Thursday, September 27, 2007

Most Expensive Homes: Beverly Hills, CA

You can search for available homes in Beverly Hills & Santa Monica by visiting this link:

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

View Properties by Map

One of my new sites allows you to zoom in and view what homes are available in specific areas.

On the map above, I've narrowed down all available homes between Van Nuys Blvd, Magnolia, Burbank Blvd, and Woodman. The properties pop-up so there is not registering. But if you would like to receive properties by email and RSS, you will need to register. There is nothing like it online so enjoy and be sure to bookmark the site.

The site is located at:

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

San Fernando Valley Fixers - Distressed Properties

Hi everyone! I just finished developing my new site This site instantly displays Fixers in select cities. You will also be able to see distressed homes, homes which need TLC (tender loving care), and homes specifically for investors, builders, and contractors.
This site is new as there could be some bugs. Let me know if you have any problems.
If your looking for bank owned homes, visit:
Here are a few articles which you might find useful:
Landscaping's that Sell

Monday, September 24, 2007

Another Indication on Where the Market is Headed in the San Fernando Valley

Here is the most recent statistics from my personal website . This is another indication that the number of buyers looking for homes has dropped off considerable from the beginning of the year.

Sellers Turn to Renting

Sellers who are unable to sell their homes in the San Fernando Valley are considering leasing their home until the market improves.
If your one of these sellers, the first step is to research the rental market in your area. Several websites can help including,, and other online classified sites. Be sure to be realistic as far as setting the monthly payment. You can consult with a Realtor who will market your home and find a qualified buyer.
A few recent articles you might find interesting:
Owners Battle Invasion of Renters -

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Bank Owned Activity for San Fernando Valley

The list below indicates how many bank owned homes are listed for each area. You can click the city to access the list of bank owned homes. No registration or sign-up is required.

The Federal Reserve Bank indicates“....that foreclosed properties average 22% less than typical properties.”

Encino Bank Owned homes -8 properties available
Sherman Oaks Bank Owned homes - 3 properties available
Tarzana Bank Owned homes - 20 properties available
Studio City Bank Owned homes - 0 properties available
Toluca Lake Bank Owned homes - 1 property available
Burbank Bank Owned homes - 7 properties available
North Hollywood Bank Owned homes - 17 properties available
Van Nuys Bank Owned homes - 30 properties available
Lake Balboa Bank Owned homes - 1 property available
Valley Glen Bank Owned homes - 2 properties available
Valley Village Bank Owned homes - 5 properties available
Reseda Bank Owned homes - 30 properties available
Canoga Park Bank Owned homes - 16 properties available
Woodland Hills Bank Owned homes - 14 properties available
Calabasas Bank Owned homes - 2 properties available
West Hills Bank Owned homes - 9 properties available
North Hills Bank Owned homes - 19 properties available
Northridge Bank Owned homes - 27 properties available
Chatsworth Bank Owned homes - 8 properties available
Winnetka Bank Owned homes - 13 properties available
Granada Hills Bank Owned homes - 13 properties available
Valencia Bank Owned homes - 10 properties available
Panorama City Bank Owned homes - 10 properties available
Stevenson Ranch Bank Owned homes - 4 properties available
Thousand Oaks Bank Owned homes - 6 properties available

New bank owned homes are added daily. Be sure to bookmark the specific page and visit daily. The # of available homes is calculated on the date this post was made. These are bank owned homes listed in the MLS.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Disclosure – Why You Should Disclose or Risk Getting Sued

I believe the #1 reason why buyers and sellers end up suing each other is because of disclosure. As a home-seller, you’ll want to keep in mind that if there is anything that would affect the salability of the property, it’s important the buyer knows.

Here are a few things that would affect the value of the property:
1. Leaky roof
2. Mold
3. Galvanized pipes
4. Fire or water damage
5. Death on the property
6. Outdated Kitchen & Bathrooms
7. Old carpet

Keep in mind that your agent is a trusted advisor. Please do not keep any information from your agent which knowingly can be financially damaging to all and do not plead ignorance. During the transaction process, there are many forms which will filled out concerning the house in general. One form is called the “Transfer Disclosure Statement (TDS).” This form is filled out by the seller and asks various questions concerning the property.

Some agents/brokers will also have additional forms in-case specific questions are not asked on the TDS form. If you should not understand a specific question, please consult with your agent. On occasion, a buyer will have questions of their own.

