Los Angeles Luxury Home Buyers Are Getting Down to Earth

Los Angeles Luxury Home Buyers Are Getting Down to Earth

  • Mansion Global
  • 03/6/21
Original article by Mansion Global
Written by Michelle Lerner
Even in La La Land, where people live bathed in sunshine and Hollywood glamour, 2020 was a horrific year. The upending of normal life due to the coronavirus pandemic led people everywhere, including in this already lifestyle-obsessed city, to re-evaluate their homes and think about where and how they want to live.
For many high-net-worth households in Los Angeles, the instinct was to double down on what they love about Southern California: a healthy lifestyle spent primarily outdoors. For many people, that meant moving for more land rather than a bigger house. Those buyers want property for privacy and to create a private oasis for their family and friends. Other buyers want additional space so they can expand their indoor-outdoor layout or just want a new location with easier access to hiking, biking or the beach.
“The outdoor lifestyle is why people pay to live in Los Angeles,” said Cindy Ambuehl, a real estate agent with Compass in Los Angeles. “More than anything, they want to be able to breathe and to enjoy the gorgeous weather.”
Ed Kaminsky, a real estate agent with Strand Hill in Manhattan Beach, said the need for privacy and space means that luxury buyers are looking for larger properties for their primary residences and second homes.
“Size matters and so does a layout that has room for everyone to get away from each other as well as to gather together,” Mr. Kaminsky said.
The pandemic-induced trend of wanting a house with several home offices, a gym, a screening room and a larger yard also created a shift in where people want to live in the city, said Michael Nourmand, president of Nourmand & Associates Realtors in Los Angeles.
“A few years ago, there was this idea that Los Angeles would become more dense, and there would be more vertical living downtown,” he said. “Now we’re embracing the fact that we’re not New York. We want horizontal living and to see the blue sky.”
In addition, Mr. Nourmand said, the priority luxury buyers placed on a home in the hills with a view has shifted.
“Land is more of a priority, especially flat land with a backyard like a park in a location where you can walk or ride your bike,” he said. “That’s a lot easier to find when you’re not in the hills.”
Ms. Ambuehl said that her buyers are looking for one of two types of locations, both related to the desire to be outside.
“People want a home with more land and will even accept a smaller house with it, as long as every room opens to the outside,” Ms. Ambuehl said. “Buyers want a retreat and a lifestyle where they feel like they’re away from everything.”
For example, one of her recent listings, a 2,700-square-foot home on nearly three acres in Mandeville Canyon in Los Angeles, sold for $1.8 million above the asking price of $3.7 million.
Other buyers, Ms. Ambuehl said, prioritize a location where they can walk to shops and restaurants and to easily ride bikes with their children.

Shifting Demand in Desirable Neighborhoods

Los Angeles is known for its sprawl and its freeways, yet it also has many walkable communities. For example, beach communities such as Santa Monica and Manhattan Beach have shops and restaurants within walking distance of homes. Pacific Palisades has become more sought after since Palisades Village, a community of shops and restaurants, opened in 2018, said Ms. Ambuehl.
“Land is scarce in these neighborhoods, so anyone who wants a bigger lot will pay a high price for it,” Ms. Ambueh said.
Some buyers are moving farther from the traditionally desirable neighborhoods such as Bel Air, Holmby Hills, and Beverly Hills to get more land, said James Harris, a real estate agent and principal of The Agency in Los Angeles.
“A 10,000-square-foot house on an acre in Beverly Hills would cost $25 million to $30 million, but that same house in the San Fernando Valley would cost $8 million to $10 million,” Mr. Harris said. “People are more willing to compromise and move farther from downtown Los Angeles because they don’t have to commute anymore.”
Palos Verdes has become more popular than ever because of its larger homes and lots, said Mr. Kaminsky. He said buyers sometimes avoided that community because of its long commute into Los Angeles, which is less of a concern now that they can work at home most of the time.
The lack of a commute is also driving luxury buyers to Malibu, Montecito, Santa Barbara, and Palm Springs said Mr. Nourmand. Many of those buyers are purchasing second homes in those locations along with a primary home in a gated community in Calabasas or Hidden Hills, in the Santa Monica Mountains near Los Angeles.
Evidence of robust demand in these more verdant regions can be seen in skyrocketing home prices there. In the Santa Barbara metro area, home to Montecito, the median listing price was $2.545 million in February, up 35% over last year, according to data from realtor.com. (Mansion Global is owned by Dow Jones. Both Dow Jones and realtor.com are owned by News Corp.) Mr. Kaminsky said Ojai, located in Ventura County between Los Angeles and Santa Barbara, is also getting more attention from luxury buyers because it offers plenty of acreage for those seeking privacy.“
People who want to live closer to the beach usually can’t find a larger lot, so they’ll maximize the outdoor space by putting a deck on every level and adding a roof terrace,” said Mr. Kaminsky.
One of Mr. Nourmand’s listings in West Hollywood, a $4.5 million newly-built single-family home, rests on a smaller lot of 6,501 square feet but amplifies the outdoor living space with retractable glass walls, a swimming pool and spa, and a rooftop deck.

Design Trends Adapting to New Lifestyle

Spare bedrooms are being converted to home offices, gyms, and schoolwork areas by many buyers. One family converted their indoor movie theater to a luxurious homeschooling area, Mr. Harris said.
“We’re spending so much more time at home now that everyone wants to feel as if they’re not cooped up inside,” Ms. Ambuehl said. “Everyone wants walls of glass that disappear to open the whole house, especially on the west side of the city, where you get ocean breezes.”
Detached ADUs (accessory dwelling units) are popular with luxury buyers to increase their access to private space, Mr. Kaminsky said.“
An ADU makes a great home office, yoga studio, or guest space,” he said.
The focus on how people live in their homes has led many of Mr. Nourmand’s clients to add a prep kitchen or a messy kitchen where the real cooking gets done so that the main kitchen stays pretty for socializing.

Safety Prioritized by Some Buyers

Celebrities often ask about privacy and security because they want a barrier between the outer world and their home, Mr. Kaminsky said. Some buyers ask for a gated community or a neighborhood that has 24-hour security guards driving around.
The social unrest in 2020, wildfires and the pandemic increased the level of attention to safety issues among luxury buyers, Mr. Harris said.
Perched high above Golden Cove in prestigious Oceanfront Estates, this completely remodeled six-bedroom home is asking for $6.95.

Peter McMenamin Photography

“More buyers are doing a security assessment during their due diligence about a property and hiring an inspection team who can evaluate the current security and how it can be upgraded,” he said. “Buyers are spending six figures to add double gates, barbed war, extra cameras and infrared lighting, all connected to their smartphones.”
Many buyers prefer to live in a gated community or a gated property because it adds to their sense of safety and privacy, Mr. Harris said.“
People feel scared and uncertain about their future and they want to feel safe at home,” Mr. Harris said. “Many of the buyers we work with own two or three homes or more, so it’s important that each of those places is secure while they’re away, too.”
Luxury buyers in Los Angeles are spending money to create an oasis of calm and breathing room for every family member.

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