The OC

Prices are down, presenting rare opportunities for buyers in famed Orange County, Calif.

By Kimberly Turner

“The OC’s” coastal white-sand beaches and perfectly warm temperatures always have commanded great attention from homebuyers. Here, between educated buyers and a sluggish market, prices of homes have seen a 30- to 60-percent drop and deals continue for buyers. Real estate experts of Dana Point, Corona Del Mar and Laguna Beach are optimistic about buyers’ opportunities.

Dana Point
“A lot of sellers testing the market, who wanted to sell to get the right price, have been on the market for so long they are really reducing their prices,” says Lori McGuire of RE/MAX Select One.

“The more serious buyers are out right now,” says McGuire. “In Dana Point we are noticing there are a lot of people that are actually pulling the trigger and moving forth.”

In fact, many people selling are trying to take advantage of the buying market even if they have to take a little bit of a hit on the selling end, according to McGuire.

“Anything you buy is a great buy right now because there are a lot of economists anticipating another housing boom,” says McGuire. “As long as you hold onto the property you are going to be fine.”

Corona del Mar
Over in Corona del Mar, Sharon Fagundes of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage has seen over the last 28 months a 25- to 30-percent drop in values, with a steady sales market.

“I think there is this steadiness because there are things in there for $1.2, $1.3 and $1.5 million and you don’t have to spend the $3 million or $5 million,” says Fagundes.

However, Fagundes has noticed from recent sales that some homes are staying on the market for about 10 or 11 months. “It is taking about a year if the price isn’t immediately a good, solid lower price,” says Fagundes.

Fagundes also has observed people who don’t have to sell, auctioning their homes to try to get close to the price they want.

“It is a very elite auction,” says Fagundes. “They are open to that, it is no longer a tragedy. It is just a smart way to see what you can do.”

Buyers are also becoming savvier and taking longer to decide on their purchase.

“Buyers are a lot more educated,” says Fagundes. “They come to the open house with every printout of every house.”

Laguna Beach
Heading onward to Laguna Beach, a vacation and second-home destination, buyers are very selective.

“Buyers are very particular, they want turnkey,” says Kindy Slagle of HOM Sotheby’s International Realty.

According to Slagle, in the past years you could rarely buy anything under $1 million. Now, the under-$1 million properties have been selling and cleaning out. Because of this, James St. James of Surterre Properties holds future optimism for investors.

“Big money is coming into the market, finally,” says St. James, who has noticed an influx on the international side, with interested Asians and Europeans. “People are coming from all over the world,” St. James says. “Their economies are a little bit stronger and they know our prices are down.”

Shauna Covington of Prudential California Realty has noticed another trend — more cash buyers than in previous years.

“People are taking their money out of the stock market and other low-yielding investments and buying AAA property in Laguna Beach,” Covington says. “I predict [the market] will continue to be strong.”

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