Author Archives: Scott Farrell

Mortgage Rates creep down by 4%


Maybe the days of Rock Bottom Mortgage Interest rates are not numbered after all.

Once again, rates are creeping down towards 4%.

Mortgage rates started the year at 4.53%, and have sunk each week in 2014, falling a total of 0.3 percentage point.

Borrowers with a 4.23% mortgage would pay $982 a month on a $200,000 balance, compared with $1,017 on a 4.53% loan.

By Les Christie @CNNMoney

Luxury Home Prices Rise 7 Percent in 2014

(please contact your Thrive Realtor -Shawnte Northcutte at (310) 295-8000 for additional information on this article and how we can help you to buy or sell now while the market is hot)

The average price of a luxury home in Los Angeles County rose 7.1 percent in the first quarter of this year, compared to the first three months of last year, according to a study released today.

The cost was also up 1.9 percent over the previous quarter, which covered the final three months of 2012, according to the First Republic Prestige Home Index by First Republic Bank.

The average cost of a luxury home in the Los Angeles area in the first quarter of this year was $2.1 million, the highest in nearly four years, according to the index. That compares to $1.7 million in San Diego and $2.8 million in San Francisco.

“Limited inventory exists in many areas, and buyer demand is accelerating for properties in the most desirable neighborhoods,” said Katherine August-deWilde, the bank’s president and chief operating officer. “Many homes have received multiple offers and are selling over the asking prices.”

“The market was driven by real confidence in the economy, foreign buyers and wealthy people who no longer want to hold off buying homes,” Rose said. “Pent-up demand and a lack of inventory resulted in true competition in the market.”

“Last year, people who wanted to buy thought there was going to be more inventory, but that hasn’t materialized,” she said. “People are realizing that it is time to get into the market. The economy and optimism are definitely on the upswing.”

In Los Angeles County, the index tracks sales of luxury homes in Arcadia, Beverly Hills, Calabasas, La Canada Flintridge, Encino, Los Angeles, Malibu, Marina del Rey, North Hollywood, Pacific Palisades, Pasadena, Playa del Rey, Santa Monica, Studio City, and the West Los Angeles enclaves of Bel Air, Brentwood and Westwood.

First Republic Bank produces the Prestige Home Index each quarter with Fiserv CSW Inc., which provides automated property valuation services and home price metrics to U.S. financial institutions

Finding The Right Interior Designer For Your Home

Interior Design Interior

Architectural Digest

It is a good idea to hire an internal designer if the architect’s plan for your new house does not meet your needs or if you think that your home needs some improvements. Unfortunately, interior designers do not come cheap, especially if you are after a good one. And you should be looking for a good interior designer if you do not want to find yourself unsatisfied with the results. But how to find a good interior designer at a fair price? Well, it will not be an easy task but it is not impossible to get a quality service at a reasonable price.

Start the search for an interior designer by asking your friends, colleagues, neighbors, co-workers and other people you know if they know a good interior designer. It would be great if anyone of them had an interior designer in their house recently to be able to check the quality of his or her work. Keep in mind, however, that interior designers always try to suit their clients’ specific needs which is why you should not judge them by the work you see at your friends’ home alone because your friends may be perfectly satisfied with a design you consider absolutely unacceptable. Ask them if they are satisfied with the results and if the interior design meets their needs perfectly. If the answer is a big yes, they without a doubt had a good interior designer no matter what you think about the design

What to be Grateful for in Your Life

010713 Gratitude
Gratitude is a wonderful thing. In fact, I’ve read that people are actually happier if they express gratitude for the things that are positive in their lives. In other words, rather than spending my days worrying about what is absent from my life, what I could’ve done better, or what I don’t have, I can make a conscious decision to appreciate what I do have, be thankful for it, and in giving thanks, put more gratitude in my life.

So exactly how can you express your gratitude? Many people keep a gratitude journal in which they record, daily, the things they are grateful for. Others remember the great moments of the week, month or year and record them on a slip of paper, place them in a jar, and after a period of time (a month or a year), open that jar reflect back on the things that made them feel grateful and happy. Some people simply learn how to say thank you – whether privately, through a journal, in passing thought, or by going that small but meaningful extra step of thanking someone who gave you reason to be grateful. Actually taking the time to genuinely thank someone in your life for something they have done for you has actually been shown to have a powerful effect in increasing one’s own wellbeing.

