Thursday, October 30, 2014

Ask the Realtor: Mansionization in L.A. and what it means for you

(Cartoon by the incomparable Ted Rall) Recently, two separate residential real estate clients have called about parcels of residential property next to or adjacent to their houses.  These parcels are either vacant land or an older, smaller home in disrepair.  They’re worried that a real estate developer will come along, buy the properties for cash and build a mansion which will then block my clients' light, their view, their neighborhood ambience.  Could this really happen? Yup.  Check out this recent article from the L.A. Times about many residents’ growing frustration.

This won’t make you feel better, but here are some rules of thumb about what can and can’t be built on residential property.  Each separate city has its own rules, though, so if you want to be certain, please check with that city’s building and planning department.

-        First, the house’s square feet can only be 35% to 45% of the lot’s square footage, not including the garage.  So a house of 3000 sf can be built on a standard 6700 sf lot.  At least it’s not a 5000 sf house (cold comfort, I know).

-     There have to be set-backs from lot lines.  Standard here is 5 feet (not enough IMO) on the sides, and 25 feet at front.

-      The design has to conform to the neighborhood character.  So while somebody could build a fake Cape Cod (the house design du jour), they can’t build a replica of the Parthenon.  (Except in Glendale. Kidding.)

- If the lot is smaller than 5,000 sf, building on it at all may not be permitted unless a variance is issued.

What to do if you’re next to a potential humongous construction project?

-     Try to make nice with the new owners before they dig.  If they are not developers and plan on staying there, perhaps they will re-scale grandiose plans.  Not likely, but it’s worth a try.

-       Go to your city’s building and/or planning department and speak with whomever is reviewing the plans (before the old house, if there is one, is torn down).

-        Buy the lot/house yourself (thanks a lot for nothing on this one, Judy).

If you’d like to investigate further, here is the link toL.A. city mansionization ordinances.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Check out my new Yelp review!

Thanks, Jim and Elizabeth, for my new 5-star Yelp review.  Jim and Elizabeth, the writers, are the new owners of the Hollywood Hills home that I blogged about last week.  Even though the transaction got a little hairy, I had a great time working with J&E and I miss them already.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Surprise! Mortgage interest rates are really low.

In defiance of expectations, mortgage interest rates moved down this week.  All the financial experts said they'd be going up and we'd probably hit 5% by the end of the year.  Just shows what experts know, eh?  Right now, rates look like this:
30 year fixed: 20% down = 4.00% with no points
30 year fixed: 10% down = 4.125% with one point

It may be time to pull the trigger on purchasing a home.  BTW, my 11485 Moorpark #17, Studio City is open on Saturday from 2-5 and 629 N. Keystone in Burbank is open on Sunday, 2-5.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Hollywood Hills house closed yesterday - whew!

First-time buyers Elizabeth and Jim are the proud new owners of this home in the Lake Hollywood area.  This transaction had a bunch of challenges.

The house is a flip and the new stuff is really nice, but an entire lower unit had been torn out on the order of L.A. City.  And there were lots of brand-new concrete pours and patches which indicated lots of cracks and slipping.  This is no surprise as the house is built on a hillside.

We had lots of inspections and estimates and the news wasn't so great.  But two factors made this purchase a go: first, Jim and Elizabeth are up to the challenge of a not-perfect house and second, the sellers gave the buyers a huge, huge credit.  (It's the largest credit of any real estate transaction I've been involved in.)

I am eager to see how Jim and Elizabeth (wonderful clients, btw) will fix this up.  Here are pics of a friendly neighborhood kitty and also the sunset view from the front porch.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Check out my brand-new website at!

Please visit and take a look at my newly-designed website.  It has lots of new functionality plus many of the same popular features as the old one.  Search the local mls, read my blog posts (without pictures), and get community news.  Some bugs are still being worked out, but I hope you like it.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Burbank-style Octoberfest

Now that you've seen this, you can't un-see it.  Thanks, clients George and Yvonne Feucht, for the fun night! George, you are adorable in your lederhosen!

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Best breakfast in Studio City -- by item

Who needs Yelp, eh? Let's all hop on the restaurant ratings bandwagon! Lately, I've been sampling various specific breakfast food items in my new hometown of Studio City.  I've come up with a not-so-definitive "best of" list by item for those of you that share my tastes. 

I select Jinky's on Colfax and Ventura for the best all-around egg-type breakfast.  Not only do they have many, many kinds of omelets and such, they also have quick service with a smile, celebrity spotting, a dog-friendly patio, and mimosas.  Coffee is a bit pricey but you get a whole pot.

Now on to the really carbohydrate-y stuff that we won't admit we eat:

French toast even better than Mom used to make can be found at Tujunga Village's Aroma.  This is dipped in the real egg batter stuff and is so rich that I dare you to finish an order.  It's even better than nearby foodie-fave Girasol's brunch French toast.  This is how I want to start my birthday day for the rest of my life.

Good old standby Du-Pars has the best regular pancakes (pictured above).  Light, fluffy, and scrumptious, the order is so large that you'll want to share these (or maybe not).  The parking lot there at Laurel and Ventura is a bit tricky, so go early.

What is it about banana pancakes? I don't know, but I crave these when the bananas are cooked in the batter, not just laid on top.  Vivian's on Ventura, close to Vineland does a wonderful job on these noms (pictured above), and their patio is delightful as well.  The other breakfast items are good, too, although they are a bit chintzy on the toast.

Yes, my weight is up 5 lbs from last year when I moved.  Please feel free to comment, or add other faves.