Connecticut in Sherman Oaks

Charm, yard, schools, room to grow, room for a pool, and move in ready.

Our newest listing in Sherman Oaks checks all the boxes above and then some. Rarely do we list a home that has been owned by the same owners for an extended period of time that is truly move-in-ready. This gem has been owned by a designer for the past 38 years, and boasts some of the most intricate detailing and thoughtful renovation I’ve ever seen.  That said, it has a very strong point of view–we call it “connecticut county’.  When buyers walk in and they either immediately connect with house and love it OR they walk right out (most people are falling hard for this one).  Here are a few of my favorite details:

Living Room: Pitched roof with exposed beams are such a wow when you walk in.  The floor is made from a combination of antique terra-cotta tiles and picket fence (!). It’s not something you would pick out of a flooring store and is so unique and perfect for the space.

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The Kitchen: I’m just gonna say it–it’s literally the best kitchen i’ve ever seen in this price range.  It is pure perfection from the double farm sink, to the paneled refrigerator, to the timeless tile choices, to the picture window that looks out onto the back yard.

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The Yard: This yard works for both kids and adults.  With plenty of room for kids to run and dig, and climb, plus room for a pool, and multiple patio areas for entertaining and al fresco dining.

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All of this plus 4 bedrooms and 3 baths, including a real master suite that opens to the yard.

Listed for $1,225,000.

Schools:  Zoned to Chandler Learning Academy (elementary) and Milliken Middle School (middle)

Bonus:  Walking distance to Bloomingdales AND the mall also has an indoor playground.

5022 Stern Avenue. 4 bed 3 bath, 2210 Sq/Ft.

Modern (Family) California Bungalow in Eagle Rock

My newest cutie pie listing is a perfect example of super smart buyers who did it right. They bought a fixer in a great neighborhood and prioritized their updates over the past 3 years.  And they are going to do really well on the sale. They did the updates that I most recommend to my clients:

Exterior- make a good first impression.

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Exterior Before

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And now: landscaped and perfectly selected colors.

Great front door

A close up of the door. Cutest door knocker EVER

A close up of the door. Cutest door knocker EVER

Kitchen- HEART of the home

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Dated, 70’s cabinets and countertops

Refaced cabinets in WHITE (good), new quartz countertops and appliances.

Refaced cabinets in WHITE, new quartz countertops and stainless appliances.

Master Bath- mama needs a good bathroom!

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Before: Motel 6

 

After: Four Seasons

After: Four Seasons

 

Living Room and Floors.

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Living room looks small with oversized, dated furniture

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Spacious Mid Century/Eclectic perfection with dark wood flooring

Master Suite

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Master looks dark and dingy.

Dark floors and white, bright sophisticated master suite

Dark floors and white, bright sophisticated master suite

Work Space/Guest Bedroom

Office before

Office before

and after

and after

Family Room- This original 1922 bungalow had an addition that made sense in the 70’s (wood paneling + shag carpet).  My clients saw the potential. They raised the roof (literally) and added a wall of windows and wallah–  A true family living space big enough to eat, play and relax in.

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def harkens back to the 70’s

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The wow factor of this home is the oversized family room with vaulted ceilings and wall of windows. It just feels good in here.

 

You can tell that this house is not a cheap flip. My clients poured their heart into these thoughtful renovations. It takes some vision and determination but it really does pay off in the end. Be smart. Be patient. Be willing to live with imperfection at first. Prioritize what is most valuable to you and your family and that will translate to the next family that buys your home (and make you money).

This house is currently listed for sale at $849,000

http://www.4979vincent.com/

 

DIY Designer Entryway

One way to up your home style game is to create a great entryway.  It is the first impression, the introduction to the house, and a great way express your personal style.  Most of us have a small-ish entry way that doesn’t require a lot of stuff so just a few key pieces can make your entryway stand out and you don’t need a designer.

