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They Specialize in Homes With Pedigrees

April 06, 1986|DIANE KANNER | Special to The Times and Kanner is a free-lance writer residing in the Los Feliz district. and

Los Angeles architecture groupie--Found on sidewalks and hillsides where they search for Southern California architecture as defined in the three editions of Gebhard and Winter's guides. Prevalent in Pasadena, with enclaves in Santa Monica/Venice and Hollywood/Silver Lake, they are products of university and supermarket educations, the latter from copies of Metropolitan Home perused in the check-out line. An aversion to structures that "lack integrity" could derive from a childhood spent in a tract home.

Los Angeles architecture broker or realtor--An architecture groupie trying to make a living at his/her passion.

When a realtor from one of the large local firms invokes the name of Neutra to get a potential client to look at a house, it is clear that architectural properties are hot.

This particular realtor didn't realize that Neutra would have cringed at the house in question. He was simply trying to make a sale to a customer who wanted a house with a pedigree.

For every buyer in Los Angeles who doesn't know a Lloyd Wright from a Frank Lloyd Wright, there is a buyer who does, and he will pay up to $750,000 to reside in the work of the master.

These homes are being sold by half a dozen neighborhood firms whose brokers invoke "The Guide to Architecture in Los Angeles" when showing a listing.

In the mid-city area, Victorian Register is doing well. On the Westside, Mossler, Randall, Deasy and Doe have reigned for 10 years.

On Conservancy Tour

Los Feliz has a relatively new firm, called Housing Solutions, with a few architectural listings, and Silver Lake, that bastion of '50s steel and glass, has become the bread and butter of Architecture for Sale.

Three of the six homes on next Sunday's Los Angeles Conservancy tour in Silver Lake were sold by Architecture for Sale. The firm's first architectural listing was Gordon Drake's 1946 Presley House, and the next year, in 1985, it sold R.M. Schindler's 1925 Howe House and Gregory Ain's 1937 Scharlin House.

Buyers and realtors weren't always so wise. When Jim Dunham began the Victorian Register in 1979, he couldn't get a yuppie, let alone an 80-year-old, to recognize the work of Samuel and Joseph Cather Newsom, whose Victorian homes were the first to be declared local cultural monuments.

"I had to set up classes in preservation before they would buy," he recalls. "Now, in addition to workshops, we sell preservation books and move houses."

Offers Restoration Advice

Before last Thanksgiving, he picked up a listing of an Angelino Heights Craftsman house that he sold by Christmas for $149,000. The original owner, a Chavez Ravine brick manufacturer, left the plans with his daughter, who was still in residence 80 years later.

Catherine Davis offers restoration techniques when she sells a house through Housing Solutions. The firm specializes in locating short-term housing for out-of-towners, many of them in the entertainment field, but she will sell a Raphael Soriano glass-and-steel "pavilion" in Los Feliz to anyone with the $435,000 asking price. In Pasadena's Villa Park area, Davis has a listing on a Greene & Greene bungalow for $280,000.

The sentiments of the Jim Dickson realty firm's Altadena office are evident in its North Lake Avenue location: a 1906 brick substation of the Mt. Lowe Railway.

Astrid E. Ellersieck, a sales associate there for 12 years, maintains the Mt. Lowe Railway museum in the office. She seems to be as involved in preservation circles as she is in selling properties designed by 1920's classicists, such as Kenneth A. Gordon.

She said she has sold four Greene & Greene houses in the last two years.

"I'm doing my best to get them all," she says of the several dozen by the brothers in the Pasadena area, "but they seldom get on the market. If you have one, why sell it?"Buyers who prefer the more contemporary work of Schindler, Neutra, Lautner and Ain have traditionally worked with the West Hollywood brokerage of Mossler, Randall, Deasy and Doe.

Historic Homes Rare

In 1984, this firm sold a Hollywood Hills residence, known as the Storer House, for a reported $750,000 to movie producer Joel Silver after it had been on the market for five years. With the hundreds of thousands of dollars Silver has poured into restoration of the Frank Lloyd Wright textile-concrete-block home, he has become the darling of awards committees.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation finds that historic homes go on the market every 10 years or so. That puts competition for the few in Southern California in the tooth-and-nail category. Architectural realtors compete with firms like Coldwell Banker, which acquired the listing on Greene & Greene's 1907 Blacker House in Pasadena.

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