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Real Estate newsletter: A busy week for billionaires

The three-acre spread above Malibu's Paradise Cove includes a main house, a guesthouse and a guardhouse.
The three-acre spread above Malibu’s Paradise Cove includes a main house, a guesthouse, a guardhouse and a funicular that descends to 256 feet of beach frontage.
(Mike Helfrich)

Welcome back to the Real Estate newsletter, your weekly window into Southern California’s over-the-top housing market where the rich swap estates at the same rate that kids swap trading cards.

It was another wild week of winners and losers. WhatsApp founder Jan Koum picked up his second Malibu beach house (right next to his other one, which he spent $100 million on in 2019), while mall magnate Rick Caruso (that name you see plastered all over the Grove and the Americana at Brand) looked to sell his slice of the coastal city.

Over in Beverly Hills, Justin Bieber took a loss on his 1930s Colonial-style mansion — though he’s probably not sweating the deficit too much after picking up a $25.98-million home in Beverly Park last summer.

Andrew Khouri took a look at the still-hot housing market, finding that the region’s median price in January rose 13% compared to last year.

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If you’re craving more outdoor time than a daily walk around the neighborhood, Lisa Boone dived deep into Airbnb for gardens. For an hourly price, you can rent a lush space with fruit trees, gardens and a few free-roaming chickens.

While you’re at it, visit and like our Facebook page, where you can find Real Estate stories and updates throughout the week.

Billionaire buys another

The Malibu property
The $87-million sale of the Malibu property is by far the priciest home sale in L.A. County so far this year.
(Mike Helfrich)

WhatsApp co-founder Jan Koum grabbed another slice of Malibu shoreline, paying $87 million for an oceanfront home right next to his other one.

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The billionaire has been on a Southern California spending spree for the last three years. In 2019, he paid $100 million for the Malibu home of longtime NBCUniversal executive Ron Meyer. A year later he ventured inland, shelling out $125 million for the Beverly Hills mansion of Quibi founder Jeffrey Katzenberg.

The $87-million sale is by far the priciest home sale in L.A. County so far this year. The property originally was put on the market last summer for $125 million, The Times previously reported.

Diana Jenkins, ex-wife of British banker Roger Jenkins, was the seller. Before her, the coastal retreat was owned by media mogul Barry Diller and country music star Kenny Rogers.

Koum founded the mobile messaging system WhatsApp in 2009 and sold the company to Facebook Inc. five years later for $19.3 billion. Forbes puts his net worth at $10 billion.

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L.A.’s mall man eyes $40 million

The two-story home
The two-story home enjoys ocean views from multiple balconies and an entertainer’s deck that sits above the sand.
(Cristopher Nolasco)

You’ve probably been to one of Rick Caruso’s properties. Between the Grove, the Americana at Brand and the Commons at Calabasas, the mall magnate’s attractions draw millions of Angelenos each year.

But you probably haven’t been to this Malibu mansion, which Caruso listed for sale at $40 million.

Caruso, the billionaire developer who was elected chairman of the USC Board of Trustees in 2018, paid $11.3 million for the home in 2008. He’ll have plenty of other places to stay if he finds a buyer; records show he owns houses in Brentwood, Sherman Oaks and Newport Beach.

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Generally speaking, Caruso’s spaces are extravagant celebrations of luxury and excess, and his oceanfront home is no different.

Pop star takes a loss

The 1930s Colonial-style residence
The 1930s Colonial-style residence was recently remodeled by Hollywood production designer Charles Infante.
(Jim Bartsch)

Justin Bieber ended up half-a-million short in Beverly Hills, where he sold his 1930s Colonial-style home for $7.955 million. The pop star paid $8.5 million for the property just two years ago.

The Grammy winner probably isn’t sweating the loss. Last summer, he shelled out $25.8 million for a much larger estate on 2.5 acres in Beverly Park, The Times previously reported.

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This place is a bit smaller, centering on a 6,132-square-foot home entered by a courtyard dotted with olive trees. Recently reimagined by Hollywood production designer Charles Infante, the two-story house features a whitewashed weeping brick exterior and formal living spaces marked by white oak accents and steel-framed windows and doors.

Bieber, who catapulted to stardom through YouTube videos, has recorded five studio albums, the most recent of which, “Changes,” was released earlier this year. In 2016, the 26-year-old singer won a Grammy for best dance recording for his collaborations on the Jack Ü song “Where Are Ü Now.”

Home sales keep climbing

A home with a sold sign in front
January marked the fifth consecutive month that home sales in Southern California increased by double digits.
(Andy Dean Photography / stock.adobe.com)

Southern California home prices and sales jumped by double digits in January from a year earlier, as prospective buyers rushed to take advantage of rock-bottom mortgage rates, reports Andrew Khouri.

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The six-county region’s median price rose 13% from a year earlier to $599,500 last month, according to data released Monday by data firm DQNews. Sales increased 13.5%.

The data show the hot housing market is extending into the new year. January marked the fifth consecutive month in which sales increased by double digits. It was the sixth straight month that saw a double-digit increase in the median price — the point at which half the homes sold for more and half for less.

Real estate agents and other experts say several factors are behind the competitive market during the pandemic. One is the cost to borrow has plunged, with the average rate on a 30-year fixed mortgage dropping below 3% for the first time ever. Another reason: Many people who are spending more time at home realize they could use more space, and those who haven’t seen their incomes plunge are taking action.

Rent-a-Garden

A woman picks sweet peas.
Yhanni James picks sweet peas from a vine at Paul and Nancy Terry’s backyard garden.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

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On a quiet Thursday around 10 a.m., Aqueene Simran rolled out her yoga mat in a sanctuary of shade trees at GreenStone Farm and Sanctuary and proceeded to teach kundalini yoga on a video call, Lisa Boone writes.

Simran, 42, is a regular at the spacious certified wildlife habitat in Mount Washington, where heirloom roses share the landscape with fruit trees, native plants, vegetables and free-roaming chickens.

“It’s such a beautiful space,” said Simran, who also leads meditation classes and sound baths beneath the garden’s shade trees. “Being Indigenous, I’ve learned that spiritual and bodywork is more powerful on land than in a building or a bedroom. It’s definitely healing for me to be here.”

Simran rents the garden for $20 per hour from Eric and Meadow Carder-Vindel through Healing Gardens, a new online marketplace that allows homeowners and caretakers to list their organic gardens for rent, similar to the way that Airbnb lists rooms and homes for guests.

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What we’re reading

The Tampa Bay Times talked to a realtor who opted for honesty in her latest less-than-stellar listing. The real estate agent’s post reads: “Here it is, literally the worst house on the street! The seller has done the hard work of cleaning up the almost half-acre property (it only took 7 dumpsters!), so now is your chance to take it from here.”

SFGate landed an interview with the driver who transported a historic, 133-ton Victorian home last week, a feat that went viral on Twitter and got the quote of the day: “I was so scared.”


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