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Los Angeles Real Estate Blog

Jeff White and Lori Donahoo


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Home Owners Affected By The Fires May Be Eligible For Property Tax Relief

by Jeff White and Lori Donahoo

If you are a Los Angeles County resident and have been affected by the Woolsey or Hill fires, you may be eligible for property tax relief. Multiple LA County officials are working together to provide information and accommodate affected property owners. Following Governor Brown's state of emergency declaration, taxpayers whose properties have either been destroyed or sustained a minimum of $10,000 in damage may file a Misfortune and Calamity claim for property tax relief. County Assessor Jeffrey Prang set up a Disaster Relief hotline number--(213)-974-8658--and created a one-stop center on its website for those who have been displaced and/or evacuated at

We housesellers also want to bring your attention to some other helpful services being offered to those affected. The DMV will be providing limited services at its temporary site in Thousand Oaks including replacing, at no cost, the following items if damaged due to fire: duplicate drivers licenses, identification cards, vehicle registration and title and disabled person parking placards. Also, victims may acquire substitute license plates and stickers, vehicle disposal paperwork, driver record printouts and process a change of address. Please visit this CA DMV Wildfire Information link for dates and times.

Anyone impacted by the fires, including employees, employers and volunteers, in Los Angeles and Ventura counties should register with FEMA as soon as possible at (800)-621-3362 or at Federal loans are also available for business owners, homeowners and nonprofit organizations through the Small Business Administration to repair or replace disaster-damaged inventory, property and supplies. Also, homeowners and renters may qualify for loans to repair or replace homes and personal property. Call (800)-659-2955 or apply online at In addition, some residents may be eligible for unemployment benefits due to the fires. Learn how to file by calling (800)-300-5616 or visiting

Please share this information with as many people as you can as any bit of relief can be a huge help when disasters of this magnitude occur.


Is Los Angeles Becoming A Capital Of The Tech Industry?

by Jeff White and Lori Donahoo

In just a few short years, the term "Silicon Beach" has become the go-to description of the area comprised of the beach cities of Santa Monica, Venice, Marina del Rey, Playa Vista and El Segundo. The region's tech employment increased roughly 15% between 2016 and 2017, and many of the biggest names in technology, including Facebook, Google, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, Spotify, and Space X have opened new offices or increased their existing presence there. Still, discussions about tech capitals in the media rarely seem to focus on LA...but that seems likely to change soon. 

Part of that change is the rapid development and merging of tech and entertainment. There is no disputing that Los Angeles is the entertainment capital of the world and likely will always be. But, according to the LA Times, with schools like USC, UCLA, Caltech, Chapman and LMU, Los Angeles also has more engineering graduates than any city in the United States and many of these grads become profoundly affected by the entertainment culture they experience during their studies here. Because of these factors, the tech startup community in LA has boomed in the last decade. "Technology" and "California" used to only mean the San Francisco area, but not so much these days.

We housesellers can't help but notice the irony in the fact that while home prices here continue to rise at historic rates, one of the reasons tech is booming in Los Angeles is because of how much more affordable it is to live in LA than in San Francisco or New York. As more and more wealthy employees of mega tech companies move into the area, that could cause a problem of even higher escalating home prices in Silicon Beach, but the flip side of the coin is that the massive region-wide transportation upgrade we are in the midst of will allow for industry employees to explore housing options in other communities in our vast urban sprawl and still be able to commute quickly to where the center of the tech hub in LA is located.

Why Los Angeles Residents Need To Take The Santa Ana Winds VERY Seriously

by Jeff White and Lori Donahoo

For Southern California residents, the Santa Ana winds have always been an inconvenient nuisance. However, with "fire season" becoming more and more of an all year event, the Santa Anas, combined with fire and smoke, are increasingly growing more and more deadly and destructive. It was just last month that forecasters were calling the October winds the most powerful wind event in our area in decades. Unfortunately, they are just as strong right now and most of Los Angeles County is under a Red Flag warning until Tuesday evening. This means the humidity is in the single digits, the fire danger is extremely high even in dense urban areas and the air quality, especially in the Valley and the beach cities, is extremely unhealthful. 

Another concern is that certain communities in Ventura and LA may experience fire tornadoes due to the strong winds, multiple ongoing fires and parched vegetation (the Santa Anas are expected to peak in intensity tonight and Monday). When these whirling balls of fire are present, there is much less time than usual to evacuate an affected area. California has a long history of major wildfires, but what's new in the past few years is massive blazes that spread so quickly that some fire victims have been found in their cars trying to escape, as was the case with at least one couple in Malibu this weekend. Remain vigilant even if you are many miles away from the fires as strong winds could carry embers toward grass and other fuels that have not yet been burned, thus forcing the trajectory of the fire to change rapidly.

