Some people have a lot of money. And over the last couple years, in a counterintuitive side effect of the worst global health crisis in generations, some now have a lot more.
That sort of money often finds its way into real estate–especially in Southern California, where such trends tend to go off the charts.
L.A.’s residential market, driven by low inventory and low interest rates, has been soaring throughout the pandemic. In the second quarter of this year, according to one report, the median sale price for single family homes in a swath of the city from Downtown to the Westside, reached a record $1.75 million.
Then there are L.A.’s highest-end homes, which rank among the most extravagant and most expensive in the world, and have always represented something of a different universe altogether. Indeed, they make up a particular niche of the market that has been off the charts. Last year, even during the (presumably) depths of the pandemic, the total price for the county’s top five largest residential sales came in at $448 million, a higher figure than pre-pandemic 2019.
This year that figure went up again, to $481 million, a gain of nearly eight percent that came thanks in large part to an expansive Malibu horse ranch-turned-residential compound whose sale notched a statewide record. And the rest of the top 10 weren’t too shabby, either, running the gilded gamut from a mansion full of pop culture lore to a striking contemporary beach house tied to one of L.A.’s biggest names.
Here are the 10 largest priciest sales of 2021, based on an analysis of data from Redfin and PropertyShark as well as news reports and confirmations from brokerages.
1. Paradise Cove (specific address undisclosed) | $177 M | Malibu
This Malibu compound is not just the most expensive L.A. County property sold in 2021 but the most expensive residential property sold in California — ever. The nearly seven-acre compound is located above Paradise Cove, which some refer to as “the best beach in the world,” and was rebuilt in 2017. It features 13 different structures, including a 10,000-square-foot contemporary-style main house and two guesthouses. The estate was once a horse ranch and still incorporates the style, with warm, cedar-sided buildings. Amenities include a detached screening room, poolside cabana and barns that have been repurposed into showcase car garages. The biggest selling point, though, is the view — a sweeping panorama of the Pacific Ocean that is, apparently, just about the best that money can buy.
The buyer in the late October deal, which took place off the market, was Marc Andreessen and his wife Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen. Andreessen is a billionaire who cofounded Netscape and seminal Silicon Valley venture capital firm of Andreessen Horowitz; Arrillaga-Andreessen, the daughter of billionaire developer John Arrillaga, is a philanthropist and author. The couple bought the property from the fashion executive Serge Azria and his wife Florence, who acquired it for $41 million in 2013.
The $177 million tag narrowly broke a California record set by Jeff Bezos, who paid $165 million in 2020 for the Jack Warner estate in Beverly Hills.
2. 27560 Pacific Coast Highway | $87M | Malibu
This year’s second priciest deal came in February and also went down in Paradise Cove. WhatsApp cofounder Jan Koum paid $87 million for a five-bedroom mansion that comes with its own funicular for easy access to the famous beach. The home was built in 1999, and the property also features a three-bedroom guesthouse, pool, basketball court and koi pond. It was previously owned by the country singer Kenny Rogers, who put in the funicular.
It’s a fabulous property, but it’s also only Koum’s second most expensive in the neighborhood: In 2019 the tech entrepreneur bought the property next door for $100 million. The seller in the February deal was Diana Jenkins, the founder of a beverage company.
3. 1601 San Onofre Drive | $83M | Pacific Palisades
Third place goes to a 20,000 square-foot, six bedroom masterpiece that was designed specifically to mesh with its natural surroundings. It was bought through two entities.
In July, when the mega deal closed, news outlets first reported the buyer was a mysterious crypto billionaire; months later, it turned out it was actually a 26-year-old billionaire named Austin Russell, the CEO and founder of a self-driving car company.
The spec property was developed by Ardie Tavangarian, a relatively low profile but highly regarded developer and architect who’s produced some of L.A.’s most expensive properties.
The detail-obsessed Tavangarian bought the property for $7.3 million in 2013, then spent years transforming it into a serene hideaway. The home also includes high-tech features such as a retina scanner.
4. 534 Barnaby Road | $69M | Los Angeles
This 26,000-square-foot, eight-bedroom mansion looks like fit for a European aristocrat. The home overlooks the Bel-Air Country Club’s golf course and features oversized French doors, crafted stone floors and attention-commanding indoor and outdoor staircases. The grounds also include a pond.
