Coronavirus twists Southern California housing: Slowest sales, highest prices

Southern California house hunters, challenged by a pandemic, bought the fewest homes in any June on record while record-low mortgage rates helped push the median selling price to an all-time high.

DQ News/CoreLogic reported on Wednesday, July 22 that buyers closed purchases of 17,678 residences — existing and newly built — in June in the six-county region. That’s down 15% in a year as sales fell across SoCal. It was the slowest-selling June in a database that dates to 1988 and was the third consecutive monthly record low for local homebuying.

Stubbornly high unemployment, due to “stay at home” orders designed to limit the coronavirus’ spread, has been a drag on the entire economy, including the home-selling businesses. In addition, many homeowners have chosen not to sell — perhaps fearful of the virus or the fate of their finances. Overall, that cut house hunter’s choices, depressed sales and helped nudge up prices.

Here are five things we learned about the local housing market in June, when homebuying and prices went in opposite directions …

1. June’s balloon

As business limitations were loosened throughout the spring  —  and the real estate industry better adapted to pandemic restrictions — June’s sales improved 44% from May.

That’s the largest May-to-June gain on record and the eighth-largest one-month jump for any month since 1988.

Recent pending sales stats from Zillow show newly opened escrows in Los Angeles and Orange counties were close to year-ago levels as of July 11, with the Inland Empire up 10%. This suggests closings could be back to normal levels later this summer.

“I would argue that we’ve already seen plenty of evidence of a rebound in closed sales consistent with the uptick in pending sales since mid-April,” said Jordan Levine, the California Association of Realtors’ deputy chief economist. “We still have a long way to go to reach full recovery, but the market certainly clawed back a significant chunk of April and May’s lost ground.”

2. Record prices

June’s successful homebuyer paid more to win what’s been a rare find: Homes to buy.

In mid-July, for example, the number of existing homes listed for sale was down 27% in a year in Los Angeles and Orange counties and down 26% in Riverside and San Bernardino counties, according to Zillow.

That short supply was a key reason why the region’s median selling price hit an all-time high of $555,500 in June, according to DQ News — up 2.9% over 12 months. That broke March’s all-time high of $550,000 as record highs were also set in Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties.

“It’s likely true that unemployment has knocked some would-be buyers out of the running, but home shoppers are combing over a very limited set of options,” said Jeff Tucker, a Zillow economist.

Do not forget that cheap money is helping the housing market. Mortgage rates, pushed lower in an attempt to stimulate a depressed economy, have fallen from an average 3.7% in December to 3.2% in June.

And this month the 30-year rate fell below 3% for the first time.

3. Builders benefit

Local builders fared relatively well in June, selling 1,692 new homes, down just 7% in a year. Builders got a $558,000 median price — essentially flat in a year.

Having a supply of unsold new home inventory boosted builders’ share of sales in the region to 9.6% vs. 8.7% a year earlier.

Meanwhile, the resale market for existing homes suffered.

Sales of single-family houses totaled 12,472, down 15% in a year. The median selling price was $590,000 — a 3.7% increase over 12 months. Condos fared worse with 3,514 sales, down 18% over 12 months. Median? $470,000 — a 2.8% increase in a year.

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4. Coastal challenge

The sales slump was decidedly deeper by the coast where prices tend to be higher.

Los Angeles County was hit hardest with 5,063 sales, down 24.3% over 12 months. The L.A.median price was $643,000 — up 4% in a year. Ventura County’s 781 sales were down 23.9%. The median of $600,000 — was up 3.5%. Orange County’s 2,447 sales were down 22% as the median price rose 4% to $765,000.

Breaking that trend was San Diego County. Its 3,557 sales were off only 2.4%, the region’s smallest dip, as its median of $600,250 was up 1.7%.

Prices rose sharply in the Inland Empire, the region’s housing bargain.

San Bernardino County had the second-smallest homebuying decline: 2,501 sales, down 3%. It’s SoCal’s cheapest spot with a median of $365,000 — after a 7.4% increase. Riverside County had 3,329 sales, down 12%. Its median of $430,000 — was up 7.8%.

5. Resurgent doubt

Acting fast seems to be common advice in a summertime market with limited choices and folks looking the cash in on cheap mortgages.

