Venice vs Venice: How L.A.’s real estate prices stack up to the world

Los Angeles is one of the most expensive real estate markets in the United States. The high cost of purchasing a home can skew residents’ perceptions of what normal prices look like.

To get a sense of what L.A. housing prices look like in a global context, my colleagues and I compared the cost of a two-bedroom residence in various L.A. neighborhoods to their counterparts in some of the world’s leading cities.

What we found was surprising: On a price-per-square-foot basis, almost every neighborhood of Los Angeles is priced the same as some of the best neighborhood and resort areas worldwide.

There were also some neat coincidences:

    • At $944 per square foot, L.A.’s Venice compares to the historic San Marco neighborhood ($907 per square foot) of the actual Venice in Italy.


    • Similarly, at $237 per square foot, West Athens compares to the prestigious Kolonaki neighborhood ($228 per square foot) of Athens, Greece.


    • Downtown’s L.A.’s South Park ($611 per square foot) and Silver Lake ($678 per square foot) compare to the historic Le Suquet neighborhood ($631 per square foot) of Cannes, France.


    • Buying a home in Crenshaw ($363 per square foot) is just as expensive as buying a place in Barrio Brasil ($360 per square foot), one of the most desirable neighborhoods of Santiago, Chile.


  • At the other end of the price spectrum, some of the individual condos in downtown L.A. are going for well over $1,000 per square foot, making the closest comparison the neighborhood of Oia ($1,017 per square foot) on the island of Santorini in Greece.

What was the inspiration for this map? For too long, real estate data have been incredibly opaque. Our hope is that gathering data on some of the top cities in the United States and worldwide and displaying it through neighborhood reports, charts and infographics will help people make better sense of their real estate options.

Cities are inherently fascinating and complex. Conveying that sense of excitement while making the data accessible and playful is the goal.

Article From, written by Constantine Valhouli

The Most Important Buildings That We Build

“We are different people in different places.”
Alain de Botton from The Architecture of Happiness

Early in my career I taught a course entitled American History Through Architecture. I loved the class because it offered my students a visual text to interpret the evolution of our country and its people. At the time I was teaching at a boarding school in upstate New York. Walking tours of Victorian cities such as Saratoga Springs and Troy not only brought history to life but conveyed a universal lesson: architecture is the ultimate art of the people with enormous potential to convey beauty and meaning in everyday life. The choices we make about the buildings we build, therefore, have the capacity to do one of two things: contribute either to our sense of well-being or, to quote novelist Milan Kundera the “uglification of the world.”

There is an undeniable psychology of architecture, an indelible connection between our identities and our locations. In his book, The Architecture of Happiness, Alain de Botton writes, “One of the great but often unmentioned causes of both happiness and misery is the quality of our environment: the kinds of walls, chairs, buildings, and streets that surround us. And yet a concern for architecture is too often described as frivolous, even self-indulgent.” In short, de Botton asserts that where we are heavily influences who we can be, and that it is architecture’s task to stand as an eloquent reminder of our full potential. Nowhere is this truer than in a school, where the very purpose is to elevate our children’s potential. A beautiful school is a gift from one generation to the next, an acknowledgment that our hope as a society lies within our children’s capacity to become thoughtful, ethical, and contributing adults.

Schools are, in essence, the most important buildings that we build. Architect and former professor at Harvard University’s Graduate School of DesignJonathan Levi, has argued that in a world where we no longer build cathedrals, schools offer a source of community and inspiration which we crave as human beings and which, for many, religion no longer satisfies. In addition to serving as the social magnets of our communities, schools also represent an important intersection between education and architecture; Levi posits that both educators and architects are futurists – giving utterance to the future in a world where the present is totally unsatisfactory.

Anyone visiting Los Angeles and glimpsing the decrepit structures that pass for our schools would have a hard time believing that California public schools were once among the best in the nation. Equally telling is the fact that cars in this city routinely fail to stop for school buses and neighbors feel no compunction about attacking the independent schools that have filled L.A.’s educational void. Much of L.A.’s architectural investment lies behind private gates in proudly exclusive neighborhoods. There are important exceptions of course such as the GettyWalt Disney Concert Halland the Broad Museum, but on the whole Los Angeles is a city where our civic architecture, and especially our schools, do not convey a belief in our children or the future.

