$1 Million and Counting for Those Seeking to Buy a House in Malibu

Times Staff Writer

Never mind the traffic. Ignore the tacky shops. Disregard the occasional natural disasters. In three years, the average price of a single-family home in Malibu will exceed $1 million.

Even today, most people can only afford to visit. Reflecting the escalating prices of Westside real estate, the cost of living in Malibu jumped dramatically in 1988. The average single-family house in the beachfront community cost $678,000 last year, a 37% increase from 1987.

However, that amount probably won’t land you a beachfront house. Those properties cost an average of $1.62 million, a 20% jump from 1987. The skyrocketing prices were reflected in the tiny jump in overall sales volume. Only nine more residential properties were sold in 1988 than in the previous year, but the transactions totaled $210 million, up from $149 million the previous year.

The figures are based on an annual study of property sales in Malibu conducted by real estate broker Dick Lowe, who has been tracking housing sales in the coastal community for 11 years. Lowe compiled statistics from other brokers in the area, then checked them against Malibu real estate sales recorded by Los Angeles County.


“Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s going to get any cheaper,” said Lowe, principal broker at Malibu Country Realty. “It’s no different than it has been in the past. It’s just becoming increasingly difficult for people to find a home in the $400,000 range.”

Reflects County Trend

Lowe said that although the figures are startling, the sales prices reflect escalating home costs throughout the county, particularly in the affluent Westside. In fact, the only Malibu real estate that took a dive was commercial property--sales dipped about $3 million to a total of $18 million in 1988.

The study found the biggest gain in the purchases of undeveloped land. A total of 258 undeveloped properties were sold last year, compared to 114 in 1987.


“The increase in the unimproved land sales shows the interest people have in finding something here before there’s nothing left,” Lowe said. “The amount of usable land is becoming more and more scarce. The reason people come out here is for the open feeling, the open space and the overall country atmosphere. Today, it just costs a lot more to purchase it.”

Even condominium and mobile home sales continued to rise, from an average of $187,000 in 1987 to $235,000 last year, a 25% jump. However, Lowe said that although several condominium projects are in the works, the demand for moderate housing will far outstrip the supply.

77 Beachfront Sales

Moderate housing along the Malibu coast has been extinct for years. The 77 beachfront homes sold last year went for a total of $125 million.

At the rate Malibu real estate is climbing, Lowe estimates that in three years, with a modest 10% annual sales increase, the average single-family home by land or by sea will cost a minimum of $1 million.

“One of the differences about Malibu is that the prices reflect that there are a lot of newer homes out here that are being resold,” Lowe said.

According to a recent check of the multiple listings used by real estate brokers, a buyer could still purchase a home on Las Tunas Beach for $700,000--a small two-bedroom with 1 1/2 bathrooms.

For $679,000, the average price for single-family home in the area, a buyer could get a three-bedroom home on six-tenths of an acre above Zuma Beach. It doesn’t include two full bathrooms, but it does promise an ocean view.