An abandoned mansion near Runyon Canyon in Los Angeles.

From gang clubhouse to blue-chip crack house to a space for Satanic worship, 2450 Solar Drive has had quite a past. Set on top of the world as it may seem, it’s a picturesque scene from every window; a breathtaking sweep of Los Angeles stretching from downtown to thePacific Ocean.

Currently owned by Timothy Devine, a former executive with Columbia Records, “It’s the last big parcel in the Hollywood Hills” the real estate agent calls it and Kirk Morgan, house guard, 53, agrees. The giant house is back on the market for $15.2 million with about 9,800 square feet, seven bathrooms, five bedrooms, a 200-bottle wine cellar, six-car garage, stone floors, a pool, a Jacuzzi with a view of the sunset and all that undeveloped acreage smack in the heart of urban Los Angeles. Cursed or not, it might be an opportunity for someone with a thick wallet to place his stamp on the city in a loud way.

Developers/contractors and clients who want something rare and unique are also called to the table as the property listing suggests other possible fates. “All sorts of subdivision possibilities exist,” it says.

On the other hand, all this talk has sent quivers of concern through city officials and preservationists anxious to protect an undeveloped spot in this city.

All in all, for those heavy hitters and thrill seekers interested in a property who bears many a legend and a glorious view, it’s the ultimate fixer-upper of a lifetime.

Don’t forget if your trying to sell your house give Sunset Park Realtor’s a call!


Source: New York Times


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Santa Monica Real Estate Branding


What should I write about today?  Hmmm, I know, the dilemma our company has been dealing with as of late: branding and marketing.  Sunset Park Realtor’s, logo, and website have been around for five years, however, we wanted to update our whole look to better suit who we are and what we stand for.  Essentially, we have wanted to re-brand ourselves.  As with most things in life, we soon discovered, this is easier said than done.

First, we have to hammer out who we are as a company and our objective.  Kind of like a resume except on a much broader level.  Okay, so we know we are a company with a strong foundation and hard work ethic.  We always want to come from a place of service as opposed to a greediness that tends to get in the way of ethics.  Check one item off the list.  Next, to find a website designer and employee who specializes in the world of online marketing, i.e., social networking.  Righty-O, so we actually get a God shot and find our online marketing girl quite easily and absolutely love her, however, the website designer is a different story.

Right off the bat, we choose someone we like on an emotional level (never a good idea) and fail to follow up with a couple of other designers that were actually much more qualified for the job.  Lesson number one: never work off sole emotion and always consult with more than one company.  Surprising, because I usually live by the “always interview 3” motto.  Well, not this time and to my and my partner’s chagrin.  So we choose the least experienced person we possibly could and pay the price (literally) for it.  We way overpaid and the logos sent to us leave more than a little to be desired.  Lesson number two: never pay too much up front and take the incentive out of working hard for your buck.

Within the first few weeks of still being in the rather pathetic logo phase, we realize quite quickly that we have made a mistake and we need to rectify this situation as soon as possible.  Thankfully, the web designer we chose has a good heart and was never ill-intended and I think he knew he was way in over his head, so he refunds our money and we go our separate ways.  God bless his heart, he did try, but in this business, we needed quick turn-around and have no time to be a practice court for an up and coming anything.

Alright, back to square one, or is it two?  In any case, starting over in a sense, and this time we’re gonna do it right.  We interview and we decided on the best company for the job, which this time, truly is the best choice for our company.  Now we’re amped up again.  We’re back in the first phase, trying to bang out a logo, but this time the experience our web company has gives us peace of mind and the uneasy feeling of stress is diminished.

So, lessons learned?  Well, when you’re trying to re-brand your company, get a good sense of direction as to where you want to go with it.  Hire people accordingly.  It’s always good to have more than one brain to work out these issues of marketing and advertising, so choose wisely the brains you want to represent you and your company.

Will let you know more when more turns out.

To be continued…

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Million Dollars Home Sales Are Up!

California homes priced at $1 million or more experienced a sales boom in 2010, the first increase in five years. The reason: High-end home shoppers went bargain hunting as certain parts of the economy improved but luxury home prices remained depressed.

