<![CDATA[NBC Southern California - Real Estate]]> Copyright 2014 http://www.nbclosangeles.com/the-scene/real-estate http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/NBC4_40x125.png NBC Southern California http://www.nbclosangeles.com en-us Fri, 24 Oct 2014 00:50:39 -0700 Fri, 24 Oct 2014 00:50:39 -0700 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[On the Set of "30 Rock" with Tina Fey]]> Mon, 30 Sep 2013 09:17:00 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/tina-fey-tour_P2.jpg Join "Open House" for a very special behind-the-scenes tour of the "30 Rock" set with show creator and star, Tina Fey, and set decorator Jennifer Greenberg.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Square Feet: Inside Emeril Lagasse's Uptown Townhouse]]> Mon, 30 Sep 2013 09:16:44 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/OHNAT5183ASQFTEmerilLagasse.jpg Bam! We're inside Emeril Lagasse's stunning Upper East Side townhouse. For more information on this property, please contact Samantha Kleier-Forbes and Sabrina Kleier-Morgenstern of Gumley Haft Kleier at 212-371-2525 ext. 350. View the listing.

This episode of Open House was hosted from The Mark at 25 E 77th St. New York, NY. For more information on this property, please contact Lydia Sussek of Corcoran at 212-893-1434 or 212-772-1600.

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<![CDATA[Venice Considers Ferris Wheel With a View ]]> Tue, 06 Mar 2012 09:52:03 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/Venice+Ferris+Wheel1.JPG

Venice could have a new landmark by the summer tourist season if the city -- and more importantly, residents, sign on to a wheel with a view.

On Monday night, Great City Attractions briefed locals on a proposed $12 million, 20-story high observation wheel.

Seven stories taller than the Capital Records building, the wheel would have upwards of 42 enclosed capsules. There would be three revolutions in 15 minutes, similar to the London Eye.

"You're going to be able to see all the way up the coast, way past Santa Monica up towards Malibu," according to Nigel Ward, of Great City Attractions.

But some residents see trouble on the horizon.

"I'm worried about the traffic, the trash, the congestion," says resident Carie Maniscalco.

City and company officials say the project would mean jobs, and dollars, for Venice's cash-strapped coffers.

Right now they're half way through the permit process. The full council will need to sign on to the project.

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<![CDATA[George to the Rescue]]> Wed, 16 Apr 2014 07:45:23 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/GTTR_SHOW_LINEUP_GFX.jpg ]]> <![CDATA[New Farmers Field Images Unveiled]]> Wed, 16 Nov 2011 10:59:25 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/FARMERS+FIELD+-+EXTERIOR+-+NORTH+FACADE+-+VIEW+AT+SUNSET.jpg

Despite still beings years away from fielding an NFL team in Los Angeles, AEG and architecture firm Gensler have revealed a new round of stadium renderings sure to build anticipation among Southland football fans.

The six design drawings -- unveiled Tuesday -- show a new, more open arena nestled downtown next to L.A. Live. The stadium's transparent exterior resembles a bird's wings, or to the trained football eye, a pair of shoulder pads.

AEG is hoping to break ground on the proposed $1.3 billion stadium, dubbed Farmers Field, next summer. A team could be taking the field by 2016.

The retractable roof, which is billed as being superior to retractable roofs of the past, would double as extra space for the Los Angeles Convention Center.

"Our charge is not only to design a stadium that offers the ideal outdoor NFL experience, but also to have a fully enclosable facility that creates an equally appealing location and atmosphere for indoor events and conventions," said Gensler principal Ron Turner.

Gensler was tapped in March to design the project.

Farmers Field is on schedule to file a draft Environmental Impact Report with the city in 2012, according to AEG.

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Photo Credit: AEG]]>
<![CDATA[Google's New Venice Campus Opens Thursday]]> Thu, 03 Nov 2011 11:56:31 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/108364570.jpg

Searching for that Googleplex vibe in Southern California, Google Inc. is opening a 100,000-square-foot campus in Venice on Thursday, said a company spokesman.

The three-building complex, which includes Frank Gehry's Binoculars Building (pictured, above), will help unite the company's more than 500 SoCal employees, who were previously spread out over three sites, Google spokesman Jordan Newman said. The new facility is expected to mirror the culture of the company's Mountain View, Calif.-based headquarters, known as the Googleplex.

"That kind of campus vibe is something we try to create as much as possible," Newman said.

On-site amenities include a cafe with free food, a wellness center/gym, massage rooms, and -- as a nice SoCal touch -- surfboards are available for check out. The site is a couple hundred feet from the beach (map).

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is scheduled to speak at the facility's opening ceremony on Thursday.

About one-fourth of the LA employees are in sales, and approximately three-fourths are in engineering. In 2011, Google added 100 jobs in LA.

"This site really allows us to really grow and accommodate all those new people who've come to Google over the past year," Newman said.

The LA concentration is also a chance for the company to cater some of its bigger clients, including networks and studios, Newman said.

Google has posted its LA job openings online.

Follow NBCLA for the latest LA news, events and entertainment: Twitter: @NBCLA // Facebook: NBCLA



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Economy Improves for Some in SoCal]]> Thu, 27 Oct 2011 12:57:36 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/house+construction_potasz.jpg

The economy is doing well enough to send the stock market soaring, but many Southern Californians say they’re still not feeling it.

“It’s very slow,” said Lori Elliott Webster, who owns Webster's Fine Stationers in Alta Dena. “We’re trying to hang on to what’s left of our staff.”

The federal government on Thursday reported that the economy had grown by 2.5 percent during the three months ending Sept. 30, a moderate pace that was better than expected. Local data to be released Friday is expected to show growth here, too.

“Everybody’s wringing their hands but there’s been no reason for it,” said John Blank, who studies the local economy for the Los Angeles Economic Development Corp.

In areas such as software development, computer animation and exports, Los Angeles is doing well, Blank said. Even construction activity is starting to pick up – not in housing, which remains slow, but for building factories and other commercial structures.

The uptick has encouraged some businesses to start hiring. The Thousand Oaks auto dealership Shaver Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram has been cautiously bringing on new people for the past several months, reported digital manager Jaclyn Embry on the NBC LA page.

But Blank said many of the same factors that have dragged the local economy down all along remain in place here: a housing sector that has yet to rebound, slow lending to small businesses by the major banks and a sluggish retail climate. Spending by state and local governments is also lagging, he said.

So people who work in software development, he said, may be doing very well right now. Other sectors that are adding jobs are tourism, international trade and entertainment.

But people who work in residential construction or rely on state and local spending are likely still hurting.

Jose Grijalva is feeling whipsawed between two extremes.

