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Real Estate newsletter: Cockroaches and code violations – Los Angeles Times



Welcome back to the Real Estate newsletter. This week we have it all: a luxury villa in Hollywood Hills, a sprawling ranch near Big Bear, a broken-down sailboat on the San Francisco Bay and a Highland Park home riddled with cockroaches.

Or at least it was, until a pair of architects turned the decrepit, code-violating residence into a “must-have home.” Lisa Boone tells the unconventional story in which the single-family residence was cut in half and now consists of a granny flat in front and a main house in back. To make a buck in this historically hot market, it helps to get creative.

The second week of November also saw two notable — but very different — listings. The first surfaced in the Hollywood Hills, where singer and “Cinderella” star Camila Cabello put her Spanish-style villa on the market for $4 million. She might be in search of a bit more security after the house was broken into earlier this year.

The other popped up in the San Bernardino Mountains outside Big Bear Lake, where a 377-acre nature resort known as Holcomb Valley Ranch listed for $12 million. By far the biggest property available in the area, the scenic retreat once served as a gold mining settlement, then a cattle ranch, before becoming a campground and event space with cabins, lodges and a few fun additions such as a climbing wall, zip line and archery range.

Orange County got some big news as well, as “Selling Sunset” star Jason Oppenheim announced a spinoff series called “Selling the OC.” The Netflix show will bring its mix of real estate and reality drama down south, and to christen the announcement, Oppenheim bought a $7-million mansion for himself in Newport Beach.

We also got a slice of life from San Francisco Bay, where a group of “anchor-outs,” or those who live illegally and rent-free aboard boats — in various states of disrepair — on the water, are facing a crackdown from authorities. In August, city officials announced a five-year plan to clear what they described as floating homeless encampments — a move that might bring an end to the nautical way of life that some have led for decades.

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

From cockroaches to mini compound

Two women sit in a living room.

Architects Melissa Shin and Amanda Shin sit in the living room of Amanda’s house.
(Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

The five-bedroom, two-bathroom house was advertised as “a charming fixer, traditional style home in the heart of Highland Park,” writes Lisa Boone.

In reality, it was legally uninhabitable because of multiple unpermitted additions over the years that had resulted in substandard notices from the city and thousands of dollars in unpaid liens.

In 2014, the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety’s code enforcement unit cited the owners for an illegal garage conversion, which might explain why the house fell out of escrow multiple times, even in L.A.’s red-hot real estate market. Other flaws: The electrical wiring was not up to code. Nor was the plumbing. And the front door and porch had been illegally altered and were in violation of historic preservation overlay zone standards.

Despite the red flags, architects Melissa and Amanda Shin of Shin Shin Architecture purchased the property in 2019 in hopes of realizing their professional work in a personal way: by creating a home for Amanda along with an accessory dwelling unit, or ADU, rental that would subsidize the renovation and add more housing to the neighborhood.

Singer looks to sell after break-in

The rear of an upscale multiple-story home with a pool

Camila Cabello added a recording studio and vocal booth to the three-story home during her stay.
(Neue Focus)

A few months after her Hollywood Hills villa was broken into, singer Camila Cabello is shopping the property around for $4 million.

It’s a relatively short stay for the “Cinderella” star, who paid $3.375 million for the Spanish-style abode in 2019.

She found time to make some changes during the two-year stretch, converting one of the bedrooms into a recording studio and adding a vocal booth to the two-car garage. Other additions include security cameras, an intercom system and alarm.

377 acres up for grabs in the mountains

An aerial view shows land with evergreen trees and, in the background, mountains.

Holcomb Valley Ranch has plenty of land, as well as a variety of campground buildings, a climbing wall, a zip line, an archery range and an amphitheater.
(Nicholas Marx)

About four miles north of Big Bear Lake, a sprawling nature resort known as Holcomb Valley Ranch just hit the market for $12 million.

At 377 acres, it’s by far the biggest property currently available around the mountain city and also the most expensive.

Made up of meadows, forests, mountains and fields, the scenic retreat has served many purposes over the years, including as a gold mining settlement, a cattle ranch and a campsite for Boy Scouts of America, which bought the land in the 1960s. Today, it primarily serves as a campground and event space, hosting weddings, corporate retreats and music festivals.

It’s being marketed as a development opportunity, and the ranch comes with approved use as an outdoor hospitality resort with 37 buildings that combine for roughly 14,000 square feet. There’s also approval for 380 lots that could hold luxury tents or guest cabins.

A new mansion and show for reality star

An exterior view of a home shows a double garage, a stone covered entryway and the two-story mansion.

Built in 2017, the Mediterranean-style mansion fits six bedrooms, eight bathrooms and two garages into 13,000 square feet.
(The Oppenheim Group)

“Selling Sunset,” the hit Netflix series that mashes up luxury real estate and reality drama, is making its way to Orange County.

The show’s star, Jason Oppenheim, announced on Tuesday a spinoff series titled “Selling the OC,” and it looks like he’ll be spending a lot more time in the area. In October, he dropped $7 million on a 13,000-square-foot showplace in Newport Beach.

