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‘SNL’ Zillow skit a little too real for Twitter



'SNL' Zillow skit a little too real for Twitter

Is a buyer’s market better than a booty call?

A new “Saturday Night Live” skit lampooning 30-somethings who seek pleasure by browsing Zillow’s real estate listings has hit a nerve on social media.

The pre-produced sketch from the show’s Saturday episode starts off with a parody of a suggestive infomercial, as cast members writhe around on beds and couches under soft lighting.

Sultry voiceovers are heard asking, “Are you bored?” “Looking for something to spice up your life?” “You used to want sex but you’re in your late 30’s now,” “and sex isn’t really doing it for me anymore.”

“You need something new,” “Then you need”

The skit then reveals that the tortured actors are lusting after lascivious real estate listings, not pornography.

“An updated Colonial, with mature landscaping,” cast member Alex Moffat groans.

“I want to flip that,” cast member Mikey Day declares.

“I’d never want to live in North Carolina, but if I did I could buy a big gross mansion,” guest host Dan Levy moans while looking at a listing for a $427,000 McMansion with seven bedrooms and eight bathrooms.

“The pleasure you once got from sex now comes from looking at other people’s houses,” a voiceover continues.

The suggestive skit takes an abrupt turn when Day calls a real estate broker and the brash agent’s no-nonsense sales pitch quickly kills the mood.

The fake commercial was a big hit on Twitter, where it garnered nearly 50 thousand likes and hundreds of comments.

“Bahhahahah I’m in my 30s and I was up late on Zillow last night!!!! This is on point,” tweeted one user.

“How dare SNL attack us with that Zillow commercial!” joked another popular response.

“So, what if I told yall I kinda have been seeing…oh, idk, someone else?. Their name is @realtordotcom,” posted another.

Comedian Ted Alexandro accused SNL of stealing his joke, posting a bit he performed at the Comedy Cellar about real estate fantasies.

But Zillow was happy to soak up the amorous attention, tweeting: “Yeah football is great, but have you ever gone on Zillow?”

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Housing Concept Honored As Finalist In Fast Company’s World Changing Ideas Awards



render of ARCspace two-story home with solar panels.

California is extremely challenged by the nation’s ongoing housing crisis. Developers there are pressured by these challenges, so are coming up with innovative ideas that can go to scale, reducing the need in California and beyond.

One such solution also is one of this year’s finalists in Fast Company’s World Changing Ideas Awards for Spaces, Places and Cities: ARCspace, ARC standing for affordable, relocatable, community.

Christian Johnston is the founder and CEO at ARCspace and says, “What we need more than just architectural designs and renderings is actual physical building solutions that can go to scale affordably. This current housing crisis needs carbon world solutions that are ready now.”

ARCspace’s innovation is housing at a completely new level, bringing together the expertise of the construction professionals from its parent company, Sustainable Building Council. Those experts have created the ARCspace homes to be power and water grid-independent, with temporary foundations that support relocation, using smart building technologies, energy-efficient materials, and climate-proof elements such as hurricane impact glass and fire-retardant materials.

Plus, the ARCspace project is a modular build to address California’s issues with material and labor. The efficiencies of modular will allow the company to dramatically cut down the longer timeline of stick built.

“The pandemic is pushing the cost of materials up,” Johnston said. “There aren’t a lot of trades; there’s a huge lack of labor. It’s a crunch to build at scale. Plus, we’re approaching the eviction crisis, with 40 million people with threats of eviction. It’s a huge number that might be on the streets. Modular has speed and the accessibility to have prefab elements come together much quicker.”

Those material and labor issues are pushing the cost of construction of most affordable housing units to price out at more than $500,000 in Los Angeles where the company is located. Developers like ARCspace are trying to make all price reduction innovations possible. Johnston believes that ARCspace will make a very consequential impact on development costs, coming in at about 50% less than the average affordable housing.

