About Nancy Wright

I have been a real estate agent in La Canada and surrounding areas of the Foothills outside of Los Angeles for over twenty years. I also have been a teacher,mother,wife, writer and community volunteer. Some of those things I still am. I like dogs, reading, needlepoint, sports (both to do and to watch on TV) and Justified. I work at Podley Properties and volunteer as a CASA (Court-Appointed Special Advocate) for foster children in Los Angeles County.

Moving to a new closet: it’s gorgeous


Our new condo closet. So pleased it is being admired by the new tenant.

Playing dress-up after 55

My new home has a gorgeous organized closet. I am looking forward to blogging about clothes (and menopause) and I took a few photos to show it has places for clothes, handbags and shoes and lots of lights and mirrors. When I was looking for a new home for the next year or so, I wanted a place that would enable me to write about clothes and handling change and being in menopause. Okay, really it’s just about the clothes — the wardrobe behind the woman who changed her life. Don’t we all have a story?

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Movin’ On


I love the fact that my new listing in La Canada started life as a lot I sold to a young family nearly twenty years ago.  I was drawn to this family immediately.  Candy and I shared a slightly bent, hippie look on life, and Ron was an emotional, enthusiastic man with a quick wit and an equally quick smile.  Their young kids, one a daughter my son’s age, and the other a bright-eyed four-year-old, were absolute delights.  They were serene yet mischeivous.  I loved them.

But I couldn’t close a deal.  We were in escrow three times.  Every time the inspection would reveal an unsurmountable problem.  I remember a driveway too steep for the family car to navigate without scraping.  Drainage issues.  Asbestos.  Other things.  Everything would start out well in each transaction, then deteriorate. Ron would call, and every time he’d say, “I have a little problem with this house.”  My heart would sink.   I grew to think I would never close an escrow; I know they felt the same.

Then one day someone suggested building.  We were off to find a lot, and unbelievably the perfect one was available directly across the street from my own house.  We closed the transaction and one of La Canada’s premier architects designed a yummy four bedroom-house with the most beautiful staircase.

Can you find the cat?

.

Now the kids are in their twenties and thirties.  One has a PhD in Psychology, the other, trained at Carnegie Mellon, is a budding actor on his way to New York.  An elderly parent has moved in.  A dog has been replaced by another.  The household has acquired three cats.  Ron has been very successful;  Candy has myriad interests and several at-home businesses and hobbies.

I was thrilled the family called me, that they remembered me, that they wanted me in their lives again.

They have exciting new plans.  I will stay back and mourn the end of that particular era.  If you are the buyer of this house, know that there are many happy memories there, many custom touches like Candy’s hand-made stained peacock windows or her custom-designed and painted tiles around the tub.  You can see all the impeccable upgrades, the bold red tiles in the kitchen, the high-end appliances, the brand-new paint, the shelves filled with glasses of lovingly home-dried fruit, carefully lined-up.  I tell Candy to put some of them out on the counter:  they are so beautiful.  Her eyes well with tears when she talks about leaving.  But it is time.  Movin’ on.

To find out more about this house, please visit www.5211Harter.com.

My First Case


The following is a version of a speech I was asked to deliver at the annual volunteer luncheon for Los Angeles County Court-Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs) for foster children.  Some details have been changed to preserve confidentiality.

 

 

My first experience with Charles was when he stood me up at the counselor’s office.  When they finally tracked him down, he came in with a smile and we shook hands. He had me by a foot and at least 100 pounds.  This was a big kid.   I introduced myself and gently corrected him when he called me Miss Nancy.  “Just Nancy,” I said.

I asked him how he was doing.  He told me he had been moved so many times he felt like giving up.  I told him lots of people cared about him.  I hoped it was true.  I barely knew him so I didn’t really qualify as one of them.  At his first independent educational planning session a couple of weeks later I was impressed by the effort his teachers and counselor made.  Charles himself sat with his head down nervously twirling his hair.  How was he dealing with his outbursts of anger?  “Pushing them down,” he said.  “It’s like perfume and musk.  You can hide it but it’s always there.”  I wrote that down.  He was seventeen years old.

Charles was on track to graduate, though barely.  I had what felt like a direct line to the counselor’s office.  Was he going to make it?  Right before graduation Charles got kicked out of his group-home placement.  He asked me to help him move and I drove over and packed his stuff in my SUV.  Charles himself stood me up.

