For summer lease: Four-bedroom, eight-bathroom bluff-side Malibu house. Price -- $150,000 a month.
That's a jaw dropper, even for Malibu. The Cliffside Drive property's rental price is a local record high, according to the Multiple Listing Service, but it's just the latest pinnacle in a summer rental market that seems to have no high-water mark. Even mundane beachfront houses are renting for as much as $70,000 a month, and they're still expected to be snapped up by mid-April.
It all seems impossible, when real estate is wilting just about everywhere else. But Malibu in the summer isn't like everywhere else.
The housing market's troubles haven't touched homes valued at $10 million or above -- which pretty much defines the Malibu beachfront, according to John Karevoll of DataQuick Information Systems, a real estate research firm. And rents reflect that.
A big chunk of the summer crowd is from the entertainment industry, and hobnobbing never comes cheap. Plenty of deals are made at the beach -- and if you aren't there, someone else will be. And of course, there's also the opportunity to bump into Pamela Anderson buying organic carrot juice at Ralphs or to sip a latte next to Pierce Brosnan at Starbucks.
Finally, corporate money is pumping up Malibu prices as large publicity firms and companies with products to sell use summer rentals to host celebrity-studded bashes -- chock-full of product placements that wind up in photos in magazines and online. The "party houses" may find themselves on a tighter leash this summer, though, as the Malibu City Council takes steps to curtail noise and traffic complaints.
Still, the prices are head-spinners.
Chris Cortazzo, listing agent for Malibu's new top seed -- all 11,000-plus square feet of it -- touts the property's completely private location (that's Realtorspeak for paparazzi-proof). The Mediterranean-style home has direct beach access via steps down a cliff and interior furnishings described alternately as "tons of marble and fancy chandeliers" or "on the gaudy side." That last description from a competing listing agent. Leasing requires a two-month minimum and a hefty $300,000 security deposit.
Not far behind in price is a $135,000-a-month architectural four-bedroom house plus a detached studio with a pool and spa on Malibu Colony beach, listed by Coldwell Banker Previews agent Susan Monus. Gorgeous as it may be, tire-kickers might not like that the property is on a through street. Still, there are few better addresses than this -- you've got Adam Sandler and Jeremy Piven up the street, Brian Grazer and Mel Brooks around the corner. And it's quite close to where Paris Hilton rented last summer.
The official realty line is that those who don't secure a lease by mid-April are likely to lose out on the primo beach neighborhoods of the Colony, Broad Beach and Carbon Beach, and there seems to be plenty of people ready to pony up more than what average Joes earn in a year for a month of lounging along the gilded coast. (Gawkers can access http:// idx.themls.com/caroldarrow/ lease.cfm and mosey through the marble halls.)
It's the same story on the East Coast, where a house on Long Island's Southhampton Village is listed at $450,000 for the month of August.
"The choice Hamptons properties get rented early," said Silke Oellrich of Prudential Douglas Elliman. "People started coming to look for summer homes in November," she said. (The Hamptons' siren song must have captured the heart of Hollywood heavyweight Steven Spielberg, who just bought a property there for about $20 million.)
Of Monus' three Malibu summer beach listings, one listed at $100,000 a month already has been scarfed up, and she expects the remaining two -- the aforementioned listing at $135,000 a month and another at $80,000 a month -- to go shortly. A count of top agents' websites found at least 11 summer listings for $75,000 or more a month, and there are more that are discreetly held by agents, who don't post them on websites or the MLS.
"Malibu is the Riviera of the United States," Monus says, shrugging off the prices. And she may be right. Even Newport Beach and Laguna Beach top out at about $60,000 a month.
Is it really that incredible to summer in the 'bu?
Apparently so. In the words of actor and Malibu renter Daniel Baldwin, "Malibu in the summer is where the United States ends and life begins."
Baldwin is leasing a furnished Villa Malibu apartment through Coldwell Banker agent Scotty Brown, who lists 10 units in the complex for the summer that rent for a relatively modest $10,000 to $30,000 a month. Villa Malibu, on the inland side of the Pacific Coast Highway, comes with its own concierge, tennis pro, car service and personal trainer. No, they won't cut your meat for you.
