Southern California median home price jumped to $400,000


Home prices in Southern California are at their highest level in six years, according to new data, though those gains may be taking a bite out of sales volume.


The median price of a house sold in Southern California rose from $383,000 in February to $400,000 in March, the market’s highest level since February 2008, according to San Diego-based DataQuick, which tracks real estate data.

The figure is up 15.8% from the same month last year and is the first noticeable increase since the torrid run-up in prices last spring and summer.

At the same time, the number of sales fell on an annual basis for the sixth straight month as investors and cash buyers pull out in the face of higher prices, and more traditional home buyers hesitate to jump in. There were 17,638 homes sold in DataQuick’s six-county Southern California’ region, down 14.3% from last March and the second-lowest total for the month — the start of the key spring home-buying season — in nearly two decades.

“Southland home buying got off to a very slow start this year,” said DataQuick analyst Andrew LePage. “We see multiple reasons for this: The inventory of homes for sale remains thin in many markets. Investor purchases have fallen. The jump in home prices and mortgage rates over the past year has priced some people out of the market, while other would-be buyers struggle with credit hurdles. Also, some potential move-up buyers are holding back while they weigh whether to abandon a phenomenally low interest rate on their current mortgage in order to buy a different home.”

The data also show how the recovery is being felt differently at different segments of the market.

While prices have climbed fast on lower-priced homes, the number of sales has fallen sharply, suggesting a lack of homes for sale and buyers who can afford them. Sales of homes for less than $500,000 dropped 26.4% from this time last year…

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Top 10 kitchen trends of 2014

By Freshome | for

Photo: Thermador Kitchens

This year is definitely the year for your kitchen! Over the past few years the trend of modernizing your kitchen to fit your lifestyle has been apparent with technology-driven appliances and innovative surfaces and materials. I traveled to Las Vegas, Nevada in February for the annual Kitchen & Bath Industry show (KBIS). Here are 10 wonderful highlights of the show and how your kitchen still rules the home.

1. Modern kitchen innovation that gives a hint of the past:   There has been a re-emergence in kitchen design to bring back old world finishes and blend them with modern innovation. Modern countertops in granite, marble and solid surfacing can take on a vintage appeal with beveled edges and details that went away with handcrafted cabinetry years ago. Kitchen faucets that resemble ‘hand-forged sentiments of early 20th century metalworkers, Artesso™kitchen faucets blend traditional design with industrial chic inspiration’ was gorgeous to see from Brizo faucets. It was also nice to see that kitchen manufacturers haven’t forgotten that historic details in the kitchen still have a place in our homes.

2. Commercial-quality kitchen amenities in your humble abode:   While we all love the comfort of quaint homes, do you sometimes prefer the industrial feel of a commercial kitchen? At KBIS, you could see a definite trend of kitchen manufacturers appealing to both aesthetics. Blanco sinks features their Quatrus R15 stainless steel sink that offers a revolutionary sleek appeal while still enabling homeowners to wash it easily. Turn your kitchen into that commercial kitchen you always wanted with amenities that show off your inner culinary chef . 3. Kitchen accessories aren’t just for show anymore:

Years ago, kitchen accessories played a minor role in function and were instead meant to compliment the sink, faucet or cabinetry of the kitchen. Today, kitchen brands are realizing that homeowners want form, function, and beauty all wrapped up into one. Accessories such as colanders and cutting boards can now fit seamlessly into the sink to help you drain or cut your favorite vegetables. There is no longer a reason to wonder, “What does that do?” in your modern kitchen.

4. Organize your kitchen drawers like never before:   Drawers are commonly used to separate items like spices and utensils. But did you know you can also use your drawers to store bread in their very own customized bread boxes? There was a big representation of brands such as Poggenpohl’s drawer accessories that included cutlery trays, spice racks, knife blocks, bread drawers and aluminum foil holders, among other things. Instead of organizing just a few items in your kitchen, organize your kitchen drawers around the way you and your family use the kitchen.