“Things started to look up, but recently took a nose dive,” Grijalva, who owns a restaurant in Tujunga, wrote on the NBC LA Facebook page. "Some days we will be slammed and the next week it will be dead.”

In Alta Dena, Webster's family business has been hit hard. She and her husband bought the boutique from relatives near the peak of the real estate and bubble. But the frothy economy quickly evaporated, leaving them with a high mortgage, slow traffic in the store and a drop in the value of the building itself.

Webster has added art work and jewelry from local artisans to the shop's line of stationery. But it's a struggle, and the business has lost half of its clientele.

Like many small business owners, the Websters have borrowed against their home to keep the business running. Now it's hard to pay those bills, too.  

"Do I have to get kicked out of my house because I want this business to succeed?" she asked. 

Follow NBCLA for the latest LA news, events and entertainment: Twitter: @NBCLA 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[To the Rescue: Park It Like It's Hot]]> Tue, 18 Oct 2011 14:18:29 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/160*120/GARAGE_640x480.jpg George is off to help one young couple in need. This is Brian and Karen’s first home and, unfortunately, they didn’t quite manage to fit all of their stuff inside. So, like so many of us, they put it in the garage. One problem--the car doesn’t fit! George gives them a hand. ]]> <![CDATA[Couple Fights Bank Over Foreclosure]]> Wed, 05 Oct 2011 05:46:26 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/214*120/PKG+FORECLOSURE+COUP-poster.jpg

The stress of a possible home foreclosure has put a visible strain on the Diaz family of Huntington Beach.

For more than 30 years Conrad Diaz and his wife have created the memories of a lifetime there.

"To find ourselves in this situation... and the idea we might lose this home is unbearable," Conrad Diaz said.
 
The economic downturn in 2007 along with the sudden illness of his wife started the downward spiral for Diaz, and he had to quit his job to care for her.
 
Diaz found himself in need of a mortgage loan modification.
 
"We had been making monthly timely payments for 33 years and never missed a payment," he said.
 
However, a loan modification has not been easy to come by. One West Bank has had the family in limbo for a year. Recently the bank threatened the Diaz family with foreclosure.
 
"I am a victim of the soft economy, but I feel I am more a victim of the way the bank is approaching the situation," Diaz said.
 
The bank would not comment on camera, but a bank spokesperson said a 60-day reprieve on a foreclosure was given to the family in hopes a loan modification could be done.
 
Diaz hangs on the hope the bank will come through and give him the loan modification necessary to create new home family memories.
 
"Either yea or nay. Give us some type of answer," he said.
 
 

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<![CDATA[Buy Ellen and Portia's Chic Multi-Million Dollar Compounds]]> Fri, 27 Apr 2012 13:49:57 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/ellen_thumb90191986.jpg Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi are said to be very quietly shopping around their Hidden Valley, Calif., compound for $16.5 million as well as their pricey Beverly Hills compound. Click through to see photos from their fabulous estates that can now be yours.

Photo Credit: FilmMagic]]>
<![CDATA[Feds Downsize Mortgage Guarantees]]> Wed, 28 Sep 2011 09:11:22 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/161*120/100486091.jpg

The federal government is making its first move toward exiting the mortgage business by lowering the size of mortgages it will guarantee.

This could mean higher prices and bigger down payments for home buyers.

And it doesn't bode well for Realtors either.

Realtor Matt Epstein says the real estate game is already bad, but this news from Congress is like getting a lump of coal in a Christmas stocking.
 
The Federal Housing Administration will now only back loans up to $625,500 -- that's down from $729,750.

That means house hunters may no longer be able to get their dream home any time soon.

"In many states, if you say '$729,000,' they're picturing a 5 acre, 27-room home, at the top of a hill with a moat surrounding it," said Beth Peerce, President of the California Association of Realtors. "As opposed to in California, where we know in many areas, that will buy you a two-bedroom, two-bath condominium."

Realtors say the move could mean an even more serious market slow down.

And although they agree with tightening up loans, it's the timing that's off.

"Get your economy moving, get your homes selling at a normal rate, you get people not being foreclosed upon, that's the time to make changes. Not when things are at their very worst," said Peerce.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Hollywood Sign Tourists: Welcome or Not?]]> Wed, 21 Sep 2011 07:44:57 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/56192858.jpg

The growing throng of tourists taking the trek to get a closer view of the Hollywood sign has created a dispute among homeowners living in the landmark's shadow.

One group of residents has made attempts to discourage the visitors with signs warning tourists to leave. Another group is excited at the prospect of a beautification project initiated by City Councilman Tom LaBonge. The project is aimed at improvements for the area and providing a site for tourists to get a scenic view.

The issue will be the focus of a meeting Tuesday at the Fountain Avenue community room.

The homeowners trying to discourage sightseers, led by the Hollywoodland Homeowners Association, say the roads beneath the Hollywood sign are too narrow to accommodate both the residents and tourists who often come in tour vans and buses. On the other side, the Beachwood Canyon Neighborhood Association is in favor of LaBonge's plan.

"The area is getting nicer and more open, which means that those who have found their own way into Hollywoodland and want to take a photo of the Hollywood sign don’t have to stand in the street," the group’s leader, Fran Reichenbach, told the LA Times. "

Narrow Roads, Public Safety and Tourism

On his way up to the sign, chairman of the Hollywood Sign Trust Chris Baumgart found the private access road "packed with cars and tourists."

"I thought to myself, 'If someone needed an ambulance, how would it get up here?'" Baumgart said.

Reacting to neighborhood concerns, the Sign Trust posted where to get a picture-perfect shot of the sign and how to get there on their website. With this information, they hope to divert traffic away from homes and onto designated routes.

"The people who go up to look at the signs are tourists," said Baumgart. "If you aren't directing them, they’ll direct themselves.

"What people are just starting to realize is that you’ve had this huge proliferation of smartphone usage, and while that’s just one component of what the problem is, it’s a huge component."

Tourists using smartphones can find a variety of suggestions when it comes to finding a viewing area, and some "rogue" websites encourage visitors to use private roads to reach the sign. Baumgart suggested the areas posted on the Trust's website

"We can’t control all of them," Baumgart said.

To blockade the area, residents took to posting "tourist-free zone" signs in areas where they typically park. These signs were later removed.

Tuesday's meeting will provide a public forum. It will be at Hollywood City Hall in the Community Room at 6501 Fountain Avenue.  

Follow NBCLA for the latest LA news, events and entertainment: Twitter: @NBCLA // Facebook: NBCLA



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Home Rescue on the Eastside]]> Fri, 16 Sep 2011 08:30:44 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/214*120/foreclosure+LA.jpg

Home loan specialists, federal housing counselors and attorneys will meet in Lincoln Heights this weekend with homeowners to find a solution for those in under-water mortgages.

