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LOS ANGELES-Ramsey-Shilling Commercial Real Estate Services has established a multifamily division and has named Seth Polen, a 12-year veteran of Marcus & Millichap, to head the new division. Polen’s most recent deal was the $4.9-million sale of a rare 18-unit property in Los Feliz called Casa Laguna. The complex, at 5200 Franklin Ave., was built in 1928 by Arthur B. and Nina W. Zwebell, two of the period’s most prominent architects.

Chris Bonbright, CEO of Ramsey-Shilling, tells GlobeSt.com that one of the biggest factors in the 52-year-old brokerage firm’s decision to establish a multifamily division was the opportunity to land Polen as the director. “We’ve always done multifamily, we’ve just never had a dedicated focus on it,” Bonbright says. “When we had the opportunity to land Seth it was an absolute obvious play for us. He’s someone we can build a division on.”

The new multifamily division includes industry veteran Rich Johns, and Bonbright says Ramsey-Shilling will be looking to expand the division if the right people are available. “We are not the kind of company that will just go out and hire somebody because we want to get into a business. We’ve always grown very carefully and consistently,” Bonbright tells GlobeSt.com.

Bonbright says that he and Polen share an interest in architecturally interesting and significant properties like the Casa Laguna, which is one of only eight complexes in Los Angeles designed by the Zwebells, a husband-and-wife architectural team. “They pioneered courtyard design, which is now a quintessential L.A. architectural form,” Bonbright says. The Zwebells built eight of their designs, beginning in 1928, before the Depression came along and halted development. “Each Zwebell building is unique. They are absolute jewels,” Bonbright says. He cites the Casa Laguna’s ceiling heights, the intricate woodworking and design details like the hand-painted tiles on the stair risers–each with a different, unique pattern.

The buyer of the Casa Laguna was locally based HAMS Properties LLC. The buyer acquired the property from two LLCs managed by Bonbright, HJS Properties and 5200 Franklin Avenue Associates, which had owned it since 2000. Polen tells GlobeSt.com that the complex attracted “Everything from A to Z in terms of types of buyers looking at it,” including principals of institutional investment firms. The Casa Laguna is a two-story, wood frame and stucco construction surrounding a square courtyard, with a separate entry from the courtyard for each unit in addition to the common entry. Polen represented the seller, with the buyer represented by Victor Kaminoff of Coldwell Banker.

Polen says the Casa Laguna is almost always 100% occupied because the property “has renters scrambling to get on the waiting list.” He says the units truly deserve to be called “apartment homes,” a term that has come into vogue of late. “The Zwebells did what some of the luxury developers are trying to do today: They built apartment homes,” Polen says. The bidder who ultimately won the deal, he points out, was a local investor who wanted to own luxury apartment homes and now lives at Casa Laguna.

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