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Jeff White and Lori Donahoo

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Demands Buyers Should Never Make When Submitting A 'Request For Repairs'

by Jeff White and Lori Donahoo

With no end in sight to this hot seller's market we have been experiencing in Los Angeles, it is important for buyers to understand how tricky it can be to toe the line between what is acceptable to ask of a seller and what might just cause them to cancel an escrow. Buyers are bidding on homes in an ultra-competitive market where multiple offers are the norm, so choosing what repairs to ask for requires some strategy. After all, requesting too many fixes could potentially tank the sale if there are less high-maintenance buyers waiting in the wings. Here are some common repair requests a buyer should never make:

  1. Cosmetic Issues. They are the #1 things other buyers in this market are likely willing to overlook. You can probably afford to add a fresh coat of paint to the den, have the wood floors refinished or fix the broken tile in the kitchen that is bothering you. Don't sour a deal by asking for cosmetic changes.

  2. Renovations you are already planning. If a kitchen redo is at the top of your list for when you move in, do not expect the seller to replace a warped pantry door or damaged baseboards. However, if there are things that you both agree are clearly in bad shape, you can discuss any credits they may want to give you for damaged items. 

  3. Items the home inspector didn't flag. If things like a jammed window or creaky basement door are bothering you but the inspector has not flagged them for safety or code violations, it is best not to include these in any repair requests. 

  4. Minor electrical issues. A nonworking light switch or faulty electrical socket that pops up in an inspection may seem like a fix you should request, but if it’s truly a minor issue and not a sign of larger problems with the home's electrical systems, skip it.

  5. Missing smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. If the area where you are purchasing the home requires sellers to provide working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, by all means mention that. But if they don’t, make a note to replace them yourself after closing. This is an easy, inexpensive update and in most cases, not worth risking the sale.  

  6. Upgrades. Although it’s OK to ask the seller to ensure that the existing electrical system in an older home is working correctly for the date it was built, it is not acceptable to request that the electrical system be upgraded to current codes. The same applies to other systems as well: You should not be asking sellers to upgrade galvanized pipes to copper or PEX, install new furnaces if the old ones are still working safely (even if they are somewhat old), seismically retrofit foundations, replace single pane windows with dual pane products, install insulation, etc.

  7. Asking for an abatement. Older homes in particular may have materials in them deemed hazardous, especially asbestos and lead-based paint. While there will likely be an inspection to determine if these materials are present, most buyer's agents agree that it is not reasonable to ask the seller to pay for their removal.

The above are just a few of the many things clients have discussed with us in the past. And it is true that many things that would have been fine with asking the seller to help with in past markets are no longer worth risking alienating them. If you have questions about what is acceptable to ask for in a request for repairs, please feel free to contact us and we housesellers will help in any way we can. Also, there are many things that you absolutely should have the seller pay for and we will be listing some of those common requests in the coming weeks. 

House Hunting Mistakes NOT To Make!

by Jeff White and Lori Donahoo

As a follow up to our blog the other day about what to expect if you are house hunting in Los Angles in 2018, we wanted to add to that some of the things that, now that you have the basic essentials of the housing market here, you should absolutely not do. 

First and foremost, do not start house hunting if you are not clear about what you want. Make a wish list before you start shopping, because looking at extremely different types of properties will slow down the process. There is nothing wrong with considering your options, but try to narrow them down before you fill your weekends with home tours.

Don't start seeing homes without a mortgage pre-approval. In the hot LA market, almost every seller will be unlikely to entertain an offer without one. A pre-approval also lets you know exactly how much mortgage you qualify for, so that you won’t waste time looking at properties you can’t afford.

Don't wait too long to see a home. In this tight market, if your real estate agent calls you about a new listing, do whatever you can to see it right away. Waiting even a day in this 2018 market can make the difference between getting the house or not.

Don't ignore the neighborhood. Take some time to feel the vibe of the community to make sure it's right for you. Is the neighborhood quiet or bustling? Is it predominately hipster singles or families? Do neighbors seem friendly and likely to gather on their porches in the evenings or do they keep to themselves? Also, check for local shops, restaurants, or parks if these amenities are important to you. And, in LA, especially, check for access to freeways and public transportation.