It's called the "Northeast L.A. Home Rescue Fair" and promises homeowners will meet with officials to go over records like income tax forms, household budgets and even letters explaining why homeowners fell behind on their mortgage. 

Homeowners need to register in advance for the fair by calling 323-722-3955.

It looks the Eastside really needs help.

Theeastsiderla.com breaks down the number of foreclosures in the area by ZIP code and showed that 90042 (Highland Park and Hermon Neighborhoods) had the most pre-foreclosures with 219. East Los Angeles has 192 foreclosures, Echo Park/Silver Lake had 120, Eagle Rock had 84 and Boyle Heights had 76.

Follow NBCLA for the latest LA news, events and entertainment: Twitter: @NBCLA // Facebook: NBCLA



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Firms Targeted Desperate Homeowners: AG]]> Fri, 19 Aug 2011 14:30:30 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/foreclosure+new.jpg

The housing market might be down, but that doesn't mean a drop in fraud cases.

Document: DA's Complaint Against Law Firms | California State Bar

On Thursday, the California attorney general announced a lawsuit involving firms accused of fraudulently taking millions of dollars from homeowners seeking mortgage relief.

"The defendants in this case fraudulently promised to win prompt mortgage relief for millions of vulnerable homeowners across the country," said Attorney General Kamala Harris. "Innocent people, already battered by the housing crisis, were targeted for fraud in their moment of distress."

The lawsuit names several law firms accused of working together as part of a scheme to defraud homeowners across the country. The firms used "mass joinder" lawsuits, which have many plaintiffs, Harris said. The homeowners were convinced to join the lawsuits against mortgage lenders through "false and misleading representations," according to authorities.

Deceptive mass mailers were sent to homeowners, according to the lawsuit. The mailers appeared to be official notices or government documents and informed homeowners they were potential plaintiffs in a litigation settlement, the lawsuit stated.

The settlement was nonexistent, according to the DA's office.

"The firms led homeowners to believe that by joining the lawsuits, they would stop pending foreclosures, reduce their loan balances or interest rates, obtain money damages, and even receive title to their homes free and clear of their existing mortgage," according to the lawsuit.

The homeowners were charged retainer fees of up to $10,000 to join the lawsuit, according to Harris' office. Some of the people who paid lost their homes shortly after making the payment, according to authorities.

The lawsuit is the first consumer action from the AG's Mortgage Fraud Strike Force.

Mortgage fraud is more widespread now than in 2009, according to the FBI. Pending investigations into mortgage fraud increased 12 percent last year over 2009 figures nationwide.

Related: Consumer Alerts, Information and Complaints
 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Rent or Buy: It Depends on Location]]> Wed, 17 Aug 2011 06:41:32 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/For+Sale+Generic+722x406.jpg

A top spot to buy is in Fresno. It's best to rent in San Francisco. Los Angeles falls into a gray area, according to new report by Trulia, an online real estate website.

Trulia on Tuesday released its "Summer 2011 Rent vs. Buy Index," which compares the cost of buying and renting a two-bedroom apartment, condominium or townhouse in America's 50 largest cities.
 
Buying a home is cheaper than renting in 74 percent of major U.S. cities.

"Depending on personal circumstances, such as one's tax bracket, it may make more sense to buy a home in Oakland, Austin, San Jose, Memphis, Boston, Los Angeles and Portland, even though it is still relatively cheaper to rent," according to Trulia.

The median monthly rent in Los Angeles is $2,100, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Falling home prices and record-low mortgage rate are enticing people to buy homes.
Yet, "today, many banks are actually less enthusiastic about approving residential mortgage applications, which has dragged out the home buying process, according to Trulia.

And "many highly qualified buyers may be forced to be renters by choice for now," according to Trulia.
 
Trulia experts say the cost of buying a home definitely out weights renting in most cities if you've got money for the down payment, half a dozen monthly payments and enough emergency cash.

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<![CDATA[Torched Sunset Beach Lot for Sale]]> Wed, 10 Aug 2011 12:38:04 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/beachhouse_fire_sunset_house.jpg

The site of a $10 million, five-alarm fire that left Sunset Beach neighbors shocked has been placed back on the real estate market.

The asking price for the now-empty lot ranges from $1,550,000 to $1,980,000.

In May, firefighters worked to save the three-story home before it eventually collapsed. The blaze was ruled an accident, apparently started by a flaming briquette landing on the home's wooden deck. Nearby homes were also damaged.

"Come build your ocean-front dream home," according to the lot's online listing. "Steps to the ocean, this is a rare opportunity to own on the beach in beautiful secluded Sunset Beach. Lot is ready for a single-family home."

The 2,250-square-foot lot is located at 16581 South Pacific Coast Highway, and is being represented by Gus Quinonez of Keller Williams Realty.

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<![CDATA[Economic Unrest Shakes SoCal Housing Market ]]> Tue, 09 Aug 2011 11:59:56 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/barty-braden-michelle-housing.jpg

The Southern California housing market has been in a slump for years, and while it may be too soon to know the full impact of the crisis in the financial market, it's certainly not helping.

"You still kind of hold your breath no matter how good an opportunity it is for your family," said Braden Barty, a home seller.

Barty and his wife Michelle put their Studio City home up for sale about two months ago.

"We don't feel like the market is going to get any better," Barty said. "So the advice from a couple of our friends was, when we had an offer, just take it."

After negotiating over the one offer they received, their house is now in escrow, but they're not in a rush to buy again, choosing to rent and take a wait and see approach.

"It also comes down to interest rates," Barty said.

There were concerns that Standard and Poor's downgrade of U.S. Treasuries would mean a rise in interest rates for mortgages, cars and student loans, but so far, investors are still buying U.S. treasuries.

"Thankfully we still have record-low interest rates," said David Fogg, a real estaet agent with Keller Williams. "It's a great time to buy. It's true, we might see them go up a little bit, but already they'll be going up from a very low bottom."

The loan process is much more difficult than it's ever been, Fogg acknoweldged, but he said for qualified buyers the low rates make it worth the extra effort.

For Braden and Michelle, it's a matter of taking a leap.

"It's always risk, so you just have to do it," said Michelle Barty.

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<![CDATA[Jail Reprieve Possible for Phonehenge Builder]]> Fri, 05 Aug 2011 13:02:44 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/fahey-kim-phonehenge-ap.jpg

The renegade builder who assembled a hodge-podge known as "Phonehenge West" in the Mojave Desert may avoid jail if he follows through on plans to tear down the stucture.

Kim Fahey was convicted of building code violations in June after a long-running battle over the residence-turned-roadside-attraction in Acton.