As of July, an existing L.A.-O.C. home went into escrow after just 19 days after listing – nine days faster than the same time last year. In the Inland Empire, it took 21 days — 11 days faster than the same time last year.

But the virus still has its say on the economy, and a recent surge in cases, hospitalizations and deaths — and the state’s ensuing U-turn on business reopenings — leaves room for doubt.

“There is certainly concern among some of the potential home buyers about the outcome of the COVID-19 crisis, however there still remains a solid buyer demand which is reflected in the further push of home prices,” said Selma Hepp, deputy chief economist at CoreLogic. Her firm recently forecast what would be the first drop in local home prices in eight years.

“Resurgence of the pandemic in the Southern California region will likely put a damper on future demand and will cause further uncertainty among buyers,” she said.

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Market peak? Southern California homebuying drops, 1st dip in 11 weeks

Southern California house hunters put 3% fewer homes into escrow in the most recent week, the first homebuying drop in 11 weeks.

Zillow’s weekly report on activity from brokers’ listing services in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties shows the housing market’s first slip amid a rebound from economic turmoil created by the coronavirus pandemic.

With 3,647 existing homes put into escrow in the week ended July 4, the buying pace is 1% above a year ago. Bear in mind, the holiday weekend could be a factor in the cool-off.

Finding something to buy is a challenge. Southern California owners listed 4,592 homes for sale in the week — up 2% vs. the previous week but down 18% in a year. That put total inventory at 28,068 — down 1% vs. the previous week and down 29% in a year.

Record low mortgage rates have put house hunters in a buying mood since early April. But the durability of an employment rebound is now in question. A recent spike in COVID-19 infections has forced a slowdown, if not reversal, of some business reopenings.

This economic uncertainty led CoreLogic to forecast a drop in Southern California home prices. The data tracker predicts Los Angeles County prices will drop 6.3%, Orange County 5.2%, and the Inland Empire 2.4% in the coming 12 months.

Here’s how Zillow’s July 4 data broke down in Los Angeles and Orange counties …

New escrows: 2,100 contracts signed — down 4% in a week; up 14% in a month; down 6% over 12 months.

New listings: 2,821 over seven days — down 1% vs. the previous week; down 2% in a month; down 16% in a year.

Total inventory: 17,450 homes on the market — up 0.2% in a week; up 3% in a month; down 26% over 12 months.

Median list price: $923,178 — up 1% vs. the previous week; up 4% in a month; up 9% in a year.

Selling speed: 19 days, median time for homes entering escrow from listing, 8 days faster than this time last year.

In the Inland Empire …

New escrows: 1,547 — down 1% in a week; down 2% in a month; up 11% over 12 months.

New listings: 1,771 — up 7% vs. the previous week; down 6% in a month; down 20% in a year.

Total inventory: 10,618 — down 3% in a week; down 10% in a month; down 34% over 12 months.

Median list price: $446,760 — up 1% vs. the previous week; up 3% in a month; up 5% in a year.

Selling speed: 21 days, median time for homes entering escrow from listing, 11 days faster than this time last year.

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Statewide …

New escrows: 8,214 — down 0.3% in a week; up 7% in a month; up 14% over 12 months.

New listings: 10,364 — up 1% vs. the previous week; down 10% in a month; down 20% in a year.

Total inventory: 46,847 — down 3% in a week; down 11% in a month; down 41% over 12 months.

Median list price: $697,571 — up 1% vs. the previous week; up 8% in a month; up 16% in a year.

Nationally …

New escrows: 82,488 — down 4% in a week; down 0.04% in a month; up 13% over 12 months.

New listings: 124,516 — down 2% vs. the previous week; down 8% in a month; down 27% in a year.

Total inventory: 1,097,755 — down 1% in a week; down 2% in a month; down 22% over 12 months.

Median list price: $338,760 — up 0.5% vs. the previous week; up 3% in a month; up 4% in a year.

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3-pronged crisis disproportionately impacts low-income workers

Over the past three months, every one of us has been impacted by the health, economic, and social crisis that our nation is facing.  But it is clear that those living in poverty and individuals working low-wage jobs have been disproportionately affected during this challenging time.