5. Lighting your kitchen in eco-friendly ways:

Just like the evolution of your home, lighting plays an integral role in ensuring your kitchen experience is safe, enjoyable, and helpful for all your kitchen activities. While traditional lighting fixtures such as pendants and under cabinet lights aren’t new – the use of eco-friendly LED lighting inside of cabinets, drawers, and below the base cabinets is proving to be more helpful to the culinary enthusiast. Whether you have your hands full and don’t have time to reach a light, or you’re looking to add more illumination to your kitchen’s darkest nooks, LED lit cabinetry and drawers may be exactly what you’re looking for.

6. Decorative tile becomes the showstopper over the appliances:

There used to be a time when you walked into a kitchen and all eyes went to the appliances. While appliances are still a major opportunity to wow guests, decorative tile is the perfect crowning glory to a dynamic kitchen. This year, tile manufacturers are holding nothing back and Walker Zanger has always been known for their innovative and iconic tile design styles. This Chelsea Art Glass backsplash is the “Epitome of glass craftsmanship, offering a collection of stunning Tiffany-inspired mosaics created from sheets of colorful, marbleized glass. The glass sheets are hand-cut and blended to create 12 unique shades”. If you’re looking for a way to add pizazz to your kitchen, look to decorative tile to add a glamorous personality to the heart of your home.

7. Saving money in the kitchen is easier than ever

While we all enjoy splurging on our home improvements, saving money on your kitchen renovation is essential. While there was an enormous representation of high-end remodeling ideas at KBIS, there was also a nice contrast of kitchen brands that understood that homeowners like to save money too. I interviewed fixture manufacturer Danze, whose high-quality kitchen faucets are designed save consumers money. They think, “…Your kitchen faucet should do more than just wash vegetables. It should nourish your eye for great design, too. We offer an appetizing array of unique kitchen faucets, bar and convenience faucets and pot fillers. With plenty of smart styles to reflect your personal taste.”

8. Filtered water for your family, delivered in a gorgeous way

Over the years water filtration has become more important as water becomes a more precious resource. Kitchen plumbing manufacturers are finding a way to eliminate the clunky add-on water filter on the outside of your faucet, or under your sink. Brands like ROHL’s Perrin & Rowe are using, “… Filtration featuring Triflow® Technology. This innovative faucet series provides beauty and functionality in one space-saving design. Filtration happens right in the faucet and eliminates the need for an under- the-counter system. Enjoy hot, cold and filtered water while saving money and protecting the environment’”.

9. Affordable countertop surfaces that give the look of luxury

Countertops can be a very expensive portion of your kitchen entourage. Lucky for you there are several kitchen countertop manufacturers that understand homeowners want the look of granite, stone, and marble without the hefty price tag.Formica Corporation has created the 180fx® laminate countertop surface. “A revolution in surfacing with true-to-scale granite patterns that offer visual drama unmatched by any other laminate. New sophisticated patterns focus on a neutral palette – versatile enough to pair with any interior design concept.” So don’t think the kitchen remodel you want is out of reach. It may be possible thanks to these new patterns!

10. Creating connections between your lifestyle and cooking

We live in a wonderful design age where kitchen manufacturers are realizing the importance of connecting how we all live in our homes, the way we interact with our appliances, the way we prepare food, and the way appliances, fixtures, and finishes should interplay with our senses. KBIS is a wonderful example of how the best minds come together to show you what is available today and what they are working on for your future. It’s still true: The kitchen rules our homes and rightfully so. It’s the soul of our home and the way we come together with family and friends!

Saving for a House: It’s More Than a Down Payment

By Chris Birk |–it-s-more-than-a-down-payment-182347558.html

It’s easy to get caught up in credit scores when considering a home purchase. But as lenders continue to loosen requirements, the need to have money in the bank doesn’t get any less acute.

Getting prescriptive about how much you need in savings to satisfy a mortgage lender is tough business. The answer can depend on a host of factors, from the type of mortgage and size of the loan to the property itself and more.

You’ll most likely need a solid chunk of change upfront to cover a down payment and closing costs. Lenders might also want to see a stockpile of “reserves,” which often translates to a certain number of months’ worth of mortgage payments.

The bottom line is that it’s tough to talk specifics about your bottom line. That’s why it’s important to get a solid understanding of your mortgage options and seek clear guidance from lenders.

