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Real Estate newsletter: Home prices hit another all-time high

A white, two-story, Spanish-style house with a fountain and grass in front
The LaBianca house sits on three-quarters of an acre.
(Redfin)

Welcome back to the Real Estate newsletter, which arrives on the heels of another historic month in the Southern California housing market.

When the median home price surged to $655,000 in April, it set a record — one that stood for merely a month. The data just arrived for May, and a new mark has been set: $667,000, the highest median price the six counties of Southern California have ever seen.

The median (the point at which half the homes sold for more and half for less) for Los Angeles County is even pricier at $775,000, but fear not, deals are still out there. Scattered across the depths of the Multiple Listing Service, hiding behind troves of million-dollar listings on Zillow and Redfin, they exist. We ran down five L.A. homes on the market for a cool $500,000.

Over in Los Feliz, a 99-year-old bungalow was the week’s most interesting sale. It’s where Charles Manson’s followers murdered Leno and Rosemary LaBianca during the infamous summer of 1969. But that didn’t stop the second buyer in three years from shelling out $1.875 million for the place.

It was a week of rebirth on the commercial real estate side. In downtown L.A., the Broadway theater that introduced Angelenos to “talkie” movies a century ago reopened as one of the world’s most architecturally glorious Apple stores. The converted cinema shirks Apple’s typical minimalist design, instead displaying marble treads and ceiling murals of ethereal cloud-patched skies.

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Moviegoers were shocked when the ArcLight Cinemas chain announced it wouldn’t reopen post-pandemic, but the first of its theaters has officially been rebranded. Regal Cinemas announced it’ll bring the Sherman Oaks Galleria complex back to life, giving it a $10-million renovation in the process.

While catching up on the latest, visit and like our Facebook page, where you can find real estate stories and updates throughout the week.

Another month, another record

A 'sale pending' sign in front of a house
Southern California’s median home price set a record in May.
(Michael Conroy / Associated Press)

Southern California home prices soared in May, hitting another all-time high, though some data are starting to point to a potential slowdown in demand, writes real estate reporter Andrew Khouri.

The six-county region’s median sales price rose a whopping 24.7% from May 2020 to a record $667,000 last month, according to data released Tuesday by data firm DQNews.

The big leap in numbers from a year earlier is partly due to a rare comparison.

The data reflect closed sales, meaning the 2020 data covered mostly deals that opened escrow during March and April 2020 — the height of the coronavirus lockdowns. At the time, sales had plunged and price growth slowed.

Diamonds in the rough

Small house with grass in front
615 W. 50th St., Los Angeles, 90037

(Dennis Carlson)

The Los Angeles real estate market may be historically hot, but there are still a few deals out there — if you know where to look.

Here are five homes scattered across the city that are on the market for $500,000, That’s well below the Los Angeles County median price of $775,000 in May, according to data firm DQNews.

An infamous home sells again

A police officer blocks the driveway while other officers search in front of the LaBianca house.
(Getty images / Bettmann Archive)

Call it a sellers’ estate market. Call it morbid curiosity. Whatever it is, the house where Charles Manson’s followers killed Leno and Rosemary LaBianca in 1969 just sold for $1.875 million.

It’s the second time the tragedy-burdened home has traded hands in three years. In 2019 it was scooped up by Zak Bagans, host of the paranormal reality show “Ghost Adventures,” who planned to film a project there but later called it off out of respect for the LaBianca family.

Bagans put it on the market for $2.2 million in October and trimmed the price to $2 million before finding a buyer in June who, according to listing agent Arto Poladian, plans to make some updates to the 99-year-old abode.

How does one market a house with such a dark past? In this case, a mix of strategic wording and the help of a real estate market with a shortage of homes and an abundance of buyers.

L.A.’s wild new Apple Store

Man stands to the right with ornate building interior behind.
Doo Ho Lee, Apple’s director of store design for the Americas, stands on the balcony level of the new Apple Tower Theatre store and event space in downtown Los Angeles.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

The Broadway theater that introduced Angelenos to “talkie” movies nearly a century ago threw open its doors Thursday in a vastly different entertainment era as a gilded Apple store, writes commercial real estate reporter Roger Vincent. The tech giant intends the retail and event space to be one of its most prominent and a symbol of its emergence as a creative force in Hollywood.

Downtown Los Angeles backers hope the high-profile store debut will inspire other retailers to open in the city center, where many businesses were hit hard by pandemic-related closures that robbed streets of life and kept people out of their establishments.

The converted cinema is an amped-up and reimagined version of Apple’s normal store format, meant to showcase the company’s multiple content creation visions: There’s plenty of tech to buy, but Apple also plans programs, classes and other events involving well-known filmmakers, musicians and artists.

Apple wouldn’t say how much it spent renovating the once-derelict Tower Theatre, but the evidently multimillion-dollar makeover was in the works for more than three years and included painstaking restoration of many of the theater’s original features, such as ceiling murals of ethereal cloud-patched skies.

ArcLight fades, Regal rises

Night view of lighted mall storefronts
A view of the Sherman Oaks Galleria along Ventura Boulevard in the San Fernando Valley.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

The long-dark ArcLight Cinemas in the storied Sherman Oaks Galleria will be brought back to life as an upscale Regal Cinemas complex as theater owners gear up to serve movie fans returning from pandemic exile, write Roger Vincent and Ryan Faughnder.

It is the first ArcLight branch to be rebranded since the popular cinema chain operated by Pacific Theatres announced in April that it was going out of business and would not reopen its theaters after closing them more than a year ago to meet COVID-19 restrictions on indoor businesses.

Regal Cinemas signed a lease Friday with mall landlord Douglas Emmett Inc. to take over the vacant theaters in the Galleria and reopen them soon, real estate brokerage JLL said. Terms of the lease were not disclosed.

Regal was one of a dozen theater operators competing to get into the Galleria, JLL property broker Shauna Mattis said, a show of investor support for the cinema industry that took heavy losses during the pandemic when customers were trapped at home.

What we’re reading

A custom house with the click of a button: that’s what two major homebuilders are offering with their new pilot programs. CNBC reports on the latest e-commerce trend where buyers can choose, design and finance a home in one sitting online. Within six weeks of launch, one company saw 1,500 shopping cart entries and a staggering 60% conversion to sales.

The latest celebrity house tour is in, and it’s a doozy. Architectural Digest took a look at Cara Delevingne’s place in L.A., and it comes with a tented poker room, a ball pit, a costume room, two in-ground trampolines and an “attic party bunker” with a mirrored ceiling, tasseled swing and stripper pole.


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