Chinese drive surge in foreign home-buying in U.S., Southern California

Real estate sales to foreign buyers and new immigrants surged to new highs in the last year, according to a study released Tuesday by the National Assn. of Realtors, with the Southland being a prime destination.

Overseas buyers and newcomers to the U.S. accounted for $92 billion in home sales in the 12 months ending in March, NAR said. That’s up 35% from the prior 12-month period, and higher than the previous record of $82.5 billion set in 2012. These buyers made up roughly 7% of all U.S. home sales, by dollar value.

The increase was fueled by a 50% jump in activity from Chinese buyers, who bought $22 billion worth of U.S. real estate last year. Experts say many Chinese buyers see U.S. real estate as a better investment opportunity than is often available in China, and in some cases as a safe haven for cash. Many also buy homes here to put their children in U.S. schools.

And Chinese buyers, in particular, have an eye for Southern California. Los Angeles and Irvine were two of their top three destinations, according to the survey, with San Francisco ranking second. Chinese buyers have long been a factor in some parts of Southern California, particularly the San Gabriel Valley; as more come here, they’re spreading to new areas as well.

Los Angeles is the top choice for buyers of several other nationalities, too, according to data tracking searches of Buyers from India, the United Kingdom, Australia, Ireland and Russia were also most likely to search here. For Mexican buyers, San Diego was the top choice.

The Realtors Assn. said it expects foreign interest in U.S. real estate will continue to grow as the economy grows ever more global.

“We live in an international marketplace, so while all real estate is local, that does not mean that all property buyers are,” said NAR president Steve Brown. “Foreign buyers are being enticed to U.S. real estate because of what they recognize as attractive prices, economic stability and an incredible opportunity for investment in their future.”

Keep an eye on housing and real estate in Southern California.

Downtown L.A. development spreading south with planned SoLA Village


A $1-billion residential, hotel and retail complex is being planned south of the 10 Freeway in downtown Los Angeles as robust development promises to spread beyond the traditional boundaries of the neighborhood.

The proposed project, called SoLA Village, would rise just south of Washington Boulevard on a block and a half next to the former LA Mart, a large design center and showroom for the gift, interior design, and home furnishing industries.

Now known as the Reef, the high-rise built in the 1950s also provides incubator space for new creative firms and artists. The planned project would be an ambitious addition by its owners into two parking lots covering 7.5 acres on both sides of Broadway.

Plans call for a densely developed complex with skyscrapers and low- and mid-rise residential buildings along with outdoor plazas and terraces intended to create a pedestrian-oriented community.

“SoLA Village will be about place making,” said Ava Bromberg, head of operations for the Reef and the SoLA Village project. “With the Reef, we are turning creative space into more of a community and connecting that community to the surrounding neighborhoods.”

Bromberg oversaw development of Atwater Crossing, a mixed-use complex in the Atwater Village neighborhood of Los Angeles that incorporates housing, offices, manufacturing, a restaurant and live theater in an environment intended to nurture young firms in creative fields.

Both projects are controlled by limited liability companies headed by Ara Tavitian, a Glendale physician who invests in commercial real estate.

The developers hired well-known architecture firm Gensler to come up with the design for SoLA Village that will be submitted to city officials for approval.

“We’re not looking at this project as a singular fingerprint,” said Shawn Gehle, a design principal at Gensler. “It’s multiple projects within one project with diverse forms and materials.”

Plans call for a 1.66-million-square-foot development to be built in stages, probably starting with a 19-story, 208-room hotel. Guests might include people doing business at the Reef or attending events at the Los Angeles Convention Center.


Malibu Village Shopping Center is Sold!

Ron Howard lists East Coast estate with farm at $27.5 million

16x9So proud that Steve Sawaii my partner is a part of this amazing listing!

By Lauren Beale, LA Times

Ron Howard, the Oscar-winning director, has put his family home and farm up for sale near Greenwich, Conn., for $27.5 million.

The lakefront estate is made up of 32 acres of land straddling the Connecticut and New York border. In addition to a working farm, the property includes a more than 17,200-square-foot main residence, a guesthouse, an indoor sports complex, an observatory, riding trails and woods.

Howard and his wife, Cheryl, raised their family in the classic New England-style home. Among the rooms are a two-story office/library, a 14-seat theater, six bedrooms and 4.5 bathrooms. The guesthouse has two bedrooms and 2.5 bathrooms.

There’s an indoor saltwater swimming pool, a gym and a yoga studio. The sports complex houses an indoor sports court and a basketball half-court.

Howard, 60, won Academy Award best director and picture honors for “A Beautiful Mind” (2001). In addition to scores of producing and directing credits, he is also known for memorable roles in “The Andy Griffith Show” in the 1960s and “Happy Days” in the ‘70s and in the film “American Graffiti” (1973).

The Howards are selling now that their children have grown up.

Listing agents in the area include Lyn Stevens of Sotheby’s International Realty and Tamar Lurie of   Coldwell Banker. Steve Sawaii of Coldwell Banker, Los Angeles, was the referring broker.

Joe Hahn of Linkin Park sells his home in Brentwood

I am pleased to announce I represented the buyer on this recent sale!

Joe Hahn of the alt rock band Linkin Park has sold his home in Brentwood for $4 million.

Set in a six-home gated community, the contemporary house was built in 2002. Features include a rotunda staircase, floor-to-ceiling windows, solar power, an elevator, five bedrooms, six bathrooms, 6,893 square feet of living space and a three-car garage.,0,1424491.story#ixzz2zvW2lfiz

Growing demand for apartments pushes up rents

In LA we have seen rents rise quite a bit over the past few years. Almost to the point of being unfordable for some! Please read below to see where the current rental market is headed.