The group home manager didn’t know where he was.  He didn’t have his cap and gown because the money hadn’t arrived, they said.  I checked back at school.  He had passed.  I was given all the information needed for him to pick up his cap and gown.  But I couldn’t reach him to pass it on.  I thought he had missed it but later I found out he’d been there.  He’d posted a picture of himself on Facebook accepting his diploma with a big, wide grin.  It was his profile photo.  I felt bad I hadn’t been there to see it.

The summer passed with sporadic visits.  Everyone considered him AWOL but I knew that Charles was staying with a friend.  I was working on transitional housing for him.  We finally got an interview at a place in Compton.  Of course he couldn’t get there:  it would have meant hours on the bus.  I picked him up and drove him down.  He was smiling and charming and we bonded on that trip.  When we got there, he asked me to sit in on his interview.  But first we had a snack at Subway.  I felt uncomfortable there.  I was a little old white lady in a line of young African Americans.  I bought him a foot long sub, and he finished it in a few minutes.    “I feel weird,” I said.  He knew instantly what I meant.

“Don’t worry.  I got you,” he said.

He aced the interview and they offered him a place on the spot.  I was bursting with parental pride.  It didn’t last, though.  At court he changed his mind.  He didn’t know anyone in Compton.  He didn’t want to go.  Shortly afterwards, his friend kicked him out of the house after an outburst on Charles’s part.  It was his old pattern.  He disappeared for a while then called me from Chino.  He was staying with the family of another old friend from a former high school.  They wanted to become an approved placement.

We worked on that for a while.  I drove out and met his proposed family.  We lunched at Panero’s and afterwards I took him shopping for a Christmas present at Forever 21. Charles was looking for a little Christmas money.  He had some friends to take care of.   I asked the salesman if they were hiring around there, and he said they were.  Charles was to get an interview.  He wrapped me in a hug.  He didn’t get the job, though.  A few weeks later I got another call from him.  Could I pick him up?  He had been kicked out again.

I drove out to Chino.  Once again I had all his belongings in the back of my car.  There were no friends he could stay with this time.  I tried to find a shelter for the night.  We drove around, making calls.  Finally we found a shelter at a church.  I drove him there.  They showed us around back.  They gave us a card with other shelters listed for the next night.  He could only stay one night.  I looked at the line of shuffling old men.  I know I teared up.  He saw it.

“I’m fine.  Don’t worry.  I’ll call a friend tomorrow.  I can handle it.”  And he did.  Next thing I knew he was calling me for help getting some documents.  He was enrolling at community college.  He was looking into transitional housing.  I found myself on the line with that same counselor from last year.  Yes, she could email me his transcript.

The last time I saw Charles was the day before his court date in Lancaster.  I had bad vibes.  He’d gone to court four days before, because his social worker had sent a van for him on the wrong day.  He’d wasted the entire day waiting for a case to be called that was not on calendar.  I tried to call him to make sure he was going to court.  I couldn’t reach him.

Charles stood me up at court that day.  Okay maybe I was a little bit mad.  But then I thought to myself:  Charles doesn’t need me anymore.  He’s on track to obtain transitional housing in a place he knows, with friends.  The fact that he doesn’t need me:  wasn’t that the whole idea behind CASA? Just what I was trying to accomplish?  So maybe he’s left me behind.  But out there somewhere, I know he’s got me.

 

The new couch has landed . . . with a thud.


So you knew it couldn’t end happily, didn’t you.  The new Pottery Barn couch arrived while I was an an estate sale buying a used vacuum cleaner to replace the one I know will give up the ghost any moment (due to my gross maltreatment, see last post).  I had already been to Macy’s and found a rather nice fleece blanket to put on the couch so that Jasper could have his way with it for a while.  My husband fielded the new arrival and called to let me know.

I hurried home because I knew PB doesn’t put the slipcovers on and this is a two-person job. 

Well, spouse and I labored mightily, and produced this:

Image

You will note on close examination that the slipcover does not stretch to fit on the couch.  We strained and sweated and gave up just before splitting the fabric.  Then we inserted the seat cushions into their respective slipcovers.  With quite a bit of difficulty because the cushions were so much bigger than the slipcovers that the resulting look included a substantial gap between the cushions.Image

The general look, though an improvement on the wicker couch you may remember from my last post, could not be considered a success.