Elements of Entry:

Console or Bench:  if you have small entry way a free floating console or a bench are the ideal pieces to build your look around.  If you have a larger space maybe consider a custom built in bench and shelf system.

classic

Classic Entry Way: console, mirror, lamp, greenery

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Chic and minimal vibe

 

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simple built in

custom family entry way

custom family entry way

Storage:  Baskets, drawers or shelves in the entry way allow you to neatly tuck away shoes and bags. Hooks are always useful for often used sweaters, hats, or umbrellas.

storage

Pretty and useful storage

bench and shelving with storage

bench and shelving with storage

Mirror or Art–  Have a statement piece above your console or bench, whether it be a mirror for that last look as you walk out for the day or a piece of art that you love that communicates something about your family to your guests.

clean minimal lines

 

Greenery:  Flowers in a pretty vase or a leafy potted plant in a statement pot adds some warmth and whimsy and you can customize with the seasons.

fresh flowers are so chic and inviting

fresh flowers are so chic and inviting

Lamp:  A small pretty lamp goes great in an entry way if you don’t have an overhead light (or even if you do).

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Pretty pendant light from TJ MAXX

Mercer41-Paula-32-Table-Lamp

All Modern Table Lamp

Creating a designer entryway doesn’t have a be expensive. Take your measurements and tuck them into your wallet so you’re ready to pounce at a random yard sale or unexpected sale. You can often find small consoles and benches at Target or TJMaxx. Here are few I found for less than $200:

Laurel+Console+Table

neutral entryway table from All Modern

All Modern

Midcentury cabinet as entryway table from All Modern

Fabius-Console-Table

add a pop of color

 

Slat+Wood+Dining+Bench

a pretty wood dining bench works in entry way, add pillows and hooks to complete the space

Find the biggest piece first and then build around it. Have fun with it, use a color you wouldn’t otherwise commit to for the rest of the house. Entryways can be your ‘flair’ in an otherwise muted/sophisticated home.

Happy Entryway Designing!

 

From Preschool to Ivy League?

It’s Preschool Touring Season!

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Do you have Ivy League dreams for your little one?  Or are you just looking for a safe and fun place for them to learn social skills (don’t touch my body/how much longer are you going to use that toy?).  Either way, preschool touring season is upon us.  Now is the time to go meet the people who will shape your little toddler into a kindergartner over the next 3 years.  My own search centered around proximity.  I refused to drive my child across town and back in LA traffic so, that limited us to about 5-6 schools. I toured them all starting when Ellery was 8 months old (yep!) because she’s an August baby and I knew the cutoff for many schools is July so I wanted to be prepared.  Most schools start with an adults-only tour and information session.  Some of them require a Parent + Me session of 6-8 weeks to even be considered (but no guarantee, obvs). There are fees to apply and just like college you should apply to a few because you never know if you will get in. I know it sounds ridiculous but it’s not that bad actually.

I couldn’t decide between a play based (sounds so fun) and a more academic school (want her to be smart).  So my own approach was why not do both?  I enrolled Ellery in a lovely play based school just 2 blocks away from my office when she was 2. It was small and not fancy but safe and clean and the teachers were so loving. She learned how to be away from mom and socialize with other kids.  At 3 I moved her to a Montessori school because I needed a bit longer school  day (working mom) and also because I like the Montessori philosophy (Joe and I are both Montessori vets). I felt that at 3 she was ‘ready’ for more structure and focus. And I was ready to have more time.

 

But back to Ivy League Dreams- Town and Country recently published this list of the most prestigious preschools in the country (read into that what you will).  I don’t know exactly what criteria they used to determine the schools but I can say that the ones included from LA are probably the most competitive to get into in the city.

LA private school guru (and my friend) is quoted in the article, “It’s not a straight line from the perfect preschool to Princeton,” says Christina Simon, author of preschool book Beyond the Brochure. “However, getting into the right preschool can definitely help get into the right private elementary school, and so on. Those feeder preschools are highly coveted, so there’s a frenzy around how to get in.”

My own experience getting into one of the cities ‘top’ pre-schools was not frenzied.  I toured 5-6 schools and decided on which one I wanted and then I stayed in touch and played by the rules.  I let the director know that it was our top choice and why, attended the parent and me and got my application in on time. No connections, no letters of reference, no stress.

Below is a list of highly sought after schools around the (east-ish)LA area:

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Los Feliz

Pinwheels

All Children Great and Small

Los Feliz Corners

Hollywood

Montessori Shir-Hashirim

Wagon Wheel

The Sunshine Shack

The Center for Early Education

Delaney Wright Fine Arts Preschool

Hollywood Presbyterian

Silver Lake

LA Family School

Camelot Kids

PLAY Silver Lake

Hilltop Preschool

Echo Park

Baxter Montessori

Cottage Enrichment

Atwater Village

Atwater Park Center

Eagle Rock

Eagle Rock Montessori

Downtown/Wilshire corridor

Pilgrim School

Montessori Shir Hashirim Berendo Campus

Studio City

Sunset Montessori

Studio City Co-op

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Here’s hoping your search for the perfect school is as fun and easy as mine.  Happy Touring!

