Westchester On The Rise

Silicon Beach is having a very big effect on Real Estate in Southern California

Areas like Santa Monica, Venice, Marina del Rey, and Playa Vista are at the forefront of the “tech movement” and experiencing all the benefits that are associated with the large amounts of highly paid employees flooding the market. However, the often-overlooked neighborhood of Westchester, is having something of a moment and it has the potential to be the next big thing.

Westchester’s 90045 ZIP Code is one of just a handful of places in the region where house prices have returned to pre-crash levels, with the median price for a single-family home hitting $795,000 in the third quarter, according to CoreLogic DataQuick. That’s a 25% increase in the last two years. And it’s all attributed to the recent phenomenon that has brought the tech to Silicon Beach.

Media, entertainment, and tech companies have been picking up office space as fast as possible in Playa Vista. Last month, Google spent $120 million dollars on 12 vacant acres zoned for a massive office complex. That amount of space equates to roughly 6,000 new workers in the area. (Google provides about 200 sq for each employee.)

If you drive through the area you will see a wide array of traditional postwar ranch homes that were built in the ’40s and ’50s for returning GIs and aerospace workers. Another thing you will see is a good amount of space. The lots are bigger and the houses aren’t maxed out like many other areas on the Westside. With that space being a desirable “commodity” in our market we are seeing more and more people becoming interested in this previously unknown neighborhood.

Lately, a wave of rehabs and additions has also driven prices higher. Work trucks are a common sight in Westchester these days with developers and new homeowners updating these old ranches into more modern homes. It’s quite hard to believe but in the last six months three houses have sold for around $2 million and several more are on the market around the $1.5 million mark.

A growing number of the neighborhood’s postwar ranch houses are being torn down and rebuilt, often at twice the size. Some of them look more like houses you’d find closer to the beach and they’re often aimed at buyers who’ve been priced out of those neighborhoods. Many of those buyers are looking for more contemporary and modern homes. Westchester didn’t really have those until now…

According to Cyndi Hench, president of the Neighborhood Council of Westchester/Playa, the neighborhood is definitely evolving. Although it remains home to some of the children of the old Hughes engineers who moved there in the ’50s, it’s drawing more newcomers.

And when some apartment buildings going up on the edges of the neighborhood are done, and when Google opens its Playa Vista development, Hench expects her quiet pocket of town will be right in the middle of the action.

“This is going to be a different place in five years,” she said. “Westchester will definitely be on the map then.”

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NOW OPEN: Marina del Rey Hotel & Salt

Marina del Rey Hotel

Image Source: Pacifica Hotels

The Marina del Rey Hotel has just reopened after recently completing their $25 million renovation to modernize the historic waterfront hotel.

The revived 164-room hotel now boasts the following upgraded 4-star amenities, among many others:

  • Full-service restaurant
  • 24-hour room service
  • Concierge assistance
  • Outdoor, marina-facing pool and sundeck
  • Outdoor wedding venue

Image Source: Pacifica Hotels

The hotel, which originally opened in 1964, completed their renovation just in time for the hotel’s 50th Anniversary. Marina del Rey Hotel has served as the central meeting point for local yacht clubs, fashion shows, and high-profile Los Angeles functions over the past half-century. The hotel provides easy access to a multitude of local attractions including Venice Beach, Fisherman’s Village, Ballona Wetlands and Santa Monica Pier. Nearby water activities include kayaking, paddle boarding, surfing and sailing.

Be one of the first to experience the new Marina del Rey Hotel. We know we will be trying it out soon. As well as their new restaurant. (Scroll down for details on that!)

SALT Restaurant

Image Source: Pacifica Hotels

SALT’s California Cuisine will consist of seasonally inspired and locally sourced dishes. Ingredients are sourced from local farmer’s markets to create an incredible Marina del Rey dining experience. SALT’s own rendition of Californian cuisine explores simple favorites with a contemporary twist. We can’t wait to try their new creations. Creamy hummus, which is complemented with a touch of California avocado and served with crisp grilled pita and fresh vegetables. Delicious lobster pasta featuring Maine lobster and Udon noodles in a succulent brown butter sauce.

