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Jeff White and Lori Donahoo

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Is Co-Living The Next Frontier In Renting In Los Angeles?

by Jeff White and Lori Donahoo

Co-living complexes, one of the newest trends in urban housing, are making some serious inroads in Southern California in 2019. Fairly common in European cities such as Berlin, London and Dublin, co-living spaces have been springing up, and seeing much success, over the last few years in American cities such as New York, Seattle and San Francisco. They are usually designed to serve young professionals who can’t afford the rent in hip, desirable neighborhoods. Basically, residents in a co-living complex typically have their own bedroom and bathroom but share kitchens, living rooms and other common areas with fellow tenants. Some, like the in-development Treehouse Hollywood, will have communal amenities that include a library, a dining hall-style eating area and a cafe that is free for residents. 

In Los Angeles, the builders of these complexes generally target people who make between $40,000 to $80,000 a year. We housesellers don't need to point out that SoCal has been experiencing a housing crisis of epic proportions for years and proponents of co-living spaces argue that they address an acute shortage of housing while offering high-end amenities and a sense of community, and they say co-living companies entice a largely younger crowd into sharing their space with others who are in the same situation they are in. Backers of the idea view shared living as a way to combat the isolation and loneliness that can result from more traditional living situations and aspects of modern life, and say it encourages people to have meaningful connections with their neighbors

Common, a company that manages co-living developments in six cities across America, including Los Angeles, has its flagship space in the Melrose neighborhood where $1,550 per month includes utilities, wi-fi, and housekeeping services for the common areas. That is 20% less than competing new studio-style units nearby. At C1, a $40 million dollar building that just opened in Marina del Rey, the furnished units (featuring soundproof bedrooms and individual thermostats) go for roughly $2,000--which is about $600 less than conventional studio apartments in the area. It will be interesting to see how this still-new-to-LA idea pans out, but it's not much of a stretch to say the idea has the potential to be a game changer. 

New Westside Bus Service Operates Like Uber...But WAAAAY Cheaper!

by Jeff White and Lori Donahoo

In a continuing effort to make it easier to get around Los Angeles, the LA Department of Transportation kicked off the pilot run last week of LANow, their new on-demand ride-share program. The LANow service does not operate door-to-door, but pools riders at pick-up/drop-off spots in the service area. LADOT says these spots are within a quarter-mile of destinations within the service area (roughly 3-4 blocks). If you are familiar with  Lyft Line or Uber Pool, the new service is a lot like those services where you get matched with riders heading in the same direction so you can share the ride and cost. The ceremonial kick-off for LANow took place last week at Mar Vista Gardens.

However, this will quite a bit cheaper than other ride-share services as fares are only $1.50 for adults and $0.75 for seniors and disabled people. Children 4 years old or younger ride free. Payment can be made via a debit or credit card, or with a Motiv Debit Card (which is designed for those who do not have access to banking services), and you can hail a ride through the LANow smartphone app, online or by phone. Information on how to download the LANow app, obtain a Motiv Debit Card, a list of stops and drop off times and more can be found at this LADOT Transit link

For the time being, the pilot program for LANow only operates in the Venice, Del Rey, Mar Vista and Palms areas. The shuttles will run 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday during the program's initial phase, according to LADOT, and the service will not be available on weekends or holidays. We housesellers think this is a great idea, especially for students, disabled people, domestic workers and those who don't have cars. The idea has been in the works for over a decade and at the press conference at Mar Vista Gardens last week, an LA City Councilman stated that he "hopes that this will be ridiculously successful and that we soon will be able to expand the coverage area".

Here Are Some Great Ways To Make Your Open House Stand Out

by Jeff White and Lori Donahoo

Now that we are seeing a strong buyers market developing in the Los Angeles area, with more inventory and less homes selling above the asking price, if you are planning on listing your home soon you'll have to try a bit harder to get people interested in the property than in the past few years. One of those ways is to make sure your open house stands out from the rest. While your agent is likely to post a virtual tour on their social media platforms such as Facebook and Youtube, sellers may want to also post previews on Facebook Live and Youtube Live. This is a great way to highlight the unique features of your house and take questions in real time. This can be an specially great tool for those out-of-state buyers looking to relocate and for Millennials and first time buyers who tend to search for houses on just their phones and tablets.

