Home Search: Young family looks for up-and-coming location in El Sereno

El Sereno, homes, real estate

Natalie on the home hunt in El Sereno | Marni Epstein

By Marni Epstein

EL SERENO — On a blistering Sunday in El Sereno, Natalie toured a recently renovated 1939  home on Navarro Street with her son and a friend. The three-bedroom, two-bath house was one of two properties for sale on the block – the other was an empty shell of a home stripped of its siding that sat across the way. Natalie is a young mother on the search for a home to share with her boyfriend and her son. She has unfortunately had to do a lot of the home searching on her own  as her boyfriend is out of town on work for the next few months.  Natalie compensates by giving him a tour of the home via FaceTime.

The young family is looking to make a change and move from La Puente, closer in towards the action of L.A. Natalie’s boyfriend is of the mind that El Sereno is ripe for development after having watched the transformations of Silver Lake and Echo Park over the last few years. Natalie isn’t necessarily as convinced, but does like the potential she sees in the $489,000 home. With its recent rehab and its nearby proximity to two schools, the home has certainly attracted young couples at its open house.

Why are you looking to buy a home right now?
[My boyfriend] is just ready to get a house. He’s been looking, its that time for him to start his own life with his own family.

What drew you to the El Sereno?
It’s all him! I want to go more towards the Whittier area but he loves it over here. He loves change.

How Many houses have you looked at so far?
Oh man…at least 15 or 20, I would say.

Have you had any home search horror stories?
No, we haven’t. We do a lot of drive-bys and a lot of research before. We haven’t put a bid in on any house, we haven’t ever called a realtor to let us in. There was one we were going to put an offer in and then [my boyfriend’s] cousin, who does construction, came to look at it and he said, “No!” this house is a tear-down. So that shocked us because we thought it was really nice. But for the most part everything we’ve seen is pretty much what we’ve expected.

What did you like most about this home?
I like the space inside. We’re small, it’s just going to be the three of us. But if I need to escape from one of them for a little bit I want to know that if I go to the other side of the house, I have my personal time. A lot of houses here are really small, or they’re very close to the neighbors. That’s another thing I like, the house in the middle [of the lot]. I don’t feel like I can reach over the fence here and touch the house next to me.

Marni Epstein Epstein is an entertainment, music, and lifestyle Journalist and resident of Echo Park. She has previously worked in the film and digital media industries with FOX and Sony Pictures Entertainment. She is currently also pursuing a Masters in Historic Preservation.

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  1. My wife and I just got a flipped home for under $400k on a 4,000 square foot lot in El Sereno. We’re within a few miles of DTLA nightlife to the South West and Pasadena shopping, restaurants, suburbia life to the North. Huntington Drive could use more regular bus activity but other than that El Sereno is ripe for development.

    • That house was on the market for a long time at $160,000………..whoever bought it and rehabbed it stands to make a pretty penny if it sells for what they’re asking……………there is no way they put in 300K worth of work…….
      Natalie, don’t buy that one………….it’s a pretty crappy area around there…….
      The two dead end streets nearby (Copeland and Patio Pl. are filled w/jackasses)……..
      El Sereno is ripe for development? Think again……….. there are too many scumbags on the streets……..

      • Realtor who lives in El Sereno

        El Jefe as a Realtor who lives in El Sereno you have NO idea what you are talking about. It may take time but in 5-10 years el Sereno will be the new Highland Park


          El Sereno will NEVER be the new Highland Park.

          Take a drive around El Sereno and then take a drive around Highland Park with your seeing eye glasses on so you can spot the differences in commerce, layout, public transportation etc……..all you need are a little bit of brains to figure it out and see.

      • El Jefe, that computer you are typing on cost wayyyy less to make than what was paid for it. Also, so is everything else you buy.

        • Follow the ‘flip’ sales of homes in El Sereno proper……..not Collis or the Berkshire area and we’ll see how many get sold for the prices they’re asking…….
          There is a difference between a BIG markup and a FAIR/REASONABLE/PRICE THAT SOMEONE WILL ACTUALLY PAY markup…..especially on a flipped home in El Sereno……….

    • Echo Park native

      If you want your house broken into nasty area

  2. I think this young couple would be much better off if they waited another year or two; I think we’re due for a correction in prices. At some point, the Wall Street-backed firms that bought up tens of thousands of foreclosed single-family homes to convert to rentals are going to begin selling and taking their profits, and when that happens, prices will begin to soften. There are deals out there now, and I like a lot of El Sereno – but I don’t think $489,000 for a home in El Sereno – even a three-bedroom home – is a deal.

  3. I’m not a realtor. But my wife and I spent a couple years looking for property in LA, first Downtown then in the Northeast. We bought a lightly flipped 1000sf place last year in El Sereno. We watch the comps on RedFin. Now, it’s worth about 40% more than we paid for it just a year ago. I think James is wrong to suggest waiting. Prices are definitely going up steadily in El Sereno. El Sereno is very much like Highland Park, it’s just 5+ years behind, or so. And if you look at Highland Park, our place would have cost twice what we paid for it. I don’t think Highland Park is so great. It’s true that the train runs through Highland Park, but that’s as much a positive as a negative. Go over to 58th & Fig in HP and you’ll see what I mean. You can always park & ride from there or South Pas. It has bad and good areas, like El Sereno. In both locations, you have to carefully choose your neighborhood. Good luck to you!