Built in 2017, the Mediterranean-style mansion sits a few miles north of the Oppenheim Group’s new office in Corona del Mar, which the brokerage opened earlier this year.

‘Floating homeless encampment’ faces extinction

A man in a beanie crouches alongside a boat moored at a dock.

Chad Wycliffe, alongside the Vadura — a nearly century-old teak yacht that’s moored in Richardson Bay — has been living on the bay on and off since he was a teenager.
(Rachel Scheier / For The Times)

Greg Baker likes to say that the only way he’s leaving his home, a broken-down 40-foot sailboat anchored in a sparkling estuary north of the Golden Gate Bridge, is in handcuffs or a black plastic bag, writes Rachel Scheier.

“I like the peace, the quiet — if I stub my toe, I can holler,” said Baker, who at 82 has been living here, in one vessel or another, for half a century.

Lately though, life has been anything but peaceful on the bay. Baker and his fellow anchor-outs, as they’re known, have long lived illegally and rent-free in the sightline of some of America’s priciest real estate, and now authorities in Sausalito and other neighboring communities want them gone. The battle has pitted the forces of gentrification against Sausalito’s fading identity as a freewheeling maritime town that has always been a refuge for rebels and dropouts.

Around 90 vessels in various states of disrepair bob amid the seagulls and paddle-boarders. To the flinty salts who occupy these rusting tugboats and de-masted sloops, Richardson Bay is sacred, a last bastion of living free on the water in a Bay Area of Apple Stores and $3,000-a-month studio apartments.

What we’re reading

While home prices soar, one Southern California community is offering up a huge bargain for low-income buyers. As part of its affordable housing program, the city of Carlsbad will soon be accepting applications for a batch of condos that start at $200,000, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports.

Con artists have come up with a scam in Detroit where they pretend to be landlords and rent out properties they don’t own. Advocates say as many as 1 in 10 tenants facing eviction fall victim to the ruse, and the culprits rarely face consequences. NBC News has the story.

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The Bank of Canada Only Sees 2 Real Estate Bubbles and Vancouver Isn’t One of Them – Better Dwelling



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The Bank of Canada Only Sees 2 Real Estate Bubbles and Vancouver Isn’t One of Them  Better Dwelling

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House prices in Canada will rise higher in 2022, real-estate report says – CTV News




Housing prices in Canada are expected to increase steadily in 2022, with inter-provincial migration continuing in many regions and a short supply of homes in those areas pushing up costs, according to Re/Max’s housing market outlook report published Wednesday.

Sale prices are projected to go up by 9.2 per cent on average across the country next year, the real-estate company estimates. It would follow an already “sensational” year in terms of sales and price appreciation, Re/Max’s president says.

“In the history of our nation, I don’t know of, certainly not in my tenure, of more than 95% of markets being in seller’s market territory,” he told in a phone interview. “So it can’t be overstated enough how strong the market was in Canada in 2021.”

That momentum will likely carry forward into next year, Alexander says, with 36 of 38 markets across the country poised to maintain their seller’s status.

Another trend he suspects will continue is inter-provincial migration as investors look for more affordable places to set up shop. The ability to work from home during the COVID-19 pandemic has given some homebuyers the flexibility to shop in different places.

“Remote work has really allowed people to set up in ways that weren’t possible before the pandemic,” Alexander said. “We”e hearing of some people that have moved to a different province but still hold their job in the province they left.”

The report indicates short supply in areas with high demand due to migration is a key factor in driving up the cost of real estate.

Despite prices seemingly set to continue going up, making home ownership more expensive for Canadians, the report says about half of residents across the country still view buying a house as a good investment option for next year.

“I don’t think people are nervous at all,” Alexander said of the real-estate market. “We surveyed a lot of consumers and more than half are confident that the market is going to remain strong for next year.”

Apart from outlining industry trends, the report breaks things down region by region in Canada, offering predictions and projections for different areas in the coming year.

In Western Canada, Calgary and Edmonton became seller’s markets this year, a trend that’s expected to continue into 2022. The report attributes this to heightened demand coming from homebuyers migrating from Ontario and British Columbia while supply remained low.

Cities such as Victoria, Nanaimo and Kelowna in B.C., along with Regina in Saskatchewan, also apparently saw a boost due to incoming buyers searching for more affordability.

Winnipeg is said to be an outlier and it seems will remain a buyer’s market next year, the report says, apparently due to more remote working options in the area.

Brokers in Ontario anticipate steady market activity and price growth in 2022, at least on average. Several regions experienced wild price appreciations across all property types this year, including Brampton (25 per cent), Durham (29 per cent) and London (30 per cent), while Toronto only saw a seven-per-cent increase.

All regions in Atlantic Canada are currently seller’s markets, according to the report, and could see sale prices rise between five and 20 per cent next year.

The spike in demand seems to be driven by out-of-province buyers from Ontario moving to cities like Moncton, Fredericton, Halifax, Charlottetown and St. John’s in search of more affordability.

