Posts filed under ‘Santa Monica realtor’

Short Pay transactions: a view from each side

Ordinarily, I give Buyers information and then suggest that they avoid “Short Sale” listings.   First, a definition:  a “short sale” is where the Seller owes more on a property than the current market value of the property.   In selling it, he is “short” of what he owes his Lender(s).    Most lenders will at least look a facilitating a Short Sale transaction because it is faster and less expensive to the Lender than the alternative of Foreclosure if the Seller is having problems.

So when you make an offer and get it accepted by the Seller of a property that is a Short Sale, that is only the first step.   You also need the approval of the Lender.  Sometimes there is a second loan or a credit line as well as first loan, in which case you need approval of both Lenders.   As part of that process, the Seller is required to submit a whole array of financial statements and documentation of the circumstances of their hardship, such as a lost job, a divorce, etc.   Just wanting “out” from the property isn’t going to cut it, the Lender will most likely go ahead and foreclose in that circumstance.

At present, I’m in two Short Sale transactions, one representing a Buyer, the other representing a Seller.   The Buyers made their initial offer more than six weeks ago and got it accepted by the Seller in a matter of days.   Time passed, waiting for the Lender to respond,  and then a little over two weeks ago, the Lender had the Seller issue a Counter-Offer.  Remember, the Seller had already accepted the offer but the Lender re-opened negotiations and said, “We’ll take this transaction but the price needs to be $23,000 more than the Buyers had offered.”  There were some other terms and conditions as well.  Within 48 hours, after reviewing alternative properties, the Buyers accepted the Lender’s counter-offer.  We were told that the final approval of transaction would be “within days” and that we could open escrow as soon as that approval came in.
Two weeks later, today, the bank’s system informed the listing agent, “The Buyer’s documentation of their down payment isn’t in a satisfactory form.”  The Buyers had provided computer printouts of their statements and do not receive printed monthly statements.  Nonetheless, the Lender wants them to go to their bank branch and get statements printed for the last two months.   We’re told that once the Lender receives these, they will proceed within 24-48 hours.

This is the kind of frustrating petty and arbitrary demands that Lenders can and do make in Short Sale situations.   The only reason I suggested that my clients go ahead with pursuing this Short Sake transaction  was that the listing agent had told us that the process with getting the Short Sale approved by the Lender was pretty far along (it was) and that there were very few substitute properties in their price range in the area they were interested in.   I hope we find out in a few days whether the bank is going to go forward because their last Counter-Offer specified a November 30 closing date.

My situation with the Short Sale where I’m representing the Sellers isn’t going much better.   The property was listed for sale in mid-August, we got an offer the first week of September and reached acceptance within a week or so of negotiations.    The Sellers submitted to the offer to their Lender and we  proceeded to wait.   And wait.   And wait.

After four weeks, the Lender had another real estate agent look at the property to render a  price opinion to determine whether the offer was acceptable or not.   More waiting.   A burst of paperwork from the Lender to the Sellers.  More waiting.  Two weeks ago, the Sellers were told that the package was on the asset manager’s desk awaiting final approval.  We’re still waiting.

Short Sales can be good deals.  But participants must have an incredible amount of patience.   The worst cases I’ve heard of involve Short Sales that took nearly a year to complete.   Next to that, 3-4 months is looking good.


November 9, 2010 at 6:34 pm Leave a comment

Number of condos on market drops under 200

For the first time in several months, the number of condos for sale in Santa Monica dropped under 200.  On my weekly market check on Monday 8/23, the number of condos for sale was 195.   For several weeks, the number had peaked in the 221-223 range before slowly receding.  Whether this is a temporary lull or a trend towards lower inventory only time will tell.    Lower inventory, if it comes, should lead to firming prices.

August 24, 2010 at 8:34 am Leave a comment

It’s a tricky market

Wednesday, I wrote an offer on a low-end 2-bedroom condo in Santa Monica.  It received eight offers and my client didn’t receive a counter-offer.  What does this tell you about the market?   It’s strange:  on one hand, the amount of property on the market has risen by roughly 50 percent in the last six months.  Every day brings another batch of price reductions.  And yet…some properties get multiple offers and are on the market less than two weeks.   The moral is that every property is different, and that every property has to be evaluated carefully by Buyers and Sellers to determine what the market value is.   A Buyer can’t assume that offering 5 percent below asking price will be successful; a Seller can’t assume that their property has all the features that induced multiple Buyers to make offers on the property two blocks over.

