|Burbank Leader Articles
Over the past year, writers Jeremy Oberstein and Alison Tully of the Burbank Leader have sought my input on many topics regarding Burbank and Toluca Lake real estate. Here are the articles where I'm quoted. You might also want to visit my blog at sfvrealestate.blogspot.com -- it's often referred to in other local real estate blogs.
Homeowners waiting it out (May 28, 2008)
Slow market has many hoping things turn around by the time theyre ready to sell, but agents arent concerned.
By Alison Tully
For homeowner Barbara Wise, the decline of single-family home prices in the city has her concerned about the value of her home.
"Like everybody else, I am worried that my home equity and selling value will decrease," said Wise, who two years ago bought a single-family home in Burbank.
But she has no plans to move any time soon, which gives her peace of mind, she said.
Since last year, single-family-home prices in the city have declined by as much as 5.3%, according to statistics from Trulia, a real estate search engine for buyers and agents.
Like Wise, Burbank homeowner Mark Meloccaro said he has no plans to sell and hopes prices will recover.
"You cant buy a house anymore without thinking about what the property might be worth in five years from now," he said. "Burbank is a valuable community because Because of that, I dont foresee any . . . of its resources, like great schools. dramatic change in prices moving forward."
Burbank Realtor Judy Graff said she isnt worried about the drop in numbers, which represent a far cry from the surge of foreclosures that she faced last summer.
"Financing has become available again for the first time since last August," she said. "So people are out there that are willing to buy because the prices are lower, and they are getting help from the banks."
An open house that Graff hosted last week was as busy as one she held three years ago, which was attended by many parents, with young children, eager to buy, she said.
Los Angeles Countys listing prices fell 19.4% since last spring, according to recent figures released by DataQuick, a national company that assesses property values.
The drops are consistent with a fall in home prices in the 20 biggest U.S. cities, which are down 14.4% since last year, said Dave Guarino, a communications manager for Standard & Poors.
Newly constructed single-family homes are the real market concern, Graff said.
Last month, the combined sales of homes in Los Angeles County were down 19% compared with last year, according to a DataQuick report.
"Id be nervous if I were the developer for new construction projects like the Burbank Collection lofts," Graff said.
"Because of the high price point and the advanced number of similar projects out there, they are chasing a shrinking number of buyers."
Area feels housing squeeze (January 26, 2008)
Burbank has 325 homes in some state of foreclosure, and values are dropping fast, but officials say they arent panicking yet.
BURBANK - Home prices in Burbank declined sharply in December, and more than 300 homes in the city are in various states of foreclosure, but officials maintain the citys financial standing is still strong.
The median home price in Burbank in December was $540,000 - down from more than $613,000 a year ago. That nearly 12% drop is slightly more than the 11.5% drop in Los Angeles County and well below the 2.1% gain Glendale posted in the same period, according to the latest analysis from DataQuick Information Systems.
Of the four ZIP Codes in Burbank, three posted losses of nearly 15%, including 91501, which encompass half of the Hillside area, which is home to many high-priced homes that overlook the city.
The other half of the Hillside area, in the 91504 ZIP Code, reported a loss of just 3.4%, with a median home price of $688,000.
"That doesnt surprise me," said Judy Graff, a broker for Burbank, Toluca Lake, Studio City and the East San Fernando Valley. "There are a lot more [condominiums] in 91501. Those condos may be beautiful, but were priced to a point where people shouldnt have gotten into them." The drop in Burbank home prices is less than the state decrease but follows the county trend, the DataQuick numbers show.
The median price in California in December was $402,000, down 14.8% from December 2006.
Meanwhile, a Los Angeles County home that cost $529,000 in December 2006 now costs about $470,000, an 11.5% decrease.
Driving the statewide decrease are communities outside major cities, which have been the hardest hit, said Bob Torrez, director of the citys Financial Services Department.
"[Burbank] has been following the trend," he said. "But . . . communities like Stockton and Riverside have been hardest hit. A lot of people moved out there for affordable housing and paid 1% rate of interest only to have the real interest rate of about 8% or 9% kick in later. Couple that with the high unemployment rate and its bad news for them. But were not in a risk stage, though we are watching."
The number of foreclosures in Burbank has hit 300, though officials at the Financial Services Department say that number is not bad compared with other cities in California.
Of the 43,900 homes and condominiums in Burbank, 325 are in various states of foreclosure, Torrez said. That represents 133 homes in pre-foreclosure, 68 that are up for auction and 124 that are now bank-owned, he said.
Despite the drop, Burbank is still financially secure, Torrez said.
