port’s old Warehouse No. 9 will become the first permanent home of Brouwerij West, a maker of Belgian-style ales sold in more than 30 states and six countries. Joining brewer Brian Mercer in the venture is Brendan Collins, the English-born executive chef of upscale Culver City gastropub Waterloo & City.
Creation of the capacious beer-making facility over the next few months will mark the end of Mercer’s days as the “gypsy” brewer of such concoctions as Dog Ate My Homework — noted for its strong notes of blackberry — and hoppy blond beer My First Rodeo.
“Being a gypsy brewer sounds fairly romantic,” said Mercer, who has spent the last three years roaming among other people’s facilities to make his beer. But he would rather have his own space where he can increase production.
Mercer’s plans call for a 27,000-square-foot facility that would be mostly dedicated to the beer-making process, from fermentation to bottling or kegging the brew. There would also be a laboratory for quality control.
About a third of the space will be turned into a restaurant operated by Collins and his partner, Carolos Tomazos, who was born on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus and trained in Vienna. The pair operate Waterloo & City and Larry’s casual dining restaurant in Venice.
Mercer hopes to open Brouwerij West by the end of the summer and start producing 6,000 barrels of beer a year, about six times as much as he now makes. The name of his company is an homage to the brand’s Belgian influence — “Brouwerij” is the Flemish word for brewery, and is pronounced “brewery.”
Mercer signed a 23-year sublease with Wayne Blank and Howard Robinson, the strategists behind Bergamot Station arts complex in Santa Monica. Bergamot Station is a 19-year-old collection of galleries, a museum, theater and cafe.
Blank and Robinson were selected by Port of Los Angeles officials to help upgrade public areas of the busy shipping port on San Pedro Bay. Warehouse No. 9 will join Warehouse No. 10 as a public attraction called Crafted at the Port of Los Angeles. Warehouse No. 10 already hosts a craft fair every weekend populated by makers of art, apparel, jewelry and food.
The warehouses are near Ports O’ Call Village, a faux New England fishing village built in the 1960s that houses shops and restaurants. The attraction is considered dated and an underutilization of prime seaside real estate.
Last year the Los Angeles Board of Harbor Commissioners approved an agreement with Los Angeles developer the Ratkovich Co. and Jerico Development Inc. of San Pedro to exclusively negotiate the redevelopment of the 30-acre waterfront site that includes the Ports O’ Call.
Port officials hope to make the waterfront a more popular destination for tourists and locals looking for recreation. Ports O’ Call once attracted 1 million visitors a year, but its appeal has waned with time.
“Aside from Ports O’ Call, which was developed 50 years ago, the public waterfront here has not been recognized as a place to explore, dine and shop,” Port of Los Angeles spokesman Arley Baker said. “The bigger vision is that we have a world-class waterfront for a world-class city.”
The port will spend more than $800 million on infrastructure improvements intended to attract private developers to the waterfront, including roadway realignments and expansion of the 1.5-mile Red Car trolley line serving the waterfront on weekends. A $125-million upgrade of the 700-slip Cabrillo Way Marina was completed in 2011.
In December, the Los Angeles City Council approved a 50-year lease between the port and Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors to transform a century-old pier on the waterfront into a marine research center called AltaSea at the Port of Los Angeles.
The planned AltaSea campus would have circulating seawater labs, offices, classrooms, lecture halls, support facilities, an interpretive center, a facility for marine-related commercial ventures and perhaps the world’s largest seawater wave tank for studying tsunamis and rogue waves.
The anchor tenant of the first phase is to be the Southern California Marine Institute, an alliance of 12 universities in Southern California that have marine science academic and research programs. The entire project is expected to cost more than $500 million and take 15 to 20 years to complete.
San Pedro’s waterfront is ripe for redevelopment, said Wayne Ratkovich, who is working on a $150-million plan to revitalize Ports O’ Call he has yet to fully unveil. The proposal, which would have to be approved by port officials, calls for the creation of a family-oriented attraction he declined to name and a new selection of shops and restaurants.
The leases of current tenants at Ports O’ Call expire at the end of this year, and work on a new version of the waterfront center could begin in 2015, he said.