Don't speed through an open house. You should never be afraid to explore the whole house and property in detail and this includes opening closets and pantry cabinets to check out every nook and cranny, making sure the windows are hanging straight, flipping light switches to check their upkeep and inspecting the floors and the foundation to make sure they are in good shape. Take notes (even if they are just mental) and don't be afraid to flag those things you have concerns about. 

Don't expect perfection. We all have an idea of our dream home, but for most of us it is rare to get exactly everything we want in any area of our lives. So...focus on what is most important to you. The best dream homes are the ones that have the basic foundation of what we were looking for that we then turn into the home we desired through our family dynamics, creativity and just the pure joy of home ownership. 

Here's What You Need To Know To Launch Your Los Angeles House Hunt in 2018

by Jeff White and Lori Donahoo

House hunting, especially for first time buyers, can be both an exciting and an overwhelming experience. It is the biggest purchase you will ever make and searching for the right match can be daunting. We housesellers would like to offer you a primer on what you need to know about looking for a home in Los Angeles in 2018. 

The first thing you will need to know is that the median home price in the area, according to the most recent data from industry real estate tracker CoreLogic, is currently $585,000. That figure includes both single-family residences and condos, with single-family homes selling for a median price of $620,000 and condos averaging $500,000. Both numbers were at least 8% higher than the corresponding medians this time last year.

In LA, late Spring is when you’ll have the freshest offerings as the number of residences hitting the market traditionally rise sharply between April and June, while June, July, and August are the months when the most overall homes are on the market.

Late summer is also a good time for bargain hunting. This is when sellers tend to lower prices in family-oriented neighborhoods due to buyers exiting the market because they want to find homes before the new school year begins.

Be patient. In this market, the average time from the consideration and shopping phase to the closing of escrow is about 6 months in Los Angeles. 

Be prepared for a bidding war. Right now, sellers are getting multiple offers, sometimes many of them. Buyers should be prepared to be very flexible with their wish lists or be prepared to overpay. As to be expected, bidding wars are most intense over lower priced homes in popular neighborhoods.

Because of the high home prices in LA, the traditional 20% down payment when securing a loan doesn't often apply. Most loan providers now require 10% or less up front from buyers purchasing a home. There are also numerous programs in place for buyers without much cash on hand and they include Federal Housing Authority loans for first-time buyers, VA loans for veterans and active service members and Home Possible Mortgages for buyers with low or mid-level incomes.

Be flexible in the type of property you are willing to buy. Single family homes and condos make up the vast share of the homes on the market, but there are other types of properties you may find make sense for you. These include: 

  • Townhomes. Generally attached to neighboring units, these offer the space and feel of single-family homes but function more like condos. Residents share ownership of the land around the homes and pay monthly homeowner dues.
  • Small lot homes. These resemble townhomes but function more like single family homes. The units in small lot complexes do not touch and sit on tiny pieces of land not much larger than the house itself but buyers don’t have to pay dues to a homeowners association (the usually pay a nominal maintenance fee for upkeep of communal space).​​​​​
  • Co-ops. Much more popular in other major cities such as New York and Chicago, we are starting to see more of these in LA. They are similar to condos except that buyers don’t technically own their units and, instead, own shares in an association run by a board that often vets potential residents. Co-ops are also generally less expensive than condos.

Use an agent. In this difficult and complicated market, trying to navigate the process without the help of a professional can be a real challenge. Not only can an agent help you with things like finding homes in your price range and arranging showings, they will be able to guide you through the process of negotiating a price with the seller and agreeing upon the terms of the sale.

 

2018 Los Angeles Outdoor Movie Season Is In Full Swing

by Jeff White and Lori Donahoo

The outdoor movie season in Los Angeles usually runs from late April through October and is now in full swing. Each year, it seems that what started as folks taking their lawn chairs to their local parks and picnicking under the stars while watching a classic film has grown into multiple events all across LA, featuring live music, gourmet food trucks and all kinds of other activities. We housesellers wanted to let you know about some of the best and most popular for 2018.