Another great idea is having a yard/garage sale while your agent is holding the open house. This serves a few good functions such as getting rid of the junk you won't want to take with you when you move, de-cluttering will help the house show better, and you may just earn a few bucks. This can really work well when you have a block or neighborhood yard sale as they tend to attract far bigger crowds than an open house by itself would. And why not think about having a sneak peak for the neighbors? Many may be moving soon, or even better, they may have friends and relatives that want to move into the same neighborhood. When it comes to getting referrals, face to face interaction is worth much more than any door hangars or flyers you can paper the neighborhood with.

Creativity is always key when planning an open house, especially here in quite literally one of the most creative cities on the planet. Talk to your agent about creating a theme that revolves around an upcoming event, such as a holiday or sports game (like a cookout theme for Memorial Day or a baseball theme for the World Series), which will ensure that each open house is unique. If there is something significant or historical about the home, create a theme around that. Be sure to build buzz about the theme by including it in your agent's Facebook advertising and yard signage. We housesellers know that there are many, many ways to make your open house stand out so please feel free to contact us for any tips or suggestions.

Second Installment Of 2018/2019 Property Taxes Due Soon

by Jeff White and Lori Donahoo

We housesellers wanted to remind you that the second installment of your 2018-2019 Annual Property Tax Bill is due by April 10, 2019. The tax, which covers the fiscal year July 1, 2018 through June 30, 2019, was mailed in October of last year and the first of the two installments was due by December 10, 2018. If you bought a property in 2018 and have NOT received a property tax bill, we encourage you to get in touch with us so we can reach out to the former owner(s) since many times the county sends an incorrect tax bill to them.

Also, it is important for new home buyers to be on the lookout for a supplemental tax bill, which is the difference from the previous owner's tax (which was prorated at the close of escrow) and your new property tax rate. A supplemental assessment reflects the difference between the new assessed value and the prior assessed value. If the property is reassessed at a higher value, a supplemental bill will be issued. If the property is reassessed at a lower value, a refund will be issued.

Did you know that California’s overall property taxes are below the national average? The average effective property tax rate in California is 0.79%, compared with a national average of 1.19%. The rate is also 0.79% in Los Angeles County. Did you also know that home owners can pay their property taxes online? This LA County Property Tax Portal will show you how, as well as providing other information regarding things like payment options and tips for new home or business owners. As always, we welcome any questions you may have regarding this, or any other, property or real estate-related topics.

How About That Bonkers Lightning Storm Last Night?

by Jeff White and Lori Donahoo

Last night's lightning strikes were both magnificent and scary and we housesellers have been seeing pics from it in news sources from all across the country today that are spectacular. The crazy lightning storm even knocked out the power at LAX at three terminals, struck a Delta plane heading to Seattle (forcing it to return to the airport), and the Santa Barbara News-Press reported that lightning bolts ignited tree fires and blew out a power converter there. The kind of lightning storm we had last night is exceedingly rare in Southern California so if you were able to catch it as it rumbled through the night, you certainly were treated to quite a show. 

Because there is still a chance of thunder and lightning through tomorrow night (though likely far less dramatic), the National Weather Service has issued some tips for people in the area on how to stay safe when the weather gets as extreme as it did last night. The first tip is probably the most obvious...stay inside and watch through your window as lightning can strike 10 or 12 miles away from a storm. Picnic shelters, dugouts and small buildings without plumbing or electricity are not safe and there are three main ways lightning enters structures: a direct strike, through wires or pipes that extend outside the structure, or through the ground. Lightning can travel through the electrical, phone, plumbing or radio and television reception systems, and also through any metal wires or bars in concrete walls or flooring.

To stay safe you should stay off corded phones (cell and cordless phones are okay), and avoid contact with electrical equipment such as computers, TVs or cords. Avoid plumbing and do not wash your hands, take a shower or wash dishes. Stay away from exterior windows and doors that might contain metal components leading from outside your home to the inside. Stay off balconies, porches and out of open garages or carports, and do not lie on concrete floors or lean against concrete walls. Remember to protect your pets, especially dogs as doghouses are not safe shelters and dogs that are chained to trees or on metal runners are particularly vulnerable to lightning strikes. It is also important to know that lightning generates electrical surges that can damage electronic equipment some distance from the actual strike. Typical surge protectors will not protect equipment from a lightning strike but do not unplug equipment during a thunderstorm as there is a risk you could be shocked or electrocuted.

