Archive for November, 2008


2008 Cost vs. Value Report

November 30, 2008



2008 Cost vs. Value Report: Still Many Happy Returns for Home Rehabs

Remodeling magazine’s annual report shows that maintenance-related projects and moderately priced upgrades are providing stable paybacks, even in a slower market.

Despite home price drops in many cities, remodeling projects are holding their own as a way for owners to add value.

Many people are wondering where their money will be safest during these uncertain economic times. When home owners turn to you for your expert advice, counsel them that some things never change: Investing in their home still pays off.

NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® statistics show that home prices have fallen by an average of 7 percent nationally in the past year. But the value of home owners’ investment in remodeling projects has declined only 3.86 percent on average between 2007 and 2008, according to Remodeling’s 2008–2009 Cost vs. Value Report.

Remodeling produces the Cost vs. Value Report each year in cooperation with REALTOR® magazine. REALTORS® responding to a survey in midsummer said home owners could expect to recoup a national average of 67.3 percent of their investment in 30 different home improvement projects. At the height of the housing boom in 2005, home owners could expect to recoup a national average of 86.7 percent on projects.

Remodeling remains hot in 10 cities, where, on at least some projects, home owners can recover 100 percent of their costs. In Charlotte, N.C., for example, decks, midrange kitchen remodels, vinyl siding, and window-replacement projects all would net more than they cost, in respondents’ estimation. High rates of recovery were seen in both strong real estate markets and weak ones.

Many cities with the highest rates of recovery were smaller—Jackson, Miss., and Billings, Mont., for example—which may point to lower labor and materials costs that are easier to recoup.

Seattle also made the list of cities with a cost recovery of more than 100 percent on decks and minor kitchen remodels. In fact, Pacific Coast cities recorded the best payback on remodeling by a wide margin, as they did in 2007. Although construction costs on the Pacific Coast are nearly 17 percent higher than national averages, the value of renovations at resale more than makes up for those higher prices.
The result is an average cost-recouped percentage that’s 14.8 percent higher than in the rest of the country. The toughest place to get your money back: Midwestern cities such as Chicago, Cleveland, Indianapolis, and Milwaukee.

Top 10 Project Paybacks

Once again, exterior remodeling projects lead the way for recovery on dollars spent in this year’s Cost vs. Value survey. When you compare the national averages, replacement projects that boost curb appeal—siding, windows, and decks—give you the greatest chance of recouping your money. Inside, only kitchen remodels can compare, at least on a national level.

1. Upscale fiber cement siding (86.7%)

2. Midrange wood deck (81.8%)

3. Midrange vinyl siding (80.7%)

4. Upscale foam-backed vinyl (80.4%)

5. Midrange minor kitchen remodel (79.5%)

6. Upscale vinyl window replacement (79.2%)

7. Midrange wood window replacement (77.7%)

8. Midrange vinyl window replacement (77.2%)

9. Upscale wood window replacement (76.5%

10. Midrange major kitchen remodel (76.0%)

The Real Deal: Examples from You

REALTORS® around the country helped us track down home owners who had recently completed remodeling projects. In all cases, the projects cost far less than the job cost estimates provided with the Cost vs. Value survey


Location: Oak Park, Ill.

When Rick Nagle and Eileen Deamer of Oak Park, Ill., spent more than $35,000 to convert the attic of their 100-year-old home into a combination master bedroom and office, “resale value wasn’t our concern,” says Deamer, a U.S. government employee and the married mother of two.

The transformation turned 600 square feet of makeshift office with a toilet in the middle of the room to a colonial-style bedroom/office with two walk-in closets and an adjoining sage green bath with a walk-in shower. To allow two simultaneous uses, pocket doors separate the bedroom and office spaces.


Location: Fountain Hills, Ariz.

“This is such a crazy market to try to judge how much a renovation is worth, but having a refurbished kitchen and bathrooms makes almost any house more salable,” says Shari Gay, ABR®, sales associate at RE/MAX Sun Properties in Fountain Hills, Ariz. The owner—Gay’s sister—added Saltillo clay floor tile throughout the 1,800-square-foot home, including the new bathroom. Bathroom finishes included a new cherry vanity cabinet, a tile shower, oil-rubbed bronze fixtures, and a soothing, sophisticated yellow color scheme, which all add up to a great look.