Street Food Cinema is probably the top dog in terms of presenting an immersive film experience and, with more than 60 events at 14 locations from Pasadena to Pacific Palisades, SFC is known as the largest outdoor movie series in Los Angeles. One of the most popular of the 14 locations is the Park Center in Griffith Park, which will host the 65th anniversary of Peter Pan on June 2nd with special guest Kathryn Beaumont, who voiced Wendy in this Disney classic.

With locations in Downtown LA and Hollywood, Rooftop Cinema Club offers a premier outdoor movie experience with panoramic views, spectacular sunsets and state-of-the-art wireless headphones. They have one of the best mixes of old and new films, too, with classics like Casablanca and The Godfather alternating with the most recent Oscar-winners such as I, Tonya and The Shape of Water.

Taking place on Saturday nights at rotating venues stretching from Downtown to Santa Monica, Eat|See|Hear boasts the largest outdoor screen on the West Coast and state-of-the-art audio. Every screening features a curated line-up of food trucks and an opening performance by an up-and-coming band.

Another popular rooftop cinema experience is the Melrose Rooftop Theatre held at the hot spot dining and drinking establishment, E.P. & L.P. on La Cienega in West Hollywood. With the Hollywood Hills as the stunning backdrop, specialty cocktails, custom concession stand and new VIP seating for up to 100 guests, the 2018 program features more than 100 cult classic movies and new releases.

Launched in 2002, Cinespia hosts on-site screenings of classic films from the 1930s through the 1990s all across LA, mostly in open-air settings at historic locations. Its most popular series runs weekly between May and August on Saturday (and occasionally Sunday) nights at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, where huge crowds bring their blankets and picnic supplies. 

The Silver Lake Picture Show is one of the most fun FREE outdoor movie events in Los Angeles and is also a popular movie/picnic spot. Every other Thursday from late June until mid September, they will be showing some of your favorite feature films, such as Jaws and Dirty Dancing, accompanied by short films from local filmmakers.

The above may be some of the most popular, but there are many, many more outdoor film events now through October, and this Los Angeles Magazine link is the most helpful and comprehensive list we have found. 

 

 

Spotlight On The Hollywood Farmers' Market

by Jeff White and Lori Donahoo

In the last decade, seemingly every neighborhood in Los Angeles has seen a new farmers market pop up that offers specialties unique to that community. As organic fruits and vegetables and the Farm-to-Table movement have gone from being a pricier alternative to the supermarket to a way to prepare meals that have become increasingly affordable, we are fortunate that our area offers such a variety of great farmers market options. We housesellers thought that we would put the spotlight on one of the more unique and interesting ones in LA, the Hollywood Farmers' Market right in the heart of Hollywood.

The Hollywood Farmers' Market is one of the older markets that has continuously been open, celebrating its 27th year in 2018 (although the most famous LA farmers' market, the Original Farmers Market in the Fairfax District is celebrating its 84th anniversary this year!). Located between Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards, the Hollywood Farmers' Market is an outdoor street market with produce and goods from local farmers, ranchers and vendors who offer a variety of fresh California-grown fruits and vegetables, and other wares such as honey, fish, free-range poultry & eggs, meats, cheeses, olives, mushrooms, jams, jellies, fruit juices, sauces, dried fruit and nuts, espresso, ethnic foods prepared on the premises, hot pancakes, bread, biscuits, clothes, jewelry, gifts and a lot more.

The Hollywood Farmers' Market also features street musicians, community organizations and free events (such as cooking demos, cookbook autographs, kids workshops and family-oriented festivals). There are activities for children, free recipes and other items of interest. Another neat aspect of the Hollywood Farmers' Market is that t-shirts, aprons and bags are available at the information booth located at at Ivar and Selma Avenues.

Do you have a favorite farmers market that you visit? We would love to hear from you about it and what makes your local market special. Please visit this recent Los Angeles Magazine link to all of the great farmers markets in Los Angeles.