Low-income workers are much more likely to be employed in jobs requiring physical labor with a limited ability to work from home.  Retail and entertainment venues, two of the major industries forced to reduce operations most severely during stay-at-home orders, are two of the greatest employers of low-wage workers.  As a result, many low-income families have had to grapple with the loss of jobs, reduced hours, or increased exposure to the virus.

Other industries hardest hit by job losses include hospitality, health services, manufacturing, and construction – all of which employ large numbers of low-wage laborers.

According to The Urban Institute, a national nonprofit research organization, although all ethnic groups have been impacted by COVID-19, “the Latinx unemployment rate is the highest of all racial groups, at 18.9%” as of April 2020.

This is first time since 1973 that Latinx workers have been hit harder than any other group.  The unemployment rate for blacks is now 16.7%, 14.5% for Asians, and 14.2% for whites.

With a limited ability to continue working through stay-at-home orders, low-income workers have been faced with two not-so-good scenarios.

First, in order to maintain health, they have either been forced to stay home or could have chosen to stay home and not report to work, giving up the income needed to support their families.  Alternately, if their place of business continued to operate, showing up for work could mean increased exposure to COVID and greater risk for their household.

A recent report by the Economic Policy Institute stated that “African Americans have disproportionately high COVID-19 death rates and are more likely to live in areas experiencing outbreaks.”  Deaths of blacks from COVID through May 13, 2020 represent 22.4% of all deaths while black Americans represent just 12.5% of the population.

And the recent unjust death of George Floyd has only served to amplify stress levels and place an additional burden on the black community as decades of inequality and injustice have been thrust to the forefront of America’s attention.

Not only are low-income workers more susceptible to the short-term impacts of this time, but they also typically have fewer assets and savings to help weather an economic downturn or a personal health crisis.  With fewer economic resources and expensive or limited insurance, they may also delay or avoid seeking medical treatment, which can further erode one’s ability to overcome illness.

Food costs have also grown recently as grocery prices are increasing and families are spending more to feed children who would usually eat meals at school.

Requests for food assistance to the 24/7 community resource phone line 211 skyrocketed between February and April, according to Gary Madden, director of 211 San Bernardino County.

“Calls for food went through the roof,” he stated, “far outstripping calls for housing and utilities for the first time ever.”  At the peak, food requests were 400% of those made in January.  When looking at requests for assistance by race, data shows a consistently higher number of requests among black and Hispanic callers than other ethnicities.

To help low-income individuals and families recover from this period, continued support from neighbors, nonprofits, employers and government will be crucial.  Focusing on a combination of basic needs support and helping families rebuild their financial stability through employment will be necessary.  And helping low-income youth to catch up and stay on track academically will be essential as we prepare our next generation for independence.

Gregory Bradbard is an advocate for breaking the cycle of poverty as president of the SoCal-based Hope Through Housing Foundation. Read more at

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Southern California pending home sales rise 8th straight week, just 2% below 2019

Southern California house hunters put 5% more homes into escrow in the most recent week — the eighth consecutive weekly increase — as the buying pace runs 2% below a year ago.

My trusty spreadsheet’s compilation of Zillow’s weekly report on activity from brokers’ listing services in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties shows the local housing market rebounding from economic turmoil created by stay at home orders designed to slow a pandemic’s spread.

With 3,605 existing homes put into escrow in the week ended June 13, pending sales are up 172 in a week but down 78 in a year.

Options for house hunters remain slim. Southern California owners listed 4,452 homes for sale in the week — down 8.3% vs. the previous week and down 15.1% in a year. That put total inventory at 28,778 — up 0.2% vs. the previous week but down 26% in a year.

Fewer restrictions on businesses, including home sales, plus low mortgage rates are putting owners and house hunters in a selling mood. But even after a significant run-up of late, some slices of the market still trail year-ago levels.


How the data breaks down in Los Angeles and Orange counties …

New escrows: 1,974 contracts signed — up 7.6% in a week; up 34% in a month; down 10.9% over 12 months.

New listings: 2,793 over seven days — down 3.5% vs. the previous week; up 13.9% in a month; down 12.5% in a year.

Total inventory: 17,156 homes on the market — up 1.659% in a week; up 10.4% in a month; down 25.7% over 12 months.

