Real Estate Information

Los Angeles Real Estate Blog

Jeff White and Lori Donahoo


Displaying blog entries 1-10 of 632

Home Inspections Pt. 1: What Buyers Need To Know

by Jeff White and Lori Donahoo

Before you buy a home, it is important to make sure that it’s structurally sound and there are no major defects with the property (nearly two in five existing homes suffer from some type of major defect, according to the Realty Times). If there’s something seriously wrong with the property, it’s better to know that before the mortgage deal is finalized and this is why smart buyers invest in a home inspection before deciding to proceed to settlement. Not only can a qualified home inspector save you money in the long run, but many banks and other lending institutions require an inspection as part of the home buying process. It is important to do your research on what a home inspection fully entails, so we housesellers have a brief overview for you. 

The first thing you'll need to do is make sure there’s a home inspection contingency in your sales contract, which gives you a specified time period in which to have a professional inspection performed on the property. Then, get a few references from your real estate professional for inspection companies that are bonded and insured--and only do inspections, not home repairs or renovations--then compare what each is charging. Verify that you will be accompanying the inspector once you have learned what the inspection entails and how long it will take. Once the inspection is completed, make sure to get a copy of the report and study it carefully.

Once you’ve reviewed your inspection reports and determined which issues are big and which you can live with, you’ll need to decide if you go through with the deal, renegotiate it or go back to the drawing board. As long as you’re within your contingency period, you’ll have other options to consider as well such as asking for credits toward your closing costs to cover the damages/repairs, asking the seller to make certain repairs or requesting they reduce the asking price by the amount of the repairs or to pay you outright for what needs to be done. If you choose to make repairs to the home, you’ll need to be sure these are completed to your liking. Have your agent schedule a walk-through of the home once the repairs are made so you can check in on the work and keep your closing on track.


Here's What You Need To Know About Monday's Teacher Strike

by Jeff White and Lori Donahoo

No new proposals from Los Angeles Unified School District officials were offered over the weekend, so the union representing 34,000 district educators (United Teachers Los Angeles) is moving forward with a teacher's strike set for Monday morning. Four major demands still remain unresolved as we housesellers work on this blog Sunday evening, and they include: a cap on class sizes, providing a full-time nurse in every school, reforming co-location policies and improving special education. Another primary demand is a pay raise of 6.5% retroactive to July 2017 (the teachers have been working without a contract since that date), while the district has offered a 6% raise, including 3% in back pay to July 2017.

The LAUSD is the second-largest employer in LA County so that means this strike will impact hundreds of thousands of people. The district plans to keep schools open during the strike, but only about 400 substitutes (plus 2,000 credentialed district staff who used to be classroom teachers) are lined up to help fill the void of the 34,000 striking teachers. Around 80% of students in the district rely on their particular school for lunch so school administrators want to make sure those students are able to eat. They are also committed to providing meals and a safe environment for the more than 20,000 homeless students in the district.

LAUSD officials have told parents that students will still have instructional hours, but some believe students will be stuck in auditoriums or gyms and made to do worksheets or similar exercises to pass the time. Many parents support the union but plan to send their children to school because they have no other choice, they work and have no child-care options during school hours. Other parents have said they’ll hold their kids out of school and not let them cross the picket line (some parents, according to news reports, have even volunteered their homes as rest spaces for picketing teachers). However, the district has said that because school is open, students are expected to attend. This LA Times link seems to have the most comprehensive information on what Angelenos need to know to navigate the strike if it does, indeed, occur and last for awhile. 


Starting In 2020 All New California Homes Must Come With Solar Panels

by Jeff White and Lori Donahoo

In an historic move, solar panels will be a required feature on new houses in California after the state's Building Standards Commission gave final approval to a housing rule in December that's the first of its kind in the United States. The story sort of got lost in the shuffle with all of the national and global political turmoil and natural disasters grabbing the headlines, so we housesellers thought we would highlight this as one of our first stories of the new year. Set to take effect in 2020, the rule applies to all single-family and multi-family residences of three stories or fewer and was made a requirement as part of the California's ongoing battle against climate change. 

The new mandate has an exemption for houses that are often shaded from the sun, but includes incentives for people to add a high-capacity battery to their home's electrical system to store the sun's energy. The state has set a goal of drawing 100% of its electricity from renewable energy sources and sharply reducing greenhouse gas emissions. New homes that are built under the new standards are expected to use 53% less energy than current standards. While other states may have an issue with developers complying with a rule this forward-thinking, a number of California home builders already place solar panels on all or most of their homes.

