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Realtors usher in new officers, economy

A recovering market and evolution in the way people live and do business will change demands

Posted: December 2, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: December 2, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Bob Khalsa, the incoming president, at the Southland Regional Association of Realtors officers installation dinner at the Hyatt Regency Valencia on Friday. Bob Khalsa, the incoming president, at the Southland Regional Association of Realtors officers installation dinner at the Hyatt Regency Valencia on Friday.
Bob Khalsa, the incoming president, at the Southland Regional Association of Realtors officers installation dinner at the Hyatt Regency Valencia on Friday.

After making it through four years of a depressed real estate market, Mistress of Ceremonies Laura Langen opened the Southland Regional Association of Realtors annual installation dinner Friday night by greeting attendees with: “Welcome to Survivor 2012.”

Some 60 real estate professionals gathered at the Hyatt Regency Valencia to usher in a new year, swear in the association’s new council members for 2013, praise outgoing Santa Clarita Valley Division President Erika Kauzlarich-Bird and pass the gavel to incoming 2013 President Bob Khalsa.

Realtor optimism was evident at this year’s event, however, as attendees spoke about the market turning the corner and climbing out of one of the worst housing market disasters in decades.

“We’re seeing improvement already and have guarded optimism that the market is slowly but steadily improving,” said Jim Link, the association’s chief executive officer.

Citing the fact that short sales are working their way through the system and that it doesn’t appear there will be any second wave of foreclosures coming, Link predicted the market is going to be pretty good in 2013.

Two hurdles remain, however, for the market to fully recover, local experts said.

Lending for home loans is still tight. But the trickiest barrier is the record-low inventory of houses for sale — which stood at 1.2-month supply in October in the Santa Clarita Valley. A balanced market, in which neither buyer or seller has a particular advantage in the transaction, is considered to be a five- to six-month supply of homes for sale.

In other words, right now it’s a seller’s market; but there aren’t enough homeowners selling their houses. And the numbers of distressed properties — bank-owned properties and short-sales — are dwindling. Last month, standard sales, where homeowners’ have equity in their home, outpaced the number of distressed sales in the SCV. Only 12.7 percent sales last month were of bank-owned homes, the association reported.

“We’ve never seen inventory levels this low,” Link said. “Not even in 2006, when the market was at its height and we had only a two-month supply. Supply is acutely short.”

On a side note, Realtors also cited the looming “fiscal cliff,” where automatic tax hikes and spending cuts will take effect Jan. 1, if Congress does not act, as a current threat to ongoing recovery. What happens, or does not happen, affects consumer confidence, local experts said.

Assuming Congress acts in some way to resolve the apparent standoff between parties, however, Realtors point to the ongoing gains in homes sales this year and multiple bidding wars as evidence of growing consumer confidence, pent-up demand, and the fact that the real estate market is finally growing again.

“Obviously the statistics have been really great. Sales are up,” Kauzlarich-Bird said. “We’ve turned the corner. The recovery is at a slow but at a gradual rate.”

While all Realtors at the event noted that sellers and buyers won’t see the kind of frenzied market that existed prior to the crash, they did all feel that recovery is finally underway.

And Khalsa, the incoming president, sees a new future for housing. He believes the real estate market is at a crossroads now due to the nature of the global economy as a whole.

The ability for people to work on-the-go, with access to technology and mobile devices, will impact how and where people to go to work — particularly those in higher demographic areas like Santa Clarita. They won’t all need to go to brick-and-mortar buildings, he said.

That changing workforce, combined with more demand for multi-generational and shared-housing, will cause the demand for changes in everything from how homeowner associations respond to changes in zoning laws.

It also creates demand for more mixed-used housing developments, Khalsa said.

“You can’t deny the changes,” he said. “And you can’t be a self-sustaining community if you don’t respond to the changes and demand for mixed-used offerings.”



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