"Its too early on for Burbank to see any negative trend," he said. "But the overall city assessed values has been going up, and [city] revenue has not been impacted to date. Many homes are still being sold for higher value than when they were purchased two to three years ago."
Nevertheless, the Financial Services Department has established a website to offer tips and information for residents who may be feeling the housing squeeze.
The website, burbankusa.com/ finance/foreclosureinfo.htm, was put together earlier this month and includes links from the Federal Housing Administrations foreclosure page and tips for avoiding foreclosure from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
"All were doing is providing sources," Torrez said, adding that there are no plans to bail out homeowners with financial assistance. "We should not be in the business of banking, especially with general-fund money."
Mayor: City is in solid state (November 5, 2007)
Ramos gives a glowing account of Burbanks condition and potential in her annual address.
By Jeremy ObersteinAIRPORT DISTRICT - Mayor Marsha Ramos painted a generally glowing portrait of Burbank on Thursday during the State of the City address. More than 400 business, education and civic leaders attended the annual address at the Burbank Airport Marriott Hotel and Convention Center, which the Burbank Chamber of Commerce puts on. "We renew our commitment to build a community that has positive experiences, and opportunities for the physical, social and economic well-being of everyone," Ramos said as she began her talk about Burbanks business community, its infrastructure, safety and the environment. "The Burbank economic outlook is quite robust, according to most thermometers." Burbanks unemployment rate, holding steady at 3.9%, is lower than Californias rate of 5.3%, she said.
"These numbers indicate that Burbank is a very good place for business," she said. Ramos also pointed out that Burbanks housing prices are an example of the citys economic health."Five years ago the median price was $256,000; today its $650,000," she said. "We all know that home prices across the country have dipped, but, compared to other communities, Burbank holds stable and remains an excellent investment." The average price for a house or condominium in Burbank may be lower than the figure presented, local real estate agent Judy Graff said.According to figures from the Southern California Multiple Listing Service, the average price for a house or condo is $633,000, she said."What I have seen in the last couple of weeks is sellers getting much more realistic with housing prices," she said. "There is still a credit crunch going on, but the lower the price the more buyers youre going to attract. Its good news."...
Housing prices take a fall (October 20, 2007)
By Jeremy ObersteinBURBANK - The average price for a single-family home in Burbank dropped almost 5% from August to September, and the number of residences listed on the open market in the same period increased almost 50%, according to the National Assn. of Realtors."Theres a decline, no doubt about it," said Judy Graff, a broker in Burbank.The average asking price for a single-family home in August was about $692,000 and about $658,000 in September, she said.In August, 229 properties were listed on the open market, while 336 homes and condos were listed by Sept. 30, she said.Graff tied the decrease in housing prices and increase in homes for sale to the credit crunch by which many Americans have felt squeezed.
"Theres a credit crisis in this country," she said. "Up to 40% of people who were able to get loans back in July cant get loans anymore."The robust housing market of the 1990s and early 2000s, in which potential home buyers could easily secure a loan, seem to be a distant memory, said Ken Fears, an economist with the National Assn. of Realtors."The housing boom [lasted] from 1998 to spring 2005," he said. "The housing market has been slowing down since then and, since July 2007, home sale prices have sharply decreased."That has directly affected Burbank residents, Graff said."It used to be that if you could fog a mirror, you could get a loan," she said. "Now, lenders want to see a 10% down payment and excellent credit scores. If the median price of a single-family home is $700,000, you would need to have $70,000 sitting in the bank. How many young couples have that kind of money?"The decrease in sales can be tied to the fallout in the mortgage-backed securities market, which specifically affects Burbank, Fears said."What hurts Burbank is the lack of financing in the jumbo market, defined as any loan over $417,000," he said. "Mortgage-backed securities stopped buying jumbo market loans, driving prices up and causing more homes to be listed on the open market."As a result of loan defaults, many homes are staying on the market longer than anticipated, Graff said."We have 11 months worth of inventory on the market," she said. "Homes are staying on the market for a much longer period of time. What it comes down to is, there are less transactions now."However, Fears does not expect the damaged jumbo market to be down for too long, nor does he believe the credit crunch will drive a national recession."In terms of the jumbo market, it could be back within months. Im not too worried," he said. "The underlying economy is doing very well. Now, the [lending problem] is caused by increased interest rates. Its a good economic backdrop for this painful housing market."The problem remains prevalent in Burbank but may not be an impediment to ownership for all, Burbank Assistant City Manager Mike Flad said."Cost of housing is one of our largest obstacles," he said. "But the cooling-off is a plus for some who can enter the market with lower prices."
JEREMY OBERSTEIN covers City Hall and public safety. He may be reached at (818) 637-3242 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.