 

What To Know About Rent Increases During A State Of Emergency

by Jeff White and Lori Donahoo

Did you know that when the President of the United States or the Governor of California declares a state of emergency, landlords cannot raise the rates of their rental units by more than 10%? Last Fall, an amendment was made to CA Penal Code 396 (which prohibits price gouging in California) to specifically address price gouging following a natural disaster. This came on the heels of verified reports that showed that immediately following California’s 2017 North Bay fires, some landlords raised rents by 80% or more. The law is in effect for 30 days after a state of emergency declaration.  However, California is still in a state of emergency for Butte, Los Angeles and Ventura County because of the devastating wildfires and Governor Newsom has extended the state of emergency through November 2019 for those counties. 

The law also states vendors cannot raise prices more than 10% for consumer food items, goods or services used for emergency cleanup, emergency supplies, medical supplies, home heating oil, building materials, transportation, freight and storage services, and gasoline and other motor fuels. It is also unlawful for a landlord to evict a tenant while a state of emergency is in effect or to rent or offer to rent to another person at a rental price greater than the evicted tenant could be charged. It is not unlawful, however, to continue an eviction process that was lawfully started before the state of emergency was declared, and it does not prohibit a landlord from evicting a tenant for any lawful reason.

Although there are some minor exceptions, hotel and motel room rates can’t exceed 10% above the regular rates being advertised immediately before the declaration of emergency (we housesellers learned this regulation became part of the law partly due to some unscrupulous hotel and motel owners quadrupling prices of rooms rates in Texas after Hurricane Harvey in 2017). Mobile home space rent increases are limited to 10% as well after a state of emergency is declared. For comprehensive answers to your question about price gouging laws related to rents and other goods and services please see this FAQ link from the CA Attorney General's office. 

Rare Owls Finding A Home Near Once-Thriving LAX Ghost Town

by Jeff White and Lori Donahoo

We housesellers wrote awhile back about the lost community of Surfridge, a glamorous 1920s and 30s neighborhood of wealthy Los Angeles citizens and Hollywood elite that was built on the dunes overlooking Dockweiler Beach at the southern end of Playa del Rey. It was located near a small airport that eventually became LAX, and, as LAX expanded, the neighborhood fell into decay as folks escaped the noise and pollution. By the 1970s the area was condemned, the houses razed and it was a forgotten area of overgrown weeds, brittle asphalt and a few old streetlamps. Then, in 1986, the airport created the Dunes Restoration Plan to return the dunes to their original occupants (most notably the El Segundo Blue Butterfly, the first insect ever designated as an endangered species) and now over 900 species of plants and animals have been saved from habitat loss.

In recent years the preserve has become a haven for a variety of native plants, flowers and endangered species. According to recent stories on both the Weather Channel and the LA Times, it is now seeing a reappearance of a rare species of owl after many years. The 10 Burrowing Owls are the most seen at the LAX Dunes Preserve in 40 years (The nearest other burrowing owl is the single one spotted about 27 miles away at the Naval Weapons Station in Seal Beach), and among them are a breeding pair that stand guard over a nest. While the owls are so-called "wintering owls", the Times reports that biologists believe there is a chance that juvenile burrowing owls might become permanent residents of the preserve, which is just one small fragment of a dune system that once stretched along the Pacific Coast from Santa Barbara to Mexico.

The success of the Blue Butterfly experiment, the owls returning, the range of biodiversity in the windswept landscape and the fact that the preserve has become an ecological hot spot, even though it is sandwiched between a popular beach and the third-busiest airport in the nation, has scientists and biologists amazed and excited about the resilience of nature. BTW, burrowing owls were once among the state's most common birds. Starting around the 1940s, though, things like urban development, eradication of the rodents they feed on, pesticides, attacks by domestic animals, vehicle strikes, etc. have made them scarce in most parts of the state. 

 

 

 

 

What To Do To Make Buying Your First Home A Reality

by Jeff White and Lori Donahoo

For most people the most exciting, and daunting, purchase they will make in their lives is that of their first home. We housesellers want to offer up some basic tips to make the process seem a little less scary and overwhelming for new home buyers. First and foremost, you'll want to build up credit and keep your credit accounts in good standing. If you have student loans, credit card bills, car payments, etc. you will want to show mortgage lenders that you are a safe bet and are able to handle and pay off any debt you may have. Run a credit report on yourself annually so that you have a clear idea of what your credit score is because poor credit is the #1 red flag for lenders. 

Saving for the down payment can seem like a tremendous task but there are a few things you can do to make it less so. First, talk to your bank about setting up an automated house down payment fund and having a set amount from each of your--and, if applicable, your spouse's--paycheck deposited into the fund each payday. It is important to avoid risk-type investments such as stocks and real estate investment trusts, a boring old savings account is your best, safest bet. You'll want to come up with a clear time frame of when you want to buy, how much house you can afford and how many months it will take to reach your goals. Plan on depositing any cash gifts, work bonuses or income tax refunds into the account, which could help you reach your down payment goals early. Also, try not to make any life-changing plans (such as switching to a new job or buying a fancy new car) that could throw your savings plan off.