We housesellers cannot stress enough how important it is to keep updated with the most current information regarding the status of the fires currently being fought in Ventura and Los Angeles, as well as the changing air quality updates. Also, please know that even if you are far away from the fire zone, you may still be surrounded by falling ash and smoke. As of now, all canyon roads west of Santa Monica are closed and portions of the 101 and PCH have yet to reopen. Firefighters are experiencing limited access to some fire spots due to so many closed roads, so it is best if you are on the west side of the county to just remain home and indoors unless you have to attend to an emergency or something urgent. And, as always when these devastating situations arise, we send our most sincere thoughts and condolences to those of you who have been affected by this latest disaster.


Three Newly Renovated Historic Hotels That Make For An Amazing LA Staycation

by Jeff White and Lori Donahoo

In the last year, three of the most historic Los Angeles area hotels from the early 20th century (all three were completed in 1926) have quietly and magnificently been restored to their former glory. While LA has some of the newest and fanciest high-tech hotels in America, if you are planning a night or weekend out, you might want to consider these gems.

The first, the Villa Carlotta, was actually an apartment complex built by the first major Hollywood studio head, Thomas Ince. William Randolph Hearst is rumored to have financed the completion of the building after shooting Ince dead on his yacht in 1924. The Villa housed a host of Hollywood icons including David O. Selznick, Marion Davies, Montgomery Clift, and gossip columnist Louella Parsons, whose write-ups were delivered to a courier from her apartment window. Now, the historic landmark has been restored with oversight from the Hollywood Heritage Museum and the Los Angeles Office of Historic Resources. Various celebrities tend to rent out its extended stay rooms, and no two units share the same layout. Almost all of the original moldings, cabinetry, sinks, doors and windows have been preserved, and many rooms have Juliet balconies, wrought-iron window grilles, and views of the Hollywood sign.

The Hotel Figueroa in the South Park area of Downtown originally opened as an exclusive women's hostel operated by the YWCA. Advertised as "financed, built and operated by and for femininity", it was the largest project of its kind in the United States to be financed, owned, and operated by women. Restored to its original Spanish Colonial splendor by a Santa Monica design agency that installed a lobby art gallery featuring a newly acquired permanent collection of all female artists, the hotel hosts a literary collection of Los Angeles based authors and a schedule of women-centric events that kicked off with the YWCA’s annual meeting. We housesellers have to admit the concept is certainly innovative in this day and age.

The Mayfair in Westlake is famous for being the site of the first Oscar after party in 1929, as well as being the tallest building west of the Mississippi River when it opened in 1926. Restored to its Roaring '20s glory by an LA-based Icelandic architect, an original set of drawings from 1923 and '24 served as the inspiration for the renovation. The original flooring, brass fixtures, and fluted column pillars have all been preserved (again with the help of the Los Angeles Historical Society), but modern touches include the Library Bar and Eve American Bistro, where you can order inventive new cocktails and bites to eat. But, to get a greater sense of the neighborhood’s Jazz Age allure, wander along 6th street. There you can eat enchiladas in one of the oldest remaining buildings on Wilshire Boulevard (built in 1905), which is now Mexican restaurant La Parrilla, or have a steak dinner at the Pacific Dining Car, which was established in 1921.

Plenty Of Incentives For You To Get Out And Vote Tuesday

by Jeff White and Lori Donahoo

The 2018 Mid-Term elections on Tuesday are shaping up to be the most interesting, and important, election cycle in decades. We housesellers have outlined on this blog some of the important issues we think you should be aware of and have strongly urged folks to get out and vote. With the election now just days away, we thought we would further encourage your participation in the most honorable part of our Democracy--voting--by letting you know how many local businesses are offering special deals to get you out and voting on election day.

Whatever your political opinions are, don’t skip out on voting and make sure to take time to research and come to an informed opinion on the races that matter to you. If you are worried about transportation issues, free rides to the polls abound on Tuesday. Train and bus rides on Metro will be free all day and you can get a free 30-minute Metro Bike Share ride with the code 1162018. Uber is giving users $10 off if you want to ride-share to the polls and Lyft is giving 50% off rides with the promo code VOTECA2. If you are set for transportation but unsure of where your polling place is, use this Find Your Polling Place link from the California Secretary of State to find your voting spot.  

Once you have done your civic duty, there are plenty of Election Day deals on food, drink and more around LA. The 1933 Group, which operates a bunch of popular eating and drinking spots in the area, is offering early evening drink specials such as $1 Moscow Mules and Old Fashioneds at their many establishments. Another hospitality group with a lot of local bars and restaurants, Artisanal Brewers Collective, is offering killer specials at its locations such as BOGO appetizers and buy one beer and get a second for one cent. All kinds of shops in Downtown LA will be offering 30% off goods and services for voters who show up with their "I Voted" stickers, and if you are a fan of the Pie Hole coffee and treats chain that has taken over SoCal, all of their locations will give voters a free select dessert item all day. This Los Angeles Magazine article offers a nice sample of some of the other events happening to lure voters out.

