Real Estate Market Already Suffering Downside of Vote


The first fallout from Wednesday's vote in favor of a commercial airport has begun for some residents of South County.

That home they were trying to sell in the vicinity of El Toro Marine Corps Air Station likely will not fetch the same price.

In fact, it might be awfully hard to lure many prospective buyers into their neighborhoods for awhile, according to real estate agents at a half-dozen South County agencies.

"All the sellers in the area are going to have to do a reality check as to the value of their property," said Phyllis Blanchard, an agent with Coldwell Banker in Mission Viejo.

Real estate agents and home sellers already have been disclosing to potential buyers that an international airport was one of several options for the closing Marine base.

Now, some agents said, they'll have to cough up a grimmer truth.

"As of today, we have to disclose that we now know that this option [the airport] was the one opted for," said Carrie Parent, an agent with Tarbell Realtors in Mission Viejo. "That's going to affect the buyer's choice of that neighborhood."

Parent said she had to sell a home in Foothill Ranch worth at least $270,000 for $252,000 last month because of the potential for both an airport and an expansion of the James A. Musick Branch Jail. And, she said, she felt lucky to get that.

"I joke, 'They can break out of jail and get to the airport as fast as they want,' " said Parent, who owns a home in Lake Forest.

Parent and other agents said out-of-state buyers already nix viewing homes in communities abutting the Marine base. Many buyers who are being relocated here by Orange County companies are alerted by their firms not to buy homes there because of the possibility of an airport at the base, according to real estate agents.

"It's the first question out of [buyers'] mouths," said Liz Koren, a broker with Remax South County in Mission Viejo. " . . . It's like saying San Onofre is down in San Clemente and if you have a problem living near a nuclear power plant. . . . "

Koren said some clients living in pricey Laguna Niguel homes have grown increasingly edgy about the impact of the airport.

One client residing in an $800,000 home is planning to put the home on the market and move inland, she said.

"I don't know that they're [not] being a little alarmist," said Koren.

Alicia Perkins Elkins of Associated Realtors in Mission Viejo has been selling homes in South County for 12 years. She now steers buyers away from certain neighborhoods as if they were riddled with blight.

"I tell them, 'Don't buy in Aliso Viejo because there might be an international airport," Elkins said. "It's a shame. I think it is going to lower [the homes'] value. Me personally, I wouldn't move there."

But Marcel Fernandez, co-owner of Regency Real Estate Brokers and vigorously anti-airport, had a less pessimistic view.

With legal challenges, said Fernandez, who lives in Lake Forest and sells homes there, "the airport is probably 15, 20 years down the road. Personally, I don't think we'll see an airport there. . . . South County will grow up and have the political muscle to defeat the airport."

Fernandez conceded that the supervisors' vote to keep airport plans alive casts a pall on communities such as Lake Forest right now. But he said his clients are not trying to get out of town yet.

"The question I get is, 'Are you moving?' " he said. "They say, 'If you sell, then we're moving.' "

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