Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Condo in swanky Old Town Pasadena

85 N. Madison #27 Pasadena, CA 91101

This is one of my listings, and I just got a huge price drop. Quite a bargain because it is an approved short sale at $214,500. In the historical "Barcelona" building built in 1922. 1+1 unit with original tile in Kitchen and Bath. French Doors in living room. Walking distance to Pasadena Playhouse district, all the shops and hotspots in Old Town and the Metro Gold Line. Less than five minutes to PCC, this would make an ideal student home for less than the price of rent. To schedule a showing, contact Sky Minor at 310-709-8283.

The consummate Los Feliz entertainer's home

This huge Traditional home north of Los Feliz Blvd in the 90027 has been an object of interest to me for about five years. When I lived in Los Feliz I would jog past this stately property a few times each week and I always wondered what it looked like inside. had no idea how amazing the back yard is. It has a ample pool with treetop city views, which is rare for Los Feliz under $2m.The back yard also has a really cool seating area that has a Tuscan meets Old Hollywood vibe. You could throw some amazing parties here. Adrian Grenier lives right down the street, perhaps he would bring the Entourage by? For the Hollywood jet set, it doesn't get much better than this property. There are Four bedrooms, each it's own individual Suite. It is within walking distance to the hip Los Feliz Village and Griffith Park. The listing price is $1.79m. To see inside contact Sky Minor at 310-709-8283

listing courtesy of Sothebys Los Feliz

Sunday, December 26, 2010

This economy is bouncing back

From my armchair view, I see a recovery in Real Estate prices happening right now. Although we still have a huge backlog of foreclosures to contend with, the abundance of buyers in Silver Lake, Highland Park and Eagle Rock are holding prices where they are, in some cases even pushing them upwards. If the stock market is any indicator, we are well on our way to recovery.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Silver Lake Log Cabin Duplex. Fresh!

Everyone expects houses in Silver Lake, CA to be either post-and beam Neutra inspired modern or vintage Hollywood Spanish with a couple of hipster Craftsmans peppered in. I found this Big Bear style log cabin duplex on the MLS and I loved the originality and the low asking price (799k), evidently because of that originality. It would seem the real estate market at large does not value originality as much as I would like. It's a 2+2 duplex on each side and is much newer than the typical 80 year old Silver Lake house. Being in the hills of Silver Lake, naturally this property has a fantastic view. I bet you could get about $1800 rent for one duplex side. That's more than half of your $3400 mortgage payment. These kind of deals appeal to me, income is nice. To see inside this property contact me, Sky Minor at 310-709-8283 or at

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Silver Lake Neighborhood Tours pt. 1-Silver Lake Blvd.

Silver Lake Neighborhood tours are something that Rachel and I did for our Silver Lake Real Estate site. We love this area of Los Angeles. We basically came of age in Silver Lake, spending our 20's and now into our 30's in the restaurants, music venues, coffee shops and boutiques in this wonderful area. We wrote articles about the different areas of Silver Lake to share our own experiences and to show outsiders what this neighborhood is all about. Here is our first installment, Silver Lake Blvd.

Silver Lake Boulevard is the eponymous road going through the hills of Silver Lake. It begins just North of the 101 freeway and passes under Sunset Boulevard then passes the two Silver Lake Dog Parks, and the hiking trail that runs alongside Silver Lake's namesake reservoir before it ends at Glendale Blvd.

Silver Lake Blvd. Map from Sunset to Glendale
Silver Lake Blvd. Through the hills of Silver Lake CA.

Throughout the years this scenic, winding street has become more urbanized and polished while never compromising it's artsy, laid back style. Silver Lake Boulevard has never had a shortage of culture. It houses popular music venues like Spaceland and The Silverlake Lounge. The crowd here is typically young and excruciatingly hip, but even just going for the people watching is a quintessential Silver Lake Experience. For the more mature crowd, Silver Lake Blvd offers fantastic shops, cafes and restaurants. Reservoir and LA Mill Coffee are two newer eateries which recently popped up on the blvd and are always packed with the creative, intellectual Silverlakers who come down from their homes and estates in the hills above. The boutiques that line the street are fashion-forward, artistic and cater to the higher brow set.

As the street crests the hill and runs alongside the reservoir, some of Silver Lake's architectural treasure properties can be seen peeking out through the lush foliage. Silver Lake has more architecturally significant properties per square mile than any other area of Los Angeles. Now-famous architects
Richard Neutra, Rudolph Schindler, John Lautner and many others created breathtaking Modern and Avant Garde buildings in the middle part of the 20th century. The star among the group was a Frank Lloyd Wright understudy named Richard Neutra. He was so revered he even had his own cul-de sac just off Silver Lake Blvd called Neutra Place with about 10 modern masterpieces designed in "Pavillion" style. These modern homes have strong horizontal lines and large windows to take in the stunning views. Truly distinctive and unique properties abound in this region of Silver Lake. There are more Neutra homes in Silver Lake than any other place.

The Silver Lake reservoir is surrounded by hills speckled with these gorgeous homes, a running track on the peripherals of the lake, 2 dog parks (separated by big and little, gotta remember the little guys), tennis courts, a rec center, meeting places, community sports activities and more. The reservoir was named after Herman Silver who was an early Los Angeles water commissioner in the 1900's. This reservoir was one of many built around the LA metro area by the DWP for water management. The reservoir does not provide water for the Silver Lake neighborhood, it actually comes from Eagle Rock.

Silver Lake Reservoir from the Blvd.
The Silver Lake Reservoir. In the background is the Hollywood sign and Griffith Observatory.

Gorgeous views of the reservoir

Silver Lake Reservoir and the San Gabriel mountains in the distance.

When Silver Lake ends on Glendale Blvd, drivers can see the brand new Silver Lake library, a stunning example of modern architecture that is perfectly suited for Silver Lake's rich modernist architectural history.