“Prestige home buyers respond to a different set of motivations than the rest of us. Their decisions are less dependent on jobs, prices and interest rates, and more on how their portfolio is doing

Even if prices fall further, he said, “If you are borrowing, buying today makes a lot of sense because interest rates are just incredibly low.”

Two other reasons for the $1-million-and-up market increase are the return of the jumbo mortgage market in 2010 and a comeback in the stock market, which saw huge losses in 2009, Thornberg said. “A lot of folks who were reeling from equity losses bounced back.”

Cash purchases also inched upward among $1-million buyers last year to 29.4% of sales, up from 28.9% in 2009 and the highest for any year since 1994. But even cash purchases can be motivated by low interest rates.

Million-dollar-plus sales hit a high of 54,773 in 2005 and then dropped through 2009. Last year’s sales increase came despite a winnowing in the category; 3,380 of the homes that sold statewide for less than $1 million had previously sold for $1 million or more, DataQuick analysis shows.

Source: LA Times

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No Team, No Location But We Got A Name! Football Real Estate

Since Super Bowl is over it got me thinking on what is going on with the rumor to build a football stadium and bring a Pro Football team back to Los Angeles.

The funny thing about this is we don’t have a location yet and we don’t have a team but..Farmers Insurance and AEG, announced a $700 million naming-rights deal for a new professional football stadium, which would be aptly named “Farmers Field.” If all goes according to plan, this field of dreams for many football-starved fans in Los Angeles will be ready for the 2015 NFL season, and may be the host stadium for Super Bowl L, or Super Bowl Los Angeles, in 2016. There is no question that if they build it the people will come. It is now up to city and state officials to help pave the way with new parking structures and transportation channels in and out of downtown, as well as help fund the construction of the stadium with city-backed bonds totaling $350 million, by AEG’s estimates. The proposed 64,000-seat sports arena with retractable roof will accommodate various sporting and entertainment events, and will buttress the existing Convention Center. Renovation plans would allow access between the two structures. The Los Angeles Times reported that the sponsor-deal with Farmers would guarantee 50 events per year with at least 40,000 people per event.

