Sunday, June 19, 2011

Introducing the 2009 Losers

To those of you who bought during the last few years because of a growing family, a desire to lock in a low interest rate for 30 years, newfound affordability, renter's fatigue, or you simply got tired of waiting, congratulations. Whatever the reasons, they were your reasons, and I sincerely hope you're enjoying home ownership.

But to those of you who believed economic "experts" and commission-hungry tea-leaf readers who proclaimed 2009 was "the bottom" and planned to sell in a few years for profit...


In addition to losers who bought during the bubble, I have documented quite a few 2008 buyers who purchased based on the false assumption that "the worst is over," and then faced total annihilation when they tried to unload just a few years later.

Well now I'm starting to see more 2009 buyers who believed all the bullshit about "the bottom" being in spring 2009 try to sell their "wise investments," only to learn that prices have fallen considerably since their supposed bottom.

Very few people think about it, but because of commissions every seller is 6% underwater from the outset. That means if they hope to break even, home values would have to increase by a minimum of 6% during their ownership. For 2009 buyers operating under the premise that the last two years provided those kinds of gains, they are about to learn a valuable, and painful, lesson about the dangers of listening to those financially dependent on home price increases, instead of common sense and simple math.

That's because home prices on average have dropped by 5.1% since 2009. Welcome to the (totally foreseeable) double dip.

1310 East OCEAN Blvd #803, Long Beach, CA 90802

1310 East OCEAN Blvd #803, Long Beach, CA 90802
SQ. FT.: 960
$/SQ. FT.: $448
VIEW: Catalina, City Lights, City, Coastline, Harbor, Marina, Ocean, Panoramic, Yes, White Water (Wait, it has a view of "Yes"?! Maybe this price isn't that bad after all)
COMMUNITY: Downtown Area/Alamitos Beach
MLS#: S660918
ON REDFIN: 19 days
DESCRIPTION: Sleek and sophisticated luxury high rise with spectacular Ocean views from every room. This home is right on the beach. Ocean views by day and city lights by night. You ll never tire of seeing gorgeous sunsets or graceful sailing ships. Stunning home with modern kitchen and bath. Lots of sunlight spills through the floor to ceiling windows. Open floor plan, great for entertaining. Spacious master bedroom suite with walk in closets. Let the sound of the waves lull you to sleep. There are many amenities including 24 hour concierge, Fitness room and community room, pool, spa, cabana, BBQ area and fire pit. Conveniently located to downtown, shopping, restaurants, parks, museums, theater, Queen Mary, Marina and more!

This fool bought in October 2009 for $420,000 (down from an original asking price of $450,000. He probably thought he was getting a smoking deal) and for whatever reason (oh, I don't know...maybe the obscene $740 HOA fine, the limitations of only one bedroom, or that he simply can't afford that monstrous monthly nut anymore) just 19 months later decided to lay his head on the chopping block--ERRR...put it on the market asking $30,000 more than he paid (anybody want to guess what the sales commissions are? Whoever said "around 30 Grand" wins a key chain).

He has since dropped the price to $430,000 in the hopes of that $10,000 cushion somewhat offseting what is sure to be a sizable hit to his finances...but things aren't looking good.

On a positive note, the views are astounding:
1310 East OCEAN Blvd #803, Long Beach, CA 90802

1310 East OCEAN Blvd #803, Long Beach, CA 90802

The interior looks largely untouched from the 1984 build date (the dead giveaway is the florescent overhead lights in the kitchen and those gnarly bathroom counters), but you're mostly paying for the view in these types of places anyway.
1310 East OCEAN Blvd #803, Long Beach, CA 90802

1310 East OCEAN Blvd #803, Long Beach, CA 90802

And more good news: There is a sold comp from a few months ago that sold for $475,000 (but if that comp really was indicative of fair market value, then why would our seller need to reduce his original $450,000 asking price? Hmmm).

And he's also undercutting his competition (another 2009 "bottom" buyer!) by $40,000, although that unit appears to be upgraded with granite, a new bathroom and plantation $hutters.

The overall point is that he's just $9,000 above his 2009 purchase price and there still doesn't appear to be any interest. Which means more price cuts. Which means he is about to be in a world of hurt.

Let's put it this way, with 10% down ($42,000), after $27,000 in commissions and $14,800 in HOA fees, all of that down payment money is now gone. POOF!

If he put 20% down (likely, given how panic-stricken 2009 was), he's now halfway through that money. And every additional price reduction just eats further and further into that former nest egg of his.