    • Congratulations on your purchase. Ultimately, time will tell whether or not prices will drop, but the fact that your property increased in value 40% in a year – and if you purchased a “lightly flipped” home, I’m guessing the seller also profited on it – is an indicator that home prices are overheating and are due for a correction. 40% yearly increases in value – or 10-15%, for that matter – are not sustainable. In my opinion, when people start to feel that they had better purchase soon because prices are rising so quickly, that’s probably a good time to wait.

      • I also don’t believe that house values in El Sereno will increase at this 40% rate for much longer. What I think is that they are in the process of catching up to surrounding areas, like Highland Park, Mt.Washington, Glassell Park, Echo Park, etc. But I think there’s plenty of evidence that a 10-15% increase in value per year is sustainable. Look at South Pas. A friend bought a place there in 2000 for 230K and it’s worth over a million now. Echo Park and Silver Lake properties have gone up that much in the last 10 years as well. I don’t know which neighborhoods will be next, but my guess is that parts of Lincoln Heights and Boyle Heights may also be ready for some steep appreciation in the next 5 years. What’s happening now is importantly dissimilar from the housing boom. Lenders are being more careful about who to lend to so there should be fewer foreclosures. And yes, the seller of our house did make a nice profit. Good for them. They found a good value and made it better. We’re happy with our El Sereno house and hope it keeps steadily going up in value. But even if it doesn’t, we have no plans to leave.

  4. Yek’s . hate that area , bunch of gang bangers at night

  5. El Sereno is a great area to live and I wish I had bought there because he value has increased more than my current home in City Terrace. My wife and I lived of Templeton for 2 years and had our share of random gang activity and such, but there are numerous areas in El Sereno that are nice and the commute to DTLA and Pasadena, not to mention So. Pasadena & Alhambra is great. Anything near Collis or the west end near Huntington and the East End near Alhambra is prime. The area by Wilson HS is great as well. The house we saw on Collis was 350 and needed some work, but we lost out because of an all cash offer in 2010. That house is now about 485…where as my house I bought for 260k is at 350. I see the value increasing more in City Terrace, but if I can press rewind I would have waited for El Sereno. Buy there!

    • I know this post is late to this conversation, but I was curious about your current feelings. If you were buying now, would you look to El Sereno or City Terrace?

  6. Anyone slighting El Sereno because of the ‘gang activity’ maybe never heard of The Avenues gang in Highland Park? That hasn’t stopped Highland Park’s development. In the long term, the homies are actually losing which is good news for Los Angeles. Economic development, gentrification and all that goes with it is not being impeded by what’s left of gang activity in the city. That’s undeniable.

  7. I moved to El Sereno in 1994 moving away in 2009 and my parents still live there. The only decent places in El Sereno are by Wilson HS(Hillside Village) , by El Sereno Park , property by South Pasadena or Alhambra. In the late 90s the huge housing project opened in Huntington and brought a huge amount of crime. Since growing up there graffiti and gangs have increased(While visiting my parents I’ve had things stolen from my car on two occasions). In reality she should move to Whittier as they have a nice Farmers Market and nice walking paths. I also agree with the other poster who said Highland Park is not that great. I love the old houses on the Eastside but the infrastructure is severely lacking and its starting to get very crowded. I can say this because I work for LA City and see funding problems ahead in the next couple decades and more difficulties in the future that the LA City is not disclosing.

    Also,does anyone remember Mr. Estrada from Estrada’s Barbershop on Eastern. He moved into El Sereno in 1957 or so. He was a D-Day veteran, served in the 82nd Airborne and was wounded 3 times. He kept all the neighbors in check and would fight gang members at the drop at a hat. Now I see his barbershop is dirty by the new owners which would have him rolling in his grave.

    Sometimes things can never go back to what they once were, that generation is gone.

  8. Echo Park native

    Come on I would rather take my chances in south central ., I lived in that area bought my house in the 90’s sold it 8 years latter , went back to where use to live 4400’s Portola ave looks like all the original home owners left the area looks like SHIT !

  9. We left our Echo Park rental for a house in El Sereno almost 2 years ago. We bought our flipped 3bd, 2 bath for under 400k on almost a quarter acre of land with mature fruit trees. We could not be happier! We live north of Huntington and about a block South of South Pasadena. We heard that the area South of Huntington weren’t as nice and have seen most crimes committed there on LAT’s crime map.

    I love the options the area has to offer. Great Chinese/Vietnamese food just East of us, DTLA is a downhill bike ride away (take the gold line back and it is a downhill ride back from South Pas), Costco down the street, Highland Park/Eagle Rock/Pasadena restaurants are all 5 miles away.

    The only bad/good thing is that there are no freeways close by. Other than that we love our hillside house!

    • You must not get out much. Based on the description of where you live in El Sereno, you’re extremely close to the 110 Freeway.

  10. My wife and I just purchased a home in El Sereno close to the self-serve car wash. We occupy a really well kept and friendly area. Additionally, we have come to know and trust our neighbors in a short period of time.

    Before we purchased our home, we looked around for a while and decided to buy in El Sereno as it offers the most “bang for your buck,” in terms of location( vis-a-vis downtown) and square footage. I agree that the area is a little sketchy around the AmPm, but it appears to be isolated to that area. Overall, we are very happy with our purchase and I have already seen an influx of new homebuyers in our area that reflect a demographic shift in our immediate vicinity. I’ll refrain from engaging in the “it’s the next Highland Park” argument; however, I’m certain it will only improve over time.

  11. WOW , bang for your dollar all right !! you mean bang bang at night . I would rather be in south central at night . Yes I lived in EL sereno my house was broken in 4 times my car was vandalized . I lived in a good area El sereno I finally moved out back to west side finally got fed up with all the crime . LAPD never would show up

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