The houses on the hill

And the people who sell them

See the homes

You’re worth more than $250 million? Have I got a place for you!

This week, Forbes published its annual top 10 of the most-expensive homes now on the market nationwide; three of them belong to Southern California. And if you make more than $10 million a year, you can be sure that your name is on a realtor’s hit list.

Realtor Richard B. Rocker, whose listings include a $35 million estate on the Kohala Coast on Hawaii’s Big Island, calls it “rifle-shot” marketing. He combs the Fortune 500 and Forbes 400 lists, eliminating unlikely candidates. (The architects of Google? Yes. Helen Walton, 86-year-old widow of Wal-Mart’s founder? No.) And he’s not above making cold calls.

“It’s the one thing I hate in the whole world and it’s the group of people who do not want to be cold called,” he says. “But would I like to get Bill Gates on this property? You bet your booty I would.”

In a time when the NSA may or may not be tapping your line, this approach might risk seeming intrusive. However, when it comes to selling the most expensive homes, realtors have little choice.

Although this arena is untouched by mortgage rates (most of these buyers pay cash), the client base is tiny; qualified buyers number perhaps 5,000 worldwide. And when it comes to sales techniques, the scent of freshly baked cookies will not help the cause.

“People who pay $40 million or more for a home do not go to open houses,” says Josh Flagg, a realtor with John Bruce Nelson & Associates in Beverly Hills.

Los Angeles’ most recent addition to the mega-house portfolio, Johnny Carson’s former home in Point Dume, falls well short of Forbes’ top 10 at $42 million. However, its price tag qualifies for another shortlist. Joe Babajian, chairman of the estates division of Prudential California Realty in Beverly Hills, calls $40 million the dividing line between trophy homes and properties that are merely luxurious. Six years ago, he says, “it was $20 million.”

Babajian says finding someone to pay those prices isn’t hard, “in most cases, less than six months.” However, that isn’t always the case.

For the $75 million Corona del Mar property that went on the market two weeks ago, “We already have someone flying in from Dubai to see it,” says John

McMonigle of John McMonigle Group/Coldwell Banker Previews Intl. “Or, it could take 18 months.”

What if all the sheiks pass? McMonigle says the owners will keep it if they don’t get their price. “They have the wherewithal. It’s rare air up there.”

As for who’s doing the buying, the most coveted are active buyers already engaged in the market.

Second best are “interested” buyers happy in their current homes, but who also have money to spend and are always searching for the bigger, better deal. (Case in point: David Geffen, who bought the Jack Warner estate in Beverly Hills two years ago for $47 million.)

However, it’s also possible to confuse this breed with recreational buyers, the fool’s gold of real estate. No matter how much money they have, or how much they say their racehorses would love the stables, they have no intent of buying.

Since there’s no litmus test for sincerity, brokers pass judgment by the numbers. Rocker expects to see $250 million in net worth before he’ll show the Hawaiian estate; published reports have put the figure for the Corona del Mar property at $500 million.

And some brokers don’t advertise the property at all. “Part of selling a home in this price range is the exclusivity of the listing,” says Flagg. “If there is a real buyer for a home like this, he will come.”

Views from the top
Inhouse casino or 16-car garage? The choice is yours.
By Deborah Vankin

According to the most recent issue of Forbes Magazine, these SoCal properties rank among the nation’s top 10 most expensive homes on the market.

The homes

ALMOST TOP DOG: The Corona del Mar estate ranks at #2 on Forbes' list. MID-WAY, BUT NOT MODERATE: This 5,000-sq.-ft. beach house came in at #5.
TOP-DOG UNDERDOG: Private casino and 112 acres ranks at #8.
Portobello estates, Cameo Shores, Corona del Mar Malibu estate, Paradise Cove, Malibu Robert Taylor ranch, Brentwood
STANDOUT FEATURES Opulent home theater, gym, three pools and subterranean parking for 16 cars.
OVER THE TOP Designed by Newport Beach architect Brion Jeannette, the home resembles a nautilus shell with a central, man-made grotto.
BACKSTORY Software mogul and car collector Frank Pritt, founder of privately held tech company Attachmate Corp., spent four years building Portobello.
BOTTOM LINE $75 million
Contact John McMonigle
McMonigle Group/Coldwell Banker Previews Intl.
(949) 640-3604 or
THE STATS A two-story, 15,000-square-foot traditional beach house on seven flat acres. Seven bedrooms; every room in the house has 180-degree ocean views. Property includes about 500 square feet of ocean frontage.
STANDOUT FEATURES Two horse stables and a large riding ring, tennis court, two guest houses, security house, media room with home theater, fully equipped gym and an enormous outdoor swimming pool.
OVER THE TOP Estate boasts the largest amount of residential flat acreage along the Southern California coastline.
BACKSTORY Has had one owner, a “world-famous movie producer” who’s been in the business for more than 40 years and who built the house in 1981. Property went on the market in June 2005.
BOTTOM LINE $65 million
Contact Jan Horn
Coldwell Banker-Beverly Hills
(310) 777-6200;
Chris Cortazzo
Coldwell Banker-Malibu
(310) 589-2472
THE STATS Classic California ranch house on 112 very private acres in rustic Mandeville Canyon, at the base of the Santa Monica mountains. Architect Robert Byrd designed the 11,000-square-foot, six-bedroom home that also has five guest houses, a suite of offices with a conference room and a three-bedroom staff apartment.
STANDOUT FEATURES Champion tennis courts, a state-of-the-art screening room with 35 mm capability, small horse stables, swimming pool with outdoor entertaining area that includes two outdoor kitchens. Master suite has a fireplace, indoor spa and full gym.
OVER THE TOP A full, inhouse casino complete with roulette, craps tables and slot machines.
BACKSTORY The former home of actor Robert Taylor (“Magnificent Obsession”), it’s currently owned by radio mogul Ken Roberts. Property has been on and off the market for a few years; during that time, the price has steadily ratcheted upward.
BOTTOM LINE $60 million
Contact Joyce Rey
Coldwell Banker-Beverly Hills South
(310) 285-7529;
Linda May
Coldwell Banker-Beverly Hills North
(310) 777-6247

More Scene

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content