Credit scores are critical, but so are income and assets when you’re applying for a home loan. Here are some of the important savings you’ll need to accumulate first.

Down Payment Needs

Down payments are inescapable for the vast majority of non-cash homebuyers. Outside of state or local programs, only government-backed VA and USDA rural development home loans allow qualified borrowers to purchase with no money down.

Conventional and FHA loans typically require minimum down payments of 5% and 3.5%, respectively. On a $200,000 mortgage, that’s $10,000 for conventional and $7,000 down for FHA. But buyers often put even more skin in the game.

Conventional borrowers last month had an average loan-to-value ratio of 80%, according to mortgage software firm Ellie Mae. For FHA loans, it was 95%. That means buyers are putting down an average of 20% for conventional loans and 5% for FHA loans.

Existing homeowners often have an advantage because they’re able to put the proceeds of a home sale toward a new purchase. It can take first-time buyers years to scrape together enough money for a down payment.

That’s partly why home sales among first-time buyers hit their lowest point last month since the National Association of Realtors began tracking the figure in October 2008.


Paying the upfront costs of homebuying represents one pool of money. Lenders want to make sure you’ve got plenty left over to keep the monthly payments rolling in long after closing day.

One way they hedge risk is by requiring a certain amount of reserves. Guidelines can vary by lender, loan type and borrower. One month of reserves is usually equal to your monthly mortgage payment, including property taxes and insurance.

Conventional lenders typically seek from two to six months of reserves, but it could be as many as a year’s worth, depending on your risk factors.

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Neither FHA nor VA loans have a reserve requirement for single-family homes. But purchasing multi-unit properties under these programs typically requires three to six months’ worth of reserves. Reserve requirements will also vary for jumbo loans.

A healthy amount of reserves can help homebuyers on the edge. Lenders can consider these assets as a positive compensating factor, which can help a spotty loan file overcome credit or debt issues and help the mortgage process move along faster.

Residual Income

Lenders will take a close look at the ratio of your major monthly debts against your gross monthly income. This is known as debt-to-income (DTI) ratio, and different loan programs have different requirements.

Money-wise, it’s not just the income stream some borrowers need to worry about.

Some lenders and loan types may require you to have a certain amount of money left over each month after paying major expenses. The VA loan program has pioneered this requirement, known as residual income. VA borrowers must meet a monthly residual income benchmark that can vary based on where you live and your family size.

For example, a family of five in the Northeast needs at least $1,062 left over each month after paying those major bills (think mortgage, student loan, child care).

The FHA recently adopted the VA’s residual income requirement as a test for borrowers with higher debt-to-income ratios. The change takes effect in late April.

Residual income doesn’t necessarily represent funds you need to earmark for savings. But knowing how to budget and save are key traits of successful homeowners.


Other Upfront Costs
Securing a mortgage will come with other upfront expenses. Many will vary depending on the type of loan and your specific purchasing situation. All loans have closing costs, which can include things like origination fees, title insurance, prepaid property taxes, homeowners insurance and more.

But who pays them is often a matter of what you can negotiate with the home seller. It’s not uncommon for VA buyers to purchase with $0 down and have a seller pay all of their closing costs.

Read more on other upfront Costs here…–it-s-more-than-a-down-payment-182347558.html

How to Make an Offer on a House – Tips & Strategies

Once you’ve located the perfect house for you and your family, it is time to prepare an offer. The offer is the foundation of real estate transactions, and upon review, the seller will either accept or decline your bid. It includes basic information, such as the location and physical description of the property, the proposed price, down payment information, and stipulations. It goes without saying that preparing a real estate offer is anything but easy. For this matter, it’s best (though not required) to work with a professional real estate agent.

You can’t make a home seller accept your offer. However, following these tips and strategies can put your offer ahead of the competition.

Factors to Consider When Making an Offer

Your bid indicates how serious you are about buying a particular house. This isn’t the time to play games or submit an offer that’s substantially below the asking price, unless your agent believes it to be fair.

When making your offer, take these factors into consideration:

1. How Long Has the House Been On the Market?
A seller is more likely to lower his or her asking price if the house has been on the market for longer than six months. At this point in the game, he or she is probably eager to sell the house and move on. For this matter, an offer that’s $5,000 or $10,000 below the asking price might work in your favor. And if the property has received few showings or prior bids, then this is even better. The fact that someone is finally interested in the property may move the seller to accept your bid.

