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Couple Put Up a Big Sign of the Real Estate Slump : Housing: They write 'For Sale' in huge letters on their lawn, hoping to attract attention from passengers in planes and jets on flight path to LAX.

April 25, 1993|DICK WAGNER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

LA HABRA HEIGHTS — Loret and Jack Sayler look up hopefully as the planes pass over the million-dollar hilltop home they are trying to sell.

On the spacious front lawn, where family soccer games were played and the croquet course once stood, a for-sale sign in white letters and numbers 10 feet long and 2 feet wide beckons air travelers.

Dismayed by the depressed real estate market, the Saylers came up with the unconventional marketing pitch to take advantage of their location beneath an approach path to Los Angeles International Airport.

"It was a spontaneous idea we thought was silly initially, but decided to give a try," said Loret Sayler, an architectural designer whose projects include the 15-year-old contemporary house.

"For Sale" and a phone number were written on the grass with Styrofoam packing material a couple of weeks after the house went on the market in early February. "We were contemplating whether it was too tacky to do, but we are very motivated sellers," Loret Sayler said.

The Saylers, despite a lingering fondness for the home's spectacular vistas, its aviary, its glass-bottom shower, its spa, its marble wet bar and its bedroom windows slanted for viewing stars, want to move to Northern California.

Jack Sayler, a manufacturing executive, said the Federal Aviation Administration told him that planes flying over his house are at 4,000 to 5,000 feet. The planes are high enough not to disturb the hilltop's tranquillity, but whether they are too high for the passengers to make out the sign on the lawn is not certain.

"We think they probably see it," Loret Sayler said. "The direction we set it up is the way (the planes) are coming in. We theorized it would be wonderful for a pilot to be saying, 'On your left, you will see a lovely home for sale.' "

Small planes often fly over the house and then circle it, perhaps attracted by the big lawn or the roof, which is part sod and part copper.

The pilots of these planes are being targeted by the Saylers as potential buyers. "They might not live in this area and may not have thought about living in this very nice community of La Habra Heights," Loret Sayler said.

Pam Kennedy, a real estate agent who listed the house with Coldwell Banker Roberts Real Estate in Whittier, was surprised when the Saylers told her their idea.

"I didn't know quite what to think," Kennedy said. "I had never heard of that being done. How many houses would that work on? Who else has that kind of lawn?"

Kennedy discussed the idea with brokers and agents in her office. "They all thought it was a great idea," she said. "What could it hurt? You need something special."

Last year only two homes in the $1-million price range were sold in La Habra Heights, Kennedy said, adding that of the 110 homes for sale there, 16% are listed at more than $1 million.

Normally, she said, advertising for estate housing "is pretty mundane because people are conservative. You seldom ever see a marketing scheme this aggressive and innovative in the estate range."

The home, which looks out at the ocean and downtown Los Angeles, and at smaller hills covered with red flowers and blooming mustard, has been advertised for $1.25 million in real estate board listings, newspapers, area magazines and publications that have an international circulation.

The Saylers have not received inquiries from jet passengers who have passed over the house, but a few private pilots have expressed interest. And there was a flurry of responses, though nothing too serious, after a TV station ran a story about the home.

"The sign has been a bundle of fun," Loret Sayler said, "but no one has made an offer."

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