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Los Angeles Times Special Report : On the Fault Line : Southern Californians Take Stock of the Earthquake : Market in Motion : San Fernando Valley realtors believe they can still sell, sell, sell--even in shaky times

January 19, 1994|JOHN M. GLIONNA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Mike Glickman, boy-wonder real estate broker, doesn't believe in earthquakes. Or floods. Or typhoons. Or riots. Or devastating fires. Or even dry-gulch stretches in the Southern California home sales market, for that matter.

What he does believe in is the Market, that whimsical force of economic nature that can make a crafty realtor millions and millions, then take it all back in a heartbeat. He believes in lofty things like the American Dream, the perhaps misguided idea that Americans are just not content to rent, that they all want that suburban split-level or canyon-nestled estate to call their own--temblor or no temblor.

And so, as most Southern Californians spent a second straight day watching the gory, televised images of Mother Nature's quaking destruction, Mike Glickman was all business, ready to sell, sell, sell.

He's making wild predictions--such as that he can sell any reasonably priced home in the Valley in eight weeks or less, puckishly unfazed by the fact that he has a property listing on "virtually every street in the San Fernando Valley where something fell yesterday."

In fact, this boyish-looking man who resembles a shorter-locked version of shock jock Howard Stern is prepared to look any would-be home buyers dead in the eye and, without even the slightest trace of a smile, tell them that:

This is "the time" to go house-hunting;

A killer time to close escrow;

An awesome moment to assume that new mortgage at rock-bottom prices.

No fooling.

"Because people go on. They dust themselves off from things like this and they don't look back," says the bespectacled, curly haired realtor, leaning back in a black leather swivel chair in his Encino office. "I live in Malibu. Remember the place where they had all those devastating fires just last year?

"As amazing as it may seem, the housing market there is back to normal, just like those fires never happened. It's the same with earthquakes. Other things happen--the Menendez verdicts, the Bobbitt trial, the Olympic skater snafu, Michael Jackson. People forget. And then they go back to buying houses."

He stops for a moment, his voice lowering an octave like a conspirator hatching a secret plan: "If I were a home buyer, I'd be out looking. Right now, you can get people who are freaked out. They'll sell for next to nothing. In two weeks, they'll be back to normal and the prices will go back up."

Indeed, the 33-year-old Glickman spent much of Tuesday putting the jangled nerves of homeowners to rest, doing disaster control on many of the 40 homes he has in escrow throughout the San Fernando Valley, making sure that despite a cracked ceiling or crumbling foundation, a shaky deal is still a deal.

And, of course, he wheeled and dealed. He rocked and rolled. But what else would you expect from the onetime whiz kid of San Fernando Valley real estate, a man who before age 30 had an army of 1,800 agents and became the personification of the booming California housing market?

In many ways, the story of Mike Glickman runs parallel to the aftermath of Monday's 6.6-magnitude quake. In 1990, when an inflated regional housing market crashed like so many aftershocks rumbling through a living room, Glickman buckled with it.

He filed for bankruptcy. He lost Mike Glickman Realty, the company he built from the ground up, starting in 1983.

Then he started over, taking a job for Jon Douglas Co., one of his former competitors. Like some fast-talking phoenix, he is once again marketing houses and condominiums and 10-story castles from Sylmar to Studio City, selling an impressive 170 homes in 1993.

On Day Two after the Northridge earthquake, the man known as the Comeback Kid is on the telephone, asking customers to do the same thing in the now shaky real estate market.

A broker representing a buyer informs him that, due to damage caused by the quake, they are canceling their offer on a Northridge home. He takes the news in stride, asking if they would accept the home at a lower price.

He covers the receiver. "They're open," he says. "See what I mean? We're going to sell. We're still going to sell."

Across the Valley, inside a tree-shaded hillside home, broker Teri Young performs her own version of earthquake damage control: As a gesture of goodwill, she has stopped to console a couple who suffered extensive damage to the Woodland Hills home they bought just a year ago.

Gary and Shelley Hammer are nearly in tears as they race in and out of the eggshell of a home for which they paid $415,000, pointing out to the 14-year realty veteran the huge cracks that meander along their walls and foundation like a waterless river bed.

"I don't know," Gary Hammer says in despair, his voice breaking. "I've survived tornadoes, hurricanes and even wars, but nothing like this. Teri, my body is still shaking. My family is in shock. I don't know what to do."

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