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XO

sarasign

Eagle Rock. How I Love Thee…

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One of the things I love most about selling real estate is getting to know ‘new’ parts of the city.  For the past year or so I have had a major crush on Eagle Rock. The first time I went to Eagle Rock was about 15 years ago to visit a friend who was living there. I was living in Venice Beach and it felt as if I had driven to the moon. Echo Park was about as far east as I had ever been and the city ended there as far as I knew. I honestly don’t remember forging any opinions about Eagle Rock then, except that it was too far from the beach.

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Home of Occidental College

 

Today I find Eagle Rock to be an absolute gem of a town. The perfect mix of urbanity and suburbanity– it borders (family friendly) Glendale and Pasadena on the North and East, and the hipper more urban Highland Park and Glassell Park on the South and West. It feels a lot like the cool-kids (hipster) playgrounds of Silver Lake and Echo Park but without the density, pretense and higher prices. The architecture is fantastic- unspoiled mid-century houses rest beside charming English tudor cottages, early 1900 craftsmen bungalows and 1920’s Spanish casitas. There are hillside homes perched high and low with views (if that’s your thing) as well homes in the flats with flat green lawns, picket fences and wide streets (if that’s your thing).

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I also respond to the working class feel of Eagle Rock.  It feels like ‘real’ people with ‘real’ jobs live there.  Like most towns, there are areas with more cache than others but the divide is not as great as other parts of the city. At least not yet—Eagle Rock has and continues to become more gentrified with each passing day.

Besides good architecture and proximity, the highly rated schools have become a veritable magnet for young families.  Dahlia Heights Elementary, Eagle Rock Elementary and Delevan Elementary are all above average elementary schools (K-6) and Eagle Rock High School (which goes from 7th-12th grade) is also highly rated. That’s 12 full years of good public school, which is almost unheard of in Los Angeles.

But is there anywhere to eat, drink and shop?  Yes, yes, and yes!  Here are a few of my favorites.

EAT

Little Beast:  Seriously delicious. At the end of the meal I was lobbying the waiter to tell the owners to please please please open another location in Los Feliz.

Joe at Little Beast

Joe at Little Beast

Four Café

Casa Bianca Pizza Pie

Cheesemonger:  Milk Farm

Senior Fish Cocina

DRINK

Eagle Rock Brewery Public House– a fine selection of craft beer and seasonal fare.

Colorado Wine Company

SHOP:

Letters From LA

Native

The Green Bean Kids Resale

Leanna Lins Wonderland (gifts and art)

Owl Talk Vintage Shop

Here are some of our recent sales in the Eagle Rock area:

 1916 Designer Done Craftsman

1916 Designer Done Craftsman

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1920’s Cottage

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1920’s English Tudor

eagle view

Modern new construction

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Midcentury Hillside with views

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Midcentury

Call or email me if you would like to explore Eagle Rock or forward this blog to a friend who is in the market. Thank you for reading!

sarasign

 

Spotlight on Elysian Heights Elementary

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Elysian Heights Elementary serves the communities of Echo Park and Elysian Heights. It is located on the corner of Echo Park Avenue and Baxter Street, just north of beautiful Elysian Park.  Elysian Heights has a rich history and was home to  artists, writers, architects, filmmakers, political radicals and counterculture luminaries, whose children attended Elysian Heights Elementary during the 1930s, 1940’s and 1950’s.

I had the pleasure of sitting down with the principal at Elysian, Mr. Emilio Garza, who is in his 3rd year as principal. Mr. Garza is very well educated and tenured but also fresh, youthful, and passionate about his work.  He’s the kind of principal that knows every kids name and their story and I can tell he’s invested in each and every one of them.

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Mr. Garza, principal at Elysian Heights

Elysian is a small school with an enrollment of 240 kids presently throughout TK-6th grades. The target enrollment is 290 and they welcome open enrollment applications. Their current class ratios are: TK-16:1, K-3rd 24:1, and 4-6th 30:1.