Image Source: Pacifica Hotels

Check out their menus here and call 424.289.8223 to make a reservation.

Winter Real Estate: A Time For Hibernation or Not?

Everybody knows that winter is a dead time for real estate. Or is It?

At least that’s the widely held belief. But national statistical studies suggest it’s not necessarily the case. Winter can be a surprisingly advantageous time to list, shop, negotiate and/or buy.

According to real estate website Redfin and their two year study if you want to sell for more than your asking price, listing in December, January, February and March gives you a better chance on average than if you list any time from June through November. In 2012, December listings produced the highest percentage of above-asking sales for the entire year — 17%.

If your goal is to sell relatively quickly, February “is historically the best month to list, with an average of 66% of homes listed then selling within 90 days,” according to Redfin. In the two-year study completed last December, researchers found that in each of 19 major markets, including cold-weather cities such as Boston and Chicago, “home sellers were better off listing their homes in the winter than during any other season.”

Researchers are quick to note that the advantages of listing in winter compared with other seasons are not huge. But the fact that winter produces at least competitive or better results by some measures should encourage some potential sellers to get into the game sooner rather than later.

Nela Richardson, chief economist for Redfin, said “that shoppers who are active during the winter months are serious buyers. Most people are not window-shopping in December and January, as many do in the spring months.”

Quick Tip: Some sellers pull their unsold houses off the market during the winter, hoping for better results in the spring. By doing so, they leave a smaller inventory of active listings therefore lessening the competition among sellers who list in January and February.

Winter-season buyers may find some sellers more flexible about negotiations over prices and terms than they would be during the middle of the spring. Mary Bayat, a broker active in the Washington, D.C., market and chairwoman-elect of the Northern Virginia Assn. of Realtors, said that in the last few weeks she has participated in three deals involving sellers who were far more open to negotiations than they had been months ago.

Quick Tip #2: Real estate does not hibernate from December through March. More than 5 million homes are resold annually in the U.S., and many of them are listed and sold during the winter months.

In strong local housing markets such as Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix, Seattle, Austin, Boston and Washington, D.C., the likelihood of selling your home within 180 days is highest when you list during the winter months compared with any other season, according to Redfin’s 2013 study.

Winter is warmer for real estate than you might think.

Playa Vista: Los Angeles’ New Tech Hub

According to The Los Angeles Times, Google Inc. has reportedly spent nearly $120 million on 12 vacant acres next to a historic hangar where aviator Howard Hughes built his famous “Spruce Goose” airplane in Playa Vista.

With this recent transaction it’s pretty certain that the search engine company is expanding its presence in the Southern California. They currently operate in several buildings throughout LA county, including the famous Binocular building in Venice designed by Frank Gehry. However, this new Playa Vista land acquisition is zoned for approximately 900,000-square-foot of commercial space that has the potential to be both office and studio space. Google is also expected to lease the Hughes hangar built in 1943, according to The Times. The 319,000-square-foot building has recently housed soundstages for movie and television production. “The combination of the hangar space and planned development of the 900,000 square feet could bring in as many as 6,000 well-paid, highly educated workers”, per The L.A. Times.

Image via LA Times

City Councilman Mike Bonin, who represents the Westchester/Playa Vista area, is quoted as saying “the announcement solidifies the neighborhood’s reputation as a high-tech hub. This is phenomenal news for the Westside and for the Los Angeles economy.”

Local entrepreneurs and investors told The Times they’re excited about the possibilities that a stepped-up Google presence could bring. A juggernaut like Google would help bring even more attention, developers and investment to the booming area. “It increases the quality of the work, it increases the ability to network, it increases the ability to attract more people here,” said Kieran Hannon, chief marketing officer at Belkin, which has 450 employees in Playa Vista. “It has a complete knock-on effect.”

