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Real Estate newsletter: $1 homes in Italy – Los Angeles Times

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Welcome back to the Real Estate newsletter, which this week is anchored by a transmission from the rolling hills of rural Italy.

If Southern California home prices have you down — and you happen to have a dollar lying around — you’re in luck. Eager to attract new residents, towns and villages across Italy have historic homes on the market for around $1. They’d cost even less, but it’s technically illegal to give a property away for free.

Unfortunately, there are no such bargains in the still-hot L.A. market. Compare that one-buck bucolic retreat in the Italian countryside with the $14 million needed to buy a modern home above the Sunset Strip. That’s how much Ariana Grande hauled in for her nest in the Bird Streets of Hollywood Hills — $300,000 more than she paid for the place last year.

The “Most Dramatic Listing of the Week Award” goes to NBA star Ben Simmons; not because of the house itself, but the circumstances behind it. The Philadelphia 76ers point guard demanded a trade during the offseason, and after the team refused, he put his custom mansion outside Philly on the market for $5 million. The listing surfaced one day after he was kicked out of practice and suspended for a game due to conduct detrimental to the team.

If you’re getting tired of scrolling through photos of extravagant mansions such as these online, try checking them out in person. Every weekend, open houses for homes that cost anywhere from $10 million to $40 million pop up across L.A. County, and The Times published a guide on how to find them.

We were also treated this week to two deeply reported columns from Erika D. Smith, who explored gentrification and the housing situation in South L.A. One column explores why real estate in the area is getting more expensive, and the other issues a call to action best summarized by a quote straight out of the story: “Don’t sell your house if you’re Black and you’re from this neighborhood. Don’t sell your damn house!”

While catching up on the latest, visit and like our Facebook page, where you can find real estate stories and updates throughout the week.

Italian estates are in the bargain bin

A view of Valle Peligna with Pratola Peligna in the background

A view of Valle Peligna with Pratola Peligna in the background. The town of Pratola Peligna, located about a two-hour drive east of Rome, is trying to attract new residents with as many as 250 homes each being sold for a euro.
(Angelo D’Amico / Getty Images)

The first time Heather and Steve Giammichele of Southern California decided to take a road trip through Steve’s ancestral homeland of Italy, their car broke down about three hours outside of Pisa. At least 30 townspeople stopped to make sure the couple were OK, and one ended up canceling his plans for the day to drive them all the way to the Pisa airport to make sure they got a new rental, writes Janna Brancolini.

The Giammicheles, from Orange County, were so struck by the hospitality that almost as soon as their 2019 trip ended, Heather began researching how they could move to Italy one day. A few months later, they enlisted an Italian company to help them start looking seriously at buying one of the country’s famously low-priced homes, including some on the market with the symbolic price of one euro — about $1.16.

The Giammicheles aren’t alone in the quest for a cheap home in the bel paese — or “beautiful country,” as Italy is known — and Palmoli isn’t alone in boasting properties to fulfill it. More and more Italian towns and villages eager to attract new residents are putting up homes for sale for as little as one euro (it’s illegal to give away property for free), a trend that was once confined to the impoverished and depopulated mountain towns in the south but that has spread since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic to wealthier northern regions such as Liguria and Lombardy.

Pop star sells a scenic home

The contemporary showplace sits on about a third of an acre in the Hollywood Hills’ Bird Streets neighborhood.

(Noel Kleinman)

It was a short stay in Hollywood Hills for Ariana Grande, who just sold her modern home above the Sunset Strip for $14 million after buying it last year. The deal ranks as one of the neighborhood’s priciest so far in 2021.

Records show she grabbed it for $13.7 million in June 2020 during a shopping spree that also saw her pay $6.75 million for Ellen DeGeneres’ Tudor-style retreat in Montecito a few weeks prior.

Perched in the Bird Streets, the hillside home boasts an interesting ownership history beyond the actress-turned-pop star. Before Grande, it was one of 138 properties owned by Woodbridge Group, the Sherman Oaks development company that orchestrated a $1.3-billion real estate Ponzi scheme that stole money from roughly 7,000 investors — many of them retirees. The former chief executive, Robert Shapiro, was sentenced to 25 years in prison for his role in the fraud.

Sixers star wants out

The 10,500-square-foot home comes with a movie theater, a candy room, an aquarium and a gaming room.

Custom-built in 2019, the 10,500-square-foot home comes with a movie theater, a candy room, an aquarium and a gaming room.
(Dave Apple)

Ben Simmons has made it quite clear that he’s no longer interested in playing for the Philadelphia 76ers, and his latest real estate move suggests he’s serious. The star point guard recently put his custom mansion in the area on the market for $5 million.

The listing surfaced a day after he was sent home from practice and suspended by the 76ers for one game due to conduct detrimental to the team.

