Dreamers have long flocked to La La Land seeking wealth, fame and the perfect climate. But never before has Los Angeles real estate so blatantly reflected those stardust fantasies.
As L.A.’s spec mansion development boom goes into overdrive, builders are going big. The likes of Bruce Makowsky and Nile Niami are asking sky-high prices — $250 million and a rumored $500 million, respectively — for over-the-top homes. They leverage perks, including car collections, casinos, jellyfish-tank walls and Dom Perignon-filled fire extinguishers, as they compete to woo the world’s wealthiest buyers.
Meanwhile, a wider variety of bold personalities is getting in on the action. Take Mauricio Umansky, interviewed in The Closing. The reality TV star and outspoken co-founder of luxury brokerage the Agency partnered with investor Mauricio Oberfeld to purchase one of Malibu’s largest homes for $38 million. After giving it a major face-lift, the duo flipped the property in April for just shy of $70 million.
L.A.’s “bigger is better” philosophy does not end with its mansions. It extends to the people who sell them, which we explore in a broker ranking and analysis. The brokerage industry has seen the rise of the mega-realtor, with heavy hitters like Umansky dominating with an outsized number of deals. The rise of the team model, in which lead brokers act like quarterbacks for a team of less visible staff working the back end, is controversial. Some in the industry believe it allows select brokers to appear larger than life while inflating their numbers.
After all, in the land of glitz, controversy tends to “go big” as well.
Sometimes, the action even has the dramatic flourishes of a Hollywood blockbuster. Consider the joint-venture dispute between developer Neil Shekhter of NMS Properties and his former partner AEW Capital, broken down here. The litany of lawsuits traded in the dispute include claims of forgery, Google searches for how to delete evidence and even assault allegations.
In many ways, it’s unsurprising that a portfolio of multifamily properties on L.A.’s pricey west side could spawn a battle of such epic, cinematic proportions, since such properties are still hotly sought-after.
Elsewhere, in the commercial market, there is trouble looming. Experts see signs of an impending slowdown in office leasing as construction costs and the availability of sublease space rise. And on the retail front, a string of failures at Ratkovich’s Bloc development has insiders concerned about Downtown L.A.’s retail prospects.
We are also proud to bring you a number of profiles in this issue of some of the biggest movers and shakers in L.A. real estate, including retail billionaire Rick Caruso, hospitality mogul Sam Nazarian and some of L.A.’s most powerful real estate families.
Enjoy the issue.