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Welcome back to the Real Estate newsletter. This is my fifth year covering L.A.’s luxury market, and I can’t recall a more torrid pace to start a new year.
Celebrities and billionaires across Southern California started closing deals that had been in the works for months or even years. It’s almost as if their collective new year’s resolution was to make my first week of 2022 as busy as possible.
TV powerhouse Shonda Rhimes set the tone by selling her 99-year-old mansion in Hancock Park for $21 million. It’s the most expensive sale the Wilshire neighborhood has ever seen, but that wasn’t even the biggest deal of the week.
That title belongs to Paul Allen, the late Microsoft Corp. co-founder. His prized piece of land, sprawling across 120 undeveloped acres atop a ridge in Beverly Crest, finally sold for $65 million — far shy of the original price tag of $150 million, but still a mammoth sum for what is essentially a stretch of grass and dirt.
The Weeknd decided to get in on the action as well. A few months after dropping a cool $70 million on a mega-mansion in Bel-Air, he listed his full-floor penthouse in Westwood for $22.5 million. If he gets his price, it’ll rank among the priciest condo sales ever in Southern California.
But enough about exorbitant price tags. This week, The Times took at a look at a West Hollywood tree house that’s not even on the market — because with a house this cool, who would want to sell it? The 1970s hideaway is the experimental home of late architect Bernard Judge, and the wooden structure, engulfed in eucalyptus trees and filled with African masks, occupies a hillside so steep, it was once thought to be unbuildable.
This week also brought good news for both buyers and renters. For buyers, there’s a new state mortgage relief program offering to pay $80,000 worth of mortgage, property tax and insurance bills for qualified applicants. The Times dived into the details of how to apply.
For those who don’t own, rent hikes won’t be allowed for most L.A. tenants until 2023, continuing an emergency ordered signed by Mayor Eric Garcetti in March 2020. Renters are rejoicing, but landlords are saying the freeze puts them in a tight spot.
While catching up on the latest, visit and like our Facebook page, where you can find real estate stories and updates throughout the week.
Price record in Hancock Park
Shonda Rhimes — the TV powerhouse behind “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Scandal” — just set a record in Hancock Park, selling her 99-year-old mansion for $21 million. It’s the priciest sale ever recorded in the tony Wilshire neighborhood.
Ironically, the record once belonged to Ted Sarandos, the Netflix CEO who brought Rhimes to the streaming service in 2017 with a massive development deal. He set the all-time high in 2015 when he paid $15.95 million for the lavish mansion of Antonio Banderas and Melanie Griffith.
Rhimes, who’s been buying and selling homes in Hancock Park for years, purchased the property from “Everybody Loves Raymond” actress Patricia Heaton for $8.8 million in 2014, records show. She first listed it for $25 million last summer before trimming the price to $23 million in October.
It’s easy to see why the home set a record. The compound spans over an acre and combines two parcels on a corner lot. At the center sits a three-story mansion built in 1923 by Elmer Grey, the prolific architect behind the Beverly Hills Hotel and Huntington Art Gallery.
Empty land sells for $65 million
On top of a ridge in Beverly Crest, a 120-acre estate owned by late Microsoft Corp. co-founder Paul Allen has sold for $65 million — a deep discount from its original price tag of $150 million.
The prized piece of land is one of the largest undeveloped properties in the area. Floating above the city, taming the rough canyon landscape with pristine stretches of grass, it’s easy to see how it earned the nickname Enchanted Hill.
The name stretches back to the 1920s, when the property was owned by screenwriter Frances Marion and silent film star Fred Thomson. Their neighbor, Hollywood actress Greta Garbo, is credited with coining the Enchanted Hill phrase that stuck for a century.
Marion and Thomson commissioned famed California architect Wallace Neff to build a home on the property, and Neff designed a Spanish Colonial Revival-style gem that stood for decades until Allen bought the property for $20 million in 1997 and razed it shortly afterward.
Pop star lists penthouse
Abel Tesfaye, the pop star better known as The Weeknd, is leaving vertical living. A few months after dropping $70 million on a Bel-Air mega-mansion, the singer-songwriter is shopping around his Westwood penthouse for $22.5 million.
He bought the place for $21 million in 2019, which at the time was one of the priciest condo sales ever recorded in Los Angeles County. The $22.5-million price tag would eclipse the property deal by Matthew Perry, who sold his penthouse in Century City for $21.6 million last year.
Socialite Candy Spelling holds the condo record after dropping $35 million on a 15,555-square-foot spot in the Century Tower in 2010.
The Weeknd’s place is about half that at 7,950 square feet. It claims an entire floor of Beverly West, a 22-story boutique high-rise that holds 35 luxury condos overlooking Los Angeles Country Club.
The views aren’t limited to the golf course, as the home takes in sweeping scenes of the city and ocean through floor-to-ceiling windows and a balcony. The unit came loaded with amenities when Tesfaye bought it, but he also added a TV wall composed of four 65-inch screens during his two-year stay.
A 1970s tree house molded by ecology
Is it possible to feel marooned in a wilderness hideaway in the middle of Los Angeles? It is if you are inhabiting the experimental home that architect Bernard Judge built for himself in the 1970s, writes Carolina A. Miranda.
Set high on the crest on an impossibly steep hillside overlooking West Hollywood, the “Tree House,” as it is known, not only feels like stepping into a real-deal tree house, it seems to approximate the form of a tree with its structure.
A 1977 design story in the Los Angeles Times magazine described it as “a lark of house.”
Miranda became intrigued by the Tree House after writing the obituary for Judge, who died on Nov. 15 at the age of 90. As a designer, he came of age in the wake of L.A.’s midcentury Case Study program, devoted to exploring low-cost housing solutions. Judge was interested in those ideas, but also in issues of ecological sustainability.
Program offers to pay $80,000 of mortgage
Federal COVID-19 relief dollars have already helped more than 140,000 California renters pay the debt they accrued to their landlords during the pandemic, writes Jon Healey.
Now, the state is offering similar relief to qualified homeowners who’ve fallen behind on their mortgages. The new California Mortgage Relief program will pay up to $80,000 worth of mortgage, property tax and insurance bills for qualified applicants.
To qualify, a household must earn no more than the median income in its area (for example, $118,200 for a family of four in Los Angeles County), and the home at risk of foreclosure must be the household’s primary residence. Here are the details on who’s eligible, how to apply, when the aid will start flowing and how long the help will be available.
Most rents won’t raise
As the U.S. nears the beginning of the third year combating COVID-19, tenants in L.A. are receiving a benefit few others have: Landlords are prohibited from raising the cost of more than 650,000 rent-stabilized units citywide, which represents nearly three-quarters of L.A.’s apartment stock, writes Liam Dillon.
Under the rules, landlords are not allowed to increase rents for an entire year after the expiration of the emergency order signed by Mayor Eric Garcetti in March 2020, when the policy went into effect.
As of now, no rent hikes will be allowed for most L.A. tenants until 2023. And possibly beyond.
What is celebrated by tenants and their advocates is lamented by landlords, who say the freeze puts them in an untenable situation.
What we’re reading
Southern California home prices skyrocketed last year, and the Bay Area followed suit. SFGate.com took a look at San Francisco’s record-breaking year that saw the typical home sell for $1.5 million and more than half of homes fetch more than their listing price.
Real estate investing is still an option — even if you don’t own a house. CNN ran through a few ways to get into the game, including real estate investment trusts and crowdfunding companies, where thousands of investors can pool money to buy a property.