Making America Expensive Again

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The nation’s housing market stayed strong last month, with the only thing holding back sales being a lack of supply, according to a report out this week by the National Association of Realtors. The market for homes above $750,000 was especially strong, with sales up 19% in February compared to a year ago. That comes amid new tax laws that cap mortgage tax deductions above $750,000, instead of the previous $1mil.

Neither the lower cap, nor rising mortgage rates stopped customers from signing on the dotted line, according to N.A.R., which examined contracts signed between November and February, around and following the time that Congress debated and passed the tax bill championed by the White House.

The western U.S. saw sales jump 11% in February, compared to the same time in 2017. That’s despite the fact that we are the most expensive market the country—and only getting more so. The median home price across 6 counties in Southern California rose 10.2% last month year-over-year to $506,750, according to the report. One of our latest SOLDS, a condo in Sherman Oaks (pictured here), closed this week just above that median price at $575,000—$26,000 over its asking price.

Do you treat Fido like family?

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I’ve written before about how animal companions figure into home purchases and sales. A number of you reading this have spoken to me in the past about physical concerns for your furry brood’s safety and enjoyment. It is sometimes a part of the home buying or selling decision-making process; much like bedroom count or lot size.

Despite people rolling their eyes at your “obsession,” you are not alone. In a study out this week specifically about dog ownership, 75% of the 89.7 million dogs in the U.S. are considered “family” by their human caretakers. More than half of us lie down with dogs (meaning 45 million pooches are sharing pillows with us on any given night). 67% of dog owners say their dog relieves their stress, 50% of dogs receive holiday gifts (11% get birthday parties), 40% go on vacations with their owners, 31% own clothes, 1 in 6 have social media accounts, and 44% of owners have made provisions for their fur babies in their will.

$70 billion was spent by Americans on animal companions in 2017 (see the $3,500 dog house pictured here from Etsy), a 70% increase over 2007. So what are we getting out of sharing our real estate with four-legged roommates? The study cites the science behind the relationship: When you pet a dog, your body produces oxytocin (and other endorphins), which lifts your mood and strengthens the connection between you and your fur kid. Oxytocin is the hormone that bonds a mother to a child and one lover to another. And in 2018, who doesn’t need more good chemicals in their brain?

Prices Down, Supply Low in January

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Buying a house in Los Angeles County got ever-so-slightly cheaper in January, according to a new report out this week from real estate analyst CoreLogic. The median sale price for the month dropped from $570,000 in December to $565,000—a reduction of almost 1%. Median prices are still $40,000 higher than they were a year ago, suggesting that the area’s housing market is still on the upswing. One of our listings (pictured here) near the county’s median price point went into a fast-and-furious multiple offering this week and settled-out around 5% over asking price due to buyer demand.

Across all of Southern California, January’s median price of $507,000 was 0.5% lower than the December median of $509,500—an all-time high for the region. The slight dip in value isn’t unexpected; prices typically drop by about 2.8% between December and January.

More data from the report: In January, 4,847 homes changed hands in L.A. County, down from 6,613 in December and 5,188 in January of 2017. CoreLogic predicts low supply will continue to keep prices high, “barring an economic downturn.”

Can good looks get you a great price?


Do attractive real estate professionals get higher prices for their sellers than their less-favored cohorts? My question would be, “Who spends money on this research?” Well, at least we have the answer to my question…

Researchers at the Journal of Housing Research investigated whether an agent’s looks and demeanor could influence buyers’ overall impression of online property listings. Over 15,000 home buyers took an online audio-visual tour of a typically-priced home in their area hosted by one of eight agents varying in gender, attractiveness, and pathos—or how they enhance “the verbal description of the property with superlatives,” the study says.

Video home tours conducted by attractive male agents (who were also deemed to have pathos) yielded the highest overall ratings. 68% of married buyers had a better impression of homes listed by attractive females than single buyers (48% of singles favored females). And 78% of buyers without a college degree favored homes listed by a female agent than buyers with a degree (who were split 45% female v. 55% male).

One of the researchers summed-up the study of superficiality this way: “Selling homes is a business where image plays an important part, but you have to have the smarts to back it up to get higher prices for sellers.”

The Value of Words


Welsh poet George Herbert once said, “Good words are worth much, and cost little.” He’s right, according to a study out this week which finds that properties containing certain words and phrases in their listing comments tend to sell for higher prices.

Researchers analyzed more than 1 million single-family transactions that closed in the first half of 2017. Every property analyzed had public remarks and comments from which researchers extracted word pairs. How much weight certain word pairs have varied geographically. “Heated pool” on the west coast scored high, as well as “solar panels.” “High ceilings” and “family room” scored well on the east coast.

One combo of words that stood out as a winner in terms of increasing sales prices was “pane windows,” which could represent dual-pane windows or energy-efficient windows (like the newly-installed ones on our listing pictured here). Other word pairs that affected sales prices are “new construction,” “remodeled kitchen,” “new paint,” and “large lot.”


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