Although places like Charlottetown may cool off, sales prices in Halifax and Moncton are projected to increase by 16 and 20 per cent, respectively.

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An eight-inch start to real estate riches – The Globe and Mail



The sliver lot at 1060 Danforth Ave. is part of a vacant lot between a church to the west and a retail store to the east in Toronto.D’Arcy McGovern/The Globe and Mail

A most unusual parcel of land for sale on a busy Toronto avenue is putting to the test the question of whether land has intrinsic value, regardless of its utility.

For sale is 1060 Danforth Ave., an address sandwiched between a church and a medical office about a half-block away from the Donlands subway station. Listed for $49,999, the price is a relative bargain for the Danforth, given the rapid rise in land prices in Toronto. But there is a catch: It is105 feet deep – but less than a foot wide.

“We didn’t list it as a joke,” said Anthony De Cesare of Royal LePage Maximum Realty. “I thought someone would want it.”

Mr. De Cesare met his client, Carlo Scarcello, at the corner store and deli in Woodbridge that Mr. Scarcello runs (he recommends the prosciutto and provolone sandwich) and agreed to help sell his house. But Mr. Scarcello also asked Mr. De Cesare to look into selling this little chunk of Danforth that he also owned. “I put it on MLS and I got so many calls from people,” he said, at least until they found out how wide it was.

Property records help fill in some details about how the strip of land came to be: In 1975, Ruby Gilbert was executing the last will and testament of her late father, Charles Gilbert, who had transferred to his estate a strip of the parcel that is a little more than eight inches wide at the southern half of the property, and then widens a bit as it travels the 105 feet to its northern boundary to a princely 15½ inches. The land extends partway under the wall of the building at 1066 Danforth Ave. (a pharmacy and medical centre), and allows for the shared use of it, such as it is. In 1977, Ms. Gilbert granted the land to her friend Gordon Davidson for $2.00, with the following explanation: “The land has very little value, and as the grantor has no use for it and is a good friend of the grantee, she wishes to transfer the land to the grantee for nominal consideration.”

The records show that 30 years later, Mr. Davidson fell into property tax arrears (the annual property tax bill is about $69 now) and the property was auctioned off by the city and was purchased by Mr. Scarcello in 2013 for $5,065.

“You know what, at this price, I couldn’t afford to resist it,” Mr. Scarcello said. “I always had issues with money my whole life, but I wanted to build myself up to not be always struggling. To me, it was like my chance to buy a piece of land. I figured only land would help me build myself up.”

In a way, the fact of land ownership was more valuable to Mr. Scarcello than any practical use of that land. “Land is about the only thing that can’t fly away. … It gives position and influence and political power,” or at least that’s the view of the landed gentry in Victorian-era England as imagined by Anthony Trollope’s 1867 novel The Last Chronicle of Barset.

“My friends had a lot of laughs with it,” Mr. Scarcello said. “I tell them I own a piece of land; they joke you have to turn sideways to get on it!”

Mr. Scacello said he’s had many ideas of what to do with the sliver of land, everything from planting sunflowers (a passion of his) to maybe renting it out for a billboard. “I was thinking of putting a mailbox on there, maybe anybody overseas could want a Canadian address.” Other than waging a futile battle to keep it graffiti-free he has never managed to improve the land.

On the other hand, it’s possible he could earn a return just by virtue of the passage of time.

According to real estate data experts Altus Group, the cost of residential development land in Toronto has soared 567 per cent since the year 2000. According to Ray Wong, vice-pPresident of Data Operations at Altus Group, the year-to-year data are a little lumpy because the price per acre tends to ebb and flow based on what kind of land sells, but the trend is still way up. Consider that even just in 2010 the price per acre of development land in Toronto was $2.4-million and it is topping $6.9-million an acre in 2021. One factor driving prices recently is scarcity: There are fewer sites and smaller ones hitting the market in the past two years. Between the third quarter of 2020 and the third quarter of 2021, Mr. Wong said development land prices more than doubled. “I was a little bit taken aback by the increases,” he said. “I’m not surprised, but I was little taken aback. That’s better than the stock market!”

Mr. De Cesare hopes someone might purchase this slice of Toronto in order to do a new development. There’s a mid-rise condo project under way just a few addresses west, so it is not entirely impossible. But anyone hoping to squat on the land should be prepared to wait for a payoff, according to experts.

“If you look at land, everything’s been inflated, [Mr. Scarcello’s price is] not out of whack, but it could be sitting there for a long time,” said Ari Silverberg, president of Harbour Equity. Mr. Silverberg does land assembly acquisitions to create developable lands in the GTA, and he’s not sure Mr. Scarcello will get many multiples (let alone 10 times) on his original purchase of such a narrow strip of land. “I truthfully haven’t run into that before; $5,000-$10,000 sounds like the right number. I don’t know that someone bucks up and pays $50,000. If they really wanted to make money, get the two guys beside them together and package it. At that point, paying an extra $50,000 or $100,000 probably doesn’t matter.”

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