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Market at the Top

In the year of pandemic, the average price for Valley homes increased, but prices for high-end homes rose even more, according to brokers at the top of the market.Purchase prices for properties in coveted neighborhoods such as Hidden Hills, Calabasas and Encino have exploded, despite the fact that the real estate market looked bleak at the start of the coronavirus crisis in March of last year.

“I thought my career was over,” said Milla Pariser of Rodeo Realty. “We weren’t allowed to show homes and then I had the biggest thing of all time.”Along with Marc Shevin of Berkshire Hathaway, Pariser sold 5546 Jed Smith Road, a Hidden Hills estate, for $18 million in March.She believes that the pandemic period has contributed to inflating luxury home prices by rerouting buyers’ priorities.“I don’t think it’s interest rates,” Pariser said. “It’s that ‘I work from home. I don’t have to work at my office. We need more room for our kids. We need more room for our dogs.’ Most of my clients are coming from the city and they want to spend more peace and time at home.”The accompanying supplement lists homes sold from July 1, 2020 to the same date this year in the Valley region.Shevin is a prolific broker who transacted many of the year’s top homes, including 5350 Lasher Road with Sara Shevin and 5781 Penland Road with John Galich, both in Hidden Hills; and 23597 Park South Street in Calabasas with Julianne Moffet.Hidden Hills has emerged this year as the address with the highest-priced homes.“The number one spot is Hidden Hills, period. It’s on fire,” said Matthew Altman, a Douglas Ellison agent who specializes in the Valley.

Altman sold 24350 Bridal Trail for $17.5 million in June. His brother Joshua Altman and Joanna Pallante sold 23726 Long Valley Road in June for nearly $7 million. Both properties are in Hidden Hills.

Pariser, Shevin and Matthew Altman said Hidden Hills offers privacy, a top amenity for high-profile people.“Hidden Hills is its own city,” Pariser said. And for celebrities, it’s a no-fly zone, which means its safe from paparazzi.“Athletes and mega-celebrities want to be out of the limelight,” Altman said. “The number one thing they want is their privacy.”Two of Pariser’s clients, fragrance creators for celebrities, were experiencing frequent break-ins from trespassers at their Beverly Hills homes.

“When they moved to Hidden Hills, they didn’t need security,” she said. “They felt super safe.”Celebrity sanctuariesHidden Hills has become something of an entertainment industry enclave.“A lot of celebrities, they have friends who live there so it became popular among them,” Pariser said.

Kylie Jenner built an enormous house in Hidden Hills while it was reported in April that Madonna purchased a home owned by rap star The Weeknd for nearly $20 million.Because of signed NDAs, Pariser cannot discuss details about the buyers of the 5546 Jed Smith. However, she can discuss the dynamics of this $18 million home sale.“This Hidden Hills getaway didn’t stay on the market for long,” she said. “They saw two places and they decided on this one.”What makes this specific address so desirable is that it’s super private, established on a huge double lot, Pariser explained.

“The guest house has its own address,” she said. “You basically are getting two lots for one. … Elegant and beautiful yet very homey feel.”The 2.5-acre property also has a lush landscape of private trees.“It also has a vineyard; they make their own wine,” Pariser said.Another Hidden Hills residence which closed to high numbers this year included 24400 Little Valley Road, which broker Jordan Cohen closed for $17 million in May.

Shevin said Hidden Hills has 660 homes located on 2.2 square miles of streets guarded by three levels of security – gates, private security, and L.A. County Sheriff patrol – “that is not on Google Maps, no paps.”Jennifer Lopez had moved here when her kids were young Shevin said, as have myriad professional athletes. Kim Kardashian bought a house there from Lisa Presley.

