Real Estate

Why are a few of Southern California’s most interesting properties empty?

During the last century, Southern California has seen its wealthy, jagged panorama jam-packed with homes wherever they’ll match.

Houses cling from the edges of canyons with cantilevered swimming pools suspended midair. Bungalows squeeze onto seashores inside inches of their neighbors. ADUs pop up in entrance yards and backyards, constructed on-site or dropped in by cranes.

So why are among the area’s most prime properties — oceanfront heaps on Malibu’s greatest seashores, mountaintop acres overlooking the town — left fully empty?

Spoiler alert: It’s not as a result of their house owners have an interest within the sanctity of vacant land and preserving California’s hills and seashores by leaving them untouched.

Per ordinary with the luxurious actual property scene, it’s the vagaries of the wealthy, the place the reply might be each vastly sophisticated or stunningly easy: a mixture of greed, overabundance, need for privateness and generally, merely having higher issues to do than fear about constructing a colossal home.

There are nonetheless loads of vacant heaps left in Southern California. In keeping with Redfin, there are 3,497 residential items of land at the moment available on the market in L.A. County, and their values differ wildly based mostly on location.

For instance, a half-acre lot is at the moment up for grabs for $3,000 in Lancaster. Over in Bel-Air, a 264-acre unfold is listed for a cool $60 million. However the value discrepancies aren’t all the time so unfold out geographically; in Malibu, one piece of land is asking at $50,000 whereas one other asks $35 million.

In 2017, Milwaukee Brewers proprietor Mark Attanasio left neighbors scratching their heads when he shelled out $6.6 million for one of many final remaining vacant heaps on Malibu’s Broad Seaside, an ultra-exclusive stretch of sand the place Pierce Brosnan, Frank Sinatra and Jack Lemmon have owned houses. However as an alternative of constructing on it, he left it empty.

Mark Attanasio bought this Malibu parcel for $6.6 million in 2017 but hasn't developed it.

Mark Attanasio purchased this Malibu parcel for $6.6 million in 2017 however hasn’t developed it.

(Mac Hayward)

That’s as a result of he already owned the home subsequent to it. As an alternative of coping with a probably annoying neighbor and the noise of establishing a brand new property proper subsequent to his, he determined to only purchase the lot to protect some peace and quiet, based on veteran actual property agent Jack Pritchett, who held the itemizing on the property a 12 months prior.

“In Southern California, wealth might be measured by privateness, not cash,” he stated. “This proves it.”

Within the Sixties, Pritchett bought a Malibu seaside home to actor Steve McQueen, who valued privateness a lot that he purchased the heaps on all sides of the property to make sure that nobody would construct wherever near him.

Since Broad Seaside is such a coveted enclave, a lot of its shoreline is crowded with homes. Attanasio is leaving his land empty to purchase some respiration room, however the property’s earlier proprietor had a distinct motive: He simply didn’t fairly get round to it.

It was owned for many years by a health care provider who deliberate to construct a home on the property, however the longer he waited, the extra constructing and basis necessities there have been from the California Coastal Fee, based on Pritchett. In the end, it simply appeared simpler to go the headache onto another person.

Pritchett laid out a couple of different examples for why Malibu landowners have saved their prized plots empty.

He knew one household who owned a plot in a gated group within the bluffs above the seaside. The husband wished to construct a house there, however the spouse didn’t, and they also saved it empty for many years — as an alternative utilizing it as a spot to park once they’d go to the ocean.

Pritchett not too long ago bought the empty property on behalf of the household for just a little over $1 million. Not dangerous for a parking spot.

Within the Eighties, Pritchett’s father put collectively a improvement group that attempted constructing a apartment complicated close to Matador Seaside. On condition that Malibu lacks a sewer system, neighbors protested, not wanting a condo-sized septic tank stinking up the realm, and the group ultimately gave up. The land stays empty immediately.

On the opposite aspect of Broad Seaside, a one-acre lot traded palms for $11 million in 2020, making it considered one of Malibu’s priciest land transactions within the final decade. Compass agent Chris Cortazzo stated the vendor had an unlimited assortment of vacant land; the prized waterfront plot was only one piece of a a lot bigger assortment, and the proprietor merely by no means felt the necessity to construct there.

