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Is Calif. Real Estate Looking Golden Again?

A POSITIVE SIGN FOR CALIFORNIA REAL ESTATE?

A friend of mine, John Piscitelli, is an appraiser. It’s been a very rough year. The phone stopped ringing -- completely.

Now he has more work than he knows what to do with.

He tells me, “My regular clients are sending more work, but the weird thing is that all of a sudden on Wednesday and Thursday the appraisal management company for Bank of America sent me 11 orders. I finally had to call and have them stop sending work for the next week so I could get caught up.” These calls are for homes all over the greater Los Angeles area.

Piscitelli also adds that one of his best mortgage broker clients is working on 15 deals “which never would have happened a month or two ago.” He adds, “Most of the work is refi's but there are some sales in there as well.”

This means that people are finally starting to put in offers and go through escrow. Whether the deals go through remains to be seen. Will they get funding? Will appraisals bear out the offer prices? At least people are in the market again…

TALES FROM A HOUSE FLIPPER

Last week, I posted a story I originally had aired at the very end of 2004, looking ahead to the 2005 housing market and how many experts felt the boom would continue (oops!). In the story I profiled Craig Peiken, who was selling a beachfront townhome in Long Beach, Calif., which he’d bought eight months earlier and was flipping, hoping to make a 50 percent profit.

We checked back with Craig to see how his real estate flipping has been going since then.

Peiken says, “We made $300,000 on the Long Beach condo in eight months. Then, we bought a Miami condo, and a year after we bought it, the condo was worth double the amount we paid.”

But prices have fallen and he's been trying to sell the condo for $985,000 -- which would still earn him a profit. But no one's buying. Meantime, there’s another problem: Peiken has already moved out.

“Today, the condo is sitting there with furniture inside. But I am not allowed to lease it in that building because of the rules. There are no leases in that building. That's the bad part, and people should know about it, because when they buy a condo it could bite them in the end or on resale.” Turns out, you can’t rent out a condo in certain buildings. Oops!

By the way, where has Peiken moved on to for his next real estate investments? ALASKA.

“The condo market here is the opposite of Miami. …You also get money for just living in Alaska (a dividend) and there's no sales tax nor any state income tax. Yeah, they pay you to live here. Imagine that!"

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  • Based in Los Angeles, Jane Wells is a CNBC business news reporter and also writes the Funny Business blog for CNBC.com.

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