Silver lake Library

Homes around the Silver Lake reservoir are among the most desirable in Silver Lake and Los Angeles at large. Seven figure price tags are common for the vintage and architecturally significant properties nestled in the hills around the sparkling reservoir. There are old Hollywood vintage mansions and Spanish Mission style homes that are as beautiful as anywhere else in California. This area is the high end of Silver Lake, and the arguably the entire East side of Los


The modern homes fetch high price tags, and they are rarely up for sale. These houses are trophy homes for architecturally savvy owners. They are increasing in value despite real estate market turbulence because they are so rare and coveted.

If you are interested in buying or selling a home or property in Silver Lake, Please contact us.

Sky Minor 310-709-8283/Rachel Mintz 323-632-5020

Friday, September 24, 2010

NELA's move to redevelop "blighted" riverside areas

Is NELA (Northeast Los Angeles) blighted? Some people seem to think so and are making waves to improve the area along the LA river. The Community Redevelopment Agency of Los Angeles (CRA/LA) is currently seeking to create a redevelopment project area in NELA. The so-called NELA River Redevelopment Project Area would cover most communities that lie along the eastside of the Los Angeles River, including significant sections of Atwater Village, Cypress Park, Glassell Park and Elysian Valley. The area in question starts at Figueroa and heads Northwest alongside the LA river to Fletcher, then begins again in the north part of Atwater, above Chevy Chase. To be able to create a redevelopment project area neighborhoods within it must be declared “blighted”. Click here for a map of the proposed “blighted” area (pdf file).

When it comes to creating a new redevelopment project area what does “blighted” actually mean? Being a broker of Silver Lake Real Estate, I certainly don't like hearing my home town and my primary area of business referred to in such a context. According to California Redevelopment Law for an area to be considered "blighted” it must be predominantly urbanized and have a combination of conditions “so prevalent and so substantial that it causes a reduction of, or lack of, proper utilization of the area to such an extent that it constitutes a serious physical and economic burden on the community that cannot reasonably be expected to be reversed or alleviated by private enterprise or governmental action, or both, without redevelopment”.

California Redevelopment Law goes on to list the “prevalent and so substantial” conditions that must exist in order for an area to be consider “blighted”. These conditions include;

1) buildings in which it is unsafe or unhealthy for persons to live or work. Including buildings of substandard, defective, or obsolete design or construction given the present general plan, zoning, or other development standards.
2) Adjacent or nearby incompatible land uses that prevent the development of those parcels or other portions of the project area.
3) The existence of small sized lots that are in multiple ownership and whose physical development has been impaired by their irregular shapes and small sizes.
4) Depreciated or stagnant property values.
5) Impaired property values due in significant part hazardous wastes on property.
6) Abnormally high business vacancies, abnormally low lease rates, or an abnormally high number of abandoned buildings.
7) A serious lack of necessary commercial facilities that are normally found in neighborhoods, including grocery stores, drug stores, and banks and other lending institutions.
8) Serious residential overcrowding that has resulted in significant public health or safety problems.
9) An excess of bars, liquor stores, or adult-oriented businesses that has resulted in significant public health, safety, or welfare problems.
10) A high crime rate that constitutes a serious threat to the public safety and welfare.

---For more information about the proposed NELA River Redevelopment Project area visit CRA/LA website at: or the LA City Clerks website at:

To buy or sell property in NELA, contact Sky Minor at his website for Silver Lake Real Estate.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

If this was your view would you ever leave the toilet?

Check out this house in Mt. Washington right up the street from one I just sold. This has to be one of the most amazing bathroom views I've seen (especially for $450k). If I had this view in my lavoratory I could see myself spending quite a bit of time relaxing on the latrine. I would become like John Travolta's character in Pulp Fiction. I might even move my office in there.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

LA Metro Rail expansion makes for new real estate investment opportunities.

LA Metro Rail expansion makes for new real estate investment opportunities for the farsighted.

An astute client of mine who is on his way to cashflow early retirement pointed out to me that the LA Metro rail is adding a new line. The expansion starts downtown, goes through USC and then heads West along Exposition into Culver City and the West side of LA. This will make many older, affordable rental properties accessible to a Metro rail stop. This is a very good thing! Usually when a metro rail line goes through a neighborhood the property values increase. The Los Angeles MTA site has some good case studies to validate that point. From what I've seen in the areas near the recent Gold Line expansion in Cypress and Highland Park, rail service can turn around a blighted area. Once people can get to their jobs downtown on the train, they start moving into the cheaper areas and renovating the older properties there because the cost of living is lower. Soon the area sees a notable uptick in both rental and sale prices because of this demand to live near a rail station. The truth is that LA is a city with an underdeveloped public transportation system. Although it is still tough to live here without a car, with the additions of these rail lines it becomes more feasible to get by without one. Public transportation gives more people access to more things which leads to more trade which is good for everyone. As oil prices will continue to climb more people will be able to rely solely on the metro to get around (as it is with most other big cities).

On an quasi related interesting historical side note, Los Angeles once had the nations most advanced railway car line, The Los Angeles Railway. You could get from East LA to downtown all the way to San Pedro, up to Pasadena and into Hollywood and Mid City. The line was owned by railroad tycoon Henry Huntington and the dual gauge cars ran until 1945.
The Los Angeles Railway was rumored to have been bought out by Henry Ford and a tire company bit by bit and immediately dismantled to force Californians to buy their automobiles. True or not, LA has had a sorry lack of rail transportation since then until the 21st century. It would be great to see a return to rail in the Southland for a myriad of reasons, but the one that I'm writing about here is added value for everyone living in LA. Rail lines are a great way to add value to a property for yourself and your tenants, so I'll see you all out savvy buyers out there on Exposition Blvd.

Sky Minor
Preferred Realty and Loan
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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The first timer's guide to the process of buying Real Estate.