The Marina is Changing

Many of you may or may not know that there was recent approval on the plan to clean up the Marina by way of a large dredging project and new restrictions on permitted materials. This is great news as the water in our marina is statistically some of the dirtiest (and most toxic) in the state. That being said, there is another project on the horizon that we can hopefully be excited about. A plan that officials are saying will better guide the development of the neighborhood in the coming years.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is considering a huge makeover plan created by county regional planners that would re-direct traffic flow and make room for an additional 200,000 square feet of retail space and 940 new hotel rooms by way of dividing the marina into a few distinct districts. These districts would consolidate certain activities so that each area will appeal to a specific type of user (visitors, boaters, residents, etc.) thereby reducing the need for people to travel all around the marina.

Image via The Argonaut

“We’ve memorialized a vision for future development in Marina del Rey that reflects its boating history and recreational use,” said Gina Natoli, a Los Angeles County supervising regional planner. “We’re very happy with how it turned out.” The approved version of the vision statement remains much the same as the original version presented in February. The plan calls for clusters of activities for tourists, boaters, residents and beach-goers in separate areas, “mobility hubs” that will serve each of those districts. It also calls for improved signage, and enhanced bicycle and pedestrian paths that will make it easier to weave around the water.

Image via Envision Marina del Rey

Here are a few of the known specifics of the plan:

  • The public boat launch would move to become the center of Boater’s Way, while the old boat launch would become Visitor’s Row, a retail and entertainment area.
  • New “low- to mid-rise hotels” would go up behind Mother’s Beach and create public spaces along the water.
  • The plan would also try to reduce traffic by creating “hubs” where visitors can connect to bike infrastructure, water taxis, and public shuttle buses to reduce the ridiculous parking experience that is so integral to visiting the marina now. **There is also a far-fetched rumor that the Marina could become an area where cars are totally prohibited, but we haven’t seen any clear evidence of that yet.**

Although sections of the marina have been booming, thanks to an influx of upscale residential and commercial projects, planners and county officials agreed that other sections have become worn down and dated. They hope the plan will help modernize the marina and make it the hot spot that it was decades ago.

Curbed LA stated “All of this would happen on land the county already owns, so nothing new has to be purchased to move forward with the marina plan, but the plans are decidedly long-term and could take years to see through. Advocates say that it’s time to take advantage of the marina’s amenities, upgrade the hotels, and make navigating easier. Opponents worry that the marina could lose some of its quaint and quirky charm.”

All we know is, we are excited to see what effect this plan will have on current real estate in the area!

Summaries of New Playa Vista Neighborhoods

Over the last 10 months there has been a lot going on in Playa Vista with regards to the new neighborhoods being built and made available for sale. Below you will find a brief update for each new neighborhood:

Camden by Brookfield Homes: Brownstone Style Flats. Three and Four Bedroom Condos ranging from 1,601 sq. ft. to 2,192 sq. ft. with 2-car private garages. In the most recent release the builder has set the prices between $1,000,000 and $1,200,000. A large majority of these homes have been sold since their first release in late June. Towards the end of October the builders will begin selling the remaining 42 homes and we don’t expect them to stay on the market long.

Skylar by KB Homes: Three to Four Bedroom Triplexes with contemporary styling ranging from 1,905 sq. ft. to 2,462 sq. ft. All homes in the first official release except for the model homes have been sold between the price range of $1,100,00 to $1,400,000. These homes have been doing so well that the builder has already release and sold close to 30% of the homes at their second location near the West Coast Facility, which is scheduled to open by the second quarter of 2015.

Woodson by Tri Pointe Homes: Detached single family homes with three to five bedrooms configurations currently priced between $1,200,00 and $1,300,000. There are only nine of these  sixty-six homes ranging from 2,119 sq. ft. to 2,318 sq. ft. still available for sale. The neighborhood will most likely be sold out by the end of the year.

