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Ask Gail

Gail Crosby, Real Estate Expert, is available to answer your questions. Your questions and answers may be published.


Dear Gail: My 85 year old mother lives alone. Although it’s hard for her to get around like she used to, she still wants to remain in her home and not move. I worry about her safety. Do you have any suggestions to make her home more user-friendly?

Dear Reader: Here are a few ideas, to help your mother, that can be done by a family member, contractor, or handyman.

Throughout the House

  • Have lever door handles installed in place of knobs
  • Make electrical outlets 18 inches above the floor
  • Use contrasting color for switch plates, which aid in low vision
  • Lower windowsills for easy opening
  • Use contrasting colors between floors and walls
  • Use non-glare glass on artwork
  • Lower the peephole on front door
  • Install an emergency alarm
  • Have chairs with shallow seats and sturdy arms
  • Hang magnifying glasses on a nail for easy access throughout the house
  • Remove area rugs or put in place with velcro
  • Add extra lighting throughout her home
  • Get an alert device to wear around her neck or wrist to call the police, fire departments and you in case of an emergency.

In the Bathroom

  • Install temperature controlled tub and shower fixtures
  • Add a shower stall with a very low threshold
  • Add a sturdy shower seat
  • Install grab bars at back of shower and tub
  • Add a telephone in the bathroom

In the Kitchen

  • Make a counter at a workable height
  • Add easy-to-grasp cabinet knobs or pulls
  • Add task lighting under counters and in cupboards
  • Buy a side-by-side refrigerator and freezer with easy adjustable shelves. A bottom freezer may be better for some. If it’s an “Energy Star” it will save money on electricity.

In the Garden

  • Have garden beds raised to waist level for easy weeding.


Dear Gail: I have to move & am not sure if I should sell or rent my home?

Dear Reader:
Great question! It depends on your specific circumstances. Renting your home can have valuable benefits such as receiving tax breaks & getting more from the sale of your home when the market is higher. However, being a landlord isn’t for everyone & can come with some unwanted headaches including tenants damaging your home, costly eviction, repairs & maintenance to the property.

To help you make the best decision, consider this:

  • Do you own your home free & clear?
  • How much do you pay per month in taxes, mortgage & insurance?
  • How much could you collect in rent?
  • Could you create a positive cash flow from rent?
  • How much can you expect from selling your home?
  • What would you use the extra money for if you sold your house now?


Dear Gail: What can I do to reduce my high winter energy bills? Last year was expensive!
Dear Reader: Here are a few things you can try.

    1. Keep your fireplace damper shut when not in use. Older fireplaces can be energy losers because they pull heated air out of the house into the chimney.
    2. Unplug that spare refrigerator. This could save you up to 25% on your bill.
    3. Set your water heater to “normal setting” or 120 degrees unless your dishwasher requires higher setting by manufacturer.
    4. Wrap the water heater with a “jacket insulation.” Make sure that the air intake vent is left uncovered.
    5. Replace or clean furnace filters often. Dirty filters restrict the air flow.
    6. Clean out exhaust vent tubes of the dryer. Make sure that you clean out the lines leading out of the back of the dryer. This cuts down on utility bills, helps maintain a longer dryer life & can decrease the risk of fire.
    7. Turn down your thermostat to 68 degrees when home. Turn it to 55 degrees at night or shut it off when leaving home. You’ll save around 5%.
    8. Re-arrange furniture so that you aren’t sitting near older drafty windows and exterior walls. Put on your favorite comfy robe, slippers and sip on a delicious hot chocolate.


Dear Gail: I’m a first-time buyer. I can’t afford to buy in Los Feliz & Silver Lake. Are there any other areas that you would recommend I start looking into? Like your ad. -Josh

Dear Josh: Thank you Josh. The first thing I would suggest is that you come see me! Most buyers think that the smartest way to look for a home is online before meeting a real estate agent. This is NOT the best way. We, as agents, have the inside track. Plus it’s free to the buyer and at my office we exchange information on new listings before they come on market (which I share with my clients). We also know where to find the best deals. Highland Park, Mt. Washington, Eagle Rock and Echo Park are popular for 1st time buyers, however those areas have gotten pricey. Now the deals are happening in:

  1. Frogtown (near the L.A. River): Artsy, creative. Single family homes, warehouses. Homes start at around $200,000
  2. Boyle Heights: youthful neighborhood. Also starting around $200,000
  3. Lincoln Heights: known as L.A.’s oldest neighborhood. Craftsman, Victorians, bungalows. Deals from $300,000
  4. Little Tokyo: Cool, fun filled with restaurants, museums, etc, starts around $400,000
  5. Koreatown: Metro line makes it accessible to all. Prices start around $300,000

For listings and information on these trendy spots & others, call me at 323-428-2864. I’ll make it easy as possible. Scout’s honor.


Dear Gail: My wife and I are 1st time home buyers. Do you think it is a good idea to buy income property instead of a single family home?

Dear Reader: Yes, I do, especially if it is a duplex (2 units) for the following reasons:

  1. Your tenants can help pay the mortgage and maintenance
  2. Rental properties in well sought after areas (like ours on the east side) are in high demand and can command higher rents
  3. There are tax write-offs or shelters available to you
  4. Once you build equity in the property you can refinance and use the money as a down-payment on the home of your dreams, keeping the duplex as an asset
  5. Over time the tenant’s rent may cover the entire mortgage and you can live in the duplex virtually free

This is a great way to create wealth and begin your real estate portfolio. * Check with your accountant or attorney regarding tax rules and write-offs.


Dear Gail:
We are considering expanding our den and making it a combo expanded den/guest room. It would be one big room but it would, in theory, have a retractable wall hidden inside the wall of the living room. It would slide out to enclose part of the room when guests are staying with us. It would have a built in closet, which I hear is a criteria to consider it a “bedroom.” So, would the closet and retractable wall make it an “additional bedroom” or would it require an actual permanent wall separating the two spaces? (I have a feeling a permanent wall is required) D.M.

Dear Reader:
Excellent question! Since building requirements can change from time to time it is wise for you to research the current codes online at LADBS.org or speak to an inspector at the Department of Building and Safety at 213-473-3231 or 311. They are very helpful over the telephone. Different counties may have different requirements. Plus it can also depend on your particular case. Appraisers can have different requirements depending on the lender as well. Another good resource for you is the InternationalResidentialCode.com. However, keep in mind the best up to date resource is the Department of Building and Safety.


Dear Gail: I am a landlord & need to rent my apartment. Do you have any staging tips?

Dear Reader: Staging certainly makes a big difference in attracting renters. Here are some ideas for you:

  • Add furniture to make it look attractive but be sure to mention the furniture is not included.
  • Add a kitchen table and on the kitchen table add a vase of fresh flowers with a candle or dinner setting.
  • Turn on lights in every room when showing.
  • Open curtains to let natural light in wherever possible.
  • Bake some bread or cookies in the stove for that delicious smell.
  • Add soothing music.
  • Make sure the front of the building looks good.
  • And most important have the apartment sparkling clean!