Andre Champagne serves as the chief sustainability consultant for ARCspace and brings his expertise from the movie industry where he built on-set RVs to be off-grid, a process that led to several patents, including the off-grid mobile capsulation that allows the units to be energy self-contained. On the Avatar and Avengers set, he provided trailers that were there for a year, used daily and never plugged in, and that never required secondary generator backup power. He now uses his expertise to bring the technology to mobile and residential properties.

Champagne worked with a team of engineers from battery manufacturer Lithionics to specifically design and utilize lithium-ion batteries configured to 51 volts versus the standard 120 volts for home use to be more efficient and effective.

He also collaborated with global energy specialist Schneider Electric to transform commercial-grade, off-grid inverters to be the complete accompaniment of the rest of the energy products in the home. Their commercial grade inverters were the right size at 7,000 watts each to handle everything else the home needed to get to net zero, including the incredibly efficient photovoltaic panels and ultra-efficient thermally charged variable refrigerant flow DC inverter HVAC systems that Champagne selected.

Champagne took an auditor’s approach to building the HVAC, since it consumes so much energy.

“A standard home can have an energy draw anywhere from 3,000 to upwards of 15,000 watts with all appliances running simultaneously,” Champagne said. “Our averages were 800 to 4,000 watts, which is a 65% reduction of the standard energy consumption. When you reduce the heating and cooling draw that substantially, the PV and the other energy generating applications on the home become that much more efficient. If I had a 3-bedroom, 3-bath home, and it was running consistently at 5,000 or 6,000 watts and had an array with 4,000 watts, it wouldn’t achieve maximum energy efficiency. You need to start at the interior of the unit and reduce the use power consumption internally, regulate refrigerant value and then set the array to be more than the consumption.”

The system uses Freon that is charged on the roof by running in photovoltaic wrapped copper lines, so it only takes about 20 to 30% of the power to heat the Freon to run the AC. Plus, it’s married with a hyper-efficient, thermally-charged, variable refrigerant flow DC invertor compressor. Champagne says that the greater the sunlight gets outside, the more efficient the HVAC system runs.

These radical energy saving technologies marry with other sustainable solutions designed in the home, such as Hydraloop, a greywater reuse system within the building envelope, which recycles water to then be used for irrigation.

Fresh water is critical now in many parts of the world and will be even more important moving forward, so ARCspace uses low flow water systems, atmospheric water generation units, and hydro-panels that generate two liters of water per day.

If ARCspace can produce homes at this price point and with these technologies, home owners will save hundreds in utilities every year. But, it’s expensive to have these systems for every house, so Johnston envisions a plan to connect four homes and create a microgrid that creates a shared economy with costs shared across the community.

Regardless, these self-sustaining technologies can alleviate the multi-thousand-dollar fees associated with setting up utilities. Plus, the ARCspace homes are relocatable, so if the home has to move, the in-ground cost for putting in utilities isn’t wasted.

Several groups are noticing the innovation that ARCspace offers and are working with the builder now on concepts and prototypes.

Seth Wachtel is an associate professor and the program director of the architecture and community design program at the University of San Francisco and leads the Youth Spirit Artworks Empowerment Village project that offers youth from foster care temporary housing with life and job skills training.

The project just launched 28 homes, but the conventional construction required a lot of time and volunteer labor, which was a strain. So, Wachtel started looking for other ways to do it more rapidly and efficiently. Plus, half of the cost of the project was infrastructure, lines, plumbing, utility, and sewer, which were costs that could be eliminated with a product like ARCspace.

“ARCspace contacted us and it seemed clear that its approach addressed all these issues,” Wachtel said. “A prefabricated system that designs in windows and doors from the beginning, that can be outfitted on the site, and be done relatively quickly would be a perfect solution to add more youth housing.”

Another ARCspace project is currently in the middle of construction to be delivered and to be on display this month in downtown Los Angeles. The display will run six months and will allow the city to have a rapid affordable housing solution as a living lab to understand water and energy use as an ongoing opportunity to test clean technology.

“With ARCSpace, they have thought of the delivery of utilities and innovative ways to do that,” said Elizabeth Selby, who serves as housing innovation, senior project manager at Los Angeles’s Office of Mayor Garcetti. “They are thoughtful and creative. They are putting a prototype up and then we will do a virtual tour of it. When we look at prototypes like this, it allows us to have a conversation about how to scale it.”