 

Trader Joe's Upping Game With New Podcast

by Jeff White and Lori Donahoo

While there are Trader Joe's all over America from Oregon to Texas to Maryland, California (and, especially Los Angeles) can lay a special claim to this favorite U.S. grocery spot. First of all, they started out in Pasadena and their headquarters is located in Monrovia. Secondly, the tiki/nautical theme at most stores is clearly influenced by the 1930's and 40's Polynesian fad that started in LA. Much like In-N-Out and the Hollywood sign, when many people think of Trader Joe's, they think of California. So, we housesellers were delighted to come across a fun news story today that discusses the new podcast which addresses all things Trader Joe's.

Like the iconic In-N-Out, Trader Joe's has always had a secretive side so it was interesting to see that the new podcast will delve into what makes TJ's such a popular and intriguing store. According to Trader Joe's management, the podcast is designed to "literally take listeners inside the company for the scoop on what makes Trader Joe’s, "Trader Joe's", and open up about the way we do business, what sets us apart from other grocers, where and how we discover our products and what customers can expect in the future"

Some of the more entertaining aspects of the 5-part podcast focuses on things those of us, especially in LA, can relate to such as why do we put up with such impossible parking and the crazy long check-out lines? Is their cheese and chocolate selection really the best ever? And, are there still wine drinkers in Los Angeles who have never tasted of Two Buck Chuck? In any case, if you are interested in TJ's dishing on the ins and outs of running their stores, why they sell bananas the way they do and whether or not they’ll ever open an online counterpart and what it takes to petition the company to get a Trader Joe’s near your house, this podcast might be something you want to binge on!

 

The Free Summer Music Season Will Be Here Before You Know It!

by Jeff White and Lori Donahoo

It's one of we housesellers favorite and most fun things to research and write about each Spring: the free summer concerts that are spread out all over Los Angeles County from May through September. We usually wait a few weeks into May to post our first blog (we try do a few blogs on this topic throughout the summer as there are always new additions and constant updates as the summer progresses) but what has been announced for Summer 2018 is already pretty spectacular if you are a music lover, especially a music lover of all different kinds of music.

We'll start with one of our favorite spots for free summer shows, Burton Chace Park in Marina del Rey. Their Summer Concert Series is always one of the best and most diverse, and this year they may have topped themselves. Their season doesn't start until July but includes Opera at the Shore from the Culver City/Marina del Rey Symphony, actress/singer Katharine McPhee, a fully staged production of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s South Pacific, multiple Grammy-winning Blues and Gospel singer, Lalah Hathaway, indie rock superstar, Cat Power and, perhaps the greatest and most important punk band LA ever produced (and definitely the most beloved), X...with all of the original members!

Grand Performances, the longest-running presenter of free live performances in Downtown LA, celebrates its 32nd Annual Summer Series line-up of free outdoor concerts at California Plaza from June 1st to August 18th, 2018. This great series of shows seems to be starting right off with a highlight: the June opener is a grand celebration of Sly & the Family Stone called Higher! The Psychedelic Soul & Genius of Sly and The Family Stone. Want to keep that funky groove going? Bootsy Collins, the famed bassist and vocalist from Parliament-Funkadelic will be laying down his grooves for free in July. Then we have the East LA’s darlings of Coachella this year, The Delirians, wowing folks with their bilingual vintage ska sounds, And, there is world-renowned performance art diva Astrid Hadad and French pianist Chassol adding to just some of the great variety that will be bringing people to Downtown to enjoy a lot fantastic entertainment.

We are still a few weeks out from the complete Pershing Square free concert line-up announcement, but you will definitely want to stay tuned for that. Set to kick off July 14, the six-week free Saturday night concert series, an LA staple since 2007, always features a carefully curated selection of live music showcased on an immense 70 foot stage with state of the art lighting and sound set against the downtown LA skyline. Past artists have included The Wallflowers, B52's, Los Lonely Boys, Survivor, The Jay Hawks, Kansas, Toad The Wet Sprocket, America, 10,000 Maniacs, WAR and other national and emerging bands. Again...all free!