Total cost? About $5,000. “She’ll at least break even on the upgrades,” predicts Gay. “If this were a boom market, she would get even more.


Location: Honolulu

A kitchen is the heart of most homes. That’s why Hollywood set designer Wally White decided to spend most of his $15,000 renovation budget on upgrading the kitchen of his Honolulu studio condo. To spruce up the existing white cabinetry, which he left to save costs, the owner added bursts of color with celadon green granite countertops and walls painted in a complementary shade of light green. An undermounted white porcelain sink, a six-light halogen fixture on a dimmer, and brushed stainless steel faucet completed the look. It paid off.

White grossed $45,000 when he sold eight months later. “The unit sold for more than any other studio—and most of the one-bedroom condos in the building,” says Susan Weinik, a sales associate with Realty Executives Oahu


Location: West Brighton, N.Y.

In a modest 1950s ranch in West Brighton, N.Y., a midrange basement upgrade suited Bernard Fallon’s mother-in-law, Ligaya Nocon, just fine. After purchasing her home “on the high end of the market,” according to Fallon, broker at Fallon Associates Realty in Rochester, N.Y., Nocon kept basement renovation costs under $9,000.

She created a cottage feel by whitewashing the knotty pine paneling rather than replacing it. She also reupholstered the existing bar to cover wear and warmed up the room with wall-to-wall carpeting instead of wood or tile. “We just dressed it up for the personal enjoyment of my mother-in-law,” says Fallon, “but I think it will help sell the property later.”

The Spec

To help respondents determine the resale value of improvements, the survey provided specifications for each project

  • Attic Bedroom Remodel. Convert unfinished attic space to a 15-by-15-foot bedroom and a 5-by-7-foot bathroom with shower. Include a 15-foot shed dormer, four new windows, and closet space under the eaves. Insulate and finish ceiling and walls. Carpet floor. Extend existing HVAC to new space; provide electrical wiring and lighting to code. Retain existing stairs, but add rail and baluster around stairwell
  • Minor Kitchen Remodel. In a functional but dated 200-square-foot kitchen with 30 linear feet of cabinetry and countertops, leave cabinet boxes in place but replace fronts with new raised-panel wood doors and drawers, including new hardware. Replace wall oven and cooktop with new energy-efficient models. Replace laminate countertops; install mid-priced sink and faucet. Repaint trim, add wall covering, and remove and replace resilient flooring.

Basement Remodel. Finish the lower level of a house to create a 20-by-30-foot entertaining area with wet bar and a 5-by-8-foot full bathroom; construct 24 linear feet of finished partition to enclose mechanical area. Walls and ceilings are painted drywall throughout; exterior walls are insulated; painted trim throughout. Include five six-panel factory-painted hardboard doors with passage locksets. Electrical wiring to code. Main room> Include 15 recessed ceiling light fixtures and three surface-mounted light fixtures, as well as a snap-together laminate flooring system. Bathroom> Includes standard white toilet, vanity with cultured marble top, resilient vinyl flooring, two-piece fiberglass shower unit, a light/fan combination, vanity light fixture, recessed medicine cabinet, towel and paper-holder hardware. Bar area> Include 10 linear feet of raised-panel oak cabinets with laminate countertops, stainless steel bar sink, single-lever bar faucet, undercounter refrigerator, and vinyl floor tile.

  • Upscale Bathroom Remodel. Expand an existing 35-square-foot bathroom to 100 square feet within existing house footprint. Relocate all fixtures. Include 42-by-42-inch shower with ceramic tile walls with accent strip, recessed shower caddy, body-spray fixtures, and frameless glass enclosure. Include a customized whirlpool tub, stone countertop with two sinks, two mirrored medicine cabinets with lighting, a compartmentalized commode area with one-piece toilet, and a humidistat-controlled exhaust fan. Use all color fixtures. Use larger matching ceramic tiles on the floor, laid on the diagonal with ceramic tile base molding. Add general and spot lighting including waterproof shower fixture. Cabinetry includes a custom drawer base and wall cabinets for a built-in look. Extend HVAC system and include electric in-floor heating and heated towel bars.

