No matter how aggressive a buyer's agent you hire, it will be difficult to negotiate a home in the 90036 zip code that meets your parameters. Remember, all real estate is neighborhood driven. Looking at national trends and applying them to say, Beverly Hills, will not give you a good result.
Here is one statistic to help you understand what is happening in the 90036 area. (Note: although statistics can be skewed based on the data sources and how they are manipulated, when you look at comparative statistics from the same reporting source, this helps take out the error factor.) One source shows that housing prices in the LA Metro area dropped 19.8% year over year as of the 3rd quarter 2008 (sorry 4th Q not yet available). In the 90036 area prices dropped only 13.5%. Compare this to Lancaster, also in the LA Metro statistics which dropped over 40% in the same time period. Another way to determine if your price range fits a neighborhood is to look at current listings and recent sales. Recent sales show the lowest priced sale in the last 90 days for a 3/2 at $755,000 for a bank owned property (but also shows a 2/2 at $1.15 million) and a look at current listings shows that 3/2 homes are still priced between $855K and $2.2 million.
Bill, there are great deals out there and a great agent can help you find them. You need to stay realistic (you might need to stretch a bit, your area, your price, your timeframe etc) and you need to stay persistent. This is how one of my clients finally found their home this past December. They looked for 10 months, made many offers, stretched their top price up $50,000, and stretched their ideal area off the hillside and to the flatlands (same great schools, same conveniece of location), and are now living in and loving their new home. You can do the same. Dare to Dream.
Real Estate Consultant
RE/MAX Palos Verdes Realty