Saturday, June 28, 2008

Low End Getting Lower

Sorry for the lack of updates. I've been traveling quite a bit (to Florida and Baltimore, MD--two hotbeds of real estate disaster).

Today I'm going to avoid talking trash* and am featuring a seller that should be applauded for their acceptance of reality and their no-holds-barred pricing strategy.

Address: 1833 E APPLETON St #8, 90802
Asking Price: $165,000
Size: 1 beds, 1 baths, 684 sq. ft.
$/Sq. Ft.: $265
HOA Fee: $90
Purchase price: $260,000
Purchase date: 1/2006
MLS#: I07143120
On Redfin: 273 days
Down Payment: $24,750
Monthly Payment: $1,200
Income Requirement: $41,250

Now, I realize this is a short sale and in all likelihood will not be approved at this price, but according to the listing it's ready to go. How many times have you seen "bank approved!!1!" yet the property sits and sits for months? Forgive me for calling bullshit.

Since I'm refraining from talking trash today, I won't criticize the all caps description, I'VE GONE BLIND, THANKS ASSHOLE
the myriad grammatical and spelling errors, "EXELLENT"? "PLEASENT"?
or the failure to make any kind of staging effort. Nope. Not gonna do it. Holy crap! is that a dead mouse in middle of the floor?? What the f**k is wrong with these people?

Instead I want to point out something amazing:


When was the last time (or the first, for that matter) you saw that? Here, check it out:

Monthly Mortgage Payment (not including the small tax benefit): $1200
Monthly Rent Payment: $900

If someone bought this as an investment property, it would be cashflow negative to the tune of $300 per month. However, if a buyer rented it out, the $90 HOA fee could be written off as well. Given, as an investment property there would likely be higher interest rates and down payment requirements, but by my quick calculations this almost makes sense as a purchase.

Which is exactly why the bank will never approve it.
However, considering the downward pricing pressure in the surrounding neighborhood, the bank would be smart to let this go STAT. They're even more idiotic than I thought if they hold up this sale.
This property, just .04 miles away is priced at $139,000.

The neighboring building isn't as nice. GGood god, what a dump

However, it's still a comp. A scary, scary comp

Although 1833 Appleton makes sense at the current price I doubt it will actually sell for $165,000. Because the bank will likely drag its feet approving the sale, the property will continue to rot while surrounding prices plummet further. And even though this starts making sense at $165,000, it us STILL overpriced and doesn't align with local incomes. For f**ks sake, it's priced a whopping 65% more than the 2003 price.
However, in the interest of staying positive, this seller has seen the light and should be commended. Not that he had a choice. He overpaid and couldn't handle the payments. An idiot of the highest order.
Although the loss to the bank will be more than $100,000 and the seller will ruin their credit, a short sale on this place will mean a quicker return to basic fundamentals and an end to this housing nightmare unnecessarily prolonged by greed and abject denial.
*Highlight the text to reveal a special surprise.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

A Fiesta into a Ferrari

Some people just don’t get it. If you bought a house during the last three years and are trying to sell it today, it will cost you a significant amount of money to get out. PERIOD. The idea of breaking even (let alone making a profit) is as dead as Anna Nicole.

This is especially true in less desirable areas of Long Beach. Naples, Belmont Shore, and Belmont Heights sellers have a remote possibility of getting out with their financial livelihood intact, but everyone else is pretty much done like a Thanksgiving turkey.

This seller, with 6 years of ownership in a good area of Bluff Heights is in a position to get out with at least some equity. However, by asking nearly $900,000, they are going to learn very quickly that their house isn’t as special as they think it is. $577 per square foot is a joke. An atrocious, greed-infected, self-indulgent sense of entitlement is on full display for all of us to see.

Lucky us.

