Author Archives: Kelly Morris

Price Per Square Foot – Keep it in CONTEXT

In real estate, there are numerous factors to ponder when determining the fair market value of a home.   One measurement that everyone seems to use is price per square foot, but it’s important to consider this data point in context.

The calculation is basic – list price divided by the square footage.  But, prices per square foot can vary significantly based on several factors – lot size, overall condition, age of the home, location, upgrades, and many other characteristics of a particular property.

How do you use price per square foot to help make an informed decision?  It should be viewed as a barometer of whether the home is priced appropriately for the area.  If it’s on the high side, that’s a tip that there may be something special or unique about the home that would warrant a higher price.  If it’s extremely low, perhaps the home’s condition or location is not as desirable as others in the area.

Here are two examples – both high water marks for their neighborhoods:

BURBANK: I recently sold a property in Burbank for $1100/SF.  That’s the highest price per square foot sold in 91501 this year!  If you were to look at the home, you may scratch your head and ask – how/why?  There were major factors that added to the desirability of the property and propelled the price per square foot to the level of other, more updated houses in the area:

  1. The lot size was considerable – 9000+ SF lot in an area where the average lot size is smaller – offering upside potential.
  2. It was located in a sought-after neighborhood, positioned in the middle of the block and surrounded by remodeled homes.

SAN MARINO: My recent San Marino listing closed at $1194/SF – a record high in this particular neighborhood of San Marino.

  1. The home needed updating, but the lot was large and offered privacy, as well as opportunity for expansion.
  2. Boasts an excellent school district – one of the highest rated in LA County.

Most times it’s not just about the home itself, but the lot, location, and nearby schools and amenities play a major factor in determining value.

The Real Estate Flop of the Year – Zillow

Zillow has exited their e-buying platform. Why? Because they relied on their own Zestimate – and guess what, it set them up to lose money.

Their famous Zestimate is not accurate, and never was. This tool was an effort to give a value estimate for every home in the US – and literally every home buyer, attorney, or just nosey neighbor used the estimate to establish a value. But, of course, they only liked it if it was more than they thought. When the homeowner found the Zestimate to be lower than what they expected, they decided “something must be wrong”.  These Zestimates only told half the story and corrupted the data.

Zillow wanted to play the role of buying low and flipping houses quickly, but their own algorithms didn’t accurately predict the right level to buy, and they ended up overpaying.

The result?  Well, now you have it officially from Zillow – it was a flop.

Savvy real estate agents already knew this, but explaining that a home’s value is not a simple number created by a robot had its challenges.  I watched the Zestimate of my own home go up and down like a bouncing ball every week. Really? I don’t think so. It’s not just square footage of a home. Value is complex!

An experienced agent knows how to price a property to sell and how to maximize the value. An app simply cannot.   While Zillow is still around and offers some interesting services, agents keep a close eye on the market, house by house. Each is unique and must be evaluated accordingly.

Sold at $ 1,194/sf in San Marino

Built in 1940, this darling English Country cottage had been enjoyed and cherished by the same family for over 57 years.  Located on a peaceful street in San Marino, featuring offering a 9792 sf flat lot with private backyard,  this home was the “Talk of the Town”.

With over 40 showings in just the first two days on market, multiple offers were inevitable. The proof is in the pudding: this home garnered 31 offers and sold for $430K over asking, closing at $ 1,780,000. And that’s for a home that needs a lot of updating.

Take a look at the San Marino property here:

How to navigate this unprecedented market? As a seller, set a price to capture people’s attention. But don’t be fooled by just any showings-only those from qualified and motivated buyers really matter. Don’t be afraid to limit showings to buyers who are fully approved and can show proof of funds. As a buyer, it’s critical that you do your “homework” ahead of time and be realistic. Come prepared to make the strongest offer possible in order to compete.  It’s a wild ride but YOU can be successful.

