In real estate for nearly 30 years, homegrown South Bay resident Kevin Moen has a keenly tuned sense of the local market. He sat down with South Bay DIGS in his Rolling Hills Estates office to talk about the state of South Bay real estate — and the role of today’s realtor.
AS TOLD TO CONSTANCE DUNN | PHOTOGRAPHY BY PAUL JONASON
How did you get your start in real estate?
I played football at Cal and had some opportunities to play pro football. When those ended I got into teaching, at a time when enrollment was going down, so I wasn’t being offered permanent positions. I started having a family and bought a house, so I went to work for a friend of mine who had a local developing company. It led to real estate, which was the perfect environment for me to be an independent contractor and create my own destiny. Over the years I’ve performed different roles in this industry, from owning a company and managing a real estate entity to doing what I’m doing now, which is assisting in managing the RE/MAX Estate Properties office in Rolling Hills Estates, along with representing my clients.
How does your approach differ from other area realtors?
What I perceive as my strength is an in-depth understanding of the local area and the values for this market. If a house is selling for a certain amount — is that a good value, a fair value, or a great deal?
How has the role of a real estate agent changed over time?
Nowadays, anyone can look at properties online. My job as a realtor is to give context to that information; to inform people of the lifestyle differences in each area, the schools and how areas compare to one another, value-wise. I can go shop in any marketplace online and find a great house. But is it next to a dump? Does it have a toxic waste plant nearby? There are a lot of elements — from a home’s view and lot size to its age and uniqueness — that impacts its value. And that’s what a skilled realtor brings to a valuation.
Being enmeshed in the local real-estate scene and knowing the players brings certain advantages then?
Yes. You’re going to encounter 10 hurdles in each transaction. Escrow companies, Title companies. Inspection companies. So the job of an agent is to get the client through those hurdles as efficiently and with as little stress as possible. Good agents have the ability to work through the processes of a transaction to get the buyer to the finish line as quickly as possible and get the home sold. When I do a deal with, say, Chris [referencing a recent issue of South Bay DIGS featuring Chris Adlam of Vista Sotheby’s International Realty], it’s going to be a smooth process. I’ve known him for 28 years. What has stayed the same during your years in South Bay real estate? The South Bay is a consistent and steady buy. The excellent schools have a lot to do with that, and are a driving force for families, which creates a constant demand for our area… and the beauty of our community, as well. When you drive around here, some of the views you get are world-class. There are some high-level elements — schools, beauty and security — that make this a very desirable area. And it’s just a fun place to live. You have the beaches, you have horses and you have open trails. There’s a ton of activities, all right here.
What are some of your favorite activities?
I grew up with a family that had a farm, so I love that lifestyle. I’ve got a good buddy who kept after me to get involved in the Empty Saddle Club [a Western-riding club in Rolling Hills Estates]. So I got involved with the club about three years ago. It has 14 acres of horse facilities and there are close to 40 cows for roping and doing various cowboy activities. It’s a great escape. You feel like you’re on your own ranch.
So what is the current demand like for horse properties in Rolling Hills Estates?
There are just not as many people coming to this area to buy horse properties for the purpose of having horses. There is much more of a demand for large lots. Someone may buy a horse property with the idea of converting the barn area to a sport court or a playground for kids. So buyers like the ambiance of space, but not necessarily for use as a horse facility.
What do you see coming around the bend in local real estate?
We’ve come through a few years of pretty high escalating values, and initially I projected this year as a stabilizing year with not a lot of growth in price. What’s turned out so far in this first quarter is a little spike in prices because there’s very little inventory. We’ll see how the balance of the year plays out, but right now, there’s very little inventory and there seems to be a very strong demand. We’re still being influenced by extremely low interest rates, they’re still hovering around 4-percent or under, and that should be a tremendous incentive for buyers who are utilizing loans to buy a house.
Any trends in local demographics?
We’ve always had a fairly large international buying community, whether from the Asian market or the Middle East, that has identified the stable home values and good schools in this area as an opportunity. It’s great. If our economy is kind of going slow and theirs is going strong, overseas interest in local real estate affords us a good buying environment.
What are some of your favorite spots in the South Bay?
The Bull Pen in Redondo Beach has always been a favorite little getaway. And I enjoy The Admiral Risty, which I call ‘my favorite little haunt.’ It’s about a mile from my house. My family and I know the people who work there and we know the menu. We’ve got our favorite dishes.