July 24, 2010 at 2:07 pm Leave a comment

Santa Monica rates among lowest for foreclosures

Today’s LA TIMES (June 5) had an article about foreclosures and a feature that allows you to enter a Zip Code in the five-county area  (Los Angeles, Orange, Ventura, San Bernadino, Riverside) and see where your Zip Code stands with respect to foreclosures.,0,7122944.htmlstory

Note:  this link will expire in seven days due to how the LA TIMES manages their site.

The survey used a metric of how many households per foreclosure.  The higher the number of households, the better.   One of the Zip Codes in the Palmdale/Lancaster area was absolutely appalling with one foreclosure for every 59 households.

Of the 498 Zip Codes with data, Santa Monica did very well:

90402 (north of Montana)  was ranked 485.

90403 (north of Wilshire) ranked even better…489.

90404 (central Santa Monica) was a still outstanding 475.

90405 (Sunset Park/Ocean Park) was 481.

90401 (downtown area)… one of the top 10!  No foreclosures at all first quarter.

All real estate is local.  As I’ve said before, there is no such thing as the real estate market, there are hundreds of markets defined by narrow geography, property type, and price range.   For all the gloomy newspaper headlines, Santa Monica is holding up very well, supporting my contention that Santa Monica goes up more in an up market, down less in a down market.

Places like Palmdale, Lancaster, parts of the San Fernando Valley, San Bernadino, etc. may be experiencing severe difficulties but the downturn in Santa Monica is very mild.

June 5, 2008 at 9:33 pm 1 comment

How much under asking price should I offer?

“How much under asking price should I offer?” is a question that I’m asked in any market and much more frequently in the current market.

I’ve been told by a student of economics these days that most questions about economics can be answered with one of two answers:  either  a)  China  or  b) it depends.   In this case, the answer is “it depends.”

There is no set rule because Sellers (and their agents) vary widely in how aggressively they price a property.  Some properties are worth–and are receiving offers–of full asking price, or even over in multiple offers, in this market.    Other properties are priced clearly too high…and you see them languishing on the market for months.

One thing I do when preparing to write an offer for Buyers is to print out all the recent sales of comparable properties and compare various factors such as location, square footage, amenities, etc., of the sold properties to the property they’re going to write an offer on.   In so doing, I print out a report that shows both the asking price and the selling price of these “comp” properties.

No matter what the market, you will find that the majority of sales occur within 3-5 percent of the asking price.   I’ve concluded there are two reasons for this happening.

First, if the “true” market value of a property is 10 percent or more below its asking price, the Seller usually isn’t ready to hear the truth and will reject the offer.   Otherwise, he would have lowered his price to a more defensible level to attract a quicker sale.

Secondly, and as a Santa Monica real estate agent this sometimes drives me nuts, many Buyers won’t write an offer much more than 5 percent below the asking price.   “It’s too embarrassing” and other variations on that theme I’ve heard over and over again.

So, while the answer to how much under asking price you should offer is “It depends” and may vary from property to property, the overall pattern is such that most sales will occur within 3-5 percent of listing price, even in the current market.

May 7, 2008 at 10:06 pm Leave a comment

When is a Loan Approval not a Loan Approval?

In most real estate transactions, the purchase of the property is contingent upon the Buyer getting a loan at terms specified within the contract and within a specified time, often 17 days per the boilerplate language of the standard contract, though many realtors in the current market with its lending challenges are extending that period to 25 or 28 days. Exceptions are when the Buyer is making an all-cash offer or in a hot market where a Buyer may remove contingencies in their offer up front in order to make their offer more attractive.

In the course of the transaction, the Buyer is expected to remove the loan contingency upon getting loan approval. If the Buyer doesn’t remove the loan contingency, the Seller may require the Buyer to cancel the transaction or Buyer and Seller may negotiate an extension of the loan contingency, sometimes accompanied by the release of a portion of the Buyer’s deposit from escrow as a gesture of good faith.

But what constitutes “Approval”? Loan representatives who take an application enter the data from the application into an automated system and receive an automated Approval (or not). So when that approval comes back, the Buyer can remove their loan contingency, right?

