Although the pandemic has crippled the economy and brought many Americans to the brink of financial disaster, the richest among us are doing just dandy. And few things illustrate such rugged resilience as the booming luxury real estate market, especially in SoCal, where half of 2020’s ten most expensive U.S. home sales went down, Mansion Global reports.
While an exodus of moneyed homeowners fleeing Manhattan left that market crashing to 47.6 percent below 2019 levels, according to a report by Douglas Elliman, top-tier single-family homes in Los Angeles rose by 33.5 percent this year. Of course, with folks like Jeff Bezos, David Geffen, and Jeffrey Katzenberg in the mix, the term “single-family home” approaches the surreal.
In the number one sale of 2020, world’s richest man Jeff Bezos set a new L.A. real estate record in April when he bought the Jack Warner estate in Benedict Canyon from Geffen for $165 million. Bezos scored the nine-acre property—which includes the late Warner Bros. boss’s 1930s-era mansion, a golf course, tennis courts, and multiple guest houses—in a direct, off-market deal involving no agents.
In his book, The Legendary Estates of Beverly Hills, prominent L.A. real-estate agent Jeff Hyland gushes, “No studio czar’s residence, before or since, has ever surpassed in size, grandeur, or sheer glamour the Jack Warner Estate on Angelo Drive in Benedict Canyon.”
The deal isn’t just good news for Bezos and Geffen; it’s inspired others to stop excess money burning holes in their pockets.
Coldwell Banker Global Luxury’s Jade Mills explains, “It helps our market to have those very high sales. People feel if the billionaires are buying then it’s a good time.”
In August, WhatsApp co-founder Jan Koum took second place on the national sales list, picking up Jeffrey Katzenberg’s 26,000-square-foot Beverly Hills palace on seven acres for $125 million. Katzenberg said at the time that he and wife Marilyn Katzenberg had been looking to downsize and that Koum’s offer was simply too good to resist for a place he’d paid $35 million for in 2009.
The fifth biggest buy of the year went to Taiwanese billionaire Terry Gou. In January, the founder of iPhone assembler Foxconn Technology Group paid $75.5 million through an LLC tied to his family for a pair of neighboring homes in L.A.’s exclusive Trousdale Estates neighborhood. The first property is a six-bedroom, 17,000 square-foot home that had a $42.5 million asking price, while the second place—built by Vancouver Canucks owner Francesco Aquilini—is 16,000 square feet, featuring an L-shaped infinity pool, golf simulator, and roof deck.
If Gou decides to combine the two spots, he will have one of the most massive private compounds in the Hollywood Hills.
Geffen returned to the real estate game in June, when he bought sports and entertainment exec Casey Wasserman’s Foothill Estate in Beverly Hills for $68 million, a buy that ranks 8th for the year. Wasserman—grandson of legendary agent Lew Wasserman—had been asking $125 million for the digs, which include a 18,548 square-foot mansion on three acres, an 85-foot infinity pool, a 25-car motor port, as well as property once owned by former neighbor Frank Sinatra.
Rounding out the list in tenth place is Rancho San Carlos in Santa Barbara County’s celebby Montecito, which sold for $63.25 million in October. Sadly, as was the case for the Wasserman Foothill Estate, the sellers—the family of rancher Charles H. Jackson Jr., who bought the place in the 1920s—got only a fraction of their $125 million ask from a limited company associated with construction magnate Riley Bechtel.
The 240-acre bargain has been called “essentially its own small town,” with a 30,000-square-foot, 12-bedroom Monterey Colonial-style house, ten cottages, equestrian facilities, and 100 acres of citrus and avocado orchards.
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