I have now spent the afternoon on the phone with two different PB representatives.  The first asked me to email her photos which I did.  Enter a hiatus of two hours.  I called back and left her a message.  Nothing.  Finally I called and spoke to Greg, another representative.  I emailed him the photos and he allowed as how this would not do. Usually, he told me cosily, the slipcovers are too big. He went on to say that of course they were mass-produced.  Dare I wonder in what sweatshop?  Obviously no one ever tries them on. So, Greg has now ordered another round of slipcovers, which will be delivered, funnily enough, on the exact day I was originally supposed to get the replacement couch:  May 24.  No guarantees those will fit either.

I am now going  to look up the address of Catholic Charities’ thrift store.  Cuz here’s a thought:  Maybe I can still get the old couch back.  Just till the new slipcovers arrive.

Donating a Couch


Who knew how hard it would be to donate a couch?

This one started life as a custom-made, slip-covered, down-filled designer model from a workshop in LA.  For 12 years it has graced our TV room in our vacation house.  Despite his claims that he has never liked it, my husband has spent a good portion of his weekend life reclining on it, usually accompanied by our 100-pound Boxer-Mastiff-Rottweiler-Doberman mix, Jasper.

I realized I had to replace this couch when our son and his girlfriend visited and he pronounced it in even worse shape than the one he had just donated to a local thrift shop.   So I went online and ordered one from Pottery Barn that looked pretty much just like it but cost half as much.  I was told it would arrive at the end of May.   I had plenty of time to figure out how to dispose of the current one.  Cue the Universe laughing.

Last week I suddenly received an email from PB.  The new couch had shipped.  I soon discovered that Goodwill didn’t take couches at all.  Salvation Army would be pleased to accept it if I dropped it off at their center.  A local thrift shop would pick up, but not till May 9.  They recommended Catholic Charities. “Sure,” they told me.  They’d schedule a pickup for 9:30 Friday morning.  Only thing, the couch had to be in good condition.  No stains or cat scratches.  No problem.

Thursday night we rolled into town early so as to be ready for the Friday pickup.  Around ten o’clock at night, hubby safely reading in bed, I decided to inspect the couch.  There were some light white patches on the cushions.  I bent to take a closer look.  There were numerous faint nip-holes on the cushions, the kind your dog likes to make when bored.  Well, they hadn’t said anything about holes.  Good to go.  I bent in further.  A rich aroma of dog assailed me.  Truthfully, not so much rich as strong.  As in bad.  Really bad.

I decided to wash the slip covers.  I had done this before, though perhaps not as often as I should have.  And obviously not recently.  I took off the first cover.  A few faint feathers drifted down.  I bent to the second cushion and peeled off its cover.  A huge eruption of down gushed out:  the cushion was split.  Actually more like bisected.  I hurried  the offending cushion into the courtyard, spewing feathers as it went.  Okay this seemed like a pretty serious problem.  Multiple problems, really.  Washing and sewing.  Two of my weaker areas.

I knew I had one of those tiny travel sewing kits I’d stolen from some hotel or other.  While I was washing the slipcovers I could sew the split.  Outside, in the dark, because you know, feathers.  I gracefully eluded the puddle of down which was now kicking up in the Santa Ana winds.  In the laundry room I found I was down to my last half a cup of detergent.  I started the machine.

Back to the sewing.  The needle had an eye the size of a grain of sand. Not only was it not designed for upholstery, it was not designed for use by a human being.  I tried to figure out how to thread it with that weird little thingy you find in every sewing kit and don’t know how to use.  It actually is quite ingenious.  The sewing, huge black stitches because that was the only thread available, went pretty well considering I was doing it blind.   But when I went to transfer the slipcovers to the dryer, they were ominously dry.  I knew at once what had happened.  Part of our routine when leaving the vacation spot is to turn off the water to the washing machine.  Since the cleaning lady only comes every other week no one had turned it back on.  Now, of course, I was  out of detergent.  I scraped what I could out of the cup, turned on the water, and started over.

In 45 minutes the washer turned off.  The slipcovers smelled fine. Good, even.  I was home free.  I stuck them in the dryer and went to bed.  I had until 9:30 the next morning.

