A Picture’s Worth a Thousand Dollars

Real-estate listing photos have always accentuated the positive, but lately, computer-generated imagery of the sort Hollywood uses has now become so cheap and prolific that home sellers are having their agents digitally knock-down walls, remove clutter, and even add natural light. Brown lawn? Insert new sod. Vacant rental unit? Add digital staging with the click of a mouse. Tacky artwork? Hang a Warhol. It’s never been easier to doctor photos. And with Instagram filters and programs like Photoshop, where are the lines of ethics when something’s been made into something it isn’t?
According to a report out this week from the discount brokerage website Redfin, photos are—once again—more important than ever: Nearly every home search begins online these days, and deals are sometimes struck prior to in-person showings. 20% of 1,463 home buyers surveyed by Redfin in 2018 said they had made offers on houses they later visited. In 2017, Redfin says as many as 35% of those surveyed made offers sight-unseen.

A Millennial Shift

Could we have been wrong all this time about millennials ending the American dream of homeownership? Were we too quick to judge that they were more interested in avocado toast and tidy rental units? Looks like it.
A study out this week from says millennials are suddenly swamping the U.S. mortgage market. The loan data analyzed shows the much-maligned generation (ages 19 to 37) is currently responsible for the largest share (42%) of new mortgage loans by dollar volume, narrowly surpassing Generation X for the first time.
The stereotypical purchase made by America’s millennial buyer is cheaper than that of Gen-Xers and Boomers, at a median price of $238,000—and they’re putting down less money up front. The average down payment by a millennial homebuyer on a mortgaged home was 8.8% in December 2018. Paired with rising home prices, it is evidence millennials are taking on bigger mortgages, as a group, in order to put down roots.

Up the Down Staircase

2018’s 4th quarter single-family home sales numbers in Greater Los Angeles were verified by the Multiple Listing Service this week: In a comparison of last year’s final quarter median price over that of the previous year (2017), several of L.A.’s micro-markets were hot, others cool—and some downright chilly. Major price appreciation in 2018 took place in neighborhoods like Cheviot Hills – Rancho Park (+50% over 2017), Malibu (+42%), Atwater Village (+30%), and Bel Air (+11%).
Price stability was made evident during the end of 2018 in markets such as Hancock Park (+4% growth over 2017’s 4th quarter), Silver Lake – Echo Park (+2%), Westchester (+1%), and Playa Vista (0%). Single-digit shifts below 2017’s median prices took place in areas like Mount Washington (-1%), Culver City (-2%), Los Feliz (-5%), and Palms – Mar Vista (-7%).
Double digit declines in 2018’s 4th quarter median prices when compared with 2017’s statistics rocked neighborhoods like Hollywood (-13%), Beverly Hills (-18%), Santa Monica (-19%), and Marina Del Rey (-32% below 2017).

It pours, man, it pours.

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Weeks of on-and-off rain—and snow at higher elevations—have nearly washed away drought conditions across CA, according to report released this week by U.S. Drought Monitor. Just a week ago, nearly one quarter of the state, including all of Los Angeles County, was experiencing “moderate drought” conditions. As of Tuesday this week, that share had fallen to just 10.6%, and L.A.’s drought level was downgraded to “abnormally dry.”
Precipitation in the last 30 days has replenished CA’s largest reservoirs, too. 6 of the 12 tracked by the Department of Water Resources were filled to above average levels Wednesday, and both Lake Perris (in Riverside County) and the San Luis Reservoir (southeast of San Jose) are nearly 90% full. The snowpack is now above the historical median at nearly all of the state’s major mountain peaks, and will eventually produce even more much-needed water.
SoCal gets wet again this weekend, according to the National Weather Service: A pair of small storms are expected to bring light rain to our neighborhoods Friday night and Sunday morning. So get out those umbrellas and visit our open houses. It’s a great time to beat fair-weather competitors.

Will the Superbowl Raise Housing Prices?

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“Inglewood: Future home of the Rams and Chargers,” proclaims a current MLS listing for a 3BR/2BA 1,326 sq.ft. home at the northern edge of the city, just a few miles from the colossal steel husk that will eventually become the world’s most expensive sports arena. The listing includes only 2 photos: An exterior shot of the fixer, and a flashy nighttime rendering of the future stadium—as if buying a house in Inglewood were equivalent to snagging a seat on the 45-yard line. And while the stadium is causing a real estate bubble in surrounding neighborhoods, could a Rams win this weekend drive interest and prices even higher?
The town’s sellers are hoping to cash-in on proximity to the stadium; much the same way loft sellers in DTLA did when the Staples Center was in its infancy. The real estate website Curbed L.A. recently surveyed more than 80 online listings in Inglewood, where residents are predicting that the arrival of pro teams will electrify their community’s business districts and housing market. More than half of the listings mentioned the stadium or the sprawling complexes of apartments, restaurants, and retail businesses set to surround the complex. 
Current home values in Inglewood are zooming as fast as Todd Gurley. Between January 2016—when the NFL agreed to let the Rams and Chargers relocate to Inglewood—and end of 2018, the median price of homes in the city jumped 37.3% to $542,100, according to Zillow. That’s less than L.A. County’s median of around $600K, but that’s almost double the rate of the county, where prices climbed 18.7% over the same time period. Inglewood home prices also went up in the 2 years leading up to 2016, but at a rate closer to that of the rest of the county: 17%, compared to a little under 15% countywide.


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