Sentencing was scheduled for Friday in Superior Court in Lancaster, and Fahey could receive as much as a year in jail on each count -- about a dozen -- or just probation.

But a judge delayed the hearing until September after learning that Fahey planned to tear down the buildings.

Judge Daviann L. Mitchel said that makes a community service sentence more likely. Sentencing was delayed until Sept. 23.

The 1.7-acre property consists of 12 structures, including a 70-foot tower, that were constructed primarily out of scrap materials and utility poles. Some of the structures are linked by ramps and bridges that lead to patios.

Fahey built the structure over the past 30 years and lived there with eight others. He moved off the property after the conviction and began dismantling his life's work.

Authorities call it a safety hazard that should be torn down. In an interview with NBC4, Fahey called it, "A museum, a library and a fun place to hang out."

"They could take this down the bare ground, pack everything into a missile and fire it into the sun," he said in an interview earlier this year with NBC4. "They can't take away 30 years of what a blast we've had here doing whatever we wanted."

During trial testimony, which lasted a week, authorities said they visited his property several times between 1986 and 1995 and again in 2006 and 2007. They said they issued citations and stop-work orders but that he ignored them.

Fahey said he initially tried to work with building inspectors but that they repeatedly demanded changes, lost his plans at one point and quit contacting him for several years while he continued to build.
 



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[For Sale: "The Big Lebowski" Bungalow]]> Thu, 03 May 2012 19:11:55 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/laboskithumbsub.jpg Live like "The Dude" in this Venice bungalow just blocks from Abbot Kinney for a cool $2.3 million. ]]> <![CDATA[Tony Danza Lists Long-Time Malibu Beach House]]> Fri, 27 Apr 2012 13:49:54 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/tonydanzawhosthebosscrop2.jpg 2011 brought a lot of changes for Tony Danza of Taxi and Who's the Boss fame. In March, the actor filed for divorce from his wife of 24 years and now word comes that the Brooklyn native has listed his Malibu home, which he has owned for the last 25 years. On the market for $9.1 million, the property, located on a 50-foot stretch of prime Malibu oceanfront, is as luxurious as they come. View the listing.]]> <![CDATA[Perris: Boomtown Hits Hard Times]]> Tue, 19 Jul 2011 06:59:56 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/construction-perris-housing.jpg

Perris could be described these days as ground zero for Southern California's economic recession.

The Riverside County city, home to nearly 70,000 people, was once one of the fastest growing communities in the state.

A video on its website boasts "Paris, France may be the city of light but Perris, California is the city of life."

Now its unemployment rate is the highest in California.

While the Inland Empire is averaging unemployment rates of around 13%, Perris' jobless figures are a staggering 20%.

During the boom years employment in Perris hinged on construction and home sales. These days 47% of the area's homeowners are underwater on their mortgages.

George Preciado, who has lived in Perris all his life and worked as a fast food manager, has been looking for work for a six months with no luck.  "I keep applying and applying and I can't get a job."

Resident Laurie Mantwell, 50,  owned a maid service that employed 25 people. Her business failed last year.

"We took a huge loss on our business," she said. adding that she had the business for nearly 20 years. She said she lost close to $150,000 before shuting down.

Her husband works for the government and she fears he may be cutback because the city is trying to downsize.

They are underwater on their home to the tune of $100,000: they owe $365,000 on a home that is only worth $222,000.

Dee Dee Bazan, 43,  lost her job in the healthcare industry in October.

"I don't have a job right now, so yeah, the economy is bad in this area," she said. Bazan recently got her bachelors degree in health care administration but this hasn't helped her locate a new job.

She is behind on her rent and four months ago, her unemployment insurance was cut and now, she has a tough time paying for food and gas, she said.

From 2004 to 2007, Perris was a bonafide boomtown, new homes swiftly sprouting on affordable land. From the 2000 to 2010 census, the population of Perris nearly doubled, according to the Census.

Jobs were plentiful. .

"There was a whole bunch of businesses and people were getting jobs." Preciado said. "I had a stable job and didn't have to worry about getting laid off."

Whatever place is at the cutting edge of Southern California's growth at the moment of economic downturn is going to get clobbered, said John Husing, an econonomic analyst who specializes in the Inland Empire.

Residents rushed to the Inland Empire because they could afford the houses. "And bam! It stops with the housing crisis," he said. 'And you have a catastrophe on your hands because you've lost wealth as well as you've lost jobs."

Jose Marin grew up in Perris and is now a real estate agent.  Folks selling their homes now are distressed sellers, he said.

A house that was bought for $500,000 a few years ago, he said, is now on the market for $182,700.

Homebuyers can now come to Perris from Los Angeles County and save about $150,000 on middle priced house, Husing said.

But there aren't many prospective buyers. "People are afraid now," he said.

Husing and other experts still see some reason for optimism rather than fear for homebuyers, home sellers and job seekers.

 "What's going to happen is that we've got about three to four more years until the housing crisis gets through the system and the correction is over," Husing said.

His advice: "What you need is to try and do any strategy you can to hold on."

Back to Work: This story is one in a weeklong series focusing on jobs and employment in Southern California.  

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<![CDATA[Frank Lloyd Wright's Ennis House Sold]]> Sun, 17 Jul 2011 15:04:06 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Frank+Lloyd+Wright+Ennis+House.jpg

Billionaire Ron Burkle has purchased the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Ennis House for nearly $4.5 million, according to the home's preservation group.

"We are excited that Mr. Burkle has purchased the Ennis House and is committed to complete the rehabilitation of this irreplaceable icon," said Marla Felber, Chair of the Foundation.

Burkle, according to his Forbes profile, is worth $3.5 billion. The 58-year-old also owns the historic Greenacres estate, originally built in the '20s for silent film legend Harold Lloyd.

As part of the purchase, Burkle is required to "some form of public access to the house a minimum of 12 days per year," according to a statement from the Ennis House Foundation.

The 6,000-square-foot Ennis House was built in 1924 for retailer Charles Ennis. The home went on the market in 2009 for $15 million, but after "no serious offers," the Burkle deal was closed for $4,458,084.58, Felber told the Los Angeles Times.

"We look forward to working with Mr. Burkle to ensure the long-term preservation of this beloved Los Angeles landmark," said Linda Dishman, the Conservancy's executive director.

The home is located at 2601-2365 Glendower Ave. (map) in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles.

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<![CDATA[Own Pixar's "Up" House]]> Tue, 12 Jul 2011 12:56:35 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/214*120/pixaruphouse.jpg

Out of all of Pixar's mega hits, "Up" seemed to strike a deep chord with both adults and children alike.