The $5-million price tag is an ambitious ask for the three-time NBA all-star, who bought the place newly built in 2019 for $2.275 million a few months after inking a contract extension with the 76ers worth $170 million. He likely only lives there during basketball season; over the summer, he dropped $17.5 million on a 12,000-square-foot farmhouse in Hidden Hills.

How to tour a mega-mansion

This mansion at 10480 W. Sunset Blvd. is listed at $22.5 million.

This mansion at 10480 W. Sunset Blvd. is listed at $22.5 million.
(Nils Timm)

At any given moment in Southern California, in markets hot and cold, hundreds of stellar estates are listed for sale. And each weekend, dozens of these houses open to the masses, letting potential buyers — or just people bored on a Sunday afternoon — experience the opulence that’s supposedly reserved for the ultra-rich.

Take it from a luxury real estate reporter who lives with roommates: There’s a bizarre thrill that comes from entering spaces meant for those in tax brackets several above your own. If developers insist on cramming huge houses onto tiny lots, replacing the few vacant hills that L.A. has left with massive monuments to opulence and excess, why shouldn’t the general public at least be able to bear witness to such estates?

Typically, open houses for listings of $10 million or more are either appointment-only or exclusively for other real estate agents, but the sheer number of mansions on the market in Southern California means that there are dozens open to the public every single weekend.

Finding them couldn’t be easier: Just click this link, which automatically searches real estate database Redfin for open houses happening this weekend in L.A. County and sorts them from most expensive to least expensive.

Who’s buying South L.A.’s expensive houses?

A truck is parked in the driveway of a newly renovated home in the View Park community.

(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

Go to any open house in South L.A. and Black homebuyers are few and far between, writes Erika D. Smith.

And yet, it was only a generation ago that Black parents were dragging their kids from South L.A. to the San Fernando Valley for a better life, as colleague Sandy Banks recounted in a recent column. Never mind that for decades, those neighborhoods were notoriously whites-only.

Smith asked Stacy Lewis, head of the Leimert Park Neighborhood Assn., if he knew of many Black families other than his that had bought homes south of the 10 Freeway lately. He shook his head.

“No, just white people,” he said flatly.

As if on cue, a white woman in yoga pants strolled by the table where Smith and Lewis were sitting outside Harun Coffee.

A solution for gentrification in South L.A.

Pam Lumpkin, center, along with her husband, Emmanuel Baffo, and their daughter, Maddison Baffo, pose for a portrait.

Pam Lumpkin, center, along with her husband, Emmanuel Baffo, and their daughter, Maddison Baffo, pose for a portrait in front of their View Park home.
(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

Homes in Crenshaw, West Adams, Hyde Park, Leimert Park and, of course, Baldwin Village and View Park, now regularly sell for north of $1 million. Bidding wars among white families are common, writes Times columnist Erika D. Smith.

For longtime homeowners, many of whom are elderly and Black, the temptation to sell to a house flipper or a developer is at an all-time high. Equally high are the economic barriers for younger Black families who want to buy into a South L.A. neighborhood for the first time.

Ask many residents and they’ll call what’s happening a crisis of unchecked gentrification and displacement. They’ll curse opportunistic developers in one breath and, in the next, denounce a new state law that allows apartments and condos to be built on land that was previously designated for only one house.

But not real estate agent Pam Lumpkin. She is among a small but growing group of Black Angelenos who, though torn, prefer to see what’s happening in South L.A. as an opportunity.

One that if seized by enough Black people could lead to an unprecedented transfer of generational wealth and, by extension, slow the pace of gentrification. Or, if squandered, could put the neighborhoods that have long been at the center of Black life in Southern California at further risk of cultural erasure.

No pressure or anything.

What we’re reading

Using data from CoreLogic, the Washington Post ran down a list of the states and metro areas where home prices rose the most over the last year. Surprisingly, California wasn’t one of the five states with the sharpest price increases, but Los Angeles was the fifth-ranked metro area, with prices rising 14.9%. Only Phoenix, San Diego, Las Vegas and Denver ranked higher.

Homes are getting pricier across the entire country, not just in California. Yahoo Finance reports that the U.S. median home price just passed $400,000 for the first time ever, jumping nearly 20% year-over-year.

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Grand real estate sales on pace to set record in 2021 – Sky-Hi News

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This year is on track to see record real estate sales in Grand County, driven by a high demand for mountain properties and limited availability.

Data from the Grand County Board of Realtors shows that October was the 115th month of gains in median sales prices compared to the same month of the previous year, while the available inventory has dropped consistently during that same period.

In October, the one-year change in the median sales price for all properties was up 11.8% while the number of active listings was down 14.4%, according to the board of Realtors.



“Due to the lack of inventory and the need for housing up here, when properties do get put on the market, they’re just going so fast,” said Lindsey Morrow, an agent with Keller Williams Top of the Rockies. “This has been a really strong year for real estate in general.”