I had an email conversation with a first time buyer recently. They wanted to know the entire process of buying a home from start to finish. This is a very popular question that many people ask me, so I'm happy to publish it in my blog. The current Silver Lake Real Estate market is down and interest rates are at historical lows, so it is a very good time to be buying Real Estate. Wheather its the first or fifteenth time buying a property, the process always goes like this;

1. Secure Financing.
The very first thing to do is get a mortgage preapproval from lender. Once you've figured out what you can afford and want to pay the lender will write you a preapproval letter. The letter will go out with every offer. Have the money that you are going to be using as a down payment ready and don't leave your job or apply for credit from anywhere until your loan is closed. You'll get a Good Faith Estimate (GFE) from the lender for closing costs so you'll know what the bottom line to bring in will be. Typical buyer's closing costs are between 2-3% of the purchase price (4-5% for FHA loans) so make sure you have that amount in addition to your down payment. Don't move money around, keep it in one place until you close. If you have to move any money keep the paper trail because the lender will need to account for every dollar going into escrow.

2. Find the property, write an offer, get it accepted.
Finding the Property is the fun part. Your agent should be showing you many properties, and you should be learning from each one. Try to see as many as possible each time you go out with your agent. Seeing 10 houses only takes a little bit longer than seeing 6 of them. Don't be afraid to write offers, if something feels right to you, it usually is. Writing offers does not bind a buyer to anything until the seller accepts the offer or gives a counter offer. The buyer does not need to put any money down until buyer and seller agree on all terms and both sign a contract and escrow is opened. Once you begin to write offers there are many things to be aware of in the fine print. These details can mean thousands of dollars coming from your pocket at closing so understand clearly everything you are offering to the seller. Some details I see: Transfer Tax, unpaid assessments, Mello-Roos taxes, Termite repairs, smoke detectors and on and on. Once the contract is accepted then it is taken verbatim by everyone involved so make sure you are OK with what you are putting on it. Ask your agent what the protocol and customary fees are for the items that you are including, they will know and advise you. This is why they are getting paid.

It is impossible to know everything about the property when you are writing offers on it, so don't worry too much about uncertainties in the beginning. As knowledgeable as your agent is, they won't be able to tell you absolutely everything about the property's maintenance history, neighborhood information (especially ethnic or racial makeup-by law) etc. The successful buyer needs to be able to act quickly with limited information. The best properties never stay on the market long in Los Angeles, despite economic or market conditions. The early bird gets the worm with real estate so don't get "analysis paralysis". If you know the property is right for you, write the offer. You have plenty of time after writing it to change your mind, so put pen to paper now. Once it is accepted you will have an inspection contingency period and a financing contingency period usually 17 days. If you find something that you do not like, or are unable to obtain the mortgage that you said you would get on the offer, you can pull out no harm no foul. The chances are, you won't get your first offer accepted anyway. I did not have one single buyer in 2009 who got the first place they wrote an offer on. One of them is on his 12th offer. Buyers cannot be afraid to write offers, but with that being said they should be careful to dot the I's and cross the T's with every offer.

After the offer goes in, the seller will most likely counter-offer and request concessions. Higher price, shorter escrow, less closing costs etc. This negotiation is natural and should be approached with patience and serenity. Don't be flustered by aggressive counter offers, deal with them knowing that you are making progress. Too many times first time buyers bury their head in the sand at the first counter offer, probably because they feel intimidated not having negotiated much in their lives. That's perfectly acceptable, but I don't think any buyer should give in too easily to the sellers' demands. Many times the seller's agent will create inuendos about other buyers circling the property ready to pounce like well-funded lions, but in some cases it is a bluffing tactic. Successful buyers keep a cool head and act rationally. This is another area where the buyers' agent has to earn their keep. They will be able to guide and advise and their advise should be heeded. Often times sellers require a cross-qualification of the buyer's mortgage approval. This means that the seller has their own loan officer (usually an employee of the bank who foreclosed on the property) who must also approve the buyers' mortgage. Sellers can demand that no offers will be reviewed without cross-qualification so it's a good idea to keep the items nearby that they'll want; W2's, paystubs and bank statements. After the dust settles and a counter offer is signed by both buyer and seller, notify the mortgage lender immediately and send them what they need right away to start underwriting the mortgage.

3.Open Escrow, put down deposit money.
Escrow is a neutral third party licensed by the state to carry out the contract. They ensure first that the seller doesn't take the buyer's money and the buyer doesn't take the seller's property. They see to it that all taxes get paid, all liens and any claims against the property get paid, every expense is accounted for and prorated up to the day the buyer takes title to the home. All money gets sent into escrow and sent out by escrow. The buyer will have to send in their earnest money deposit to escrow at this point. That is usually done with wire transfer or cashiers check. Escrows rarely accept personal checks. Wire transfer is easiest but it usually costs $30 each time. Escrow will send you out a small pile of paperwork to fill out. That paperwork needs to be returned to them as soon as possible. The buyer will need to determine their vesting, need to give background information and other questions. If your agent is not available, calling the escrow company for questions is perfectly acceptable.

Once escrow is opened, the clock starts ticking with the buyer's agreed upon Inspection and Loan contingency periods. Every day counts, so buyer's need to be ready to respond quickly to the requests of the lender, agent or escrow company. Email is the best way to send paperwork back and forth because it's possible to pull up what was sent and received by everyone involved. Make sure you keep or get copies of everything that you sign and keep it for your records.

4. Get a property inspection.
Getting an inspection is currently not mandatory in CA but it should be. I require all Preferred Realty and Loan buyers to get an inspection, even on new houses because you never know what you'll find. Inspectors are licensed and bonded professionals and hold insurance policies in case they miss anything in their inspection report. They never do. The agent will be able to recommend an inspector to you. They cost from $250-$450 on most houses and condos and are usually paid by buyer. If possible, go out and meet the inspector at the property when he's inspecting and ask questions. Inspector are typically contractors and they all know what to look for. They will provide you a large report outlining everything that is notable in the house. When you get that report, don't feel too broken hearted when problems are disclosed. Most houses have problems with them, especially in LA where most houses are 50+ years old. Things to pay attention to in inspection reports are:

-Foundations, especially on hillsides. Foundation ideally should be bolted to the piers (wood beams). Foundation problems are seen in cracks that go from ceiling to ceiling or floor. In hillside houses, it is natural for the soil to move 1/10" per year. Keep that in mind. Gravity always wins.

