California dreaming

NYC’s rival city has sunshine and celeb cachet, but sales of luxury homes in L.A. are slowing

Sep.September 09, 2016 12:00 PM

If one New Yorker informs another that he or she is moving out of the city, the typical reaction can range from opportunistic (“Now I have a place to stay if I ever have a layover”) to gloating (“Can’t tough it out here, can you?”).

But if the destination city is Los Angeles, the immediate reaction is typically a stony silence, because L.A. is perhaps one of the few places that can make a New Yorker pause and ask him or herself the forbidden question, “Why am I still living in New York?”

L.A. is also one of the few places that can make the superconfident New Yorker have doubts about the one thing New Yorkers take for granted: the superiority of New York City. And so this month Luxury Listings NYC checked out the competition, the highest-priced listings in Los Angeles County, as ranked on Zillow and the MLS.

L.A. — especially the areas of Holmby Hills, Bel Air,  Beverly Hills, Brentwood Park and Malibu — poses a powerful lure to New York City residents. As L.A. broker Ben Bacal noted, “The West Coast is the last frontier” and has always attracted
“entrepreneurial spirits, titans and billionaires.”

“In L.A., you get your own pool, a backyard and beautiful sunshine and no humidity for 360 days a year. There’s all the art, entertainment and fashion you want,” he said. “We have the beach in Malibu and great skiing less than an hour away by plane.”

Of course, in L.A., more so than in New York City, the cachet of homes is measured by one’s neighbors. Bacal is quick to note that his Bel Air listing abuts homes belonging to Jennifer Aniston and Clint Eastwood.

Celebrities are one set of buyers fueling pockets of strength in the luxury market in L.A., broker Robert Hurwitz said. Others are dot-com investors and foreign buyers. But the latter group is facing a chill, Hurwitz said. “For buyers who use LLCs, they want confidentiality, but now there’s a shadow cast over such deals.”

L.A. is one of the few places that can make a
New Yorker second-guess why they live in NYC.

The Treasury Department requires title companies to identify buyers behind anonymous, all-cash deals in L.A. The rules will apply to all homes priced at more than $2 million in Los Angeles County. The program, which has already been in effect since March in New York City, went into effect in L.A. August 28.

A lot of Hurwitz’s clients are Chinese — and these buyers are also facing additional scrutiny, thanks to new regulations on capital outflow abroad. As a result, “they don’t want to buy high-profile properties and draw government attention.”

Other deals have different wrinkles. One example of a high-profile deal with complications: the $100 million purchase of the Playboy mansion. The deal came with an unusual clause: the 90-year-old Hugh Hefner and his wife will remain in the residence until his death (a restriction Hurwitz called “ridiculous.”) The 33-year-old buyer, Hostess-fortune heir Daren Metropoulos, who lives next door, plans to combine his Tudor Revival-style estate with Hef’s to create one giant compound. “The property needs a lot of work,” luxury broker Greg Harris of Compass told TRD.

On the whole, luxury properties in New York City appear to have a better track record.

According to Coldwell Banker’s Luxury Market Report for spring 2016, New York City had 1,047 listings on the market for homes $5 million and up, compared to 269 for Los Angeles, Beverly Hills and Malibu. For closed sales of homes $5 million and up, New York City had 929, compared to 269 for Los Angeles, Beverly Hills and Malibu.

Prices in L.A.’s luxury market have dipped as well, dropping 0.3 percent in the second quarter, according to a report by Douglas Elliman. There was a slowdown in sales of high-priced homes in areas such as Beverly Hills, where the number of total sales was down 36.5 percent in the second quarter compared to the same period last year.

Buyers are looking for properties with completely renovated interiors, especially in Beverly Hills, where the homes are older, said broker Alla Furman of Hilton & Hyland, who described her $88 million listing at 10250 West Sunset Boulevard in Holmby Hills, a large house on almost three acres, as “cozy.”

The home has been completely redone, and it is hard to find this combination of acreage, location and tasteful design, she said. While buyers want updated interiors, she said, they don’t necessarily want modern. “They prefer a ‘transitional style,’ “ she said. They often ask for a “Hamptons” look, she said, to signal an upscale but comfortable lifestyle.