Over the holidays I realized that anything I am grateful for receiving – a person’s smile, hug, helping hand, or positive comment; an opportunity for creativity, prosperity, or spiritual serenity; a situation that allows me to achieve a goal, see something beautiful, take a peaceful moment, learn something new – are presents in my life. They are beautiful, special gifts that should be treasured and appreciated, and warrant a moment of personal reflection.

Appreciating the people in your life is infinitely more powerful than gloating over material objects. A close relationship with friends, family, or a significant other is truly one of the most rewarding ways you can invest your time and energy into. When you appreciate another person, an act, or words that person has shared, you expand your own gratitude. Your respect, thanks, and acceptance will inspire that person to express their gratitude. You will both benefit. They’ll thrive and so will you.

So, I’m making this commitment: let’s fill 2013 with a sense of thankfulness and harmony. Let’s try to embrace whatever challenges await us with grace, and really try to create a more meaningful connection with other people, lower our defenses and be real. Most of all

I’m going to make an effort to lean into my gratitude, and collectively offer up that gratitude to shape a community around me that contains less judging, and more love.

And what should I be grateful for? Everything. People, places, moments, my son. And when I share and express that gratitude, it returns to me. Which makes me more grateful. Which leads to…

A beautiful cycle to set in motion this New Year.

Home is where the Heart is

Home and Heart

Home and Heart


When I walk into my home I feel peace. I feel I am in the most safe environment that I could be in. There are no worries or problems within the walls of my home. It is the one place that I can truly be me. My family is here and love and comfort surrounds me. I am in my world where everything around is me. To know that this is the place where my family and myself have established together and that we all have our special space within our home and spaces where we can come together is why our home is where our hearts are.

How To Fall (and Stay) In Love with Los Angeles – Volume 2

Relationships take work.  Love affairs are dynamic relationships that challenge us more than, let’s say, friendships.  Best sung by Motown’s Four Tops, one of my favorite old-school songs titled “How Do You Keep the Music Playing?” concludes with this refrain:

Los Angeles At Night“If we can try with every day to make it better as it goes
With any luck then I suppose
The music never ends.”

The love affair I began with Los Angeles in 1991 has gotten better because of will, effort and intention.  I’m committed to my relationship and I believe that Los Angeles loves me back. It is my hope that even if you’ve begun your LA divorce proceedings, you can reconsider and rekindle the fire!

In Volume 1, I sent you west on Sunset Boulevard as far as the road can go.  It’s a cheap trick – that drive to the ocean at sunset is fail-safe.  Who wouldn’t, who couldn’t fall in love with that breathtaking crescendo?  Admittedly, it’s been a bit trickier to navigate that ride since road construction has threatened our “marriage” but if you stay the course and keep going west, the payoff is worth it.

Here are some other detours, chosen ones, that can lead you to more of LA’s charms.  They offer good reasons to veer off the road even if there are no roadblocks.  On a day when a schedule is not harrowing and you have the time to breathe (oh, that’s key in all of this love affair stuff – breathing), explore in and around Sunset Boulevard as you’re heading west.  Some of these divergences are as free as the ride; others will call upon your wallet.  You’ll know which is the right diversion for your particular exploration.  Keep in mind that the goal is to revive your love affair with Los Angeles or begin a new one.

Beverly Hills Hotel 1989

Beverly Hills Hotel 1989

The first stop, should you choose, is The Beverly Hills Hotel, affectionately called the Pink Palace.  I’ve done this stop many ways.  Try one on for size.  I’ve pulled up to Valet Parking bidding my friendliest greetings to the valets and doorman (I wouldn’t suggest shorts and flip flops for this version) explaining I’m meeting a friend.   And then I just wander – and sometimes just sit in the lobby.  It’s a small lobby, not particularly inviting but I just sit and breathe.  On one stop, I saw a very young, very awkward, regal sort sitting there bemused.  I began light casual conversation with him to ease his way.  Little did he know, I had no business there at all.  Long story short, he turned out to be a prince in Norway (and no jokes about the Prince of Bel Air).  No, really, a royal prince!  I’ve since seen him on the news.  His entourage and his grand limousine (let’s just say this one is not in uber’s fleet!) were at the ready to have me join him for a tour of the area.  We spoke for hours though his “people” stayed near.   He was so hungry for a person with a life in the real world with whom to communicate.  Despite his eagerness to have our friendship continue on another day, my work at my detour had ended.  Los Angeles was magical again.  “Only in LA,” it’s said. Being friendly in a royal hotel costs nothing.

Beverly Hills Hotel Pool Area

Beverly Hills Hotel Pool

I’ve also been enchanted at the Beverly Hills Hotel with lunch or snacks there on my own. (Remember these are mostly unplanned detours!) Not at the Polo Lounge where the bill will set you back some serious change.  No, the way we locals do it is to head directly to their pool and sit at the Cabana Café.  Surprisingly, you do not have to be a guest to sit in this gorgeous, albeit exclusive-feeling setting.  And lunch can be whatever you want it to be – including a cup of tea and a bagel.  And the other locals’ secret is to go downstairs from the lobby to the Fountain Coffee Shop.  Get a milkshake – or have breakfast – at the counter.  It’s an authentic old-school diner, except that it’s in the basement of a palace.  Then back to Sunset the boulevard or the rose-colored one in the sky.  By the way, Options #2 and #3, the meal ones, don’t require valet parking.

Spelling Manor

Spelling Manor

If hotels and people watching are not your thing, another alternative route off of Sunset Boulevard is to explore Holmby Hills.  I discovered this quite by accident on one of my Sunset Boulevard meanderings in the mid-90’s.  I turned left on Beverly Glen and then noticed magnificent homes and landscapes tucked on some of the streets behind Beverly Glen.  I turned again onto Charing Cross Road, then onto Mapleton. Inching my car slowly, I remember getting quite an eyeful ogling properties on Mapleton.  I had no idea that I was heading to the Spelling mansion at the time, the penultimate eyeful. What’s key about this kind of exploration is that it not trigger resentment, animosity or worse, feeling bad about your own life.  These rides are supposed to feel like receiving a bouquet of flowers unexpectedly.  Don’t make up stories about the inequality of wealth at these times; it defeats the purpose.  There is a purity of aesthetics that your new eyes can bring to the vision.  Greenery, architecture, texture, color, and surprise light your mind as you take in new things each time you explore.  Years later, I took a New York friend to see the Spelling mansion.  It was a Sunday afternoon and we slowly pulled up.  Wait, what?!  How did I not know? Purely by accident, our car kept getting guided towards a Valet Parking umbrella in front of the compound. It was Tori’s wedding day, at home. They thought my friend and I were guests and we kept smiling, okay flirting, with each of the officers directing our car.  It was such an uproarious spectacle.  We laugh.  Only in LA.  Love.

Playboy Mansion

Playboy Mansion

By the way, Charing Cross Rd., on the other side, will lead you to the Playboy Mansion.  That is a horse (pardon the reference) of a different color.  And driving up and thinking about what has gone on and for how long may just amuse you. Or not.  It doesn’t pull my chain (pardon the reference).  Seriously, there is lore, not necessarily lure, and American history there and it’s right in our L.A. backyard.

Volume 2 ends there with two forks in the road – the right turn into the hotel or the left turn into Holmby Hills. When we continue, we will be turning right, into what look like private gates, the gates of Bel Air.  It’s an elegant twilight zone.  Can’t wait to continue…  til next time.

How To Fall In Love with Los Angeles – Volume 1

I am in love.  It began before I moved here in 1995.  In fact, one could make a case that it started in Philadelphia when I was four years old.  It was then that I spun my fable to my Hollywoodneighborhood pals that my doll had been hired to play a baby in a Hollywood movie and I would have to move there to be with her.  I will save the genesis of that tall tale for another time (think prequel).  I didn’t actually get to visit Los Angeles until the mid 80’s and truthfully, my boyfriend and I were not really attuned to where it all happens in LA though we thought we were super-uber-cool.  We rented an oh-so-fab furnished condo in Marina Del Rey feeling like Billy Joel and Christie Brinkley, when in actuality, we were more like Saturday Night Live versions of them.

Four Seasons Beverly Hills

Four Seasons Beverly Hills

In 1991, the full-on love affair with Los Angeles that has never waned began when I visited a close girlfriend who came here to follow her dreams. I spent the first six months of that year socking dollars away to visit Victoria in the summer of 1991.  No expense would be spared for our first girls-only trip together through LA.  I rented a shiny new convertible at the airport, then pulled up to the Four Seasons Hotel of Beverly Hills (though a rarely accepted truth, it’s on the LA side of Doheny and not in BH) and parked myself for 10 days of the summer.  We put glamour on steroids, turned nightlife outings here into Olympic sport and dined at the trendiest and (ouch) most expensive restaurant offerings the city had.  Then shampoo, rinse, repeat in 1992, 1993 and 1994.  When I said goodbye to Victoria at the end of the summer of ’94, I told her that my next visit would be to move here. And it was.

I told her I wanted my life there to replicate our visits, that if I could live at the Four Seasons, I would.  Unfortunately, my budget called for a monthly rent that was approximately 3-nights of staying there.  I did the next best thing and lived near the Four Seasons, where 18 years later I still reside.  And no one’s carrying my shopping bags in, no one’s parking my car, and I am my own concierge. So might one think that when reality hit, my love affair faded?  Think again.  This is a city that if you choose to, you can fall in love with every day, all over again.  I wake up 300 out of 365 days every year thinking, “Pinch Me!”  And the other 65, I’m well aware that I’ve found my soul’s home mate.

Los Angeles SunsetFor those of you contemplating a move or those of you living in Los Angeles who have a love/hate relationship with this complex city, or worse, an abusive one, help is on the way.  Ilene’s psychologically and spiritually sound guide to loving LA is on the way in several volumes. And since I’ve already alliterated with the “S” sound, I will leave you with our first volume’s tip: Sunset.  Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to get in a car on a Saturday or Sunday at approximately 5:00 PM and ride west on Sunset Boulevard beginning at La Cienega Boulevard and not stopping until you hit the Pacific Coast Highway – and stay there until sunset.

Let’s talk about it in our next session.  Until then. . . .

How Much House Can You Afford?

The housing industry in California is in recovery mode and multiple offers and bidding wars are now the norm in many markets. The state median home price continued its year-over-year increase in April for the fourteenth consecutive month at $402,760, up 28.9 percent from April 2012. This gain in price is the highest year-to-year gain since February 1980. The mix of sales played an integral role in the price jump, with sales in the higher price segments comprising a larger portion of the market than a year ago. While sales in the State dropped 3.7 percent from last year, they rose 29.1 percent in the $400,000 – $500,000 price range and were up 44.9 percent in the over $500,000 price range.

On one hand, the price gains have resulted in improving the health of the real estate market, but on the other hand, the gains have led to a 12 point decline in the California Housing Affordability Index from 56 percent who can afford a median priced home in the first quarter of 2012 (the highest in the index history) to 44 percent in the first quarter of 2013. This rate is based on a median home price of $350,490 and a minimum qualifying annual income of $66,800, putting the monthly payment including taxes and insurance at approximately $1,670.

Exhibit 1: C.A.R. California Quarterly Housing Affordability Index

Even with the significant year-over-year decline, the affordability rate is still well above its second quarter of 2007 trough of 11 percent and also above the long run average of 32 percent. At that time the monthly payment was $3,668—more than double the current monthly payment—and the minimum qualifying annual income was $146,701—also more than double the current qualifying income. When adjusted for inflation, the present monthly payment is at 1970’s levels.

Exhibit 2: California Monthly Housing Payment (PITI Adjusted for Inflation)

Exhibit 2

Given this perspective, it is still a good buying opportunity, especially in comparison to renting. For the State of California, consumers can save 32 percent per month by buying a property.

Exhibit 3: Monthly Savings of Renting vs. Buying