$15.4M beach home is second-priciest in Santa Cruz County

Private equity CEO’s “tasteful” renovation and a triple-wide lot attracted buyers

735 Las Olas Drive in Aptos with Listing agents Megan Lyng and Marcus Vidrine and buyer’s agent Pete Eubank of Room Real Estate (David Lyng, Google Maps)
735 Las Olas Drive in Aptos with Listing agents Megan Lyng and Marcus Vidrine and buyer’s agent Pete Eubank of Room Real Estate (David Lyng, Google Maps)

Red Iron CEO Benjamin Bisconti and his wife Dana made some waves when they sold their beachfront vacation home in Aptos at the end of last year for $15.4 million, as only one home has ever sold for more in Santa Cruz County.

The Atherton-based head of the private equity fund bought 735 Las Olas Drive in 2016 for $8.1 million, according to public record, and completed a full remodel of the home in 2019. That “very tasteful” renovation was a key reason for the attention the home received in the few short weeks it was on the market last fall, according to Marcus Vidrine, who co-listed it with Megan Lyng, both of David Lyng Real Estate.

“This property was originally built in the 1930s, and someone could have easily gone all out modern with the remodel,” he said via email, adding that an ultramodern look would have “overshadowed the vintage coastal feel” of the five-bedroom, six-bath home.

In addition to the renovation, the other big draw to the property was its triple-wide lot with 150 feet of beach frontage, plus a large lawn. The owners could have chosen to split the lot and build another home, but Vidrine said they made the wise choice to leave it as.

“A lot of this size, on the sand, will likely never be duplicated again in our area,” he said, and was the main reason why he and Lyng believed the home would get its ultra-high asking price, even though “we did get feedback from a few competitors saying there’s no way it would sell near our list price.”

In fact, it sold for $400,000 over the asking price and about $4,000 per square foot. Only one home has ever sold for more in Santa Cruz County, a $15.725-million 2020 deal for a beachfront home right next to the Santa Cruz Harbor.

In the end, there were two offers for 735 Las Olas Drive within a week of it hitting the market in mid-October. The size and beachfront location of the lot were the key selling points for the buyers, according to their agent, Pete Eubank of Room Real Estate, a Side brokerage. He called the negotiations “tight” but said after looking for a year, his clients weren’t about to let the home go to another buyer.

He described them as grandparents “exiting out of some business ventures” and “looking to fulfill this dream that they’ve had to buy a beach house.”

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Public records show that the buyers were Bonnie and Louis Pellegrini, who was the co-owner of three trash hauling companies that were sold last summer, according to waste industry site WasteDive. The couple have a primary home in Los Altos and also bought a ranch in San Benito last year, according to public records.

Eubank said that some of the entertaining that they had done at the ranch property may move to the beach house and that the early December close meant that they were able to get one party in before a stream of “bomb cyclone” storms hit the region. The more-robust-than-usual stone storm barrier between the house and the beach, known as rip rap, was another selling point, he said.

When he first started working with the couple, who he got off a lead from Zillow Flex, their budget was closer to $2.5 million. It went as high as $7 million as they looked up and down the coast, from Pacifica to Morro Bay, for their long list of non-negotiables. A $15 million price point was never discussed until the Aptos listing came up and Eubank thought it was worth bringing it to them since it had everything they were looking for, except a pool. Immediately, he said, “they made the jump.”

“You really have to dance around the price point,” he said. “A lot of times buyers have plenty of money to make it happen, but it’s just, ‘Do you want to spend it?’”

Eubank said the market for an “everyman’s beach house” in the area was definitely hit in the latter half of last year, but that homes like 735 Los Olas Drive are “immune to the market.”

“You’re not just buying a home,” he said. “This is an asset class.”

Listing agent Vidrine said demand for coastline beach homes was “dramatically magnified” during the pandemic by buyers from both Silicon Valley and the Central Valley looking for a retreat they could get to without flying. The nascent spring market has been dampened by the recent storms and the ensuing damage to the area, he said, and he is not expecting the “sale frenzy” seen in the last few years.

“Most properties are taking longer than just a few weeks to sell, which we would consider a more normal, balanced market,” he added.