“Million Dollar Listing” stars dish on LA’s luxury market

From left: David Parnes, James Harris, Tracy Tutor, Josh Flagg, Josh Altman, and Hiten Samtani
From left: David Parnes, James Harris, Tracy Tutor, Josh Flagg, Josh Altman, and Hiten Samtani

Despite a pandemic, fractious election season and wildfires still burning, Los Angeles luxury real estate brokers say business is booming.

“We’re all winners here,” declared Josh Altman of Douglas Elliman, during Wednesday’s TRD Talks Live discussion. The panel included fellow “Million Dollar Listing” cast members James Harris and David Parnes of The Agency, Josh Flagg of Rodeo Realty and Tracy Tutor, also of Elliman. TRD Associate Publisher Hiten Samtani moderated.

“I’ve had the most deals in escrow I’ve ever had in my entire career,” Altman added. “I know a lot of people are killing it right now.”

“The market is hot,” said Harris, who is advising clients to list their homes now, despite the uncertainty of the times.

Their words are not mere hyperbole. The number of closed home sales in the Los Angeles luxury market — defined as deals above $2 million — shot up 192 percent in July 2020 compared to the same time last year, according to a recent report from Elliman and Miller Samuel.

The ensuing two months have seen a consistent uptick in luxury deals. In September, closed sales over $2 million jumped 63 percent year-over-year to 418 deals.

The jump in luxury home sales comes amid growing evidence that the economic downturn has had little effect on the rich – according to a new report by Wealth-X, the richest North Americans have recovered most of their pre-pandemic wealth.

Flagg suggested buyers are “bored” from staying in their homes for months on end. Parnes added that homeowners are choosing the “lifestyle” of Los Angeles over New York.

Sign Up for the undefined Newsletter

Along with luxury houses and mansions, high-end condos sales have also surged in L.A. Condo deals of more than $1 million doubled year-over-year, but the panelists — whose focus is on single-family homes — insisted that market is a dead end.

“Condos are a horrible investment no matter what,” Flagg said. “You’re buying air rights and a view” but you’re not “buying land.”

Flagg also expressed his displeasure for spec mansion developer Scott Gillen’s “Malibu Series,” a portfolio of 13 luxury properties in Beverly Hills; Tutor at one time had been the listing agent. The homes were on the market for a combined $500 million.

“I don’t think those houses are attractive,” Flagg said.

“There are elements,” Tutor allowed, “that don’t stand out.”

Most on the panel also pilloried the National Association of Realtors’ recent ban of pocket listings, which are homes marketed for sale but not placed on the Multiple Listing Service.

“I love pocket listings,” said Altman, who called the ban “completely damaging” to celebrity clients.

Whether the agents were skirting or completely disregarding the ban remains unclear. But Parnes, whose brokerage started Pocket Listings Service that is soon to relaunch, called the MLS a “monopoly.”