MB Market Update for 12/15/09, Trees

By Dave Fratello | December 16th, 2009
The year's almost out. Just one more MB Market Update for 2009 after this.

The new MB Market Update spreadsheets are online for your viewing by clicking here, or at any time by using the pull-down menu at the top of the page under "MB Market Updates." The current update, dated 12/15/09, covers the first 2 weeks of this month.

Remember, you can easily click between the different pages (seeing MB by region, and by active or sold) using the blue tabs at the top of the page.

December so far has seen a nearly equal number of new listings and sales (new escrows), 5 new offerings and 4 new deals made. Also, 2 listings returned to active status during this period shortly after cancellations last month.

With 5 more pre-holiday dropouts, there's another net reduction in inventory, down to 63 SFRs west of Sepulveda, by our current count.

Just looking at the last 2 years for historical perspective, this inventory level is a bit below the same point in 2007 (70 SFRs) and far below the same point last year (121 SFRs).

You could say '07 and '09 were like little pieces of bread on the overstuffed sandwich that was 2008 inventory.

Let's look at inventory by sub-region west of Hwy. 1 by comparison to 2008:
Hills: 8 now (31 in '08)
Sand: 32 now (43 in '08)
Trees: 23 now (47 in '08)
Looking back, plenty of sellers were stranded on the market last year, having decided to sell earlier in 2008 before the financial meltdown changed everything in September/October. In fact, a glance at last year's spreadsheets shows many sellers (especially in the Hills) that have only recently closed deals here in 2009, an illustration of how long some of those impacts took to work out.

This year, total sales are roughly at the same pace as 2008, but perhaps fewer sellers tested the market. (A subject worthy of a larger and separate analysis later.)

Normally we begin to run through the sub-regions west of Sepulveda by focusing on the Hill Section. However, the Tree Section got short shrift in our 11/30/09 update, so we'll start this time with the Trees and draw in some info from the last period, too.

It's fitting to begin with the Trees because that's where almost all the action was in the first half of December.

We mentioned 4 sales (new escrows) so far this month? All in the Trees. (See the Trees solds page.) Of those, 3 were under $1.5m, one above. They were:
  • 1801 Elm, the probate auction house. Have you heard enough about that one? (See "Probate Auction Ends at $805k.") It's actually still active at $845k, the required minimum bid in court for anyone who wants to steal it from the auction winner.

  • 1705 Oak, a little cute cottage (pictured), sparklingly remodeled, lasted just a few weeks at $999k.
  • 3400 Pacific, a small and dated home with a location challenge, was last at $899k. First mentioned here at MBC when the listing pitched the fact that the owner had missed 4 mortgage payments. (See "Why Wait for the NOD?")
  • 590 36th, a big remodel (5br/4ba, 4300 sq. ft.) that had a deal in August that flamed out, has a new one. Purchased for $1.574m in March 2005, last at $1.599m after a remodel – does it close above $1.5m?
Add to these 3 from December these other sales (new escrows) that posted in late November (see 11/30/09 Trees solds page):
  • 652 19th, a $1.2m fixer with a nice location going for it; 
  • 1508 Ardmore, a 1950s cottage with updates from late last century and some extra sq. footage in a big garage, last at $999k; and
  • 2401 John, new construction long rumored to have a deal – it posted in escrow in late November and closed in this period at $2.275m
That was well above the consensus opinion of readers in our pricing poll (see "Poll Results: 2401 John"). Just a third of those voting believed John would close above $2.1m, and only 14% thought it would go above $2.250m.
Build quality and location pushed John above other new homes in the Trees to sell over the past several months. It was the first standard-size new construction to close above $2m since 1901 Walnut in February (at $2.150m).
Despite the sales activity, this is not a time when most sellers choose to enter the market. So from Nov. 15-Dec. 15, we saw just 2 new listings other than 1705 Oak, which already made a deal:
  • 758 14th, the troubled Arbolado home that has hit the MBC radar occasionally over 3 years, most recently in "Would-Be Flip Returns as REO." The fairly large (4br/3ba, 3050 sq. ft.) and reasonably well-located home went for $1.695m in July 2006, came back last month at $1.356m and is already down to $1.288m. Sometimes REOs appear impatient.

  • 3521 Maple is an adequately sized (4br/3ba, 2525 sq. ft.) home on an extra-sized lot (5800 sq. ft.) with a pool. The listing began Monday.
It's a short sale, but not one of the typical bubble buys gone underwater. Last purchase was 1997 at $562k. Plenty of loans got added later, putting this short at $1.1m now.
Per the listing, the home's got some some "DEFERED MAINTENCE" issues (not to mention the listing's editing issues). Still, at that price (with a pool!), it's going to draw interest right away.
More common this time of year are dropouts, many of them strategic as sellers wait out the holidays. In the Trees alone, we've counted 9 listings quitting over just the past 6 weeks.

Over the past month (spanning both updates), there were 4 closed sales, 3 in addition to 2401 John, referenced above. (Click here for the 12/15/09 solds page for the Trees; click any property address for more pics & details via Redfin.) They were:
  • 1900 Oak didn't come close to its 2005 price ($1.253m), closing at $980k this month (-$273k/-22% over 4 years).
That does it for the Trees for now.

Soon we'll wrap up the Hills & Sand for the first part of December.

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