Address: 366 Orizaba Ave, 90814
Asking Price: $899,800
Year Built: 1918
Size: 2 beds, 2 baths, 1560 sq. ft.
$/Sq. Ft.: $577
Purchase price: $423,000
Purchase date: 7/2002
MLS#: P642589
On Redfin: 4 days (at this price, it will sell in another 4,000 days)
Down Payment: $89,980
Monthly Payment: $6,000
Income Requirement: $225,000
Description: Beautifully restored 1918 Craftsman Bungalow in the historic Bluff Heights neighborhood of Long Beach. Living and dining room combination with a working fireplace,skylight, and original hardwoods. Guest bath completely redone with marble and slate, a pedestal sink,custom ligthing and glass shower divider. Guest bedroom is spacious. Master suite includes high end custom cabinetry,ceramic tile floors, indonesian rock walk-in shower and separate tub, and designer glass tile wall with vessel sink. Dream eat-in kitchen/great room with slate flooring, newer cabinets,granite counters and large center island and pantry. Sliders from the kitchen open up to a peaceful backyard deck overlooking the yard and koi pond. The house has been painted a soothing palate of designer colors, has custom window coverings, and has been landscaped front and back. New roof installed 3 years ago. Nothing left to do except move in and enjoy!!

This brand new listing was purchased for $423,000 just six short years ago. Yes, the upgrades look awesome, but does it look $476,800 awesome? Hell, that’s fifty grand more than the original asking price! Maybe it’s really expensive to install custom “lighthing” (whatever that is).

These fools actually believe the house appreciated nearly 20% per year during the last six. WHAT??!!

It’s also worth noting that the median income in this zip code is $49,073 annually. The income required to afford this house is $225,000 per year. Sure, this can't be called a "starter home," but it is most assuredly still a median home (the upper end of it). How can a tiny 2 bedroom, 2 bath, 1,500 square foot house (not on the sand) qualify as anything else? Oh, it’s got an “indonesian rock” shower, you say?

Big effing deal. You can put a spoiler and a set of 22" spinners on your '83 Ford Fiesta, but that doesn't mean it's suddenly going to be in the Ferrari section of the AutoTrader.

The foolish, misguided seller's decision to buy the most expensive materials possible has absolutely no effect on the house’s resale “value” in a declining market.

Whatever he/she paid per gallon for that “soothing palate” of paint will add only a fractional amount to the eventual sales price. The days of Flip This House, Property Ladder and assorted housing porn, where dullards put in a new bathtub and granite and magically “earn” hundreds of thousands in “equity,” are over.

Especially given the low per-square-foot cost of construction these days (lots of people need work, and apparently the competition is fierce), why wouldn’t a prospective buyer swoop up a fixer-upper a year from now for a third of this insane asking price, upgrade it similarly--but to his or her individual tastes--and save themselves HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS?

At best, this is an upper-end median property, but this is no luxury Belmont Shore home justifying nearly a million dollars. I mean, really, someone pulling in a quarter of a mil per year is going to seek this property out?

At the current price, the monthly carrying costs are around six thous—GACK! COUGH!!@Nfhio*88&^--sorry, I just choked on my Pop Tart.

So, um, ahem, six large per month in carrying costs. It wouldn’t rent for $6,000 per month if it had two more houses stacked on top of it. At most, this house rents for $2,700. That’s a $3,300 negative monthly cash flow. When it costs considerably less than half to rent the same exact home, not even the most brain-damaged buyer is going to give this mossy missy a second look.

Expect at least a 10% price cut within the next four weeks.

Don't get me wrong, this is a NICE house, but this much larger, highly upgraded 3 bedroom house down the street is renting out for $3,100 a month.

3131 Corto Place (Broadway/ Redondo in Historic Bluff Heights) Ready for move-in now. Entirely Remodeled 3 bedroom Beach Home with Expansive and Lush Grounds just steps from Ocean Bluffs - Must see to appreciate. Southern exposure (ocean direction with peek-a-boo view of Long Beach Fantasy Island) with large windows throughout two story structure. 2 exquisite bathrooms with overhead "rain" showerheads. You can be the envy of your friends with the oversized modern clawfoot tub. Central Heating and Air-conditioning, Crown Molding, Formal Dining Room, Large Island Kitchen with Viking Stove, Dual Drawer Dishwasher, Dual Sinks; Old Growth Red Oak Wood Floors and Matching Ceramic Tile Flooring Throughout. Convenient Upstairs laundry. Large Wood Deck and stamped concrete patio & walkways for strolling grounds. Large Buddha Statue, Three-tier Water fountain, fruit trees, mature queen-anne palm trees adorn the expansive rear yard surrounded by bamboo- LOT if over 8000 sqft. A well kept home with Gardener Service included. No smoking. Pets open to apply. $3100/ month + $3200 deposit. One year lease minimum. Leave contact information with Sergio at 562-618-4153 to view and apply. Working on property today for a bit - call me first to make sure I am there but come on down (SAT or Sunday) Single Guest house on premises is occupied by one respectful professional individual. Seldom home and is away for 3 months at present. HOME built in 1919, new electrical and plumbing, new drywall throughout with insulated walls and laminate windows for added insulation.

