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Real Estate newsletter: Housing market continues to cool

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Welcome back to the Real Estate newsletter. This week’s stories showcased the vast range of Southern California properties, from a 64-square-foot tiny home all the way up to a 1.5-million-square-foot shopping mall.

But first, let’s start with the market itself, which continued to cool for the fourth straight month. In August, Southern California home sales were down 28.3% compared with a year earlier, and the median price held steady at $740,000 — the same mark as July, and $10,000 less than the median in June.

The main culprit for the slowdown is mortgage rates, which soared past 6% last week, the highest average since, you guessed it, 2008. The rates are pricing many Angelenos out of the market entirely, leaving both buyers and sellers frustrated in the wake of the pandemic’s record-setting market.

The week’s biggest story — in terms of square footage, at least — comes in Arcadia, where we revealed the new owner of the Westfield Santa Anita mall: Wen Shan Chang.

Chang is a real estate investor from Bradbury, and he spent $537.5 million on the 1.5-million-square-foot complex in August. The blockbuster deal closed just a few months after Westfield’s owner announced that it would sell all 24 of its US malls to focus on the European market.

Over in Benedict Canyon, we got the scoop on a battle brewing between celebrity residents over the proposal of a luxury hotel smack dab in the middle of a residential area.

The developer, Gary Safady, is trying to erect a hotel on a 33-acre site with 58 rooms and eight private residences. He’s got some stars on his side, including Mark Wahlberg, Ashton Kutcher and Orlando Bloom.

The opposition has some A-listers as well, including Dr. Phil, actress Jacqueline Bisset and Doors guitarist Robby Krieger. They’re three of hundred several neighbors who signed testimonials decrying the project, claiming it will bring traffic and noise to the typically quiet community.

Get your popcorn ready, because the fight is far from over.

Our biggest listing of the week took us down to San Diego County, where Sandra Bullock is shopping around her 91-acre ranch for $6 million. Dubbed the farm, the compound includes two homes, a workshop, chicken coop, and sweeping views of the surrounding canyons.

The Oscar winner has been on a selling spree over the last two years, unloading two homes in the Los Angeles area and putting a beach house in Malibu up for rent.

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

Market cools as mortgage rates soar

Mortgage rates just hit 6% and could further slow the housing market.

(Los Angeles Times photo illustration / Unsplash photo)

The Southern California median home price remained unchanged in August from the previous month as rising mortgage rates made houses even less affordable for many people, writes Andrew Khouri.

The six-county region’s median held steady at $740,000, the fourth consecutive month that prices didn’t increase, according to data released Tuesday by real estate firm DQNews. Sales of new and existing houses, condos and town homes dropped 28.3% from a year earlier.

The housing market has slowed sharply in recent months, a consequence of rising mortgage rates that priced many would-be buyers out of the market.

Rates have more than doubled in the last year and topped 6% last week for the first time since 2008. The steep rise in borrowing costs adds more than $1,000 to the monthly payment for a median-priced home of $740,000 — a cost many can’ t afford.

Buyer revealed for Santa Anita mall

The former Westfield Santa Anita shopping center has been renamed as the Shops at Santa Anita.

The mystery buyer of former Westfield Santa Anita shopping center has been identified as Wen Shan Chang.

(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

French retail property giant Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield announced last month that it had sold the former Westfield Santa Anita mall in Arcadia for $537.5 million in one of the most expensive mall sales in the United States in years. The property has been renamed the Shops at Santa Anita.

But who bought it was a mystery.

Unibail-Rodamco declined to identify the buyer, a rarity in large-scale real estate transactions, saying only that the person “is an established commercial real estate investor who owns other retail assets in Southern California.”

Property records now list Chang’s company Riderwood USA as the owner of the mall near the famed Santa Anita Park horse-racing venue. The real estate investor from nearby Bradbury apparently wants to keep a low profile as the previous owner continues to manage the property for him, writes Roger Vincent.

Celebrities clash over a Benedict Canyon hotel proposal

A man speaks behind a microphone, surrounded by others.

Mark Levin, the Save Our Canyon president, speaks during a news conference.

(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

A proposal to build a luxury hotel in a swanky, wooded enclave of Benedict Canyon has pitted some of LA’s biggest deal makers, movie executives and celebrities against each other in a pitched battle over the future of one of LA’s most expensive neighborhoods, writes Hugo Martín .

The Beverly Hills-adjacent site of the upscale hotel project — in a neighborhood where home prices range from $3 million to $100 million — is the 33-acre former home of billionaire businessman Kirk Kerkorian. The property was sold in 2015 for $19 million.

