Backdrop Buyer

How to get your foot in the door for under a million in the Hollywood Hills

You’re a quarter mile up Mulholland Drive, heading to yet another showing as part of the backup plan when your cell-phone rings. The yield sign glares you in the face, but you are fixated on the two bedroom single family home alongside Wonderland Avenue for just under a million. But it’s your agent calling. And she might be calling to tell you the home you bid on has an accepted offer, only it’s not yours. Or even worse, you’re “too late Margo, turn back,” they’ve already sold the house you are on the way to preview.

As the thrill of your first Kodak moment of the Hollywood Hills backdrop begins to fade, you realize what you’ve just signed up for.

As the thrill of your first Kodak moment of the Hollywood Hills backdrop begins to fade, you realize what you’ve just signed up for: buying a house in a highly competitive market where celebs and glitterati get first dibs.  Not for the sake of keeping up with the Jones’—you could really care less, leaving that to the proprietors in 90210. Rather, you are a laid back kind of girl, holding immense adoration for music and the arts. A self-proclaimed historian, you can name each and every notable architect known to “The Bird Streets.” All you’re vying for is a little bit of chaparral with sweeping views and a mid-century kitchen for the evening wind down.

Unless it’s overpriced, sliding off the hill, in need of monumental work or lacking plain old curb appeal, buying a single-family home in the Hollywood Hills for under a million dollars is no cakewalk. You are after all, attempting to buy real estate in one of the most sought-after areas with an average list price of well over  $2 million, with everyone and their muse on the hunt. From geological and drainage inspections, to boundary surveys and getting to know the neighbors encroaching before you buy…

Here is what you’ll need to know to get those Lore Sandals in the door before the inspecting can even begin.

 Summertime and the buying isn’t necessarily easy

 Ordinarily, more sellers do plan to market their home for sale during summer break. Which means more buyers entering the market as a direct result of new inventory, creating more competition, as you can only imagine.

Consider this: For under a million dollars in the Hollywood Hills, perhaps securing a house before the summertime buying juncture hits can work to your advantage.  

 More than a just a piece of paper

 Proving your buying power in the Hills just got that much harder.  Where generally a pre-approval letter would suffice, sellers in the higher end and competitive markets want to know you’re worth more than just a piece of paper. Calls to your mortgage broker, a verbal confirmation of verification of funds, assets and inquires about your credit are just some of the tactics used by experienced listing agents when qualifying buyers. And one wrong answer or an ounce of hesitation by your mortgage broker could keep you out of the running.

Consider this: Prep your lender for the type of purchase and higher end market you are competing in. Investing time to meet with her face to face and providing all the documentation she needs to establish you as a qualified buyer will most certainly spare you wasted time and rejection.

 Buyer be nimble, buyer be quick

 When that so called “cream of the crop” listing flares the market, you can bet every buyer will be lined up or maybe even trampled over. This is where your Olympic sprinting skills come into play (short of the sandals), but only if you have an explicit understanding of what it is you’re looking to buy.

Consider this: Create an outline with your wants and absolute needs prior to viewing homes so you can act quickly, and can avoid making a remorseful purchase. Example: If you don’t have $50K+ to correct a foundation issue, don’t spend time and energy looking at homes that fall into major repair category.  

 What your Mac notebook can’t tell you

 It’s 2 o’clock in the morning as you gravely gasp for air while scanning through listings on Zillow. There’s a property listed for sale that meets all your criteria, only slightly cheaper than what you are in the market to buy. So why didn’t your number one sales agent mention it?

Consider this: Before you reactively leap into your 1971 white Mercedes sedan collectible only to trespass and drive by a home less the for sale sign, avoid making any embarrassing or unforgivable moves by cross checking the information with your real estate agent. Online real estate databases do not always update automatically and the listing you may be tempted to fire your assiduous agent over may no longer be on the market.  

 Who you know 

 Your body is reclined and your toes are being painted as your pedicurist inquires about your home search.  Innocently, you respond by saying “Oh, still looking.” To your surprise, she shares the success of one of her clients: “Oh, Isabella just bought a home for under a million in the Hills through a friend of her real estate agent.” Suddenly, the polish on your toenails turns to green envy.

Consider this: Partnering with a real estate agent in the know with insider dig connections or past relationships with potential sellers can be a benefit to you. At the very least, confirm the agent you have selected to represent you has a history of selling in the Hills with lots of experience. It’s going to take more than just everyday MLS browsing to secure the deal of the century!




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Joda Mize
Joda Mize is the founder of Girl's Guide to Real Estate. Her expertise in the housing industry evolved in the fast-paced world of Southern California real estate over the past decade. She has an unyielding belief that women are the strongest influencers in the housing market, and are deserving of a familiar voice that can deliver straight facts.
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