Sophistication Meets Functionality on Millionaire’s Row

This classic garden-style complex, designed by famed mid-century architect Carl Marston, offers exceptional grounds, dramatic lighting, and a Palm Springs feel.  The complex wouldn’t be complete without the kidney-shaped pool.  An end unit all on one level with a huge private patio, what’s not to love?

Proudly situated on South Orange Grove,  this ground-level unit has access off Arlington, a quiet side street. The unit oozes elegance with exceptionally large rooms, bright white wainscoting, two fireplaces, and a lovely oversized patio featuring mature landscaping.  The floor to ceiling walls of glass envelope the dining room and living room with gorgeous natural light. The kitchen offers ample cabinetry and is large enough for an eating area. The two large bedrooms are set apart, with the primary bedroom offering a full wall of closets, a classic mid-century vanity table and an ensuite bath.

It’s no surprise that this property has commanded great interest.  Expecting multiple offers and another exciting race to see who will be the lucky buyer.

Featured as Home of the Week on Pasadena NOW! – Click Here

Lifelong Property Plans Take Unexpected Turn – PROP 19 Helped

Prop 19 might not be the most intriguing topic of the day.  But, perhaps hearing how it provided freedom and opportunity to my client could be beneficial to you or someone you know.

My client lived in her home for 47 years and planned to stay forever, eventually passing the property to her children.  Life changed after her husband died.  She no longer wanted to be in the home alone and felt the need to be close to her children.  But she felt she couldn’t sell because she had super low real estate taxes and she wanted to move to a county that would not honor that low basis. But she really wanted to sell and move to Northern California.

Here’s where PROP 19 comes in.  There were two key changes to the law that dramatically aided my client and provided opportunities that didn’t exist before.

Previously, if a senior wanted to keep their current tax basis, they had to sell and buy the new home in the same County or one that allowed reciprocity. In addition, the value of the new home had to be of equal or lesser value.  This is no longer the case.  Under Prop 19 Seniors now have:


My client has settled in Northern California, close to her children, and had the freedom to purchase a new home while keeping her old tax basis.  A big win! 

Uncovering Unexpected Opportunity

Some may think they can glean all there is to know about the value of a property from looking online. But sometimes there is something special that is not obvious.  Take this example of a property I just closed in Eagle Rock.

Listed at $925,000, Closed at $1,250,000

Here’s the skinny.       Older home, needs restoration.  We’ve all seen it.  Many folks will assess the market value, plus the amount of work, and close the book on this type of home.  The buyers of this Eagle Rock property saw beyond that.

Imagine discovering a secret door with a staircase on the other side.  What could be up there?  It turns out an enormous walk-up attic space.  There’s more.  Toward the back of the large flat lot, an oversized garage, big enough to covert into an ADU and still have a garage space. Plus plenty of onsite parking.

What is the most concrete way to add value to a home?  Square footage.  This property offered the new owners the ability to convert these two spaces into very usable areas without having to start from scratch.  Say you pay $250/sf to convert these spaces, but you then adds over 3 times that in value. Yes, please, so where do I sign up for that? 

At the end of the day, the new owners will have an ADU attached to the garage and a large playroom on the second floor.  And they will have added tremendous value to their home.

Check it out here:

East Side, West Side, All Around the Town of Altadena

Lately, I’ve found myself traveling east to west through Altadena quite a bit.  I had two listings recently close, both on Altadena Drive.  While they are located in the same city, on the same street, the properties couldn’t be more different.  And that’s something I love about Altadena.  Both buyers will live and work in their new homes.  Listen to their stories.

A picture is worth 1000 words – 2018 E Altadena Dr

This mid-century home at 2018 E Altadena Drive attracted multiple offers but one was chosen above all the others. The new owners include a photographer, who will utilize both the home and the grounds for her photo sessions. The dramatic lines of this mid-century home along with the serene backyard with native landscaping, towering trees, fabulous pool, and the dramatic mountains will offer special backdrops for her photo shoots.  Truly the ultimate work-home solution. If you felt that peaceful neighborhoods and verdant grounds are a thing of the past, this neighborhood will dispel those thoughts.