-Any leaking water in roof or pipes. Water entry is the biggest problem in houses. Even in the desert climate of Southern California water intrusion is still an issue, and anywhere that has water should be examined for dryrot. Mold is a frequent accomplice of water leaks, and should be examined (although there are hundreds of different strains of mold, only a couple of which people are allergic to.)Mold can pose a problem for potential landlords. Also look for water coming off the roof and not flowing alongside the structure.

-Old elecrical systems, if there are air conditioner units or other large power draws. An updated 220v electrical box on a 1500 sq ft 3+2 house will cost 3-4 thousand dollars. Look at the breaker panel. If you see cloth wires going to a fragmented, unlabeled center then it's probably going to need to be updated.

-Termite damage on wood frame houses. Termite inspections are often required by lenders. A termite company will go out to the property and give estimates. They are heavily regulated in California so estimates don't vary too much from one contractor to the next. Termite damage looks kind of like swiss cheese, poking holes in wood window frames, beams, eaves, joists, etc. Termite repairs come in two phases; phase 1 which is everything structural, anything that holds the house up. This phase 1 repair bill is typically paid by the seller. Phase 2 is anything cosmetic and is typically the buyer's responsibility. The most termite damage that we have seen was in 2008 on a two bedroom home in North Hollywood that had to be completely tented and some of the structural joists replaced at a cost of $3500. Most termite bills are around $1000 for houses under 1500 square feet.

Once the buyer receives a copy of the inspection report they really get a good opportunity to "look under the hood" of the house. Usually inspection reports are written with the buyer's interest in mind and inspectors have a tendency to overstate deficencies. With the inspection report in hand, the buyer is given the power to do one of three things;

1. Request that the seller repair any items that are of concern.
2. Request that the seller credit the buyer the cost of repairs either from a reduction in the price of the property or by paying the buyer's closing costs.
3. Cancel the deal.

Most buyers I work with are too emotionally/financially tied to the property at this point and do not want to cancel. So then the question becomes should they request repairs or money? This is a significant question and needs to be carefully examined. Many new buyers who I see opt for the credit never get around to getting the work done. For items that are in serious need of repair, this is obviously not a good thing. If there is water leaking in a roof and it gets into the flooring, it needs to be repaired right away. The long term cost of neglecting maintenance issues needs to be weighed by the buyer. If it doesn't get fixed now, it will usually cost a lot more to do later when it goes up for sale. Conservative bargaining and due diligence are very important. The agent should be able to offer referrals to contractors who can give estimates. I find that Yelp is also a pretty good source for finding contractors, although many good ones are not of the internet generation and must be sought out other ways. The smart buyer will have made their own connections with contractors before entering escrow, so that they can give second opinions of the issues that come up. No buyer is an island.

When buying bank owned foreclosure REO properties, the seller will rarely make repairs unless there is a health and safety issue. The banks are reticent to negotiate much on repairs either, usually requiring buyers to accept the property as-is. This refusal to fix or credit is why REO foreclosures are sold at a discount. The bank is going to pass the problems to the new buyer.

So let's take a hypothetical example and assume that the buyer asked the seller for $10,000 in credit for closing costs for various maintenance items. The buyer will put that on their Request for Repair form (ROR), and the seller can accept, negotiate or cancel. I have never seen a seller cancel at this point, even if ROR was overkill. The seller in this example will counter back at $4,000 in repair credit and the two will eventually agree on $6,500. An addendum is drawn up and sent to escrow whereby the seller will pay $6,500 of the buyer's closing costs. The price will remain the same but the seller is going to be contributing the $6,500 to the buyer's expenses. The buyer is not receiving cash from the seller, they are only getting credited money to close. If they don't use all of that credited money at the closing, they lose any unused portion. It is very rare that lenders will let a buyer walk out of escrow with money in hand that they didn't bring in themselves. It is important buyers remember this and make sure they can spend all the money they are asking for as a seller credit! After the dust has settled and an agreed upon amount is credited or repaired, we move on.

5. Get an Appraisal.
This step is only for buyers getting a mortgage. The lender will always need to appraise the property. Appraisals are usually $350-$500 and usually paid by the borrower in the form of an Application fee. Since the advent of the HVCC appraisal code, appraisers are not chosen by anyone who has an interest in the transaction. The intention to avoid potential conflicts of interest is good with this law, but the actual effect is that appraisal orders get farmed out to the lowest bidder and the resulting quality of the reports is equally low. Appraisers used to be local and knowledgeable about market factors in the neighborhood (Schools, Crime, Views, Amenities, etc). For the most part, they are not at all like that any more, and are only valuating the house based on price per square foot of nearby comps. This is an overly objective approach to valuating homes and can result in wild swings of variation, often lower than the asking price. If the property that the buyer has under contract does not appraise at the price that the buyer has on their contract, they can cancel (provided they did not waive that right on their offer). Alternatively, they can take the appraisal to the seller and request that the price be lowered to the appraised value. Since the seller will presumably have this same issue with any buyer, they have a reason to consider lowering their price. Buyers should ensure their agent evaluates the comps before writing an offer far over the asking price. A lot of time and heartache can be saved by doing some diligence. After the appraisal comes back to the lender they will issue a loan approval and will require conditions from the borrower, escrow and title companies. Time is of the essence, so when the agent or lender requests something it is important to get it to them right away. I always tell my buyers that when the loan officer says "Jump", they say "How High?".