California home buyers will have an array of options as to how to purchase the panels ranging from paying for solar panels outright, leasing them or entering a power purchase agreement with developers. The state predicts that mandatory solar panel installations and other new improvements will add nearly $10,000 in the upfront cost of a home, but the average home owner with solar panels will save roughly $19,000 over the course of a 30-year mortgage. California hopes to achieve its carbon-neutral energy status within 30 years and in September, the California Energy Commission said the state is currently at 32% of achieving that goal.

More And More Homeowners Leaning To DIY Remodels Over Hiring Professionals

by Jeff White and Lori Donahoo

A new 2019 report from the National Association of Realtors states that homeowners looking to add personality and individuality to their home interiors are more likely to undertake a do it yourself remodel than hire a professional. Unsurprisingly, the report shows that cash-strapped Millennials are the most likely of any generation to take on a DIY project at roughly 73%, while younger Boomers and Gen X-ers tend to favor DIY home projects at a rate of around 50%. Older Boomers and members of the so-called Silent Generation tend to, because of their age and generally better financial situations, use professionals around 71% of the time when it comes to home remodels. 

The NAR report, titled Remodeling Impact: DIY, did state that 53% of all generations of homeowners surveyed used a professional when all types of home projects were considered other than just remodels, such as an HVAC replacement or insulation upgrade, which is an edge over the DIY rate of 47%. Respondents to the NAR survey indicated that they will hire a professional more often to increase functionality and/or livability of their home, but if the project is about increasing the home’s beauty and aesthetics or taking on a project designed to add personality to a home, they were twice as likely to DIY. With plenty of homeowners taking on renovation projects as New Year’s resolutions, the NAR report is a great place to search for projects others have undertaken successfully

It has also become more common in recent years for DIYers to tackle exterior projects, with roughly 42% now forgoing hiring professional help and putting on that new roof or installing exterior windows themselves. It is also interesting that 56% of those who did an animal or pet renovation in their home did it DIY style, and pet pools and build-ins for pet dishes and pet beds were some of the more popular projects that homeowners did, in a large majority, on their own. Of course, we housesellers know that one of the pleasures of owning a home is the ability to take on projects to customize a house to really make it your own and that is why we like to periodically post some of the best current DIY ideas. 

City Of Los Angeles Approves New Rules For Short-Term Vacation Rentals

by Jeff White and Lori Donahoo

After trying to hash out how to handle the ever-increasing rise in short-term vacation rentals like those offered by Airbnb, HomeAway and VRBO (Vacation Rentals By Owner) since 2015, the Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously in December to approve a new set of rules regarding such short-term rentals. The law is set to go into effect in July and officially legalizes short-term rentals in Los Angeles for the first time, but places a few significant restrictions on hosts. 

The primary regulation under the new rules states that hosts will only be allowed to rent out their primary residences, and this is defined as the place where a host lives for more than six months of the year. Homeowners will not be allowed to rent out a second property or vacation home on a home-share site, and multi-family apartment building landlords would not be able to rent out individual units on a short-term basis unless they live there. The law also bars residents from renting out any home or apartment that is is under rent stabilization rules or is considered affordable housing. 

The number of days a host can rent out their home will be limited to 120 days a year unless they get special approval from the city and pay extra fees. The cost to register a short-term rental with the city will be $89 a year and under the new regulations, home-sharing platforms will be fined $1,000 a day for processing any booking from a host who is unregistered with the city or exceeds the annual 120-day limit. This will affect hot spots for vacation rentals such as Venice, but not Santa Monica as it has its own home-sharing rules. We housesellers would like to direct you to this link for a more comprehensive rundown on the new law.

New Year's Good Luck Food Traditions From Around The Globe

by Jeff White and Lori Donahoo

We housesellers thought we would ring in the New Year with some fun facts about New Year's eating traditions from around the Globe that are meant to bring good luck. In the American South, black-eyed peas, leafy greens and a slab of cornbread are said to bring prosperity in the new year because the peas represent coins, greens resemble paper money and corn bread symbolizes gold. The Pennsylvania Dutch, and many other cultures, believe eating pork and sauerkraut on New Year’s Day brings good luck. And while cabbage is the main ingredient in sauerkraut, many cultures in the U.S., and globally, believe eating it in any form is luck because of the "green resembling money thing", even if it is purple cabbage!