For one, it might have had the sweetest story of any Pixar movie and it by far had one of the most emotional scenes of any of the company's flicks.

The film by the Emeryville-based studio tells the story of an elderly man who strikes up an unlikely relationship with a young scout after his wife passes away.

But for those "Up" fans who like to blur reality and bring digital animation to real life, they can now live in a real life replica of the house from the movie.

The only problem is the house is located in Utah and nowhere near the Fenton's on Oakland's Piedmont Avenue, as shown in the movie.

Utah-based home builder Bangerter Homes just finished building a four-bedroom, 2,800-square-foot replica of the home with the exact colors any interior details as well, including replica furniture as well.

As close as the house may look to the real thing, it is not an exact replica because the builder says there was no blueprint available for them to follow.

The house was built with the full permission of Disney, Pixar's parent company, with the condition that the builder turn over the plans for the house once it was built.

The house can be yours for $399,000.



Photo Credit: Pixar]]>
<![CDATA[Tour Will & Kate's LA Digs]]> Fri, 27 Apr 2012 13:44:04 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/kate-middleton-prince-william-gala.jpg Los Angelenos are gearing up for a royal good time (or a royal traffic jam-induced headache) this weekend when the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, aka Wills and Kate, arrive for an official visit. For their whirlwind 48 hours in Southern California, the newlyweds will shack up at this Wallace Neff-designed home that has belonged to the Brits since 1957. ]]> <![CDATA[Fallon's New Digs]]> Fri, 27 Apr 2012 13:49:48 -0700 New York Daily News. The late night talk show host is said to be shelling out $5.7 million for the unpretentious Hamptons home that includes six bedrooms, 5.5 baths, and two barns, all on 2.2 acres of rustic country land. Click to see more of the Hamptons home.]]> New York Daily News. The late night talk show host is said to be shelling out $5.7 million for the unpretentious Hamptons home that includes six bedrooms, 5.5 baths, and two barns, all on 2.2 acres of rustic country land. Click to see more of the Hamptons home.]]> http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/jimmy_001.jpg Jimmy Fallon is days away from closing on a charming farmhouse in Sagaponack, NY, according to the New York Daily News. The late night talk show host is said to be shelling out $5.7 million for the unpretentious Hamptons home that includes six bedrooms, 5.5 baths, and two barns, all on 2.2 acres of rustic country land. View the listing.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Rizzo's Huntington Beach Home on the Market]]> Mon, 20 Jun 2011 15:25:57 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Rizzo1.jpg

A Huntington Beach home owned by former Bell City Manager Robert Rizzo is on the market.

Asking price: $979,000.

"We're very proud to be presenting this California classic," said Bill Cuppy, of Pier Realty in Huntington Beach. "We firmly believe everybody deserves a chance to be serviced by the best real estate company in town. He knows we give great service. We're also confidential. We haven't had any difficulties, yet."

Rizzo lived in the home as he collected a massive paycheck as Bell's city manager. Earlier this year, an LA County grand jury indicted Rizzo on charges of misappropriating public funds, conflict of interest, falsifying public documents and secreting public documents.

Rizzo and other top city officials stepped down last July after the scandal over their hefty salaries were reported by the LA Times.

The home on Lake Street was originally in the million-dollar range.

"Fortunately, we are in one of the most desireable places in the world to live," Cuppy said. "Huntington's a great spot to be, so our market hasn't been impacted quite as badly.

The four-bed, four-bath home has been completely remodeled -- new granite, cherrywood, coffered ceilings, chandeliers, a re-done kitchen, and new appliances and windows. As for the backyard, it has three private patios, two private balconies, a courtyard entry and a three-car garage.

"They've really enjoyed the time they've been here," said Cuppy, who sold the home to Rizzo in 2007.

Cuppy said the home is still in the process of being prepared for a showing. A moving van was parked in front of the home Friday.

Rizzo and seven other Bell officials are awaiting trial.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[America Ferrera Still Trying to Sell L.A. Crib ]]> Fri, 27 Apr 2012 13:49:50 -0700 Ugly Betty star America Ferrera's Hollywood Hills home is anything but ugly. The chic crib, which is listed for $1.395 million, boasts a bright and lofty interior, a gourmet granite kitchen, and stunning city views. However, the actress still can't find a buyer for the home, which has been on and off the market since 2009. Click to see more of the actress and her digs.]]> Ugly Betty star America Ferrera's Hollywood Hills home is anything but ugly. The chic crib, which is listed for $1.395 million, boasts a bright and lofty interior, a gourmet granite kitchen, and stunning city views. However, the actress still can't find a buyer for the home, which has been on and off the market since 2009. Click to see more of the actress and her digs.]]> http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/america_edt1.jpg Ugly Betty star America Ferrera's Hollywood Hills home is anything but ugly. The chic crib, which is listed for $1.395 million, boasts a bright and lofty interior, a gourmet granite kitchen, and stunning city views. Despite the home's impressive features, the Golden Globe winning actress still can't find a buyer for the digs, which has been on and off the market since 2009. View the listing.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Jury Convicts Phonehenge West Builder]]> Wed, 08 Jun 2011 15:49:09 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Phonehenge+060211.jpg

The man behind Phonehenge West -- a hodge-podge of a mish-mash of a structure in the Mojave Desert community of Acton -- was convicted Tuesday of nine misdemeanor counts for maintaining illegal properties.

Jurors returned the partial verdict Tuesday against Alan Kimble Fahey. Jurors will return Wednesday to consider additional charges.

The 59-year-old Acton man spent 30 years building Phonehenge West. He said the ruling didn't come as a surprise.

"I'm not stunned,'' he said. "I didn't get to have one witness. I couldn't show one exhibit. I wasn't allowed to have the jury come to my property."

Fahey, a retired phone technician, faces seven years in prison if convicted on all charges. A judge will decide whether to impose the prison sentence.

Fahey said he plans to appeal.

The 1.7-acre property consists of a 70-foot tall tower and buildings made out of utility poles and steel beams. Some are linked by ramps and bridges that leads to patios.

Authorities call it a safety hazard that should be torn down. In an interview with NBC LA earlier this month, Fahey called it, "A museum, a library and a fun place to hang out."

"I am so ticked at these guys," Fahey said of county officials. "They'll never beat me -- ever. They could take this down the bare ground, pack everything into a missile and fire it into the sun. They can't take away 30 years of what a blast we've had here doing whatever we wanted."

Fahey said if he's ordered to take down the structures, he will have just as much fun doing that as he did building Phonehenge West.

During trial testimony, which lasted a week, authorities said they visited his property several times between 1986 and 1995 and again in 2006 and 2007. They said they issued citations and stop-work orders but that he ignored them.