6. Get Natural Hazard Disclosure report and Title Prelim The Natural Hazard Disclosure (NHD) report is not mandatory but is recommended. It contains 30+ pages of potential hazards in, under and around the property. The scope of the report is vast, covering everything from Radon gas to Seismic activity to landslide and liquefaction potential to airport noise. The reports are prepared by private companies who are responsible for the validity of their data so they always tend toward over disclosing. As before with the inspection report, some bad news is inevitable. Life kills and after seeing some NHD reports, it's a wonder how anyone could live in the houses. But they have, and in many cases the house has been there for 70-80-100 years and people have been living there. Don't get too flustered when the NHD comes back with some problems. At the same time, there are some important issues that should not be taken lightly. Some of those issues are;

1. Fire hazard area. In Southern California, If the property is in the hills or not surrounded by other structures in an urban setting, it is probably in a high fire area. The ramifications of this are higher homeowner's insurance premiums for life.
2. Radon Gas. Radon seeps in through the soil and collects, usually in ground level or basement areas. There are three levels of Radon gas disclosed. If it is beyond level 1, I recommend another Radon specific test. Radon is bad news, especially for young children developing.
3. Mello-Roos tax districts. Mello-Roos taxes and other supplemental tax assessments run with the land and can really break the bank. The NHD will have information on every expense that has to be paid with the property. Usually the Title report will have this data too, but the NHD is the most accurate source of information for this.
4. Proximity to old Oil Wells/Mining sites- This is most frequently associated with gas coming up from the earth. There are plenty of oil well sites around Southern California and some still leak off methane and other gases that can be dangerous, if not foul smelling.
5. Flood zone. If the property is in a flat area it may be in a flood plain and that requires higher homeowners insurance coverage.

There are many other issues that the NHD will touch on, and the agent will be the first point of contact for questions.

The preliminary title report is issued from the title company. This report shows the history of the property, sometimes going all the way back to the Spanish occupation of California. The title prelim shows any and all liens on title of the property. If the seller didn't pay taxes, had a contractor slap a lien on the property or borrowed money against it then all of this will come up on the title prelim. The title companies' job is to insure the homeowner against any defects in title, so if they miss anything at all they pay for it. They never miss anything. The lender will require a title insurance policy to protect their interest in the property. The buyer does not usually concern themselves with what is contained in the title prelim, if there are hidden costs then the agent or escrow will alert the buyer right away and the buyer can act accordingly.

After the buyer has these reports in and signed off and their appraisal is completed, they are almost done. Buyers will sign off on all of their contingencies, which means that they have to close or the seller can claim their earnest money deposit. There is usually a time in every transaction when all the contingencies are signed off, but the loan is not ready to fund. A skilled agent will negotiate with the seller to give them what they want, but buy more time for the buyer's loan contingency. The reality is that lenders in the post-credit crunch are never 100% reliable and can back out at any moment without warning. Ideally, buyers want to keep their loan contingencies until they close but it is not always possible. If the time comes where the seller is demanding the buyer remove their loan contingency, the lender should be consulted before action is taken.

7. Sign Loan Docs
By the third week into the transaction, the loan docs are usually ready to be signed. The buyers getting the mortgage will sign the docs in the presence of a Notary Public, or at the escrow company. Buyers should request an estimated HUD from the escrow company before signing their loan docs and compare it to the lender's initial Good Faith Estimate. Any increase in charges should be addressed to the lender as soon as they are discovered. Some charges are unavoidable but there should be no more than a couple hundred dollars difference. If the lender hikes up the fees then call them out on it and don't accept the loan. It is an age old trick of money lenders to wait until the borrower has no other options and then increase the fees and rate. Although this practice has lessened since the mortgage industry underwent a major overhaul in 2010, it is still prevalent at closing tables across the country. Because of this, I recommend applying for mortgages with two or more lenders if possible. Playing them one against another can lead to the best deal, but it is a lot to keep up with. If the buyer has any questions at all, ask! Don't be afraid to get answers from your lender. Remember they need to lend money to stay in business.

8. Buyer Final Walk Through.
The buyer gets to sign off on a final walk through to verify condition of the property before closing. Buyer should check that the termite work was completed, the water heater was properly strapped, smoke detectors are in each bedroom and kitchen and all are working, and that any agreed upon repairs were completed. In some cases the seller will negotiate to move out after closing time. If the seller has not yet vacated the property, the prudent buyer should take note of the condition of the house to ensure that the seller does not damage things on move out. This final buyer walk through is the last item to be signed off on before loan funding.

9. Closing Time.
After the loan docs are signed they go back to the lender and the buyer wires their money into escrow to close. There will be several lender conditions prior to funding-usually updating paystubs and bank account information. At this point many buyers are at the end of their rope but stay with it, the very end of the transaction is just as important as any other point. When the loan underwriter is satisfied, they fund the loan by wiring the money into escrow. Once the loan is funded, escrow disburses funds to the seller and deed to the buyer, gets the deed and mortgage information recorded at the county recorder and gives the buyers the keys to their new home. This is a happy time for everyone.

I hope I was able to shed light on the process of buying a property for first timers or anyone who might benefit from it. Buying your home is never a walk in the park and indeed it can be a stressful journey but in the end, all of my buyers unilaterally say that it was worth it. Home ownership is the biggest preserver of wealth for most American families. Right now is an ideal time to buy property. We have a perfect combination of real estate is in a downturn and interest rates are extremely low, the time is right for more people to take a step into home ownership.

For any questions feel free to contact Sky Minor, your favorite Los Angeles broker.
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Monday, July 12, 2010

New Lease Listing 3230 N. Shasta Circle 90065

This is a great property in pristine condition that would work well for a large or extended family.
It is a gorgeous classic California 2+2 home with detached 1+1 guest house. Escape to your own private oasis minutes away from the city and very close to the 2, 5 and 134 Freeways. Beautifully maintained home with private, shaded zen garden style back yard. Naturally cool in the summer. Excellent LAUSD Elementary School (Delevan Drive). Priced at $3500 per month. Email me for showings.

Friday, July 2, 2010

LA Times school evaluator. Slick!

This is a great widget from the LA Times. It is used to rank schools in the city. It lists pertinent data such as API scores, economic data, demographic makeup of the faculty and student body, test scores and more. Highly recommended for the parents to be buying a home in Los Angeles. Simply input the address of the property you are evaluating and the nearby schools will pop up. Helpful!

Click Here for the School Evaluator

Tags: sky minor LA real estate, Find Los Angeles Schools, LA Private School finder, LA public School finder, LA public school lists, Los Angeles School rankings, which home has the best schools in LA,

Listing photo of the month-Bad Kitty!

