By SARAH SHMERLING | Managing Editor
Nick Cohen Yahoodain, president of Advanced Builders & Contractors, combines his knowledge of real estate and construction to help Palisadians create their dream homes. Cohen Yahoodain, who has been in the construction field for about 10 years, shared stories about his first job, some memorable experiences with clients and more with the Palisadian-Post.
Sarah Shmerling: Tell me about your childhood. Where were you born and where did you grow up? What were some of your hobbies and interests as a child and teenager?
Cohen Yahoodain: I was born in Iran. I moved to the States when I was about 8 years old to Rockville, Maryland. I moved out to LA about 15 years ago. When I was a teenager, I liked girls a lot. Basketball, cars … and I liked sports.
Shmerling: Where did you go to college?
Cohen Yahoodain: I went to college on the East Coast at a place called Montgomery College. I got a license as a real estate agent and as a general contractor.
Shmerling: What was your first job and first job out of college? What led you to your current career path?
Cohen Yahoodain: My first job out of college—I actually started working when I was about 9 years old. I used to go to my uncle’s grocery store and pack groceries on Sundays. I worked off of tips only, which was about $10 per Sunday. I think my first job around college was that I worked at Guess, the clothing store in the mall.
I had a passion for real estate, so when I saw that I could help people take an existing building and turn it around and remodel or build a new structure, that’s what really gave me the push to get into the construction field. My buddy Sam kept bugging me to get into the construction field for many months. Eventually I gave in … a couple of deals turned into now, which has been about 10 years.
Shmerling: How does your background help you when working with clients?
Cohen Yahoodain: My background helps me I think because real estate and construction go hand in hand. Anytime you are able to, assess a house based off the neighborhood and what would be best for that client to do. If it’s a property we’re talking about in the Palisades, maybe a good option is to put in a pool.
Shmerling: Do you work in homes in all neighborhoods of the Palisades?
Cohen Yahoodain: Yes. My partner started in construction about 30 years ago and I came in about 10 years ago, and we’ve worked all over the Palisades and west LA.
Shmerling: Tell me about how you approach new clients.
Cohen Yahoodain: I always believe that you should treat people how you want to be treated. Not everyone has the same type of attitude looking at a particular project. Some people are very quick and they want to start right away, and others wants to take their time and understand the process a bit more and understand the entire property a bit more.
I’m very easy going with my clients. Sometimes you meet someone new for the first time and that person wants to take time and get back to you in a week or two, where someone else will say, “I love what you; based off your budget and timeline and description of the project, I’m ready to start today.”
So I think out of the construction companies, we’re probably one of the easier-going companies. We want to make sure that our clients are comfortable signing a contract with us. We’re not here to push something they’re not comfortable with.
Shmerling: What is one of the most memorable experiences you have had with a client?
Cohen Yahoodain: Wow, that’s hard. There’s so many.
This has happened several times: You have a newlywed couple and they live in an old, outdated house and you come in and add an addition and a master suite and a baby’s room so that when the baby is born, they have a room and the parent’s have a new bedroom that they can enjoy.
Other times—this actually was in the Palisades—it was a family that were newlyweds with one small child. This was a hillside property so they had no front yard and no backyard, so we came in and built them an awesome deck. That was memorable because now those kids have a place to play.
There was another project where an older couple had lived in this big estate, but they never truly had their own master suite. We came in and drew up a set of plans for a three-car garage and a master suite for them to enjoy because they never had a usable garage or space for them to get ready in the mornings. The funny thing is that he was the son of the person who created Betty Boop and he lived there for many years. It was probably handed down from 40 or 50 years ago and it had never been touched.
Every time you go into a person’s home, I think it’s something that’s very, very personal. You don’t know them, but you build a relationship together … it’s more than just a monetary relationship that you build … that, to me, is priceless.
Shmerling: What are some current trends in home construction and remodeling?
Cohen Yahoodain: Well, construction design today is all over the place. There are people who want completely modern homes—smart homes with everything electronic and controlled by your smartphone, from lights to TV to opening and closing doors to windows, fully automated. They want everything to be controlled with a smartphone or tablet. These are modern designs out of a movie.
Then there are other people who are very, very old school, who are still looking at a Cape Cod look and they don’t want to change anything when it comes to cosmetics. So it’s very different. Even in the Palisades, you have people who want to keep the existing look, to maintain the structure that the home came with, and then you have people who want to completely knock it down.
It’s more personal preference of the client than anything else. I don’t think there’s a specific trend. One thing that is catching up with the West Coast is that a lof of Cape Cod homes are being built on the West Coast, which we’ve never had. We’ve always had stucco and some sort of roof, and now that’s changing and we’re going away from that and going to the Cape Cod look and feel for a home.
Shmerling: Thoughts on Caruso’s Palisades Village project?
Cohen Yahoodain: I think anytime, anywhere, in any city that you are able to help come in and improve it—it’s not a bad thing. There’s always two sides to every story; there are people who don’t want construction and people who do, but I think anything that brings revenue into the city and helps build another property is good for everyone. It’s good for the city, good for the people, good for property values and good for California.
Shmerling: What do you like to do for fun?
Cohen Yahoodain: I spend a lot of time with my family. I have three small kids—two girls and a boy. Most of my free time is spent with them, taking them to the beach or to some sort of indoor activity. So I spend a lot of quality time with them.
If I do get a chance for a guys night out, I go to the indoor racetrack, K1.