I woke at 6:30,  anxious about finishing the job.  I took the slightly damp slipcovers out of the dryer, and into the courtyard I went.  I was hoping the winds might have blown the down somewhere else.  Not so much.  Tufts of feathers lurked everywhere.  What if the pick up guys saw this?  They’d suspect something terrible.  I would need to clean up the feathers.  But first, the cushions.  I bent to insert the sewn cushion into its cover.  Immediately a huge fountain of feathers gushed anew.  My sewing was holding.   I turned the cushion over.  A gaping vent smirked at me.

Some couches are not meant to be donated.  They start life in your family room and that is where they are going to hang out.  Forever.  Not on my watch.  This couch was going.  I didn’t know how; I didn’t care.

I opened the sewing kit.  I threaded the needle with the thingy and the black thread.  I sewed that sucker up.  I stuffed the feathers in.  I wrestled the cushion in its sweet-smelling cover.  I put the couch together.  I touched up a few places on the arm that had tiny little stains.  The couch looked good.  It smelled heavenly.  I almost wanted to keep it.

The guys came on time. I had vacuumed as many errant feathers as I could, picking up quite a bit of gravel in the process.  That vacuum cleaner is not going to last long.   I fully expected the men to inspect the couch carefully for stains and cat-scratches.  Instead they only seemed concerned with mundane things like whether it would fit through the door.  They took it away without a second glance.

Now we have no couch.  I haven’t heard another word from PB.  We moved a faded wicker couch from the courtyard into the family room.Image  My husband can’t lie down on it.  The dog doesn’t fit.  It looks ridiculous.  And I’m worried about the poor sucker who takes home that couch from Catholic Charities and decides to wash the righthand slipcover.  If I’m being honest, really how long can that sewing last?

And now I have to pick up the feathers from every corner of the house before the cleaning lady gets here.

Turning Into My Mother


 

So  last Sunday I had another little confrontation my own mother was so famous for in our family.  In my mother’s case the confrontation was usually in a New York cab and started with her not so sotto voce excoriation of the cabbie for one of three things:

  1.  Having a loud radio which he failed to turn down or, preferably, off;
  2. Taking a side street when he could have gone thru the park or 79th street;
  3. Going through the park when he should have taken Fifth.

Mostly we kids cringed whenever she started in on the cabbie.  Some of the time we feared for her life.  The fact that she was 5’2” and white-haired, I always felt, did not protect her as much as she thought it did.

Cut to last weekend.  I am in line at Starbucks, waiting peacefully for my grande soy latte.   We are in Montecito, a place not known for stabbings or even a raised voice.  Two women in front of me are complaining loudly about their drinks.  Lady A complains her drink has not been made the way she asked.  The baristo (I know they all call themselves baristas but shouldn’t a male one be a baristo?  I think so) dumps out her drink and begins remaking it.  Lady B then shoves her iced tea at the baristo and angrily complains that she asked for light ice.  Lady A adds, snidely, “If you’d written it down when we ordered we wouldn’t have this problem.”  The baristo sighs but doesn’t answer and begins to remake Lady B’s drink.  Those of us waiting begin to shift a bit.  Lady A then says, even more loudly, “You have a lousy attitude and are rude.  And now we have to wait for you to remake our drinks!  What are you going to do to make it up to us?”

The baristo goes to get a couple of drink coupons and hands them to the Ladies.  I exchange looks with several other customers.  Eye-rolls abound.

Now my mother possesses me.

I say, quite mildly, I think, “You know what you’re doing is also causing everyone else to have to wait.”

Lady A glares at me.  “Mind your own business,“ she says appealingly, and probably accurately, but whatever.  “Yes,” says Lady B, “and she [indicating A] knows what she’s talking about because she used to be a manager of a Starbucks.”  I wonder about the relevance of this factoid, but I begin to answer, and what I intended to say shall always remain shrouded in secrecy and the mists of time (mainly because I have totally forgotten it).  Anyway,  Lady A does not let me get out a word before rounding on me.

“Shut the F—K up,’ she screams at the top of her voice.

I pause in shock.  From behind me, someone yells out, “Call security!”  Pretty funny, actually because we are not in a major mall here.  This is a little strip of four boutique shops.

