Is there any good news on the horizon, given all of the negative press about the current real estate market? Can the glass still be in any way viewed as “half full”? The answer is a definite “yes”! With average prices now approximately 25-30% lower than they were at this time last year, and interest rates as low as they have been in many decades, the affordability of homes in Brentwood, Pacific Palisades, Santa Monica and Venice has become significantly greater than it has been in a very long time. Moreover, with a substantially larger inventory of homes available, buyers today have far more to choose from than they have had in many years. The big picture looks like this: sales are at a 43% lower rate, median sale prices are 22-27% lower than last year, and the active inventory of 579 available homes in these areas is more than 50% greater than spring of 2008. At the current rate of sales, it would take on average more than 18 months to sell all of the homes that are on the market right now, as compared with less than eight months last spring.Further good news for sellers can be seen by looking at the number of homes in escrow, which peaked last year in June. There was a steady decrease beginning in July, dipping suddenly in October and hitting an extreme low in December. The good news is that the number has steadily increased since then, with 107 homes in escrow as of April 21st in these four areas. Anecdotally, agents in many Westside areas have been reporting greater numbers of open house visitors, an increase in appointments made to see homes, more offers written, and even occasional multiple offers on the well-priced homes. With interest rates still at historic lows and far more homes available for buyers to select from, the positive results of lower price points are starting to show.For the past couple of years it has become increasingly apparent that real estate values are far more local and “neighborhoody” than most people realized. Using nationwide statistics or even Los Angeles County figures can be totally irrelevant to the more desirable Westside areas. Moreover, significant differences can even be noted within a local marketplace. In Pacific Palisades, for example, an analysis of just the first quarter of 2009 indicates a probable 1.5-year level of inventory at the rate of sales and new escrows. However, some Palisades neighborhoods such as the Alphabets Streets and the Huntington, which typically have the highest turnover rates in the Palisades, currently have enough inventory available to last for 2-4 years. On the other hand, the Highlands, which often has a lower turnover rate, has less than a yearï¿½s worth of inventory. To keep all of this in perspective, a real estate market is considered to be roughly in balance between buyers and sellers when the inventory level is at 6-7 months. Obviously, when it is greater than 12 months buyers have a tremendous opportunity to benefit from favorable conditions. Thus, the present market provides numerous opportunities for all buyers and also for sellers who are moving up or relocating to other areas. For the past 23 years Michael Edlen has provided real estate counseling services to prospective buyers and sellers. More tips and information are available on MichaelEdlen.com. He can be reached at 310.230.7373 or Michael@MichaelEdlen. com.
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