Wednesday, March 18, 2015

A Sierra Madre Resident Reports On Her Tour Of The Henry A. Darling Home

(Mod: One adventurous reader and her husband took a tour of the Henry A. Darling house over the weekend. She then sent me the following report. I thought it was pretty darned good work and I am posting it here in its entirety. Hardly messed with it at all.)

You didn't ask me to share with you, but I'm doing it anyway. Also I would like to preface this whole thing by saying that although I am not a professional, I did own a 1907 house that I refurbished.

My husband and I went to the Mira Monte open house today. (You're lucky. I usually call it Alta Vista or Mira Lona). Okay, so the Brown's are being a bit less than truthful. Does the house need work? You betcha. Someone on your blog said it would take a million bucks to redo. Not so much. You have to love old things and you have to love the joy of repairing them.

The walls throughout are in fairly good shape. Could you tear them out and replace them? Sure, but it isn't necessary. The woodwork inside is in really remarkable condition. Very little egg shelling. The windows are perfection. There are floors that need to be redone. Like all houses of this era, there are all kinds of cubby holes. For what purpose? Who knows?

The kitchen can be enlarged by taking out two such rooms. It will then double in size. The cabinets are in good condition. The walls that need to be taken out may be bearing walls, but there is already a header in place. So no problems there.

There is a huge basement, unfinished. It would need drywall and insulation. Not hard skills. I've done it. Of course I was much younger at the time. Both bathrooms need to be redone to some degree. On the second floor, there is a nook and cranny where an additional bathroom could be added. One would have to get creative with the closets.

The back of the house is the area that seems to be in need of the most repair. Again, you can redo the wood, which I have done before, or you can replace it. That is a little pricey as it has to be milled and it has to be redwood. The fireplace is in an odd place, but I believe houses in that period used fireplaces as more than love scenery. It was placed centrally to add warmth. From what I could see it has an inside chimney, which is a good thing. It seems solid.

The foundation is arroyo stone. I looked at the front, the back and the sides, I saw no cracks. This house, as did mine, made it through several earthquakes. I didn't see any real red ticket items.

It appears some of the electrical has been done. Can't run an air conditioner on fuses. There is one wall unit.

I'm not sure from looking at the plans for the Brown house if they could have done a lot split. If they had the money to have the plans drawn then they had a line of credit to fix the house. They did not want an old Craftsman fixer. They wanted a white version of a mansionized monstrosity. Sorry to say that. The most daunting task to me would have been the back yard. What a mess to clean up. Again, doable.

There were several people touring with me, some were construction types who agreed with my ideas. There were Chinese of course. They concentrated on the backyard, I'm sure with the idea of rebuilding. The Realtor leaves it to you to contact the city.

I was much younger when I had my 1907 beauty. I told my husband if I had money and I had nothing better to do with it I would buy this house and slowly but surely bring it back to it's heyday. I have nothing against the Brown's but they were  it telling the truth about this house.

If they were honest about it, if they had presented surveys that they had had done, etc. I might have been on their side. Unfortunately, this is the world we live in.


(Mod: I received a second email from our intrepid citizen inspector. This is more of what she had to say.)

A couple of things I've been thinking about since the first email. Most people have an inspection done when they buy a house. When the Brown's were at that first City Council meeting, they never presented any report. Is there a report that they never offered, or did they think that since they were going to tear it down, they waived doing the report so they wouldn't have to pay for it?

Also, don't lose sight of the fact that they could be putting it on the market in order to say that no one will buy it and they're stuck with it. So, as their reasoning might go, why not let them tear it down?

Also, if they were into the Craftsman style when they bought this house, why wasn't the new house Craftsman-like? The Brown's bought a house for the land and the Realtor allowed it. I believe they think this will help should they decide to sue the city.

I don't think it will fly. I mean anyone can sue but will they win? These are less than above board people who would be aghast if you accused them of being that way. If they had the money to finance a new home, then they had more than enough to fix the original.

sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

53 comments:

  1. Thanks to the intrepid Tattler contributor!

    Sunshine is the best disinfectant when cleaning up the Browns' apparent lies!

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  2. " The Brown's bought a house for the land and the Realtor allowed it."...the Realtor has no responsibility whatsoever concerning the intent of the buyer.

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    1. Oh, thanks. You've fixed the problem! I feel so much better, now.

