With California’s daily COVID-19 case count down and a large percentage of the population vaccinated, we are beginning to re-emerge. The past year has prompted many to rethink their living situations. Some people have found, after having had to stay home for so long, that their house is too small to accommodate a home office and a space for their “homeschooling” students. Some are looking to leave the city to find quiet and nature; working remotely has allowed them to consider living in places they couldn’t commute from before. Many people who have rented are eager to buy. Rents are high and people are realizing that they could be using their money to build equity, while taking advantage of low interest rates. As property prices in Topanga and the surrounding areas continue to skyrocket, Topanga New Times decided to ask a few of our local realtors to share what they are seeing and offer any advice they might have for prospective buyers and sellers. The real estate professionals seem to be united in their views: this is an excellent time to sell property, and inventory is low. 

“This is a crazy, heavy seller’s market for two main reasons,” says Steve Bruns of Engel and Volkers. 

“First, there is cheap money with loans under 3% and that seems likely to hold for the next 1-2 years going forward. And second, there is a major lack of inventory largely due to COVID. 

As people are getting vaccinated, they are feeling more confident and are more ready to sell their homes. This increase in inventory will allow prices to level off, but we don’t see prices coming down any time soon. If you are willing to move to an apartment or townhome, take advantage of this seller’s market. There isn’t the same kind of frenzy going on for apartments or townhomes as there is for single family homes right now. There also doesn’t seem to be the same frenzy in buying out of state.”

Tanya Starcevich of Keller Williams says that many aren’t ready to move as they don’t know where they will go. Single family homes in Encino, Tarzana, Woodland Hills, and Bell Canyon are also suffering from low inventory and bidding wars. 

“There is a supply and demand disparity going on right now,” she says. “Sellers are reluctant to sell without a definitive place to move to. If you are willing to rent, then this is an excellent time to sell your home.” 

Once again, it seems that COVID has changed where people need to live for work. Tanya mentioned that she has been seeing those who are able to work remotely choosing to move to Ojai, Westlake, and Santa Clarita.

“The Topanga market is booming,” says Jordan Wright of Compass Realty. “There is a perfect storm of low inventory, low interest rates, and a strong buyer pool of people who want to live in Topanga. Last year was the best year on record for Topanga real estate in terms of overall home value and price per square foot. It seems to have continued into this year, with the one caveat, that there is extremely low inventory. The biggest difference this year is that in addition to the buyers from the Westside that have been looking to move to Topanga consistently over the years, we now have buyers relocating to Topanga from New York and San Francisco. COVID has changed the work landscape by allowing for a lot more remote working opportunities, allowing people to choose to live outside big cities.” 

Jordan added that Topanga seems to be very “in style” right now and is attracting people from similar walks of life. “My advice to buyers: work with a local agent that really knows the lay of the land and might have off-market inventory. Get all your cash in hand because the market is moving fast.”

The trend of high home value held through summer of last year, and the inventory might finally be seeing a bit of an uptick due to the world opening up again. Historically, the best time to buy and sell has been spring, but most are expecting a busy summer season this year. Chryssa Lightheart from Pritchett Rapf says, “Right now we have the highest median home price in Topanga’s history. If you are thinking about selling your home, it is the all-time, best time to sell your property.” Her advice to buyers is, “Be patient and remember that the first offer you make, may not be the one you buy.”

From the lending perspective, Dorothy Reik, a mortgage broker who has worked in Topanga for many years says, “Prices are up 20% in California and interest rates are holding at 3% or lower. There are multiple offers, and first-time buyers are being overbid with all cash offers with no contingencies. There is a housing shortage everywhere and it’s not ending anytime soon.” Dorothy’s advice to buyers is: “Get pre-qualified for your loan and be prepared with 20% down or more before you write an offer.”

Much of the world has changed since March of 2020, and one big shift is that people are making life at home a priority. Where we live has a big impact on our quality of life. Topanga offers quiet, nature, and a sense of community, while being only a short drive from one of the biggest cities in the world. With such advantages, it’s no wonder people are clamoring to live in the beautiful Santa Monica Mountains.