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Real Estate newsletter: A feeding frenzy for homebuyers

Arches and windows in the facade of a white house are glimpsed through thick trees, behind a hedge and green lawn.
Media mogul Shane Smith set a record with the sale of his Pacific Palisades compound, which occupies a verdant setting.
(Jacob Burghart)

Welcome back to the Real Estate newsletter. Let’s get right into it.

To avoid sounding like a broken record, I’ll use a phrase other than “red hot” to describe Southern California’s wild housing market: a feeding frenzy. Those were the words one agent used in an attempted to describe to housing reporter Andrew Khouri a market that had seen the region’s median home price soar for the eighth straight month, shooting up 14.5% year-over-year to a record $630,000.

Per usual, a few celebrities got in on the action, and the last few weeks saw two of the three largest home sales so far this year. Talk show host Ellen DeGeneres, who doubles as a prolific house flipper, sold a Beverly Hills mansion for $47 million that she bought from Maroon 5’s Adam Levine for $42.5 million just two years earlier.

Just a few days later, in Pacific Palisades, that sale was trumped when a famed Mediterranean-style villa traded hands for $48.67 million — the priciest deal the coastal community has ever seen. The seller was Shane Smith, the flashy cofounder of Vice Media.

A sizable sale also closed in the heart of the city, where screenwriter Kevin Williamson of “Scream” fame unloaded his Cape Cod-style spot in Windsor Square for $9.4 million. And on the other side of the country, in Miami, the waterfront home LeBron James owned when he played for the Heat traded hands for $12.75 million.

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Read more on the feeding-frenzy action, and while you’re at it, visit and like our Facebook page, where you can find Real Estate stories and updates throughout the week.

March market makes history

Closeup of a flag with the words "Open House" in front of a home with a For Sale sign.
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Southern California home prices soared in March, rising by double digits for the eighth straight month as a pandemic-fueled housing boom showed no signs of waning, writes housing reporter Andrew Khouri.

The six-county region’s median home price increased 14.5% from a year earlier to a record $630,000, according to data released Wednesday by real estate firm DQNews. The number of houses, condos and town homes that sold rose 32.2%.

A mix of factors is driving the boom, which extends nationwide, real estate agents and economists say.

The housing market was heating up even before the pandemic. Since then, mortgage rates have tumbled, and people are looking for more space. Also, millennials are quickly entering their early 30s, the age when many people become first-time homeowners.

Ellen flips yet again

A view of the back of the mansion, with steel-framed doors and windows and a large stone-paved patio.
The backyard of DeGeneres and De Rossi’s mansion includes an outdoor kitchen, a fire pit and dining area.
(Anthony Barcelo)

The selling spree continues for Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi. A month after listing a pedigreed Beverly Hills mansion for $53.5 million, the celebrity house flippers sold the place for $47 million.

That briefly ranked as Southern California’s second-priciest home sale so far this year — just behind a Beverly Park estate that was auctioned off for $51 million, according to the Multiple Listing Service — before being outranked by another sale.

It’s a profit of $4.5 million for the power couple, who bought the property from Maroon 5’s Adam Levine for $42.5 million in 2019. Before him, the ivy-clad traditional was owned by tennis star Pete Sampras and “Will & Grace” creator Max Mutchnick.

DeGeneres and De Rossi haven’t skipped a beat during the pandemic, buying and selling estates at the blistering pace they always have. Last year, they unloaded a Bali-inspired retreat in Montecito for $33.3 million and also sold a Tudor-style spot in the same community to pop star Ariana Grande for $6.75 million.

A record sale in the Palisades

Floor-to-ceiling bookshelves line one wall of a large, rectangular room; large arched windows line another.
Reading is encouraged in the family room, which is topped by a rugged beamed ceiling in the Pacific Palisades home.
(Jacob Burghart)

Media mogul Shane Smith made real estate history in Pacific Palisades, unloading his prized compound for $48.67 million — an all-time record for the coastal community.

It’s the priciest sale the neighborhood has ever seen by a large margin, beating out a Georgian-style estate owned by entertainment mogul Michael King that traded hands for $33.85 million in 2018. It’s also the second-largest deal in Los Angeles County this year, pushing the DeGeneres-De Rossi sale down a notch to No. 3.

Smith, the flashy entrepreneur who cofounded Vice Media and serves as its executive chairman, more than doubled his money on the deal. In 2015, he shelled out $23 million for the leafy retreat, which has a Santa Monica mailing address, The Times previously reported.

Known as Villa Ruchello, the Mediterranean-style mansion lived a long life before Smith moved in. In addition to starring in “Entourage” and “Beverly Hills Cop,” the palm-topped compound has been occupied by director Henry Jaglom and members of Fleetwood Mac.

Screenwriter inks a big deal

The rear of the property has formal hedges and a large swimming pool.
Reconstructed in 2014, the Cape Cod-style spot includes a heated pool outside and, inside, a gym and movie theater.
(Simon Berlyn)

Kevin Williamson, the prolific screenwriter and producer behind “Dawson’s Creek,” “The Vampire Diaries” and the “Scream” franchise, sold his Cape Cod-style spot in historic Windsor Square for $9.415 million.

He was asking $10 million for the home last September, records show. The listing came a few months after he picked up a place with more space, paying $17 million for a 12,000-square-foot showplace in Beverly Hills.

The property covers about half an acre in Windsor Square, a small, affluent neighborhood in the Wilshire area that has been home to Chris Brown, publisher Norman Chandler and the Getty House — a Tudor Revival-style home that serves as the official residence for the mayor of Los Angeles.

The King’s former palace trades hands

In a view from a concrete dock, the back of a mansion is seen, with balconies and a pool with infinity edge.
The half-acre property includes a three-story home, one-bedroom guesthouse, pool with a swim-up bar and concrete dock.
(Mayfair Real Estate Advisors)

LeBron James’ former home in Miami — where the NBA star lived when he played for the Heat from 2010 to 2014 — sold for $12.75 million.

The four-time NBA champion picked up the property for $9 million in 2010 a few months after signing with the Heat and sold it for $13.4 million in 2015 after returning to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Records show he originally listed it for $17 million.

Found less than five miles from American Airlines Arena, where the Heat play, the contemporary compound enjoys a half-acre lot overlooking Biscayne Bay. In keeping with its coastal setting, it has a pool with a swim-up bar and a concrete dock that can fit two 60-foot yachts.

What we’re reading

Million-dollar homes are becoming more popular, reports USA Today. The number of houses selling for over $1 million rose by 81% in February year-over-year while the number of homes that sold for less than $100,000 fell 26%.

A centuries-old abandoned bookstore was transformed into an airy apartment in Brussels, Belgium, and the designer used only Q-tips and a concoction of white vinegar and ketchup to restore the original gilded doors and paneled walls. Architectural Digest has the details.


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