The manager hustles up.  Turning to the Ladies, he says, “You need to leave now.  We cannot have you screaming in here.”  The Ladies stalk out, spilling their drinks.  I hope they don’t know which car is mine.

Immediately I am being congratulated.  One young woman assures me she was about to take them on, except her friend talked her out of it.  I say, “It helps to be old and little.”  I think of my mother.  A man in his 80’s tells me, “You did the right thing.”  I feel triumphant on the one hand and a little like I am going to pass out.  My stomach churns.

My drink is ready and I pick up my soy latte.  I expect at least an offer of a free-drink coupon.  Nope.  But looking at the name on my cup, he does say, “Thank you, Nancy.”

I go home and tell Al all about it. He looks at me skeptically. “You’d better watch out.  Someone’ll pop you one of these days.”

Nah.  I’m white-haired and 5’2”.  They’d never do that to my mother.

What has this got to do with real estate?  You got me.  When you figure it out, please let me know.

La Canada Sees an Amazing Upmarket


In the last two weeks, sixteen La Canada properties have gone into escrow and/or became pending.    There are only 81 listings in La Canada.  Not a math genius but that’s nineteen percent.  Truly amazing.  Some of these properties have been on the market a loooong time.  One, listed for $7,950,000 on Commonwealth has been on the market for 387 days.  Also on the high end of things, a property on Domal, listed at $2,495,000, has been listed for 287 days.  They’re selling. 

Rumor has it there are some buyers coming down in a group  from Canada with all cash.  Some have made offers, and others are still looking.  But that doesn’t explain why everything is selling.  Usually we see a spurt right after the Pasadena private schools sound out their acceptances.  But those letters haven’t gone out yet. 

We are seeing properties newly on the market being snatched up, often with multiple offers.  Cheap houses, expensive houses, fixers or turnkey properties.  The high, the low and the in-between.  One agent in our office made an offer on a start-up house in Pasadena.  Along with 25 other buyers’ agents.

Interest rates are still low, but they have been for months.  I don’t get it, but I’ll definitely take it.  If you were thinking of listing, please hurry up.  There is still a large pool of buyers out there, many with all-cash.  Ready, willing and able.

In Escrow since February 1*:

1900 Parkdale Place        $499,994

5320 Palm Drive              $549,000

1932 Hilldale Drive           $550,000

4607 Castle Road           $645,000

4531 Hillard Ave             $675,000

4617 Palm Drive             $699,000

5325 La Forest Drive       $730,000

4942 Hillard Ave          $1,365,000

1243 Flanders Rd       $1,375,000

4275 Mesa Vista Dr    $1,449,000

1814 Earlmont Ave     $1,749,000

4420 Woodleigh Ln    $1,895,000

4158 Commonwealth  $7,950,000**

Pending since February 1*:

4228 Lenzgrove Lane     $585,000

4855 Ocean View Blvd   $649,000

4848 Hampton Rd         $720,000

3820 Domal Lane      $2,495,000

Statistics for those of you mathematically inclined:

Average list price $1,039,375

Average square footage 2288

Average list price per square foot $436

Average days on the market/Cumulative days on the market 49/80*

 

*all info per MLS

** this one actually entered escrow 1/25/12, but hey, it’s impressive so I included it.  Blog owner’s priority.   Go ahead, shoot me.   I excluded it from the averages.      

A Word of Warning about Reconveyances


A problem in a recent transaction suggests my topic for this post.  My seller represents a trust selling a property.  After a few false steps we are in escrow with an all-cash buyer and scheduled to close in a week.

Ha.  Not so fast.

Among other title issues one surfaces which could happen to me.  Or you.  A thirty-year-old loan appears on title.  It is not for a lot of money, but the lender was a private party.    One family member says the note was paid off with a refinance.  All well and good but no reconveyance was recorded. All we have is a receipt for the payoff from the new lender.  With an institutional lender such as a bank or a credit union, this is no big deal.  Records exist showing the payoff and a reconveyance can be signed now and recorded.  But what if you can’t find the old lender?  What if all you know is that it was Aunt Tilly, or an old acquantance of your mother, or a neighbor who may or may not still even be around and certainly doesn’t still live next door?