“There’s a lot of celebrities who live there,” Shevin said, drawn to the 24 miles of equestrian trails, three riding arenas, a community center with 99-seat theater, pools, tennis courts and a barbecue.Aesthetically, there are wide streets lined by big trees and no street lights.“It’s quiet and countrified and open,” Shevin continued. “A very nice, accommodating city. It’s like old-town America. There’s a really nice lifestyle, there’s no pressure. They can lead a normal life.”On the east end of the Valley, Studio City is another submarket that saw some sales heat this year. Lisa Gaber of Los Angeles Property Investments sold two Studio City residences back in March: 11568 Chiquita Street, a two-level, 7,900-square-foot home, for $6.6 million; and 11576 Dilling Street, an 8,000-square-foot house with basement movie theater and subterranean parking, which sold for $6.7 million in March. In Studio City, only three streets have huge lots in excess of 15,000-square-feet: Kelsey, Dilling and Chiquita.“These houses are ‘COVID-worthy,’” Gaber said. “Nobody thought people would buy at these prices, even prior than COVID.”However, that has changed.“We just set a whole new standard in that pocket,” Gaber said. “People realized the convenience of these beautiful, beautiful properties. … “I’m getting multiple offers on them.”Quality of lifeFrom the high-end enclaves of Hidden Hills and Calabasas to pockets in the East Valley, Altman, a father of three young kids, called the Valley “the best place to live in Los Angeles.” Altman has been smitten with the Valley ever since he relocated from Hancock Park over the hill into a house once owned by attorney Robert Shapiro, which he landed for $7 million and then upgraded with another $3.5 million investment.While celebrities are looking for amenities-laden large spaces where they can find privacy and seclusion away from the public eye and paparazzi, others can find interesting neighborhoods a short distance from the doorstep.“Sherman Oaks is cool and hip and has all those restaurants,” Pariser said, “and is a little bit more like the Westside. Encino is more relaxed and quiet.”“Studio City is not as big as Sherman Oaks, but an incredibly trendy area that has some of the best restaurants in Los Angeles,” Altman added.If one lives in the Studio City and Toluca Lake, “it’s close to the entertainment industry and has access to everything. Same with Encino,” Altman said.While Encino and Sherman Oaks are not as high-end submarkets as Hidden Hills or Calabasas, there are parts which have scored big sales. Sherman Oaks saw 3960 Alomar Drive sell for $6.9 million and 14324 Roblar Place sell for $6 million.Altman sold 3950 Royal Oak in Encino in April for $13.8.

As Altman put it, Royal Oak is the number one street in Encino for luxury homes while Longridge Estates is the premier residential enclave in Sherman Oaks.This year, Encino saw a string of transactions fetch lofty sales: 3951 Royal Oak Place sold for $10.5 million; 4670 Balboa Ave. went for $7.1 million; and 16766 Bosque Drive was purchased for $6.8 million.

Extended updraftEven in the midst of a surge in the Delta virus – or perhaps because of it — brokers don’t see luxury home prices plateauing soon.Earlier this month, Justyn Howard, founder of the social media management firm Sprout Social, paid $30 million for a 22,000-square-foot Calabasas residence in the exclusive The Estates at the Oaks gated community. The purchase set a record for a San Fernando Valley home, topping the $20 million that Nick Jonas and Priyanka Chopra spent on a home in Encino in late 2019, and nearly doubling a Calabasas record set when Khloe Kardashian sold her home to Dhar Mann for $15.5 million.“COVID has been the most interesting year,” Altman said. “When it first happened, we were scared. Everything was shut down. Ironically, every year, we deep-grow but this year we’re going to close over $1 billion (in sales).”That is almost double from the $600 million the Altman brothers closed last year.Altman said low interest rates are making homeownership attractive. He also noted the comparative market with expensive international cities such as Paris or Hong Kong, where the same $10 million will only buy a condo rather than an entire mansion in the Valley.“People realize that in COVID, the most important thing in the world is your family – it’s where you’re going to be trapped,” Altman said. “For $10 million, you can have a closet in Shanghai or an estate in Encino that’s absolutely gorgeous.”

Michael Aushenker
Michael Aushenker
A graduate of Cornell University, Michael covers commercial real estate for the San Fernando Valley Business Journal. Prior to the Business Journal, Michael covered the community and entertainment beats as a staff writer for various newspapers, including the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, The Palisadian-Post, The Argonaut and Acorn Newspapers. He has also freelanced for the Santa Barbara Independent, VC Reporter, Malibu Times and Los Feliz Ledger.
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