Sure, he'll have some equity after 19 months of payments, but not nearly enough to break even on this foolish purchase. The question is not if he will lose a great deal of money on this, but how bad the damage will be.

His biggest challenge will be finding a wealthy, single, retiree who is financially savvy enough to be able to afford this place, but dumb enough to believe there will not be better buying opportunities in the future. Yeah, good luck with that.

However, there are some who say there won't necessarily be any better deals in the future because all of the must-sell inventory has been washed out of the market, the Fed can keep interest rates low and banks can keep supply off the market for as long as it takes, thus keeping supply artificially restrained and prices from falling. And maybe they're right (of course, if they were then we would have never entered the double dip in the first place, but I digress).

Maybe the banks and Fannie/Freddie and FHA can indeed keep their massive pools of inventory off the market for years or decades and interest rates will hover under 5% for years to come (they've certainly pulled it off so far).
But suppose just for a moment that they can't pull it off. If interest rates rise by 1 or 2%, or supply increases by 15 or 20% -- or both -- what effect do you think that will have on prices? Until we are in a more normal market with real inventory and serious sellers, nobody -- and I mean NOBODY -- can be confident in their predictions of 2011 (or 2012, 2013, or 2014) being the true bottom (just like they were all wrong in '08, '09, and '10)

Here's the bottom line: If you are buying a place right now because you are confident you will be there for 10 years or longer and your finances and job are reasonably stable, then go for it. The Rent vs. Buy equation has become a no-brainer in most areas by now and these rates are incredible.

But if you think there's even a remote chance that you'll need to sell in the next few years, renting would be the most logical choice (if nothing else than for mobility's sake). Property values have likely seen the last of the big, gut-churning drops, but that is very different than a resumption of gains. And considering you'd be 6% underwater from day one, if you needed to sell in 2013 there's no way you'd get out for break even.

Yes, a home can be an investment, but it is also an expensive consumer good that must be viewed as a liability. If you don't believe me, why don't you ask the seller of this apartment which of the two he believes he bought.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Irvine Prices in Long Beach: FINAL UPDATE

6/14/11 - Sold $305,000

After years of bullshit wishing prices, this turkey has finally been put out of its misery. In the last update, I said, "...$277 per square foot seems reasonable enough to nab a buyer." It ended up going for $281 per square.

Of note, the robo-appraisal was actually dead on!


I don't take much joy in being right anymore -- I mean, who really cares? The delusional realtards have long since accepted the truth expressed on this blog and conceded defeat.

Plus, it doesn't take a whole lot of effort to make these accurate predictions. As I've said since the beginning, it's just a simple matter of what local incomes can support. This price is now generally in line with the median income, so it found a buyer -- not exactly a shocking development.

For the record, this sales price represents a $240,000 discount from the original batshit-crazy asking price. Delusional? Yeah, just a tad.


Here's an oldie but goodie.

In one of the maiden posts on this blog (don't forget the update), I featured this property, sporting a mind-boggling $545,000 wishing price. That 2008 post prompted a decent amount of hate mail (including this idiot whose soaked-diaper logic I eviscerated in a response. The result? We never heard from him again).

Although much has changed since 2008 (not the least of which is the disappearance of whack job bubble-deniers and wrong-headed realtors spitting their delusional venom on this blog) but what has not changed is my ability to ascertain "true values" based on the facts, the numbers, and good old fashioned common sense.

At the time I said:

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.
Well, now it's back on the market as a short sale, priced at $299,000.

Although it remains to be seen whether it will actually drop to $250,000 (honestly, I doubt it. First, when I made that comment very few could foresee the insane amount of taxpayer cash the government would throw at the housing crisis to keep prices inflated. Second, although it's a short sale -- which as we all know means it isn't really for sale by any heretofore relied-upon measure -- $277 per square foot seems reasonable enough to nab a buyer), my craaaaaazy comment two years ago(!), which seemed so controversial at the time, ultimately wasn't that far off.

On the other hand, how did this rambling, incoherent prediction from "HagenindaGHETTO" work out?
Keep the OC folks in OC! Besides, there is more to do here, it's more fun and you don't have to DRIVE everywhere! We deserve to be more expensive! (unless they are buying all cash... then they come first...LOL)

FYI: This home was not a FIXER FLIPPER, the sellers fixed it for themselves but got transferred to Irvine (now that's ironic is it not?). By the way, I know the sellers, they HATE Irvine (even though they are Conservatives) they miss our GHETTO and the fun, and the walking, and the beach and the marina.....

