We’ve had to find new ways to do many things this year – including washing our hands almost incessantly, wearing a mask, and if you have ventured out to patronize a local restaurant when outdoor dining has been allowed, you’ve most likely been eating in a repurposed parking place under an EasyUp in a folding chair.
You may want to consider some new ways to keep your things safe and secure if you are selling your house. Here are few tips for prepping the house for showings, in addition to all the coronavirus protection measures.
Make sure your home office and home classrooms are impervious to unwanted intrusion.
Certainly don’t leave the list of passwords on your desk, pinned to a bulletin board, written on a whiteboard, on a sticky note on your computer screen, or in your pencil drawer. When it is possible and practical, pack up your laptops and take them with you when you go sit in your car while buyers are in your house. If you have a traditional “tower” computer, shut it down completely before the buyers arrive. In addition, put away your phones, tablets and chargers and any other small electronics, if you are not taking them with you.
Stash away your prescription medicine.
Regardless of the dosage, purpose or number of pills in the bottle, either take your meds with you or lock them up somewhere safe while buyers are in your house. These items are so small, they are easy to quickly pop into a pocket or purse. Put them away in advance of a showing so they are impossible to find for anyone other than the person for whom they were prescribed.
Without question, put all jewelry in a safe place that is inaccessible and undetectable.
This may be a great time to invest in an actual, physical safe that can be both locked and secured. Depending on the size, many such safes can be secured to a wall, preventing them from being scooped up for breaking into at another time. You might also consider storing your meds in the safe!
If you keep firearms in your home and don’t already have a gun safe, now’s the time to bite the bullet.
You must secure your guns and ammo, especially when inviting strangers into your home. Just like loose change, there’s currently a shortage of ammunition, making it a likely target for theft. Make it impossible for anyone to access your guns and ammo. And if you keep a loaded weapon in your home for your personal protection, you must rethink this when buyers are visiting. If your gun safe is large enough, you may also be able to secure all of the other valuable items there as well.
We’ve all witnessed creative solutions to these unusual circumstances, do not underestimate the measures desperate people will use to survive, potentially at your expense.
Leslie Sargent Eskildsen is an agent with Realty One Group West. She can be reached at 949-678-3373 or email@example.com.
Mention homeowner’s association and many cringe, envisioning monthly dues, strict enforcement of rules and limits on everything from what color you can paint your house to the kinds of business activities you can engage in from home.
In many cases, all of those rules and more are in place — for a reason. They preserve the character of the neighborhood while also protecting property values. And when it comes to homeowner’s associations, Optimum Professional Property Management knows a thing or two. The Irvine-based company — in business since 1996 — currently manages 127 HOAs throughout Southern California.
CEO Debra Kovach says Optimum has maintained a steady and stable path of growth, not only in staffing and its client base, but in technology and social media awareness. She notes that about a quarter of the company’s 53 employees have been with the company for 10 years or more. That culture has landed the company on the annual “Top Workplaces” list of honorees two times before.
Optimum’s commitment is reflected in comments employees made in a Top Workplaces survey:
“I am encouraged to be my best and am given opportunities for advancement,” one worker said. “It’s a family environment where everyone is supportive and genuinely cares about each other.”
Optimum generated about $6 million in revenue in 2019. The company hired five employees over the past 12 months and expects to hire five to eight more over the next year. We asked Kovach to talk about the business of managing HOAs and how the company has adapted to the current health crisis.
Q: As a business that manages homeowners associations, you’ve likely had to make changes during the COVID-19 pandemic. How are things different?
A: In March we had to close our office to the public and set up everyone to work remotely. Since then we have brought back essential team members who need to be in the office to conduct business such as cutting checks, issuing parking permits, keys and remotes, etc. We still have some team members who are working remotely, either due to childcare issues or because their job responsibilities do not require they work from the office.
Q: Have your employees encountered any resistance from residents in regard to policies that may have changed during the pandemic?
A: Yes, the biggest issues we have faced were from homeowners who were upset that the pool or tennis court facilities were closed. There were many angry and irate homeowners that we are still having to deal with.
Q: What kinds of things does Optimum do to make its employees feel valued?
A: We give pay increases without the employee having to ask when we recognize excellent performance. We also give shoutouts to team members who go above and beyond or do something acknowledgment worthy. We have a “culture club” committee that meets every month to create ways to have fun in the office and acknowledge special events or milestones.
We are driven by the idea that a strong customer service-oriented philosophy will keep us at the top of our game. We thrive on a strong team culture and overall positive attitude which enables us to work well with each other and our business partners.
Q: What’s the biggest challenge in managing homeowners associations?
A: Finding and keeping community managers who want to do the job. It is very demanding and requires a lot of evening meetings.
Q: Are there any recent laws or pending legislation that have or will impact how Optimum does business?
A: Yes, a new election law effective Jan. 1, 2020 requires us to entirely revamp our internal procedures for handling annual membership meetings and elections which created more work for the staff.
No. 5 Small business: Optimum Professional Property Management
Industry: Homeowners association management
Quote: “We thrive on a strong team culture and overall positive attitude which enables us to work well with each other and our valued business partners.” Debra Kovach, principal and CEO.
Apartments are filling up in Riverside and San Bernardino counties, driving up rents. At the same time, rents are dropping in Los Angeles County and vacancies are up.
If you recently moved from L.A. County to the Inland Empire, we want to talk to you to find out why you left L.A. and what drew you to the I.E.
Was it because of the pandemic? Are you seeking lower rents while working from home? Have the on-and-off closures of restaurants, bars and other amenities killed the attraction of urban living? Or did you move for the usual reasons that have nothing to do with the pandemic: A new job, to be closer to friends or family, better schools, bigger homes or simply to save money?
Whatever the reason, we’d like to hear from you.
Please fill out our short survey. A reporter from the Southern California News Group may contact you later for more information.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 www.HTHF.org.
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, HTHF.org.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.