The Real Deal Los Angeles

The rise of the modern spec home

New breed of luxury buyer favors sleeker designs

September 07, 2016
By Marcie Geffner

Located north of Sunset Boulevard, a spec home at 9133 Oriole sold for $27 million.

Located north of Sunset Boulevard, a spec home at 9133 Oriole sold for $27 million.

Many of the luxury homes in the most coveted sections of Los Angeles — such as the area north of Sunset Boulevard, Holmby Hills, and of course, Beverly Hills — were designed to look like Italian villas or Spanish ranch houses. But the concept of Southern California chic is evolving. Some of the biggest multimillion-dollar deals in the past year involve modern contemporary homes that were built on spec by ambitious developers. These homes are brand new, with the sleek lines and angles of the modernist architecture that emerged in the early 20th century.

“A modern contemporary architectural language relates well to the L.A. climate and the need to take advantage of key views,” said Laurence Quinn, the London architect who designed 438 North Faring Road, one of the highest-priced home sales in Los Angeles over the last year. He said that modern contemporary design presented owners with “elegant and open areas to entertain, while also having suitable environments to show contemporary art and furniture collections.”

To be sure, some of the largest deals over the last year have been inked for traditional — at least by Tinseltown standards — Mediterranean-style mega-mansions. Exhibit A would be the $100 million sale of the infamous Playboy mansion, which shattered the record for the market’s most expensive residential deal. (L.A.’s previous residential record was set with the $88.3 million sale of Holmby Hills’ Fleur de Lys estate in 2014.)

Laurence-Quinn-quoteAt press time, some pending home sales with lofty price tags included the $93 million deal for the legendary Owlwood estate — the former home of Cher and Sonny Bono — and the $53 million bid by American fashion designer Tom Ford for another famous mansion.

Yet in The Real Deal’s ranking of the priciest residential sales that closed in L.A. County during the 12 months ending on Aug. 16 — when the deal for the Playboy mansion closed — several of the properties fit the category of newly-constructed modern contemporary homes built on spec.

One such home sold in September 2015 for $23.8 million. The buyers paid $1.2 million above the asking price for the home’s furnishings and artwork, bringing the total to a cool $25 million. The property was located at 9945 Beverly Grove, which is technically just outside of the Beverly Hills city limits, but shares the coveted 90210 zip code.

“It was a spectacular house, with incredible design attention to detail,” said Santiago Arana, a principal and partner at The Agency, who shared the listing with Ginger Glass of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage. Arana said the property featured a below ground game area with a window looking into the swimming pool, a theater, a wine room and a finished and air-conditioned garage, “so your cars can be cool.”

The 10,519-square-foot, six-bedroom mansion was designed and built on spec by Shelly and Avi Osadon, owners of See Materials and See Construction, two local companies that sell building products and services to luxury home developers. It was the couple’s first foray into homebuilding.

The Osadons bought the lot in 2010. The former owner had torn down an existing residence, but then died before he and his wife were able to build the dream home they had imagined. Shelly Osadon described the building lot as “very secluded, with a beautiful view of the city and the ocean beyond.” The buyer was a Chinese national who owns other property in the United States, and who develops luxury residences in China and elsewhere.

(Click to enlarge)

(Click to enlarge)

The home that had been torn down was one of 24 “Case Study” houses built by renowned modernist architect Rodney Walker for an Arts + Architecture magazine program in the late 1940s and 1950s. Had it survived a few more years, the house might have made the National Register of Historic Places. Walker designed two other Case Study houses, one of which was listed in the register in 2013, along with 10 other homes from the program.

The home that Quinn, the London architect, designed at 438 North Faring Road fetched $30 million in December 2015. The 16,000-square-foot, seven-bedroom mansion was located on 1.3 acres in the Holmby Hills area northeast of the University of California, Los Angeles. The tri-level home was built on spec by Estate Four developer Alessandro Cajrati-Crivelli.

The developer acquired the property for $8 million and tore down a modest house there, according to James Harris, a realtor with the residential real estate brokerage The Agency, who was a co-listing agent for the new home, working with Kurt Rappaport of the Westside Estate Agency.

Although this wasn’t a “view property,” Harris said it had an estate-like feel. The home was designed to appeal to an art collector’s sensibilities, with 28-foot ceilings, lots of windows and “amazing volume.” The amenities included a tennis court, swimming pool, movie theater, wine cellar, gym and two kitchens.

Another of L.A.’s new modern contemporary homes sold for $27 million in January 2016. Located at 9133 Oriole Way, north of Sunset Boulevard, the 12,500-square-foot, six-bedroom mansion sits on a lot with views of downtown skyscrapers and the Pacific Ocean. It was built by developer Sean Sassounian and completed in 2013.

The developer purchased the parcel for $4.6 million in 2008 and tore down the original 1930s Mediterranean villa-style home, according to Rayni Williams, a Realtor at Beverly Hills-based Hilton & Highland, who represented the seller of the new home, which she described as having “an organic feel,” with stone and wood materials and a gray-and-white color scheme.

Price slashed for a tear down

Even with some especially well-heeled homebuyers favoring new construction, developers aren’t necessarily keen on every opportunity touted as having “land value.” The largest home price reduction in our ranking was for a property widely seen as a teardown: a home at 27724 Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu, which went under contract in July 2016 after the price was reduced to $21.5 million, a 28 percent cut from the initial asking price of $30 million.

Arana, of The Agency, said that he couldn’t imagine a buyer paying such a lofty sum for the existing 3,200-square-foot home on the property. He said the location — a 68,000-square-foot beachfront parcel — was most likely the key attraction.