Asher by KB Homes: Three-story homes with modern styling that have elevators. The homes are available with two to five bedrooms and range from 2,435 sq. ft. to 2,757 sq. ft. The builder’s current release offers homes with prices ranging from $1,400,000 to $1,600,000 and a wide variety of upgrades. And the final release will include the two larger model homes priced between $2,093,000 and $2,190,000.

Trevion by Brookfield Residential: Two and three level homes with four and five bedroom configurations ranging in size from 3,020 sq. ft and 3,949 sq. ft. This is the first new neighborhood to sell out with final sales prices between $2,000,000 and $2,500,000.

 

If you would like any further information please do not hesitate to contact us!

 

 

 

Southern California Home Buyers Face International Competition

Home buyers in Southern California markets have been seeing more and more  competition lately. We have seen several listings sell with multiple offers, which is not a rare occurrence in our market. However, 27 offers on a single property is a bit out of the norm for us!

Recent research from the California Association of Realtors (C.A.R.) has provided some insight into this interesting phenomenon. According to C.A.R. survey, “U.S. ranks as top destination for international home buyers, specifically the counties of Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego, Riverside, Contra Costa, and Santa Clara.” 

Viewing the country as a safe place to put their money, international home buyers preferred purchasing properties in the United States over other countries, according to the CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®’ (C.A.R.) “2013 International Clients Survey.”

85 percent of international buyers said they only considered purchasing a home in the U.S., citing that the stable government and financial system would guarantee their home investment. International buyers also chose to purchase in the U.S. for its desirable location and climate (20%), to be closer to family and friends (20%), investment opportunities (9%), changes in work and employment (9%), educational opportunities (6%), and affordable prices (4%).

International buyers purchased a property in the U.S. primarily for investment purposes or tax advantages (18%) or to rent out (14%), contrary to traditional home buyers, who purchased primarily because they were tired of renting (23%).

Looking at California specifically, Los Angeles County was the top location where international buyers purchased properties (35%).  International buyers also purchased homes in Orange (22%), San Diego (20%), Riverside (14%), Contra Costa (7%), and Santa Clara (7%) counties.

Additional findings from C.A.R.’s 2013 International Clients Survey include:

• Sixty-nine percent of international buyers paid all cash for their properties, compared to 27 percent of traditional buyers who paid all cash.
• Thirty-two percent of international buyers purchased the home as a primary residence, compared to 75 percent for traditional buyers, and 33 percent purchased the home as an investment or a rental property, compared to 19 percent of traditional buyers.
• While the primary language of many international buyers was Chinese (36%), 70 percent communicated in English, illustrating a highly educated international clientele.
• International buyers typically spent five weeks looking for properties, compared to 10 weeks for traditional buyers.
• Forty-four percent of international home buyers purchased homes with designer kitchens, 26 percent purchased homes with a wine cellar, and 9 percent purchased homes with a sauna.  Other home amenities that international buyers wanted include private beach, putting green, heated floors, and outdoor kitchens.

The International Clients Survey was conducted via email to a random sample of REALTORS® statewide who worked with international home buyers. Eligible respondents all closed escrow on their homes within the 12 months prior to October 2013.  Access the full report on the survey findings here: http://www.car.org/marketdata/surveys/other/ and view the webinar presentation here: http://www.car.org/marketdata/videos.

According to the Wall Street Journal, these are 10 countries racing to buy American Homes:

  1. United Arab Emirates (UAE) – 352.2% (Growth in prospective homebuyers from 2009)
  2. Switzerland – 269.7%
  3. Hong Kong and China – 254.2%
  4. France – 190.0%
  5. Italy – 178.4%
  6. United Kingdom – 153.8%
  7. Australia – 121.9%
  8. Canada – 107.7%
  9. Sweden – 100.0%
  10. Germany – 95.2%