Why Renovation Pay

Why are renovations holding their value better than home prices today? “When housing slows down, people stay put and renovate their house to make it more livable,” says Paul Zuch, president of Capital Improvements, a designing, building, and remodeling company in Dallas. And by renovating before they sell, home owners get to enjoy the new space themselves, not just make the home more appealing to buyers. “It just makes sense,” says Zuch.

Recent renovations also make buyers’ lives easier. “Home owners who remodel their home are providing a service to future buyers,” says Eileen Nelis, a broker at Savvy and Co. in Charlotte, N.C. “When buyers purchase, they don’t want to do all that painting and remodeling, and they don’t want that price tag. They may be willing to make improvements down the line, but when they purchase, they want to open the door and have everything complete. It reduces their stress.”

Making home improvements can also reduce sellers’ stress by heading off that time-honored negotiating technique—pecking away at the sales price by pointing out imperfections. “If sellers have done some improvements and dressed up their property, the improvements will help sell it,” says Bernard Fallon, broker at Fallon Associates Realty in Rochester, N.Y. “If sellers don’t want to improve their property, buyers will tick off the repairs and try to take them off the price.”

That doesn’t mean that every home owner should do every renovation, even in a more stable real estate market. Take Tulsa, Okla., where median home prices actually edged up slightly more than 2 percent in 2008, according to NAR. REALTORS® in Tulsa reported that, of the 30 remodeling projects surveyed, only 16 netted home owners at least 80 percent of the cost.

“Not every neighborhood will support the additional work,” says Jim Hemphill, a sales associate at Coldwell Banker Select in Tulsa, “but in older, more established neighborhoods, if you redo a kitchen or bathroom or add a master bath or bedroom, you’ll get your money out.”

Despite the value, the weak economy is likely to slow seller spending on remodeling, at least in the short term, predicts the most recent Leading Indicator of Remodeling Activity computed by the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University.

The LIRA for the third quarter of this year estimated that owners’ spending on home improvements will decline at an annual rate of 12 percent by the second quarter of 2009, continuing a two-year downward trend. Spending is unlikely to recover until the housing market turns around, according to the Center.

Yet, despite declines in overall remodeling dollars spent and a still shaky housing market, “people’s homes are still one of their best, most solid investments,” notes Zuch. “Even though the markets have gone through some adjustments, it’s still smart to invest in your home.”

G.M. Filisko is a freelance writer for REALTOR® magazine.


Archiving Los Feliz Ledger Articles I Have Written

November 28, 2008

It may take awhile but I am uploading all the articles that I have written with Laura Massino Smith for the Los Feliz Ledger. Let me know if there is a building in Los Feliz/Silver Lake/Atwater/Echo Park/Eagle Rock/Mt.Washington you would like to know more about. Preferably a significant contemporary, an historic residence or commercial building.


Los Feliz Manor Los Angeles

November 28, 2008

Los Feliz Manor

Editor’s Note:This column will focus each month on the various historical treasures found in the Los Feliz and Silver Lake areas, the history behind those structures as well as contemporary architecture.

Let’s start with a real beauty. You probably drive by the Los Feliz Manor apartment building everyday! Majestically towering over Los Feliz Boulevard near the corner of Vermont Avenue, it is an impressive five-story apartment building designed by Jack Grundfor.

Constructed in 1929 as a hotel and converted to apartments in the 1950’s. It’s surface is highly detailed with turquoise glazed terra cotta tile and it’s massing rises toward the sky.

Conceived during the Art Deco period of the 1920’s the structure also shows the influence of ancient Mayan architecture. This is seen in the graduated stepped openings on the façade and in the details of the roofline. Perhaps this is also an indication of the influence of the Ennis Brown house, further up in the hills, designed five years earlier by Frank Lloyd Wright?