2. How Motivated Is the Seller?
Real estate agents often talk with one another, and your agent may have a little background information on the seller, including the reasons behind the sell. This information can help you assess the seller’s motivation, thus helping you to make the best offer.

For example, if the seller isn’t in a rush to move, he or she may hold out for offers that are close to the asking price. On the other hand, if the seller is going through a divorce or is relocating for work, chances are that he or she will accept a lower offer to quickly unload the property.

3. What Are the Prices of Recent Comparative Sales?
A comparative market analysis is another tool to help you make the best offer on a house. Your agent can provide this report, or you can check comparative sales on a website such as Zillow. This report includes active, pending, and sold listings for similar homes in the area. With this information, you can learn the asking price of similar homes currently for sale, as well as the actual sale prices of homes that have closed within the past six months.

Based on the comparative analysis, you and your real estate agent can determine the best price for the house. For example, if you’re bidding on a house with an asking price of $200,000, yet a review of comparative sales shows that similar homes in the neighborhood have only sold for $185,000, an offer that’s $10,000 beneath the asking price might be fair.

Understand, however, that a comparative analysis is simply a guideline. If the house that you’re bidding on has several high-end upgrades – such as a room addition, a finished basement, or newly remodeled bathrooms and kitchen – the seller may not entertain a low bid.

buying a house

Real Estate Contingencies

Understandably, sellers prefer real estate offers with zero contingencies. However, stipulations are routine in these types of transactions. The key to getting your offer accepted is being fair and keeping contingencies to a minimum. While you generally should include some of the following contingencies, you may not want to include all of them:

1. Home Inspection
A home inspection is not required, but recommended. In your offer, include that the home sale is contingent on a satisfactory home inspection – a thorough examination of the house to check for hidden problems. Areas examined by the inspector include the roof, attic, ventilation system, drainage, doors, windows, heating and air system, plumbing, electrical system, and foundation.

After the inspection, you can ask the seller to make needed repairs. If he or she does not comply, you can walk away from the sale.

2. Financing
If your offer states that the sale is contingent on your ability to secure a mortgage loan, the seller might pass on your offer. The seller is undoubtedly eager to sell the house – therefore, he or she may be unwilling to take a chance on someone who may or may not qualify for a home loan. Have your financing in place before you submit an offer, and include your pre-approval letter with your offer.

3. Earnest Money Deposit
This good faith deposit shows that you are a serious buyer. Submit your earnest money deposit with your offer, and if the seller does not accept your offer (or if you withdraw your offer due to reasons permitted in the contract), you will get your money back. If you proceed with the sale, the earnest money is credited to your closing costs. Earnest money deposits vary by region, but range between $500 and $1,000.

4. Expiration Date
Always include an expiration date with your offer. With this contingency, the seller must respond to your offer within a certain number of days or the offer expires. Choose a length that you’re comfortable with – perhaps 7 to 10 days.

This inclusion protects you in the long run. If you don’t hear back from the seller, you may assume that your offer was not accepted, and you may bid on and purchase another house. However, if you fail to include an expiration date with a prior offer, the seller could legally accept your offer months late, at which time you’re obligated to purchase the house or lose your earnest money deposit.

5. Disclosures
The seller is obligated to disclose certain issues with the property, but is not obligated to make repairs. Laws regarding what a seller must disclose vary by state. However, most states require sellers to disclose any major repairs or issues that have occurred within the past five years, such as mold removal, water damage, or electrical or plumbing problems. Additionally, sellers must disclose any existing hidden issues.

Maybe a window or the roof leaks during heavy rain. Or, perhaps a few of the windows may have broken locks, or the electrical outlets in a particular room do not work. To protect yourself, make sure that your offer is contingent on satisfactory disclosures.

Sellers complete a disclosure form during the negotiating process. After reviewing this form, you can ask the seller to fix issues or adjust the sale price to compensate for these issues. If the seller agrees to make the necessary repairs, but doesn’t fulfill his or her end of the contract before closing, you can legally pull out of the sale.