It probably received’t keep empty for lengthy; it bought with plans and permits to construct two homes on the double-lot parcel.

“Land is king. They’re not constructing any extra of it,” stated Scott Tamkin, who at the moment holds the itemizing on a staggering 264-acre parcel in Bel-Air that makes up 6% of the neighborhood’s whole land space. It’s up for grabs at $60 million.

This 264-acre parcel listed for $60 million makes up 6% of Bel-Air's total land area.

This 264-acre parcel listed for $60 million makes up 6% of Bel-Air’s whole land space.


“There are a selection of high-net-worth people who like to amass land and sit on it till they resolve to do one thing with it or resell,” he stated.

On this case, the proprietor by no means selected something, however potential patrons have loads of concepts starting from a goat farm, retirement group or outside campus for a personal college. The canyon-spanning property consists of 15-20 acres of flat land on the high, and Tamkin stated as much as 17 houses might be constructed there.

“I get calls about it each week. Everybody has their very own grand concept,” he stated.

Each few years, a parcel comes onto the market so massive that it’s a shock it’s nonetheless empty, particularly in an space as populous as L.A. County, which holds roughly 9.8 million residents — roughly 3% of the whole U.S. inhabitants.

Probably the most excessive instance surfaced in 2018, when a 157-acre unfold perched on the highest level of Beverly Crest got here to marketplace for $1 billion, by far the largest asking worth within the historical past of California’s residential market.

Many tried, and failed, to construct one thing on the property, which was touted because the most interesting piece of undeveloped land left in Southern California.

An Iranian princess wished to construct a palace there. Didn’t occur. A chat present host envisioned a marble mega-mansion. By no means constructed. After a troubled saga noticed the land auctioned off behind a Pomona courthouse in 2019 to the property of the late Herbalife founder Mark Hughes, the land stays empty.

Another excuse why land is vacant: Who has the time?

“The actual prime land tends to be bought by high-net-worth patrons,” stated Hilton & Hyland agent Barry Watts, pointing to tech moguls equivalent to Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen or former Google CEO Eric Schmidt as current examples.

Allen owned a 120-acre plot on a ridge above Beverly Crest that he by no means acquired round to creating, and it not too long ago bought to Schmidt for $65 million.

“They produce other issues happening of their life,” Watts stated.

Enchanted Hill sold to former Google CEO Eric Schmidt for $65 million earlier this year.

Enchanted Hill, a prized improvement web site owned by late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, bought to former Google CEO Eric Schmidt for $65 million earlier this 12 months.

(Hilton & Hyland)

He added that money-rich persons are usually time-poor, so that they don’t have the hours and power required to work with architects, consultants, contractors and metropolis officers to develop the property of their desires. All these patrons can afford to gather land as an funding, however additionally they have houses scattered throughout the nation that serve them simply wonderful within the meantime.

Constructing a world-class property on world-class land requires vital time — generally many years. Watts and fellow agent David Kramer are at the moment co-listing a group of land in Bel-Air that has been 20 years within the making.

It was owned for years by Steve Bing, the movie producer and philanthropist who dedicated suicide in 2020. Bing spent 9 years residing within the Lodge Bel-Air, falling in love with the realm sufficient that he began shopping for up all of the land throughout the road over the course of a decade.

This three-acre lot once owned by late film producer Steve Bing is on the market in Bel-Air for $33 million.

This three-acre lot as soon as owned by late movie producer Steve Bing is available on the market in Bel-Air for $33 million.

(Hilton & Hyland)

Bing ultimately misplaced management of the land, and it was slowly subdivided into three components and delivered to market. The most important is listed for $47 million, the center is listed for $33 million, and the smallest bought for $25 million earlier this 12 months.

“The client is planning to construct a 25,000-square-foot mansion on the land,” Watts stated. “When it’s completed, it’ll be a $100-million property — which it must be when you spend that a lot cash on the land.”

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