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    2. Hey 6:17 Realtor, the agent does have an obligation to disclose what their client can do or not do with the property. I'm sure the Browns didn't keep their intentions a secret from their agent, Reni Rose. She then should have investigated or warned them that they might face some obstacles. The owner and the owner's agent also had an obligation to disclose all defects associated with the property. I doubt though if that was the issue. I think the Browns wanted to either do a lot split and build two houses in which they may or may not have intended to live in either one of them. Or, and just as bad, they intended to demolish it from the get-go and build their dream home. That person who went through the house made a good point. If they liked the Craftsman style home so much why wasn't the new house going to be in the same style.

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    3. I don't use the term liar lightly but I don't want to sugarcoat things. The Browns made representations on videotape before the cameras that were false. If the house was hazardous, they should have supplied copies of all their reports to the City Council. If their intentions were not to demolish the house or split the lot, they could have asked Reni Rose to attest to what their intentions were. The fact that they didn't do any of that, tells me that they were willing to say anything to get their way.

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  3. How unusual to have no posts. I agree that you would have to love this house to restore it. If you don't love it doesn't mean you get to tear it down.

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    1. That house needs the right buyer but it has to be at the right price. They are trying to sell it for more than they paid for it. It should actually be priced for less than they bought it for because of the new information that the house cannot be torn down and so the lot cannot be split.

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    2. Good point made by the Tattler reporter that maybe they did not do any inspections. If they were going to tear it down, they would not need to pay the cost for a report. Their realtor knows the skinny on this and she ain't talk'in.

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  4. I too went to the open house and agree entirely with that assessment. Sure it needs some work and sure its a little quirky but welcome to the Craftsman style. People buy these kinds of houses to lovingly restore them. The idea that the Browns had the intention at the get-go to restore the house, is absurd. They also tried to say that they later discovered the house was so hazardous that it also had to be torn down, again absurd. You never buy a house without an inspection and calling in the appropriate experts. I also agree with the assesment that they may have some strategic reason for putting it on the market and hoping it doesn't sell. The fact is, every house will sell at some price point. They may have paid too much for it given the costs of restoration in which case they should reduce the price if they need to so someone else can afford to do the restoration. The reason they may have paid too much for it is because they had other intentions for the house like the lot split or tearing it down to build a McMansion. The fact that they can't do either of those things is their own problem. Maybe they also need to name in any lawsuit their archtiect and realtor and anyone else who gave them bad advice. Its interesting to note that in the marketing remarks they mentions the size of the lot and the nice street first and foremost. I think people are still pushing to tear that house down. Someone told me that even though it may not be on any historical list right now, CEQA would be involved in a big way should someone make an attempt to tear it down. That should be disclosed to any potential buyers.

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  5. Does the realtor have to disclose that the "registered citizen" AWest lives a few houses to the west?

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    1. No, they provide the information to the buyer to where they can obtain that data

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  6. Thanks Reporter! Great write-up. Thorough and clear.
    I especially appreciate the point about the contradiction between loooooving the Craftsman, but wanting to replace it with that ultra modern slanted boxes thing.

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    1. The reporter gave a very thorough and fair assessment of the house that I saw the inside of also. That house needs the right buyer and the right price. The right price may be alot lower than where its at now in light of the work that probably needs to be done. The Brown paid a premium because they thought or were told they could domolish it and split the lot.

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  7. The California Association of Realtors contract includes language which expressly states that the buyer should avail themselves of the Megan's Law website prior to purchasing the property. However, if a Realtor knows for a fact, that there is a sex offender in that neighborhood, they should disclose that the to the buyer immediately.

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    1. That's your opinion, if I were a Realtor I would not put myself in that position, buyers have obligations and need to do due diligence.

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    2. If the realtors told buyers that a convicted child rapist, uh sorry, a registered citizen, lives in shouting distance, said realtors could probably end up being sued for persecution.

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  8. Thank you, Madam Inspector for presenting the facts about the Darling house. I just read yesterday's comments, and I agree that we should band with the Arcadia Highlands group because, as we know, there is strength in numbers. Maybe, instead of that way, we won't become Arcadia North with big McMansions, they will become Sierra Madre South, with their neighborhood intact.

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    1. I really hope the Highlands HOA wins that lawsuit. Unless the Arcadia City Council had some really compelling reasons to over the HOA's disapproval of the project, the City should lose. The only compelling reason ended up being the money.

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    2. Too late 8:33, a 4th monstrasity is now going up on Camillo.

      How does this happen?

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    3. What a great image, 8:33. The hillsides protected from over-development from Sierra Madre through Arcadia.

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    4. The longer the Henry Darling House sits, overvalued on the market ,the worse situation the Browns will be in. The 'personality' she displayed in the meeting means lawsuits will further complicate the sale.
      Time is not on their side. JPL report California has only 1 year of water left in reserve.
      http://www.natureworldnews.com/articles/13470/20150316/california-has-only-one-year-of-water-left-warns-nasa-scientist.htm
      This will cause a statewide economic slump and inevitably ,house prices will fall dramatically. No water= no jobs.
      The price of greed on a micro and macro scale.