6. Walk-Through
In your offer, state your wish for a walk-through on the day of closing. This way, you can conduct a final inspection of the house. If the walk-through reveals issues not previously disclosed – perhaps a hole in the wall, a broken appliance, or a water leak – you can legally postpone or cancel the home closing.

new homeowners

Competing With Other Buyers

Ideally, you want to be the only one bidding on a house, as this allows you to take your time preparing the offer. But if other buyers are also interested in the property, time is of the essence, and you have to make your offer count.

There are several ways you can successfully outbid other bidders while still paying a fair price:

1. Include an Escalator Clause
If you really want to purchase a particular home, include an escalator clause in your offer. Simply put, the escalator clause increases your proposed offer up to a certain amount should another buyer submit a bid higher than yours.

Let’s say you submit an offer for $200,000 and include an escalator clause up to $220,000, in which you agree to offer $1,000 over a competing bid. If another buyer submits an offer for $205,000, your proposed price for the house will jump to $206,000, putting you ahead of the competition. This method works wells for homes priced under market value.

2. Increase Your Earnest Money Deposit
Perhaps your real estate agent recommends a $1,000 earnest money deposit. If you learn that others are competing for the same property, it doesn’t hurt to up your earnest money deposit by a few thousand dollars, if possible. This move demonstrates your seriousness.

3. Don’t Ask for a Lot of Extras
Most sellers realize that they will need to make reasonable repairs and updates if they are to unload a home. But if you include a bunch of unnecessary extras in your offer, the seller might go with another bidder. For example, don’t ask sellers for new doors and windows when the current ones work fine. And don’t request a complete bathroom remodel simply because you dislike the present design.

4. Pay Your Own Closing Costs
Buying a house is expensive, and to offset costs, some buyers ask for closing costs assistance. If possible, pay your own closing costs. The less a seller has to come out of pocket, the better. If you need closing costs assistance, be reasonable and ask the seller to pay a small percentage – no more than half.

Final Word

The information included in your real estate offer can make or break the deal. This is probably one of the most stressful parts of buying a house, as it only takes one bidder to knock your offer off the table. Be reasonable with your proposed price and follow your agent’s advice. If the seller submits a counteroffer, work with your agent to decide the best way to proceed. And if you don’t win a bidding war, don’t get discouraged – there will be other homes for you and your family.

What do you believe makes a good real estate offer?

New jobs, recovering housing market restoring California economy

By Kevin Smith, San Gabriel Valley Tribune |Daily Breeze

California is on track to reclaim its status as the Golden State, according to a report released today.

The Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp.’s 2014-2015 Economic Forecast & Industry Outlook notes that California’s unemployment rate is falling, more people are finding jobs, the housing market is improving and budget surpluses are finally in sight.

The state has regained 70 percent of the more than 1.3 million jobs it lost as a result of the Great Recession, the report says, although the recovery continues to be “very slow.”

“Regionally, the recovery is advancing in nearly every part of the state,” the report says. “Now, after nearly five years of recovery, California is on a more solid footing.”

The report notes, however, that the state is currently grappling with one of its worst droughts on record. Southern California will likely receive little water from Northern California this year and increased conservation and recycling will help the region keep pace with growth and reduce reliance on imported water.

Orange and San Diego counties led the Southland’s growth last year with year-over-year job gains of 2.1 percent and 1.8 percent respectively. Los Angeles and Ventura counties were close behind with employment growth of 1.7 percent. But the Inland Empire was still struggling with growth of just 1.2 percent, the report said.

“The Inland Empire has a lot of strength in construction, but that sector was very hard hit in the Great Recession,” said Robert Kleinhenz, the LAEDC’s chief economist, who helped research and prepare the report. “We’re still looking at several years before we recover all of the jobs that were lost in the recession.”

Los Angeles County — boasting the largest county economy in the nation — saw its population surpass the 10 million mark last year and the region is expected to see nonfarm job growth of 1.6 percent this year with another gain of 1.2 percent in 2015.

The county’s unemployment rate is expected to average 8.7 percent this year and 7.8 percent in 2015.

The most current reading from the state Employment Development Department put L.A. County’s jobless rate at 9.2 percent in December.

