Is now a good time to buy a house in Los Angeles? And I know what you're thinking...she's a Realtor! Of course she's going to say yes! I'm also a real estate investor that knows the market really well, so I'm going to give you some background on why it's a good time to buy (unless you have a time machine, in which case I will tell you to go back to 2012 and buy up all the Highland Park real estate you can. Trust me.)
Are we in a bubble? The short answer is no. And the long answer is no, so let's examine it from quotes by people far better at math than I am:
As per the LA Times: "Economists have said today's upswing is more sustainable, driven not by risky lending but by an improving economy, historically low mortgage rates and a shortage of homes for sale. Adjusted for inflation, prices in all counties are under their 2007 peaks; the Southern California median is about 13% below its peak.
In addition, it's not expected to get better "Economists generally agree that's because developers for decades have built too few homes for population and job growth. Experts have cited a variety of reasons for the slow pace of construction, with neighborhood opposition and tight environmental regulations among the major factors.
To help address that problem, Gov. Jerry Brown this year signed a handful of housing-related bills, including ones that would ease some development restrictions and raise money for below-market housing.
However, housing groups and state officials noted the proposals were modest compared with the scope of the housing shortage, and hardly a cure."
A little more analysis echoes that it's a supply issue.
"If you are looking to buy a home – but you’re worried that the housing market is “in a bubble” – then please, stop worrying. That “excuse” is no good with me.
There is no bubble. And because the current supply of homes can’t meet the demand, prices can go dramatically higher from here. Now is still a great time to buy a house in America! With low interest rates, and no supply, prices can still go a lot higher. Don’t hesitate. Take advantage of it!!! Good investing."
Ok, so you're reassured that you won't be massively overpaying for a house and you're wondering what to do next? There are still deals to be had and there are still houses sitting on the market. From deep in the trenches, I have advice for those looking for a home they can afford:
1. Keep an open mind about location.
This is your first home, not your forever home. On average, homeowners move every 5-7 years. This is your way to get into a market that has people moving to this city every year, with a hot tech industry spurring even more migration and wealth. In a city with limited land and a system that makes it difficult to develop more density, you need to get into the market as soon as you can. Prices will be on an upward trajectory, no matter the short term ups and downs.
While you do want to be relatively close to work to avoid a painful commute, start exploring neighborhoods you may have written off. Fear keeps a lot of people from exploring really fun, vibrant parts of this city. Volunteering in and being part of the community go a long way towards alleviating fear of the unknown - look for opportunities to volunteer in a target neighborhood.
Believe it or not, you can still buy a house for under $650,000 in the Los Angeles area. Some areas to look at are : Reseda, North Hollywood, Lincoln Heights, El Sereno, Altadena, Tujunga and parts of South LA such as Hyde Park. I wrote a little more about undiscovered Los Angeles neighborhoods here.
2. Be willing to do a little work.
If you only put offers on the pretty places that are completely fixed up, be prepared to pay significantly more than comparable properties and prepare to be outbid. Often.
Some houses require a lot of work, but many others are simply outdated and are in need of a coat of paint, floor refinishing and a new kitchen. I have worked on numerous kitchens myself and can reassure you that it's one of the easiest rooms to remodel. Keep the existing layout, and you can demo a kitchen in one day and assemble/install the new kitchen the next weekend. Many designers rave about IKEA cabinets, and I still love the ones we installed 8 years ago. Stick with lower cabinets and use upper open shelving to keep the costs down.
You know those teen movies where the gorgeous model wears glasses and everyone seems to not recognize how beautiful she is until she takes them off and shakes out her hair? That's how I feel about these outdated houses - look behind the glasses and see the beauty! Many of them are priced SLIGHTLY too high for flippers, so take that advantage and flip your own house! I even have lenders who can give you a mortgage that can fold in the costs of your renovation with as little as 5% down. I did it myself - you can check out my experience with a rehab loan here.
Remember, it doesn't have to be instagram-worthy on day one. This is a marathon, not a sprint. You have plenty of time to fix up your house as you build back your reserves.
3. Understand your school options.
Don't feel like you are limited by school districts. You have many school choices in Los Angeles, so you may want to research target areas and understand your options. Each Los Angeles neighborhood has it's home school that your child is assigned to, but you also have magnet schools, charter schools and the option to transfer to a school that has open spots. Perhaps a school near your office has a majority of residents sending their kids to private schools? Then you may have the option of sending your child to that school through an intra-district permit. Gomamaguide.com has been invaluable resource in figuring out our own options, as our toddler starts growing up.
On a personal note, I volunteered in LAUSD Schools for many years with my certified therapy dog Chili. While some of these schools may have had Great Schools 2 ratings, the teachers and staff were incredibly engaged and supportive of all of the children. Tanya Anton from Gomamaguide encouraged us to visit our local schools to see how our child would fit into that environment. Perhaps that Great Schools 10-rated school drills the kids to boost test scores and your child would not respond to such tactics. Perhaps your child has a talent that would be perfect for a magnet school with that speciality. Unhappy with the performance of your local school? A group of local moms has banded together to send all of their kids to the local school and volunteer in order to help the school improve their programs. How great to get involved in your community in order to improve it!
Bottom line: Even if you are currently pregnant, you have more than 5 years to figure out your plans. Schools can change a lot in 5 years. You have options, don't worry!
4. Have a rock solid offer plan.
I'm going to give away one of my secrets to getting offers accepted: get pre-approved with a direct lender that can give you a loan commitment.
This means that the underwriting department goes through all of your financials BEFORE you are in escrow. But Samira, wait - isn't that what a pre-approval is? The dirty little secret of the financial world is that many pre-approvals are generated by a system and not by an underwriter that has personally combed through your financials. They could miss that you had some blips in your finances a few years ago. A pre-approval is not a guarantee, and YES, loans have been denied to folks with pre-approvals. Imagine being 21 days into escrow, having given notice your landlord and all of a sudden losing your loan AND your earnest money deposit.
By getting pre-approved by a direct lender who has underwriting review your financials before giving you a pre-approval, I make sure that you 1. are completely underwritten and that no surprises pop up during the escrow process and 2. it allows you to waive your loan contingency in order to compete with cash offers. Now we're talking, right? I'm happy to walk you through the process, as I know it can sound overwhelming.
As you can tell, I am incredibly passionate about real estate and I love to talk about this stuff. Thinking about buying or selling? I would love to chat with you. No pressure. Promise! Message me to set up a time.