A planning committee meeting was scheduled to make a preliminary decision on the zoning change needed to build a commercial project in the residential area. If it clears that hurdle, a final approval would be required from the Los Angeles City Council sometime in the next few months.

On one side of the feud is Safady, a real estate developer and movie producer, who is proposing a hotel project with 58 guest rooms and suites, plus eight private residences, a 10,000-square-foot spa, gym, private theater and an eight -seat sushi bar, along with a restaurant. Among the project supporters, according to letters written on behalf of the project, in addition to Wahlberg, Kutcher and Bloom, are Mila Kunis, Gerard Butler, Adrien Brody and Jon Lovitz, plus rock musician Gene Simmons.

Several hundred neighbors have signed testimonials in opposition to the project. The neighborhood — shaded in oak, sycamore and willow trees — is peppered with signs decrying the hotel project.

Actress offers compound in the canyons

A home and pool are surrounded by gardens, trees and an avocado grove.

The 91-acre spread includes two homes surrounded by gardens, trees and an avocado grove.

(HomeSmart Realty West)

Sandra Bullock has amassed a country-spanning collection of real estate over the years. Now, she’s starting to sell.

The actress unloaded a Hollywood Hills home in 2018 and a West Hollywood condo earlier this year, and over in Malibu, she put a beach house up for rent at $30,000 per month. Her latest listing comes in Valley Center in the rugged hills of north San Diego County, where she’s shopping around a 91-acre ranch for $6 million.

Dubbed the Farm, the compound combines three different lots near the foothills of Palomar Mountain. It’s reached by a long, gated driveway that winds its way past eucalyptus trees, avocado groves and rose gardens, eventually arriving at a single-story ranch wrapped in adobe walls and flower-adorned verandas.

Mixed reviews for tiny-home villages

A man sits in a tiny home.

Kevin de León goes over his speech notes before the opening of Arroyo Seco Tiny Home Village.

(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

When columnist Steve Lopez asked LA City Councilman Kevin de León how things were going at the Eagle Rock tiny-home village that opened in March, he had good news and bad.

Many encampments have disappeared, and those who had lived in tents are now in safe, clean quarters, with access to food and bathrooms. The councilman pulled out his camera to show Lopez the “before” photos of people living in squalor, taking shelter under highway overpasses and fending off rodents.

But the tiny-home record is mixed so far, as redirecting the lives of people with severe challenges is complicated by a lack of desperately needed services.

“My staff and I, along with salt-of-the-earth social workers, are doing our jobs by getting people off the streets and putting a roof over their head,” De León said. “We need the county to do what they’re charged to do and provide the mental-health services and drug-treatment services our unhoused neighbors are crying out for.”

What we’re reading

If you thought 64 square feet was the smallest we were going in this newsletter, think again. In Eagle Rock, the fate of a 14-square-foot gas station is up in the air as the owner wants to demolish it, but preservationists are filing a historic monument application to save it, claiming it’s the oldest remaining service station in the city , according to the Eastsider. I’ll admit, the pictures make it look pretty shabby, but it’s nothing a little remodel can’t fix…right?

Real estate gymnastics have become a fine art. Whether it’s a celebrity buying a house under a secret limited liability company or a developer trying to get a home appraisal down to save on taxes, owners are always looking to game the system. This week, in the wake of the New York state attorney general suing former President Trump, alleging fraud, Slate looked into Trump’s real estate shenanigans, including schemes to increase the value of his properties in hopes of getting loans and lower interest rates.

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Genting Berhad to sell Miami real estate, seeking $1bln for New York investment, reports

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Genting Berhad is reportedly planning to sell part of its Miami real estate, seeking over $1 billion, which it plans to use to further other projects, such as a casino bid in New York.

According to Bloomberg, the group is auctioning off a 16-acre waterfront parcel, formerly home to the Miami Herald newspaper, directly across from Miami beach and nearby art and concert venues.

Resorts World Las Vegas Casino

In a statement from the group’s US subsidiary, Genting Americas East, it notes that the group will in coming months “be marshalling our resources with the goal of bringing a full commercial casino to our New York City property and expanding our already-tremendous offerings in Las Vegas”.

The company is aiming to get one of the three new casino licenses up for grabs in downstate New York, expected to be awarded next year. It currently operates a slot machine facility in Queens, with expected investment for an expanded hotel, resort and casino there – including table games – to top $1 billion, the publication notes.

The sale of the Miami property, which it acquired in 2011 for $236 million, would greatly help this move, as the company focuses further on the North American market amongst a downturn in some of its Asian segments.

Just last week, the Macau government announced Genting had been unsuccessful in its bid for a gaming concession in the territory.