Of course, we would be remiss not mentioning that one of the events that, year after year, seems to really kick of the free music summer season (and also offers tons of giveaways like free tickets to the Comedy &Magic Club, food samples, stickers, energy drinks, t-shirts and all kinds of other swag) is Fiesta Hermosa in Hermosa Beach. For South Bay denizens and Westsiders, this is kind of the unofficial bookend of the summer as it has been held for 3 days over Memorial Day weekend and 3 days over Labor Day weekend for 46 years. Here is their always stellar list of bands.

We'll keep you updated as the Summer approaches and progresses because there is a lot more music that still has TBA status!

 

 

These Are The Big Plans Both Metro And Elon Musk Have For The Sepulveda Pass

by Jeff White and Lori Donahoo

One of the nation's most famously frustrating drives is on the 405 through the Sepulveda Pass. There have been all kinds of plans floated over the years for easing congestion but now both entrepreneur and Tesla guru, Elon Musk, and the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority are seeking to have their concepts and plans move forward to the next levels. In Metro's case, they are also asking for feedback from residents on one of its most anticipated projects: the long-planned transit line through the Pass that would give thousands of commuters an alternative to the notoriously traffic-clogged 405.

If you regularly travel through the Sepulveda Pass, the narrow corridor centered on the 405 that funnels most traffic between the Valley and West LA, Metro is asking that you take this survey to help the agency move forward with the rail line. Metro is considering both a light rail and subway (Metro once considered a rapid bus lane as well, but that idea has been shelved). Metro is looking at several options for the route such as possible stops on the rail line that would connect riders to the Orange Line rapid bus, a future transit line down Van Nuys Boulevard, the Purple Line Extension to Westwood, the Expo Line and LAX. Last Summer, Mayor Eric Garcetti threw more fuel on the fire by suggesting that a Disney-style monorail could be another good option to consider. The Sepulveda Transit Corridor rail project will be one of the biggest projects funded by the Measure M sales tax hike approved by county voters in 2016. Though things have progressed to the next stage, we are still only in the planning stages. However, now that we have landed the 2028 Summer Olympics, there is extra incentive to have the project completed by then.

Meanwhile, a Los Angeles City Council committee and Elon Musk are moving at the same speed. The city council’s Public Works and Gang Reduction Committee voted to fast track a proof of concept for a super-speed underground transit system that Musk’s Boring Company wants to build beneath Sepulveda Boulevard on the Westside. The Boring Company is planning to construct a network of underground tunnels to move people around on high-tech platforms they are calling “skates.” The tunnel's proposed route runs parallel to Sepulveda, starting at Pico Boulevard in the city of Los Angeles and running as far south as Washington Boulevard in Culver City. The only entrance to the tunnel would be located in what is currently a lumber yard and welding area, the company said. The tunnel would be 30 to 70 feet below ground and would not have any stations along the way, which would help avoid major utility lines and other underground hazards that can slow or complicate construction. The committee recommended the city exempt the project from a lengthy review under the California Environmental Quality Act (although this could take years). The motion now goes to the full Los Angeles City Council for approval. 

Musk isn’t in the clear yet, though, as Metro sent him a letter this week pulling rank. The transit agency’s leadership said the agency needed to certify that the project wouldn’t interfere with its own tunnel boring plans for their transit project. We housesellers are excited to see that at least there are multiple groups wanting to help alleviate one of the biggest congestion corridors in Los Angeles.

 

 

Street Food Now Legal In LA

by Jeff White and Lori Donahoo

One of the great things that every longtime Angeleno has always loved while hitting the hot spots in town, be it a concert or play or other event, whether on a weekday or on the weekend, is how afterwards we are always able to grab some amazing street food the minute we step out of the venue and into the street! From truly LA authentic taco carts to Korean BBQ to grilled Mexican corn, most of us have enjoyed some amazing late night grub when we most needed it just steps from whatever venue or show we were just at. But, even though it is pretty commonly known that most local authorities have generally always looked the other way, those killer giant sausages with grilled peppers and onions have not actually been legal to sell or even consume until now.