Home Buyers Should Not Underestimate The Importance Of Pre-Approval

by Jeff White and Lori Donahoo

Though we housesellers have touched upon the importance of getting pre-approved by a lender before you start your search for your dream home in past blogs, we thought we should expound a little on just how necessary the process is. One of the positive changes of the housing crisis of the 2000s is that it brought a greater focus on financial readiness for home ownership. However, many buyers still decide they want a home before learning if they can afford it and in this competitive marketplace where buyers often need to stand out, one way to show you are a serious buyer is to get pre-qualified or pre-approved for a mortgage before starting your search.

Freddie Mac explains the advantages of pre-approval on their website with this statement: “It’s highly recommended that you work with your lender to get pre-approved before you begin house hunting. Pre-approval will tell you how much home you can afford and can help you move faster, and with greater confidence, in competitive markets.” They describe the ‘4 Cs’ that help determine the amount you will be qualified to borrow:

  • Capacity: Your current and future ability to make your payments
  • Capital or cash reserves: The money, savings, and investments you have that can be sold quickly for cash
  • Collateral: The home, or type of home, that you would like to purchase
  • Credit: Your history of paying bills and other debts on time

Venturing into the home buying process without professional help is not a good idea and first-time home buyers should not try to deal directly with the listing agent. A good buyers agent will explain the pre-approval process and warn you of some common mistakes buyers, especially new ones, make. For example, spending all or most of your savings on the down payment and closing costs is one of the biggest mistakes home buyers make. If you use all of your money to make the 20% down payment so you don’t have to pay for mortgage insurance, you are left with no rainy day savings for the inevitable life events or home repairs that occur when you least expect them. Also, a mortgage is not the only expense you'll need to consider. There's property insurance, taxes, homeowners association dues, maintenance and other expenses to deal with. Please feel free to contact us and we can discuss this and any other home buying questions you may have.


Ways To Keep Your Yard And Gardens Pet-Safe

by Jeff White and Lori Donahoo

Many of you in Los Angeles have been making the switch in recent years from water-thirsty all-grass lawns on your property to gardens and yards that utilize a variety of flowers and plants and bushes (we housesellers are especially keen on the native and drought-resistant California plants we have written about frequently). As this trend continues to be adopted by more and more people, the number one thing we want people to know in keeping their yards and gardens safe for pets is just how many common plants are toxic to cats and/or dogs. The ASPCA lists the following landscape plants as the most poisonous for your cats and dogs:

  • Tulips and Daffodils
  • Azaleas and Rhododendrons
  • Castor Bean (many beans in general are very toxic)
  • Pacific Yew
  • Autumn Crocus
  • Chrysanthemum
  • English ivy
  • Lilies

You would be surprised, however, at some of the other plants that are bad for pets to varying degrees, your dogs especially. Daisies, Carnations, Wisteria, Shamrocks, and even the plant that has been ubiquitous in California forever, Aloe Vera. Other California garden staples that can be harmful to pets include Avocados, Garlic, Grapes and Raisins, Hops (seen in more and more gardens as craft home-brewing explodes in SoCal) and Mustard plants. 

There are also a few other things we need to point out so that your pet is safe in the yard. The most obvious one is always properly use and store pesticides and fertilizers in secure, labeled containers. If you apply pesticides, always read the label thoroughly and learn when it is safe for your pets to be out in the garden after an application. Many Angelenos compost and if you are one of them, secure your compost bin so that your dog or cat cannot feast on the contents. Avoid the trendy cocoa shell mulch because dogs love to eat the mulch and it is toxic for them. And, of course, If you are out in the garden with your pet for any length of time, be sure they have a source of clean water for them to drink that you replenish when you notice it is empty. 

Remembering The Iconic Thomas Guide

by Jeff White and Lori Donahoo

Long before automobile GPS systems, Waze and Google Maps apps on our phones, the Thomas Guide was how Angelenos got themselves around Los Angeles and Orange Counties. While they were produced for many big cities around the country such as San Francisco, Baltimore, Phoenix, Portland (OR and WA), and Washington, DC they were ubiquitous in LA due to our size and huge horizontal layout. Long time residents will no doubt remember when the Thomas Guide, commonly known as "the bible of LA roadways," was so common that businesses here routinely advertised their locations by listing the page of the guide they occupied, and many of us got our first Thomas Guide at the same time we first got our drivers license. 