Median list price: $890,800 — up 0.9% vs. the previous week; up 3.6% in a month; up 6.5% in a year.

In the Inland Empire …

New escrows: 1,631 — up 2.1% in a week; up 35% in a month; up 11.1% over 12 months.

New listings: 1,659 — down 15.3% vs. the previous week; up 7.4% in a month; down 19.1% in a year.

Total inventory: 11,622 — down 1.9% in a week; down 3.5% in a month; down 27% over 12 months.

Median list price: $435,826 — up 0.8% vs. the previous week; up 2.2% in a month; up 3.1% in a year.

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Statewide …

New escrows: 8,112 — up 4.5% in a week; up 36% in a month; up 6.9% over 12 months.

New listings: 10,335 — down 11% vs. the previous week; up 11.3% in a month; down 20% in a year.

Total inventory: 51,293 — down 1.6% in a week; down 5.5% in a month; down 33% over 12 months.


Median list price: $661,241 — up 1.8% vs. the previous week; up 8.4% in a month; up 10.3% in a year.

Nationally …

New escrows: 85,778 — up 2.8% in a week; up 17.7% in a month; up 13.6% over 12 months.

New listings: 132,790 — down 3.8% vs. the previous week; up 13.9% in a month; down 16.6% in a year.

Total inventory: 1,120,998 — down 0.4% in a week; up 0.1% in a month; down 17.1% over 12 months.

Median list price: $332,680 — up 0.8% vs. the previous week; up 3% in a month; up 2.5% in a year.

Remember, pending sales must get through the escrow process. May’s data on closed sales from DQ News shows Southern California homebuyers bought about half as many homes in May as they did a year ago.

A total of 12,271 new and existing homes changed hands in the six-county region last month, the lowest number for a May and the third-lowest for any month in DQ News’ 32 years of tracking the market.

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Nonprofits use creativity, resolve to weather COVID-19 shortages

A recent study by the Nonprofit Finance Fund found that COVID-19 is expected to leave deep and lasting impacts on nonprofit organizations around the nation.

Nonprofit respondents indicated they were expecting significant changes in demand for services, reduced staff capacity, and conditions that threaten their long-term financial stability.

According to a similar study conducted by the Center for Social Innovation at UC Riverside in early April, many organizations are in a “triply challenging position, navigating increased demand for the services they provide and the addition of new services, while at the same time facing the prospect of declines in revenues from charity events and managing many staff now working from home.”

The report also noted that many nonprofits have severely cut back staffing and the services they provide. One survey respondent anticipated “a reduction in funding by as much at 75% before June 2020, as funding from schools and government will be cut.”

But, despite the serious financial challenges facing local nonprofit leaders, their resolve to continue responding to clients’ needs during this time has not wavered.  After all, it is in the DNA of nonprofits to step up when others step back. The need to expand services is not foreign to nonprofits during times when demands increase and revenues decrease.

In March, Santa Ana-based Think Together recognized that parents of students in their learning center had lost their jobs, so they pivoted from traditional afterschool programs to help families cover groceries and basic essentials.

“We’re also partnering with school districts and educational leaders to narrow the digital divide and bring innovative school programs across the state,” said Randy Barth, Think Together’s founder and CEO.

Throughout Southern California, nonprofits are adapting their services to balance keeping employees, volunteers and clients safe while continuing to meet increased demand.

While most residents are sheltering at home, nonprofits are on the frontlines ensuring the safety and well-being of our communities’ most at-risk – while donning masks and gloves and struggling to maintain social distancing.

Food banks are working double-time to distribute food to vulnerable individuals, hospitals are shifting practices and engaging the community to provide protective gear and quality health care, and housing organizations are moving people off the streets.

“If there are any lessons to be learned from the COVID-19 crisis, it is that home equals safety,” said Anne Miskey, CEO for Union Station Homeless Services in Pasadena. “During this time, we are working to ensure those who are experiencing homelessness have what they need to remain safe, including meals, shelter and medical care.”

But nonprofits are inherently integrated with the community, and their work is often dependent on the generosity and cooperation of many partners. Companies, churches, and government entities are working together to respond to the unprecedented needs brought by COVID-19.

