Del Mar Flower Hill

For those who like to be within walking distance of a Whole Foods, a margarita, or a cup of coffee but don’t want to afford the typical ritzy/expensive Del Mar address, check this out. The big remodel/addition is wrapping up, and there should be some new buzz around the Flower Hill Promenade before long:

Tom T’s Foundation Work

Here’s a look at the construction of Tom Tarrant’s raised foundation for his South Park Spec House in San Diego – coming November 2012.

“We dug the footings with a mini excavator, built the forms with wood, tied in over 4000 feet of rebar and then pumped in 50 yards of 3000 psi concrete. Some of the footings were 6 feet deep to ensure this new house wont slide down the canyon. To see more cool renovations and house flipping, check out my blog!” http://www.tomtarrant.com

Solana Golf

Wouldn’t you want to live in a one-story house on the golf course?

It sounds great in theory, but how many of those do you see for sale around the coast?  The supply-and-demand alone might be strong enough to propel a sale here:


While it has felt like prices have been going up this year, the average-cost-per-sf has been bouncy around the higher-end of NSDCC.  The average LP-per-sf is down a couple of ticks, and the average SP-per-sf is trying to get back to last year’s trend. These are the numbers for detached listings in the combined Carmel Valley, Del Mar, Solana Beach, and RSF area:

New Listings, first half of year:

Year #Listings LP Avg. $/sf

Lower average-pricing, slightly-lower inventory (only about 9% less in area) and record-low mortgage rates contributed to a second-quarter sales rally:

Closed Sales:

Year #Sales 1Q SP Avg. $/sf #Sales 2Q SP Avg. $/sf

There are 66 houses closed this month so far, with three days to go plus late-reporters. We should get to 80+ sales, which will be a 20% or more improvement over the 65 in July, 2011.

Eminent-Domain Profits

This is excerpted from the wsj.com and includes the paragraphs on how profits are determined.  The homeowner is left at 100% LTV, old investors lose their shorts, new investors make 20% to 30%, and the guy who thought of it rakes in 4-5 points per deal:

Tapping the power of eminent domain to repair underwater mortgages could generate investor returns of up to 30% and billions of dollars in fees for bankers behind the proposal, according to people with knowledge of the plan.

Under the plan, loans that are current and underwater—that is, their balances are greater than the home’s value—would be seized from mortgage bonds at prices up to 25% below appraised home values, then refinanced through a federal loan program.

It isn’t clear whether the eminent domain plan will get off the ground. The proposal has disturbed financial trade groups who say it violates mortgage contracts and isn’t a public use as required under eminent domain. The groups assert that Mortgage Resolution Partners will encourage municipalities to deeply undercut market value when buying the loans, doling out losses to mortgage bondholders and handing big gains to itself and its investors.

Mortgage Resolution has estimated that it would take a fixed fee of $4,500 per loan as the operational manager, according to people who attended investor meetings. That is about what loan servicers get when modifying loans under a government program. Such fees could exceed $2 billion if the program caught on nationwide, and would grow if the plan goes beyond private-label loans, based on Amherst’s loan count.

Steven Gluckstern, chairman of Mortgage Resolution, declined to elaborate on how profits might be split. While he said the group’s main interest is to help homeowners and stabilize communities, he added: “We want to make money with the solution.”

As a manager, Mortgage Resolution would work with governments to identify and buy loans at 75% to 85% of current property values, said people in investor meetings. For a home worth $100,000, the program may pay $75,000 despite a principal balance that might be tens of thousands of dollars more.

The homeowner would apply to refinance into a $97,750 loan through a federal program. That leaves $22,750, plus a lender’s profit of $5,000 or more to cover MRP’s fee, valuation and legal costs, a reserve for the municipality, and investor profit. MRP has told investors they could see a return of 20% to 30%, said one investor who met with the firm.


Willing To Take a Risk?

Remember the landslide on Soledad Mountain in 2007?  There had been at least one previous landslide in the same area, back in 1961 when they were building these houses.  This flicker has photos of both:


The residents around the 2007 landslide sued the city, but the judge denied the lawsuit:


The former owner of the house featured in today’s video was quoted in the U-T:

On nearby Desert View Drive, Joyce Clark is also constantly reminded of the slide.  Clark’s in-ground pool is cracked and empty, and a supposedly sturdy wall around it needed to be rebuilt after both were damaged in the slide.

Standing by the pool, Clark can look inside the house next door. >>>>

A gaping hole in the wall caused by the slide opens on a warped bunk bed and a twisted ceiling fan. Outside, a red sign proclaims danger. “Do Not Enter,” it reads. “Unsafe to Occupy.”

