Garage Fire: What not to do

Featuring guest blogger: Rick SolomonGarage Fire

One of my neighbors just had a garage fire and it made me think: this is fire information we should all keep in mind. Plus check that your fire extinguisher is where you thought it was, and that it is still good. The following is what not to do if you smell gas.

My neighbor described the fire: ‘The fire started due to a hole/leak in the hose that delivered gas to a gas dryer. He could smell the gas and he ran his hand over the length of the line to find the hole and turned off the gas temporarily, then duct taped the hose until he could buy a replacement, turned the gas back on and tested the dryer. After running for no more that 60 seconds, the large vent hose caught on fire thus catching the garage on fire.  Luckily they had a fire extinguisher handy and no one was injured.

fire_extinguisher_servicesTwo things he learned.
#1. If you discover a leak in the gas line don’t try to patch it. Replace the line (our 4′ replacement cost $28 at Home Depot) and keep the gas turned off and DON’T use the dryer until then.
#2. Get a bigger (or more) fire extinguishers than you think you need. Time is precious in a fire, and even if an extinguisher doesn’t fully put out a fire, it still give precious seconds until you and your family can escape or until the fire dept. arrives.’

Advice from the neighborhood expert Rick Solomon: Gas inside the home is relatively safe. It gives you the warning you have a leak based on the smell that is emitted. Gas is also lighter than air and dissipates. The problem was when you duct taped it, the corrugated gas flex didn’t allow the tape to fully seal. When the dryer started, there was an electronic glow plug folled by the flame of the dryer. Either 1 of them would be able to ignite any gas leaking in the vicinity of the heat source.

Technically gas is only coming into the house at approx 7″ of water column / approx 1/3 of a pound of pressure. Whereas water pressure is approx. 60-65 pounds within the house.

A simple test for a gas leak is the sniff test or a soap test. Mix up approx 10% liquid soap to clean water in a sprayer bottle. Then spray onto the suspected are of the pipe or connector. A leak will cause the soapy solution to make bubbles. Find the leak and either tighten the connection or shut off the gas serving that appliance. There is no legal miracle tape or glue for gas leaks.

Don’t use any soap solutions that contain ammonia as it will deteriorate some of the pipe and flex connectors we use in plumbing systems.

Rick Solomon from Rick Solomon Plumbing

(310) 836-1437  License # 00743321

Based out of Los Angeles and founded in 1981, Rick Solomon Plumbing is a plumbing contractor and provides plumbing inspection, septic tank services, water purification system installation, and shower installation. They are licensed by the state of California. Rick Solomon Plumbing is insured and bonded. They provide emergency services.

Remember: It’s good to have 1-2 fire extinguishers in the house.

The Urban Parking Dilemma

This morning I woke to a message from a neighbor saying she was yelled at and threatened by another neighbor because she had parked on the street in front of the neighbor’s house.  She was concerned with the violence of the altercation and didn’t know what to do.  She didn’t want to elevate the anger by calling the police, but wanted advice.  Not being the best source for advice on specifically what to do in this situation;  I will share the ideas it did bring to mind.

bad-parking-7132531All houses (in Los Angeles) are supposed to provide covered parking, so I would like to remind everyone, we do have parking on our properties we are just not choosing to use it. (Most garages in my neighborhood are used as storage units, man caves or converted to rental units.) Considering our area was built up in the 1920s- 1940s many driveways seem to be too narrow to drive down, so there is that excuse not to use the garage. But it might be time for each of us to try consider a way to park on our own properties.

The spaces between driveways are meant to fit 2, I repeat 2 cars (in my neighborhood anyway). If we are all considerate not to block driveways, but pull all the way to the edge to allow more of our neighbors access to parking, we might alleviate some of the anger that comes from getting home from work and not being able to find a space near our own homes.

However, streets are for public usage. We do not own the spots in front of our houses. We all want to park in the spots closest to our houses. We all have that moment of annoyance when the spot in front of our house is taken. But these are public streets and people have the right to park on public streets. No one has the right to bully, harass, or threaten anyone in any situation, but especially in our own neighborhood. We all understand the frustration. But please try to deal with conflict while understanding we all want the same thing. We all just want the right to park by our own house and go inside and turn off the world.

