Los Angeles has long been known for its glamorous celebrity culture and sprawling Hollywood mansions. But the Southern California city is not only home to local luminaries; its sunny lifestyle, Mediterranean climate and first class amenities also make the city an investment target for the global elite. Now, in addition to luxurious villas that spread out over the hills of Belair, Brentwood and down to the Malibu Coast, a renaissance in Downtown LA is bringing luxury living to a previously unpopulated city center.
Home prices in L.A. have appreciated 27 percent since the city’s market started its post-recession recovery in 2012. And this year, the numbers continue to break records, from the average sale prices for condos and single-family houses to the number of sales closed, which rose to the highest second-quarter total in a decade. In Q2 prices were up 4.8 percent, the number of sales was up 6.5 percent, and houses were sitting on the market an average of just five days. According to a recent report from Douglas Elliman, the condo market saw a record median sales price at US$675,000 in the second quarter, while single-family homes came in at US$1,371,000. “Prices have gone up a lot over the past five years,” says Mauricio Umansky, a broker who specializes in the sale of premier properties in LA’s most coveted neighbourhoods. So far this year, he has sold more than 26 properties priced over U$20 million.
- After five consecutive quarters of yearon-year declines, the number of sales increased for the second consecutive quarter to the second highest Q2 in a decade. There were 2,865 sales, up 6.5 percent from the prior year quarter.
- Median sales prices set new records in Q2. Overall median sales increased yearover-year for the 12th consecutive quarter to US$938,000, a new record for the 11 years the metrics have been tracked.
- In the luxury market, single-family homes set a new record median sales price of US$5,912,500. In Downtown LA, the Q2 median sales price for condos was up 7.3 percent from the previous quarter, to US$601,000
Along with rising prices Umansky has noted a pickup in the quality of construction and amenities. A home theater is now standard for L.A. mansions he says, though today’s come with cutting-edge DHX sound systems. Homebuyers are also finding new uses for basements — many are being offered with game rooms for poker and billiards as a kind of ‘gentleman’s lounge’. Garages are also being fitted in new ways. “Sometimes there are windows opening to the lower garage level so you can admire your collection from the middle of the house,” he says.
Many luxury residences also feature spa-like amenities, gyms complete with a stream shower, hammam and sauna, as well as expansive walk-closets that Umansky likens to Chanel boutiques. “With the 25,000sf plus homes you have so much space sometimes you run out of ideas.” One of Umansky’s current listings is a 13,565sf house in Belair listed for US$27.5 million. The house has seven bedrooms, ten baths and views extending from L.A. cityscape to the Pacific Ocean. There is a grand foyer with skylights, an open plan living room with two floating glass staircases and a series of glass pocket doors leading to a patio and yard with an infinity pool, outdoor kitchen and outdoor television.
“Belair is super trendy right now,” Umansky says. “You have a lot of land, great views and some very large homes.” Large by Belair standards sometimes means upward of 40,000sf and as large as 100,000sf. Other luxury strongholds include Malibu, Brentwood, Beverly Hills and Homby Hills, while Venice and Hancock Park are considered up-and-coming.
Meanwhile, in Downtown LA, a number of high-end condominiums are bringing integrated, urban living to an area that was primarily offices. Census Bureau data puts Downtown LA’s 2000 population at 27,849. In 2013 the total was almost double at 52,400, and this number is expected to rise to more than 75,000 when all the developments currently under construction are completed. One of the largest developments currently underway is Metropolis Los Angeles, a US$1 billion dollar project from Greenland US Holding Inc., a subsidiary of China’s Greenland Group. The mixed-use project is designed by Gensler Architects and will include three residential towers and a hotel set above a collection of high-end retailers.
“With the evolution of Downtown LA, new establishments opening every month, and a continual changing landscape, we’re seeing tremendous interest,” says Michael Altneu, Vice President of Marketing. The project’s first tower is over 50 percent sold and includes studios, one- and two bedroom residences ranging from 526sf to 1,720sf. Remaining units are priced from US$600,000s to over US$2 million. Metropolis LA also incorporates amenities via a 41,000sf club floor with a resort-style pool framed by cabanas, a landscaped green space, a dog park, fitness centre, conference centre and private screening room.
Ten50, another condominium building coming to downtown aims to offer luxury living on a smaller scale. Built by Trumark Urban, the 25-story tower will be located in South Park and include residences ranging from 700sf one-bedroom units to 3,000sf three-bedroom penthouses. “As Downtown has grown as a self-contained city of sorts, the need for housing across the spectrum has grown,” says Arden Hearing, Managing Director at Trumark Urban. “Our building is targeting a clientele that values a boutique living experience, versus a mega project or larger vertical master plan.”
The project also offers a range of hospitality-style amenities including a pool area with cabanas and outdoor fireplaces, a screening room, gym, yoga garden, even a drone landing pad for Amazon deliveries. Pricing has not been finalized as sales will commence in early 2016 but Mr. Hearing expects strong demand. “We are at the very early stage of what is effectively a new market for housing. There is no other city with 500,000 jobs within a mile and almost no new housing. It will take many years to catch up with this demand.
Los Angeles Fun Facts
- At US$765.7 billion, the Los Angeles metro area’s economy is ahead of Saudi Arabia, Sweden and Switzerland
- There are more automobiles than people in LA. Vehicles take up about 24 percent of the city’s ground area
- Los Angeles has at least 90 stage theatres and over 300 museums, more than any other American city
This story was first published in Palace Magazine