The Real DealMatthew Blake
Dec. 13, 2019
This spring, luxury brokers tasked with selling the priciest homes in Los Angeles had cause for concern.
A soft overall market looked to be imperiling sales of the most extravagant properties — the coterie of estates with nine-figure listing prices, where 75-foot pools, private jogging trails, and chauffeur’s quarters come standard.
In late June, Peter Morton’s Malibu estate sold for at least $100 million, setting a record but marking the first nine-figure deal in three years in L.A. County. A pair of $100 million homes in Bel Air and Beverly Hills had sat on the Multiple Listings Services for years, not to mention the slightly less stratospheric mansions in the $50 million and up range, which were also mired on the market.
What a difference six months makes.
Since July, three L.A. County mansions have sold for at least $100 million and a fourth landed a buyer for $94 million. Together, they totaled roughly $460 million.
This week, Lachlan Murdoch dropped a reported $150 million for the 25,000-square-foot Chartwell Estate in Bel Air, eclipsing the previous L.A. County sales record that stood for just five months.
“I think the super high-market is very strong,” said David Parnes of The Agency. Parnes and colleague James Harris were the listing agents for Spelling Manor, the 123-room Beverly Hills megamansion that sold for $120 million in July.
A month later, NBC Universal executive Ron Meyer sold his Malibu home for $100 million; and in October, spec home developer and handbag mogul Bruce Makowsky unloaded his Bel Air spec mansion
for $94 million.
Though the homes sold at heavy discounts — Chartwell first listed for $350 million and Makowsky’s mansion for $250 million — their sale prices excluded all but the very top house hunters.
Brokers and analysts say the peak-price purchases by billionaires may have more to do with current tastes than with the state of the economy.
Buying “art” and “history”
Among the most rarefied of buyers, “it has turned into a more subjective market,” Parnes said. He added, “people are buying homes as if they are a piece of art or a piece of history.”
Paul Habibi, a finance and real estate professor at UCLA, said there appears to be a greater willingness for the ultra-wealthy to buy acres of land in fairly urban areas of Bel Air and Beverly Hills.
“It is encouraging to sellers when a new high-water mark is set,” Habibi said. But Habibi also cautioned against reading too much into a handful of monster sales in six months.
“Four homebuyers does not establish a data set,” he said.
The properties that are selling, he said, are also exceedingly distinctive like the Chartwell Estate, which was designed in the 1930s by noted architect Sumner Spaulding. That compares to the newer, sleeker eight-figure listings on Bird Streets in the Hollywood Hills, which Habibi said can resemble “big, white glass boxes.”
That trend could bode well for the four mansions still listed at $100 million or more in L.A. County including the $225 million Casa Encantada in Bel Air , agents said.
That 40,000-square-foot mansion was built in the 1930s and has 60 rooms. It was designed by architect James Dolena, who incorporated Art Deco and Moderne styles into the ornate interiors. Financier Gary Winnick commissioned a massive makeover of the Georgian-style compound after he bought it in 2000. Hilton & Hyland founder Jeff Hyland — one of the selling agents on the Chartwell deal — has the listing, with his partner Rick Hilton and Nest Seekers International’s Shawn Elliott.
The listing, however, is not on the MLS.
“Billionaires don’t use the MLS,” said Elliott, who added he is marketing the property by “reaching out to every billionaire in the United States.” Forbes pegs that number at more than 600.
One property brokers pointed to is the 12,200-square-foot Owlwood Estate in Holmby Hills. It is now on the market for $115 million. Built in 1936 by architect Robert Farquhar, it was designed in the Italian Renaissance Revival style and sits two miles from Chartwell. The property had belonged to former Woodbridge Group of Companies’ CEO Robert Shapiro, who is now serving a 25-year sentence for orchestrating a massive Ponzi scheme to defraud investors.
Sally Forster Jones and Tomer Fridman of Compass have the listing. A Compass spokesperson said there has been interest in the property but would not elaborate.
The priciest listing on the MLS clocks in at $165 million, and is near Beverly Hills Post Office. The property first appeared on the market in July 2017, and it bills itself as an authentic Italian village with a 30 car courtyard and 40 foot tall Canary Island palms. Hyland and Richard Hilton of Hilton & Hyland also have the listing.
Next is the $129 million “Palazzo di Amore” in Beverly Hills, which listing agent Jade Mills of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage markets as a “Meditarranean masterpiece” of “incomparable grandeur and palatial elegance” whose amenities include a Turkish bath and spa. The Meditarranean masterpiece sits on a 25-acre parcel of land.
Also on the market for $110 million is the 38,000 square foot Wallingford Estate also in Beverly Hills. Ginger Glass has listed the property since June 2018, and the estate markets is elegance and sportiness including a full basketball court on the premises.
A mansion not on the market now but whose embattled owner says he can get $125 million for it is the Beverly House. Real estate investor Leonard Ross bought the massive property owned by publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst in 1976. Ross is hoping to avert foreclosure by asking a bankruptcy court to let him relist the 50,000-square-foot home and says a Saudi prince has expressed interest.
Managing Director of the Ultra Luxury Division