I came across this photo of a listing in Mt. Washington. LOL!

I love this, but some people don't have quite the sense of humor I do. If this were my listing I would at least have waited until this Calico kitty was finished with her drink.

This particular listing is a short sale that is extremely cute. My buyer put an offer on it, but it is not yet approved so it will probably be months until the lender replies with a counter offer. Mount Washington is seeing some great homes coming on the market now, and there are many bargains to be had with REOs, short sales or even regular sales. Contact me if you would like to see some properties in this very good school district of Los Angeles.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Back on market-Seller financed Studio Condo in the heart of Old Town Pasadena.

Sky Minor | Sky Minor Real Estate | 310-709-8283

181 S. Marengo, Pasadena, CA
Location Location Location. Walking distance to
Old Town, Colorado Blvd, Gold Line, Paseo
Colorado, etc. Seller finance.
Studio/1BA Condo
offered at $135,000
Year Built 1951
Sq Footage 647
Bedrooms Studio
Bathrooms 1 full, 0 partial
Floors Unspecified
Parking Unspecified
Lot Size 1,085 sqft
HOA/Maint $175 per month


Move-in Ready studio unit for sale in the heart of Old Town Pasadena. Walking distance to the Paseo Colorado, and the Gold Line. Ideal for a single person interested in all the restaurants, shops, and excitement that Old Town Pasadena has to offer.This corner unit has freshly redone hardwood floors, and a small balcony to relax on in the evenings. Paid parking is available at 2 local structures, and there is street parking for free. Low association fees.Fantastic opportunity to own the least expensive condo in Pasadena, in one of the best locations. No need for traditional bank financing, either. Owner will carry with $15,000 down. Perfect credit not necessary. Property is an Own-Your-Own.

see additional photos below

- Seller financing


Photo 1
Contact info:

Sky Minor
Sky Minor Real Estate
For sale by agent/broker

powered by postlets Equal Opportunity Housing
Posted: Jun 8, 2010, 12:32pm PDT

Friday, May 7, 2010

Prime Eagle Rock Duplex $499000 Open May 8 and 9th 2-5.

This is a prime foreclosure in the heart of Eagle Rock. Features 1+1 and 2+2 unit with 2 separate garages and plenty of gated parking. Both units vacant which is very rare in this market! Eagle Rock multi unit properties are hard to come by, and even more uncommon as bargain foreclosures. This will go fast.
Walking distance to Trader Joe's, Eagle Rock High School and all the restaurants, nightlife, dispensaries and boutiques on Colorado Blvd. Large, flat lot with mature fruit trees.
Open 5/8 and 5/9 (Saturday and Sunday) from 2-5. Contact Sky Minor at Preferred Realty and Loan at 310-709-8283 for more information. No agents, please.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

List of Fannie Mae Foreclosures available in the SGV/Foothill area

-Sky Minor

610 E. Ladera Street
Pasadena 91104
REO #L10080G
In ESCROW (Listed 031810: $349,900)

1859 Lundy Avenue
Pasadena 91104
In ESCROW $275,500 (040410)
3/2, fireplace, 1112 sq ft/9324 lot, detach gar/carport, updted kitchen

736 N. Garfield Av 102 Pasadena 91104
REO# L090XV9
In ESCROW $269,900 (031710) 3/2.5, 2 stry, 1136 sq ft, in-unit laundry, subter pkng, HOA: $197

292 W. Claremont St. Pasadena 91103
In ESCROW $248,000 (040210)

276 Pepper Avenue Pasadena 91103
REO #L100B4R
In ESCROW $229,900 (040810)

540 N. Orange Grove Pasadena 91103
REO #L1009DC
AMN (dial)
VACANT (Internal listed $529,900) 2/1.5, 961 sq ft townhouse, fireplace, in-unit laundry, attchd garage
286 N Madison Ave 106 Pasadena 91101
REO #L100K97

OCCUPIED, in eviction,DBO
1/1, 973 sq ft, 2 stry condo, subter pkng, central air, BBQ patio

272 N. Mar Vista #13 Pasadena 91106 REO #L100BXB

OCCUPIED, in eviction, DBO
3/3, 1421 sq ft, 2 stry townhouse, fireplace, central air, patio/balcony, community spa
1738 Corson Street Pasadena 91106
$419,900 (04/16/10)
3/1, 1160 sq ft, 7649 lot, updated kitchen, fireplace, large backyard, detached garage
2259 El Sereno Ave. Altadena 91001

OCCUPIED, eviction, DBO
3/2, 952 sq ft, 7998 lot, fireplace, detached garage, bonus room attached to garage, large bckyard
2962 El Nido Drive Altadena 91001
REO #L1009QX

OCCUPIED, eviction, DBO
3/2, 1376 sq ft, 7626 lot

5921 Mesa Street Los Angeles 90042
REO #L0913SG
ESCROW(Listed 030110: $364,900)

1591-93 Yosemite Dr Los Angeles 90041
REO #L0913CC
SUPRA/AMN 456 padlock
$499,000 (05/03/10)
Duplex, front unit 1/1, rear unit 3/2, 1679 total sq ft, 7013 lot, 2 garages, vacant, rent control
5049 San Rafael Ave Los Angeles 90042
REO# L090YH7

OCCUPIED, eviction, DBO
3/1, 998 sq ft, 4802 lot, carport

117 S. Avenue 60
Los Angeles 90042
REO #L10041N
456 padlock
In ESCROW $255,875 (030410)

4830 San Marcos Pl.
Los Angeles 90042
REO #L1004HS
In ESCROW $299,900 (030110)

5775 Aldama Street
Los Angeles 90042
In ESCROW $259,900 (042010) duplex
each 1/1, 1021 total sq ft, 2265 lot, detached garage

420 James Street
Los Angeles 90065
REO #L100H1W
$279,900 (05/03/10)
2/2, est. 750 sq ft, 3400 lot, attached garages below living space
rooftop view
1935 Alpha Rd. #337 Glendale 91208
REO #L100J8F