Today think of one way you might be able to create more parking on the street.
– Park larger cars in the driveway/ smaller cars in the street
– Make more space in the driveway to park tandem
– Park motorcycles and mopeds on the side of the house
– Pull all the way forward to the edge of the curb when parking while not blocking driveways
– Pull your rv or boat into your driveway or backyard to make space for cars
– Tell your tenants to respect neighbors and park with empathy because we all get frustrated
– Park with empathy because we are all frustrated.
– Ask that guests pull all the way into street spots when they visit.

80ff1423dde637288a960590bbec6d5aPlease share your ideas on how to make this better. We all know the problems, looking for solutions here.

Thanks everyone for consideration over frustration.

LADWP Home Energy Improvement Program

Home Energy Improvement Program (HEIP)

HEIP Assessor
HEIP Assessor

The LADWP Home Energy Improvement Program or (HEIP) is a free program for energy efficient upgrades offered to residential customers. Once you are approved, they send trained energy technicians to your house for a comprehensive assessment of your entire house’s energy useage.

It took about a month to get approved for the program, and about 2 weeks after that they came out to my house. They took my house through a battery of tests checking my insulation, window and door sealing, sprinkler systems, toilets, shower heads and more. They did a combustion test on my hot water heater and stove. Checked my thermostat, tested all of my smoke detectors, replacing some with a 10 year battery model for free. They put in a new CO detector in a better position in my hallway and replaced nearly all of my lightbulbs with CLFs.

They did all of this 100% for free.


They might have done more, but, if you know me, I keep the place pretty energy efficient anyway. Had I not had proper insulation; if I didn’t have low-flow shower heads and toilets; they would have sent out a skilled technician to complete the upgrades. The products that they use are not high-end, but they will save energy and money.  (And if you are about to sell and need these items for a city compliance certificate – here is your chance to get these things done for free!)

It is a fantastic program to see where your house is as far as energy useage. I was pretty proud that he said mine was one of the best houses that he had seen in my area. All in all, I was glad to have had an assessment and I know I will not run out of lightbulbs for the next 5 years.

Learn more about the LADWP Home Energy Improvement Program HEIP.

HEIP Application

Expo Line Train Testing Begins!

The moment you have all been waiting for has arrived.  Well, the moment I have been waiting for for four years is about 6 months away.  The opening of the Expo Light Rail Line extension to Santa Monica!  It is about to begin the train testing process, and be one step closer to opening.

The Expo Light Rail Line extension from Culver City to Santa Monica is scheduled to start train testing activities the week of April 6, 2015 and continue for several months. Initially the trains will be pulled along the rail corridor, and then operated on their own power. Testing will first take place in the eastern portion of the project and will later proceed across the entire alignment. The testing activity will test train clearances, the Overhead Catenary System which powers the trains, the crossing gates and traffic signals, and all related systems before the project is turned over to Metro for pre-revenue operations.

When: Starting the week of April 6, 2015
Where: Along the light rail alignment between Venice Boulevard and Military Avenue
Hours: Between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., Monday – Friday

Expo Line Construction
Expo Line Construction

What to Expect:

Preliminary testing activities will take place intermittently for approximately 3 weeks before the crossing gates are activated. During this time, testing may result in brief interruptions of street traffic as trains cross the intersections assisted by flaggers.

Once the crossing gates are operational, testing will continue on a more regular schedule.
The train’s audible devices may be used during testing activities.

Throughout the testing period, safety personnel will be available at the crossings to assist the public.
As testing proceeds along the alignment, supplemental notices will be issued.

Expo Line Extension pdf

Safety Tips:

Please obey all warning signs and traffic signals when crossing the tracks.
Always look both ways before crossing any street.
Never walk on railroad tracks.
Watch for trains from both directions.
Use the crosswalks.
Do not jaywalk across the tracks.

