Understanding Home Closing Costs in Southern California

Looking to buy a house in Northeast Los Angeles – NELA, as it is known – but unclear of the process and amount of money needed? A licensed Realtor can help you figure it out. But for ballpark purposes, it might help to do some preliminary study on your own.

NELA is, after all, one of the hottest markets in all of Los Angeles. Not just the obvious neighborhoods like Glendale and Pasadena, but in smaller, lesser-known neighborhoods.

You might be in love with the schools in Mt. Washington, the housing inventory in Highland Park or the neighborhoods of Eagle Rock, but you have to work through some of these details before you can call any of those places home.

Much is made about closing costs in real estate transactions, and yet these vary for several reasons. The single largest expense, the real estate commission, is covered by the seller (who pays the commission in a split between the buyer’s and the seller’s agents).

Fees the buyer will need to pay at the closing come with some variation; the following are the largest of such costs at closing:

Homeowner association fees – If the property is a condominium the seller might be in arrears with the homeowners association, in which case you will find this out before entering the sales contract. In distressed circumstances (foreclosures, near-foreclosures and short sales), these fees might amount to thousands of dollars.
Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) – If your down payment is less than 20% of the price of the property, you will be required to insure the mortgage at between 0.3% and 1.15% of the loan amount.
Origination fee to the lender – Even while you fix your dreams on a Victorian in Glassell Park, a two-unit duplex in Garvanza or fixer-upper in Hermon, you have to go through a large amount of paperwork with a would-be lender to prove your creditworthiness. And yes, they do charge fees at closing for all that fun.
Points – These enable you to change the terms of the loan to your favor if you pay one or more percentage points toward the mortgage amount. If you have the cash and plan to own the property for a decade or longer, paying a point or two upfront can save you much more over time.
Prorated property tax – As the LA tax year begins on July 1, you will need to cover whatever remains in the year in advance from the day of the closing.
Insurance premiums – Protecting the property (as required by all lenders) from damages and liability is required at closing also.
Escrow fees – Third parties performing escrow services need to be compensated for that work. Note that fee structures are not fixed or regulated by the state of California, but are generally set according to the size of the transaction.

Technically speaking there are multiple fees that will be part of the buyer’s closing costs but which the seller automatically pays for in a reimbursement. These include the city transfer tax, documentary transfer tax to title and the owners title policy. Multiple other fees under $500 (average) costs include the lender appraisal fee, credit report fee, prorated HOA fees, courier services related to the transaction, notary services, archiving fees, recording trust deed (to title), and loan tie-in fees.

Note that the process of looking at houses and negotiating a price, and perhaps that of qualifying for a loan, are typically more time consuming than the closing itself. An experienced realtor will be able to advise you on all these details, invariably to the point where you are told how much money to bring to the closing and in what form.

Echo Park Real Estate: A Look at the Numbers

From LA’s earliest days, people have wanted to live in the storied neighborhoods of NELA. In a densely populated area where residents are always in the process of coming and going, there are always homes for sale in Echo Park at any given time. Since the early 1920′s, the real estate here has been in demand and that is how it is today. Why? Let’s take a closer look and see what the numbers say.

This is an eclectic city located in Central Los Angeles about ten minutes from Downtown. At the center of the city is the renowned Echo Park Lake in Elysian Park, which is the site of special events like the Lotus Festival. It is northwest of Chinatown and Downtown, northeast of Westlake and south east of Silver Lake.

It is split in to four districts.

• Angelino Heights – This area is known for the beautiful Victorian homes that are preserved by the city’s ordinances.

• Elysian Heights – This area is historically known for being the home of famous counter-culture artists, filmmakers, architects and political radicals.

• Historic Filipino town – This section is located in the southwest section.

• Victor Heights – A lovely area scattered with Bungalows and Stucco homes that share breathtaking views of Los Angeles and the Civic Center.

Throughout the four districts, the most common types of homes are Bungalows, Cottages, Victorians and Stuccos. According to the 2000 U.S. Census there were 40,455 people in there. Spread over 2.4 square miles there were approximately 16,868 people per square mile. This makes Echo Park one of the highest density areas in Los Angeles County. The median household income was $37,708, which is low for Los Angeles County. The average household size was 3.0, which is average for the county.

This city has a high Walk Score of 83/100. This means that most errands can be accomplished on foot within the city. This city’s transit score is 62. This city has good transit and provides its residents with many public transportation options. These include the Metro Red and Metro Purple Line, numerous bus routes and ride sharing options from Relay Rides. This city received a bike score of 49 because of the steep hills and minimal bike lanes.

Three Ways to Increase Property Values

Real estate investors live and die by their ability to add value. With no added value, there are no profits. This is true with any business, but what makes real estate such a great business and a great investment, is the number of ways you can add value and cash in on big profits. Here are three ways you can add value to your properties.

