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Double-duty duplexes

Make L.A. living twice as nice

Let other cities deal with aluminum-sided two-family homes on postage-stamp lots. The Los Angeles duplex can mingle in any zip code from Hancock Park to West Hollywood.

“Duplexes have captivated the L.A. audience because they represent classic, quintessential L.A. architecture,” says realtor Blair Chang of Mossler & Doe.

Ten years ago, their prices were charming, too. Stacey Babbitt, a duplex specialist with Coldwell Banker in Beverly Hills, remembers selling prices ranging from $200,000 to $300,000.

Today, a duplex on a busy street goes for $800,000; one in a prime area like South Beverly Hills commands up to $3 million.

“Duplexes don’t make sense as investment anymore,” Babbitt says. “They’re all over a million dollars. And with only two units, the rents won’t cover your expenses.”

The holy grail of duplexes is the Spanish Revival, one made of stucco with a red-tiled roof and the owner’s unit above a ground-floor rental. Inside, buyers can expect high ceilings (beamed, barrel or vaulted), leaded glass windows, wrought-iron balconies, Batchelder fireplaces and art deco tile work in the kitchens and baths.

But it’s not all old-world charm, Chang says. He currently has a side-by-side, 1920s Spanish-style duplex near Hancock Park that was transformed by interior designer Sami Hayek and architect Alex Artigas into two loftlike two-story units.

Chang says entertainment-industry buyers gravitate toward duplexes because they tend to be in neighborhoods close to the studios. And with three-bedroom units as large as 4,000 square feet, duplexes have more breathing room than most condos.

“Some of my entertainment clients have just started making big money, so having two units is a nice way for them to supplement their monthly payment,” Chang says.

However, not everyone is cut out to be a landlord. “I’ve seen best friends become bitter enemies,” says Babbitt.

Pamela Rich, a realtor at Sothebys’ Sunset Strip office, says: “The No. 1 complaint of my clients who live next door to their tenants is that the tenants knock on their door 24 hours a day, saying, ‘Can you fix that?’ ”

One solution is to forgo tenants and turn the space into an office or guest apartment. Or, hire a management company to field repair requests and collect the rent. “That way,” Rich says, “your tenant doesn’t even have to know that you own the building.”

143 S. Mansfield Ave. Hancock Park 832 N. Las Palmas Ave. Hancock Park
8230 Blackburn Ave.
143 S. Mansfield Ave.
Hancock Park
832 N. Las Palmas Ave.
Hancock Park
8230 Blackburn Ave.
Los Angeles (Beverly Center area)
1925 Mediterranean duplex with original detailing throughout. Upper owner’s unit has three bedrooms, two baths, den, Palladian windows and private terraces. Lower unit with courtyard entry has three bedrooms, two bathrooms and a kitchen with breakfast room. Four-car garage. Completely redesigned by Sami Hayek and architect Alex Artigas, this side-by-side duplex features loftlike interiors and expansive, private front and backyards. Both units have hardwood floors and cook’s kitchens with stainless steel appliances and CaesarStone quartz countertops. Two-car garage, plus additional parking. 1931 Spanish duplex. Each unit has three bedrooms and 1.75 baths, a fireplace in the living room, full dining room, separate breakfast area with built-in china cabinet, tiled kitchen and original, tiled baths. Six parking spaces.
Listing price: $1,850,000 Listing price: $1,450,000 Listing price: $1,445,000
Contact: Robert Risher
Coldwell Banker Beverly Hills
(310) 777-6395
Contact: Blair Chang
Mossler & Doe
(310) 550-3565
Contact: Stacey Babbitt
Coldwell Banker-Beverly Hills East
(310) 281-3942

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