Same-House Sale Up 6% YOY, But...

By Dave Fratello | April 25th, 2012
To evaluate and compare real estate market trends, it's a dream to use same-house sales.

If you can see how the same house sold year after year, or use a set of same-house sales, you can get a good picture of the market's progress.

That's the Case-Shiller Index in a nutshell.

You won't often find short-term examples in MB, but there is a same-house trade that just posted and may prove tempting. It requires all kinds of caveats, and doesn't prove to be much of a barometer, but let's take a peek regardless.

We're up on the Plateau in the Sand Section at 469 28th, a somewhat sizable (4br/4ba, 3140 sq. ft.) and fairly new (2004) home that has now traded twice in less than a year.

This one sold for $2.0m in June 2011.

The new owners had plans. They saw the 2004 version of the home as dated. They changed the flooring and the feel and flavor of the kitchen. A range of custom upgrades came in. (We've called the work "smashing remodeling" before; it wasn't major, but it was stylish.)

Just a few months later, the new owners faced a job change and put the home back on the market, refinished. Call them accidental flippers. They asked for $2.325m. That's when we took notice here in "Hey, Didn't They Just Buy That? – Part 2" (Nov. 2011).

At the time, that markup of $325k (+16%) seemed awfully ambitious.

And now, that sense we had back then has proved out. Because 469 28th just re-sold, and they didn't get 16% more, they got 6%.

Sale price was $2.120m, a markup of $120k (6%) in less than a year... but with the cost of the "smashing" remodel factored in.

So this hardly a precisely comparable same-house sale, not much of a market barometer in itself. But if you were watching for the "hotter" market of this Spring to lead to big profits on this more-desirable home in 2012, that didn't really happen. Indeed, from the sellers' side, this looks like a narrow escape, perhaps a loss.

There were the costs of remodeling. Was that $50k? $150k? And there were some transaction costs. The seller was also the listing agent of record, meaning the net to the seller should have been greater than with a normal 5-6% commission paid out. Still, there was no way to add enough value to permit a profitable resale.

On a day when the nationwide Case-Shiller Index showed remarkably glum news – "new post-bubble lows" in both of the multi-city indices – this one MB sale seemed to serve as a reminder that reality still has a place in our heating-up market, too.

Can you modernize a desirable Manhattan Beach Sand Section home and quickly resell, in what looks like a sellers' market, at a nice profit?

Not this time.


Postscript: Whatever Case-Shiller says about the national market, we note that Wednesday's LA Times talks about the housing market beginning "a springtime thaw." They're talking about national numbers, California broadly and Southern California – all mixed up.

What might jump off the page is this quote by longtime bear Christopher Thornberg: "The recovery is here."

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