Corporate foundations are loosening restrictions and pledging increased donations to assist with relief efforts, individuals are stepping into new virtual volunteer roles, and churches are engaging their members to give back during this time.

Some organizations have been able to capture limited relief from the Paycheck Protection Plan, and federal tax stimulus payments have been helpful to individuals who have lost hours or jobs during this time.

But the needs continue to be great and the question remains how deeply COVID-19 will impact nonprofits and their services over the coming months and years.

“Nonprofits are the unsung heroes in our communities, working tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure families have stable homes, children are educated and safe, and seniors receive food and health care,” said Vici Nagel, CEO for the Academy for Grassroots Organizations. “I hope others will pray for these heroes every day, continue your usual giving as best you can, and consider giving even more if possible.  When this crisis leaves us, we are going to need these unsung heroes to help our communities get back on their feet.”

Gregory Bradbard is an advocate for breaking the cycle of poverty as president of the SoCal-based Hope Through Housing Foundation,

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Tenants advocates, landlord groups both say coronavirus eviction ban falls short

In the week after Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a statewide ban on evicting tenants unable to pay their rent because of the coronavirus outbreak, complaints surfaced from tenants and landlord advocates alike who say the executive order leaves both unprotected.

Tenants rights advocates complained that while the governor’s order forbids the ouster of renters affected by the pandemic for 60 days, it doesn’t stop landlords from starting the process by filing new eviction cases in court.

During an online news conference on Wednesday, April 1, two state lawmakers and legal aid workers expressed concern there would be a wave of evictions come June because tenants will be unable to pay their back rent as required.

“The last thing we need is a wave of mass evictions during this pandemic or immediately after the state of emergency ends,” said state Sen. Scott Wiener, D–San Francisco, chair of the Senate Housing Committee. “Right now, millions of Californians have effectively no protection from eviction.”

Meanwhile, the head of the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles expressed concerns that some small landlords will be unable to pay their mortgages and bills if their tenants stop paying rent. He called for government assistance to subsidize tenants who can’t make their payments.

“Many see these eviction moratoriums as carte blanche for not paying rent for any reason,” said Daniel Yukelson, the apartment association’s executive director. “While nobody wants to see anyone that is truly impacted by the virus put out on the streets, the entire burden for housing people in our communities cannot merely be forced upon the backs of private citizens.”

Newsom signed an executive order March 27 banning residential evictions in California through May 31 if tenants are unable to pay their rent because they or a family member has COVID-19 or if they lost income because of the outbreak.

Tenants must notify their landlord in writing within seven days of the due date and must retain documentation showing they have suffered a coronavirus-related economic hardship. The tenant also remains obligated to repay the full rent “in a timely manner” and can still face eviction after the moratorium is lifted.

At least 38 city and county governments in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties have adopted their own tenant protection measures, according to the California Apartment Association, some of which are more restrictive than the statewide mandate.

For example, the cities of Los Angeles, Pasadena, Anaheim and Santa Ana prohibit late fees for failing to pay rent during the pandemic. San Bernardino and Santa Ana give tenants six months to repay back rent.

The statewide moratorium does not override those measures, but applies in more than 400 California jurisdictions without eviction moratoriums of their own.

That leaves millions of renters unprotected, said Brian Augusta, an attorney with the California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation during Wednesday’s news conference.

If tenants can’t pay their rent due to COVID-19, landlords still can file an eviction case in their local courthouse (if it’s still open), and tenants are required to respond within five days, Augusta said. Some judges may issue a default judgment against tenants who are unaware that they need to respond.

The protections for renters under the governor’s order aren’t as strong as protections for California homeowners, who get a 90-day breather if they can’t pay their mortgages.

“The governor did something for homeowners who have a mortgage payment,” Augusta said. “That is not the case for renters. Renters have to pay their rent under the governor’s order. … If you don’t pay it, there will be an eviction. The only question is when.”

Newport Beach real estate attorney J. Kyle Janecek disputed part of Augusta’s argument, saying tenants would have 65 days, not five, to respond to an eviction filing.

“The most essential way that the order affects the eviction process is by providing qualifying tenants an additional 60 days to respond to a complaint for eviction,“ Janecek, an associate of Newmeyer and Dillion LLP, said in an online post.