Upgrades and Repairs: OK, this is the obvious one and is the reason fix and flippers can make money. Some repairs add a lot more value than it costs to do. The more creative you are with the improvements, the more value you can add. For example, I have a client that adds square footage to every house he buys. He really likes the inner city properties because they are the hardest to add square footage. You either need to finish an unfinished basement, or add a second story. There is not typically enough land on the lot to add an addition by increasing the foot print of the property. This client does a lot of basement finishes and “pop tops,” but where he has made the most money is the basement that is only 5 or 6 feet deep. He will go in and dig out the basement to a full 8 or 9 foot height and then finish it. Something most investors would not think of, so he is able to get the deal most other investors pass on. I have also seen some investors find houses that don’t really fit into a neighborhood and they make them fit. This could be limited bedrooms or bathrooms or funky floor plans. All of that can be changed. Obviously many cosmetic fixes like kitchens and bathrooms add a lot of value too. There is a lot more to it than this, but the idea is to buy a property at its true ‘as is’ value, (don’t over pay), and then add value with the repairs and upgrades.

Owner Finance: I love this one because it is so easy to add value with very little to no work. You will need to wait to cash in on your profits, but it is a way to increase a sell price significantly. You can also use this strategy to defer tax gains over a few years, instead of taking a big hit all in one year. When you have a property for sale there are a limited number of buyers for the house, although right now that pool of buyers seems pretty big. If you can increase the pool of buyers, the demand for that one house increases, which forces the price to go up. Someone that cannot qualify for an ordinary loan, limiting the supply of houses to choose from for that buyer, will likely buy your property. That also increases the price. You are adding value by giving them the chance to own a home that they normally would not be able to own. For this value, you should be compensated with a higher price and a decent interest rate on the profits, while you wait for the buyer to refinance and pay you off in full.

Shared Units: This is one area of real estate that I have not dabbled in, but it is extremely inviting. The idea here is to sell your property to multiple buyers. You are seeing this a lot in resort towns. It is always a vacation or second home. Have you ever been to a time share presentation? They are pretty enticing aren’t they? About 13 years ago my ex wife and I were in Florida and got sucked into a time share sales pitch. We decided to go because they offered us free tickets to Disney. We sat there for about an hour and a half and then the hard sale came. They were very good at selling the “idea” of the time share and had my ex wife sold. She asked me to move forward with the deal, but I could not bring myself to do it. I told her that I was not comfortable with an emotional purchase and that we needed time to think it through. “Can I please have our Disney tickets?” was my response. As we rode back to the hotel that afternoon, I started thinking about the math. Each unit can be sold to 52 different people because your purchase only gets you 1 week a year. Add that to the annual maintenance fees and the numbers are staggering. I know people who have flipped time shares successfully, because you can get them for free or near free on Craigslist, but it is not an investment I was interested in. With that said, I have considered doing a half or quarter share on a house in a ski town in Colorado. In this scenario, you are sharing a house with 1 to 3 other people so there is a ton more flexibility. You can use or rent out your weeks and you can be guaranteed valuable high demand weeks every year. It is a way to get a second home without the full expense. From the seller’s point of view, it is a way to get more for the house. ½ a share of a house is going to cost the buyer more than ½ of the fair market value. I have seen business plans from investors that would buy a house and quarter share it out. The idea was that after they improved the property and sold ¾ of the house to 3 different buyers, they would own the last ¼ free and clear. Obviously this strategy will work best in areas where people want second homes. The downside is if there are any improvements or major issues. I can see there being disagreements, so this is something you would want, as a buyer, to work out with all the other owners in writing before you buy.

Tricks You Should Play While Dealing With Commercial Landlords

Commercial real estate deals like leasing, renting and purchasing the office space or any other commercial properties can turn out to be disgraceful if you go bland in front of the landlords who are very much experienced in the field.

In order to avoid such things happening, you should be playing some tricks while dealing with commercial landlords.

So, what are those tricks that put you in an upper edge over the landlords in a deal?

There are lots of tricks, but the best and effective ones are here.

1. Don’t show your weaknesses

Well, your weakness can be a trump card for the landlords! It’s same as in other businesses; people look out for your weaknesses, and you’re out if you keep it to display.

Of course, you can’t be an expert in all the fields, but how you manage is what matters.

Suppose you are Looking for an Office Space in a specific area and you found one; the office space has all the amenities you were looking for, and you don’t want to look for any other spaces. In this case, if the landlords get to know you are in love with the property, definitely you will not be in a good position to negotiate. The landlord may also quote a high price for the property taking your urgency as a benefit.

2. Play like an expert (Even if you’re not)

The real estate sector is not for those who are not aware of the field and the market. However, you are looking out for an office space to set your business up, and not to get into the real estate business!

But what you need to know is it’s always a benefit for landlords when the tenants are not aware of the market value and the field. You’ll be in a position to accept and agree for whatever the landlords say. So, play like an expert even if you are a novice in the field of real estate. As said in the above point, don’t let them know that you have no idea about the market value.

3. Make a great first impression!

First impression is always the best impression!

Yes, when you meet the landlord in the deal, try building a great first impression. It definitely makes a huge difference that sometimes the landlords will be convinced for a low rent or the advance amount.

Reducing the cost is not the only reason for making a good impression at first, as there are lots of other benefits like the landlord might not be willing to proffer the space to any others even if they offer high rents. So, build an impression such that the landlord sees you as a potential and trustworthy tenant.

4. Hire a skilled commercial real estate agent

One of the simplest tricks ever to deal with experienced landlords is to hire a skilled commercial real estate agent. An experienced can play all the above mentioned tricks with great ease, and put you in an upper edge in the deal. Even when you are not in a good position to negotiate for a space, a skilled agent can completely turn the deal to your side making it rewarding.