Inside beautiful large plate glass windows are framed with intricate decorative ironwork. The lavishly detailed lobby mirrors the magnificence of the façade with decorative ironwork at the stair railing, wall sconces and an entire ceiling covered with ornately hand painted Art Deco motifs.

Each original apartment door is made from Philippine mahogany featuring a floral carving surrounding the highly detailed metal grille covering the peephole. The elevator is wood paneled and features the original operating panel. Many of the apartments have a historic feature on the interior in the form of a Murphy bed. Remember those? They are the beds that you pull down from the wall and push up again in the morning to put away in order to have more room in a small apartment.

In addition the apartments feature the original tile work and 10-foot open beamed ceilings. Many years have been spent restoring architectural details and fixtures maintaining the elegance of this gem. For more photos of the interiors and info visit


Bungalow Style Architecture

November 28, 2008

westcoast bungalows of the 20'sCalifornia Bungalow 1920’s

One of our goals is to provide Los Feliz Ledger readers with an understanding of various American architectural styles and help to answer the question: ‘What style is my home?’

The most misunderstood, and one of the most prolific of California styles, is The Bungalow style. It reflects many Architectural styles, which explains the confusion over its definition. As authors Robert Winter and Alexander Vertikoff have noted in their book American Bungalow Style there are dozens of variations on the Bungalow form including; Craftsman Bungalow, California Bungalow, and Chicago Bungalow.”

The word “Bungalow” comes from the Indian word bangla, which in the 19th century referred to houses, built in the Bengal style. British colonial officers adopted this style to build their summer retreats. These houses were one story with tile or thatched roofs and wide, covered verandas. The association was created early on that these were small houses for a temporary retreat.

The main idea of the bungalow was to cluster the kitchen, dining area, bedrooms, and bathroom around a central living area. The style is also distinguished with some combination of the following; low-pitched roofs, gabled or hipped, deep eaves with exposed rafters, decorative knee braces, an open floor plan, 1 or 1–11/2_ stories-occasionally two – built-in cabinetry, beamed ceilings, simple wainscoting, large fireplaces (often with built-in cabinetry, shelves, or benches on either side) and large and covered front porches.

One of the reasons for the success of the Bungalow style was a backlash to the Industrial Age .The desire among many Americans was to own there own home, and have a small garden. The Bungalow provided the solution. Most of all, the Bungalow style had populist appeal was affordable and promoted easy livability and charm.

Karen Numme, holds the title of Master of Architecture and Landscape Architecture and is a realtor with Keller Williams Realty in Los Feliz.

Laura Massino Smith holds a Master of Architectural History degree, is an Architectural Historian and author of a series of guidebooks of Los Angeles architecture. She is also the director of Architecture Tours L.A.


The Anthony House (a.k.a. Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Monastery/Timothy Manning House of Prayer for Priests

November 28, 2008
Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Monastery/Timothy Manning House of prayers for Priests

The Anthony House (a.k.a. Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Monastery/Timothy Manning House of Prayer for Priest

Originally built as the family home for Earl Anthony, the complex of buildings on Waverly Avenue, near Griffith Park Blvd. now serves as a monastery.

Earl Anthony once had the sole dealership rights for the Packard automobile for the entire state of California. He had showrooms in Downtown Los Angeles and the San Francisco area. He also was the man who brought the first neon sign to America from France, having it manufactured there. Guess what it said? PACKARD!

Anthony lived in a Craftsman style house in Beverly Hills before moving to Los Feliz. The house in Beverly Hills was designed by prominent early 20th century architects and brothers Greene & Greene of Gamble House fame. When one of the Greene brothers decided to buy a Hudson automobile instead of a Packard, Anthony terminated his relationship with the brothers and hired important San Francisco architect Bernard Maybeck. Maybeck is best known for his design of the Palace of Fine Arts in the city by the bay and many other homes and institutions there.