As the Head of a Los Angeles independent school about to break ground on a campusspecifically conceived for teaching girls in the 21st century, it was imperative that our architects, Craig Jameson and Joe Masotta of Parallax Associates, designed buildings that would convey an absolute belief in our girls’ potential to succeed, ascend, and lead. The theme they chose was that of an urban forest, an allusion to Artemis, protector of girls, and our school’s namesake. Despite four years of opposition from some of our neighbors, the project and its aesthetic remains largely intact and poised to stand as a beacon for our city’s commitment to women’s empowerment for generations to come.


Article by , posted on on Oct. 14th 2015

Today Is the Best Day of the Year to Buy a House

Close your deal on October 8.

It’s long been conventional wisdom that the housing market slows in the fall, when children go back to school and colder weather keeps would-be buyers indoors.

Housing site RealtyTrac recently decided to test that long-held belief, crunching data on 32 million condo and single-family home sales over the past 15 years. The conclusion: It’s true. And the slowest day of the sluggish fall-selling season is today, October 8.

Which makes it a great day to buy a house.

Buyers who closed their purchase on October 8 paid, on average, 10.8% less than what RealtyTrac estimated their homes were worth. The discount looms even larger when you consider that on some days during brisker selling periods, buyers paid premiums. The worst day to buy a home, according to RealtyTrac, is Jan. 19, when buyers typically paid a premium of 9.6%.

One big caveat: The data reflect dates on which home sales closed, not when sellers accepted offers from buyers. It typically takes several weeks from that point until a sale actually closes. So while it’s more difficult to pinpoint the best precise best time to make an offer on a home, that day may be sometime in early to mid-September.

Still, seasonal swings might be at least one factor to consider if you are shopping for real estate. On a $200,000 house or condo, that 20.4 percentage-point swing in potential value would amount to more than $40,000.

“It makes a big difference,” says RealtyTrac analyst Daren Blomquist. “If you have some flexibility, it pays to strategize.”

One more thing to note: A slow housing market primarily benefits first-time buyers. Those who already own homes typically need to unload their old houses before they move into a new one. So whatever price advantage they gain as buyers, they’re likely to also give up as sellers.

Still, if you thinking of buying a home soon, the results are worth paying attention to. Buyers tended to have the upper hand throughout October, with prices throughout the month clocking in at about 2.6% below average, the most of any month. Buyers also saw significant discounts in winter months, including December and February, before the market begins to pick up again in the spring.


Published on Oct. 8th 2015 on

Largest Home Price Gains in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Diego

When the housing market collapsed in the late 2000s, home prices plummeted across California. Now they’re rising again. In fact, house values in some California real estate markets are higher today than they were in 2000.

Three cities in particular have seen tremendous gains over the last few years. According to a recent report, the housing markets in Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego have seen the biggest home-price increases since 2000.

L.A., San Diego, San Francisco Housing Markets Lead the Way

On September 29, the latest release of the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index was published. In addition to the usual home price updates, this report offered an interesting bit of historical hindsight. According to their data, the biggest increases in house values have occurred in the western half of the country, and in California in particular.

To quote the report: “The three cities with the largest cumulative price increases since January 2000 are all in California: Los Angeles (138%), San Francisco (116%) and San Diego (115%).”

Of course, this probably comes as no surprise to those who actually live in California. Home buyers, in particular, have been feeling the squeeze of rising prices lately. Buyers in many cities across the Golden State now find themselves priced out of the market and having to downsize their expectations.

The Rise and Fall of California Real Estate Prices

So why have property values risen so fast, and so far, in the Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco real estate markets? What makes these cities unique from the rest of the country?

The most obvious answer is that prices in these cities had more room to rise. During the housing crisis, home values in California’s major metro areas fell further and faster than cities elsewhere across the country. (And you could put Phoenix and Las Vegas into that club as well.)

California, Nevada and Arizona are the so-called Sand States that were hit hardest by the housing collapse. And since prices had further to climb in those states, they began to outpace the nation when the economy started to rebound.

We reported on this trend back in 2013 (see: “Prices Rising Fastest in Sand States“).