Fahey said he initially tried to work with building inspectors but that they repeatedly demanded changes, lost his plans at one point and quit contacting him for several years while he continued to build.

Related: Facebook: Save Phonehenge West

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<![CDATA[Mortgage Relief]]> Thu, 02 Jun 2011 18:57:12 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/97052883.jpg

The sour economy has left many people struggling with mortgage payments.

And if you are looking for some guidance -- or even better -- a less expensive mortgage, you can get some advice over the next five days from the non-profit home ownership counseling group known as the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America.

Starting Thursday, June 2 and going through Monday, June 5, NACA is holding a free mortgage modification event at the LA Shrine Expo Center.

Thousands of people are expected to attend in hopes of permanently lowering their monthly house payments. According to NACA, because of its contracts with all the major lenders and service providers (including Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae), the group is able to permanently reduce many mortgages by $500 - $1,000 by reducing interest rate by 2-3 percent.

One La Puente man who attended a recent NACA event had his $3,300 monthly payment significantly decreased to $1,300 a month.

For more information and to register please visit www.naca.com or call 888-499-6222 to sign-up.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[What's the Real Deal With Housing Prices?]]> Wed, 01 Jun 2011 17:42:46 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/6315986_N6PPKGHOUSINGPRICES_722x406_1963042235.jpg A look at the latest developments with SoCal's housing market.]]> <![CDATA[Sarah Palin Buys $1.7M Arizona Home: Report]]> Fri, 27 Apr 2012 13:37:48 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/83246617_edt.jpg Is Sarah Palin on the move to Scottsdale, AZ? You betcha! The Real Estalker reports that the house hunting savvy Palin clan recently scooped up this mansion for $1.695 million, which only serves to bolster rumors that the hockey mom will make a run for President in 2012. The estate features 5 bedrooms, 6.5 bathrooms, a 6-car garage and no, Russia is not visible from the front porch. View the listing.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Angelino Heights: A Victorian Love Affair]]> Tue, 24 May 2011 13:33:18 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/victorian_angelino_heights_house.jpg

The story of how Murray Burns met his wife is a real-life Victorian romance.

Some 35 years ago, Burns was taking a bike tour through Angelino Heights, one of LA's oldest neighborhoods located two miles northwest of downtown, when he discovered what he calls "ghost houses," classic Victorian homes built in the 1880's.

Planaria Price sold him his first Victorian home, and then she shared her knowledge and passion for restoring the homes and revitalizing the historic district.

"I didn't know anything about restoration," Burns said. "I didn't even know what it was supposed to have looked like. Planaria helped a lot."

But it didn't take long for him to catch her passion.

"Once I got into it, I couldn't get out of it," said Burns.

Price, herself, stumbled upon Angelino Heights a few years earlier while trying to find a shortcut from Hollywood to downtown.

"It was just so exciting," said Price, who had just returned from a year admiring Europe's architecture. "I didn't know LA had history, or old things, or beauty."

She bought her first Victorian in 1973 and, along with Burns, the couple has been on a mission to restore and preserve the oldest suburb of Los Angeles to its former glory.

The couple lives in their Queen Anne style Victorian home on Carroll Avenue, nestled among the largest concentration of Victorian homes in Los Angeles

Together they have been responsible for the restoration of over 30 historic Victorian and Craftsman homes, teaming with the LA Conservancy to help designate Angelino Heights a Historic Preservation Zone.

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<![CDATA[Elizabeth Taylor's House for Sale]]> Wed, 25 May 2011 05:32:25 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/186*120/elizabeth+taylor+house.jpg

Legendary actress Elizabeth Taylor's Bel-Air estate is for sale.

The ranch-style home sits on just over one acre of land. It has been listed for $8.6 million.

"There's certainly the panache of Elizabeth Taylor, and the celebrity status that she brings with the property, and then of course there is the straight real estate value which is Bel-Air exclusive, lower Bel-Air. I think one of the most exclusive neighborhoods in the world," according to Real Estate Expert Mauricio Umansky, of the Umansky Group.

This is the first time in 30 years that the estate has been on the market. Taylor once said the gardens on the property had a magical quality that inspired her.

Taylor owned the 7,000-square-foot house since 1981.

Taylor died in March from congestive heart failure.
 



Photo Credit: ElizabethTaylorestate.com]]>
<![CDATA[Little Tokyo Gym Finally Has a Home]]> Wed, 18 May 2011 14:14:35 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/budokan_little_tokyo.jpg

A gymnasium that has been planned for Little Tokyo since the 1970s finally has a home.

On Tuesday, the LA City Council approved a lease for city-owned land, allowing planners to move forward with a project that has been in the works for decades. The proposal, sponsored by the Little Tokyo Service Center, calls for a 38,000-square foot facility on a city-owned parking lot at Los Angeles and 2nd streets.

"The idea has been floating around for a number of years, going back to the 1970s," said Bill Watanabe, of the Little Tokyo Service Center. "It was a huge step. Getting a site is really the first big step, and finding a site that's almost an acre in size has not been easy. Finally, to have it happen -- we were celebrating all day long."

The LTSS has been talking with the city about the site for about seven years.

The gym, just east of downtown, will be called the Budokan of Los Angeles. The strict translation means "martial arts center," but Watanabe said the gym will be used for many activities -- basketball, volleyball, dance, fitness and martial arts.

"We really do need this kind of facility in downtown LA," Watanabe said. "Partly, for Little Tokyo itself, because we want to preserve an historic ethnic neighborhood and build something attractive to young people. At same time, downtown is so lacking in parks space and recreational facilities, it would be huge plus for people living in and around Little Tokyo.

"We think this Budokan of LA could become a premiere exhibition venue for martial arts."

A poll on the LTSS website asked visitors what types of activities they'd like to see at the Budokan. As of Tuesday afternoon, kendo and basketball were the preferred activities, but judo, karate, tennis and volleyball all received support.

The next step: fundraising.

Watanabe said the fundraising effort will need to come up with about $20 million. The project includes four courts and a parking garage.

"We have talked to many people over the years, and there is a long list of folks who said, 'We're interested, come back to us when you have the land,'" he added.


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Photo Credit: Google]]>
<![CDATA[Banking on Saving the American Dream]]> Tue, 10 May 2011 06:14:49 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/foreclosure_klemack_resized.jpg

It has been five years since the national housing bubble burst, and in that time more than five million homes have been repossessed due to foreclosure.  California leads the country in that regard.

But what your bank doesn't want you to know is this: you may be able to fight them -- and win.

It happened for a Bakersfield couple who had purchased their dream home in a Salt Lake City suburb in 2007.  Merrill and Laverne Chandler had planned to retire there but in the process lost their savings in the stock market.

