Art you can live in: the value of architecture

Name-value architects attract premium buyers

They don’t have logos, but homes with name-value architects attract a similar kind of buyer: one willing to pay a premium.

“A named architect raises a property from a home to a collectible piece of art,” says Billy Rose at Mossler & Doe. “And you’re always going to be able to resell it for more.”

Like luggage emblazoned with someone else’s initials, homes cost more when they come with names like Wallace Neff, Paul Williams and Roland Coate. Jan Horn, executive director of Coldwell Banker’s architectural division, says markups can range from 10% for an as-yet unsung architect to 50% for Frank Lloyd Wright, Richard Neutra and John Lautner.

Last year, Horn was a listing agent on Lautner’s 1963 Wolff House. He described the undisclosed sale price as a “huge premium”; sources put the figure north of $3 million. The buyer quietly sold the house again last spring for about $4 million.

Brian Linder, an architect who is now a realtor at Beverly Hills’ Keller-Williams Realty, says even a designer-builder’s property can command a premium if it possesses a sense of scale and a high level of craft. His litmus test? “You enter a house and get goose bumps.”

Linder says this year’s sale of architect Ron Radziner’s own home in an undistinguished area of Venice demonstrates what the market will bear.

Mossler & Doe listed the property at $1.975 million; after receiving multiple offers, it sold for $2.3 million. The bank’s appraisal? $1.3 million.

“The bank only cares about how it compares to the home down the street that just sold,” says James Ebert of Oak Park’s Ebert Appraisal Services, which specializes in architectural properties.

To make his case, Ebert steers clear of comparing square footage or the number of bedrooms. Instead, he looks for sales that share what he calls “a similar quality of thought.” He also searches for comparable properties over a larger geographic area or over a longer period.

Still, sometimes it’s not enough, and buyers must be prepared to pay for their love object.

“You’re buying a piece of art that you’ll live in,” Ebert says. “If you’re going to buy a Van Gogh, you don’t go to the bank and get a loan for it. You have to pay cash.”

2787 La Castana Drive, Hollywood Hills 5506 Hamner Drive, Los Angeles
2175 Groveland Avenue, Laurel Canyon
2787 La Castana Drive, Hollywood Hills 5506 Hamner Drive, Los Angeles 2175 Groveland Avenue, Laurel Canyon
4 BR/3½ BA postmodern colonial from graphic designer Paul Prejza, who created the “look and feel” of Santa Monica’s Big Blue Bus. Home is organized around a series of garden courtyards accessed by multiple French doors. Cook’s kitchen features Gaggenau double ovens and Sub-Zero refrigerator. 4 BR/4 BA mid-century modern designed in 1960 by Edward Fickett. Open plan features a great room with fireplace, gourmet kitchen, beamed ceilings, walnut flooring, skylights, a pool, terrace and gazebo. 3 BR/2½ BA contemporary designed in 1999 by Savage + Swischuk. Low-profile streetfront penthouse entry gives way to a central living space with expansive canyon views. Contiguous exterior decks, hillside paths and sitting areas; drought-tolerant landscape. Wonderland School District.
Listing price: $1.895 million Listing price: $2.775 million Listing price: $1.69 million
Contact: Brian Linder, Keller-Williams Realty, Beverly Hills
(310) 277-8862
Contact: Jan Horn, Coldwell Banker Previews
(310) 777-6220
Contact: Erik Lerner, Mossler & Doe Associates
(310) 657-6362

More Scene

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content