Click Here to View the Property

Music is the soul of life – 834 W Altadena Dr

The second property is located on the far west side of Altadena, in close proximity to JPL and the numerous hiking trails that wind along the stream beds through Angeles National Forest.  Altadena has long been popular with musicians, writer and artists. It is loved for its peacefulness and country-feel. This part of Altadena has a surprising history: homes in this area were originally known as “Ranchitos”.  There is a special “Equestrian Overlay” as a hold-over from this era of ranchers, and to this day you can see locals riding their horses along the streets, returning to the stables. Nowadays these homes appeal to “urban farmers” who are looking for space to garden and get back to nature.

Click Here to View the Property

The new owner of this special home is a well-known musician from the Netherlands. Click here to view his interview on TV regarding his experience of buying a home and what made him choose 834 W Altadena Drive.

Here’s a link to 50 famous residents of Altadena!

Each pocket and neighborhood is special and unique!

A Historic Mills Act Home

This is one for the history books – literally!

My clients have just bought their forever home. They closed on the purchase of an original Monrovia property that was built in 1908. The incredibly well-preserved details of this vintage home have been recognized: it has been designated a Landmark Home and it is qualified under the Mills Act. Not only is this an honor, it gives the owners significant tax savings.

So, what is the Mills Act?  It is a State law that allows cities and counties to enter into contracts with the owners of historic properties. The contract binds the owner to certain preservation requirements and conditions specific to that home and, if met, compels the county tax assessor to recalculate the assessed value taking the age and historic value into account.

Each property has a different contract that includes specific conditions for the maintenance and preservation of the home. The contracts last for 10 years and are transferrable to new owners. In order to be considered, a property must have a designation as an Historic Landmark or have Contributor status in a registered Historic District.

This wonderful program honors the history and beauty of various architectural styles and preserves our local architectural treasures for future generations to enjoy!

Here are some of the iconic details of this beautiful home:

  • Flagpole in front yard, which the original owner added to celebrate the homecoming of her beloved husband at the end of World War I
  • Stunning fieldstone fireplace made with stones carried in from the nearby San Gabriel Mountains
  • Original gas light fixtures, converted to electric
  • Period wallpaper

A true walk through history!

An Urban Farmer’s Dream in Altadena

Have a look at this lovely Altadena home that went into escrow in just under a week on the market.

Situated near the hiking trails of the San Gabriel Mountains, and in close proximity to JPL,  this home offers a wonderful juxtaposition of rural serenity with urban amenities.

This charming, light-filled home honors the original details, but with a fresh approach.  The front portion has two bedrooms, a full bath, a great room with mountain views & kitchen. A few steps lead to the expansive lower level with a spacious primary bedroom and a glorious family room with a vaulted wood ceiling.

At the end of the day, retire to the back patio, surrounded by native plants and gorgeous raised garden beds.  This home also offers a converted garage, designed for a musician, artist or home office.

The neighborhood boasts an interesting history.  The homes in this area were originally known as “Ranchitos”.  Many are California-style ranch homes with large lots to encompass space for horse stables.  These homes appealed to urban ranchers who were looking for space to garden and raise horses.  Still, to this day, you’ll see locals riding their horses on the neighborhood streets and through the Arroyo Seco trails.

English Country Cottage in San Marino

With over 20 offers, most well over asking price, it’s safe to say San Marino properties are in high demand.  This home, now in escrow, provides the opportunity for new owners to make this lovely property their own.

Located in a peaceful neighborhood, with many remodeled homes, this traditional San Marino property offers a wonderful canvas.  Built in 1940, this darling home has been lovingly cared for by the same family since 1964. It’s time for new owners to put their own touch on this special place.

The entry is graced by beautiful shade trees. The original hardwood floors are underneath carpeting and have been untouched for many years. The formal living room features a fireplace with original mantle and marble hearth. There are mullioned windows with plantation shutters. The dining room opens to a large patio, the ideal place to enjoy quiet, alfresco meals.