Overseas, Asian cultures feast on a whole fleshy fish to celebrate the New Year. In China, the word for "fish" sounds like the word for "abundance," one reason fish has become a go-to good luck food (while on the other side of the globe, Europeans eat cod, herring and carp). You don't eat the silvery scales many of these fish have but they do stand for coinage and, in turn, much prosperity. In Japanese households, families eat long buckwheat soba noodles at midnight on New Year’s Eve to bid farewell to the year gone by and welcome the year to come, and they are thought to bring long life if you eat them without breaking them in the middle. Rice noodles are all about fertility and wealth, while another way to ensure a long life is to also eat all forms of noodles throughout New Year’s Day, a tradition in many Asian countries.

Angelenos know that tamales make an appearance at pretty much every special occasion in Mexico and SoCal, but holidays are a particularly favored time for the food and they are often served with menudo. In Spain and Mexico, eating 12 grapes at midnight as the clock strikes once for each hour will bring you luck for the 12 months ahead. Since seeds have always been associated with fertility, the Greeks hurl whole pomegranates to the floor to release a flood of seeds that symbolize life and abundance. Ring-shaped cakes (or even doughnuts) are a symbol of life coming full circle, and in Greece they are called vasilopita, the French enjoy the gateau, Mexicans have the rosca de reyes and Bulgarians enjoy the banitsa to celebrate the new year. In the Netherlands, fried oil balls called oliebollen are sold by street carts and are traditionally consumed on New Year’s Eve. Italians celebrate New Year’s Eve with cotechino con lenticchie, a sausage and lentil stew that is said to bring good luck (the lentils represent money and good fortune) and the meal ends with chiacchiere — balls of fried dough that are rolled in honey and powdered sugar — and prosecco.

Los Angeles Residents Have Lots Of Options For Recycling Their Christmas Trees

by Jeff White and Lori Donahoo

Christmas is now behind us and for those Angelenos who put up fresh Christmas trees, we housesellers want you to know the city of Los Angeles has started its annual Holiday Tree Recycling program where over 100,000 trees are recycled each year. You can place the tree in your green recycling bin for pick up on your waste collection day or, if the tree is too big to cut up, simply place it alongside the bin. Make sure that the trees are bare and that all ornaments, stands, tinsel, etc. are removed. Residents of multi-family buildings are requested to simply place their Christmas trees curbside on the collection day in your neighborhood. The recycled trees are saved from ending up in a landfill and are turned into mulch and compost that is available to residents for free. 

If you do not want to leave your tree on the curb or want it gone before trash day, the link in the first paragraph has information about mulching centers that will accept your tree until the end of January. Christmas trees can also be dropped off on Sunday, January 6, at six Recreation and Park locations from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., and those locations are also listed in the link above. The link also provides the information for a number of local fire stations that will be accepting trees through mid-January. Please keep in mind that flocked trees--those sprayed with adhesive and cellulose fibers to simulate snow--cannot be recycled and need to be cut up and disposed of in a regular trash container.

Waste Management customers in the South Bay can also recycle their Christmas trees through a curbside collection program. For Manhattan Beach customers it is on their regularly scheduled collection day from Dec. 26 through Jan. 12. For Rolling Hills Estates customers it is on their regularly scheduled trash day from Dec. 26 through Jan. 16. Unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County (such as Rancho Dominguez, West Rancho Dominguez, Rosewood, El Camino Village, Alondra Park, Del Aire and Wiseburn) will have tree pick up on their regularly scheduled collection day from Dec. 26 through Jan. 11.  This link is the complete list of pick up dates and times for all of the incorporated and unincorporated cities and communities in the Los Angeles area.


Here Are Some Of The Best Return Policies From The Biggest Retailers This Year

by Jeff White and Lori Donahoo

The end of December is by far the biggest time of the year for returning items to the store, whether they are unwanted gifts, gifts you decided not to give, defective items or simply impulse buys you want to return. We housesellers have scrounged up some of the best return policies from a selection of the biggest online and brick and mortar stores that may come in helpful as you sort through what to keep and what to return this holiday. We'll start with the two big guns, Amazon and Target. Amazon has a standard 30-day return window but they also have an extended holiday grace period which means goods purchased between November 1 and December 31 are refundable until January 31. Target has a more generous standard return policy of 90 days for most items (and a full year for Target brand items) but only 30 days for electronics. Target does, however, offer extended holiday returns on electronics and your 30 days to return electronics purchased between November 1 and December 25 doesn't start until December 26. 