The county’s biggest job gains in 2014 are expected to come in health services with 12,800 new jobs. That will be followed by employment gains in leisure and hospitality (8,900), professional, scientific and technical services (8,800), administration and support (7,700) and construction (5,800) and manufacturing (4,700 jobs), the report said.

David Aley, an admissions clerk at the West Hills Health & Rehab Center in Canoga Park, said his facility hired more employees in 2013, bringing the total workforce to around 140.

“In health care you’re always hiring and firing … but mostly hiring,” Aley said with a laugh. “People change jobs, moving from one place to another. But we’re always busy.”

Further inland, the report shows that the combined San Bernardino and Riverside counties area has regained more than 40,000 of the 147,000 jobs it lost during the recession, adding more than 14,000 new jobs in 2013 alone.

The Inland Empire’s most recent unemployment rate of 9.2 percent is expected to average 9 percent this year and drop to 8.2 percent in 2015.

“A lot of hope has been placed on the transportation and logistics part of the economy, not just to generate jobs going forward but to also create a sizable number of well-paying jobs,” Kleinhenz said. “Transportation, warehousing and utilities will grow by at least 2 percent this year in the Inland Empire. The job counts have already exceeded the pre-recession peak.”

The Inland Empire’s biggest employment gains this year are expected to come in retail trade (3,200 jobs), leisure and hospitality (3,200 jobs), health services (2,800 jobs) and government (2,500 jobs).

L.A. County and the Inland Empire are both poised for significant growth in residential housing, the study said.

L.A. County saw 15,700 housing unit permits issued last year and that number is expected to rise 34.4 percent to 21,100 permits this year, with another 28 percent gain in 2015. That would bring the total number of permits issued next year to 27,000.

The Inland Empire is primed for even more dramatic gains. The LAEDC said 8,900 housing unit permits were issued last year. That number will rise 53.9 percent this year to 13,700 permits and 45.3 percent next year to 19,900.

Karl Woehrstein, a broker with the Century 21 Amber office in Torrance, said his area is saddled with an all-time low in inventory. The combination of that and multiple bids have driven home prices back up to 2006 levels, he said.

“Usually our multiple listing service would have 3,000 to 4,000 units for sale,” Woehrstein said. “But now we’re down to about 900 to 950.”

The LAEDC report also notes that the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports play a significant role in Southern California’s economy.

The value of two-way trade in the region is expected to rise 4.5 percent this year to $433.3 billion and 6.9 percent in 2015 to $463.2 billion.


This Month in Real Estate- February

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Southland housing sales slow

By Andrew Khouri | LA TIMES

Southern California home prices in January posted their smallest year-over-year gain in more than a year, as the housing market showed signs of slowing.

The median home price in the six-county Southland rose 18.4% from a year earlier to $380,000, the smallest increase since November 2012, research firm DataQuick said Wednesday. Sales also fell 9.9% compared to last year.

GRAPHIC: Southern California’s housing recovery

A total of 14,471 new and resale condos and houses changed hands last month — the lowest level for a January since 2011, indicating tight inventory and declining affordability have handcuffed buyers.

“The economy is growing, but Southland home sales have fallen on a year-over-year basis for four consecutive months now and remain well below average. Why? We’re still putting a lot of the blame on the low inventory,” DataQuick President John Walsh said in a statement. “But mortgage availability, the rise in interest rates and higher home prices matter too.”

Compared to December, the median price fell 3.8%. Because the median price is the point at which half the homes sold for more and half for less, such a drop from December isn’t unusual, DataQuick says.

Buyers likely signed a contract around the holidays in order to close a sale in January. Many families back out of the market around the holidays, slowing the market and giving investors a larger role. Since, investors usually target more affordable homes, that can help bring the median price down.

The share of investor purchases inched up last month. Absentee buyers–mostly investors and some second-home purchasers–scooped up 27.5% of all homes sold in January. That’s compared to 27.2% in December.

Sales fell from a year earlier in all six counties: Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino, Riverside, Ventura and San Diego. Los Angeles County saw the smallest decline, as buyers purchased 7.4% fewer homes last month.,0,1262515.story#ixzz2tFMbVggv