For shits and giggles, let’s look at the current asking price from an investor’s standpoint. That means someone wants to buy it and rent it out for a profit--which is the gold standard for determining whether a real estate investment is a sound one.

Knife catchers might start sniffing around after a $200,000 price reduction (but even then, we’re still looking at $448 a square. Funny, I don’t see the ocean out of the front windows) but even then it’s not going to sell. Here’s why:

Forgetting for a moment that the most recent sale in this neighborhood was a 3 bed/1 bath let go for $451,000; even if our featured bungalow was priced at $699,800, the monthly carrying costs still pencil out at around $4,700 per month. If you could find renters willing to part with $2,700 (it would have to be a very small, very wealthy family), you'd be going in the hole two Gs a month).

If the price drops to 300k to $599,800 ($384 per square foot is beyond Irvine prices by the way), the monthly nut is approximately $4,000. Only pissing away $1,300 a month. But hey, you're building equity, right? Well, actually you'll be burning equity every month because you bought a depreciating asset. You have to factor in those costs as well.

Even at $499,800 ($288/sq. ft.), you’re still writing a $3,300 check 12 times a year.

Still not at rental parity are we? Close but no cigar.

While this house would most assuredly find a knife catcher at half a mil, all available data suggests it will continue to lose value during the next few years. The combination of equity burn and $7,200 a year in negative rental cashflow will put the hurt on the new buyer--even with a $300,000 discount. I hope you really like pedestal sinks, because if you buy today you’ll be stuck in this house for decades before you could sell and break even.

Even if an investor picked this place up for the 2002 price of $423,000 (meaning the upgrades were essentially thrown in for free), it would begin to resemble a good investment.

Nice neighborhood, nice house, but terrible timing. Two years ago there would have been a frenzied bidding war for a house like this, but now there’s simply no market—especially given the less expensive alternatives.

I'll keep an eye on this property for signs of distress, but judging by the astronomical price tag and the listing description the seller is convinced this is the most special house in Long Beach and deserves to get top dollar. After all, there's a Koi pond!

So, as the months roll by and buyers "fail to recognize the uniqueness and specialness" of this heavily-lipsticked pig, they will grudgingly pull the For Sale sign out of the dirt, quietly take the listing off the MLS, and wait for the day when house prices go up again.

They're going to be waiting a long, long time.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Irvine Prices in Long Beach: UPDATE

One of my first blog posts featured a stunning, if controversial, example of Avarice is Bliss.

This house exemplified the entire premise of this blog: Long Beach, while a great city in its own right, pales in comparison to Orange County regarding schools, low crime rates, incomes, and cleanliness, and therefore cannot possibly justify asking prices that match (and in some cases exceed) the premium levied in OC.

However, Kool-Aid knows no bounds and Long Beach sellers (particularly those in less desirable areas of Long Beach) got drunk on Equity Juice and priced homes in less desirable neighborhoods like they would in Irvine, Huntington Beach, or much nicer cities in LA County.

By putting their greed on display, they held themselves out for ridicule and humiliation. Hence, the impetus and inspiration of this blog.

So, here we are today, more than a year after the home was first listed on the MLS at a laughable $454 per square foot. Like many others, the seller gave up and the property has since been taken off the market ("MY HOUSE IS SPECIAL, DAMN IT! IF THESE BUYERS ARE TOO STUPID TO REALIZE THAT, THEN I WILL JUST TAKE IT OFF THE MARKET. I REFUSE TO BE INSULTED!") and now they are attempting to rent it.

