By SHEL SEGAL
While real estate agents often refer to the past selling season as “interesting,” Monrovia-based agent Donna Baker with Teles Properties in Monrovia is backing that up with some anecdotes and a small theory to back up this claim.
“It’s been an interesting middle of the year,” Baker said. “What has happened is that normally in the last 14 years I’ve been doing this is it always picks up in September. We understand that the summer months are going to be a little slower. … August is usually a slow month and in September it picks up. This year, August and September were completely dead.”
Baker said the feeling is wide-spread in the industry.
“We’re not the only ones experiencing that,” she said. “The title companies are experiencing it. The escrow companies, the contractors, the painters. Everyone we’ve talked to said that this is the weirdest end-of-summer ever.”
Conditions in the market shouldn’t have lent themselves to such a strange turn-of-events, Baker said.
“I don’t know what’s happened and why we came to such a swift halt,” she said. “I don’t think prices are too high and interest rates are at their historic lows. A 30-year fixed mortgage rate right now is below 4 percent. And, yet, we don’t have buyers.”
But she has one theory: money coming to investors from mainland China is not coming in the droves it recently was.
“Absolutely that money has slowed down,” Baker said. “The foreign buyers I’m selling to are getting loans instead of coming in with all cash. The Asian money has completely stopped and I don’t know for how long that is going to be.
So, is that good or bad? Baker said it can definitely be good for someone who brings a mortgage to the table.
“I don’t think the traditional homebuyer has realized the investor buying has come to a halt and that it’s a good opportunity to buy a house now because they’re not in competition to buy with an investor with all cash,” she said. “I think somebody needs to tell the buyers that.”
And how are prices in the San Gabriel Valley?
“Prices are still good, but that depends where you are,” she said. “In Pasadena, everything goes for over asking price with multiple offers, because in Pasadena that’s the nature of the beast. That doesn’t happen here in Monrovia. Overall, prices are stable. They’re certainly not going down.”
Business in real estate is starting now to get busier, Baker said, as Halloween approaches.
“It’s picking up now,” she said. “In early October we saw it picking up and getting busy again. Right now we’re experiencing good listings, and that’s a lot of sellers right now. Sellers are still dictating the market at this point, but there are no buyers. We’re sort of at a loss. We get offers, but it’s not heated like it was.”
And is this a good time or bad time for first-time home buyers?
“I think it is a good time for first-time buyers,” Baker said. “The lending restrictions have gotten more flexible. They made a lot of changes recently in the qualifying mortgages. And the 20 percent down payment is critical often. They need to know they have some opportunities out there they aren’t taking advantage of.”
(Shel Segal can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be followed via Twitter @segallanded.)