As a buyer, you’ll want to do your due diligence and perform a home-inspection by a qualified general contractor who is also CREIA Certified. A company I have used in my home-inspections is Larocca Inspection Associates. Your inspector will note specific issues which then you can hire specific professionals who can offer their advice and cost to get it fixed. Don’t purchase any property without it first being inspected.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Living in Valencia, CA? Tired of the Traffic?

Last Wednesday around 12:30pm, I left my house here in Sherman Oaks to visit my friend in Valencia for lunch. Thinking it would take me up to 30 minutes to get there (worst case scenario) and hoping to avoid any traffic, I was surprised when I was stuck in traffic right past the 118 freeway.

Let’s just say if I got out of my car and walked all the way to the 14 freeway, I would get their faster. It took me 90 minutes to get to the 14 freeway which should have taken no more than 10 minutes. There was a small accident on the way but with all the looky-lews, and huge 18 wheelers, traffic slowed to a crawl.

This is the major reason why I moved back to the San Fernando Valley 4 years ago. When I bough a home in Valencia 6 years ago (North-Park area), you kind of knew when to avoid the freeways. Most of the time you pray hoping you avoid the traffic especially on those 3-day holidays. The amount of money being spent on gas, maintenance and time, outweighed the benefit of living in a new community with lower priced homes.

So why would anybody in the San Fernando Valley want to move to Valencia? I suspect the same mistake I made. I was hoping to own a new home in a well-developed community at a lower price. What everybody failed to mention was that traffic on the freeways was bad and only going to get worse over the years.

I cringe every-time I get a call from a buyer who would leave the sanctuary of the San Fernando Valley to live in Valencia because they probably don’t know what their getting themselves into. Don’t get me wrong, Valencia is a beautiful vibrant community with firefighters and Sheriffs/Police officers at every turn – even your neighbors. But what most people don’t realize is the loss time and money spent in traffic. Is it really worth it? That would depend on your work and lifestyle.

If your thinking of buying a home in Valencia or the neighboring areas including Stevenson Ranch, Saugus, Canyon Country and you currently live in the San Fernando Valley, the best way to know if living there will make your life more comfortable is to stay the night and drive to work the next morning. Then when work is finished, drive back to Valencia as if you live there. Try that for a week and you’ll know your answer.

BTW, I have no problems with Valencia itself as it’s a beautiful area and I’ve sold homes in the Santa Clarita Valley to former San Fernando Valley residents. But as a professional, I always want to make sure my buyers understand the ramifications of living in an area which depends mostly on a few major freeways to get into and out of the area – especially when they are bogged down by traffic during normal rush-hour.

Home Value Declining? Learn to Reduce Your Property Tax

If you have purchased a home here in the San Fernando Valley in the past 12-18 months, it’s possible your homes value is below what you paid. You may be eligible to temporarily reduce your property tax by filing “Decline-in-Value Reassessment Application (Prop.8).”

The form states that it must be filled by December 31, 2007. You can contact the Assessors office by calling 213-974-3211 or 1-888-807-2111 or visiting the Assessors site by clicking this link:

More about Proposition 8: Proposition 8 allows a temporary reduction in assessed value when property suffers a “decline-in-value,” which is authorized under Section 51 of the Revenue and Taxation Code. A decline-in-value occurs when the current market value of your property is less than the current assessed value as of January 1, 2007. Please provide information that supports your opinion that the market value of your property is less than the assessed value. The best support includes information on sales of comparable properties. You should select two comparable sales that sold as close to January 1, 2007 as possible, but no later than March 31, 2007.

Source: Los Angeles County Assessors Office

Friday, September 14, 2007

Buying Distressed Properties

Every cloud has a silver lining, and the rise in California home foreclosures in no exception. That's if you're an investor hunting for good deals.

Investing in foreclosures is no low-risk venture. You often need to act quickly, have ready cash to buy, and may need to earmark money for repairs to make properties sellable. Here are some basics on buying distressed homes.

Identify properties: Right now, choices are abundant. One way to locate homes is to register with foreclosure information services, such as . This site is free and properties are updated daily.

Options to buy include:

Short sales: When borrowers can't keep current with mortgage payments, some lenders agree to allow the sale of the property for less than the loan balance. Frequently, you can find such deal through real estate professionals representing troubled homeowners.

