Top Valley Realtors forecast trends, debate aesthetics
and extol fake grass.
From the rise of the Cape Cod to the decline of the Mediterranean, some clear-cut trends have emerged in the Valley. Ventura Blvd editor-in-chief Linda Grasso checks in with three local realtors to enlighten us on those as well as other noteworthy developments in the market.
It seems recently the Valley has become more sought-after. Thoughts?
Andrea Korchek: In recent years, many buyers who began their search on the Westside have been left with no choice but to head to the Valley due to skyrocketing prices. Plus the expanding pool of “all-cash” purchases and wealthy buyers make it hard to stay in the game. Also the Valley stigma is dissipating. We have great shops, restaurants, local and private schools, and our population is chic—with a solid representation of hipsters and trendsetters.
Which Valley town is the hottest?
ANDREW SPITZ: It used to be Studio City. However, we are now seeing that Sherman Oaks and particularly Encino are where people are interested in building and investing. School reputation in Encino is on par; streets are not as windy; and lots are flatter, while still being south of the Boulevard.
AK: Sherman Oaks and Studio City—and that is certainly reflected in the average sale price per square foot. But Encino is right there too, with sought-after Royal Oaks and the coveted Lanai Elementary School. Builders are flocking there for the larger lots.
The Cape Cod style is super popular in the Valley right now. Fad?
CAROL WOLFE: Cape Cod is very popular all over LA. Although the exterior of these houses is more of a traditional New England style, the interiors have all the bells and whistles that buyers want and tend to be more contemporary. I think the next trend will be more contemporary.
AS: Every few years we see a certain style become popular. For a while it was the Spanish villa and the Tuscany. Now it’s Cape Cod. Though Cape Cod is becoming a bit overdone. Lately I’ve been hearing the mid-century look is what is being asked for.
AK: Cape Cod seems to be a style that a lot of builders can get right. But they are very cookie-cutter. Even though I think it’s a timeless style, I anticipate that they will become “dated” like the Mediterraneans of the ‘90s.
What is your forecast for 2016?
AS: Steady to a slight increase (less than 5%.) As we’ve all heard, interest rates are going to be going up with no surge. Obviously a sharp rise in mortgage rates would impact the prices of homes and level them out or even cause a drop.
CW: If interest rates remain low, I think prices will at least remain the same and probably rise (in general). I definitely do not think prices will drop.
AK: The market has softened in the past few months, and we are seeing far more reductions than we were seeing earlier in 2015. My forecast is that the market is leveling but there still will be appreciation.
Besides de-cluttering, what are the most important ways of prepping for a sale?
AS: Make sure the curb appeal is there with some spring planting. Put garden hoses out of sight and
spruce up the yard. For interior paint, white is the current color.
AK: Deep cleaning and a professional window washer is also a must.
What are buyers’ high-priority items?
AS: Kitchens opening into family rooms, open floor plans. Walk-in closets that are professionally organized are what luxury buyers expect. Wood floors are a must. Also: bifold doors or “walls of glass” that open to the backyard and views.
AK: The family buyer is looking for grass and a pool. Millennials love mid-century modern architecture. A true master is a must. And who doesn’t love top-of-line stainless appliances in a drop-dead kitchen?
A lot of people are bummed out when McMansions pop up in their neighborhood. But doesn’t that bring a rise in property values?
AS: To some, that is irrelevant; the neighbors are upset about how this building has impacted the way their streets look. New construction is sometimes not used as a comparable property to existing homes, so individually the McMansions may not impact property values. However over time this will bring property values up.
CW: I think it is good for property owners and in general would increase home values in the neighborhood—particularly when houses are old and dated—because suddenly the land value is worth more than the house itself.
AK: Beautiful new construction, albeit larger than the average home in the neighborhood, is good for value. The McMansions that led to building restrictions were the eyesores that dominated the lot and were finished with stucco, columns and so much “decorative” wrought iron. These buildings have no appeal today and no positive influence on value.
Let’s talk artificial grass. Is it going to become like the cottage cheese ceilings of the ‘60s and one day we will be ripping it out as fast as we can?
AS: With no end to the drought in sight, the artificial grass is a plus, if done right and with the drainage taken care of underneath. Buyers seem to prefer it to stones or cement.
AK: I grew up thinking anything artificial was tacky, but I too have come around. If times change and water is no longer in short supply, I think homeowners will always prefer the real deal.
So many of us live on lots that were originally developed in the ‘50s. As a result, we’re seeing old plumbing pipes collapse. The problem is where it connects in the middle of the street, where the lines from homes all come together. Apparently homeowners, not the city, are responsible for this expensive re-do. Advice?
AK: The homeowner is responsible for the sewer line up to the city hook-up under the street, and when that line is broken, the replacement is expensive. This is why I always recommend that buyers do a video sewer line inspection as part of their due-diligence.
I don’t see broken lines under the street too often, or inspectors recommending complete sewer line replacement. Today it is far more common to see root intrusion that can be addressed with hydro-jetting and regular maintenance. Where the sewer line does need to be replaced, the seller will likely have to credit the buyer or make the repair before close. Should the seller be proactive and inspect their line before marketing their home? I wouldn’t. I’d prefer to wait to see what my buyer discovers in inspections. If I know there’s a problem, I should fix and disclose it.
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