ADDRESS: 1533 E. BROADWAY AVE. (BROADWAY/CHERRY)BEAUTIFUL, LUXURY 2BED/2BATH HOUSE FOR RENT! Immaculate Hardwood Floors throughout House. Skylight in Large Living Room. Fireplace located in Living Room. Luxurious Kitchen with Stainless Steel Appliances. 2 Full Bedrooms with AIR CONDITIONING! Large Attic for Storage. Stacked Washer/Dryer. Wiring available for Direct TV and Surround Sound System! Charming, Large Backyard with Firepit and Entertainment Area. Great Location!!1 YEAR LEASEGardener ProvidedNo PetsTenant Pays ALL UTILTIES EXCEPT WATERMUST SEE!!!!

You are welcome to come into our office and pickup keys to view this unit M-F between 9am-4pm. WE ARE NOT OPEN OVER THE WEEKEND. Please feel free to contact me via email or at the office for further questions.

Actually, they've been attempting to rent it for more than a year, offering a "LEASE or LEASE TO OWN!" scheme--ERR, agreement from the get-go. No bites.

But, I thought "this is a NEW HOUSE." Well, if anything from 1918 could be considered new, I guess they're on to something. By the way, I can give you a sweet deal on a "NEW" Nash 681.

They seem a bit thick-headed, no? They refused to lower their asking price to a reasonable figure and the property didn't move. They refused to ask a reasonable rent and it's still vacant after a year.

I'm going to let this seller in on the most closely-guarded secret known to man. This wisdom is guaranteed to save the housing market in one fell swoop, but it has been elusive to all but those who travel in the darkest, most remote corners of the universe. But now I will unleash it upon the world for all to see, so that our housing market and the current misery and financial hell may end once and for all. And here it is:

Lower the price, dick.

You may have read there has been an uptick in sales recently. There is no complicated, macro economics-heavy explanation for this other than prices are cliff-diving. And when people can afford homes without bullshit, negative-amortizing, interest-only, Harry Houdini loans, homes start selling. Real simple, folks.

And if this seller had accepted this truism from the outset, he could have saved himself a year's worth of carrying costs, which at the time I estimated at $3,500 per month ($42,000 in a year!), and a lot of stress. Assuming this termite tent could get $2,000 per month in rent (which, judging by the time it's been sitting unoccupied, is yet another case of this individual's greed-faced lunacy), they are still bleeding cash to the tune of $1,500 per month! OUCH!

Incidentally, the Irvine property I compared this house sold for $540,000 in March. That was only $9,000 off the original asking price. Yikes, for a corner location? How much "equity" do you suppose that buyer has lost since his purchase?

The point is, Irvine can clearly get away with those prices, but our Long Beach seller learned after a year on the market that Alamitos Beach ain't Irvine.

If you'll recall in the original post, a local realtor and an offended resident posted invective comments with absolutely no analysis or data to support their misguided, rose-colored assessment of Long Beach real estate. They instead offered personal attacks and meaningless insults, but couldn't refute my opinion that:

"At $454 per square foot and 260 days on market, this thing isn't going anywhere. Sometimes I get the feeling owners just aren't serious about selling. I don't care how close you are to Belmont Heights, in this zip code the median household income is $30,353. This house is probably slightly above median considering the minor updates, but even if the median income were $50,000 a year, this thing wouldn't be priced more than $250,000."

I mean, it doesn't take Dionne Warwick and her psychic friends to call that one.

The fact is that homes are still overpriced and prices have a way to go before they meet market fundamentals (I'm not talking about the much-vaunted "bottom," I'm just talking about when a home purchase is a sound investment) and as long as banks have a large inventory of REO properties and that tidal wave of Option ARM resets is looming just off the coast, buying a property today is nothing more than a backstage pass to the Financial Agony show at the Wiltern (I heard Slayer is opening).

Friday, June 13, 2008

Death by 1,000 Cuts

At the risk of being repetitive, here is another sample of price reductions around Long Beach. Seems to be a rising level of desperation on the streets:

637 Atlantic Ave #6 Long Beach, CA 90802: The list price was "$309,000" and changed to "$279,900" ($30,000 reduction)

637 Atlantic Ave #3 Long Beach, CA 90802 (same building as above. Major carnage at this address): The list price was "$289,000" and changed to "$259,900" ($30,000 reduction)

616 Cherry Ave Long Beach, CA 90802: The list price was "$305,000" and changed to "$275,000" ($30,000 reduction). If it sells at this price, it will represent a $200,000 loss! Fun fact: this POS sold for $710,000 in 2006. I mean, just how good was the crack in this neighborhood?