Helms Bakery Neighborhood

Helms BakeryI just got an email from KPCC asking Los Angelenos to write about LA  neighborhoods.  I love my neighborhood, so I thought I would share some of my thoughts about it here.

I live by Helms Bakery.  Our little section has had a few names through the years.  Most recently Regent Square, which had no context in the city so we voted to change the name to Helms Neighborhood.  I still tell people Helms Bakery as I find more people understand that.

What I love most about it is how multicultural it is.  Helms is a mix of middle class people; artsy to working class with varied interests and needs. We have mostly classic Spanish or bungalow architecture from the the early to mid 1900’s with residents having lived here from 50 years to newly flipped houses.  We are a complete melting pot that watches out for everyone else.  I wouldn’t say it is unique to LA, I would say it is typical in the best possible way.

Helms is the no-man’s-land of areas.  We are not Culver City, but we are across Venice Blvd from it. We are not Beverlywood but we are just South of it.  We are included in South Robertson, but we are separated by the freeway.  Sometimes called mid-city, but that is not right either.  We are in Palms post office (90034), but Palms doesn’t connect with us due the the industrial Helmsmenand train divide at Robertson and Venice.  If you tell people we are at Helms Bakery, you almost always get a smile from people that remember the trucks or love Father’s Office.  I love that Helms brings so many people from Los Angeles great memories.

This is where everyone in LA should be buying. We have the expo line train going from our area to downtown, and soon to be going to Santa Monica. We have cute little middle class houses and great neighbors that care.  It is one of the few still affordable sections near the west side. I love Helms.


Please let everyone know what you love about your neighborhood in the comments below.HelmsBakery1

Flip Your Home Can Help

Flip Your Home

We don’t want to buy your home, we want to help you sell it for more money! 

Flip Your Home

Flip Your Home is a team of real estate and remodeling experts getting sellers maximum profits by connecting investors to pay for renovations.

You own or inherited a home that is or has become too difficult to maintain.  The systems are old, outdated, and potentially unsafe.  You might want to unload the property or retire to an easier life, but can’t sell the house getting the profits you need.  You might be over your head and feel helpless, but Flip Your Home can help you find the hidden gold hidden in your property.

You could fix up your own property for resale, but you don’t have the money, time or skill to renovate a home. Meanwhile, the biggest investment you ever made left you penniless and hopeless.  WE ARE NOT TRYING TO BUY YOUR HOME!

 What if we could get an investor to pay for renovations to your home and you could split the profits when it sells? The investor pays for the construction and everyone comes out ahead at the end of the transaction when your house sells for more than the current, unrenovated value.

 Your investment is your home — There is NO COST TO YOU. The Flip Your Home team uses its knowledge of the market, investors and contractors to create a marketable home.  We are professional home designers, builders and marketers who have years of experience flipping homes.

We work WITH your home, managing the process every step of the way, to renovate and sell your home for maximum value.

With the Flip Your Home program investors partner with the homeowner. The homeowner’s part of the investment is their home: you, as the investor, provide money for the renovations. The profits get divided between you and the homeowner with a small Flip Your Home service fee

Each deal is individually negotiated. All projects must be pre-qualified. Each investment is a risk and no profits are guaranteed.

(844) 2 FLP HOM (844) 235 – 7466
© Copyright 2014 Flip Your Home LLC. All rights reserved.

SoCalGas’ Home Energy Advising Program

I was just contacted by SoCal Gas Energy Advisor, George Kopf.  They are working on connecting homeowners with people that can walk them through the different programs for rebates and incentives for energy upgrades.  How great is that to have someone to help you understand all of the options out there.  Here is the information he sent me.

SoCalGas Energy Upgrade Program
SoCalGas Energy Upgrade Program

Details on SoCalGas funded Pilot Programs

SoCalGas is funding two pilot programs that should interest every Real Estate Professional in southern California:

The Home Energy Advising pilot program provides independent expert advice and assistance for homeowners performing an energy upgrade to their home.



Are you interested in making your home more efficient?