The group, however, did note a narrowing of its third-quarter loss, to $1.84 million, as its Resorts World Genting property in Malaysia saw improvements and its $4.3 billion Resorts World Las Vegas property continued to ramp up after its opening last year.

Scraped dreams

Global Dream, cruise ship, Genting, Hong KongGlobal dream cruise ship

Regarding Genting’s Hong Kong operations, the winding up of its HK Dream Cruises segment could have proven to be a significant boon for Disney, who announced it was acquiring the under-construction Global Dream cruise ship.

According to WDWNT, Disney reportedly paid less than 3 percent of the value of the unfinished ship – or just $41 million, which it says was around 75 percent completed.

The original estimate for the ship’s cost was $1.8 billion.

The publication notes that Disney is expecting to spend another $1 billion converting and finishing the ship, but that the total costs are “anticipated to be less than our recent fleet additions”. The ship is expected to make its maiden voyage in 2025, with a passenger capacity of 6,000.

Genting World DreamGenting World Dream

The efforts to sell the ship come as another Genting ship, the World Dream, built in 2017, is reportedly to be auctioned. The cruise ship stopped sailing in March of 2022, after Dream Cruises sought bankruptcy protection.

According to Maritime Executive, bids for the cruise are being accepted by Singapore’s Sheriff’s Office by December 21st, with bidding to remain open for three months.

Currently, only one Genting ship has yet to be resolved, the Explorer Dream, currently anchored in Malaysia. This comes after early this week two Star Cruises ships arrived in India for scrapping.

ASEAN Gaming Summit

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Rising interest rates are having a mixed impact on real estate and construction in Vermont

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The doubling of interest rates over the past year is affecting construction and the real estate market across Vermont in different ways.

Some observers say the spike is scaring potential buyers away from purchasing homes.

Joe Carelli is among those observers. Carelli, president of Citizens Bank for New Hampshire and Vermont, said applications for mortgages and refinancings have slowed down significantly. But the economy, he added, is still robust.

“We’re continuing to see very strong employment numbers,” Carelli said. “The indicators today don’t point to a recession.”

Demand for housing remains very strong, according to David White, founder of White and Burke, a Burlington real estate management company. White said builders can still build single-family homes and sell them at a profit.

The construction of multifamily housing is harder, White said, because the costs of building have gone up dramatically, with rising interest rates partly to blame. And while rents have gone up, he said, outside of Chittenden County, developers cannot charge rents high enough to recover the cost of construction.

“Elsewhere in the state, it’s darn near impossible right now to make those numbers work,” White said.

He predicts that, with high interest rates, construction will slow down.

“As interest rates go up, it makes it harder to finance a project,” White said.

Average interest rates on a 30-year mortgage have risen from 3.1% a year ago to 6.6% now, according to the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp., which calculates the rates based on thousands of applications it receives from lenders across the country when borrowers apply for a mortgage.

Steve Kendall, the senior residential loan officer at Morrisville-based Union Bank, said he cannot remember a time when interest rates rose as quickly in a single year, but he does not see higher interest rates as having much of an impact. He said he has seen a slowdown in residential construction, but he attributes that to the fact that winter is coming, and not to interest rates.

According to Kendall, builders and remodelers are moving forward with residential and commercial projects.

“Since there’s such limited inventory, I don’t think the rates are going to bring developers and projects to a screeching halt, because there’s still the demand,” Kendall said.

In northwestern Vermont, the number of new homes on the market in October dropped from the previous year by 9.2% for single-family homes and 2.1% for townhouses and condos, according to the Northwest Vermont Realtor Association.

Sales of single-family homes fell during that time, too, by 20.7% for single-family homes and 4.5% for condos and townhouses.

Homes are still selling fast. The average single-family home in northwestern Vermont was on the market for 28 days and the average condo or townhouse for 13 days, according to the Northwest Vermont Realtor Association.

Prices also appear to keep rising. The median sales price for a single-family home rose by 9.8% in that year, to $435,000. The median sales price for a condo or townhouse rose by 16.3%, to $330,000.

The doubling of interest rates has had an effect on how much of a home first-time buyers can afford to purchase in central Vermont, according to Tim Heney, a real estate agent in Montpelier. Heney noted a decline in the number of buyers in the last two months, but he is not certain whether to attribute that decline to interest rates or to the annual dropoff in buyers toward the end of the year.

In Rutland, real estate agent Joshua Lemieux said he is no longer seeing offers of 30% to 35% above the asking price, as he did last year. Because of that, he said, even though people have to pay a higher interest rate on their mortgage, they are paying more or less the same as they would have at the lower interest rates that accompanied higher prices last year.