Mr Garza’s is implementing a progressive approach to teaching based on Universal Concepts, which he became well versed in through his experiences with International Baccalaureate Schools. Concept-based instruction is driven by “big ideas” rather than subject-specific content. By leading students to consider the context in which they will use their understanding, concept-based learning brings “real world” meaning to content knowledge and skills. Students become critical thinkers which is essential to their ability to creatively solve problems in the 21st century.

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He admits that it’s been a challenge to get all the teachers on board with a new way of educating the kids and eliminate the ‘drill and kill’ approach used in the past. His eyes lit up as he shared an experience of a kindergarten teacher running into his office to share a big ahah moment she’d recently experienced with her student using the universal concepts approach.

The overarching emphasis for the school is Health and Wellness, underpinning the belief that students who are healthy and happy are in the best position to learn. Students investigate various topics under this theme including physical and emotional wellness. Mr. Garza has created several events incorporating the health and wellness theme including Taste of Elysian, where kids learn how to create new health snacks and try new foods; the Fitness Fair, where kids explore new creative ways to move their bodies; and the Elysian Heights Annual 5k, a weekend exercise and fund raising event.

5k run

There are a wide array of extracurricular activities available to students at Elysian including: art, dance, drama, music, and gardening (they have a beautiful garden space). They also offer no-cost after school programs by LA’s Best and Extended Youth Services as well as enrichment classes like ballet, karate, kick boxing and Lego robotics.

elysian garden

The garden at Elysian is beautiful and productive. The kids sell the produce that they grow and harvest to parents.

Parental involvement is on the rise. My good friend just became the president of the school site council. She’s a badass high powered career woman and besides serving breakfast in her kid’s classrooms she is helping the school develop systems to enhance their communications and marketing and build upon the current parental involvement. She pulled her kids out of a very fancy private school a year ago and permitted them into Elysian. The kids are thriving and she and her husband feel more connected to their community.

Elysian Heights is a perfect example of school that might write off if were you to just look at their school rating (5). But you’d be missing a great opportunity to become involved in a lovely, intimate, community school that welcomes new families and new ideas. I encourage you to visit the school and see for yourself if it is a fit for your family. They have an upcoming event for their 100th anniversary!

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Adding Value to Your Home: Part 2 (Fun Stuff)

As a continuation of my last blog, which was about adding value to your home by maintaining it, here are some more fun ways to add value to your house.

Create space/open up the floorpan-Open floor plans are very popular. You can potentially open up your home by removing  a non structural wall, kitchen island, or antiquated built-ins (like a built in buffet).  This works particularly well for smaller homes.  But before you start knocking down walls- please consult with a designer. Opening up the floorpan can go wrong really quick though. Here’s an article about the pros and cons of open floor plans.

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small open floor plan

quintessential mid century open floor plan

quintessential mid century open floor plan

Landscaping– Trim back heavy foliage and let more light in. A dark house doesn’t show well and is a major turn off for most buyers. Clean up and fill in empty/dead space with inexpensive solutions like crushed granite or dark mulch.  A succulent garden is a great idea for California.  Succulents need next to no water,  grow like crazy and are very hard to kill.  Even my black thumb has yet to kill one off.

You can get away with this in England, not Los Angeles.

You can get away with this in England, not Los Angeles.

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replace weeds with crushed granite or mulch.

traditional-landscape

Crushed granite walkway

Trim with succulents

Succulents in entry

Really-Small-Succulent-Garden

Trim with succulents instead of grass.

Entry way- update and maintain the entry way.  The entry sets the stage for the rest of the home. It’s the first and last thing you see. The latest trend is painting the door a vibrant color and putting modern house address numbers. It adds instant polish and sophistication and gives the impression of a well kept home.

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You want to house to say ‘Welcome Home’ to potential buyers.

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If it’s a family house, it’s great to have some toys outside to make it feel livable.

I do LOVE an orange door.

I do LOVE an orange door.

This is east coast perfection.

This is east coast perfection.

 

Floors.  Floors.  Floors.  Nothing ruins a great house faster than a crappy/cheap floor.  Get the best quality you can afford.  Engineered wood has come a long way and is more versatile,  less expensive and more eco friendly than real wood. But real wood almost always looks better in my opinion. Click here to read about the pros and cons of engineered wood vs. real wood.