What happens is that you can have an expensive problem.  There is such a thing as a “lost lien bond.”  And a bonding company can issue one and the title company will accept this.  Unfortunately these bonds are expensive. By California statute they are twice the face value of the note.  Most bonding companies charge between two and four percent of this figure.  So if that loan was for $100,000, even if it was paid down to $5,000 before being paid off, if you can’t find Aunt Tilly and have her sign and record the full reconveyance,  the bond will be two to four percent of $200,000.  That could be $8000.  Not chicken feed.

Bottom line:   if you have borrowed money from a friend or private party that is recorded against your property, be especially careful that when you pay it off a full reconveyance is signed AND recorded by that lender.  If it’s a private party be sure she knows how to do it.

And on that (unrecorded) note, have a very happy Thanksgiving.

A Tale of Two Houses


“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times . . .”

This is the tale of two listings.  They share quite a few features.  Both are fixers which have not changed hands in many years.  Both are held in trust.  Both need an amazing amount of work.  Both have great views.  One, in particular, is in an advanced state of decrepitude.  Let’s call them A and B.

A is in Burbank, in the hills, on a lovely, broad street.  Its family built it and over the years added various levels, some unpermitted rooms, greenhouses, even at one time a laundry area on the roof.  Now it has fallen on bad times.  Despite the great expectations its heirs had of its worth, the real estate market sets its own prices.  And now the beneficiaries of this trust are at odds,  lawyers are involved, and there is no money to keep the power on.  The pool has turned green and the lawn has died.  But because this bleakest of houses is in a great location, it has now been in escrow three times.  The first buyer never deposited his $50,000 earnest money.  The second buyer struggled mightily to perform but could not get loan approval.  The third buyer’s appraiser found the place to be “uninhabitable” and the loan cannot be approved without multiple costly repairs.  The trust has no money to make them.  At this point the buyer is preparing to negotiate an agreement to make the repairs before the loan funds, a  highly unusual situation.  The escrow is in a stall.

House B is in La Canada, just half a block from the commercial high street, in the only area of La Canada zoned for multiple-family real estate.  This one is a duplex. The husband died some time ago and the wife began renting out the second half of the house.  She had been a fashionable, beautiful woman but dementia settled in.  Eventually she needed a full-time caregiver and then a conservator.  I was hired to list the house by the conservator, a lovely woman, and her husband, who had visited and helped the owner for many years.

It was a trial clearing out this house, which had been lovingly used and lately neglected by its beautiful owner.  It took many weeks to decide how to remove and appraise the contents of this overstuffed house.  The owner was moved to a care facility which she instantly embraced.  The house needed a new owner to embrace it.  I was finally informed the house was ready to list.  I had it cleaned and set up an appointment for a carpet shampoo.  The rest awaited a complete overhaul by the new owner.  One of the agents in my office happened by as I was preparing the brochure.  She said she and her husband were looking for a project.  Could they look?

Two hours later I received a phone call.  They wanted to buy it.  They wanted to pay cash.  They would close in one week.  And they did.  The fumigation tent is in place.  New floors are already being shipped.  The siding will be ripped out,  the cabinetry replaced.  Those tired and stained shag rugs will be coming up.  There’s a white picket fence and a Cape-Cod cottage look in its future.  That old place is smiling.  So am I.  This is what makes real estate sales so worth it.

Can you tell from the photos which house is A and which is B?   Did one house sell quickly, and to just the right people, because its ghosts are happy?  Does the other languish in escrow because they are sad?

Therein lies the tale.

What’s a Short Sale and Why Should I Care Anyway?


Why is everybody talking about a short sale?  Why is it called short anyway?  All that means is that the property is no longer worth what is owed on the property and so the lender, even if paid all the proceeds of the sale, would be “short” some funds.  I don’t know if that’s the actual derivation of the term but it is how I like to think about it.  Lenders, not being charitable institutions, don’t like to accept less than what is owed to them.  But these days a lot of them will.  It may take a long time and involve sending in the same paperwork multiple times to multiple people.  It will definitely take a hardship letter because banks don’t do this just because your house is no longer worth what is owed.  You have to show that you can no longer afford the loans due to hardship.  This could be loss of a job, divorce, death, etc.  So, why does that matter in La Canada? I promise I’ll tell you why.

Let’s backtrack.  There are actually five active short sales in La Canada.  Strangely enough three of them are on the same street.  Hilldale Drive.