Maybeck had designed automobile showrooms for Anthony so he seemed like the logical choice to design a new house. Anthony wanted an Italian Villa style home, but his wife wanted a French Chateau. Maybeck combined elements of each style as well as adding some Spanish Mediterranean flourishes and the clients were happy with the house. Anthony was a demanding man and very much involved with the design of the house. Due to his constant changes the final cost was $500,000. In 1928 when the house was finished that was a large fortune!

The house was subsequently owned by Sir Daniel Donohue and his wife and at that time was called Villa San Giuseppe. Donohue was deeply involved with the Catholic church and grand functions were held there. An Aeolian organ, one of only three in Los Angeles at the time was the standard musical accompaniment for these functions. In the 60s the house was donated to the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and now sits among peaceful gardens as a private home for nuns and priests. It is used as a Retreat House and is open 7 days a week. For more info & photos go to

Karen Numme, holds the title of Master of Architecture and Landscape Architecture and is a realtor with Keller Williams Realty in Los Feliz.

Laura Massino Smith holds a Master of Architectural History degree, is an Architectural Historian and author of a series of guidebooks of Los Angeles architecture. She is also the director of Architecture Tours L.A.


Historic Los Feliz Theater “The Vista”

November 27, 2008
Egyptian style in Los Feliz

Egyptian style in Los Feliz

“THE VIEW ROM THE VISTA” – The Vista Theater, 4473 Sunset Drive

One of the few remaining single screen theaters in Hollywood, the Vista Theater, as it is now known, originally started life as “Lou Bard’s East Hollywood Playhouse.” It was renamed “Vista” in 1927. The first film shown here was “Tips” starring child actress Baby Peggy in 1923. The “B” for Bard’s is still visible in the facade decoration right above the decorated central window, however a “V” is also visible in the cartouche at the very top.
Designed by L.A. Smith (a.k.a Lewis Smith) who may be best remembered as designing the Beverly Theater on Beverly Drive at the corner of Wilshire Blvd. The Beverly Theater was very recently demolished to make way for a Montage Hotel project now under construction. The Beverly Theater most closely resembled the Taj Mahal complete with central onion dome, all in white and originally with graceful palm trees in front. Smith designed more than 20 theaters of which only a handful remain intact and open including the Rialto Theater in south Pasadena.
The Spanish Mission Revival style was one of the popular architectural styles of the 1920s inspired by the Spanish Missions of the 1700s. Characterized by the flat facade with arches and decoration on the trim. But why is the entrance, lobby and interior of the theater in the distinct Egyptian style? The Egyptian influence started in the Western world as far back as the 19th century catapulted by popular books of that theme, however the discovery of King Tut’s tomb in 1922 was directly influential in the designs of the early 20th century. Everything from jewelry, fashion, furniture and architectural design may have had an Egyptian influence, which actually related to the very popular angular Art Deco style of the 1920s.
On this location was where the original Babylon set for D.W. Griffith’s 1916 silent film “Intolerance”was erected. After the filming was finished the set remained up and became a tourist attraction. It has now been replicated at the Hollywood & Highland shopping center in the form of a large grey and white Assyrian arch and enormous white elephants sitting atop decorated columns.
Egyptian hierogylphics, images of pyramids, papyrus and desert scenes were painted on the interior lobby walls and bathrooms when the restoration was completed after the 1994 Northridge Earthquake. The restoration and remodeling was carried out by designer Ronald Wright in 1995 and that’s when the vibrant decorative painting was added. Originally it was not painted. Pyramid block shaped pilasters topped with gold painted busts of shieks, a la Tutankamen style, in the auditorium tucked into alcoves with uplighting were also painted during the restoration. The original design of the exterior was different than how it currently stands. The central arch of the facade was added in the mid-90s restoration and some of the decoration was removed. The theater was purchased by Lance and 5-Star Theaters in 1992 and is currently in pristine condition. AND imagine (or just experience) this…every other row of seats has been removed providing ample (unbelievable!) luxurious leg room. Removing seats rather than adding more!! What a concept!

Los Feliz Ledger July 07

Karen Numme Masters of Architecture Keller Williams Realty

Laura Massino Smith