Nonetheless, Janecek said the governor’s moratorium is “not a perfect solution.”

“Right now, it seems to be pushing the problems down the road past June due to the current court delays and inevitable backlog,” he said. “On its face, the governor’s order alone does not protect renters with lost income, and will require more targeted action.”

Wiener said he is co-sponsoring a bill that would create a structure for renters to gradually repay their rent overtime “so renters are not hit with a huge back-rent bill.” However, the state Legislature isn’t due back in session until April 13, at the soonest.

Meanwhile, Los Angeles apartment association director Yukelson is calling for rent vouchers and other subsidies to ensure citizens can continue to pay for housing and other essential needs without bankrupting their landlords.

Some national leaders say landlords who are unable to pay their mortgage because their tenants aren’t paying rent likely will get “forbearance“ from their lenders.

But Yukelson said that may not be enough to help all landlords, some of whom may experience financial turmoil or health impacts from COVID-19 themselves. Many small landlords and retirees depend on their rental property income.

“While some may be able to avail themselves of mortgage relief or small business loans, if housing providers are ultimately never able to collect deferred rent, they may never catch up,” Yukelson said. “As a result, mortgage relief is nothing more then kicking the mortgage default and personal bankruptcy can down the road.”

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Homebuying strategies in an era of extra-low mortgage rates

Now that we are in a strong sellers’ market, buyers really have to be on top of their game to get it done.

Interest rates are at historic lows, predicted to even dip into the 2’s, which is also fueling more intense competition for homes.

Here are some tips and techniques you may want to consider if you’re goal is to buy a home in today’s market.

Be prepared

Have your loan pre-approval letter in hand and up to date. If you have a letter that is more than a month old, get it updated.

File your tax return(s) as soon as possible so they are available for your lender to review.

Keep a screenshot of a bank account(s) updated and ready to be submitted with your offer.

Making an offer to purchase a house in a market like this without a pre-approval and proof of funds for your down payment and closing costs is a complete non-starter and will put you at a disadvantage.

Be thorough

Some lenders can offer to get your loan through the underwriting process, which is a much stronger position to be in, especially when the seller has more than one offer to consider.

This level of loan approval usually requires more documentation on your part, and a lender willing to make the effort to go an extra step upfront. Of course, there will be conditions attached to the underwriting approval; that’s normal and to be expected at this early stage.

A more thorough vetting of your financial strength by the lender can make a seller feel better about your ability to close the deal and will make your offer stand out in a positive manner.

Be competitive

Things you can do to make your offer more competitive include a short escrow period, an initial deposit that is as large as possible, (this money is not at risk unless and until you cancel the purchase after you’ve removed all of your contingencies), a generous number of days for the seller to vacate the home, and not asking for things like the washer, dryer, and refrigerator unless the sellers are offering them as a part of the sale.

Make it easy to say yes

This is a hint to all of you agents out there. Take the time to call the listing agent. Be professional and friendly with them.

  • Ask their preference for title and escrow providers.
  • Ask if the sellers would be interested in quick escrow, or if they need more time to get ready to move.
  • Ask if they have any furniture they’d like to get rid of.
  • Ask if there are already offers and if any of them are over the list price.

Add all of the information you can glean into your buyers’ offer.

Offer an aggressive price

Consider offering slightly over the list price, if it is at current fair-market value. It will cost you peanuts in comparison with the impact it will have on the seller and may be worth it to get the house.

Leslie Sargent Eskildsen is an agent with Realty One Group. She can be reached at 949-678-3373 or

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Leave your emotions at the doormat, this home needs to sell

Preparing to sell your house begins with getting your house ready to market it, and for some, this concept is difficult to grasp.

There are so many memories, milestones and emotions tied up in the place where you live. You’ll have greater success selling the home if you can flip the mental switch, disconnecting from those emotional attachments to “home sweet home.” Instead, view it as a commodity to be marketed to as many consumers as possible.

Keep in mind, you’re not preparing for company, family or a birthday party. You’re getting ready to announce to the world that your most valuable asset, in most cases, is available for someone else. You’re not inviting friends and family over to see your pretty things; you’re luring buyers over to see all the features your house has to offer. This is a crucial concept for home seller success.