My favorite wood flooring that is very on trend right now but also a can’t-go-wrong-classic is white oak.  It’s gorgeous. Wide plank or narrow, lightly finished or darker–it’s just got a quality that oozes understated luxury.

narrow plank ‘eclectic’ finish.

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Quartersawn-white-oak-flooring

yummy white oak perfection

 

Master Bathroom–  People love a good master bath and will pay more for it. An out of date powder room or kids bathroom is more forgivable so if your budget includes only one bathroom upgrade, make it the Master and for the love of god, make sure you install double sinks.  After a certain age, men and women shouldn’t be sharing a sink. Or a toilet (or maybe a bedroom), but that’s another blog post.

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A trend i like is turning a mid century dresser into a double sink cabinet. The brass fixtures make it feel more modern.

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Lower budget look- keep it neutral.

 

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Bespoke bathroom. My someday bathroom. Steam shower + deep soaking tub + window with a view. I could live in this bathroom.

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Middle cost bath- you could reduce the cost by nixing the marble and choosing a synthetic material. Keep it neutral.

Paint– You know that creative phase you went through 7 years ago when you decided to paint one wall in your living room bright turquoise to add a pop up color? Please paint it something neutral.  I promise you that exactly no one that comes in to buy it will appreciate it as much as you once did.  I know neutral is boring but a clean neutral palette will allow buyers to project their own ideas on to the house. And it’s all about buyers seeing themselves living there, not your 25 year old. Paint is one of the least expensive ways to update your home.

Don’t. Ever. Do This. I faux-painted a wall in the early 90’s. Enough said.

Why do i feel like having a piece of peach cobbler?

This better be in New Mexico.

Wowzers.

The Kitchen – it’s the heart of the home.  People die for a nice kitchen.  It should be the number one thing on your list to update. If you can’t afford a full kitchen renovation here are some lower cost ways to make your kitchen appear more modern/updated without doing a full renovation:

Change the light fixtures.  Two words: Pendant Lights. They just make a space feel polished.

Beautiful-Drum-Pendant-Kitchen-Lighting-Decor

Grey is a nice neutral counter.

Paint cupboards and change pulls.  You can get a little more creative with colors with kitchen cabinets but keep it relatively neutral–grey’s and blues are very popular and lend just a bit of personality without being obnoxious. Another look that’s been popular lately is to remove top cabinets and install open shelves for dish storage—but if you do you must have pretty dishes and glasses on display.

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Low budget- paint cabinets and new pulls.

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Yes

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Yes

This works.

This works.

open cupboards 2

Yes

yes.

Yes.

N O ! !

No. Never.

New countertops and backsplash tile can change the whole look of a kitchen without remodeling the entire thing.  Kitchens can become dated quickly, so stick with neutral palettes in materials that work for your family. It’s finding the right balance of beauty and maintenance. Personally, i will sacrifice some beauty to have something that is lower maintenance (we have synthetic Cesar Stone). Lately I have been seeing a lot of Soapstone in higher end houses, which is lovely but higher maintenance.  Also, seeing a lot of butcher block in median priced homes, which adds  nice warmth to the kitchen.

Granite, once the queen of countertops has really become dated

Granite, once the queen of countertops has really become dated.

Grey-Kitchen-Countertop-Design-with-White-Kitchen-Cabinet-for-Modern-Kitchen-Ideas-with-White-Wall-Color

Grey counters are neutral and timeless.

Soapstone- the supermodel of countertops. Beautiful but high maintenance.

Soapstone- the supermodel of countertops. Beautiful but high maintenance.

butcher block countertops add warmth to kitchen

Butcher block countertops add warmth to kitchen

Kitchen floors– If your floors are less than stellar- put down a modern rug or two in the kitchen to distract from the floors. Or my favorite low cost kitchen flooring is a modern take on linoleum, called marmoleum.

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Marmoleum comes in an array of colors.

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rugs in kitchen are ok

Linoleum in the Laundry Room.

Try linoleum or marmoleum in the laundry room or playroom  for a  low-risk pop of color/creativity.

