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El Sereno: Everything You Need To Know

El Sereno is one of my all-time favorite neighborhoods in Los Angeles, and will be one of the hottest areas for real estate this year.

With the constant redevelopment and increasing home values in Northeast L.A. (NELA) with neighborhoods like Eagle Rock & Highland Park, buyers are shifting their focus eastward for cheaper real estate. Although living in Highland Park gives you “hipster street credit”, there are large numbers of hipsters moving into El Sereno with their beard grooming kits and vintage record collections under their arms.

But, there are plenty of normal first-time home buyers also looking for an affordable place to call home here, too. El Sereno appeals to just about anyone. It’s close to everything in NELA & DTLA, it has low crime rate, and it's quiet! In English, El Sereno actually means 'serene'.

We will see our first legitimate Million Dollar Listing in El Sereno this year in 2016.

A Brief History

Before it was El Sereno, it was called Bairdstown, and before that, it was Rancho Rosa de Castilla, which is the birthplace of some of the first homes ever built in Los Angeles. The homes aren’t there anymore, but the point is: El Sereno is old!

During the turn of the 20th century, several railroads, like Huntington's Pacific Electric Railway, brought people and businesses from Los Angeles & Pasadena into El Sereno. Those old railroads are where Huntington Drive is located today.

Fun Fact: Before the 110 Freeway was built in the 1940s, Huntington Drive was the only way to get to the San Gabriel Valley from Downtown L.A. Take a look at Google Maps, and the direction & path should make a little more sense now.

El Sereno Geography

Before the railroad brought in more people, there were only a handful of property owners who split their land into private subdivisions, and they did so without any rhyme or reason—which is why the layout is so peculiar. For this reason, people in El Sereno still drive to Alhambra, Highland Park, or South Pasadena to run errands, go to dinner, etc. But as I write this, that trend is changing rapidly.

It wasn’t until the 1920s that El Sereno was incorporated into the City of Los Angeles and was recognized by outsiders as “El Sereno”. Before that, people referred to the specific sub-division they lived in. Even today, many residents don’t acknowledge that they live in El Sereno, while others adamantly promote that El Sereno be viewed as a whole.

The Neighborhoods

If we start broad and then zoom in, El Sereno is a neighborhood within the City of Los Angeles. But like many LA neighborhoods, it has its own smaller sub-neighborhoods. While I agree with the notion that people should recognize El Sereno as a whole, understanding these sub-neighborhoods can be helpful when trying to get the "lay of the land":

First, there is Hillside Village right in the middle of El Sereno—which has become the most exclusive and most popular neighborhood of El Sereno by far. Interestingly, many people who live in Hillside Village only live a few blocks from their childhood home. They don’t venture very far, and for good reason! If you look online for past sales and active listings in Hillside Village, you won't find many; and if you do, they tend to go quickly. This is your classic Post-War neighborhood with most of the homes dating back to the early 1940s.

There are a large number of hipsters moving into El Sereno with their beard grooming kits and vintage record collections under their arms.

Next, there is University Hills near the Cal State LA campus. University Hills is the second most popular sub-neighborhood in El Sereno because of its proximity to the school, rolling hills, obvious pride in ownership, and very private feel. A few other sub-neighborhoods worth mentioning:

  • Rose Hill in the western border

  • Baird Park (or Bairdstown) on the northern border, including Collis Avenue

  • El Sereno Hills to the east which has some great “view homes” on streets like La Calandria Way

Real Estate Activity

Because of the rapid increase in home values across Northeast L.A., home buyers and renters have been “priced out” of the area and they’re looking for other opportunities. This is explained in detail in my other articles: (God Bless The Hipsters, The Great Hipster Movement of L.A., What Is A Hipster?).

We are about to see several remodeled homes pop up in the University Hills neighborhood.

To get a brief understanding of the El Sereno real estate market, consider your average three-bedroom single family house over the past few years:

  • In 2013, the average price was 356,000

  • In 2014, $401,000

  • In 2015, the average rose to $451,000.

  • In 2016, I expect the average to be well over $500,000

Now, there’s a specific reason I said “well over $500,000” in my prediction. That’s because when the neighborhood increases in popularity, things gain momentum much quicker. Case in point, the average listing price for homes active on the market this very moment in early January is already at $502,000, and we have the entire year ahead of us. We will see our first legitimate Million Dollar Listing in El Sereno this year in 2016.

You heard me. Yes, the average list price is barely over $500,000, but there are other homes for sale pushing much higher already.

This is not far-fetched:

Think about Highland Park, did anyone see that coming? Last year, there were eight different Million Dollar Listings in HP, three of which were new construction.

Hillside Village which historically has been very exclusive is beginning to change its tune. In the past six months, I have seen many homes come on the market and sell very quickly and over asking price. I expect to see more sales this year. University Hills is selling more properties as well. Most are inexpensive and in need of work.

This means we are about to see several remodeled homes pop up in the University Hills neighborhood.

Check Out El Sereno

This article should give everyone a good understanding about the neighborhood and what to expect this coming year. If you are a home buyer getting priced out of the neighborhoods you’re looking in, I strongly urge you to check out a few open houses in El Sereno this weekend, or at least stop by the Holy Grounds coffee shop to get an idea of what’s to come. And, if you’re from El Sereno and thinking about buying or selling—yes I’m talking to you—it’s time to get serious!

This is going to be a big year for El Sereno in 2016!

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