Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Los Angeles Real Estate Prices Based on Traffic Flow

As we end 2009, it seems the worst for residential real estate is over. During this year, I picked up three properties in the Oakland area and all of them seem to have gone up looking at recent sales data. With properties generating huge cash flows even with a worsening rental market, I doubt that we'll see a new low being made in Oakland. As for the rest of the nation? Who knows. In LA where I live, I see single family homes continuing to trend lower in price, the homes in various non-Westside areas like Riverside, La Puente, Silverlake and so forth need to return to their pre-bubble prices of around $250,000-$450,000 depending on their proximity to Downtown LA.

In LA, it's all about traffic. Traffic is horrible going west in the mornings and east in the afternoons, north and south are horrible all day long. Downtown is the center of the freeway system where all traffic merges into a few lanes ill suited to today's traffic flow. Downtown is also where a lot of high paying jobs are, generally the easier traffic is to and from Downtown, the more valuable the real estate will be. Those who bought homes 30-60 miles away East of Downtown have 2 hour drives each way at least, to and from work. These are the homes that have more to fall, no one wants to spend 4 hours a day in the car, and with prices getting cheaper elsewhere, hitting the magic price point of $400,000-$600,000, the starter home price in LA, real estate in Riverside will have to return to $200,000 to attract takers. Because north/south traffic is especially bad, homes that are oriented on the 5/101/110/405 interstates that seem closer to Downtown than homes to the east oriented on the 10/60 will be just as cheap. That is moving 5 miles north or south is like moving 10 miles east valuewise. The further east and north/south, the lower property values. Homes located west of Downtown are able to escape the bad traffic flow and so reflect that convenience in their prices. West Los Angeles where I live saw prices drop by only 5.5% in 2009 according to Zillow, and the average home is still at a very high $798,900 (Oct 2009 sales).

My general thoughts are that LA has more to fall. It's a rich city, but having to spend $800,000 just to live in a decent area without facing horrendous traffic to and from work is just too much. Surprisingly, it will be these areas that hold up the best as everyone considers traffic congestion to be one of the major factors when deciding where to purchase. Consider this article as a very general overview of the LA market, I was thinking about more specific predictions and so forth but that's a lot harder and more time consuming than I thought it would be. This was supposed to be just a quick 5 minute blurb, but it's been well over 45 minutes now as I have to check facts and so forth. Maybe the lesson from this post is that real estate is very location specific and generalizations are all but useless. No wonder my real estate instructor drilled into us that location, location, location are the three most important factors in real estate. Now that I have 7 properties in LA and Oakland, I fully understand why.

1 comment:

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