Not so fast. After that automated loan approval, the lender’s rep submits the loan package—application, credit report, pay stubs, copies of bank account statements, and all the myriad other bits of paper comprising an application—to the lender’s underwriting department for review. The underwriter orders the appraisal and reviews all the documents. And here’s where some of the fun can begin. The Buyers’ income may be fine but the underwriter may be concerned about the solidity of an applicant’s job history. Or there may be an item on any of all those pieces of paperwork that cause the underwriter concern. The appraisal, especially in the current market, may come in at a value below the purchase price or the lender may even arbitrarily slash an appraisal by 5-10 percent as a hedge against a declining market. An loan application isn’t approved until the underwriter—and, often, the underwriter’s supervisor—signs off on the application. But at that point, we have approval and the Buyer can remove the loan contingency, right?

Not so fast. When an underwriting department approves a loan, it does so with a number of conditions. Many of them are trivial and many are completely transparent to the Buyer or their agent, information to be furnished by the lender’s rep. Other items are things like the lender being provided with copies of the Buyer’s driver’s license. But then there may be more problematic conditions, such as an appraiser being asked to come up with two or three additional properties, either sold or currently on the market, to validate the appraisal. In some cases, an entirely independent second appraisal is called for. Only when all these conditions, called “pre-document conditions,” are met can the Buyer more or less safely remove the loan contingency.

And, actually, the pre-document conditions are not the end of the line. After loan documents have been issued and signed by the Buyer(s), there are additional pre-funding conditions that have to be met prior to the loan funding. These usually are really trivial, and include such things as the lender calling the Buyer’s place of employment to re-confirm employment status before the loan is funded. For what it’s worth, a Buyer client of mine once changed jobs during escrow just before the loan was due to fund; that provided way too much excitement in the process.

The consequences of removing a loan contingency without prudent diligence can put the Buyer’s entire deposit at risk should the loan fail to be funded. The problems, especially with possibilities such as second appraisals, are even more acute into today’s lending environment. The bottom line is, Buyers and their agents need to be very careful about removing loan contingencies.

April 9, 2008 at 7:20 pm Leave a comment

Finding Value—the tip of the iceberg

The current soft market is illustrating one of my long held principles as a realtor:   value, as indicated by a property that goes up the most in an “up” market and down the least in a “down” market, is not purely a matter of location.

While prices on the Westside in general and Santa Monica in particular are holding up better than other parts of Los Angeles County and the rest of California, it’s instructive to pay attention to details.   The very best properties, the tip of the real estate iceberg, assuming they have credible listing prices, are still selling quickly, some even with multiple offers.

But if that three-bedroom house is on a busy street it will take longer to sell, and at a disproportionately lower price, than its uncompromised neighbor two blocks over.   That two-bedroom condo with less than 900 square feet of living space will be a much more difficult sell than the one in the same neighborhood with more than 1,200 square feet, even though the latter has a higher asking price.

There’s a line of conventional wisdom about real estate that says one should buy the worst property in the best location one can afford.   I disagree.    If you put all the properties in an area on a 1-100 scale, I recommend not buying any home at 25 or below.   Don’t buy on the busy street, don’t buy the excessively small, don’t buy the house across the street from a fire station.   Instead, if building and sustaining value is among your top priorities, find a home that doesn’t have any of these incurable defects.

Contrariwise, if you really need “bang for the buck,” getting some combination of larger/newer/nicer, then these homes with the incurable defects are exactly the properties you should look at.  But remember, the “deal” you get on the front end when you buy is the same deal you will have to give on the back end when you eventually sell.   You’ll be able to meet your daily needs at the cost of reduced appreciation.

As your realtor, I can help you understand and weigh these trade-offs.

March 30, 2008 at 3:44 pm Leave a comment

UCLA Anderson School Forecast & Santa Monica Real Estate

The most recent (March 11) UCLA Anderson School economic forecast suggests that the California economy will remain weak but not slide into recession. Full report here: UCLA Anderson School Report

There is a chicken-and-egg relationship between the state of the economy and the real estate market: a weak real estate market is a drag on the economy and concerns about the economy lead to a weak real estate market. I have long been of the belief that consumer confidence is no less than second to interest rates as a gauge of activity in the real estate market and right now that confidence seems shaky.

As a Santa Monica realtor, I’m seeing the number of transactions in the first three months of the year drop roughly 50 percent compared to each of the past four years.

For buyers, at any rate, the situation is not bleak: I just represented Buyers getting an accepted offer on a 2-bedroom condo within walking distance of Main Street for less than $500K…a year ago, that couldn’t have happened.

For more on the Santa Monica real estate market, click on the Santa Monica Homes link on the Blogroll at the right of this screen.

March 19, 2008 at 8:31 pm Leave a comment


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