"All of a sudden, it's gone.  And that's not a good feeling," Merrill Chandler told NBCLA.

The couple is in their 70s now, Merrill is still working in a warehouse in Bakersfield -- their dream home sitting in Herriman, Utah.  For a while it was empty; for now there's a renter.  Their story explains why.

Last March, Merrill and Laverne, with the help of their son, Merrill, Jr, fought their bank over the foreclosure and won a summary judgement.  A Utah judge claiming the bank couldn't prove they owned the deed to the home, having sold it over and over on Wall Street, and therefore could not foreclose.

Merrill Chandler, Jr. was so moved by his parents' plight, he started the National Association of Foreclosure Defense Advocates (NAFDA), which now helps poeple understand their rights in the field of securitized mortgages and teaches attorneys to defend the homeowners in court.

Chandler, Jr. says when home prices peaked in 2006, it was the same time adjustable rate mortgages came due -0 higher home prices meant higher mortgages at refinancing time.

"What's happening in Southern California is that people who could afford a legitimate payment for the home they bought are being reset to higher payments and they can't afford those payments anymore," he said.

In a nutshell, the Chandlers' mortgage was sold to an investment bank, which spread the wealth to trustee firms which sold it to someone else and so on and so on -- each entity making money on the mortgage -- but leaving Merrill and Laverne with no clear answer as to who physically held the deed.  The judge agreed.

"We were very fortunate," Chandler, Jr. said, "because the judge saw that the securitization process occurred and he wasn't aware of who the owner of the debt was."

In a summary judgment, the judge stated, "It does not appear the bank... was the proper party to initiate default." 

The Utah house became what's called a "permanent possession" for the Chandlers.

“Basically, that tells us we can possess the property but we don’t own it," Merrill, Sr. explained.
 
There is a catch, though -- if the Chandlers decide to sell, they still have to pay off the lein.  But in the meantime, they don't have a mortgage to pay -- only property taxes and a promise that someone will occupy the home.  Hence, the renter, for now. They plan to finally move in by summer's end.
Millions of Americans are going through the same scary process as the Chandlers.  Convention centers around the country have played host to different mortgage modification organizations.  An event in January in Los Angeles brought out 11,000 people who waited for days in the cold to get a chance to refinance.
A Northridge couple is going through the process now.  Unwilling to identify themselves, they spoke to NBCLA and talked about the intimidation practices their bank has been using to scare them into foreclosure.
 
"All we were trying to do is make our payments current," said the homeowner.  He said the notice of default appeared on their front door in November 2010.
"And they border it with bright blue tape so the kids can't miss it, the neighbors can't miss it.  What they do is humiliate you," he said.
But their foreclosure proceeding is on hold now that they've entered into a legal battle with the bank.  They argue their mortgage was part of the securitization process and the bank can't prove they own the deed.  Now they're banking on a judge agreeing with them.
“This is your security, your kids’ security," he said, "You can’t just walk away from it.”
The feds have caught on to this - that because so many mortgages were securitized, a whole lot of homeowners who are in default may in fact have a right to their property if banks can't prove who owns the deed.
Last month, federal regulators fined 16 of the biggest bank in the country - including Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, Citibank and Wells Fargo - and by the end of May will require banks to improve staffing, training and record-keeping.
RESOURCES

For more information on foreclosures in your neighborhood, RealtyTrac is a nationally-known resource.  You can get specifics on areas of the country, states, counties, cities and zip codes.

NAFDA - the National Association of Foreclosure Defense Advocates - has a huge database of resources and contact information to see if your mortgage might be securitized.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has a website set up with resources about foreclosures: what to know, how to avoid it, etc.

And for a history of the Housing Bubble and 2006 burst, you can CLICK HERE.

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<![CDATA[Chris Tucker Lists Mulholland Park Estates Mansion ]]> Fri, 27 Apr 2012 13:49:47 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/168*120/ChrisTuckerHome1.jpg

Chris Tucker is on the move. The actor aka Jackie Chan's sidekick in the Rush Hour trilogy has listed his Tarzana, CA mansion for $2.499 million. Prospective buyers of the five bedroom home can look forward to rubbing elbows with Tarzana's neighborhood elite that reportedly includes Jamie Foxx, Michael J. Fox, Lisa Kudrow, and Eva Longoria.  

This is the actor's second attempt at unloading his crib. He originally purchased the home in 2001 for $2.4 million and in 2008 listed it for sale for $3.8 million. Tucker can only hope that the reduced price tag will entice buyers to his manse.   

 

While interior photos of the home are scarce, the comedian's abode boasts five bedrooms and seven baths over 6,399 square feet of interior living space. The mansion also includes a yard, a pool, a basketball court, a home theater, a large motor court and a game room. The actor, who is said to be unmarried, sure fashioned for himself a pretty hip bachelor pad.

 
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<![CDATA[Yaroslavsky Wants Inquiry Into Mega-Mansion Permits]]> Fri, 29 Apr 2011 08:38:08 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/178*120/benedict+canyon+proposed+mega-mansion.JPG

A Los Angeles County supervisor is calling for an inquiry into the permitting process for a proposed mega-mansion that has drawn the ire of residents in wealthy neighborhoods bordering Beverly Hills.

In a letter Thursday to the head of the city planning department, Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said it was an "embarrassment'' that the property owner's application to build the 85,000-square-foot compound got as close to approval as it did.

The property owner has since decided to scale back the plans and reduce the mansion's size by about 30,000 square feet.

The supervisor also questioned the city staff's decision to initially issue exemptions for the property that he says would have allowed the developer to avoid meaningful environmental review.

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<![CDATA[Farrah Fawcett's L.A. Condo Listed for $1.885M]]> Fri, 27 Apr 2012 13:48:43 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/farrahOHthumb1.jpg The two bedroom condo belonging to the late Farrah Fawcett is now for sale for $1.885 million. Located on the fourteenth floor of L.A.'s Wilshire Building, the unit the Charlie's Angels star shared with her long-term partner Ryan O'Neal is specifically named "The Farrah Fawcett Residence at the Wilshire" to honor the iconic actress who passed away in 2009. View the listing.]]> <![CDATA[Dozens of People Pray for Japan in Downtown L.A.]]> Sun, 13 Mar 2011 23:15:16 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/5595800_N11PJAPANVIGIL_722x406.jpg A Sunday night prayer vigil at the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center attracts people with close ties to the stricken areas.]]> <![CDATA[Own a Piece of Political History: Ted Kennedy’s Home ]]> Fri, 27 Apr 2012 13:44:03 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/kennedyhouse.jpg The Washington D.C. home belonging to the late Senator Ted Kennedy is on the market for $6.995 million. The elegant property is imbued with political history and its distinguished architectural design is as timeless and illustrious as the late Senator himself. View the listing.]]> <![CDATA[Sahara Hotel-Casino Closing]]> Fri, 11 Mar 2011 18:48:54 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/170*120/57337264.jpg

The Sahara, longtime hangout of the Rat Pack and one of the oldest resorts on the Las Vegas strip will close in May, the ownership said Friday.