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    5. 9:06, a 4th Macmansion on Camillo? Bad news. That street is in real jeopardy of uniform uber development, squeezing out anything that's not maxing out its lot. As to how it happened - it's all about timing. The permits must have been issued a while ago.

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    6. 9:28, good points. Just how many residents do we want to add to the bumping increase on water demand that we've had from the Kensington, and will have from Stonehouse and Carter?

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    7. I think that all residents of Sierra Madre need to tighten their belts so that we can leave enough water in the well for the developers and their new projects.

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    8. Yes. There is real money to be made. Drink bottled water.

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  9. I walked through the house as well this weekend. I agree with this assessment, although I would say from the overall grime and lack of general upkeep you can see what the Brown's thought of the house. They could not even clean the animal vomit out of the downstairs bedroom, or clean up the dust and cobwebs for an open house. Running the numbers, I really wish I thought that my family could make it work financially. I am just not sure if we could afford both the mortgage, and the work to get it back into proper shape. It is the work on the exterior that is most concerning budget wise. Most everything else appears at least functional and in decent shape. Oh, and I worry about the kitchen counters. From my understanding, the red tile usually has extremely high lead content, which would not be okay with little kids in the house.

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  10. Those were good observations. In regards to the lot split, I think that was with the intention of tearing the house down, split the lot and build 2 different homes to sell. I don't think they ever wanted to live there.

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  11. None of us are mind readers. We will never know what their intensions were, but if they really wanted to restore the house, they would have done their due diligence before they bought the house.

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    1. If I could stomach it, I'd watch Mr. Brown's presentation to the council again, because he did say they had restored homes or a home before, so they knew what they were doing....but the Darling house was worse than they thought.

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  12. Not a hot topic, today, I guess. Sad. Most of us don't think, much less care, about the history of things. There is so much to learn regarding any history. How will you ever learn or remember the past if you don't study the history now? It s important.

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    1. Sorry. I just cleared 5 posts. Been tied up with work issues.

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    2. Actually what I think will be itneresting is that when they find a buyer what they end up putting in the disclosures themselves. if they had information that found the home to be hazardous and in fact have made public comments to that then I'm lead to believe that they must make similiar disclosures/comments in the bid to sell the home.

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    3. The seller and the broker MUST disclose anything and everything that they know of that could affect the value or desirability of the property. That is the law. Anything not disclosed that should have been reasonable known leaves them liable for damages.

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    4. I think you are right, they must disclose. They said at the council meeting they didn't think it was in such bad shape UNTIL they hired someone, so the defects must be hidden. If that's the case, the need to disclose the inspection report.

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    5. Either the Browns were lying when they spoke to the City Council about the horrible condition of the house or they were telling the truth which makes it impossible to sell the house after they disclose that. So you have to figure, why would they even put it on the market. I would suggest that the only reason they think they can sell the property (for more than they paid for it I might add) is because they weren't telling the truth to the City Council about its condition.

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  13. I wonder if putting it on the market is just another step in a hustle - like they know it will never sell at that price when they disclose what they know about the supposedly dangerous condition.
    And how could a realtor as experienced as Reni Rose not disclose the condition of the house to the Browns in the first place?
    Ah, something is fishy about the whole thing....

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    1. I agree, its a catch 22 for them. If they were telling the truth, then they can't sell it.

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    2. Such a tangled web we weave.

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    3. Too many people really do not understand the role a Realtor plays in residential real estate transactions, the primary objective of a Realtor is as a transaction facilitator, they are bound by law to disclose certain things. Have you ever wondered why when you either purchase or sell a home the stack of paper work can sometimes be as thick as a phone book, easy answer, law suits. Back in the fifties you could transact a deal with less than a dozen pieces of paper, but then we became sue happy people, most of the documentation in a deal now is from past litigation. I used to be in the business, didn't like it, weekends ruined, not my cup of tea, learned a lot though. Most important thing I learned is, you don't need a Realtor to transact property, better do your homework though, one screw up and it could cost you thousands upon thousands of dollars, maybe even a lawsuit or two. I know Reni Rose, and she's one of the best in the business, she's done nothing illegal or unethical. Buyers have a certain amount of due diligence on their part, not everything is on the Realtors watch.

