It happens in art, why not in real estate? Buyers hiring experts to verify a property’s starchitect pedigree

A property billed as a "Frank Lloyd Wright home" may not necessarily be one

Jan.January 11, 2018 11:30 AM
Paul Williams homes (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

A starchitect’s name can add cachet to a listing, and raise the price several notches. But how can a buyer be sure that a home they’re slapping down millions for really is a Frank Lloyd Wright or Paul Williams creation?

Well-heeled buyers are increasingly enlisting architectural historians to dig up the true origins of a prospective property to ensure they aren’t duped into paying for a pedigree that isn’t there, according to the Wall Street Journal.

“In today’s competitive and sometimes frenzied marketplace, none of the parties are always as diligent as they should be in researching attribution,” Karen McNeill, a historian at wealth management firm Ascent Private Capital, told the newspaper.

Los Angeles County is dotted with the works of dozens of the world’s most famous architects. Many, like the Case Study Houses commissioned with the top architects in the world during the mid-20th century, are easy to verify as legitimate.

Others, like the works of pioneering architect and Los Angeles native Paul Revere Williams, are not. Williams, the first African-American to be admitted to the American Institute of Architects, was prolific and designed thousands of homes and buildings (like the Theme Building at Los Angeles International Airport) around Los Angeles County during the last century.

His works haven’t been exhaustively catalogued, so establishing his connection to homes can get tricky.

Hilton & Hyland’s Jeffrey Hyland told the Journal that his agents will describe a home as “in the style of Paul Williams,” if they can’t definitely prove his involvement. [WSJ]

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