While Selby is attracted to innovative ideas, she admits that there are challenges when they get into the details. However, if the concept is a success, there is the opportunity to get more support from the city.

But the bottom line is that California needs housing and needs it now. So, the self-sustaining and temporary elements of the ARCspace solution are critical to bring it online fast.

Johnston and the ARCspace team are working on getting private funding, along with unused property owned by the city, to provide 480-square-foot homes that demonstrate rapid density. There are 600 unused sites currently identified across the city, where he can spend the next couple years delivering four-unit communities.

“Now that we are fully operational with many projects in the pipeline and ready to scale, we have begun conversations with investors about a seed round to accelerate our expansion and meet this critical need faced by our nation,” said An De Vooght, co-founder and global advisor overseeing investor relations and partnerships at ARCspace. “The pandemic has changed the face of housing worldwide, creating a massive market opportunity for social entrepreneurs willing to tackle this issue. I am excited that we can bring a triple-bottom line solution, and that we can do it now.”

The bottom line is that there is a huge, urgent demand for housing across the country. The self-sustaining and temporary elements of the ARCspace solution could bring affordable housing solutions online fast.

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Real Estate

Bette Davis Lived Here And Now You Can, Too



Oceanfront half-timbered house.

Few Hollywood stars achieved the stature of Bette Davis. With a career spanning more than 50 years and 100 acting credits, she was noted for playing unsympathetic characters and was famous for her performances in a range of films. A recipient of two Oscars, she was the first actor to be nominated ten times. Her career went through several periods of eclipse, but despite professional and health setbacks, she continued acting in film and on television until shortly before her death in 1989.

Now her Laguna Beach home is for sale for $19,995,000. While she has not lived in this oceanfront French Normandy estate since 1950, locals still refer to it as The Bette Davis House.

Local lore holds that the house was built in 1929 as a summer home for Charles H. Prisk, a wealthy newspaper publisher and owner of the influential Pasadena Star-News and Long Beach Press-Telegram. It was designed by Laguna Beach artist and architect Aubrey St. Clair, who was responsible for a number of grand waterfront homes designed for area A-listers. Past owners of the three-story, white stucco house have preserved many of the original features from when the actress lived here.

Located on a bluff overlooking rocky Woods Cove, a short distance from the shops, restaurants, and art galleries of Laguna Beach, the 5,400 square foot, six bedroom house perches high above the cove, with private-access steps leading to a sandy beach.

The main house, anchored by a baronial great room, leads guests to the Lookout Room and adjoining family room and dining room, all with stunning views of crashing waves and sea. With solid oak floors and updated styling throughout, the home encircles a central spiral staircase topped with a conical roof and spire.

A large, updated kitchen (one of two) has the appliances, space and finishes sought by passionate home chefs and caterers; the adjoining breakfast room’s vaulted ceiling hints at the house’s European style antecedents. Besides the four en-suite bedrooms in the main house, there is a two bedroom guest house with its own kitchen and a breezy, beach-house feel.

The vast main house butler’s pantry wears a charming, retro color scheme that is contemporary and sophisticated while evoking the 1940s, when Bette Davis’s career was at its peak.

The upper floor bar area has an ornate stained-glass ceiling. On this level there’s also a wine cellar and a fitness room. The estate boasts 5 full and 3 partial bathrooms.

This extraordinary house is listed by agent John Cain, of Pacific Sotheby’s International Realty. 

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Real Estate

Mid-Century Perfection Reimagined In Los Angeles



living room restored Rex Lotery AIA designed house in beverly hills trousdale 1060 loma

Decades before the “starchitects” and their mega-mansion projects in Beverly Hills and Bel-Air, iconic Mid-Century Modern architects such as  Richard Neutra, John Lautner, A. Quincy Jones, Craig Ellwood, and Edward Fickett were designing timeless homes around Southern California. Their Modernism styles, noted for walls of glass, open floor plans, and post and beam construction, captured the essence of the indoor-outdoor California lifestyle.