Organize the Playroom– Playrooms are a must if you have kids.  Most people don’t have the luxury of a separate playroom.  It’s usually a nook or extension of a general living space in the home (mine is the laundry/mud room). If that’s the case, be sure to keep it modern, neutral (or same palette as your home), and tidy/organized.  It reads adorable if it’s done well and screams cluttered deathtrap if not.

playroom2

 

A few tweaks are all that’s necessary to make a tired home feel fresh and newish. I hope these tips are helpful. Thanks for reading and happy updating!

xoxo

sarasign

Adding Value to Your Home: Part 1

This morning as I was pulling out of my garage, I noticed something. Something that I would never have noticed before I sold real estate. The flashings on the roof over my garage appear to be lifting/peeling away from the roof. I made a mental note to call a roofer and have it checked.

Flashing is material that’s used over joints in roof and wall construction to prevent water intrusion.

Welcome to home ownership. Noticing. Looking. Paying attention. Unexpected expenditures. Your home is your biggest investment, so you should care for at least as well as you do your car.

Spending time and money on my house is not my favorite thing to do unless it involves a trip to Restoration Hardware and a soft new throw to curl up with on the couch (or a new couch). The roof flashings are anything but flashy but I know that in the long run it is money better spent. Damn it.

Clients and friends ask me about the best way to add value to their home. And there are a lot of ways to do so, many of which are super creative, and really fun and I promise I will deliver some good ones in part 2 of this topic. But because many of my clients are first time home owners, I feel compelled to write about the VERY best way first. The best (but least fun) way to add value to your home is to maintain it well.

DON’T DEFER MAINTENANCE.

See, I told you. B-O-R-I-N-G.

boring

But here’s the thing, when you sell your home the buyer will hire a team of people to thoroughly examine it and they will uncover everything you’ve skipped or skimped on over the years and you’ll end up paying much more in the long run.

Here are my top 5 Maintenance Tips that will help you preserve your home and save you money when you sell:

1. Have the sewer line scoped every 2-3 years. That beautiful tree in your yard that you love to drink your coffee under every morning has roots that could be destroying your sewer line.  You don’t have to rip the tree out, but if you clear your line every couple years the roots won’t ruin your sewer. It’s about $500 to remove the roots and about $5,000-$10,000 to replace sewer line.

Tree roots infiltrating a clay sewer pipe.

Tree roots infiltrating a clay sewer pipe.

2.  Learn how your Heating and Ventilating and Air Conditioning (HVAC) system works. It’s the system most people know the least about and it also needs regular maintenance every few years.  Maintaining the system is much less expensive than replacing it. It’s not uncommon for systems to last for 20+ years if taken care of properly.  At the very least change your filters regularly because…well, see below. You can do it yourself and it costs about $50.

HCAV Unit diagram

HCAV Unit diagram

 

Dirty filter = ewe.

Dirty filter = ewe.

3.  If you remember nothing else I ever say remember this: Water is the ENEMY of the homeowner. Moisture leads to mold and mold is expensive to get rid of–like rip the walls out and replace them expensive. So always be on the lookout for water intrusion- check the basement or crawl space and make sure there’s no moisture, hire a handyman to check the flashings on your roof (see above) to make sure they are sealed. One of the easiest and least expensive ways to avoid water intrusion is to install gutter extensions, which pushes rain water away from the house rather than letting it descend right into the foundation.

Spout Extensions: An inexpensive way to prevent water intrusion in your foundation.

Spout Extensions: An inexpensive way to prevent water intrusion in your foundation.

4. Spray for termites. In California, we have termites, it’s just the way it is. There are subterranean and swarming termites and they can wreak havoc on your home. Spraying for termites annually helps avoids most big ticket damage and may help you avoid paying to have your home fumigated (tented) when you sell.

Their job is to destroy your house. Don't let them!

Their job is to destroy your house. Don’t let them!

5. Have the foundation checked every so often. Foundations shift over time and small cracks can be fixed easily and cheaply if they are not allowed to progress over long periods of time.  Foundation repairs are one of the biggest ticket items that buyers ask (and generally get) a credit for.

Epoxy can be injected in small cracks in your foundation.

Epoxy can be injected in small cracks in your foundation.

Ok, I feel better now that that is out of the way. Now we can move on to the fun stuff. Check back for my next post- Remastering Your Home. I promise it will more fun and involve some really aspirational rooms and creative ideas!