When you can make the switch from homeowner to house seller, you begin with an advantage. When you make the decision to declutter, update, redecorate, rearrange, repaint, repurpose and stage your house and have well lit, balanced, wide-angle photographs showing the result of all your hard work posted on the Internet, you will attract more screen time and more foot traffic.

Nearly all homebuyers today begin their search on a smartphone, tablet, laptop or home computer. When your house shows up looking clean, bright, devoid of the distractions and the rooms convey design, purpose and features, you are much more likely to grab your audience’s attention.

Mind you, the photos cannot lie about your commodity. The photos cannot do the heavy lifting of getting your house ready for the market. The photos can only promote what you actually have to offer in the best form possible.

You flip the switch from homeowner to house seller and do the work to get ready for the photos in order to attract qualified buyers to come see the house in person and like it so much they will write you an offer.

On the flip side, when you fail to switch to house seller, you put yourself at a disadvantage. Impediments instead are in the buyer’s path. If the photos don’t look attractive, buyers have to spend a lot of energy imagining what your house really looks like, what it might look like without all of your stuff, with different stuff or with their stuff.

Those house hunters are more likely to put your house on the “maybe” list rather than on the “must-see” list.   Regardless of how well lit the photos are.

Leslie Sargent Eskildsen is an agent with Realty One Group. She can be reached at 949-678-3373 or

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Housing costs, migration expected to crimp Southern California’s economy

Southern California’s economy remains strong, but it’s expected to lag slightly behind the state through 2021, according to a new report.

As with other regions, housing affordability and a net migration inland pose challenges to growth and the efficient movement of people and goods, the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp. forecast said.

On the plus side, per capita income growth is expected to continue to outpace the nation and state, buoyed by strong employment in the construction, logistics, professional services and healthcare industries.

Shannon Sedgwick, director of the LAEDC’s Institute for Applied Economics, which prepared the report, said the region has definite challenges.

“We have housing issues and a declining population,” she said. “With a decreased labor pool productivity remains low and that makes future economic growth difficult to achieve.”

Regional investment

Long-term regional investments in transportation — most notably the Southern California Optimized Rail Expansion — will help boost growth in the area, the report said. The $10 billion capital improvement program, which runs from 2018 through 2028, includes track additions, station improvements and better signals and grade crossings to improve safety where trains cross surface streets.

It’s projected to generate 1.3 million jobs and provide a $684 billion boost to Southern California’s economy.

The forecast expects the regional economy to expand by 1.8% this year and next year, well below the more robust growth the region saw in 2018 (3.1%), 2017 (3%) and 2015 (4.6%).

The biggest job gains

Southern California is expected to add 129,800 jobs this year and 128,300 in 2021. This year’s biggest employment gain of 52,500 jobs will come in education and health services, the report said, with other sizable increases in leisure and hospitality (20,600), professional and business services (18,900) trade, transportation and utilities (13,200) and construction, natural resources and mining (12,100).

Sedgewick noted that, while the region’s overall economy is still relatively good, many Southland residents are not earning a living wage.

“Twenty-five percent of households with children in L.A. County are receiving some form of public assistance,” she said.

Home values are out of reach for many and will continue to climb, largely as a result of the region’s limited inventory. Southern California’s median home price — the point at which half the homes cost more and half cost less — is expected to reach $593,111 this year, up from $589,249 in 2019, and it will rise to $606,649 next year, the report said.

The forecast also breaks out highlights for each county:

Los Angeles County

  • Economic expansion: 1.8% this year and 1.6% in 2021
  • Employment growth: 48,400 this year and 42,200 in 2021
  • Unemployment rate: 4.3% this year and 4.1% in 2021
  • Median home price: $658,339 this year and $674,463 in 2021

Orange County

  • Economic expansion: 1.7% this year and 2% in 2021
  • Employment growth: 16,200 this year and 19,600 in 2021
  • Unemployment rate: 2.7% this year and 2.6% in 2021
  • Median home price: $745,385 this year and $764,271 in 2021

San Bernardino County

  • Economic expansion: 2% this year and 1.8% in 2021
  • Employment growth: 15,000 this year and 15,200 in 2021
  • Unemployment rate: 3.9% this year and 3.8% in 2021
  • Median home price: $380,640 this year and $394,179 in 2021

Riverside County

  • Economic expansion: 2.3% this year and 2% in 2021
  • Employment growth: 13,600 this year and 12,100 in 2021
  • Unemployment rate: 4.3% this year and 4.2% in 2021
  • Median home price: $390,548 this year and $403,761 in 2021

The report defines Southern California as a 10-county region that includes Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino, Riverside, San Diego, Ventura, Santa Barbara, Imperial, Kern and San Luis Obispo counties.

