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Realty Agent Finds Gulf War's End Put Pep in Slow Housing Market : Property: Mar Vista home languished unsold for a year, despite weekend open houses and reduced asking price. 'Everyone was a bunch of looky-loos,' says the seller.

Recession on the Westside: A Special Report

May 26, 1991|JOSH MEYER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

It took more than a year for Lisa O'Gorman to sell her Mar Vista home, and even then, she got soaked on the price.

O'Gorman could probably measure the ordeal better by the week. For more than 52 weekends, people would tramp through her small, two-bedroom, Cape Cod-style house on Wade Street during open houses.

For three hours every Sunday afternoon, they'd inspect the bedrooms, the baths, even the inside of her refrigerator and closets, she said.

"It's like an invasion of your privacy," she says ruefully. "It's a very anxious time. You can't even leave a glass in the sink, or leave your bed unmade--someone is always going through your house."

O'Gorman, a real estate agent, usually asks the homeowner to leave the property while prospective buyers "snoop," or make their way through every nook and cranny, criticizing the house and its environs in an effort to talk down the price.

As her own agent, though, she had to stay. She figures she spent several weeks worth of quality leisure time watching as people picked through her private life, complaining about the size of her bedrooms, her taste in decor or whatever else they could think of.

While O'Gorman and her husband had the house on the market, they took down all their family pictures and other comforts of home. That kind of thing makes people uncomfortable when they are looking to buy a house, she says.

And the worst part was, despite all the tours and open houses and showings, months passed without any serious offers.

"Everyone was a bunch of looky-loos--they just kept looking and looking and looking and looking," O'Gorman says.

O'Gorman is the first to admit that she picked a bad time to sell her home. When she first put it on the market in early 1990, she was asking a bit over $400,000.

Even when she dropped the price, there were no takers. It was a buyers' market and everybody knew it. With so many other homes for sale, buyers could afford to be choosy and demanding.

Then the market went from bad to worse. Iraq invaded Kuwait. Consumer confidence nose-dived, and no one seemed even remotely interested. Sometimes only one or two people showed up for the Sunday afternoon ritual.

To be sure, the house wasn't perfect; one bedroom should have been made bigger during the remodeling, and the property isn't huge, O'Gorman says.

But more than a year on the market?

"People wanted to wait until everything settled down," is O'Gorman's analysis.

Like other agents, O'Gorman noticed a sharp upswing in home-buying activity immediately after the Gulf War ended.

It was as if a floodgate had opened. The home she started to think she wouldn't be able to give away was getting offer upon offer--and the property is finally in escrow. She would not disclose the final price, but acknowledged that it was more than 10% below the $402,000 she was asking a year ago.

Recently, O'Gorman has noticed the increased activity in her official rounds as well.

"I'm going to homes that have been out there six months," she says, "and they have three offers or they're in escrow or they're gone."

Meanwhile, she and her husband have moved into a house a few blocks away from their old one, and O'Gorman is looking forward to having a house she can actually live in .

"Now I feel like I can put a glass in the sink, hang a picture or leave my tennis shoes in the living room," she says. "I feel settled."

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