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In some neighborhoods of Northeast Los Angeles, original wood exteriors are required in renovations. Elsewhere cement-fiberboard might work.

What has attracted thousands of buyers to homes in Northeast Los Angeles (NELA) is the character and charm of its vintage housing stock. Look no further than the Spanish Revival homes for sale in Highland Park or the handsome Craftsman homes in Pasadena and you will understand why. These houses are homes, with history and resilience: How many fires, floods and earthquakes have they endured over the past 100+ years?

But another word for “vintage” is “old,” and that often means parts of those structures have deteriorated. No matter to most buyers. If you’re hunting up homes for sale in Glassell Park, Eagle Rock or Mt. Washington, you know to budget for some restoration costs if you are buying a fixer-upper. That Craftsman you have your eye on in Hermon? It’s priced at $525,000 because it will need at least $100,000 worth of work to look more like that similar house with the repaired exterior and smart modern kitchen down the street listed for $700,000.

Updating, restoring, and renovating are done all the time, but it’s also possible to do it wrong. Most noticeable from a curbside perspective is when the original wood siding is not preserved but replaced with vinyl (or aluminum, as was the case a generation ago). Preservation minded individuals and organizations – who have a lot to do with all that property-value increase – hold a pretty strong line on vinyl: They don’t like it. In fact, the Highland Park-Garvanza HPOZ (Historic Preservation Overlay Zone, which covers some but not all of NELA neighborhoods) expressly states that at least from the street-facing sides of homes that no vinyl be used; some allowances are made for side and back sides of homes, mostly for lower-income residents undertaking renovations.

What’s so wrong about vinyl that it is prohibited? And what are a homebuyer’s options?

Preserve, patch, and replace wood siding (and windows and doors). Believe it or not, replacing sections of wood siding (which may be partially rotted under an overlay of newer siding somewhere in the mid- to latter 20th century) as well as repairing wood windows, doors, and casements can be less expensive than a vinyl or other type of replacement.

Look into cement-fiberboard (“Hardie Board”). This is not sanctioned by most HPOZs because it deviates from the original (it wasn’t invented until the mid-1980s). But in neighborhoods not under a HPOZ, it can be a reasonable facsimile. A guide titled, “Sustainable Solutions for Historic Homes in Northern California,” compiled in cooperation with the U.S. EPA, advocates preservation of existing siding first but that the use of cement-fiberboard using flyash (reclaimed industrial byproduct) can be a green choice.

In all types of replacement siding, the depth of window casements can be altered and therefore out of original character. This is why layering new siding over the original material is strongly discouraged.

Uncertain if a vintage home is right for you – or are you all in on saving and preserving a piece of NELA past? Realtor Tracy King is knowledgeable about homes old and new and is happy to discuss your interests and plans. Give the firm a call at 323-243-1234.

tracy 150x175With over 30 years experience in helping clients buy and sell homes in Northeast Los Angeles, Tracy King has a depth of real estate knowledge that makes her the go-to for both the first-time home buyer and the seasoned real estate investor. When she's not holding open houses or negotiating offers, Tracy enjoys wine tasting, cooking, or planning her next trip to Paris. If you are looking to buy or sell a home in Northeast Los Angeles, contact the Tracy King Team at 626.827.9795 or