How to Sell Your Downtown LA Loft: A Case Study

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DTLA has a special place in my heart. I called this eclectic part of Los Angeles home for eight years. From 2007 going forward I was on the inside of the rapid development of hotels, bars, residents and restaurants that we see today.

With many friends owning lofts here, the discussion of the DTLA market often comes up. My recent sale at The Rowan offered specific insight that can benefit you as well when it comes time for you to put it up for sale.

Market Status:

Residential real estate in greater Los Angeles has seen a dip since summer 2018. Rapid price growth, media hype about an unfounded crash and increasing mortgage rates put a bulk of buyers on the sidelines as they took a “wait and see” approach. The result was inventory climbed, days on market grew from 14 days to 60 days and price growth stalled and reversed in some areas. The bottom line, it is tougher for sellers and not necessarily better for buyers.

Downtown LA is experiencing these same challenges and more. Eighty construction projects pepper the landscape, from hotels, creative office space, luxury apartments and new construction condos. The added sales inventory strains a strained market even more.

Added to the challenge is the fact that every building is unique in Downtown, historic vs new construction, South Park vs Arts District vs Historic Core, Mills Act Tax benefit vs none, all of these factors effect the perception and value of lofts in DTLA.

The Rowan building, built 1911 and remodeled in 2008 is one of the shining stars of adaptive reuse in the area, but the exposed brick and high ceilings don’t make for slam dunk sales.

Currently (as of 3/27/2019) there are five units for sale at the . One unit has been on the market for 48 days while three have been for sale for over 200 days. One unit is at 255 days on the market (DOM). In six months three units have sold. The lowest sales period was eight days but it was a small rental unit that is occupied and sold for a significant number under market value.

The bottom line is, DTLA units are pricey and appeal to a narrow sliver of buyers.


Rowan 1212 Transaction:

Overview: an out of state owner contracted my service to market and sell the loft he had lived in part time over three years. This was a second home that coincided with a local job that he no longer needed.

The challenge: The building had seen several sales, but the unique nature of lofts makes every unit have different perceived values and appraisal values. One fire sale unit in particular had skewed the average Price Per Square Foot (PPSF) negatively.

The goal: To market the unit far and wide to draw the largest number of potential qualified buyers to best the odds of multiple offers at a rate that satisfied the needs of the owner.

Marketing: I have the benefit of drawing from my twenty years of marketing, eight years of knowing Downtown LA and five years of real estate sales on the buyer side to create a comprehensive plan that would accomplish the goals of the buyer.

Preparation: Being that the owner did no live on site full time, we were able to self-stage the unit. Staging is key for photography, private showings and open houses. By enlisting a personal friend that is an interior designer, we were able to pair down the elements of the loft to a clean and stylized aesthetic. We benefitted from the fact that the owner has interesting furnishings and art pieces to make for strong images. Note: Empty lofts don’t show as well, if you are selling an unfurnished unit, it is advised that you professionally stage it (at least partially).

Photography: As an experienced photographer and videographer, I shot all the photos and video personally. While I will not likely do this for every client, I did this in this situation for the client is a personal friend and I enjoy going the extra mile. Smaller lofts do not need a ton of images. Lobby and common area images can be found online for most buildings if you are looking to simplify the process.

Video: Video is a key element to today’s marketing landscape. Several studies have proven that video gets the best interaction and response in social media. Real Estate marketing is no different.

Downtown LA is a unique place to live, and not the right fit for everyone. The grit of the city doesn’t appeal to all, but the walkability factor, access to world class museums, a vast array of amazing restaurants and bars that the cool kids hang out at easily overcomes this.

Rather than create the typical walk through video, I created a video depicting what life in DTLA is like. This would become the centerpiece of the digital marketing onslaught. I shot the elements of the interior with equipment I own and borrowed clips from videos that I felt depicted the vibe of the city. Video Link

Marketing Materials: Common questions will arise from buyers, creating marketing materials to cover these repeatable answers before they ask them and they are easy to create. For example, the building has a unique history of acclaimed architects that had built known structures like LA City Hall, The LA Coliseum and The Pentagon. To highlight the buildings history from initial construction to the modern day renovation I drafted a document on the history of the building.

Like many of the historic loft buildings in the area, parking is not included and offsite. Creating a parking option map was a no-brainer. The glory of so many restaurants on this very block was something to be highlighted and often came up during showings. Solution: a cheat sheet on local bars and restaurants within walking distance from the loft was created.

Website: Creating a stand alone website for a property is nothing unique as realtors have been doing this since the early days of the web. Making this site the hub for video content and the marketing materials I created not only gave a place for buyers to explore at their leisure, but also allows me the ability to track buyers via retargeting.

Advertising: Boosting a post on Facebook was not going to cut it for such a unique property. A comprehensive plan was developed to target qualified buyers that have interest in Downtown but was not limited to just the geography of DTLA. This plan delivered still images, Open House flyers and the video to a wide scope in Southern California and New York city (a major emigrant source for Downtown LA). Visitors to the property website as well as viewers that watched 50% or more of the video were retargeted in a series of ads promoting the opportunity to come see the loft in person.

Showings: With no lock box on the property, all buyers and agents were escorted through the loft to ensure all questions and concerns were tackled early on. Several pre-market private previews were requested and honored. Mid-week Broker Previews occurred so agent’s can scope the loft for their buyer base of clients. There were twilight public open house events with wine an hors d'oeuvres to cover those that work weekend days and three weekends of two day open houses happened over three weeks.

To further draw local advocates sidewalk directional signs not only appeared in the front of the building and main intersection but also in high traffic areas on the blocks that flank the building during all of the public events.

The Results:

Private Showings: 15

Open House Visitors: 175

Web Traffic: 6,795 Unique visitors

Social Media Reach: 18,697 People

Video Views Via Social: 4,186

Offers: Multiple

Sold in 42 days. Offer accepted in 20 days

Sold for Exact Appraised Value

Happy Seller and Happy Buyer

High amounts of traffic resulted in just enough solid offers from qualified buyers, a seamless 30 day transaction and best of all no stress for my client. As an agent, I benefit from an ample list of buyer’s looking for similar lofts, one’s I will continue to service for years to come.

Marketing a loft for sale in DTLA isn’t as simple as hiring an agent that claims to know the neighborhood and putting a sign on the sidewalk. To draw a large swath of serious and qualified buyers, a technology and media forward campaign is required.

If you are pondering the sale or purchase of property in Downtown LA, I am here to apply my proven formula of marketing and sales. It is what I do and what I love to do. Working with me is always direct, you aren’t passed on to a team member, you deal with me and only me.


Michael Robleto

REALTOR®-Compass Real Estate


Michael Robleto is a Downtown LA and Pasadena focused REALTOR®. Home buying and home selling is extremely challenging in LA. Michael uses an analytical and data driven approach help solve for the many problems that arise in real estate sales. His client accolades of insight, integrity and hard work support the fact that he is not your average agent. 

Michael leverages his personal passion for historic architecture to provide his clients the unknown insight on the pros and cons of older properties.  Michael, a California native, grew up in an older Bungalow home and has spent 23 years in Southern California admiring the unique architecture of the region.  He often writes on homeownership strategy, historic residential architecture and related topics which can be found on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Instagram under the common profile name of his blog; BungalowAgent or at 

Michael is a committee member and frequent volunteer for the preservation efforts of Pasadena Heritage as well as a supporter of the Five Acres center for children.