The biggest home and bath related retailers have some of the most generous return policies. Ikea was one of the first retailers to take the lead in offering year-long return policies as long as you have your receipt, while Home Depot offers 365 day returns if you use their store credit card. If you use a debit or other credit card, you still have 90 days to return all items even if you've lost your receipt. Bed, Bath & Beyond has a crazily good return policy and you have a year to return any purchase for a full refund and gift registry items can be exchanged for comparable merchandise (or you can receive merchandise credit for the full price of the items), but the best part is that if any Bed, Bath & Beyond exclusive brand merchandise is deemed defective, you have FIVE years to return it! Costco doesn't even have a return time limit and, as long as you have your membership number, will accept returns without a receipt.

Clothes, shoes and certain luxury items make up some of the biggest purchases over the holiday and the retailers who have the best return policies include online shoe megastore Zappos, which gives customers a full 365 days to return any unsatisfactory unworn items, and Kohl's, which can look up items and refund them up to 16 months after the date of purchase. Nordstrom has suffered in recent years with the rise of luxury online shopping sites but does not put a time limit on returns (it does note that all returns are handled on a “case-by-case basis”). And Macy's, which has been synonymous with Thanksgiving and Christmas for a century, allows 6 months for most returns. L.L. Bean recently reduced its lifetime returns policy to one year but, as other retailers tighten their return policies, that policy--and the ones above--are still pretty great.

'She Sheds' Continue To Explode In Popularity

by Jeff White and Lori Donahoo

For hundreds of years children and their parents have been building treehouses where kids could have their own space, enjoy the outdoors in the safety of their own yards and use their imaginations and creativity to dream up any worlds they could think of. Then a couple of decades ago, man caves became an adult, male version of that. So, it only follows that women would also want their own spaces to enjoy what they want to do when they prefer some privacy and "me" time. Enter the 'she shed'. First gaining traction a few years ago, she sheds have become a global phenomenon and, like tiny houses, are definitely no longer a fad or short lived trend. 

Using social media as a cue (especially Pinterest and Instagram), she sheds are typically made from prefab sheds like the kind you'd get at the local home improvement store, and even the big box stores like Lowes and Home Depot offer design, building and assembly tips on their websites. Sometimes, they are simply converted from a garage or unused garden shed. And one of the first public mentions of a she shed in Los Angeles is an online article we housesellers read referencing an LA Times story from 2016 that mentions a lawyer whose family moved to a 1915 Silver Lake home with a carriage house. Her family wanted to install plumbing and rent it out as an Airbnb, but she liked the idea of having a space to escape to. So instead, she tasked a designer friend with converting the 10 x 12 structure into a place where she could read, watch TV, and just be alone.

From all of the examples we have seen online, women are getting amazingly creative with their she sheds. We've seen them turned into writer’s nooks, art studios, gardening sheds, sewing dens and cooking labs. We have seen exteriors that resembled dollhouses, train cabooses, Cape Cod cottages and old time country barns. For some, they become a place just to take an uninterrupted nap away from the noise and activity of the main house or a place to hold their book club. If you have a creative idea for a she shed or just want to brag about yours, please let us know!

Residential Real Estate Bidding Wars Are Way Down In Los Angeles

by Jeff White and Lori Donahoo

Buyers across the country have become accustomed over the last few years to expect that once they found the new home they love and want to buy, the next step is to prepare for a bidding war and contending with what could be many multiple offer situations. For the first time in 8 years, however, Redfin reports that 32% of national real estate professionals say they faced one or more competing bids in November, down from 45% a year earlier. That marks an all-time low in bidding wars since the firm started tracking such data in 2011.

In Los Angeles, the numbers are far more dramatic as 68% of properties for sale saw multiple offers a year ago...that is now down to 38%. This is just one more sign that the coming buyers market we have been forecasting is arriving sooner rather than later after years of insufficient inventory and ever-increasing listing prices. However, even with increased inventory in LA, and across most major markets in the U.S., some buyers have simply dropped out of the hunt for the time being. One reason is that mortgage rates rose sharply in September. By October, the average rate on the 30-year fixed was more than a full percentage point higher than a year ago. Rates fell back again in November, but were still higher than a year ago and mortgage applications to buy a newly built home, for example, actually fell 11% year-over-year in November.

We housesellers dug up some interesting stats about how LA compares to other big cities in terms of competing buyers. During the spring selling season this year, three out of four offers in Seattle faced competition. As of November, only about one out of every five offers in Seattle faced competition, the lowest rate among the largest markets tracked by Redfin. In Las Vegas, where sales and prices were roaring last year and this spring, the inventory in November was up 54% from a year ago and sales were down 12%. Interestingly, Philadelphia was the only metro area where buyers faced significantly more competition in November than a year ago and it is one of the few markets where inventory is shrinking and homes are selling faster and for more money. 

Displaying blog entries 1-10 of 632