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Flying with kids, what a joy.  While most other passengers sit down peacefully to enjoy a few short hours of flight time with a book, a drink, or a movie, parents like us wrestle and negotiate with excited children, praying silently that they with settle down quickly and maybe even fall asleep.  Presently, our family of six is on our way to Seattle to celebrate Stacey’s grandmother’s ninetieth birthday with pretty much most of the Valnes family.  Our children range in age from two-sixteen, but three out of four of them fall in the age six and under category.  And we are on a 6:55pm flight.  Not exactly a pretty picture.
The two-year-old now, finally, sleeps peacefully next to me, the four-year-old is passed out on her big sister’s lap in front of me and the six-year-old reads silently.  Although we are still in the air, it already feels like we’ve made it.  When one is single and flying, or even with older children or just a spouse or friend, it’s really not such a bad thing.  Take it for granted as you may, but it really is a blessing to have a few hours where you can do nothing and not feel bad about it.  Watch a movie, fall asleep, get drunk if you want to, nobody’s going to judge you too harshly, you are flying after all and some people just can’t handle it stone sober.  I suppose I look at the mundane things in life a little differently now that I know what constant action and vigilance is like.
Let me put this into perspective.  Upon boarding the plane, I’m sure more than one person groaned when they saw our caravan of a family lumber though, kids squealing and parents scolding.  Being the parental units, Stacey and I dictated commands, the kids doing their best to listen but so completely distracted by the mere fact that we are on a plane!  They’ve all flown before, yet the excitement is still close to overwhelming.  So we board.  Kids are monkeying with everything in sight; pushing light buttons, lifting up and down the window cover, flipping up and down the tray table (to the sheer delight of the person in front of us, I’m sure).  They want to know if we’re flying yet and we haven’t even started rolling.  They want to know when we will fly, and how come I don’t know exactly? And is this a jet, is it really fast, and how high will it go?  Once we’re actually in the air the next round of obvious questions begin: “when will we be high enough?  When will be in Seattle? Can we eat? Is there food? And then the statements: “I’m hungry, I’m thirsty, I want to read a book, mommy read me Harry Potter!”  Meanwhile baby is by this time standing on my shoulders pressing every button in sight just about to do a double back flip into the aisle when the stewardess lets me know that he really does need to be seated safely on my lap.  Sigh.
While I attempt to read enthusiastically out of a Harry Potter book, I am also balancing precariously the acrobatic toddler my son has suddenly become, and simultaneously fishing crayons out of my purse for my daughter to color with.  Okay, so the toddler has decided to now go into Indian War mode slapping his hand against his mouth and yelling “woo woo woo woo”.  The other passengers are worshiping us by now.  As he dives off of my shoulders shouting his war cry, I actually feel a sense of relief because now Stacey has him and is trying to calm him with some sweet books.  This works for about three minutes until I hear the little man’s unmistakable voice (yell) again.  The difference now is that I can ignore it because he is no longer in my charge.  The girls are doing really well at this point and I’m reading to my six year old while he furiously picks his nose in rapt concentration.  Just as the drink cart goes by I hear a cute little voice I recognize as my four-year-old say “I have to pee.  Right now!”  Okay, well, the drink cart is in the middle of the aisle and there’s only one bathroom on this enlarged Cessna, so can you please wait baby girl?  “NO! I have to go now!”  She’s now standing and holding her private parts for extra emphasis.  The flight attendant, bless her heart, says it fine, they can slide her through, so it’s off the loo all-alone for my little girl.  She’s growing up so fast!
By now I’m thinking things are pretty much smoothed out.  The older one seems content; the toddler is munching on the plane snacks with Stacey who is displaying his excellent fathering skills.  And then the inevitable.  “Can you come back and try to get to him to sleep?”  That’s my cue.  My leisure time of reading children’s fantasy is up and I am back with baby boy who really wants daddy at the moment.  He is totally exhausted, so I’m rocking him and cooing in his ear.  He’s bright red and screaming bloody murder.  I’m feeling a bit incompetent about my mothering skills and jealous of the drunken lady across the aisle that keeps ordering white wine.  I’d love a white wine, or ten, but alcohol is off limits as I am, yes, currently pregnant.  Just as little man is dozing off on my shoulder, drunken lady starts waving like mad at him as she suddenly noticed the cute baby whimpering across the way from her.  She’s smiling and then—horror of all horrors—begins reaching across me in order to poke him!  HE WAS ALMOST ASLEEP!
I’m feeling nice at the moment and I don’t say anything.  I just turn away and call in the reinforcements.  “Stacey!” Stacey moves back with me and takes the baby.  He begins rocking and jiggling and I’m stroking his face gently and soon enough, baby is asleep.  Ahhh.  We lie him down on the empty seat with a little pillow, daddy moves back up, little girl has meanwhile fallen asleep on big sister’s lap and I am able to write about it all!  We made it!
So, perhaps next time you’re on a flight and feeling bored or resentful at the fact that you have to sit airborne for a few or even many hours, think of us.  Think of people like us.  We refuse to give up travel because of children, instead we adapt our little people to travel graciously, but nonetheless, they are kids.  So it ain’t easy folks.  Be grateful for the little things in life, like a bit of alone time.  And when you see us on the airplane, please, be nice.  No dirty looks, just smile instead.  Try to be like the drunken lady with the exception of poking babies.  Happy travels!
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The Academy Award nominations were released today and the film “Exit Through the Gift Shop” was among one nominated for best documentaries.  Reading this made me so happy and provoked many questions in my little brain, much like the movie itself did.  If you have no idea what I’m referencing to with this movie, first of all, SEE IT, and second, here’s a quick synopsis straight from the movie’s website: “This is the inside story of Street Art – a brutal and revealing account of what happens when fame, money and vandalism collide. Exit Through the Gift Shop follows an eccentric shop-keeper turned amateur film-maker as he attempts to capture many of the world’s most infamous vandals on camera, only to have a British stencil artist named Banksy turn the camcorder back on its owner with wildly unexpected results.