So it’s really no surprise that these three real estate markets have seen the biggest gains in property values since 2000. Home prices in San Diego, Los Angeles and San Francisco dropped well below their peaks during the bust, so they had a lot of room to rise.

But there are other reasons why prices have risen so far in these markets, and they both start with the letter “I” — investors and inventory.

Investor Frenzy Creates Inventory Shortage

When prices began to bottom out in California’s real estate markets, investors swooped in to snatch up bargain properties. It was the usual investment strategy of “buy low and sell high.” And there were plenty of bargains to be found in those days. Investors bought so many homes that there was soon an inventory shortage. When “regular” home buyers started entering the market, there weren’t very many houses available.

(Blast from the past: Here’s a story we did on the inventory shortage in San Diego, back in 2012.)

In short, high investment activity led to low housing inventory, pushing the supply-and-demand balance way out of whack. As the economy improved, job gains brought more buyers into the market. But inventory was limited, so buyers had to compete fiercely with one another. This led to multiple-offer scenarios, bidding wars, offers well above the asking price, and other hallmarks of a classic sellers’ market.

And now here we are approaching the end of 2015, and the biggest home-price gains are still occurring in the western half of the country. We expect to see more of this next year. In fact, it was one of our top-five predictions for the U.S. housing market in 2016.

Posted on Oct. 5th 2015 on

6 Women Who Changed the Face of L.A. Architecture

With The Broad, Liz Diller becomes only the latest woman to influence the look of Los Angeles

The Broad is Los Angeles’s most architecturally-significant building to come along in more than a decade. And unlike other standouts like The Getty, Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Emerson campus, or the Red Building, The Broad was designed by a woman—Liz Diller of Diller Scofidio + Renfro.

The Broad suffered through a complicated, long, and litigious design and build process, but in the end, it turned out to be a beautiful feather in Grand Avenue’s cultural cap. The novel honeycomb design is a new icon for Los Angeles, and a welcome contribution from a female architect. While big-ticket architecture largely remains a boy’s club, women have been breaking the glass ceiling of L.A. design for decades. Here are five with especially impressive resumes:

Julia Morgan:
Her most famous work, the Hearst Castle in San Simeon, is 230 miles northwest of City Hall, but Morgan’s vision is easily found in Los Angeles, too. Morgan, the first woman licensed to practice architecture in California, created the scrumptious Los Angeles Herald-Examiner building in 1915 (commissioned by Hearst, naturally). The gorgeous Beaux Arts building opened at Broadway and 11th a century ago and will soon be renovated into restaurants and creative office space.

Mia Lehrer:
Lehrer may be the woman who most defines present- and future-day Los Angeles. The landscape architect has helped the city add to its relatively paltry stock of public space, with iconic, forward-thinking projects like the Annenberg Community Beach House, Vista Hermosa Park, and the Silver Lake Reservoir Pedestrian Path.

Barbara Bestor:
The prolific designer has her hand in residential, retail, and office projects spread throughout the city. Just this summer, her Blackbirds project opened in Echo Park, taking advantage of the city’s small-lots ordinance by replacing five single-family homes with 18 handsome condos that maximize space while adding density gracefully. Bestor was also one of the minds behind the award-winning Culver City offices for Beats by Dre, which are both whimsical and professional; Inc. called it one of the “coolest offices in the world.”

Maya Lin:
This architect’s most famous creation—the Vietnam Veterans Memorial—is in Washington, D.C., but Lin’s fingerprints are also on Venice, where she designed a beautiful two-structure home/studio for her art dealer friend Christine Nichols just a stone’s throw from the beach. Cement-colored stucco doesn’t sound inviting, but the finished project is both modern and warm, with redwood softening the grey palette. The work-life space even has room for an urban garden.

Cory Buckner:
This residential architect is a lover of L.A. history. Along with her late husband, Buckner beautifully restored one of the homes in the Crestwood Hills development, which was designed by A. Quincy Jones and Whitney R. Smith in the 1940s as a “utopian” Brentwood community. Her love of clean lines and breathtaking views is reflected in work that stretches from Malibu to Beverly Hills.

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Posted on Los Angeles Magazine Sep.30th 2015