Amenity insanity in LA luxe condo market

More of the city’s well-heeled are going vertical. And that means perks from the obligatory outdoor pool to the occasional zen garden.

Nov.November 08, 2019 06:13 PM
Los Angeles Luxury Condo Market Amenities (Credit: iStock)

Los Angeles Luxury Condo Market Amenities (Credit: iStock)

When developer Richard Lewis closed on $21 million for a condo in Emaar Properties’ Beverly West this July, the dwelling came with notable accoutrements –gym, concierge service, spa, business center, and, obviously, access to an Olympic-sized swimming pool.

Such amenities are becoming the norm in a growing L.A. luxury condo market.

For decades, high-end real estate in the city has been defined by privacy and space, the better for movie stars and Kardashians to retreat here. But luxury condos are becoming more of a presence, and the market is beginning to adopt an identity distinct from New York City and other vertical luxury hotspots.

“People are very private in L.A., but it is a changing place and people want to be closer to the energy here,” said Douglas Elliman’s Fredrik Eklund, who moved to L.A. from New York City this summer and stars in Bravo’s “Million Dollar Listing New York.”

Research by The Real Deal plus interviews with brokers active in the condo market reveal that certain amenities such as outdoor pools, fitness centers, security, and valets are almost standard when it comes to top-shelf product. But other high-end bells and whistles – like concierge service or perhaps pet salons – may not play as well on the West Coast.

“You don’t need a front-desk person to book the table you want at a restaurant,” noted Josh Greer, an agent at Hilton & Hyland. “You already have an assistant who does that.”

Swim or sink

For condos asking $2 million and up, “a pool is a must,” said Greer. “It’s a nonstarter if you don’t have a pool.”

TRD’s analysis of the 10 biggest condo sales in L.A. County in the 12-month period ending Sept. 30, 2019 bears this out. Nine out of 10 of these transactions, ranging between $9.8 million and $21 million, involved a building with a pool. (The one that didn’t, an 8,000-square-foot pad at 535 Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica, overlooks the beach, and it did come with green space described in the listing as a “zen garden.”)

Another amenity that’s considered essential is security, particularly as many buyers at these price points are public figures flocking to condos in West Hollywood, Downtown, and Santa Monica from more secluded L.A. neighborhoods like Brentwood and Bel Air.

Seven out of the 10 analyzed buys featured 24/7 security. “If you are not on our list to get in the building, I don’t care who you are – you are not getting into the building, period,” said Bill Simpson, one of the listing agents on Lewis’ Beverly West condo.

Nine of the top 10 buys analyzed had fitness centers. “We’re very wellness and lifestyle-focused in L.A.,” said Jim Jacobson, who oversees Elliman’s California development division. “Amenities can often include yoga studios and perhaps cycling classes.”

The final – practically mandatory – perk are ways – plural – to deal with the condo owners’ cars.

Seven of the top 10 deals featured a valet service at the building. Also, while luxury condos in New York have about one parking space per unit, L.A. units often have six, according to Compass’ Jennifer Mulberg. (Miami may take the cake in this particular category, with some buildings there offering specialized car elevators.)

Plus, buildings including the Seychelle in Santa Monica are adding charging stations for Tesla and other electric vehicles.

“There is a trend in my listings toward everything being self-sustaining and green,” Mulberg said.

Perks of the future

The small vertical luxury market in L.A. relative to the city’s wealth is part of larger, historic issues relating to residential development restrictions. However, city laws have changed in recent years to encourage housing density, and one consequence is that relaxed building and fire codes enabled more rooftop additions.

“In the old days, you couldn’t build anything on your rooftop,” Simpson said. “But that’s changing.”

A rooftop tennis court in L.A. (Credit: Realtor)

As such, new product increasingly incorporates rooftop swimming pools, screening rooms, and other amenities.

“I recently listed a penthouse condo with a private rooftop tennis court, which is pretty rare,” said Compass’ Sally Forster Jones, referring to the Grand in Westwood, which was built in 1980, with the court added by the previous owner of the penthouse property, who Jones did not identify.

Another feature of the future may be the condo as a social hub.

Aaron Kirman of Compass described projects including the Fairmont in Century City, developed by Woodridge Capital Partners, that have in-building celebrity chefs, bars, and even clubs.

“It seems like more of today’s buyers are looking for a total lifestyle curation,” Kirman said.

Brokers are still divided over one amenity: the need for pet grooming.

Freer of Hilton & Hyland argues that facilities for washing and grooming pets are more of a thing in New York, where dogs and cats have less room to roam (and shed).

Mulberg of Compass, however, believes a pet grooming salon will soon become part of the “white-glove service condo owners expect.”

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