One of the most provocative films about art ever made, Exit Through the Gift Shop is a fascinating study of low-level criminality, comradeship and incompetence. By turns shocking, hilarious and absurd, this is an enthralling modern-day fairytale… with bolt cutters.”

Okay, so it’s a Banksy film and what I believe to be a master Banksy manipulation, a great achievement in the world of guerilla marketing.  Banksy is like a rainbow.  We can all see the beauty of refracted light arcing in the sky, but we can’t touch it, we can’t find it, it has no real tangible existence or location besides the bits of light left above us.  We can all see Banky’s art, but he’s invisible, unknowable, hidden from our curious and greedy eyes.  In an age where most everyone promotes themselves via Facebook, Twitter, Yotube, etc., Banksy is a true revolutionary, an individual who doesn’t quite care is what we think about his chosen anonymity.  With all these celebrities that abound in our culture, people who actually do nothing and are famous for some reason unknown to me, pandering to the masses through glossy magazine covers and reality shows (again, about nothing), Banksy is more than refreshing.  He is a breath of fresh air, seemingly dedicated to the art which has made him famous and out to make a point about our self-obsessed, fame driven, and, to be a bit blunt, empty culture.  I’m not claiming to be above it all by any means, on the contrary, I watch these kind of movies to remind myself that all that glitters is not gold.  He’s one of those people that I would love to know and be friends with, even though he’d probably hate me seeing that he’s anti-capitalism and anti-establishment.  And I am a free trader in the capitalist market and run my own establishment.  He’s not much into people advertising themselves and I send out a postcard monthly with my mug bright and glossy on it to show the world.  Still, maybe he’d see past all this and get to know me on an inner level.  On my wanna-be street guerrilla level.  In any case, I’d love to know him and pick his brilliant brain.  Not that I agree with everything Banksy says, does, or stands for, however, I do respect his uniqueness and vision.  He seems a very interesting fellow, perhaps made more intriguing by the fact that no one in the media sees him or knows him.

I suppose the fact is that we will never know Banksy beyond what he wants us to know.  His mystery is part of his magic and he’s no dummy, he likely will never give himself up.  Wouldn’t it be wild if his film won at the Oscar’s and he showed up?!  Don’t laugh, dreaming never hurt anyone!  In any case, I applaud Banksy for his effort to show us all something we otherwise would not have seen.  Here’s to your first Oscar Banksy!

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The Ins and Outs of Staging

Ah, the importance of staging a property.  We have a big listing coming up, which we are very excited about, and are currently in the process of getting bids from different staging companies.  This is quite the task!  Meeting with different stagers is a bit like dating in that if one hasn’t met them before, one doesn’t know what to really expect as far as tastes, qualities, and opinions go.  The company I met with today sent over a very nice representative, but almost immediately (much like first date), I knew she wasn’t right for the house.  The company nor she could really fit our needs, yet we had to get through the entire house (groan) and I had to at least give her a chance to prove me wrong.  She didn’t, but all is fair in love and war, right?

Staging a property correctly can mean the difference of a lot of money.  Most people on the market to buy a home have trouble visualizing the hidden magnificence of a blank wall.  They also have trouble imagining a gorgeous dining room table in place of the dinky one the current residents have.  Our current project is a fabulous house with an enormous and breathtaking back yard.  The couple has two children, two businesses, and actually built this house themselves; they are legitimate “owner/builders”.  You can imagine the stress they’ve been through getting their home built, furnished, and decorated.  By the time it came to relatively small details, like sofas and rugs, they were spent.  With their life and family to run, furnishing to Arcithectual Digest standards did not make the to-do list.  However, when selling a great home like this, one must make it a priority to get that house up to par and blow the minds of buyers.  When track home developments go up, the models are always impeccably furnished and decorated in a way that makes the buyer think “I have to live here, this is so me.”  The same can go for any property.