1637 E 5th St #301 Long Beach, CA 90802: The list price was "$385,000" and changed to "$295,000" ($90,000 reduction--on a condo!!)

It's scary to be a seller right now because the comps are sh*tting the bed daily--how do you compete without bankrupting yourself?

It's scary to be a buyer right now because with such dramatic haircuts all around you, it's almost guaranteed that in a few months you'll be upside down.

It's scary to be the person who bought LB property in late 2007 ("It's 10% off the last sale price!" "Interest rates will never be this low again!") because you have to wake up every day knowing you're an idiot.

It's scary to be a lender or appraiser right now because how the holy hell do you determine what anything is worth? When you've lived on Fantasy Island for the last five years, it's difficult to recognize where reality begins and where delusion ends.

The good news is that (and I don't want to get ahead of myself here, but) Long Beach appears to have finally gotten the memo. It's about time.

The overwhelming number of price cuts I'm seeing indicate sellers are finally coming to the realization that they're not going to get Wishing Prices anymore. That was so 2006.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Chasing the Market Down...Out of a Cannon

In case anyone out there thinks the worst of the price declines are over and it’s time to “take advantage” of the deals out there, I want to provide a sample of the LB real estate carnage I receive in my Inbox every. single. morning:

1919 Beverly Way #102 Long Beach, CA 90802 (I believe we’ve featured this building before): The list price was "$315,000" and changed to "$265,000" ($50,000 reduction)

5418 Heron Bay Long Beach, CA 90803 (we’ve seen this one too): The list price was "$869,000" and changed to "$799,000" ($70,000 reduction)

1054 E 2nd St #303 Long Beach, CA 90802: The list price was "$425,000" and changed to "$350,000" ($75,000 reduction)

917 Euclid Ave Long Beach, CA 90804: The list price was "$475,000" and changed to "$381,000" ($94,000 reduction!)

A pricing bottom you say? Darlin’, we’re just gettin' warmed up.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

All the Time in the World

Sometimes when I see a property that is so clearly driven by delusion, I want to call the listing agent and set up a meeting with the buyer. Curiosity gets the best of me and I obsess over the circumstances of the sale, and I want nothing more than to pick the brain of the seller and gain some perspective on their tenacity in the face of such disastrous odds.

This property is a perfect example of that.

Address: 420 Redondo #203, 90814
Asking Price: $379,000 (HAHAHAHAHA)
Year Built: 1970
Size: 2 beds, 1 baths, 1183 sq. ft.
$/Sq. Ft.: $320
Purchase price: $344,000
Purchase date: 3/2005
MLS#: P579512
On Redfin: 380 days
Down Payment: $37,900
Monthly Payment: $2,900
Income Requirement: $94,750

Description: Rarely on the market-2 bedroom unit in prestigious Redondo Plaza. Walk to beach, restaurants, shops and night clubs. Open floorplan with great views of the city and PV Hills. See the Queen Mary fireworks from your balcony. Huge master suite with mirrored wardrobes. Large bathroom features separate shower and tub&long double sink vanity. 2 protected parking spaces with locking storage cabinets in secure garage. Very strong association with extensive reserves. Stylish living in Belmont Heights.

"Rarely on the market," eh? At that price, it will be on the market for a long, long time. Oh, but it already has been! This rather spacious condo has been dwindling on the market for 380 days. Yep. More than a year with no bites.

And guess how many price cuts there have been in that agonizing amount of time?




Goose Egg.

One hell of a pricing strategy given that we're in one of the most severe housing collapses in US history. That bold rejection of reality says, "Look here, pal. You're lucky that I even priced it this low. My place is SPECIAL, and you're going to pay whatever I think I deserve."

And this place is plenty special. Just look at the bathroom!

And the seller is obviously sophisticated and super classy. In addition to living in such a "prestigious" building, he also has exquisite taste in fine art:

And look at the "special" neighborhood. The condo has an excellent view of a shady-looking liquor store. What a relief! Writing a $2,900 check every month is going to require plenty of booze.

And take a gander at that "special" decor:

Here it is from another angle.

That's odd. They included a picture of this:

...but no shots of the kitchen. Rut-roh! Don't they know that a majority of buyers base their purchase decision on the kitchen? I'm sure their realtor is waiting for the right time to share that nugget of "expertise." All the time in the world, right?