Sharon Clayton, 44, a banker, keeps homes in London, Bahrain and Tampa, Fla. She rents the same "small" house on Carbon Beach each summer to entertain business associates. Last year, she paid $85,000 for a three-month rental.
"We have visitors of all ages at our parties in the summer -- from the single digits to close to the triple digits," she said in an e-mail, "and we all enjoy dancing together in the summer!"
Michael Gardner, a Malibu agent with Prudential who likes to track such transactions, predicts that the demand this summer will surpass that of any previous year. "By May," he said, "all the good listings may very well be gone." Previous years saw four homes break the $100,000-per-month mark, with one topping out at $120,000 on Broad Beach, Gardner said.
"Recession? What recession?" he asked.
Most of the summer rentals are second homes and remain vacant or scarcely used during the winter months. But come summer, people want to be at the beach. Monus said summer renters have come from Europe and other states, but most live closer, in Brentwood, Bel-Air or the Hollywood Hills.
Brown of Coldwell Banker was a bit blunter. Who rents these places? Anybody who can afford it, he said, and most likely those "anybodies" are somebodies from the entertainment world.
Even some celebrity owners are joining the beach party.
Cindyana Santangelo, who has appeared in "CSI: Miami," "ER" and "Law & Order," is offering her Cove Colony home for $55,000 for the month of August. Regis Philbin and his wife, Joy, are among those she said are interested.
Coldwell Banker listing agent Madison Hildebrand said that because of the location, the home is likely to get snapped up quickly. The 3,460-square-foot house has 50 feet of beachfront, and if you don't mind some sand in your Christian Louboutins, you can walk to two popular beach haunts -- Paradise Cove and Geoffrey's restaurants. The five-bedroom house comes decorated with custom-made furniture, including a white leather sleigh bed in the white-on-white master suite.
If that doesn't suit, Ozzie and Sharon Osbourne have listed their La Costa beach home at $85,000 a month with a two-month minimum. The house had been listed for sale but then offered on a $37,500 monthly lease -- off-season. Situated on La Costa Beach -- nobody's A-list, but also without the A-list's aggravation -- the three-story home has an Italian courtyard entrance, a stainless-steel kitchen and multiple fireplaces. There are ocean views from three of the five bedrooms. Sotheby's agent Jonah Wilson -- son of the late Beach Boy Carl Wilson -- has the listing with Tracy Testin and Terry O'Connor of Prudential Malibu.
Available just to the north in Malibu Cove Colony is a compound with more than 100 feet of beach frontage. There's an oceanfront spa, two master suites plus two more bedrooms, and plenty of decks overlooking the ocean. The home comes with TiVo, but it doesn't allow pets. Summer rent is $95,000 a month.
Most homeowners, although happy to pocket the extra money, say they really don't want to lease to those who would turn their homes into Party Central.
The party scene at last summer's LG House Malibu is still being groaned over. The Colony house was outfitted to the nines with LG Electronics, including an HDTV/refrigerator with a 15-inch LCD screen in the door and an ice maker that offered a choice of cube shapes. The parties -- some lasted 22 hours -- were invitation-only, but paparazzi descended on the scene like bees to the hive as the house played host to young Hollywood. Neighbors howled about the loud noise, blasting music and parking nightmare the parties created.
The Malibu City Council is considering final passage of an ordinance at its meeting today that would require a permit for parties with more than 100 people at private residences -- and limit such parties to four a year. The goal, said Gail Sumpter, Malibu's division manager for permit services and code enforcement, is to avoid a repeat of last year. The result might be that some corporate tenants turn their favor to South Bay beach towns where no such restrictions exist, but local real estate agents aren't worried. This is, after all, Malibu, and that carries its own cachet.
"You want to know what Malibu in the summer is like?" asks Daniel Baldwin. "I start my day with coffee at Starbucks up at Trancas, then take Katie -- my boxer rescue -- for a walk along the beach."
Baldwin is partial to El Matador state beach, where he sometimes brings his 11-year-old son Atticus to look for starfish during low tide.
"It's a marvelous place," he said.