Yep, that's right...until now. In a landmark decision made Tuesday (surprisingly-or maybe not-on tax day), the Los Angeles City Council has officially approved the legalization of street food within city limits, with the vote passing 11-4. Brick-and-mortar businesses in Los Angeles will get a chance to oppose vendors planning to set up shop on adjacent sidewalks but will not be able to turn them down outright under a revised proposal for new regulations approved Tuesday at City Hall. Seeing how Los Angeles has such a close cultural connection to Mexico (where street food is a way of life), not to mention that LA has been absolutely instrumental in launching America’s food truck craze, it’s hard to believe that street vending in LA has been illegal this long. But, thanks to this historic move, that is all about to change.

To be clear, this isn't a blanket proposal and there are still lots of details to work out. The new plan is to work out a compromise between business owners and street food vendors about where, and when, they can all operate together. A motion put forward by Council members to leave out the business veto was ultimately approved and successfully voted on, and now vendors and shop owners have 60 days to create a draft ordinance for what shape street food legalization will ultimately take. That means there is still much to discuss, but this new decision means that for the first time in the city’s history, street food’s legalization--a far cry from previous decriminalization efforts, which simply kept street food illegal but stopped criminal enforcement--has been taken up and approved by the City Council.

In any case, we housesellers have certainly enjoyed our share of an amazing variety of LA street food and can't wait to see how all of this plays out!

 

It Is Easier Than Ever To Build A Rental Unit Or 'Granny Flat' In Your Back Yard

by Jeff White and Lori Donahoo

Did you know that since last year, Los Angeles has drastically eased the restrictions on building a second home in your back yard? Specifically, a series of state laws took effect in January, 2017 with the aim of easing California's housing shortage by eliminating local restrictions that had made it difficult or impossible to build such small second homes, commonly known as "granny flats". Officially referred to as accessory dwelling units, or ADUs, these structures are being seen as one tool to help chip away at the massive housing issues and homelessness that our historic lack of inventory has been responsible for in recent years. In Los Angeles County, 58,000 people were living in unsheltered conditions in 2017, up 20% from 2016, and millions of people are burdened by rents that are increasingly restricting their quality of life. 

While restrictions are being lifted all over California, with more and more permits being issued for these back yard structures throughout the state, the largest growth is in Los Angeles, where 2,342 secondary units were permitted in 2017, up from 120 in 2016. With half a million single-family lots citywide, Mayor Garcetti's office has argued there’s room for an even greater increase. Adding a secondary unit to just 10% of single-family properties within Los Angeles, for example, would create 50,000 new homes. Of course, getting to those levels any time soon will be difficult because the projects are done by individual homeowners rather than a developer building hundreds of units. Los Angeles County is also working to facilitate the rental of  ADUs to individuals and families who were formerly experiencing homelessness by allowing homeowners with ADUs on their properties to accept housing vouchers. There are currently roughly 50,000 secondary units on residential lots, from mother-in-law cottages to converted garages, but many of them lack permits or have never dealt with issues like the cost to build extra parking that outdated city codes required. These are problems the County hopes to tackle in the near future as more people show interest in this idea. 

Various companies are reaching out to newly permitted Californians hoping to make things easier so that this concept keeps expanding. Kasita, an Austin-based builder of backyard homes, recently went on a road tour through the state, in part to reach out to homeowners who want to build an ADU and make some extra money to help pay their mortgages. Cover, based in Gardena, launched a free online tool that lets Los Angeles homeowners search their address and see if they are allowed to build a granny flat and, if so, at what size and in what location. The typical 400- to 800-square-foot ADU unit costs a homeowner $140,000 to $300,000, including permits and appliances. A garage conversion is even cheaper, about $45,000 to $100,000 in Los Angeles, according to Pearl Remodeling in Van Nuys. By comparison, in 2016, it cost an average of $425,000 to build one unit of affordable housing in Los Angeles. The company examples we mention above are just a fraction of those that have already seen a boom because of the tiny house trend of recent years.

Not everybody is on board, though. Opponents of the plan argue that increasing neighborhood population densities will lead to a higher need for public services, result in even worse street parking situations and lead to the loss of too much green space. We housesellers acknowledge that these are valid issues, but we are certainly curious as to how the City and County of Los Angeles move forward with this program while tackling these, and other, issues concerning the recent increased level of permits for ADUs.

 

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