OCCUPIED,DBO eviction Gate code 3031
1/1, 689 sq ft condo, community pool/spa, gated entry/drive, central air

2905 Montrose Av 517 Glendale 91214
VACANT , being repaired.
1/1, with loft, 1136 sq ft condo, HOA: $229, subter pkgn

324 Thompson Ave. Glendale 91201
REO #L100L7H

2 units are OCCUPIED,DBO
3 units, front house 3/1 with central air, 2 rear units are 1/1, 1 detached garage, large backyard 1837 total sq ft, 8477 lot
355 N. Maple St. #235 Burbank 91505
$279,900 (040810)
1 (loft)/1.5, 690 sq ft condo, community spa, fitness center, BBQ, across from Warner Studios
557 E. San Jose Av #8 Burbank 91501
VACANT, being repaired
2/3, 1125 sq ft, 2 stry condo, central air, in unit laundry, subter pkng
11503 Tiara Street No.Hollywood 91601
SSE (gold)/ AMN
In ESCROW, $241,900
2/1, 798 sq ft, 3518 lot, bonus room attached to rear bedroom

10140 Hillhaven Ave. Tujunga 91042
REO #L100M2D

3 units OCCUPIED, 2 moving out, front unit will stay, DBO
4 units, each 2/1, 3038 sq ft, 10890 lot

10015 Silverton Ave. Tujunga CA 91042

OCCUPIED, eviction,DBO
2/1, 676 sq ft, 9491 lot, bonus room

6943 Greeley Street Tujunga 91042

ESCROW/OCCUPIED-tenant purchase

777 S. Citrus Ave. 167 Azusa 91702
In ESCROW $279,900 (040810)

832 S. Briargate Lane Glendora 91740
VACANT, being repaired
3/2, 1230 sq ft, 6344 lot, corner lot, pool, covered patio, fireplace, remodeled kitchen, 2 car dtchd gar
587 Camino de Gloria
Walnut 91789
REO #L090DX3
$299,000 (reduced 042610)
3/1, 1088 sq ft, 8781 lot, needs work, large backyard

1315 S. Gladys Ave. San Gabriel, 91776

OCCUPIED eviction, DBO 1 bedroom, jack&jill bath, flag lot in back in nice neighborhood.
1330 S.Mayflower (L)
Monrovia 91016
REO #L0911CK
In ESCROW $319,000 (reduced 040610)
2/2.5, 2 stry condo, end unit, in-unit laundry, 2 car atchd gar, balcony

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

When asked "What to do with $500k I just received"?

Hello all, I am a frequent contributor to real estate websites like Trulia, Activerain and Zillow. These sites are great for the general public to ask real estate related questions without fear of being hounded by zealous agents with bad manners. Someone posted on that they had $500,000 in cash and wondered if they should pay off their existing mortgage or invest the money. It's a good question, and hopefully some of you reading this will one day find yourselves in this situation. This was my reply to the person:

"If it were me, I would go pick up one or two multi-unit properties in Los Angeles that will rent quickly. I am particularly fond of Section 8 Properties in the lower income areas of the city. Before you wince and disregard this answer, let me explain why. The ghetto is feared by many thus the prices are lower and the Cap rates are higher. (Cap rate is annual rent/purchase price-usually I advise to go for 8 or higher but most multifamily properties on the west side or Pasadena are 5 or less). Section 8 is an LA county program that subsidizes rent to people, so you have the government paying most of your tenant's rent. They always pay on the 1st of every month. The downside is that your unit has to pass a Section 8 inspection once a year, but that's best practices anyway to keep your rental property in good condition. With larger units (3 or more bedrooms) you tend to get families with lots of stuff. We all know that moving is a pain when you have alot of kids and stuff so they tend to stay put. A multiunit building with section 8 tenants is a cash machine. The tenants will never give you any problems because if they do, you just contact their section 8 adviser and they lose their benefits.

I would advise putting 50% down and getting a 30 year fixed mortgage so that you can leverage your funds a bit and also take advantage of the very low interest rates at the moment. When the rates rise, and they will, your 5% mortgage will be just peachy. I know of several buildings right now that are above a 10 percent cap rate and are under $300,000. All you would have to do is sign the loan docs and you would make about $3000 a month income from each. That's a no-brainer IF you have the stomach for the hood.

If not, rental properties in nicer areas are also a solid investment, but they won't spit off the tremendous income that you can get in less desirable areas. For more on this concept, please contact me."

Serious buy and hold for cashflow investors already know about the rough areas and section 8, perhaps some of you reading this may venture down there. If so you'll probably see me, evaluating another potential building. We can meet up and get some really great Tacos on MLK. See you in the field?

-Sky Minor, Not-afraid-of-the-slums broker.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Checklist for increasing your houses' curb appeal.

When I was starting out in the business a great real estate agent once told me that houses are bought or sold as soon as the car door slams shut. Now that I'm getting up there in number of closed escrows, I can see that she was right. "Curb Appeal" is the term to describe that magic feeling that people get when they first set eyes on a property. It's not always a quantifiable thing, more of a "vibe", a feeling. Curb Appeal is the most valuable thing any home seller can have. Here's a basic checklist of things that I have noticed contribute to Curb Appeal that can be done for free to any home being marketed for sale.

Sky's Curb Appeal Checklist (abridged)-

Inspect the outside ground. Remove any building materials, scrap wood, discarded household items, etc. from the property. Store garbage cans in the garage. Remove weeds from the sidewalk.

Check the home from the roof line down.
- Is the roof free and clear from obstructions and moss?
- Are the gutters clear and neatly hung?
- Are the windows clean and free from obstructions (such as overgrown bushes or trees)?
- Are bushes, trees and shrubs neatly pruned?

Inspect the condition of the paint or siding?
- Is it time to power wash the siding?
- Is touch up paint needed?
- Is the front door in good shape?