Auctions: Auctions typically offer the best buys, but the risk to you is greater. You must research liens against the property and decide on your maximum bid price. You're also required to have cash on hand; remember, you're bidding on homes you haven't inspected, and competition can be stiff.

REO's. These are properties that have been taken back by the bank. These homes are frequently listed in the multiple listing services and can be found on which is the San Fernando Valley's exclusive bank owned REO site.

Related links:
Learn how to buy bank owned homes here in the San Fernando Valley.
Need to learn more about short sales? click here.
Another great article titled, "Don't Expect a Bailout if Your Overpaid" is another example on what you should do incase you have bought a home in the last 12-16 months or are thinking of buying a home short.

First Time Homebuyer

Are you a first time home-buyer here in the San Fernando Valley? If so, your options may be limited to purchasing a home. The first step you should take is to get pre-approved from a reputable mortgage broker. The mortgage broker will need to get an idea on your financial position, employment, and credit scores.

Most people start their home search even before they know what they can afford. This can be a problem if the buyer finds the perfect home, then finds out that they can’t afford it. That would hurt and believe me I have seen people get into that mess before. If you have a home to sell, be sure to list it first. Agents really don’t like a buyer with strings attached so be sure your home is in escrow before you start writing offers.

What most agents won’t tell you…
Before you write an offer on a home, I suggest you NOT remove your loan contingency. If the lender goes out-of-business before you close escrow, you might find yourself unable to get another loan and thus might lose your initial deposit (3% of the purchase price) and the home. It’s best to have your broker double-up on your loan.

You can read more about NOT removing your loan contingency here:

Monday, September 10, 2007

One Voice

Over the years I’ve been a Realtor, I’ve had a first-hand experience on what happens when two or more family members openly disagree on their next move. Not only do opportunities disappear, it makes the situation uncomfortable for all.

One Family = One Voice

It’s important that all decision makers know their objective and work-out their differences. As a home-buyer or seller, you should first trust your Realtor first-and-foremost. Relying on friends and the media for advice will make your Realtor question your integrity, honesty, and trust. If there is no trust, there is not foundation.

Just like you would trust your Doctor, Attorney or Accountant, you should have the same trust with your Realtor. In any given year, a Realtor will communicate with hundreds if not thousands of prospective home-buyers and sellers. If you want to demonstrate to your San Fernando Valley Realtor that you are serious about your next move, be sure to demonstrate loyalty, trust and commitment to having a "One Voice." You’ll be surprised how much harder your Realtor will work for you.

Written by: Richard Johnston, RE/MAX OTB Estates

Friday, September 07, 2007

August Statistics for San Fernando Valley

The statistics above represents the total number of homes Sold, Total Active, and Percent Sold for the month of August. The four highest selling cities are: Studio City, Sherman Oaks, Toluca lake & Encino. The worst selling city is Van Nuys.

Source: SoCalMLS
Homes up to 4 units, condos, and townhouses

This data is NOT pulled from the County Recorders Office and thus can change as agents adjust the status of their listings. This information was compiled from the Realtor SoCal MLS system on the date this post was published.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Properties with No Pictures?

As any home-buyer searching online for homes in the San Fernando Valley, on several occasions you may run into a home which has no picture(s). The only reason why a home for sale would not have any pictures is that the listing agent did not add them in the Realtor MLS system.

You might be wondering why an agent would take a listing and not do his/her best to market the home with the most amount of pictures and a virtual tour. The fact is these unexperienced agents still have the assumption that adding pictures will not sell the home. They still cling to their old ways of marketing homes disregarding the effectiveness of the internet. With over 80% of home-buyers starting their home search online, it’s one of the most important marketing tools an agent has to promote the home.

Also, when Realtors search the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) for their own clients, homes which have no pictures are usually skipped over. Our MLS allows agent to add up to 20 pictures and a virtual tour. These pictures will also be displayed on all agent websites, and more! So if you see a home with just a few poorly taken pictures or no picture at all, keep in mind the only person who ends up losing is the home-seller. The home will eventually sell, but at a loss to the seller.

The bottom line is, when you are thinking of selling your home in the San Fernando Valley & Santa Clarita Valley, be sure to hire an agent who will add up to 20 pictures online, and also create a virtual tour. You can see an example of one of my virtual tours by clicking this link:


Richard M. Johnston, RE/MAX OTB Estates

More Links: