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Living Large in Smaller Homes

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Struggling with the high cost of housing? Want to be a homeowner but wondering how you can afford it? There’s a solution: think smaller.

A smaller home not only costs less in monthly payments, but costs less to maintain, to furnish, to decorate, to clean, and especially to heat and cool. With less space to look after, you can free up not only money but time.

“The reality is housing represents a huge debt that has become unsustainable for the average family,” said Susan Milewski, who worked as a realtor for 23 years and is now a proponent of affordable housing. “The rule of thumb for housing used to be between 25-29 percent of one’s paycheck to be applied toward housing. Now it’s more like 75 percent and this leaves less disposable income for food, clothing and other essentials. Never mind a savings plan.”

Milewski advocates smaller homes with fewer amenities and for using solar, wind and geothermal energy.

The average size of a new home in 2012 topped 2,500 square feet, according to the US Census Bureau—that’s compared to 1,660 square feet in 1973. At that time, 23 percent of new homes had four or more bedrooms. Today, 41 percent have four or more bedrooms – and nearly a third have three or more baths. Cleaning a bathroom is onerous—why clean three (or more)?

In areas of the country, e.g. Florida, where a McMansion might seem affordable, do buyers consider how much it will cost to heat and cool?

The average single family home racks up $2,200 in energy bills each year, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency (46 percent of that for heating and cooling). Fewer rooms and smaller rooms = lower bills.

Have you ever shopped for window coverings, only to be shocked at how expensive they can be? It makes a big difference to need to dress up only a few windows vs. many. The same goes for furniture, decorations, repairs, and the time or cost to clean.

Another bonus of smaller-space living: less room for storage means thinking twice before shopping. That leaves both money and time for other pursuits.

“The more stuff we own, the more mental energy is held hostage by them,” wrote Joshua Becker, author of the book Simplify, in a blog post, “ 12 Reasons Why You’ll Be Happier in a Smaller Home.” “The same is absolutely true with our largest, most valuable asset. Buy small and free your mind.”

Silver Lake Los Feliz

L.A. is second least affordable home market for the middle class

Category : Uncategorized

s Angeles area is second behind San Francisco as the nation’s least-affordable housing market for the middle class, according to a report from real estate data firm Trulia.

A middle-class household earning the median income of $54,000 can afford just 22 percent of homes for sale in Los Angeles, based on whether the total monthly payment — including mortgage, insurance, and property taxes — is less than 31 percent of the household income, Trulia said. In San Francisco, only 15 percent of the middle class can afford a home.

Six of the seven least-affordable housing markets in the country were in California. San Diego was third with 25 percent, while Orange County ranked fifth at 26 percent, San Jose was sixth with 30 percent and Ventura County was seventh at 33 percent.

Looking under submarkets in L.A. county, Trulia’s survey found that in Pasadena and the San Gabriel Valley 626 area code, only 11 percent of the middle class could afford a home. In the 310/424 area, encompassing the Westside and beaches, homes were within reach of 14 percent of the middle class. The rates were 16 percent in 213, downtown and central L.A., and 16 percent in the San Fernando Valley’s 818 and 747 area codes.

In the past year, affordability has fallen modestly, hurt by rising home prices, but helped by lower mortgage rates, Trulia said. Nationally, 59 percent of homes for sale are within reach of the middle class, compared with 62 percent last October.

High-income metro areas are generally less affordable than low-income metros because high-income households bid up home prices, and high prices push out lower-income households, according to Trulia Chief Economist Jed Kolko. In addition, higher-income metros tend to have less new construction than lower-income metros.

Silver Lake/ Los Feliz