Will L.A. luxury real estate sellers get their prices? Interestingly, the highest listing currently on the market matches what billionaire Jeff Greene eventually tried to get for his Beverly Hills estate last year.

Initially listed at $195 million, Greene lowered the price of Palazzo di Amore, his 25-acre estate, to $149 million in September 2015. He failed to find a buyer and took the property off the market, telling CNBC he was going to turn part of the trophy property into an organic farm. It’s always nice to have a backup plan.

Here’s a look at the top-priced homes on the market in Los Angeles County. None of them are farms, yet.


1187 N. Hillcrest Road, Beverly Hills: $135,000,000
7 beds, 10 baths; 18,000 square feet

Perched on a 2.5 acre promontory in the up-and-coming area of Trousdale Estates (where Minecraft co-founder Markus Persson bought an eight-bedroom home for $70 million in 2014) is the former estate of comedian and philanthropist Danny Thomas. Surrounded by canyon views, the home features opulent rooms with gold-leaf crown moldings and hand-woven carpets. The grounds offer a swimming pool and pavilions for entertaining. Aaron Kirman of John Aaroe Group has the listing.


10250 W. Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles: $88,000,000
17 beds, 22 baths; 30,000 square feet

Maison du Soleil, the onetime home of fashion designer Max Azria, was designed by architect Paul Williams and built in 1939. Azria bought the estate for $14.4 million in 2005 from television writer and novelist Sidney Sheldon. It is located in the desirable neighborhood of Holmby Hills, within walking distance of the Playboy mansion. The home has an open floor plan and has been completely renovated, according to broker Alla Furman of Hilton & Hyland. It boasts a Moroccan-style bathhouse, a 6,000-square-foot movie theater, a bar, a guesthouse, five garden areas,
a tennis court and a pool.


2727 Benedict Canyon Drive, Beverly Hills: $85,000,000
11 beds, 17 baths; 32,000 square feet

While it is just minutes from Rodeo Drive, this spread of 16 acres seems far away, thanks to miles of riding trails that wind through woodlands. The main home is hidden from the rest of the compound, and the equestrian amenities include multiple stables and riding rings. There’s also a tennis court, landscaped grounds and a 7,000-square-foot Moroccan guesthouse with arched windows, hand-carved wooden doors and coffered ceilings. Aaron Kirman of John Aaroe Group has the listing.


172 Bliss Canyon Road, Bradbury: $78,000,000
7 beds, 10 baths; 47,182 square feet

Money was no object for the owner of this listing, who built this property in the exclusive Bradbury Estates and another in Montana, and who has decided to retire to Montana. The L.A. property shows off the owner’s oversize passion for sports, with a 14-foot-deep pond stocked with rainbow trout and a giant cross-shaped pool that’s so big that pilots use it as a landmark for their approach to LAX. There’s also an underground shooting range that the LAPD and actress Lucy Liu have used for practice, as well as a two-story library, a spa, a wine cellar and a poker lounge. Bob Hurwitz of Hurwitz James Company has the listing.


312 N. Faring Road, Los Angeles: $65,000,000
8 beds, 11 baths; 11,660 square feet

This Georgian-style home in Holmby Hills has been featured in Architectural Digest and has undergone a restoration. In addition to the main residence, the estate includes a guesthouse, pool and pool house, a gym, an additional private guest suite and a lighted tennis court, on nearly two acres of rolling lawns and gardens. Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, Beverly Hills North, has the listing.


864 Stradella Road, Los Angeles: $48,500,000
7 beds, 11 baths; 14,219 square feet

The landscape in Los Angeles County can pose some unusual challenges. Take Ben
Bacal of Rodeo Realty’s Bel Air listing.
With a hillside property like this, what do you do to get a much-coveted lawn? The solution, he explained, is to use caissons and a cantilever, as was employed here, to create a platform for a flat, grassy plot, which also
includes an infinity pool that appears to cascade into the city and ocean beyond. The home was designed by architect Paul McClean and completed in August 2014.

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