The linear and sleek designs many built as custom commissions in the fifties and sixties are perfect in their simplicity. Today, Mid-Century homes that have aged gracefully can boast eight-figure price tags after restoration and expansion. For example, a 4,200-square-foot Malibu property designed by noted Mid-Century architect Edward Fickett is currently listed at $10,000,000. No doubt, Fickett and his contemporaries would gasp at the prices these prized properties are selling for around Los Angeles. If these homes don’t sell before hitting the market (well-kept Mid-Century homes often have a line of patient buyers waiting in the wings), they receive multiple offers resulting in bidding wars.

Meet Philippe Naouri, the sought-after designer and creative director of the Malibu-based Maison d’Artise, who purchased and restored the Fickett home.  A true preservationist, Naouri reimagines and redesigns Mid-Century gems from Malibu to Trousdale to the Hollywood Hills for today’s lifestyle while maintaining the integrity of the architect of record.

“Many people buy these homes and do teardowns since land is so expensive and the existing homes are often under 2,000 square feet.  Developers want the largest house possible on the property, so it pencils out for today’s market,” explained Naouri, who previously made his mark in fashion as a designer of vintage denim apparel for LA Antik Denim before turning his talents and vision to Mid-Century architecture.  

“My way of thinking is to site them keeping the views and make it larger to justify the price point when we put them back on the market. Buyers love Mid-Century, but they do want them with all of today’s amenities,” Naouri said.  Those amenities include everything from state-of-the-art kitchens to the ultimate smart home systems.

A longtime Modernism enthusiast, Naouri, born and raised in France, bought his first Mid-Century home at the age of 18 in Dallas. Part of Naouri’s restoration and redesign process includes restoring or replacing travertine flooring, walnut wood paneling and designing new kitchens and baths. As a steward of these homes, Naouri replaces clerestory windows with double-paned energy-efficient ones while expanding the home’s original footprint yet retaining inherent design integrity.

Mick Partridge of Beverly Hills-based Hilton & Hyland partners with Naouri to market the properties.  Locating and securing architecturally significant properties for Naouri to buy, Partridge, the son of a well-known Los Angeles architect, understands the increasingly competitive niche of the Mid-Century market. As a successful real estate broker, Partridge works with Nouri to reimagine the homes that can be marketed and sold at price points to attract the right buyers who appreciate Naouri’s expertise.  Partridge exclusively markets and sells all of Nouri’s projects. “My office is helping build Philippe’s Mid-Century portfolio as we are doing a lot of architectural sales,” Partridge said.

Naouri is a prolific designer with five projects in Malibu soon coming to market and a Trousdale estate on Loma Vista offered at $20,000,000. In addition, the Kuderna House, an authentically restored Craig Ellwood case study home in the Hollywood Hills, is also on the market at $2,945,000.

Naouri’s next passion project is the famed Chuey House on Sunset Plaza Drive, designed by Richard Neutra, one of the most iconic Mid-Century architects. “I will extend yet keep the original design while building around it and adding a second story and a guest house,” Naouri said, adding, “we will make it alive again.” To reimagine the Chuey House, Naouri worked with the Los Angeles Conservancy, with whom he has close ties. The project is expected to take over two years.

When looking at how a potential project pencils out, Naouri says he is often caught “between my love of the home and the practical financial side.”

“Sometimes, I see an amazing house, and it’s priced too high for what I do, so I pass it on to friends to buy for themselves,” he said. “You must have an exit strategy.”

Assisting with evaluating the financial viability of a project is Partridge with his pulse on the market. “Philippe is considered one of the areas most gifted restoration and builder/developer. His homes are sought after and never stay on the market,” Partridge said.  

As the demand for prime Mid-Century properties continues, expect to see more of Naouri’s inspiring designs the original architects would be most pleased with.

Hilton & Hyland is a founding member of Forbes Global Properties, a consumer marketplace and membership network of elite brokerages selling the world’s most luxurious homes.

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