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Real Estate newsletter: Winter brings record home prices

Built by Hagy Belzberg, Pharrell's striking home crawls across the top of a narrow ridge in Laurel Canyon.
(Anthony Barcelo)

Welcome back to the Real Estate newsletter, and happy holidays! On this festive entry, I bring you tidings both good and bad.

The bad news, for home buyers at least, is that even though Southern California’s ultra-competitive market has slowed slightly in recent months, the six-county region still reached an all-time high with a median sales price of $693,500 in November. That’s a 16% leap from a year earlier.

The good news is that there are still plenty of deals on the market — if you know where to look. As long as you’re willing to ignore L.A.’s trendiest neighborhoods, where ordinary homes sell for extraordinary prices, pockets across L.A. County have plenty of quality options up for grabs at hundreds of thousands of dollars less than the county median. I ran down six solid options for $600,000.

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If your budget is a bit bigger — say, $10 million — consider Pharrell William’s home in the Hollywood Hills. Desperate to sell after moving to Florida during the pandemic, the Grammy-winning artist dropped the price of his ridge-top compound in Laurel Canyon to $10 million.

Another celebrity seller popped up in Dana Point, where Michael Sugar — the Oscar-winning producer behind “Spotlight” and “13 Reasons Why” — put his coastal home overlooking the ocean on the market for $6.3 million. It’s an interesting listing considering he bought the property earlier this year for $5.1 million and made no changes.

We also got a lovely ode to L.A.’s newest architectural staple: the party tent. Columnist Carolina A. Miranda paid homage to the pandemic-friendly space, where Angelenos spent the last two years eating, drinking, dancing, shopping and other things that make us feel human.

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

November brings a new record

A "for sale" sign stands outside a house.
A “for sale” sign stands outside a house in Glendale in April 2020.
(Raul Roa / Times Community News)

Southern California home prices jumped nearly 16% in November from a year earlier, showing how the market is still ultra-competitive despite a slight slowdown that began to set in several months ago, Andrew Khouri writes.

Some buyers sat out the bidding wars after a particularly frenzied period last spring, but plenty of shoppers stayed the course, driving prices up to successive new records in recent months.

The region’s six-county median sales price reached an all-time high of $693,500 in November, according to data from real estate firm DQNews. That’s 0.5% higher than in the previous month, October, and 15.6% higher than in November 2020. Sales rose 1.8% from that year-earlier period.

Home shopping for $600,000

In a year when home prices hit record highs and once-cheap areas became million-dollar neighborhoods, the Southern California market was brutal for buyers on a budget.

But in a market that’s cooling ever so slightly, bargains can be found if you know where to look. Here are six L.A. County homes on the market for about $600,000 — far less than the county’s median price in November of $788,000.

Pharrell is a motivated seller

A view of a home and swimming pool.
Built by Hagy Belzberg, the striking home crawls across the top of a narrow ridge in Laurel Canyon.
(Anthony Barcelo)

Pharrell Williams is getting serious about selling his Hollywood Hills home. The Grammy-winning artist just trimmed the price of his glass-covered compound in Laurel Canyon to $10 million, or $2 million less than he was asking last year.

He moved to Florida to quarantine in April, dropping $30 million on a waterfront mansion in Coral Gables. Since then, he’s been shopping around his two L.A. homes and sold the larger one — a 17,000-square-foot mega-mansion that resembles a supervillain’s lair more than a home — for $14 million.

The Hollywood Hills house features the same dramatic style but on a smaller scale. Crawling across the top of a narrow ridge, it covers 6,100 square feet and comes with a laundry list of amenities, including an outdoor movie theater, skate park, spa and 70-foot infinity pool across 1.5 acres.

‘Spotlight’ producer goes for a flip

A single-story home opens to a spacious patio overlooking the ocean.
Perched in Monarch Bay Terrace, the single-story home opens to a spacious patio overlooking the ocean.
(Pacific Sotheby’s International Realty)

Michael Sugar — the film and TV producer behind “Spotlight,” “The Knick” and “13 Reasons Why” — has listed his Dana Point home overlooking the ocean for $6.3 million.

It’s a short stay for Sugar. Records show he paid $5.1 million for the property earlier this year.

Perched on a hill in Monarch Bay Terrace, the single-story home takes full advantage of the coastal location with walls of glass in almost every room. Tile floors mix with dark hardwood accents in the common spaces, including a living room with a wet bar and fireplace sandwiched by built-ins.

An ode to the party tent

People sit in an outdoor dining room.
A new shade structure outside Hunsaker at Vincent’s restaurant in Escondido opened Friday, July 17, as the new dining room for the restaurant’s pop-up project The Flying Toad.
(Pam Kragen / San Diego Union-Tribune)

Over the course of the last year, columnist Carolina A. Miranda confesses, she’s eaten enchiladas in a party tent, gotten COVID-tested in a party tent and attended a few actual parties in party tents. Party tents have doubled as retail shops, church naves, gymnasiums and outdoor living rooms.

Last year, as the pandemic isolated us into our respective domestic cocoons, designers took to their AutoCAD to imagine a brave new world of design “solutions” for the pandemic, Miranda writes. These included wearable head-to-thigh social distancing shields and space-age cones of safety for the dinner table (a phenomenon that critic Kate Wagner baptized “coronagrifting”).

In retrospect, it’s absurd to think that architecture might have been reinvented — or even mildly rethought — by high-concept design that doesn’t get off the drafting table. We’ve learned infinitely more about how to rethink the design of our buildings from the pandemic’s most prominent workhorse: the party tent.

What we’re reading

Modern farmhouses are still en vogue, but according to the Washington Post, barndos — or barn-like condominiums — are the next big thing. The hybrid homes made of wood and metal are cheap to build, easy to renovate and can include not only a home but also a workshop, garage, horse stall or even an airplane hangar.

For the cost of an L.A. teardown, why not buy a historic castle in France? Forbes Global Properties ran down a list of chateaus, including a 17th-century mansion in the south of France and a 12-acre estate outside Paris.


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