The listing agent will be thankful the stuffed shirt Self Righteous writer of of this BLOG for a PRICE always attracts more potential buyers.

As for the Price:
Half the price...??? Good thing you're an accountant. Just run the comps and talk about the FACTS...
The last thing we need are mendacious comments that give a skewed picture of realty. Dig?

Well, dummy, I ran the comps and I talked about the FACTS and it looks like you were, are, and always will be




(How does that feel? Be honest.)

P.S. I can't help but thinking how pathetic it is that these fucking idiots waited so long to get real and price to reality and not fantasy. If they hadn't been so ignorantly focused on getting their greasy mitts on their "well-deserved" bubble profits, they might have had a shot at walking away with actual profits. Oh well.


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).

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

OC Realtors Attempt to Silence Critics

Irvine Renter, author of the Irvine Housing Blog (a major inspiration for this blog), filled me in on something pretty disturbing.

According to the OC Register:

The Orange County Association of Realtors has filed a grievance against an Irvine real estate broker who writes a blog that takes critical looks at the housing crash, homebuyers and real estate agents.

Larry Roberts, who writes the, freely admits going “over the top” in his posts, which are particularly harsh on homeowners who default on loans. He frequently shows MLS photos of properties that have gone into foreclosure. He also has accused real estate agents, in general, of being dishonest.

The grievance says Roberts and two other people have violated a code of ethics rule stating that “Realtors must not knowingly lie about competitors” as well as a general set of regulations governing how MLS information is used on the Internet.

Roberts says OCAR is trying to impinge on his freedom of speech, and that the organization has no standing to keep him from posting on his blog.

He has a broker’s license, he says, but he doesn’t run a brokerage or sell real estate, and he is not a Realtor or a member of OCAR.

The complaint, which Roberts furnished to the Register, was accompanied by a printed version of a post he ran saying that real estate agents lie.

“Realtors take advantage of their status as trusted experts to manipulate buyers, and they feel no responsibility when their statements are exposed as lies,” the statement said.

Roberts says he believes he wrote it as an introduction to an article in the blog by a University of Arizona law professor. The piece, entitled, “Trust, expert advice and Realtor responsibility,” was later removed from the blog at the professor’s request because it was going to be published elsewhere, Roberts said.

In an interview, Roberts elaborated, saying, ” …Many Realtors make representations about investment value and appreciation without regard to whether or not such statements are true. Most make these statements in ignorance, which technically isn’t lying, but some make these statements knowing better, which is lying.”

Roberts added that while he has been hard on real estate agents in general, ”I have never singled any Realtor out and called them a liar.”

OCAR’s Rena Budesky, who signed the grievance, declined to answer questions from a reporter seeking specifics about what Roberts did to prompt the action. “Everything that relates to grievance complaints, it’s all confidential,” she said.
OCAR president Jean Tietgen did not respond to a reporter’s call.

Roberts’ attorney Scott H. Sims sent a letter to Budesky and OCAR demanding they withdraw their complaint, which he called “frivolous … and a clear effort to interfere with Roberts’ right of free speech.”

“Even if Roberts had engaged in wrongdoing, which he has not, any disciplinary action taken by an OCAR grievance panel would carry no legal force and effect and OCAR would be exposing itself to liability for any and all damages to Roberts,” the letter read in part.

“If OCAR or any of its members disagree with Roberts’ opinions they are free to dispute them in ‘the marketplace of ideas,’ ” the letter says, “and leave it up to the public to decide who is right … We recognize that engaging in a civil debate about the health of the housing market may not blindly pad the pockets of OCAR’s members who are paid on commission — and thus have no incentive to tell their clients to do anything except to ‘buy,buy,’buy” — but such is the risk of doing business in a free market.”
First, Irvine Renter is not a member of OCAR, meaning they can take no disciplinary or financial action against him. So then what's the point? Intimidation is the only reasonable conclusion I can draw.

Second, in order to prove their grievance, which is not that Irvine Renter knowingly lied about a specific realtor but realtors in general, wouldn't OCAR have to establish that all realtors are in fact honest and take responsibility when their "expert" advice fails to pan out -- therefore making Irvine Renter's comments "lies"? Good luck with that, fuckwads.

Jim Carrey says there's a possibility of a 'Dumb and Dumber' sequel coming soon.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Super Summer Selling Season® Inventory Update

inventory down 3% vs. March
inventory down 10% vs. last year
sale-to-list at 98%