“The time has come for San Pedro to be a participant in the urban revitalization that has touched so many other communities in Southern California,” Ratkovich said. “Developing Ports O’ Call is part of that.”
A report released Tuesday has found that new California foreclosure filings plunged at the end of last year, as a rebounding economy and higher home prices further healed the housing market.
Notices of default — the first formal step in the state’s foreclosure process — dropped 10.8% in the fourth quarter of 2013, compared with the prior quarter, and tumbled 52.6% from the same period a year earlier, research firm DataQuick said. The 18,120 default notices filed against home owners was the lowest level since the fourth quarter of 2005.
“Most of the drop is because of the improving economy and the increase in home values. Fewer people are behind on their mortgage payments. And of those who do get into trouble, many, if not most, can sell and pay off what they owe,” DataQuick President John Walsh said in a statement.
The median home price across the state rose 22.1% from a year earlier, to $364,000, in the fourth quarter of 2013, a steep rise driven in large part by investors and families fighting over a shortage of homes for sale. For homeowners who are nearing foreclosure and underwater (meaning they owe more on their mortgage than the house is worth), that appreciation means they are less likely to walk away, Walsh said.
“There’s a strong incentive to hang on,” he said.
The 18,120 default notices accounted for 17,773 homes, because some homeowners had entered default on more than one loan.
Completed foreclosures continued to drop over the year as well. Californians lost 8,205 homes to foreclosure last quarter, down 61.2% from a year earlier and the second-lowest level in seven years. Completed foreclosures rose 2.2% from the third quarter of 2013.
Foreclosures remain more pronounced in relatively affordable communities, where many homeowners, despite recent price gains, remain underwater.
ZIP Codes with an annual median sales price below $200,000 saw two homes per 1,000 lost to foreclosure in the fourth quarter, DataQuick said. Comparatively, ZIP Codes with a median price from $200,000 to $800,000 experienced 0.8 foreclosures per 1,000 homes.
Of all loans entering default, the median origination quarter was the third quarter of 2006, extending a more than four-year trend and indicating the peak of risky mortgage lending.
The median home price in Southern California hit $395,000 last month, a 2.6% gain from November and 22.3% over the same month a year earlier.
Southern California home prices jumped in December, the first significant increase since June.
The median sale price in the six-county region hit $395,000 last month, a 2.6% gain from November and 22.3% over the same month a year earlier, research firm DataQuick reported Tuesday. The firm attributed the rise to fewer distressed sales and demand that has outstripped tight supply.
It’s too soon to tell if the monthly increase signals the return of aggressive price appreciation. The spring home buying season will provide a better look into the market’s health.
“The problem with one month of data is it could just be noise,” said Richard Green, director of USC’s Lusk Center for Real Estate.
But if the sharp gains continue through this year, it could renew concerns of a bubble.
“A pop from here would be a problem,” Green said.
What’s clear is that sales continue to decline, signaling a persistent shortage of homes. Buyers scooped up 18,415 new and resale houses and condos last month, the lowest level for December in six years. Sales tumbled 9.2% from December 2012.
“The pitifully low inventory is the main culprit,” DataQuick President John Walsh said. “The jump in home values over the last year suggests we’ll eventually see a lot more people interested in selling their homes, which would help ease the inventory crunch.”
The December data cap a whirlwind year for Southern California real estate. Home prices rose swiftly through the first half of the year, as investors and families battled over a meager supply of homes.
The market then cooled through the summer and fall as higher prices and mortgage rates damped demand, and the market entered a typically slower period. Most experts predict prices will rise again this year, but at a measured pace. The spring home buying season will provide insight into whether those predictions will hold.
“This is the dead season. What happens in March matters,” said Bill McBride, who writes the financial blog Calculated Risk.
Still, experts said the housing recovery continued to normalize. Sales of foreclosed homes and short sales have declined dramatically over the last year. Another positive sign is strong new home sales and housing starts nationally, McBride said.
In Southern California, new home sales rose 7.3% compared with December 2012. In pricey Orange County, new home sales more than doubled.