As always, please reach out to me if you have any real estate needs or forward this blog to a friend.

xoxo

sarasign

Citizens of the World Charter School- Silver Lake

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cwcsl_logo_200x180

CWC-SL is a free public school committed to socio-economic, cultural and racial diversity.  We provide a challenging, experiential learning environment to develop students’ confidence, potential, and individual responsibility as true citizens of the world.

This month’s spotlight is on Citizens of the World Charter School-Silver Lake (CWC-SL).  CWC-SL is K-6 public charter school founded in 2012/13 as an alternative to one’s assigned public school.  Admission is based a lottery, which is conducted annually. This year’s lottery is scheduled for March 15, 2016 at 6pm and will be held at the school’s campus, 5620 De Longpre, 90028.  You must apply by March 1st, 2016 to be included in the lottery. The lottery is weighted with preference given to founding parents, siblings of current students, students who qualify for reduced/free lunch and students who reside in the LAUSD district.

This year they are projecting 80 spots for Kindergarten, 15 spots for 1st grade, and a mere 20 openings for grades 2-6.  To put your chances in perspective- last year they received 850 applications for all available spots.  If you don’t receive a spot you are automatically put on the waitlist, which ‘moves very quickly’ during the Summer as applicants decline their offered spots.  So if you don’t get in at first, all hope is not lost.

ramona2-600x600The tour was led by the principal, Dr. Ramona Patrick, who is also a founding parent.  Dr. Patrick provided a very thoughtful overview of CWCSL’s philosophy and curriculum.  The school is a diverse mix of many cultures including Latino, Asian, Russian, Black and White students and  is also socioeconomically diverse with 50% of the children qualifying for a reduced /free lunch program.  12% of the children are specialty learners who are fully integrated.

CWCSL is a progressive school and their approach to learning is based on Piaget’s theory of constructivism, which argues that humans generate knowledge and meaning from an interaction between their experiences and their ideas. More simply put it’s a student centered approach- building knowledge off of what the children already know and are interested in. (This in contrast to the LAUSD’s traditional approach with a teacher leading a discussion based on their planned curriculum.) While the school is progressive in their approach to learning they are a public school and so their students must adhere to the same testing standards as all LAUSD public schools.  The students take all the same Common Core tests that the LAUSD students take to ensure academic proficiency.  Dr. Patrick reviewed the following curricula:

Language ArtsFundations Phonics, Teachers College Reading and Writing Program

Math:  Everyday Math and Cognitively Guided Instruction

Social/Emotional: UCLA Cool Tools, Mindfulness, Connected + Respected

One of the unique things about CWCSL is that teachers complete a detailed evaluation of each student 4 times per year starting at the beginning.  This way they know which part of the curriculum to emphasize with a student at any given time to achieve proficiency. Because the curriculum is flexible students get more of a customized approach than a typical LAUSD ‘teacher-centered’ environment. It seems to me like a nice balanced approach.

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One of my favorite things about the school is their Peace Corners.  Every classroom has a designated area called a peace corner that a student can go to when they need a break from the group—or just need to take some deep breaths and chill for a minute.  It is not a punitive time out corner- the students are not sent there but rather can choose to go anytime they need a minute.  I love the idea so much I’m going to implement one at home (I might never come out though).

One of my not favorite things is the school’s facilities.  Charter schools are typically located in under utilized LAUSD school space. CWCSL is currently utilizing part of the Helen Bernstein High School in Hollywood.  The classrooms and gym and bathrooms are all fine and on par with other public schools I have toured.  BUT the location is pretty janky.  It’s right behind a Home Depot with all manner of workers for hire and just about block away is a sober living house which I happened to park outside of for the tour.  It gave me a bit of pause—and I am pretty cool with the urban experience—my daughter’s preschool rents space inside a VERY urban LGBT/AA church just down the street from the homeless encampment on Prospect/Vermont where we routinely walk right past sometimes rough looking LGBT addicts smoking cigarettes outside the church’s entrance. It’s LA.  It’s urban.  It wouldn’t prevent me from sending my daughter there but it aint fancy, so just be aware.  Dr. Patrick said they are actively searching for a new location—one that actually is IN Silver Lake, so if you have a little one the location will potentially be nicer/closer by the time your child attends.