See? This is why I'm dying to meet with these people and gain some insight into their twisted, greedy mindset.

This troubling demonstration of stubbornness will cost this seller dearly. The current inflated price represents a less than 10% increase over the March 2005 sales price. Can you believe it? In the midst of one of the most catastrophic housing meltdowns, when people are losing their homes to foreclosures at a record pace, inventory is flooding the market, sales rates are dropping like an anvil...this assclown is trying to eke out a profit.

Why isn't his realtor stepping up to the plate here? Aren't you paid to advise your client about the current market conditions? You are, after all, an "expert" aren't you? Maybe you'd also mention some of the comps on the SAME STREET selling for way less, and in some cases way earlier in the housing downturn.

This idiot is clearly uninterested in selling his apartment, so why not just pull it off the market? Obviously those bottom feeders out there are too blind to recognize that this is the most special condo in all of Long Beach--nay! In the greater Los Angeles area--so just give up.

Oh, and I hope that when you do finally decide to pack it in (another 380 days from now?), that you can afford the carrying costs until market conditions return to a time when a POS like this could actually sell for nearly $380,000. Because if you think you're just going to wait a few years to "ride out the storm" you've got a reality check coming at you like an iron skillet.

Somewhat related: Isn't it strange how we've been conditioned in LA/OC to beleive that $350,000 is the right price for a 2 bedroom condo built in the 60s or 70s? It seems bizarre to me that people I know have accepted that figure as "fair market value" for what is essentially an apartment. Actually, what confounds me more is that the general population (especially sellers) STILL believes that is the Golden Figure. Why have we become so comfortable with paying a third of a million dollars for an apartment that requires a further $200 to $300 premium on top of that to cover the HOA fine?

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

I Love My Readers

Since being linked to Calculated Risk and Dr. Housing Bubble, I've received a considerable amount of new readership. I love it, I crave it, and I couldn't be happier about it. Knowing I have a readership, no matter how small, keeps me motivated.

Faithful reader gm (by the way, I love all of my readers--whether they provide a handle or are anonymous) left this in the comments section of the Happy (Almost) One Year Anniversary! post:

How about this new listing. Btw, love your blog. [Editor's Note: Flattery will get you everywhere] This is a comp killer in LB if I've ever seen one. Been watching for a while now (sorta have to wonder if this lister is looking for a bidding war too), but without further ado - -

I think it still has a way to go to hit the bottom.

Interestingly enough, this property has been in my Redfin "Favorites" list for quite a while. If gm has been watching as long as I have, he or she would know that this property has been on the market for more than six months, but was recently taken off and re-posted as a "new" listing.

The sellers are operating under the assumption that buyers have severe learning disabilities and/or no concept of the modern calendar system, because this cargo crate has been desperately seeking Susan for a long, long time with no offers.

According to my records, this property was initially listed at $500,000 (2004 purchase price: $509,500). You read that correctly. Same joint, now asking half off.


Well, as gm pointed out, likely because they are "looking for a bidding war."

Because at $230,000, most investors would recognize that it's approaching good deal status, and would readily lob some offers their way. No doubt about that. Sure, it's past 7th Street, but it has 1,400 square feet, three bedrooms, and a two car garage. This has potential to be a nice rental property (of course, there are no interior photos so it could very well be a mold-infested, feces-insulated, infection-ridden roach motel).

However, we all know that many Long Beach sellers are delusional half-wits encouraged by reality-impaired, greed-head realtors, so we can only assume the worst. If I thought for even one second that this was a legitimate sale attempt, I'd throw in an offer. Seriously! It almost pencils out at this price.

But you and I know it's fishy, so I'll roll my eyes and wait for the price to inch closer to the original $500,000 asking price after a weekend of frantic offers. Once it gets past $250k, it will just sit and sit, rotting on the vine with all the others.

Of course, if I am mistaken and this asking price is actually for real and not just some prey-on-the-gullible-to-generate-multiple-offers marketing ploy, then gm is correct: if it sells for near asking price, it will kill comps quicker than OJ Simpson armed with a Ginsu collection.

Regardless of what happens I want to take this opportunity to thank my readers for their contributions. Keep the comments coming...