Los Angeles Real Estate Heats Up With Mogul Money

Execs and celebs buying homes are remaking Southern California neighborhoods

Sothebys International Realty

Numbers don’t lie. Like box office grosses, home sales reflect economic reality. Per real estate news firm Data Quick, year-over-year residential real estate sales prices are up 18.4% across the Los Angeles area in early 2014 and the inventory of homes and condos for sale remains low. At the upscale end of the market, often in those Los Angeles neighborhoods favored by showbizzers, demand is the strongest, resulting in multiple offers over asking price for contempo properties and select empty lots.

“The market is better than it’s ever been,” says owner of Pardee Properties, Tami Pardee, a real estate agent who specializes on L.A.’s Westside. Home prices in Venice and the surrounding areas have been “incredibly impacted,” per Pardee, by Silicon Beach — the corridor from Venice to Playa Vista, where tech and digital media firms are headquartered.

The upward trend in the area’s home prices is referred to as the “Google effect” because employees of the firm (and related venture capitalists and tech start-ups like Snapchat) prefer to live within walking or biking distance of their workplaces. The area is its own real estate hot spot: Pardee recently sold three contiguous empty lots totaling 7,000 square feet (and off the market for 70 years) for $4.5 million. In December, Snapchat CEO Bobby Murphy bought a two-bedroom, ultra-contempo architectural beach pad in a small-lot subdivision for $2.1 million — double the median price of surrounding homes.

“We’re finding the real estate market is as hot as it was in 2006,” says Stacy Gottula of Coldwell Banker Previews Intl. “We’re back at that price point.”

Trousdale Estates, the so-called bird streets above Sunset Strip, the Pacific Palisades and the upper reaches of Bel-Air continue to attract those in the biz. “The view properties are a big deal” for industryites, Gottula says, “and gated private homes are always in demand.” She adds that it’s not uncommon to see properties with acreage and privacy selling in the $2,000 per square foot range, which is actually a value when compared to other cities such as London or Hong Kong, where prices often rise above $4,500 per square foot. Naturally, this makes Los Angeles popular among international buyers.

Gottula notes that talent, unlike in years past, tend to buy, sell and move more frequently. “They like change, keep up with trends, which today is a contemporary house that has light, glass and views,” says the agent.

Execs are also active. Financier Megan Ellison, producer of Oscar-nommed “American Hustle” and “Her,” sold three lots in the bird streets at a significant profit and has since purchased a $30 million mega-manse on top of Mt. Olympus that’s a probable teardown, per Ellison, who has not yet chosen an architect to remake the gated compound.

Although the Hollywood Hills and the Westside have appeal for creative types, the dense, walkable and traditional neighborhoods of Highland Park, Eagle Rock and Echo Park are also in demand. Multiple offers and over asking prices for select properties (an Eagle Rock mid-century fixer recently sold for $200,000 over asking) and all-cash deals are a matter of course in this burgeoning northeast section of town.

Revised land use plans along Lincoln Boulevard and developments along the under-construction Expo rail line promise increased density along the route and in Santa Monica. Close to the beach and adjacent to the city’s new Tongva Park, Ocean Avenue South is the first new luxury condominium and apartment development to come to market in decades. “We’re delivering 158 ultra-luxury condos in the civic core,” says Gino Canori, senior VP, Related California, developers of the project, which has been on the boards since 2006.

As the Ocean Avenue South units are released, the first 12 sold out. Pricing is top of market (from just under $1 million for lofts to mid-$7 million). The ocean views, all-new constructions and fully designed condos are in a desirable area where there’s job growth. This combination of factors ensures that “the demand is there,” says Canori.