Hilldale Drive is the bane of the La Canada realtor.  Why?  Because it is on probably the narrowest street in town, on the side of a hill, and you can’t see around the corners, and you can only park on one side.  So if you want to caravan or show property on the street you are already risking your fenders, your side mirror and perhaps your actual life.  So my car only grudgingly goes up there.  I don’t know where they got the “dale” part of this street but I surely get the hill.

This street does have an amazing view.  But because it is also near the freeway and in back of a mall, it has some of the lowest-priced real estate in La Canada.  The street even has a vacant lot!  See left.

Here are the three properties listed for sale on Hilldale. 

1.  1920 Hilldale.  It is listed at $544,500.  A first loan and then a second, totalling $675,000, were taken out against the property. At 1536 square feet and 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, this property is a true bargain for La Canada, and the second cheapest house currently listed there.  It’s only been on the market for 7 days so I haven’t even seen it yet.  It’s the new kid.

2.  1932 Hilldale.  This is a 4 bedroom, 2 bath house of approximately 1800 square feet and it is listed at $675,000. Loans totalling $855,000 were taken out against it. Personally I think it has to be reduced quite a bit to attract a buyer, especially in view of what that new listing on the block came in at.  Because the street is the street  is the street and we know what they say about location.  Here is the garage because the street goes down the hill from it and unless I was in a helicopter I couldn’t get a shot of it.   

3.  2059 Hilldale.  Listed at $650,000 with a first loan against it of $775,000.  Three bedrooms, two baths, 1874 square feet, and nestled into the hill instead of hanging from it.  I got a shot of the garage, but the house is set way back from that. See below.

What these three have in common apart from their address is that the loans total more than the price.  Substantially more.  So the owners of these houses get nothing out of the sale.  The short sale lenders, assuming they agree, get something for their money, probably more than they would get with a foreclosure.  They are also more likely to get a house in good condition and get it more quickly than with a foreclosure. 

This leaves two more short sales in La Canada, and I’m going to focus on one of them just to give you an example of how these typically work. 

4271 Orange Knoll Avenue is a traditional 2471 square foot family house on a cul-de-sac.   I almost said quiet cul-de-sac but I stopped myself because that is one of the problems.  This house backs up onto a freeway, too.  Not the same freeway as the Hilldale properties, but a freeway nevertheless. This house is listed at $849,000.  It has 4 bedrooms, 3 baths, a master suite with a fireplace and a master bath with a spa tub.  The kitchen has granite counters.  There’s a formal dining room.  There are hardwood floors throughout.  The backyard has a concrete patio with gazebo and the property is almost 9000 square feet.  The problem?  Let’s look at its history.

For starters it has a first loan of $709,600.  Not so bad.  Here’s the kicker.  It’s also carrying a second at $226,400. Now these loans have been paid down.  They come in at around $900,000 now.  Not counting fees, penalties and missed payments.  But you see the problem.

This property sold in June of 2005 for $887,000.Three years later it was listed for sale at  $1,195,000.  That was March, 2008.  Real estate was already heading south.  That listing expired without selling in July, then relisted by the same agent at the same price.  Guess what?  It still failed to sell.  It was reduced by $100,000 and continued to  languish on the market.  In December of 2008 it was relisted at $1,145,000.  That listing expired in March of 2009.  In April, 2009, a different agent listed it at the much more realistic price of $899,000:  it had become a short sale.  At the end of that year it was withdrawn from the market while the seller explored bankruptcy.

On March 14, 2011 the property came on the market again at its current price of $849,000.  And there it sits.  The listing agent says that despite the fact that it is a short sale and the seller will make NO money, he refuses to reduce it to the level which would attract an offer.  And who can blame him?  At least he has a roof over his head.  For now.

So why does this matter?  I promised at the beginning of this post to tell you why.  It matters because every time a short sale closes, our property values reflect those new, low prices.  Those sales become comps for our houses.  Zillow and CyberHomes and many other sites pick up those sales and average them in.  So do appraisers.  Buyers look at those comps.  Those short sales affect us whether they are our houses, our neighbors’, or way at the other side of town on a windy narrow street set on a hill overlooking a freeway.  Their loss is our loss.  Their hill is our hill.  Like it or not.