If you are, you will be excited to learn SoCalGas is funding a pilot program that offers free Home Energy Advising for eligible homeowners.

Home Energy Advising Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q: I’m a homeowner interested in making my home more efficient and more comfortable while lowering my bills.  How do I do that?

A: An Energy Upgrade might be just what you’re looking for! But where to start? Call toll free to be connected to a SoCalGas Home Energy Advisor, George Kopf,  (888) 382-2925 or

Q: So what is “Home Energy Advising”?

A: Home Energy Advising is free, highly customized and ongoing expert phone-based assistance to eligible homeowners who are interested in making their home more efficient and comfortable through an energy upgrade.

Q: What does Home Energy Advising offer?

A: Home Energy Advising provides eligible homeowners:

Education on the ability of energy upgrades to make their home more comfortable, durable, valuable, safe, healthy, and efficient.
Assistance in determining the availability of incentives for energy upgrades, the options for financing their upgrade, and the qualifications of participating contractors.
Ongoing assistance moving forward with their project: help selecting incentive programs, expert technical advise, assistance reviewing bids, completing incentive paperwork, etc.

Q: Sounds great! So who is eligible?

A: The free Home Energy Advising service is a SoCalGas funded pilot program for homeowners who are SoCalGas customers and receive their electricity from a municipal electric utility (LADWP, Riverside Public Utilities, Glendale Water & Power, Burbank Water & Power, etc.).

Q: How do I find out if I am eligible?

A: Call (888) 382-2925 to be connected to your Home Energy Advisor. But hurry! Space is limited!  Make sure to tell George I sent you!

Home Energy Upgrade Programs
Home Energy Upgrade Programs

When Good Inspections Go Bad.

In the inspection process, sometimes the home passes Jack Holding up Foundationwith flying colors. The systems all look pretty good and have a good amount of life expectancy so you theoretically shouldn’t have to perform any major repairs for some time. For instance, the roof may have been replaced 10 years ago. Though it is not new, it doesn’t show any signs of leaks, and in theory, should have another 10-15 years on its expected life. This is considered in good working condition.

I recently had an escrow on a fixer property with an investor/builder client. There was an un-permitted room addition that the buyer knew about before writing the offer. Because it was made clear before entering escrow, it wasn’t something the seller was prepared to offer a credit for repair on. And this buyer felt qualified to get the room up to code and get it included in the square footage by the end of the flip.

However, upon inspection of the foundation, the buyer found that the back part of the un-permitted room was sliding off of the foundation and was being held up by jacks. (Yes, those jacks.) As the foundation was clearly having issues, in order to repair the home properly, a complete demolition would have to be done re-building the room from scratch.

In this case, it would have cost the buyer $30,000 more than they anticipated for repair costs.

Exterior Damage to House
Exterior Damage to House

Therefore, the buyer asked for the rather large credit of $30,000 because of an unseen negative condition in the property that was not disclosed by the seller. (It seems rather hard to believe the seller wouldn’t have known about said jacks, but we will ignore the lack of disclosure for now.)

In this case the seller offered only $5,000 credit to the buyer to repair the foundation.  Because this was not enough to cover the unknown costs with demolition and permiting and rebuilding, my client passed on the house.

A couple issues the seller should have kept in mind:

Because this condition has been presented to both the seller and the agent, it is something that will need to be disclosed to any future buyers that buy this house.  This is know a known factor affecting the value and condition of the property.

This seller was in a hurry to sell this property as he was having health issues and needed to move. The time might have been more valuable than money in this case.

My client decided the rewards did not cover the risk in this case and passed on the property.  Sometimes it is good to know your bottom line and move on to the next project.


The Home Inspection Process

What are inspections?
What are inspections?

Once you get your offer accepted this is the second hurdle to cross and the most important of the process of buying a home. The Home Inspections! The buyer has asked for X days – usually 7 -10 in the LA market, but 17 days is the default amount, to complete, consult and negotiate repairs for the property being purchased. (NOTE that the negotiation needs to be completed by the end of the inspection period!)