The Thomas Bros. Map company was started in Oakland in 1915 by cartographer George Thomas, with his two brothers as business partners, and they made wall maps before expanding into fold-up community and tourist maps. The company moved to Los Angeles in 1940, and in the mid-1940s the brothers tried something different. Rather than printing a large sheet of paper with generalized information that users had to fold repeatedly, they divided their map into a grid and gave each section its own page in a book. They sized them to be able to fit into a car's glove compartment, an important detail considering California's exploding car culture in post--WW II America. 

We housesellers recently learned that all of the Thomas Guides have ceased production except the LA/Orange County and San Diego County guides (the move in the 1990s to expand to more East Coast cities never really took hold), and these are only updated every few years on an "as-needed" basis. Even though they are no longer practical compared to the other ways we navigate our huge city, we can't help but think some of you still have an old Thomas guide lying around the house or maybe even under the front seat or in the trunk. Please fill us in if you have any fun stories relating to your Thomas Guide experiences.

Dodgers/Red Sox World Series Rematch Only 102 Years In The Making

by Jeff White and Lori Donahoo

We housesellers are, of course, delighted that the Dodgers are back in the World Series to battle the Boston Red Sox this year and congratulate the Boys in Blue for getting there for the second year in a row. Despite each of the teams having some of the longest and most storied careers in baseball history, the last time the Dodgers and Red Sox met in the World Series was in 1916, and it was their only time facing off against one another in the Fall Classic until now (the Dodgers were also known as the Brooklyn Robins at the time and were beaten by the Sox, 4 games to 1). The series begins Tuesday in Boston and the Dodgers are looking to make up for their game 7 loss last year to the Houston Astros, whom the Sox beat to get into this years series.

This year's series has some intriguing storylines, one being that it pits two of the best pitchers of their generation against each other. Our Clayton Kershaw and Boston's Chris Sale have had their bouts with injury and illness over the past few years but should be in top form as they face off in game 1, giving hitters on both teams reason to be nervous. The Dodgers also have four left-handed starting pitchers (including Kershaw) and a slew of southpaw hitters which has been known to throw opposing teams off their game a little. There is also the fact that it has been 30 years since the Dodgers last brought home a World Series trophy, while the Sox won just 5 years ago in 2013, and after last year's narrow defeat the Dodgers may just be a little hungrier!

We dug up some really cool facts about the Dodgers and Red Sox last WS meeting in 1916 that we thought you would enjoy. Casey Stengel was the outstanding offensive player for the Dodgers, but the team was no match for the Red Sox's young star pitcher (whom you may have heard of), Babe Ruth, who pitched thirteen shutout innings in game 2, starting a consecutive scoreless innings streak that grew to be 29 in 1918. With game 2, the Series had the longest game in terms of innings--14--in World Series history until Game 3 of the 2005 World Series. The Dodgers wouldn't win their first World Series until 1955.

Global Great ShakeOut Earthquake Drills Are Tomorrow

by Jeff White and Lori Donahoo

The 2018 International ShakeOut Day is being celebrated tomorrow, Thursday, October 18th. The purpose of the yearly event is to hold earthquake drills that will provide an opportunity to practice how to be safer during an earthquake, and to update emergency plans and supplies and secure your work and living spaces in order to prevent damage and injuries. The Great California ShakeOut Drill will be held just outside of Los Angeles City Hall and will include a resource fair of organizations that help Angelenos prepare for and recover from natural disasters. 

2018 is the 10th Anniversary of ShakeOut, which began in Southern California in 2008, and now counts hundreds of millions of participants around the world. While the LA event officially kicks of at 4 am and lasts until mid-afternoon, the actual drill takes place at 10:18 am - 10:19 am. Something we housesellers found quite interesting is that centerpiece of the drill is the Ready America Shake Trailer, an immersive earthquake simulation machine that resembles an average home outfitted with furniture, plants, and other items that could topple and cause injury in a quake. For the drill, participants sit on a couch while the trailer shakes for five seconds with the force of up to an 8.5 magnitude earthquake. Even if you can’t test out the Shake Trailer in person, many schools, hospitals and offices will be participating in a coordinated statewide seismic drill at 10:18.

The main focus of the drill will be to impress upon residents the need to utilize the practice of Drop, Cover, and Hold On, the technique recommended by official rescue teams and emergency preparedness experts as the best way, in most situations, to protect yourself during earthquake shaking. Drop, Cover and Hold On is: Drop onto your hands and knees and stay low, as this keeps you from falling over in the swaying or being knocked over by debris. Cover your head and neck with an arm and crawl under a sturdy shelter. Hold On tight to whatever sturdy table or wall you’ve got until the shaking ends.



Displaying blog entries 1-10 of 616