Business & Economy

Could El Niño throw cold water on LA's hot housing market?

A home damaged by mudslides in Camarillo Springs in November 2014.
A home damaged by mudslides in Camarillo Springs in November 2014.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC

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With a wet El Niño winter season approaching, realtors are trying to figure out what sort of impact the rain could have on home prices.

Pasadena Real Estate Broker, Espi Bagwell says the threat of rain is already throwing water onto her sales. For instance, she recently had a house in Monrovia that was on a hillside.

"When I asked the client...how he felt about that, he said it was a great home, but he had concerns. And he very specifically said 'with the El Niño rains coming in...I’d be concerned about this hillside failing.'"

That same sentiment has led to a harder market to sell in, especially for properties in the hills, said Bagwell. She recalled what happened with the Monrovia home.

"The sellers actually, from what I’ve been told, decided to take it off the market... I think it was just because the market was appearing to be sluggish, where in the lower lands, homes are moving."

While weather watchers say the warm waters in the Pacific indicate a strong El Niño will hit Southern California, similar to that of 1997/98, no one can say how wet the winter will be. Still, realtors said buyers have become more judicious when it comes to inspections. They still check out walk-in closets and granite countertops, but they also ask about the drainage in the yard and the strength of the roof. 

"We’ve had, ceilings fall in. Drywall from the ceilings collapse. Major water leaks," said Elizabeth McDonald, who said she's seen it all during her years as a real estate broker. She explained that these kinds of disasters have hit homes when there wasn't even an El Niño. But with wet weather likely on its way, she said, some buyers may stay home.

"Who wants to go trekking out looking at properties when it’s a torrential downpour. It’s not fun!" she said.

McDonald and her employees will have things like umbrellas at the ready. They're already thinking about ways to keep mud and water off the carpets during open houses.

"You can’t stop showing. You can’t stop working. We’ll make do. I think everyone’s just preparing for it," she said.