This comes back to choosing the right staging company to do the job.  If you’re staging a modern, make sure the company you work with has a big inventory of current modern trends.  There’s absolutely nothing wrong with making the house look like the pages of a glossy magazine: pristine, finished, and desirable.  Personally, I like to stay away from companies that use “stock furnishing” which means sort of bland furnishings that neither inspire nor impress most people.  I tend to go with bolder statements and companies that like to make them.  I love art, as most Los Angelinos do, and showcasing a fabulous house with fabulous art is a recipe for success.  Also, the mere fact of knowing the style and tone of the property you’re selling as well as who you’re selling to is a huge factor in how you choose to stage the property.  The staging company can supply all the necessary furnishings to complete the project, but real estate agents should be expected to stay on top of current trends and styles to help direct the stagers and clients into a direction that is most likely to sell.  Know your home fashion people!


Now get out there and sell some property!


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Selling Your Home This Year?

As we are moving into winter, take into consideration some tips for selling homes in Los Angeles and surrounding areas.

Take advantage of the season, as the hustle and bustle of the holidays winds down and people are taking on new projects. Many parents begin their house hunting just after Christmas, hoping to find a property in time for their kids to start school in district. January can be a key time for sellers.

Keep in mind that the market is competitive, and don’t overprice. List your property at what it’s worth from the beginning, with a figure that is comparable to similar homes in the area. Mention it in your ad that the property you are selling is not a foreclosure, as all of that extra paperwork can be daunting to buyers.

Lastly, set up your home to make a great first impression. Have a home inspection and learn as much as you can about the property, from monthly utility costs to any remodeling, so that you are ready to answer any buyer questions. Keep the home free of clutter and available for viewing at all times. New paint and shifting around furniture can do wonders. Stay flexible about visits, keeping everything ready to show off at a moment’s notice – You never know when a potential buyer will be in the neighborhood and want to drop in.

Maximize your home’s earning potential and enjoy a smooth selling experience with Stacey Valnes and Sunset Park Realtors, the experts in selling property in Southern California.


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Roll With The Punches

Real Estate is an industry quickly changing.  Back in the day, a telephone and phone farm was all one needed to embark on a successful real estate career.  We looked up numbers, made cold calls, and got our ten contacts a day in order to build a solid and successful business.  My, how things have changed!  Nowadays, just the mere act of obtaining a legitimate phone number is nearly impossible and most people have caller ID, so even if you do get a number, your phone call is not getting answered.  This can be absolutely maddening to some real estate agents, especially more seasoned ones, like myself.  We’ve been used to doing something one way for a very long time and all of a sudden we’re hit upside the head with Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Youtube, blogs, websites, oh my!  So, the choice is ours, either roll with the technological punches or retreat back into our dimly lit caves, complete with dial-up modems and VCRs.  Being a broker myself, I knew that if I was going to continue to survive in this business, I would have to exit the cave and step into the warm glow of Internet based marketing technology.

As overwhelming as all of this new technology seems, it it something that can be accomplished if you know how to delegate.  Being a broker, I get the chance to work with a lot of people younger than myself, and the benefit of that is their expertise in the world of all things Internet and techie stuff.  I know what I’m good at; running a business, selling properties, market analysis, negotiating, etc.  And, I know what I’m not good at–yet; Facebook, Twitter, blogging, and understanding the whole machine in general.  So, I delegate.  I surround myself with people that are totally comfortable with all this stuff and set them free to build my business with my model for the new age of Internet and Google searches.  I learn from them as they learn from me and it is truly a mutually beneficial relationship.

The issue with delegating is the relinquishment of control it requires.  As owners, presidents, brokers, CEO’s, or just being the boss in general, we get used to doing things our way and on our terms.  Change is uncomfortable and undoubtedly difficult, yet so necessary if you want to grow your business.  In all honestly, when my associates first started coming to me with all the ideas for change and new marketing strategies for the company, I retreated into my cave and tried to ignore them.  They did not relent.  I was bombarded with emails, links, company meetings dedicated solely to our Internet presence and the need for Ipads to take to listing appointments.  For nearly a week, I lied awake in bed at night and was consumed throughout the day with fear.  Fear that I’d lose control of my company, fear that I’d be investing time and money into something that I wasn’t so sure about, and just plain fear that I didn’t understand all these things being thrown at me.