Do flower beds need an upgrade?
- Are plants neatly pruned?
- Is the bed free and clear of weeds?
- Is the bed properly mulched?
- Are flowers in bloom? For $50, one can purchase many wildflower seeds that will cover much more ground than the same dollar amount of plants.

Keep the lawn neatly groomed.
- Is the lawn free from weeds?
- Is the lawn free from grass clippings?
- Is the lawn neatly edged?

With just a little bit of elbow grease, home owners can make their home prettier. The bottom line is that clean, well kept houses have more curb appeal. If you want to sell the house make sure it looks more like this: Than this:

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Houses in Detroit for $1. Yes, $1.

This house was sold for one dollar. Driving through Detroit neighborhoods is an empty shell of the once vibrant metropolis once clogged with the cars that made the city the envy of America and there are homes to be had for a single dollar.

You find these houses among boarded-up, burnt-out and rotting buildings lining deserted streets, places where the population is shrinking so fast entire blocks are being demolished to make way for urban farms.

Houses on sale for a few dollars are something of an urban legend in the US on the back of the mortgage crisis that drove millions of people from their homes. But in Detroit it is no myth.

One in five houses now stand empty in the city that launched the automobile age, forged America’s middle-class and blessed the world with Motown.

Detroit has been in decline for decades; its falling population is now well below a million – half of its 1950 peak. But the recent mortgage crisis and the fall of the big car makers into bankruptcy has pushed the town into a realm unique among big cities in America.

A third of the population are unemployed. Property prices have fallen 80% or more in large parts of Detroit over the last three years. The average price of a home sold in the city last year has been put at $7,500 (£4,900).

The recent financial crash forced wholesale foreclosures among people unable to pay their mortgages or who walked away from houses that fell to a fraction of the value of the loans they had taken out on them.

Banks are selling off properties in the worst neighbourhoods, which are usually surrounded by empty and wrecked housing, for a few dollars each. But even better houses can be had at a fraction of their former value.

Local contractor/investor Jim Feltner and his workers were clearing out a property seized by a bank. “I used to be a building contractor. I was buying up places and doing them up. Now I empty out foreclosures. I do one or two of these a day all over the city,” he said. “I’ve been in Detroit 40 years and I’ve watched the peak up to $100,000 for houses that right now aren’t worth more than $20,000 tops. I own a bunch of properties. I have 10 rentals and I can’t get nothing for them, and they’re beautiful homes.”

Feltner’s workers are dragging clothes, boots and furniture out of the bedrooms and living room, and dumping them in the front yard until a skip arrives. Kicked to one side is a box of 1970s Motown records. A teddy bear lies spreadeagled on the floor.

“You could get about five grand for this place,” said Feltner. “Nice house once you clean it out. All the plumbing and electricals are in it. Roof don’t leak.”

It’s a story replicated across Detroit.

Joan Wilson, an estate agent in the north-west of the city, whose firm is offering a three-bedroom house on Albany street for $1, says that more than half of the houses she sells are foreclosures in the tens of thousands of dollars. “The vast majority of people that call to enquire, almost the first thing out of their mouth is that they want to buy a foreclosure. I have had telephone calls from people looking online that live, for example, in England or California, who’ve never set foot in the area. They’re calling about one specific house they see online. I tell them they need to look at the neighbourhood. Is it the only house standing within a mile?”

But what is blight to some is proving an opportunity to remake parts of the city for others living there. The Old Redford part of Detroit has suffered its share of desolation. The police station, high school and community centre are closed. Yet the area is being revitalised, led by John George, a resident who began by boarding up an abandoned house used by drug dealers 21 years ago and who now heads the community group Blight Busters. They are pulling down housing that cannot be saved and creating community gardens with fresh vegetables free for anyone to pick.

“There’s longstanding nuisance houses, been around seven, eight, nine years. We will go in without a permit and demolish them without permission,” said George. “If you, as an owner, are going to leave something like that to fester in my neighbourhood, obviously you either don’t care or aren’t in a position to take responsibility for your property, so we’re going to take care of it for you.” Blight Busters has torn down more than 200 houses, including recently an entire block of abandoned housing in Old Redford. “We need to right-size this community, which means removing whole blocks, and building farms, larger gardens, putting in windmills. We want to downsize – right-size – Detroit,” George said.

Houses that can be rescued are done up with grants from foundations.

“Detroit has some of the nicest housing stock in the country. Brick, marble, hardwood floors, leaded glass. These houses were built for kings,” George added. “We gave a $90,000 house to a lady who was living in a car. She had four children. It didn’t cost her a dime. We had over a thousand people apply for it. It’s probably worth $35,000 now.”

Old Redford is seeing piecemeal renewal. One abandoned block of shops has been converted to an arts centre and music venue with cafes. One of the few remaining cinemas in Detroit – and one that’s among the last in the US with an original pipe organ – has been revived and is showing Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

Brumit calculates that he has spent $1,500 to buy and do up his house, principally by scavenging demolition sites. He will move in with his wife and four-month-old child once it is complete, probably in the summer.

He said: “The Americans we know got ripped off by the American dream. But [the renovation] is the most like moving out of the country that we can actually do. We’re the minority in terms of ethnicity and this is a rich environment … there’s 30% open space in the city and that doesn’t include the buildings that should be torn down. You’re in a city riding your bike around and you hear birds and stuff. It’s incredible.”

Monday, February 1, 2010

Sunset in Kuta Beach, Bali.

Bali, Singapore2 419
Originally uploaded by skyminor
Bali has the most gorgeous sunsets of any place that I have seen in the world. This is in Echo Beach, Bali. A perfect place for Rachel and I to wrap up our Honeymoon.

Sky drums in Bali

Bali, Singapore2 061
Originally uploaded by skyminor
I hopped on the drums with an awesome Balinese cover band and jammed Enter Sandman by Metallica.

Impromptu drum session in Bali gift shop

Bali, Singapore2 351
Originally uploaded by skyminor
Those two Balinese gift shop employees were both awesome drummers who had Balinese rhythms down pat. We sounded great together and gave props to each other after we were done. It was great, Tira Mikasu Bali!