This is the buyers’ time to understand as much as they possibly can about all current, past conditions, repairs that may have been deferred and future problems that might arise with said property. It is time to understand what can be lived with, what are safety issues, and how much repairs may cost.

Your home inspectors are your most important tool. A great home inspector will know building codes, have ideas about what some repairs might cost and know when professional subs must be called in for closer inspection.  More importantly, they know how to gently tell buyers that no house is going to 100% perfect and what to fight for and what to let go.

The serious problems are:

  • Health and safety issues
  • Roofs with leaks or past leaks
  • Furnace – A/C malfunctions (HVAC)
  • Foundation deficiencies
  • Moisture / drainage issues
  • Fireplaces
  • Sewer lines

Generally aesthetic issues and aspects that could be observed by the buyer before writing the offer are considered with the purchase price of the offer accepted.

EVERYTHING that the buyer needs to feel comfortable with their own safety and quality of life living in the home should be inspected. The buyer has the burden of investigation and needs to look into everything regarding the property.

That being said, not everyone can spend $15,000 on inspections before purchasing a house.

Here are the inspections I insist on all of my buyers getting before releasing contingencies on a home and approximately what they might cost.

General Inspection: This is the most important part of your team as this person should be able to lead you to what other systems need further investigation. ($300 up depending on size and number of units)

Foundation: Remember issues with a foundation do not ruin a house. If “something” is found it is not the end of the world, you just need to know what it will take to repair and make the home safe. ($200-$500: based on sq footage, number of structures.)

Sewer: Homeowners don’t check or do upkeep on their sewer connections unless something very bad happens and sellers do not realize that roots or cracks have gotten into the pipes over time. Chances are the seller just doesn’t know if there is a problem. This may take many thousands to repair or it could just need routing. This is a must do. ($150-$300)

Fireplace: Another hidden repair many times home sellers are not aware of issues. You need a professional to send a camera up the chimney and make sure there are no fire safety issues. Remember even a new construction it doesn’t mean that it was installed correctly. ($150 – $200 per fireplace)

Permits: There are agencies that pull the permits on construction projects done to your property. You should know what was done with permits, what wasn’t, and decide what you consider acceptable. ($100 or less with a service)

Insurance: Call your agent and get a quote asap. In LA there are many flood and fire zones and insurance might make the difference with affordability on a purchase.  Be sure to get an ALTA with CLUE report from Title.

Wood Destroying Pests: This is usually included in the contract. In LA the seller usually pays for this inspection and current infestation repair (Section 1). Buyers are customarily responsible for repairing factors that can lead to future infestation (Section 2).

Natural Hazards Disclosures: Also written into the contract the seller usually provides this.The Buyer Process - Chart - HLeikin - 082312

Other things you can inspect:

Geological reports: Very important with hillside or land-fill areas (usually $1,000s and can take a couple weeks)
Roof: The general inspector will call this out if they think it needs more investigation.
Plumbing: The general inspector will call this out if they think it needs more investigation
Electrical: The general inspector will call this out if they think it needs more investigation.
Mold: The general inspector will call this out if they think it needs more investigation.
Radon Gas: I have had one property fail this test, however most buyers choose not to do this. The fix cost about $1,000 – $2,000 on the house that had the issue.
HVAC: The general inspector will call this out if they think it needs more investigation. The vendor should charge about $100 to come out.
Megan’s Law Database: Registered sex offenders in the area. I also recommend looking up your current residence as an example. There will be more listed than you think.

The good inspectors get booked really fast and it is very important you get a good one. Book them as soon as you can!

This is a good article on this part of the process:

A Realtor’s Stage Production

All the Sales a StageI have come to realize selling houses is a bit like being in a play. You are so excited to get the role (listing), you study the lines (features of home), rehearse (create marketing materials), perform the show (open houses- negotiations-inspections-negotiations again) take a curtain call (sign off on contingencies) then when the show is over (the sale goes through) you get sad the project is over and are back to looking for another role.

I am happy and sad to have sold another one.