The property traded hands in August. It was bought through a trust, with both the buyer’s and seller’s identities undisclosed. The sale marked a striking rise in valuation: The home, built in 2002, had most recently sold in 2015 for $21 million.
5. 2188 Mandeville Canyon Road | $65M | Brentwood
The 19,000-square-foot house has six bedrooms and 12 baths, along with the typical megamillionaire amenities — theater, gym, sauna, indoor and outdoor pools. The property has four acres of landscaped grounds and offers canyon and ocean views. The mansion was built just this year and listed in July for $70 million before selling the next month at only a modest discount.
The home was bought through multiple trusts; the buyer’s and seller’s identities were not disclosed.
6. 1011 North Beverly Drive | $63M | Beverly Hills
Beverly Hills’ top 2021 sale was the enclave’s famous Hearst Estate. The Gordon Kaufman-designed mansion was built in 1926 for William Randolph Hearst and subsequently used as a John and Jackie Kennedy’s honeymoon spot.
Years later, it also achieved a different kind of cultural prominence as the setting for the horse head scene in “The Godfather.”
The 29,000-square-foot mansion had been on and off the market for years, at one point with an asking price of $195 million; in a September auction, bidding started at $48 million, and Nicolas Berggruen, a billionaire investor, quickly finished it off with a $63 million bid.
The French-born Berggruen is the founder Berggruen Holdings, an investment company, and a cofounder of the Berggruen Institute, a nonprofit think tank that’s building its headquarters in the Santa Monica Mountains. The seller was Leonard Ross, who bought the estate in 1976 and reportedly owed $80 million on the famous property.
7. 1060 Brooklawn Drive | $62M | Beverly Hills
Tech millionaires and billionaires made big property moves in 2021, and this nearly three-acre Holmby Hills property went to another one: the former Google CEO Eric Schmidt. Schmidt bought the Hilton family’s 15,000-square-foot estate in May from Rick Hilton, a cofounder of the brokerage Hilton & Hyland and the son of Barron Hilton, who was a son and successor to Conrad, the hotel empire’s founder. Barron Hilton had bought the house in the 1960s and lived there until his death in 2019.
The estate was built in the 1930s and designed by the pioneering architect Paul R. Williams. The 13-bedroom main mansion embodies the opulence of its time, with a wood-paneled formal dining room, 80-seat home theater and decorative moldings; the property also features a tennis court and a Williams-designed pool with thousands of hand-painted tiles.
8. 21958 Pacific Coast Highway | $52M | Malibu
The 5,400 square-foot beachfront property was owned for years by the billionaire developer-turned- philanthropist Eli Broad, who died in April. He left behind quite a house: The five-bedroom, seven-bath mansion is a contemporary stunner, with a massive deck, expansive windows and an all-white, rectangular facade that gives it the look of a modern art museum. It’s also just steps from the water.
The house was built in 2002 and sold in June, the first time it had changed hands. The buyer was undisclosed.
9. 67 Beverly Park Court | $51M | Beverly Hills
This mansion, called Villa Firenze, was completed in 1998 and includes 20 bedrooms — yes, you read that right — and 23 bathrooms. The palatial residence is nearly 29,000 square feet, and had been owned by Steven Udvar-Házy, a Hungarian-born billionaire businessman who bought the 10-acre property in 1993 and subsequently commissioned architect William Hablinski to design the sprawling, Italian-style mansion. But starting in 2017 Udvar-Házy began looking to sell, at one point listing the property for $160 million. It finally sold at auction in February, to an undisclosed buyer.
10. 609 East Channel Road | $49M | Santa Monica
Santa Monica’s top sale was a three and a half-acre Mediterranean-style estate that’s among the beach city’s largest residential properties. The property, known as Villa Ruchello, features a 1930s-built mansion, along with a guesthouse and gatehouse that combine for 14,000 square feet and 13 bedrooms; the lush property also includes citrus groves and a 74-foot pool and poolhouse with its own pizza oven.
The property has also achieved some pop culture stardom, with appearances on “Beverly Hills Cop” and “Entourage.” Once the residence of Fleetwood Mac members, it was bought by Shane Smith, the controversial cofounder of Vice Media, for $23 million in 2015. Smith and his ex-wife sold it in April to an undisclosed buyer.