Perhaps one of the most difficult things for new home buyers, especially very young ones, to do is learning to live on a strict budget. That, however, is the most important and necessary step you will need to take to achieve your home ownership goal. Prepare a budget and stick to it by avoiding spending on non-essential items and impulse purchases like clothes, jewelry and travel. Keep track of every penny you spend so that you do not fall short of your financial goals. Not only can maintaining a strict budget help you save the kind of money you’ll need for your down payment, it will also prepare you for managing the type of tighter budget that homeownership requires.

 

 

These Are The Areas To Avoid During This Crowded Oscar Weekend

by Jeff White and Lori Donahoo

If you live or work anywhere near the area of Hollywood and Highland, you know that they have been slowly closing streets and thoroughfares since the beginning of the month in preparation for the 91st Academy Awards being held this Sunday, the 24th. We housesellers know that many of you are old pros at dealing with the route changes and annoyances that come with our city hosting the biggest awards show in the world (often second only to the Super Bowl in television ratings and hype), but we still wanted to give you the heads up on what streets to avoid and what to expect over the next few days in case you forgot that the Oscar ceremonies are happening this weekend. 

The major closure last week was Hollywood Boulevard, which was completely closed in both directions between Highland Avenue and Orange Drive as crews installed the lengthy red carpet and adjacent bleachers, and it will remain closed until 6 a.m. on Wednesday, the 27th. This Friday, Hawthorn Avenue will be closed between Highland and Orange and will remain closed until 6 a.m. on Monday, while on Saturday all of Orchid Avenue and Orchid Street will also be closed until 6 a.m. Monday. The Hollywood and Highland subway station will shut down later in the night on Saturday (you will have to use the Hollywood and Vine station if boarding the Red Line after midnight) and will reopen Monday morning.

Sunday, the day of the awards, is, of course, when the most major of the traffic hassles will occur. Hollywood Boulevard will be shut down between El Cerrito Place and Cahuenga Boulevard, as will Highland Avenue between Franklin Avenue and Sunset Boulevard. Parts of Wilcox Avenue and Yucca Street will be closed and  the sidewalk in front of the Dolby Theatre will be shut off. In fact, they have been gradually closing off many sections of sidewalk in the area, as well as closing curb lanes, so this comprehensive listing of  ALL closures should help you avoid any areas you will want to bypass if you are not involved with the ceremonies. Keep in mind that most of the various thoroughfares that have been or will be closed will reopen on Monday, but some will be closed until Saturday, March 2nd. 

Marie Kondo Can Help You Get Your Home Ready For Sale

by Jeff White and Lori Donahoo

In the past few months it has been impossible for those who follow social media, have a Netflix account or are interested in self-improvement methods/projects to not notice what a huge celebrity the organizing guru Marie Kondo has become. Her KonMarie Method (the subject of multiple best-selling books as well as the first new 2019 Netflix show) has become a cultural phenomenon, and has inspired people who would not normally think about getting rid of certain possessions to throw away bags full of excess stuff to simplify their lives. We housesellers know her ideas are not for everyone, but we also think some of her tips are great for those folks who are getting ready to sell their homes but have no idea how to declutter before they list.

Decluttering is one of the most difficult tasks you'll face when you decide to sell, but it is also one of the most important. Since you'll be having photos taken of the house and rooms (and then people walking through) and want it to be seen in the best light, tidying up should be one of your first goals. The KonMarie way is to declutter the space (in this case, home) in one fell swoop. Kondo emphasizes that you should begin by discarding those things that do not have a real, serious emotional attachment for you. The more you can get rid of, the easier it is to tidy up. Don't just store things out of site because that creates the illusion that the clutter problem has been solved, and if your home is on the market for a few months or more it is likely that you will start cluttering it up again with stuff you should have gotten rid of. 

Another important thing to remember is that you'll be moving all of your possessions to your new residence so the less things you have to pack up and transport, the better. The KonMarie Method focuses on choosing what to keep, not what to throw away and advises holding each item you possess in your hands and asking yourself if it sparks joy. If the answer is "yes", then keep it, if the answer is "no", then toss it. Embrace the calmness of well-organized closets and drawers and learn to enjoy the extra space and simplicity of a decluttered home. Listing your home is the perfect time to act on this idea! 

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