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Fading Frenzy

Summer's sizzle has been replaced by fall's fizzle. Two buyers and two sellers cope with the changing housing market.

BUYER: 'I didn't want to be in a multiple-offer situation'

November 29, 1998|SUE McALLISTER

In the storied real estate market of last summer, when houses in some Southern California neighborhoods were selling not in weeks or months but in hours, Grace Sagara lost out on two she'd bid on.

"I really had no choice but to keep trying," Sagara said. "It was very depressing."

Sagara, a paralegal in a Santa Monica law firm, began her house hunt in October 1997, searching unsuccessfully through spring and the frenzied summer. It was nearly a year before she found her new house, a three-bedroom in Los Angeles' Crestview neighborhood, southeast of Beverly Hills and north of the Santa Monica Freeway. For 10 years, Sagara had been living in her Mid-City childhood home, a bubble gum-pink two-bedroom house that her mother gave her when she moved to a retirement community.

She had plenty of emotional ties to the area, but Sagara, 40, was in search of a slightly larger home for herself and her three Labrador retrievers, Dan, William and Max. She also wanted to live in a neighborhood of single-family homes instead of one interspersed with apartment buildings.

During most of her 11-month quest, she said, there was little on the market that both fell into her price range and suited her taste for older homes with character. She would drive around on weekends looking for open houses, while her agent, Ginny Sher of Fred Sands, checked the multiple listing service several times a day for the right match.

When she saw the 1930s Crestview house a few weeks ago, it was the only time during her long search that hers was the seller's only offer.

"I was a little shocked," Sagara said. The sellers countered her initial offer, which was $10,000 under the asking price of about $300,000, and she accepted. "That day we had to decide, because I didn't want to be in a multiple-offer situation again."

Her new home has a fenced yard for the dogs, is on a quiet residential street and has the original tile, wood floors, crown moldings and fireplace, which add up to the character she was looking for.

"It just has a real nice feel," Sagara said of her new home and neighborhood. Her escrow is to close Friday.

As for the sale of her childhood home, Sagara proved the real estate agent's credo that it's never a problem to sell a well-priced, well-advertised entry-level home. Sagara priced her home at about $130,000 and worked with a Spanish-speaking agent who put up signs in Spanish and English--a smart move in a neighborhood whose residents are mostly Latino. Not only did the buyers pay close to her asking price, their offer came on the same day the signs went up.

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