Malibu’s vacant lots beckon to spec developers 

Big-money listings suggest optimism in luxe market with no Measure ULA tax

20704 Eagle Pass Drive and 30010 Andromeda Lane in Malibu
20704 Eagle Pass Drive and 30010 Andromeda Lane in Malibu (Google Maps, Getty)

Interest rates may be up and the global economy down, but Malibu is still, well, Malibu. 

At least the sellers behind a couple new, multi-million dollar vacant land listings are hoping so.  

“I think people are still feeling really good about the market,” said Madison Hildebrand, an agent with Compass who has a choice listing in the beachside city. “I still think that people who live in L.A. or want to live in L.A. are going to always be attracted to the beach and the ocean and all the great restaurants and the lifestyle that Malibu offers — and there’s only so much development opportunity out there.” 

One such opportunity, for a lot in the hills of eastern Malibu about a half mile from the coast, hit the market in late March for just under $3 million. 

The property, located at 20704 Eagle Pass Drive, is 1.25 acres, with ocean and canyon views, and has been owned by the same family for decades. The site is entitled for a three-bedroom, 4,400-square-foot estate with a pool — the result of the family’s earlier development plan — but remains unbuilt. It is marketed to buyers who might want to follow through on those plans or to spec developers. 

The $3 million ask reflects the location, said Aaron Grushow, a broker with Aaron Kirman Group who has the listing. 

“There’s always going to be demand in a city like Los Angeles, and a city like Malibu, despite market conditions,” Grushow said of the current Malibu market. “And we feel pretty confident that this can attract the right person.” 

On the other side of town, some 15 miles west along the coast, Hildebrand has the listing for another 1.25-acre lot that recently went up for $6.4 million. 

The price is nearly $3 million more than the current owner, an entity called Zuma Block LLC, paid last July, according to property records, but in this case construction is already underway. The project was designed by architect Clive Dawson, who planned for a four-bedroom, 7,600-square-foot mansion built into the hillside, with a pool that offers an ocean view. 

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The grading and septic system is done, the broker said, and a steel frame is in.  

“This lot is currently mid-construction,” as the listing puts it, “offering the unique opportunity to grab the reins and finish the project with your own tastes and finishes without any lost time.” 

The $6.4 million tag reflects the entitlements and work already done on the premises. But it also reflects other factors driving up Malibu prices. 

It takes years to permit and build under the city’s strict codes. Malibu generally has few developable lots available, and both land and inventory became even scarcer after the devastating 2018 Woolsey Fire. The pandemic-era real estate boom supercharged the local market even more. 

And in recent months, Hildebrand said, Measure ULA, the City of L.A.’s new property transfer tax, has started benefiting the Malibu development market, because luxury spec homes in the City of Los Angeles have become significantly less financially attractive to build and sell, while the City of Malibu has no such tax.  

“Everyone saw it coming,” Hildebrand said. 

Plenty of already constructed Malibu homes, of course, are looking for sums that dwarf the $6.4 million ask. Within the past few weeks, Cher relisted her Italianate estate in the area for $75 million, the same price hockey legend Chris Chelios is looking for, and an 8,200-square-foot mansion with a Feng Shui design hit the market for $69 million. 

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