These are good times for U.S. landlords. For many tenants, not so much.

With demand for apartments surging, rents are projected to rise for a fifth straight year. Even a rise in apartment construction is unlikely to provide much relief anytime soon.

That bodes well for building owners and their investors. Yet the landlord-friendly trends will likely further strain the finances of many renters.

A 6% rise in apartment rents between 2000 and 2012 has been exacerbated by a 13% drop in income among renters nationally over the same period, according to a report from Apartment List, a rental housing website, which used inflation-adjusted figures.

“That’s what we call the affordability gap,” says John Kobs, Apartment List’s chief executive. “I don’t see that improving in the near future.”

Demand for rental housing has grown as the U.S. economy has strengthened since the end of the Great Recession nearly five years ago. Steady job growth has made it possible for more people to move out on their own and rent their own apartments. Yet rising home prices are preventing many from buying.

A combination of rising rents and sluggish pay gains will likely continue to weigh on the U.S. economy, which relies primarily on consumer spending.

Rental demand has risen in much of the U.S. since the housing market collapsed in 2007. A cascade of foreclosures forced many people out of their homes and into apartment leases. At the same time, construction of apartments was stalled until the last couple of years because many builders couldn’t get loans during the credit crisis.

Add to that several recent trends, from rising mortgage rates to stagnant pay, which have combined to discourage many people from buying homes. It’s resulted in fewer places to lease and a bump up in rents.

The national vacancy rate for apartments shrank from 8% to 4.1% from 2009 to 2013, according to commercial real estate data provider Reis.

As a result, landlords were able to raise rents in many markets. The average national effective rent rose 12% to $1,083 during those years, according to Reis, which tracked data for apartments in buildings with 40 units or more. Effective rent is what a tenant pays after factoring in landlord concessions, such as a free month at move-in.

Over the same period, the median price of an existing U.S. home has risen about 14%, according to data from the National Association of Realtors.

Among major U.S. markets, rents rose the most in Seattle in 2013, up 7.1% from the year before, according to Reis. The second-biggest increase, 5.6%, was in San Francisco. Nationwide, effective rent rose 3.2% last year compared with 2012. Rents rose even as the nation added about 127,000 apartments, the most since 2009, according to Reis. The addition of those apartments hasn’t been enough to absorb the surging demand for rentals.

The Picerne Group is among the apartment complex owners with buildings under construction. The company, which owns properties in California, Arizona, Nevada and Colorado, expects to break ground soon on luxury rental buildings in the Southern California cities of Cerritos and Ontario. The buildings, which have nearly 500 units combined, are due to open next year, says Brad Perozzi, managing director of the company, based in San Juan Capistrano, Calif.

To read the full article CLICK HERE


Dodgers home opener to unveil stadium upgrades, traffic adjustments

Fans heading to Dodger Stadium on Friday for the team’s home opener against the San Francisco Giants can expect a number of changes in areas such as traffic management, amenities and security measures.

The team’s new ownership, which includes former Laker Magic Johnson, has also invested more than $150 million in the ballpark the last two seasons, upgrading the infrastructure and adding some fan-friendly features.

There are now expansive plazas beyond right and left field with a team store, bar and a variety of concessions. A new walkway allows fans to circle the field inside the stadium for the first time, with potential stops at lounge areas overlooking both bullpens.

There are also large children’s play areas.

The stadium’s approach to security will also be different, an issue that came to the fore after Giants fan Bryan Stow was badly beaten in the parking lot.

The home opener comes just days after an assessment by Major League Baseball found there was a “culture of apathy and indifference” among stadium staffers prior to the attack. The findings were revealed in court documents in a lawsuit against the Dodgers that accuses the team’s previous management under Frank McCourt of not adequately protecting fans.

The plaintiffs’ attorney in that case, Tom Girardi, told The Times that the team had made “huge” safety improvements and addressed concerns raised in the MLB report since coming under new ownership.

Weeks before Friday’s home opener, Giants third base coach Tim Flannery also reflected on the Bryan Stow incident in a video posted to YouTube.

But for the residents who live around the stadium in Chavez Ravine, traffic and gridlock will be the foremost concern ahead of the sold-out 1 p.m. game.

For the first time in almost 20 years, a gate on Scott Avenue will be unlocked and used as a fifth permanent entrance and exit for the stadium, raising traffic fears among residents.

The gate had been closed since 1996, when Echo Park residents successfully lobbied then-owner Peter O’Malley to leave it shut to quell game-day traffic.

Renata Simril, the Dodgers’ senior vice president of external affairs, said the decision to use the fifth gate was part of an effort to alleviate traffic that backs up on Sunset Boulevard on game days. About 15,000 to 20,000 cars show up at the stadium for any given game.

“Our goal is to get them off the public streets and into the stadium as quickly as possible,” Simril said, calling the change part of a multipronged effort to deal with what’s anticipated to be record attendance.

Two of the lanes that funnel up Elysian Park Avenue from Sunset will turn left on Stadium Way and then take a right on Scott Avenue, she said, providing new space for cars to queue up. Simril emphasized, however, that Department of Transportation officials will man Scott where it intersects with Stadium Way and with Echo Park Avenue to deter game traffic from lining up along residential streets for stadium access.

Janet Marie Smith, the Dodgers’ executive supervising the renovations, said the team was also encouraging fans to use the Dodger Stadium Express, a complimentary shuttle service between the stadium and the Patsaouras Transit Plaza near the east portal of Union Station. The shuttle is free with a Dodgers game ticket, $1.50 without a ticket. The service starts 90 minutes before game time and ends 45 minutes after the final out. Parking at Union Station is $6.