Alison White loves walking in her Kentwood neighborhood in Westchester. She calls it “making her rounds.” A stroll is even better if she happens to spot a home that needs some TLC, and if it’s for sale, she might even consider buying it and that’s when the work really starts.
“Once I’m inside, I know within five minutes what I’d like to do with the house and what style would fit best,” says Alison, owner of Alison White Homes, a boutique firm that renovates houses before offering them for sale. She also takes on select clients to work with to build their dream homes.
This is a second career for Alison. In her previous life, she worked as a lawyer and realized that as a single mom with two children, she wasn’t getting as much time with her family as she’d like. She decided to try a new hobby to see where it would go and got her real estate license. When she had free time, she’d spend it looking at homes.
“I saw male developers weren’t catering to women and families,” she said. “For example, a lot of showers weren’t being built with a ledge, which women need in order to shave their legs. Little things like this can mean a lot.”
She watched trends and studied the real estate market until one day when she ran into a childhood friend who was interested in the same thing. They teamed up for a year, before Alison joined a new venture with fellow Westchester mom Megan Blu. They worked together for several years as Blu and White Homes, but Alison wasn’t quite ready to quit her day job.
“Our first house was on Cowan. Other people in real estate thought we were crazy when we removed some of the house to make the backyard bigger to make it feel more like a resort. That ended up selling the house! We realized we were onto something with family-friendly homes,” Alison said. “I felt I had a unique perspective that wasn’t being captured.”
“I felt I had a unique perspective that wasn’t being captured.”
In 2019, she was ready to leave her law firm and started out on her own with Alison White Homes. She loves being the boss and being hands-on with all of the homes she takes on to remodel in Westchester, as well as surrounding communities like Culver City.
“I work with an architect and a contractor, but I drive the project. I figure out on paper what we need and what makes the most sense. My knowledge of the real estate market is what lets this happen,” said Alison.
A self-described “control freak,” she usually focuses on about five houses per year because she likes to be involved in all aspects of a home’s transformation. So far for 2022, she has three projects in Westchester, one in Culver City and another in Long Beach that are slated to be finished this summer. Since she has built a strong reputation for creating beautiful homes for modern family living, full of custom finishes and thoughtful touches, she recently was able to sell a home before the renovations are even completed.
When it comes to construction, she’s partial to creating Coastal Cape Cods, Modern Farmhouses and Spanish styles, but most of all it’s about bringing a home’s potential and charm to the forefront with carefully curated design choices.
“My favorite part is seeing an idea come to life. There’s something really special about homes. With people staying at their houses now more than ever, it’s so important to have a place that works for you,” she said.
As it turns out, real estate is in her bones; growing up, her parents bought houses to fix up and were always on the lookout for their next project. And when it came time to pick a home of her own, Westchester was an easy choice, thanks to her mother Kathy Sultan.
Kathy currently runs the beloved preschool at Covenant Presbyterian and has worked in Westchester for more than 20 years.
“My mom has always loved Westchester and kept pushing my sister and me to live there. She described it as a village,” Alison said. “We fell in love with it and in 2011 moved here. I went to little Vons, and it felt like everyone knew each other. Within a few months, that was me! It really is a small town within Los Angeles. I never knew something like this existed.”
Because Alison lives in the same area as most of her remodels, she knows how important it is to be a good neighbor.
“It’s not fun living next door to construction,” she said. “We always try to be respectful and mindful.”
Another perk of keeping most of her projects local is getting to leave her creative mark when it comes to the feel of the community.
“One of the reasons I like picking houses nearby is because then I can have a little control over the look of our neighborhood,” she says. “I’m not always a fan of what people from outside the area do.”
While Alison and her team are constantly researching the next big thing in design and coming up with new, creative ideas, she prefers to make her signature homes look classic, so they won’t be out of vogue in five years. She says they tend to stay away from trendy colors and styles to ensure the finished product is timeless and a good fit for the area.
“We try to prioritize responsible building over profits. We don’t always make as much money as other people, but we try to do the right thing,” she said. “Our decisions are often based on what’s best for the neighborhood rather than being solely profit-driven.”
Alison’s focus on community and her desire to be a resource, led her to create the Westchester Renovations Group on Facebook last year as a place where members can ask questions about home improvement projects, get opinions on things like tile choices and paint colors, share remodeling woes and ask for referrals. She likes sharing her expertise and offering her opinions with the group when she can because she knows just how daunting a remodel can be.
Her passion for design and the motivation to create some of Westchester’s most beautiful one-of-a-kind homes has not only made Alison White Homes a much sought-after name for those looking to buy their Westchester dream locale but has also captured the attention of Hollywood. Some of her properties have been used for filming, the latest being an ADT commercial featuring the Property Brothers. She has also been approached by production companies about pitching shows to HGTV but turns them down because her favorite perk of owning her own business and being the boss is that she gets to spend more time with her children, Peyton, 11 and Preston, 8.
Posted January 2022.
Story by Consuelo Israelson. Photos by Zsuzsi Steiner.