Finally, I make the decision to pick up the phone and call one of my most trusted mentors in the business and he quickly set my mind at ease.  He explained that this was really all in the best interest of the company and my negative reaction was only a struggle to retain some kind of false control.  In essence, I had to let go if I was going to let my company grow the wings it needed to fly.  What he said clicked.  I recognised everything he was saying as true and hung up the phone with a new sense of hope and determination.  And here I am blogging.  Case in point.


Growing is never easy, we all feel the pains of bones stretching and ligaments pulling.  However, if we want to become bigger and stronger, growing is a necessary part of life, and business.  Let technology into your business model and feel the joy (and leads!) it will bring.


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Reliability..Are You Reliable?

Reliability.  Such a beautiful word with so little weight here in La La land.  Defined by the dictionary, reliability means “–adjective that may be relied on; dependable in achievement, accuracy,honesty, etc.: reliable information.”  Does this not sound like the perfect description for the perfect realtor?  When potential clients go searching for someone to sell or buy a home with, they are most assuredly looking for someone who can be relied upon, who is dependable in achievement, and possess the skill of accuracy and honesty.  However, in this business of slick salespeople and the goal of high volumes, finding someone who meets all this criteria may be hard to come by.

Let’s not kid ourselves, we in real estate are salespeople, we work on commission, and we tend to look at the bottom line.  This is in no way a negative thing, as long as we keep our integrity in tact at all times!  Sometimes this is difficult to do when numbers get really big and paydays even bigger, giving credence to that old adage “money is the root of all evil”.  We can easily forget that we are working for the best interests of our clients, not ourselves.  Our eyes turn green with money lust and there goes that reliability right down the toilet in swirling fashion.  As real estate agents, we must always stand vigilant in our pursuit of being honest, trustworthy, and reliable.

Real estate is a name game and outstanding referrals from past clients means the world to your business.  To ensure you get those great referrals, remember to pull your dictionary out and memorize the meaning of ‘reliability’ before you go on appointments.  Your clients are expecting you to be dependable in achievement, accurate, honest, and trustworthy.  They need to know and see that you will do what you say you’re going to do.  One of my personal favorite sayings is “say less and do more”, meaning don’t talk about it, be about it.  So what if you promise a seller you can sell their as is house for $1.5 million and it ends up selling for $799,000?  What service did you even provide the poor person?  Yes, I realize, some clients want to hear a number so badly that they won’t listen to reason or look at the facts, and this may be the time you actually pass on the listing.  WHAT?!  Pass on a listing?!  Sounds crazy?  Well, it’s crazier to accept a listing where your accuracy is going to be compromised, because that’s a huge part of your reputation.  I have had more than one experience walking away from a listing because of debate over listing price and in the long run, the sellers actually come back to find me because their property never sold and they’re finally ready to do it the right way.  My accuracy is the heart of my business, and a great marketing point for me.  One that I can back up 100%.


If you’re not accurate, you can’t be dependable for achievement and this is a huge loss for your business.  If you’re not honest, people may trust you at first, but sooner or later you’ll be found out and referrals will wither away, leaving you to try and repair you damaged reputation.  Good luck in an industry like real estate, where agents are a dime a dozen.  I know many agents who actually take pride in “BSing” their clients and that’s a bit disturbing.  Be better than that.  These agents never last long because it’s only a matter of time before their manufactured charm runs out and they’re left with their hollow shell of a “business ethic”.


Look, it’s not easy to be reliable all the time, but no one ever said this was an easy business.  Some people get into real estate thinking they’ll be rolling in the dough in no time, only to be rudely awakened by the grinding industry it really is.  The ones who make it to the top are there for a reason: they’re reliable.  They get things done.  They do it in a timely efficient manner and with the utmost integrity.  Be a top producer.  Don’t let the dollar bills blur your vision, stay vigilant and focused on the bigger picture: building a business that will last as long as you need it to.



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