Homes in the typical move-up range — an important link in a healthy housing market — increased slightly. Sales of homes priced from $300,000 to $799,999 increased by nearly 2% last month compared with a year earlier.
The December increase in the median home price reflects, in part, more sales in costlier neighborhoods, according to DataQuick. The median is influenced not only by a general rise in values but also by a change in the mix of homes selling. The median is the point at which half the homes sold for more and half sold for less.
Meanwhile, sales of lower-cost homes plunged as inventory in those neighborhoods remains extremely tight. Many homeowners there still owe more on their mortgages than their houses are worth, limiting their ability to sell, and investors have scooped up many homes in affordable communities to flip or rent out.
As the housing recovery continues, Green said, it will be more robust along the coast, where the economic recovery is healthier — a disparity that has raised concerns among economists.
“The fundamentals of the Inland Empire are bad,” Green said. “It’s a very different economy than Playa Vista, Santa Monica or Huntington Beach.”
The decision to purchase your first home is one of the biggest and best decisions you could ever make. After all, a home is the largest (and most emotional) investment most people will ever make. So, how do you know if it’s the right time for you to buy your first home?
When you’re looking for a real estate professional to help you, know that above all else, good agents put their clients first. This is your dream, and your agent is your advocate to help you make your dream come true.
A great real estate agent will:
Ultimately, your lender will pre-approve you for a certain amount, but YOU will decide what you’re comfortable paying every month. Remember, your lender only sees your finances on paper. It’s up to you to decide how much you’re willing to stretch your budget in order to get into your dream home.
Be sure to follow these six steps to financing your home:
So you are preapproved and ready to begin your search. But how or where do you begin? There are a lot of homes out there and diving in without a guide can become overwhelming and confusing. A great agent will help you more accurately pinpoint homes that fit your criteria. The right home will meet all your important needs, and as many of your additional wants as possible. Some questions you might ask yourself include:
You’ll learn as you look at homes, your priorities will probably adjust along the way.
Once you’ve found a home you love, the next step is making a compelling offer. While emotions are probably in high gear once you’ve found a home you love, it’s important to remember that a home is an investment. Your agent will research similar properties in the neighborhood to help you determine the market value, and fair price, for your home. Look to your agent to explain and guide you through the offer process.
Just because you love a particular property doesn’t mean that it’s perfect. In fact, this is where reason has to trump emotion. You’ll need to have a property inspection (which we highly recommend you attend) that will expose hidden issues. This way you’ll know what you are getting into before you sign closing papers.
Once you’ve made your offer and have completed the inspection process, you’re in the “home” stretch! But, in order to ensure that you don’t put your closing date, or your mortgage at risk, you have a few pre-closing responsibilities that you’ll need to be mindful of. These include:
Congratulations, and welcome home! The home-buying process is complete, but just like any big process, there’s a maintenance plan! It’s now your responsibility, and in your best financial interest, to protect your investment for years to come. Performing routine maintenance on your home’s systems is always more affordable than having to fix big problems later. Be sure to watch for signs of leaks, damage, and wear.
And remember, just because the sale is complete, your relationship with your agent doesn’t need to end! After closing, your agent can still help you – providing information for your tax returns, finding contractors and repair services, and even tracking your home’s current market value.
This is about more than real estate. It’s about your life and your dreams. It’s important that the agent you choose to guide you through this journey is your trusted expert and advocate.
Knowledge: Keller Williams agents stay ahead of trends, tools and topics in the real estate industry through their access to Keller Williams University. The comprehensive industry-leading training curriculum prepares our agents to serve you at the highest level.
Teamwork: Unlike other real estate companies, Keller Williams Realty was designed to reward agents for working together. At our core, we believe that we are all more successful if we strive towards a common goal, rather than our individual interests. And, that goal is to serve you, our client, at the highest level possible.
Reliability: Keller Williams Realty was founded on the principles of trust and honesty, emphasizing the importance of having the integrity to do the right thing and always putting your needs first. Our agents realize that their success is ultimately determined by the legacy we leave with each client we serve.
Speed: Leading-edge technology solutions accelerate our associates’ efficiency and productivity.