La Cañada's housing market still struggling

Mirroring trends across the nation, the La Cañada Flintridge real estate market continued to struggle in 2011, according to figures released this month.

According to statistics provided by the Multiple Listings Service and compiled by Realtor Keith Sorem at Keller Williams in Glendale, La Cañada’s total sales dropped nine percent, from 234 in 2010 to 212 last year, and new listings dropped from 275 to 246.

Sorem’s analysis showed that one-third more listings either failed to sell or expired last year than in the previous year, driving down the average sale price per square foot by $18.87, to $432.16.

Sorem said this decline was the result of a mismatch of expectations between sellers and buyers, and that prices could continue to fall until the market begins to rebound, leading more sellers to pull their homes off the market.

“There’s a lot of people that feel the same way. They just can’t believe that people won’t pay more than they want them to pay,” Sorem said. “And I will tell you from the buyers’ end, the buyers go, ‘What are you trying to sell me? This is not as good as I expect,’ and they’re disappointed.”

Still, La Cañada-based B&B Properties’ owner Sam Buchanan said he believes the market is surprisingly strong right now, despite the economy. He said the inventory of homes on the market is “quite low,” at a little more than 40 properties currently available.

“Traditionally in the springtime we have a bit more, but I think several brokers have clients that are looking and are unable to find anything,” he said.

Buchanan said that while houses in the $7 million range, of which there are five on the market, might not be selling, others are.

In fact, he said, it’s a “very hot market” for homes priced from $800,000 to $1.5 million.

Buchanan said that La Cañada is able to weather slumps thanks to the demand for its education system.

“I know it’s a broken record, the big pressure is the schools,” he said. “[Buyers] want the schools.”

Sorem said that it’s a more complicated picture than that, however.

“It would be easy to say it’s a hot market and that [properties] between one and two million [dollars] are selling,” he said. “Well, that’s all well and good, except if you’re one of the homeowners who had a property in that price point and it didn’t sell.”

“When one-fifth of the listings fail to sell in one month, that’s a pretty big chunk,” Sorem said. “Then the question is, does it really matter what we’re saying, if it’s not selling?”

La Cañada resident Peter Kudrave, who was unable to sell his Fairmount Avenue home last year, shares Sorem’s point of view.

“I think it’s a lousy time to sell a house. People are bottom-fishing and they’re pushing too hard … and prices are falling,” he said.

Kudrave said that he plans to stay in the community and wait till things improve.

“We’re going to eventually add to and really upgrade our house in the next three to five years, and by then, maybe the old sleeping man will rise from the dead and the housing market will be good,” he said.

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