In Bennington, interest rates appear to be having an impact, according to real estate agent Lilli West.

“It definitely has slowed things down, and that is what the feds wanted to do,” West said. She said she sees this especially with regard to investors, who had made Bennington the focus of tremendous real estate activity in 2021.

“It’s really dried up the investors,” West said. Because they are being scared away by rising interest rates, they are no longer competing against first-time home buyers, and those buyers have an easier time now, West said.

“Now they’re finally able to not be in as many multiple-offer situations,” West said, though she was stressed that the real estate market is still strong.

“I would say it’s comparable to 2018 and 2019,” periods of strong economic growth nationwide, West said. It’s just not as strong as it was in the first two years of the Covid-19 pandemic.

She is noticing that the rising interest rates are leading sellers to rethink their decisions to sell.

“When you’re at a 30-year mortgage at 3%, you don’t want to lose that and go to a 7% mortgage,” West said. Interest rates hit 7% last month before easing to 6.6%, according to the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp.

In the Bennington area, West said, high interest rates have meant fewer cash buyers. She attributes that to the fact that cash buyers often pull money out of the stock market when they want to buy real estate, and with the stock market driven down by high interest rates, people are reluctant to pull their money out of the market at a loess.

But in Montpelier, Rutland and parts of southern Vermont, cash buyers are still showing up, real estate agents told VTDigger. Cash buyers can drive other buyers out because sellers do not have to wait for the buyer to come up with financing, and they can also drive bidding wars that leave first-time local buyers out of the picture.

‘We’re still seeing some cash sales,’ said Claudia Harris, a Weston-based real estate agent who also covers Ludlow, Winhall, Londonderry, Jamaica and Peru.

Want to stay on top of the latest business news? Sign up here to get a weekly email on all of VTDigger’s reporting on local companies and economic trends. And check out our new Business section here.

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Advice today on leasing commercial real estate might surprise you – Orange County Register

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Like the strong weather patterns of late, much can be said for the headwinds in our commercial real estate market this year.

Shaking off the cobwebs of a post-pandemic hangover, 2022 started with great momentum only to be cooled mid-year.

We received some decent economic news of late with the consumer price index not increasing as fast and some major retailers posting better earnings than expected. But our path forward still remains murky.

So what advice are we giving to tenants, investors and occupants who own? Allow me to categorize each.

tenants

Faced with a lease expiration at the end of this year, we recently recommended a client of ours renew for a short period of time, just six months, to gauge the market trajectory.

We’ve been watching what property has become available for several months. His options to relocate were limited and we’d even created a Plan B to stay put if we didn’t see some loosening in the market.

Lo and behold, we noticed a trick of new buildings hitting the market in October. Now it’s running about three a week. If you’re looking for space, this is a vast improvement vs. six months ago when we were lucky to see one every three weeks.

Another interesting metric is the asking rates have declined. Gone are the days when a newly available property was swept up before it was widely marketed. Every new deal was a new high. Not anymore.

Our advice centers around the belief in a future market softening. Tenants are becoming valuable again, especially if they pay on time and are easy on the building.

What’s causing the increase in supply? Some businesses faced with the new rent structure are headed out of state or out of business. What’s left in their wake are vacancies.

Investors

We see two sets of motivations these days: to defer taxes or not. Unless motivated by tax reasons, it might be wise to put your money in short-term treasuries—say, two years—and wait for the right opportunity to come along.

Institutional capital is largely sidelined and occupants are priced out. Private investors rule. If rents are softening in the face of rising interest rates, values ​​can only decline. Will there be better deals in mid-2023 vs. today? Our opinion is yes.

Certainly, if your investment is dictated by tax-deferred timeframes, you either transact or pay the capital gains taxes. But remember, the impetus of those buys was a sale. Our sense is they’ll be fewer equity sales as values ​​have declined or the market’s evaporated, leading to fewer tax-fueled purchases.

Occupants who own

We saw a voracious appetite from institutional capital targeting properties. Their pitch was a sky-high purchase price in return for a leaseback of two-10 years. This activity peaked in June.

With the uncertainty of recession, inflation and rising rates, these deals weren’t as attractive.

With more lease deals hitting, our prediction is some of these owners will need to sell, especially if faced with a refinance bullet or a shortage of dollars necessary to refurbish the building into rent-ready condition.

Once again, patience is key.

Allen C. Buchanan, SIOR, is a principal with Lee & Associates Commercial Real Estate Services in Orange. He can be reached at abuchanan@lee-associates.com or 714.564.7104.

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