The September report from the Land Title Guarantee Company shows the average sales prices for single family and multi-family properties are at their highest reported rates with single family homes reaching an average of $876,425 and multi-family properties going for $510,367 on average.



So far this year, real estate sales have totaled more than $861 million, which is a 41.7% increase over the same time frame last year, according to the Land Title Guarantee Company.

Last year saw record sales with more than $994 million in transactions.

The high demand for property in Grand County can be credited to a number of factors, including more people working from home, low interest rates, rising sales prices in surrounding mountain communities and recreational opportunities.

“Grand County is only an hour and a half from Denver … we have the infrastructure and internet for people to (work at home), and I think people are realizing that Grand County has a great work-life balance,” Morrow said.

A majority of the buyers are from the Front Range, which has accounted for 61% of sales so far this year, per data compiled by Land Title Guarantee Company.

All the demand means that active listings go quick.

Properties sold in October saw a 52% decrease in the number of days on market compared to October 2020. The average townhouse or condo sold after only 48 days and single-family homes sold at 72 days, according to the Grand County Board of Realtors.

Morrow said the demand has slowed toward the end of the year, though it remains comparatively high when held up to previous years. Demand is the highest for properties priced below $600,000.

“It’s definitely calmed a little bit compared to the summer where there were multiple offers and properties spent two or three days on market,” she said. “Though as soon as you get into those properties in the $400,000 or $500,000, which are desirable, those are going off within five or six days.”

According to the Grand County Board of Realtors’ data, a majority of properties sold so far this year range from $600,000 to $999,999.

Inventory below $600,000 in Grand County is increasingly rare with only 13 single-family homes currently on the market.

On top of the incredible demand and low inventory, external factors such as rising building costs, labor shortages and problems in the supply chain have also contributed to the extreme sale prices.

Single-family properties going for $1 million to $1,999,999 in 2021 have increased by 52-55% increase compared to last year, GCBOR data shows.

However, there are still opportunities out there for buyers.

With rental rates increasing, Morrow urged interested buyers to reach out to a lender while interest rates remain favorable

“If people are willing to spend $3,000 per month on rent, that could potentially get them a $600,000 or $700,000 house, which there is inventory for,” she said.

Morrow said the market is sustaining itself so, unlike the 2008 market, it’s unlikely there would be a crash and current trends will likely continue until more inventory is available.

“Appraisal values of properties are still coming in at or above contract price,” she added. “The biggest thing is we don’t have the inventory for people moving into the community.”

Building permit numbers indicate that Grand County is picking up the pace on construction with 2021 seeing a record number of permits for single family homes, according to Steve Jensen of the Grand County Builders Association.

Not including construction in Fraser, Granby or Winter Park, Grand County has issued 237 permits for single family homes so far this year compared to the same period in 95 in 2020 and 108 in 2019. Of the permits issued this year, 89 are fire rebuilds.

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More Bad News For China’s Sorry Real Estate Market, UBS Says – Forbes

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The hits keep on coming for China’s economy.

This time the news is the country’s already beleaguered real estate sector is set for more bad news.

“Property activities are likely to fall further in the coming quarters, and without policy easing, property sales and starts could fall 20% or more by 2022,” states a recent report from Swiss bank UBS.

The current and near-future prospects for China’s property sector is the result of spillover from the Evergrande debt debacle earlier this year, policy tightening by the Chinese government, and shifts in domestic demand, the report explains.

In turn, a real estate slowdown could hit the broader economy hard slowing growth to 4% or even lower. That’s a standstill from China’s perspective.

In other words, China’s economy is likely headed for a hard landing soon if its government doesn’t take swift action.

“Our baseline forecast is for gradual policy easing, but there is a substantial risk for policy easing being delayed or insufficient,” the UBS report states.

Policy easing would likely mean lower cost of borrowing for domestic Chinese companies and or easier loan standards.

Still, the news comes on the back of a sharp contraction in China’s steel production earlier this year, at the same time when the world’s other top steel producers were seeing growth in output.

It doesn’t augur well for China’s economy overall so investors in Chinese or Hong Kong stocks might want to be cautious for the immediate future.

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Research: Small-business real estate lenders for San Francisco North Bay – North Bay Business Journal

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The latest North Bay Business Journal research (Lists.NorthBayBusinessJournal.com) focuses on lenders certified to handle U.S. Small Business Administration program loans for real estate.

A list of SBA 504 lenders (certified development companies) is ranked by the value of debenture portion placed in Sonoma, Marin, Napa and Solano counites from Oct. 1, 2020, through Sept. 30, 2021. Other information provided includes the number of loans made in each county.

Detailed information from the list is available for purchase as a spreadsheet via the links above.

Want to have your company surveyed for this and other lists? Contact Research Director Michelle Fox at michelle.fox@busjrnl.com or call 707-526-8682.

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