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  14. Take a look at the house fourth in from Baldwin same side of the street. That house sat empty for 3-4 years and they have been working on it another 3-4 years. It is beautiful. A very big house on a large lot that shows off its grandure. It is appropriate for the street and continues the historic fabric of this neighborhood. I would like to know who the people are who are taking the time and care to do this right. There was one change: there was a delapidated garage and carport attached to the house that was removed and rebuilt as a separate garage further the rear of the lot.

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    1. I believe that's the house whose owner kept getting in trouble for unauthorized changes to her building plans...explains why the renovation has taken so long.

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    2. Would you care to guess how much cash they pumped into that reno?

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  15. Renovating old houses has changed. Piecemeal upgrades immediately conflict with Code. Once you pull a permit you are locked in to complying with the latest Code requirements. Once the Inspections start and the Inspector notices other things .... When you come to sell a competent Home Inspector will notice all the things you missed for seismic (for example) . Now there is way more to it than superficial things like cabinets and paint. If the foundation isn't bolted -fail ! How are you going to bolt to stone with crumbling 100 year old mortar ?
    You'll need a 200 amp panel and a total re-wire ,you get the picture?
    Lovely old house, well worth the effort but the market price for a well-informed buyer would be much lower than $900,000 .

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  16. It's a beautiful house. Anyone who loves a craftsman would consider themselves fortunate to be the owner. The use local river rock which may be from the Santa Anita River from the Carter Estate only enhances the beauty of one of Sierra Madre's treasures.

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  17. Blessed rain falling...just a little, but it sure is welcome.

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  18. The Henry A. Darling House should not be demolished. It is a treasure. I loved the river rock fireplace, the box beam celings and the wainscotting. Its a classic. Needs the right buyer though.

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  19. Apply for Mills Act status and restore with historical standards as well as modern requirements/upgrades. House does not have to have historical listing.

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  20. What does it cost you to call someone a liar. You don't agree with what someone wants to do with their private property and that's your prerogative. But why must you disseminate hate, vitriol and misinformation (intended or not) to advance your agenda. I have tried twice to purchase this property and it wasn't meant to be. The second time, I took it very seriously and did every due diligence. I had it inspected by an architect, a structural engineer and a contractor. I myself have done many rehab projects for profit and for personal use. Most of which are very old homes. All three of the professionals I had with me tried very hard to sway me away from my desire to purchase this home (for personal use). I take issue with your "opinion" regarding the condition of the home, as it is obvious that you have no professional expertise. Any river rock foundation is inadequate and this one is no exception. The floor boards are not properly supported nor do they have proper footings. Some have been cut and the weight is being held by nails (!). There are temporary jacks in place as structural components which are not supported at all. A supporting wall has been constructed under the house, to compensate for the sagging floorboards which has not been done to code, as it is below grade and with inadequate footing. Meaning it will rot sooner than later. The whole rear of the house is being held by a few 4x4 posts on broken footings and it is very unsafe. The roof rafters are 34" on center which is less than half the current requirement. I can go on and on as to what the house needs. Contracting the work myself, I estimated costs to restore and make it livable for a family to be between $700k to $900k. I was willing to do that, but Is that a reasonable burden to place on a homeowner? And when they realize that it isn't feasible do we call them names and sully their character because we have labeled them the enemy? This is shameful behavior. You can disagree with someone without dropping to this level of humanity. You can make your argument based on it's merits, without the need to attack what you do not know about someone, while shouting it as fact.
    Try taking into account what these people have gone through. The money they have spent, the stress that I am sure it has placed on their marriage and kids. Have some compassion.
    I do not know these people, but being someone who has lived in Sierra Madre for 40 years I feel like I should apologize to them on behalf of this city. Not because they are right and I am wrong, but because this behavior is not what I want my city to be about.

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    1. You do realize that they are in the process of launching a lawsuit against the city, right? Your supposed victims have fangs.

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  21. They had legally approved and acquired plans which cost a significant amount of money. There was no legal reason to stop them from procuring those plans. When you are monetarily damaged by a governing body, a lawsuit would be the correct response. Wouldn't you do the same? I don't know too many people with enough resources to scoff at the loss of tens of thousands of dollars. As a community, if we are so dedicated to our preservation, we must be willing to pay the price. You can't assume only others should bear the burden.

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    1. No plans were approved. You're just making things up.

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  22. approved to the point that they were in design review. The process and application was accepted. If it was not allowed to build on that property the city would not have allowed for the submital of the application. Bottom line, no law or ordinance existed when this application was submitted.
    What would you do in their shoes?

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    1. You said plans were approved. They were not. And before I split a gut laughing, what the hell does "the process and application were accepted" mean? Any fool can fill out an application, but what is a process?

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