Ok back to the good stuff- the student teacher ratio is an impressive 24:1 + TA.  The classes felt smaller and more intimate than many schools I have visited. They emphasize the arts and physical education so the kids get Art and PE twice a week (more than LAUSD) and Spanish class once a week. They also offer a hot healthy lunch sourced by a  local restaurant that sounded pretty tasty.  There are after school enrichment offerings and care that extends to 6pm for a very reasonable cost.  And best of all they don’t believe in tons of homework—about 10-30 minutes max.  Please note that the time you save helping (doing?) your kids homework will be spent volunteering at the school.  Each parent is required to pitch in 40 hours of work each year to improve the school/fundraise, etc. If you consider private elementary schools average $25k a year, 40 hours is not a bad tradeoff for a FREE modern progressive education. If it helps you could look at it as getting paid $625 an hour to volunteer. I’d take that hourly rate.

 

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CWC-SL would be a great choice for many families who are looking for something other than a traditional school but not wanting to go private.  Even though it’s not LAUSD I am sure it has its own set of politics (all schools do) and probably isn’t perfect (no school is) but I was impressed with what they have created in only 4 years. They already have plans in the works for an eventual junior high and high school (hurray!) and Dr. Patrick seems like a person who can lead them to greatness.  I look forward to seeing the progress in the coming years.

As always, if you have any questions or comments, please contact me.  And of course, if you know anyone looking to make a move, please refer me.

Happy Valentines Day!

sarasign

 

 

 

Upcoming Elementary School Tours

 

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Happy 2016!

I hope your new years resolutions are holding strong. If one of your resolutions is to get your child into a good public school then now is the time to start scheduling your school tours (like you need something else to do).

January marks the beginning of school touring season (hurray?!).  If you are considering buying a new home this year and school district is important to you, I highly recommend touring the school(s) in your areas of interest.  Below is tour information for some of the popular elementary schools in the surrounding area.

Micheltorena Elementary& (Dual Language Program ):  The January 22 is already full.  Sign up for the February tour or the April tour here.

Franklin Elementary:  January 29th 8:30am.  Call to reserve your spot. http://friendsoffranklin.com/calendar-2/

Ivanhoe Elementary: sign ups are posted on their site periodically.  There are none scheduled for 2016 but check back often as they fill up quickly.

Citizens of the World Charter School Silver Lake January 12th  and February  3rd http://www.cwcsilverlake.org/admissions/tours/

Los Feliz Charter School:  The website says their tours are all full.  But it has a contact to email. http://losfelizarts.org/admissions/school-tours/

Eagle Rock Elementary School.  The January tour is full.  The next one is February 22 at 830am.  Sign up here.

Dahlia Heights Elementary– February 3rd at 8:30am.  Call to reserve your spot: (323) 255-1419

Aldama Elementary Dual Language Program:  January 15, 2016 at 9:30am

Wonderland Elementary: Late Spring 2016 Call Karla Lopez: 323-654-4401

Mt. Washington Elementary:  March 9 at 9am for those zoned to school presently and 10:30am for those not zoned to it.  Call to confirm space: (323) 225-8320

Elysian Heights Elementary:  Usually Monday mornings.  Call to schedule: 323-665-6315.

Atwater Elementary:  Call for tour info: 323-665-5941.

Clifford Elementary Math and Technology Magnet: Thursday, Jan. 14 1:00-2:00 pm and Thursday, Jan. 28 9:00-10:00 am

Valley View Elementary:  Tours happen in November and March.  Check here for upcoming tour dates.

Carpenter Community Charter Elementary: Wednesday January 20th at 8:15am http://www.carpentercharter.org/attendance-enrollment/admissions.html  Reservations not required.

Colfax Community Charter School:  February 12 sign up here.

Third Street Elementary: March on Thursday, 3/31 at 9 am at the school library.  Call ahead to confirm.

Hancock Park Elementary: No info available, recommend calling.  http://hancockparkschool.com/contact-us/

Cheremoya Elementary: Monthly Tours.  Next one is January 21 and Feb 18 call (323) 464-1722 www.cheremoyafoundation.org

Citizens of the World Charter School Hollywood Tours appear to be full.  I recommend calling to see if you can jump in on one. http://www.signupgenius.com/go/60b0844acaa28a64-citizens1

Happy touring!  I tour as many as I can, so you may see me there in the front row eating a donut and asking all the questions.  If so, say hello.  And don’t judge me for the donut–that wasn’t one of my resolutions.

xoxo

sarasign