“It’s very eerie,” she said.

Clark said she had her house professionally cleaned four or five times to rid it of dirt during the city cleanup.

“It’s nice to be back,” she said. “But it’s been very costly and very stressful.”

What the city did to shore up the hillside:

What the city of San Diego is doing now to shore up the landslide area on Soledad Mountain Road in La Jolla was likened by senior engineering geologist Rob Hawk to home construction, only on a massive scale.

“We’re putting in sheer pins, large-diameter borings filled with steel and concrete, almost like large nails that are holding things together,” said Hawk, about the first phase of construction which began Monday, Oct. 29th, 26 days after a catastrophic landslide in the 5600 block of Soledad Mountain Road completely collapsed the thoroughfare, damaging several homes, disrupting utilties and forcing 111 residents to be temporarily evacuated. “We recognize that we can’t do anything to the landslide until we stabilize the adjacent area. They’re (pins) being put around the westerly side of Soledad Mountain Road surrounding the actual failed portion.

Hawk added, before large masses of earth can be moved, it’s necessary “to make sure you’ve got everything around you stabilized.” “That’s what we’re doing now,” he said. “We need to get the landslide stabilized before the winter rains. The landslide moved when it was dry. We don’t want to get it wet. It’s in a quasi-stable condition and we want to make sure no water gets into it so we can make sure that it stays stable and doesn’t cause any additional damage.”

In a letter to local residents, the city said Soledad construction work will include drilling a total of 37 holes, 42” and 48″ in diameter, that are 60 to 65 feet deep. Sheer pins will be placed approximately 8 feet on center and will be completely buried underground.

Making An Offer

I heard about someone who made a full-price offer over the weekend, and is still waiting for a response.  It makes you wonder what it will take to buy a house these days!

In this case there were other offers already on the table, so it was a smart attempt to try and blow out anyone lower.  But the sellers don’t have to accept any offer, full-price or higher.  They are only contractually obligated to pay a commission.

What is the best strategy?  Get the sellers to counter-offer.

Once you know that is the goal, then you can work it backwards – what price and terms would be tempting enough to get the sellers to respond with something?

Because once they issue a counter-offer, you can sign it and buy yourself a house.

There is a secondary paragraph that the other agent has to acknowledge receipt of your signed counter-offer.  To protect yourself, you would want to find the agent and have a witness verify that you handed them the signed counter, and hopefully got them to initial it.

(But I am unconvinced that a judge would insist that the agent’s receipt is required – I think that once a buyer and seller have agreed in writing, you have a deal.)

What price and terms do you offer, in order to tempt the sellers into making a counter-offer?

First, you have to get the listing agent to do two things:

  1. Verify if there are any other offers, and if so, how many.
  2. Verify what it would take to buy the house.

There are no rules or guidelines, so it helps to get the listing agent to commit to something.  Usually when asked, agents give this lame, noncommittal answer, “We will just look at each offer and make a decision.”  But if there are multiple offers, you want to know if the sellers will just take the best offer, or ask all contenders to make their highest-and-best offer.

Banks will almost always request that all bidders submit their highest-and-best offers, because that it the fairest way to handle it, and you don’t know how much someone might pay unless you give them a chance.

But inexperienced listing agents are known to panic, and because they might jump on the highest offer and ignore the rest, you must get them to commit to their rules of engagement if possible.

To know more about the agent, you can check their recent sales history at this website:


Their extra data and graphs are mostly inaccurate, but neighborcity has the right sales counts from the last year, which is the best indicator of how well the agent can navigate a successful sale for you.  A reasonable level of agent competency is one sale per month.

At this point you know a little about the listing agent, and how many offers are competing.

A. If there are multiple offers, have your agent utilize a strategy that puts you in position to win.

B. If there are no other offers, then gauge your offer price by how long the house has been for sale.

If it has been on the market for 1-2 weeks, you can bet that the sellers want within 5% of list price.  Remember, your goal is to get them to counter, NOT make an offer that they will sign outright, because they rarely do anyway.  So offer 5% below list price, and hopefully they will counter somewhere in between.

If the house has been for sale longer than 2 weeks, then it is tougher.  We know that price expectations for buyers are dropping about 1% per week, but seller exuberance is high – they will resist the thought of more than 5% off no matter how long they have been flailing.

Offer between 5% and offensive, which is usually more than 10% off.

If the listing agent has only sold 1-2 properties in the last year, it will take a miracle for you to buy the property.  Swing by church and say your prayers while you are at it.

Bottom or Bouncing?

From MND:

There was general agreement on the increase in home price levels in May in data released from by two different sources this morning. 