Chief Executive Sam Nazarian said the old casino is simply "no longer economically viable."

He did not disclose what would become of the property.

The Sahara has fallen on hard times in recent years, as has much of Las Vegas. With the closing of the Sahara, the north end of the strip will be left looking as bleak and barren as, well, the Sahara.

When Nazarian bought the resort in 2007, people hoped for a revival. But in Vegas, you just never know. The economy only got worse, and it never allowed for the place to be remodeled and spruced up.

The Moroccan-themed resort opened in 1952 and was a favorite haunt of Frank Sinatra and the rest of the Rat Pack, with scenes from the original Ocean's Eleven movie being filmed there.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[For Sale: The House That Rumors Built]]> Wed, 16 Feb 2011 19:17:07 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/160*120/runyon_house5.jpg

There are a lot of stories about the boarded up mansion 2450 Solar Drive (that house at the top of Runyon Canyon).

It was a gang hangout when it wasn't a teen hangout. It was a popular spot for drug users. Satan worshipers used it for ceremonies.

It's the house Runyon Canyon hikers pass and wonder about what else might have gone on inside there during the past 16 years.

The future of the house with a mysterious past depends on whether someone is willing to meet the newly listed property's $15 million asking price. Sotheby's Realty listed the house last week.

The views include the Hollywood sign to the east, downtown to the south -- and, for a few days last year, a weird skeleton Oscar statue that was on the same ridge -- and postcard worthy sunsets to the west.

Although it's an impressive -- or maybe just imposing -- structure, the 9,800-square foot building needs a lot of work. The boarded up windows and graffiti are just its most visible flaws.

Here's the listing description:

    Amazing City Views from 9,800sf + Mansion on 17 Acres of mostly usable land with several flat pads, with one of the best City Views you can imagine. Current owners did some development work but did not finish and want to sell. House needs finishing but could be truly great. All sort of subdivision possibilities exist. This is the last big parcel in the Hollywood Hills so bring your developers/contractors and clients who want something rare and unique.

"It’s a mess," agent Richard Klug told the New York Times. "They had to open all the ceilings because the city said you have to put sprinklers in. So it just looks ridiculous."

The couple that started the project sold the house unfinished, according to the Times.

A record exec purchased the 16-year-old home in 2004 for $3.7 million. The fixer-upper was never really fixed up, and a security guard is about the closest thing it has had to a regular tenant.

 

 


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<![CDATA[Cash For Keys]]> Fri, 11 Feb 2011 09:46:48 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/160*120/foreclosure_cash_housing_2.jpg

Imagine if squatters moved into a foreclosed home in your neighborhood, then demanded cash or they wouldn't move out.

Authorities say that's exactly what's happening in neighborhoods across Southern California.

They call this "cash for keys," because they say, squatters won't hand over the keys to a foreclosed home and leave, until the bank that owns the home pays them cash.

Take the case of convicted squatter Gregory Russell. According to court records, Russell illegally moved into a Bel Air mansion, which was being foreclosed on by Gateway Bank.

"Mr. Russell is a professional con-man," says Mark Sussman, VP of Gateway Bank.

Sussman says Russell requested $25,000 from the bank to move out.

"This was extortion," says Sussman.

He says Gateway Bank will pay squatters to move out of foreclosures, but no more than $5,000.

NBCLA caught up with Russell and asked him, "Have you ever asked anyone for money in order to move out of a foreclosed home?"

Russell replied, "No. I have never asked anybody for anything."

Russell was eventually charged and convicted of misdemeanor trespass for squatting in that Bel Air home.

The year before that, authorities say, Russell was living in a foreclosure in Marina Del Rey. Records show the cops removed him from that house, but he was never charged.

Authorities say most squatters who demand "cash for keys" are never charged and prosecuted.

"This is a very difficult crime to investigate," says Deputy LA City Attorney Maureen Rodriguez, who has prosecuted several squatters who demanded cash to move out of foreclosures.

"These are professional criminals. They educate themselves through the Internet, they know what properties are valuable, they know who's paying cash for keys," says Rodriguez.

Rodriquez says Russell is a prime example of a "smart" and "bold" squatter.

"He's at the top of the game," says Rodriguez.

Apparently, Russell may still be at it.

The last two months, NBCLA's surveillance cameras have seen Russell moving stuff into a foreclosed home in Ladera Heights, owned by GMAC Mortgage.

GMAC reported to the LA County Sheriff that Russell was squatting in the house, and it appears he wants "cash for keys."

NBCLA obtained text messages, which appear to be from Russell's cell phone to the phone of a GMAC representative.

In one text, Russell apparently asks for "$20,000 to vacate the house in 10 days."

GMAC responds that they'll pay "$5,000 to vacate in two week."

In the next text, Russell apparently counters, asking GMAC for $10,000 and he'll be out in 24 hours.

GMAC makes Russell a final offer, in writing, of $7,000 if he'll move out in 11 days. Russell didn't accept the offer.

So why would a bank offer to pay a squatter to get out of a house that the bank owns?

"It is less expensive for the financial institutions to pay someone to move out of the house than to take them to court," says Rodriguez.

Banks tell NBCLA it can cost $100,000 and take more than a year to evict a squatter through the court process. But neighbors, who live near the Ladera Heights home where we've recently seen Russell, think law enforcement should be tougher on squatters.

"Arrest them and they should prosecute them," says one neighbor who asked not to be identified.

NBCLA wanted to hear Russell's side of the story, so back in December we caught up with him after a court hearing.

We asked him, "Do you make a living moving into foreclosed homes, then demanding money to leave?"

Russell replied, "Oh, absolutely not. Who told you that?"

Russell said he'd tell us "the whole story" about his activities, and even offered to come to our offices to meet with us.

"The 19th looks good. I'll have my lawyer contact you. We will sit down," Russell said back in December.

But Russell never did meet with us and his lawyer says he does not want to talk with us.

As for the house in Ladera Heights, a GMAC representative says Russell didn't accept their $7,000 "cash for keys" offer.

So GMAC has now gone to court to try and evict Russell.

Russell presented GMAC with a lease claiming he has a right to be in the house. Authorities say the lease is a fake.

Do you have more information about this story? Do you have another story for us to investigate? E-mail: Joel.Grover@NBCUNI.com

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