May 25, 2018

What used to be abandoned homes from all forms of abuse, including neglect and hoarding situations, Thomas Bayles transforms into eye-catching, sophisticated spaces fit for a variety of potential clients.

“These houses are in terrible condition, which is ideal for us because it scares away the competition,” said Bayles, who explained that a lot of homes in Los Angeles are older – built anywhere from the 1890s to the 1920s.

Overcoming Challenges
When demolishing a property, there is always a struggle with permitting, as Bayles and his team pull permits for everything they do because it adds value and safety. If a home needs an additional bathroom or bedroom, he has to work with the architect to obtain a permit and make sure the property is up to code.

“Sometimes a home’s core infrastructure – plumbing, foundation, electrical – is not discovered until you start opening walls and doing demo,” explained Bayles, who works for Urban Asset Group.” Because every property is unique to a certain extent, very detailed architectural drawings must be produced and submitted to the Department of Building and Safety. Not only does this take significant time for architects and engineers, but the city will need to produce its own review and calculations, which could create corrections on the builder’s end. This back and forth can sometimes take months or years, depending on scale of project.”

Some of the properties Bayles and his team consider turn out to be beyond repair, which he says is easy to discern by looking at the foundation and plumbing and electrical systems. This featured project had its own set of challenges, as Bayles and his team could not access it before they purchased it.

“A squatter had been living in the property for three years rent free,” he explained. “Because of Los Angeles’ rent control laws, we had to spend one year in litigation with the squatter to lawfully evict him.”

He determined the property was not beyond repair by doing a thorough study of the exterior and looking at previous photos online when the property was first sold.

“We knew the neighborhood’s value and that the house could be a real mid-century gem that buyers would love,” said Bayles. “To limit our risk, we reviewed the only photos available in records through the old MLS listing from when the property sold in 2009, so we had an idea of the layout but were gambling on the interior condition of the property.”

Total Transformation
Once he and his team gained access to the house, they gutted the space and added two bedrooms and baths in a 1,500-sq.-ft. basement they didn’t know was originally there. This increased the home’s property value, as did the installation of two laundry rooms.

“For homeowners dropping $2 million+ on a property, convenience and time are extremely valuable,” said Bayles. “Additionally, the size of the property can have up to nine people living there, which means A LOT OF DIRTY CLOTHES.”

The team redid all of the plumbing and relocated the kitchen from the center of the home to a corner at the back that faced the yard to add much-needed natural light. They wanted to make sure the property’s $2 million price tag was worth it, so they opened up the walls and provided a wonderful view of the rock hillside from the sink and prep area. The modern walnut cabinets still accentuate the home’s mid-century modern style, and Carrara marble was chosen to emulate that time period. Brass fixtures and hardware round out the kitchen, which also includes a separate prep sink.

According to Bayles, the master bathroom is almost like its own wing of the house, featuring a fireplace, skylights and an oversized window that looks out on its own garden. The team separated the tub and shower areas and specified water-saving fixtures.

“We knew this home was likely going to attract a large family as their new owners, so we kept that in mind by opening all the walls facing the pool and replacing them with retractable glass leading to the immediate family/game room,” explained Bayles. “This allows adults to have a clear few of whoever is in the pool and offers an indoor/outdoor feel. We also wanted to provide the owners privacy by creating their own wing in the house that included a private garden off the master.”

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Originally built in the 1950s, this authentic midcentury house needed a course correction in its kitchen and bath design.