The Federal Housing Finance Agency’s (FHFA) House Price Index (HPI) showed seasonally adjusted home prices up 0.8 percent from April to May and 3.7 percent over the last 12 months while Radar Logic’s RPX Composite Price rose 0.7 percent from April and 2.6 percent year-over-year.    

On a non-seasonally adjusted basis the HPI was up over 1.5 percent in May.  FHFA also revised its previously reported 0.8 percent increase in April down to a 0.7 percent increase.   The Index is now 17.0 percent below the peak it hit in April 2007 and is roughly the same as its level in May 2004. 

The HPI increased in eight of the nine census divisions with the exception, the West South Central Region (Oklahoma, Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana) declining, off 1.0 percent.  The other regional increases ranged from +0.5 in the Middle Atlantic Region (New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania) to +1.7 in the Pacific division (the coast, Hawaii, Alaska).  Eight of the nine census divisions are in positive territory on an annual basis ranging from an increase of 0.5 percent in the Middle Atlantic to 6.3 percent in the Mountain division (Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico.  The ninth census division, New England, is unchanged since May 2011.

FHFA’s index is calculated using purchase prices of houses with mortgages sold to or guaranteed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac while Radar Logic tracks housing prices gathered from public sources. 

In analysis accompanying the report, Radar Logic said it views claims that housing prices have bottomed as premature.  “Those people looking at current results and calling a bottom are being dangerously short sighted,” said Michael Feder, Radar Logic’s CEO. “Not only are the immediate signs inconclusive, but the broad dynamics are still quite scary.  We think housing is still a short.”  The company also said that it viewed reports of diminishing supply as “greatly exaggerated.”

The RPX Composite price (reported on a per square foot basis) increased $14.27 (8.3 percent) from the beginning of 2012 through May 23, much more than the increases during the same period in 2009, 2010 and 2011, but called the rapid increase thus far in 2012 as “consistent with the hypothesis that mild winter weather temporarily boosted demand.”  This will be reflected in an earlier seasonal weakness in demand, probably in May or June rather than in the usual July or August timeframe the company said.

Even if the mild winter theory doesn’t play out, Radar Logic expects short-term appreciation to short-circuit longer term appreciation and perhaps even trigger further declines.  This would occur on the supply side as higher prices provoked both financial institutions and homeowners to put their properties on the market while on the demand side the higher prices may deter investors.

Kitchen/Living Room


Once one has cooked with professional chefs and owned a popular tearoom on Rodeo Drive, one tends to expect a higher level of functionality from her home kitchen. This was true for the Beverly Hills homeowner who came to the Warwick Group’s design-build team with very specific mandates for her kitchen renovation.

“She wanted no upper cabinets, no upright refrigerator and a La Cornue range in moss green,” says Mark Warwick, principal of Warwick Group, which he shares with wife and principal Kim Warwick. Together with the groups’ design team they set out to accommodate these requests by borrowing space from adjoining storage and laundry rooms.

“This was the first kitchen we designed in which the client didn’t want a traditional refrigerator,” notes Kim. “It was refreshing. By eliminating the refrigerator and the upper cabinets, the room is considerably more airy and in proportion to the rest of the house.”

Instead they used an under counter refrigeration system that includes Sub Zero 24” drawers and Ariston 36” drawers.

Like any renovation project, there were hurdles along the way, not the least of which was matching the home’s 15-plus-year-old Bleu Liginiere limestone flooring. Luckily, John Malakzad owner of GEM International found a perfect match in a French quarry on one of his trips. Another stone expert, Paula Nataf of Exquisite Surfaces, also came to the rescue providing the antique 18thCentury French limestone fireplace surround that suits the room’s elegant feel and soft color palette.

The custom birch cabinetry with Haefele drawer pulls was designed by Warwick Group and produced by PWN Carpenters Inc.. “We chose birch for its subtle graining,” explains Mark. “Then we bleached the surfaces and used a pale grayish-green, water-based paint mix that was thinned out and applied, then sealed with a subtle, clear eggshell finish for protection and durability.”

Topping the cabinets is Costa Esmeralda granite from Southland Stone.

Flanking the range, PWN again produced the cabinetry that was then wrapped with custom metal work by Brite Plating of Los Angeles to identically replicate the range’s original properties. “That was the most challenging part of the entire job because of all the various integrated parts,” remarks Kim.

The backsplash is made of Vetrotile Glass Tiles from Ann Sacks Tiles in a shell pink and lemon zest mix. Above it, the unique hood was designed by Warwick Group to eliminate both the heavy industrial look as well as the sound.

Though the homeowner doesn’t cook professionally anymore, her kitchen is the ideal setup for entertaining her friends and family in style and comfort.

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