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Wake up, California. Poverty and homelessness is on all of us

Well, this is a tough column for me to write. But it’s one that’s direly needed as the wealth disparity of our county has widened drastically since Orange County became our home in 1988.

The Southern California News Group, in conjunction with the SoCal Policy Forum, hosted a panel discussion recently to bring awareness to the issues of poverty and homelessness. Todd Harmonson, the Orange County Registerk’s senior editor, was the moderator. On the dais were four voices of diverse perspectives — Joel Kotkin, a Fellow in Urban Studies at Chapman University; Shelley Hoss, president and CEO of the Orange County Community Foundation; Mary Anne Foo, founder and director of the Orange County Asian and Pacific Islander Community Alliance; and Lucy Dunn, CEO of the Orange County Business Council.

Once the orange grove studded bedroom community of Los Angeles, Orange County has sprawled into 34 disparate cities with a population elevating us to the fourth largest in the United States, if counted collectively. No longer are we the employment feeder to the aerospace, textiles, and entertainment industry of Los Angeles County.

The Orange County economy is robust, boasting one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation, coupled with one of the highest median annual incomes — $89,759. We lead the country in medical device manufacturing, real estate related jobs, construction and finance. So where’s the issue?

The unemployment numbers are misleading. According to Kotkin, roughly 8 of 10 new jobs created in California since 2010 have been below the county’s median income level. Four in 10 people earn less than $40,000 annually. These incomes make it difficult to survive as an income of roughly $66,000 is needed to afford the $1,800 monthly average rent for a two-bedroom apartment in the county.

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Underemployment is rampant as well, says Dunn. A Disneyland ride operator serves as a great job for a high school student learning their chops. Not so much for the head of a household supporting a family.

We’ve done a poor job educating our youth. Most of my practice centers around family-owned and operated manufacturing and logistics businesses. Ask any of them what their biggest concern is — the lack of skilled employees. Welders, CNC machine operators and equipment repair technicians are in short supply.

Our high schools and community colleges have taken a dim view of vocational training. Look, a four-year degree is awesome, but, it’s not for everyone. Especially if it means beginning your career saddled with a load of student debt and the inability to find a well-paying job.

Startling numbers of our educated youth are bailing for progressive states such as Texas, Tennessee, and North Carolina. Sure, the weather is brutal, but, you can enjoy an affordable family home there.

Housing starts have woefully lagged employment growth.

Dunn, formerly the director of the California Department of Housing and Community Development, outlined the metrics. Until recently, our state has added approximately 500,000 new residents each year since 1950. Our need for new housing annually? 200,000 units. We’ve not achieved this since 1989! It doesn’t take a doctorate in economics to realize that’s a huge disparity in supply and demand.

Consequently, our median price for a single-family home has eclipsed $720,000 and the average rent for an apartment tops $1,800 per month.

Our state has not been our friend. I could write an entire column on this subject, and maybe I will someday. Suffice it to say, burdensome regulation, crippling taxes, anti-growth policies, job-killing attitudes, unsustainable public employee pensions — ALL have contributed to the pickle in which we find ourselves.

Is there hope? Of course! We are one of the most innovative and entrepreneurial counties in the world.

Shelley Hoss pointed out most of the wealth in Orange County is first-generation, unlike the East Coast with its seven or eight generations. Additionally, most of our wealth was created here and by folks who benefitted from public education, a scholarship from the Cal State or UC system or public assistance. Many of our wealthy benefactors emerged from poverty to their current prominence. We are a generous community!

Bravo to the Southern California News Group and SoCal Policy Forum for bringing awareness to our issues and generating a platform from which to converse!

Allen C. Buchanan, SIOR, is a principal with Lee & Associates Commercial Real Estate Services in Orange. He can be reached at or 714.564.7104.

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