When we think of the names “Kurt” and “Courtney” together, we obviously envision the 90s-era Royal Couple of Grunge who, individually, gave the world iconic lyrics and chord progressions that blew the roof off many a house and home.
Today, a slightly more put together duo with those same first names, are selling many a house and home in Northeast L.A. They are the brokers heading up Courtney and Kurt Real Estate, an Eastside satellite office under the umbrella of Beverly Hills-based Nourmand and Associates.
The Atwater Village office, run by Courtney Smith and Kurt Wisner, is rocking some serious pricing on the roofs of houses along the shores of the Los Angeles River. We spoke with the realty stars, aged 38 and 48, respectively, about why Northeast L.A. is nirvana for Angelenos seeking authentic living within Tinseltown.
This Courtney and Kurt thing seems to have worked out for your brand.
Smith: They are actually our names. They aren’t fictional. We embrace it. When you call the office and you’re on hold, note the music. It’s usually Nirvana’s “Come as You Are.”
Wisner: We got the order right. Not only is Courtney smarter and better looking, well, the other dynamic duo didn’t end up so well, so we figured we had a good shot at lasting.
Courtney: We have long lived past that ripe age of 27.
Does Courtney Love know about you two?
Smith: I don’t know if she does. But a lot of comedians know. They are as amused as we are.
You’ve lived here in Atwater for a while. How has it changed over the years?
Smith: I bought my first place in Atwater 15 years ago. I was this young kid in my 20s and, just to show you how much things have changed, there was a homeless guy sleeping in front of my garage the day I was moving in. I remember asking him if he could move and offering to buy him lunch in exchange for relocating his sleeping quarters so I could move in. Atwater today is a far cry from that.
Who lives in Atwater now?
Smith: A lot of the people are transplants from the Westside. They started moving east because of the affordability but now it’s more about moving as a lifestyle choice.
What is that lifestyle?
Smith: For me that lifestyle begins in Atwater, the center of the Eastside. There is this creative spirit unlike the Westside. There is such kindness shared among one another and a sense of community. Northeast L.A. has these incredible communities that each have their own inclusive and creative spirit. The pace of life dials back here, so you don’t feel the rat race. You can really call it home.
Wisner: We’re in this technological age where people don’t interact much, and the Eastside is so much more interactive. You can have substantive conversations with folks. There’s less traffic and congestion and, most important, less honking.
Smith: You can actually make an unprotected left without someone giving you the finger.
You mention that each of these communities has its own unique spirit. What is the spirit of Silver Lake?
Smith: Silver Lake is the land of the trustafarians. Everyone is super cool and free-spirited and super creative but, nowadays, you have to have a lot of money to live here.
Wisner: And when you have kids, your kid will have a very unique name.
What about Echo Park?
Smith: Many would say Echo Park is home to the hipster, but that even seems super cliché at this point, so I really think it’s home to the diehard. It’s home to people who just love Echo Park. Many grew up there or know people who grew up there, so for them no other place will do. No other place has the architecture, the park and the small businesses. It’s the prevailing sentiment that creativity is here and at the core. I suppose that goes back to the early hippie and Communist roots of the area.
Smith: Atwater Village is where you come if you want to walk everywhere. It’s affectionately referred to as Breedwater. It’s hard not to see a fancy stroller here.
Wisner: If you have a small child or want to have one, this is where the magic happens.
Smith: Mt. Washington is more tucked away so you can really get away from it all. It’s where the grown-up hippies reside. It’s total peace and solitude. Whereas Eagle Rock is where hipsters go to grow up. It’s totally a phase two. Then there is Highland Park, which is so ubiquitous that now everyone knows what it is.
What is Highland Park?
Smith: It’s really the quintessential model of a neighborhood in mass transition that overnight went from a very blue-collar community to being a hipster haven with a new cool coffee shop with hip milk on every corner. If you ever had the hope of having a 500-square-foot business, this is where you would (open) it. It would exist on York Boulevard or Figueroa Street — the main drags of the land of opportunity. You can have otherwise insane business ideas and have it work in Highland Park. Where else can you have a business just around iron works? That doesn’t happen anymore.
Wisner: It’s also experienced a tremendous price increase. The average price 10 years ago was $400,000 and now it’s $800,000 for a nicely redone home.
And what about Glassell Park?
Smith: It is one of the slow-to-start neighborhoods that has so much potential. It has everything going for it in terms of its views, mid-century architecture, but it’s been slow from the commerce perspective. There’s been some changes in the last two years with businesses opening on Verdugo Road. When it does hit its groove, it will be pretty amazing.
Does that mean Glassell Park is the place to buy?
Smith: It’s not cheap residentially anymore, but from a commerce perspective it’s a great place to open a businesses for when the walkability sets in. That’s the real game changer of the Eastside. The neighborhoods are all walkable, save for Mt. Washington. A commercial strip surrounds every neighborhood I mentioned and Glassell is the last to do it.
Well, where are the deals?
Smith: There aren’t really any more deals. Maybe Cypress Park. That’s probably the only deal left. But I think the meaning of what a deal is has changed. It’s about where can you really find happiness and community at a place you can afford. That’s really what a deal is now. What that looks like to you is different to you than to me and you can’t put a dollar figure on that.
Kurt, you were in Seattle when Cobain was there. How’d you end up in L.A.?
Wisner: My brother was days away from getting married when his bride-to-be dumped him. He took me on his honeymoon to Costa Rica where we reconnected and ended up writing a New York Times bestseller called “Honeymoon with my Brother.” It changed both of our lives. I gave up my Seattle real estate career to travel for another two years plus and landed in L.A. Fortunately, I crossed paths with Courtney and the rest is history.
And, Courtney, you came to L.A. for Hollywood?
Smith: I started in entertainment, as many do in the City of Angels and found I was having more fun buying homes and redoing stuff for myself and then selling what I had done.
Real estate seems to be a popular shift for entertainment industry folk, from actors to producers…any thoughts on why?
Smith: Real estate is a lot like working in showbiz. You don’t get far doing it as a part-time job. You have to do right by your clients and give it 100 percent of your attention. The entertainment industry has a unique way of grooming people to be exceptional at what they do, and that being exemplary and wearing a multitude of hats can get you far. That’s all the same for a real estate agent. If you can apply the skills you get in the entertainment industry with the real estate vocabulary, then you have a winning combo.
Where do you like to frequent in the hoods where you sell houses?
Smith: Proof Bakery. If I’m with my kids, it’s Café de Leche. You can’t go in there without seeing ten people you know.
Wisner: It’s Proof for me too. I go in with blinders to avoid those baked goods. I’m really happy with my Sunday routine. It’s where I hop on my bike and ride along the LA River into Griffith Park by the carousel. From there I do a hike, jog, run and return to my bike to ride home and jump in my pool and then grab some fish tacos at the Atwater Farmer’s Market before my open house.