Would-Be Flip Returns as REO

Posted by Dave Fratello on Monday, November 23rd, 2009 at 4:44am.

We're headed back again to the MBC story vault to pull up some history on a "new" listing.


758 14th, part of the Arbolado Court development near American Martyrs and Pacific School, recently went back to the bank, and is now offered to the public at $1,356,300. (Yes, that is the exact price, for whatever reason.)

Oh yes, we remember 758 14th. After appearing on MBC during the blog's very first month (see "On Second Thought, Let's Flip It"), 758 made several later cameos, as neighboring houses hit the market. Two of those sold, one quit after a little toe-dip. But 758 never sold; it rented out before the evident distress situation gradually took over and the bank got the keys.

So let's go back, first, to July 2006. That's when the 4br/3ba, 3050 sq. ft. home (1988 build) was purchased for $1.695m. Looking at that date, the then-new owners may well have nailed the peak of the local market with the timing of their purchase. It certainly was the peak value for this property.

Just 7 months later (!), they were asking someone to take the home off their hands – at a markup. This was the first mistake, we now know. They asked $1.990m (+$295k/+17%). In that aforementioned early MBC story, we expressly wished them luck in selling, but added:
please don't expect bodacious profits after less than a year.
By mid-May 2007, there were 2 other neighbors on the market – 752 14th and 1140 Laurel. All were featured in "A Threesome in Arbolado Tract."

At that time, using the PPSF from 2 recent Arbolado sales, we ventured that 1140 Laurel (3br/3ba, 2550 sq. ft.) should be priced between $1.4m-$1.5m. It had begun at $1.639m and later sold for $1.535m – not bad for an amateur assessment.

We also suggested, at that time, $1.7m-$1.8m max for 758 14th. But it was still at $1.899m. And falling.

By August 2007, 758 14th was down to $1.750m, finally signaling that the sellers knew they'd have to absorb some loss (after costs of sale) to make a deal (see "Another Arbolodo Update"). We said then:
If they'd begun at a more reasonable price, we might not be talking about the house now.
But there would be more to talk about later.

The slow journey of 758 14th toward the right market price was interrupted harshly by neighbor 754 14th, a comparably sized (5br/3ba, 3100 sq. ft.) home that was sharply and recently upgraded. (That Redfin link pulls up the old listing but not the pics.)

The superior neighbor came on $1k below the price of increasingly crusty 758 14th and sold almost immediately. Closed price at 754: $1.665m in Oct. 2007. (See "Aggression Pays" and "Shaking the Trees.")

The bottom had fallen from under that $1.7-ish wish price for 758 14th. It clearly was not worth its 2006 price anymore. By December 2007 it had simply quit the market. As MBC noted in "A Cascade of Quitters," the home was also offered for lease at $5k/mo., so we assumed it rented out. We asked then:
Wouldn't it be strange if the story ended with a whimper like this?
The better part of 2 years passed, but the story hasn't really ended yet.

Records indicate that the owners held on for another year without much trouble, but by Dec. 2008, the first NOD was filed. Two trustee's sale notices were filed, in April and July of this year.

The bank took the property in mid-August, records showing a transaction at $1.184m at that point. (The amount owed; $1m of the original purchase was financed.)

The listing has now been handed off to an out-of-area REO disposition specialist at that strange price of $1,356,300. The listing describes the home, with its dead lawn and largely dated interior, as "breathtaking" and "gorgeous" (really?), and also notes that the property must be taken as-is. (That, you'd expect.)

Let's say the REO firm's guess at the market value is dead-on (we'll use $1.355m instead of that specific number).

That would mean the value is down $340k/-20% since July 2006. A decline of 20% is entirely consistent with almost all of the 2006 purchases resold in 2009, according to MBC's ever-evolving compilation of recent same-property sales data. (Click to view the online spreadsheet.)

What's different here is that we've witnessed this specific property's decline like a slow-moving train wreck. 

So, is it a deal at $1.35m?

There haven't been any Arbolado listings over the past 2 years to use as a comparative measure. What we can say is, that's a lot of house in a decent location. And from what we recall, people used to pay close to $2m to get in.
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