Sale of luxury houses in California hits a six-year high

After the big slump, there is a boom in the sales of luxury houses in California costing $1 million and above. The sale of such residences has jumped to a six-year high, with the biggest deal worth $74.5 billion for a Malibu estate, according to real estate information service DataQuick.

luxury houses"The luxury market did bounce back last year," a housing market analyst was quoted as saying. "A lot of people were stepping back into the waters."

Appreciation-fuelled gains in home equity allowed others who had been waiting and watching to move up to bigger and better digs, releasing pent-up demand from recent years.

Statewide, 39,145 homes changed hands for homes costing $1 million or more in 2013, up 45 per cent from the year before and the best showing since 2007, DataQuick said.

This slice of the market outpaced overall US house sales, which were essentially the same as in 2012, down only 0.6 per cent.

An all-time high of 7,383 homes sold in the state at the $2-million-and-above mark, up 33 per cent from the 5,536 that changed hands in 2012. Southern California broke a record with 4,514 sales at $2 million and above, and LA County also eclipsed previous highs with 2,628 sales.

In LA's ultra-luxury market, locals, foreigners, and celebrities came to the party, with billionaires playing musical houses in the $20-million-and-up price range.

Oaktree Capital Management Chairman Howard Marks had the priciest sale statewide, unloading his 9.5-acre estate in Malibu in an off-market deal for $74.5 million. The beachfront property includes a 15,000-square-foot main house, two guesthouses, a gym and a swimming pool.

Just down the street, "Karate Kid" producer Jerry Weintraub had the next highest 2013 sale for LA County, based on public record searches conducted by PropertyShark.com and Coldwell Banker. His bluff-top seven-acre compound, with two guesthouses, a swimming pool, a tennis court and a guardhouse, sold for $41 million.

"Our market has finally caught up with what is happening globally," a major house broker said. "A lot of foreign money is coming in, particularly to Beverly Hills and Bel-Air, which are still very cheap by comparison" to other major cities.

Serial house buyer and talk show host Ellen DeGeneres was among celebrities who did their part to push high-end home sales, buying a 13-acre estate centred on a Tuscan-style villa in Santa Barbara County's Toro Canyon that had been listed at $26.5 million. She then started this year off with another big purchase, snagging a modernist trophy home on the Westside for $39.9 million.

Pop star Madonna pitched in too, selling her 1.25-acre compound in Beverly Hills for $19.5 million.

Statewide, areas with the highest number of sales at $1 million-plus were led by Manhattan Beach, Hillsborough and La Jolla. Brentwood and Beverly Hills came in sixth and seventh, respectively.

In some communities, such as Santa Monica, Rancho Santa Fe, Atherton and Los Altos, almost all home sales were in the $1-million-and-up category, partly because of rising prices.

"A lot of homes have just popped up over the $1-million mark with appreciation," said DataQuick analyst Andrew LePage.