For a ‘bizarre thrill,’ visit an open house at an L.A. mega-mansion. Here’s how, even without mega-bucks
Nile Niami’s “The One,” the mega-mansion to end all mega-mansions, is finally on the market for $225 million. But you’ll never get inside.
Unless you can flash a bank account with more zeroes than the GDP of a small country, you’ll never walk the halls of the 105,000-square-foot glass-and-marble fortress. Unless you can land representation from one of L.A.’s top real estate agents, celebrities in themselves, you’ll never get a glimpse of the nightclub, or the moat, or the six-hole putting green, or the golf simulator, or the bowling alley, candy room or multiplex-size movie theater.
The One and its myriad extravagances are reserved for sheiks and nobles, celebrities and CEOs. But that doesn’t mean you can’t spend this weekend touring some of L.A.’s other mansions on the market.
At any given moment in Southern California, in markets hot and cold, hundreds of stellar estates are listed for sale. And each weekend, dozens of these houses open to the masses, letting potential buyers — or just people bored on a Sunday afternoon — experience the opulence that’s supposedly reserved for the ultra-rich.
The idea was simple: Nile Niami would build and sell The One, the biggest and most extravagant new home in the country. Then things went sideways.
Take it from a luxury real estate reporter who lives with roommates: There’s a bizarre thrill that comes from entering spaces meant for those in tax brackets several above your own. If developers insist on cramming huge houses onto tiny lots, replacing the few vacant hills that L.A. has left with massive monuments to opulence and excess, why shouldn’t the general public at least be able to bear witness to such estates?
The voyeurism of online photo galleries is great, but it’s much more surreal in person. The views are better. The cavernous floor plans, staged and ready to woo a deep-pocketed buyer, are more impressive.
Typically, open houses for listings of $10 million or more are either appointment-only or exclusively for other real estate agents, but the sheer number of mansions on the market in Southern California means that there are dozens open to the public every single weekend.
Finding them couldn’t be easier: just click this link, which automatically searches real estate database Redfin for open houses happening this weekend in L.A. County and sorts them from most expensive to least expensive. For example, this weekend, anyone and everyone can go tour a $34-million modern mansion in Beverly Hills, a $22.5-million compound in Holmby Hills and a $17.4-million retreat above the Sunset Strip.
As of Thursday, there are eight properties with open houses this weekend listed at $10 million or more. Getting inside is as simple as driving up, putting on a mask and writing your name down on the sign-in sheet.
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Marcy Roth of Douglas Elliman is co-listing the $22.5-million compound in Holmby Hills, and said she usually doesn’t host open houses for such expensive properties, but after more than 100 brokers flocked to a recent agents-only showing, she wanted the general public to get a chance to see the place.
“For a while, we could only do virtual showings or private appointments because of the pandemic,” Roth said. “But people prefer open houses because they can show up whenever they want and explore at their own pace.”
Roth added that ultra-luxury listings usually attract a mix of serious buyers and casual passersby simply looking for design ideas.
But at her last open house for a property listed at $13 million, she received three offers and had a deal in hand less than a week later. She expects a few more offers to roll in Sunday when the open house runs from 2 to 4 p.m.
The house spans 13,000 square feet and comes with custom accents such as a three-story water wall and hand-poured concrete sinks. There’s also a movie theater, gym, elevator, pet spa and six fire pits.
The Southern California housing market is hot, but cooling. Home prices rose nearly 13% in September — the smallest jump since January.
John Giddins of Sotheby’s International Realty, who’s listing a $17.4-million home above the Sunset Strip, usually sets the cutoff for public open houses at around $10 million, but he decided to hold one at the home from 2 to 5 p.m. on Sunday.
He stays busy with his listings, holding events for agents twice a month and open houses once a month in addition to doing private showings for serious buyers. At his last showing, he had the Beignet Box food truck roll up for beignets and coffee.
“We’re running at full force at this point,” Giddins said. “Open houses were challenging during the pandemic since only a few people were allowed in at a time, but now it’s wide open.”
He’s well aware that the 60 or so people who typically come to one of his open houses will include a few “looky-loos” — those there to look around with no intention of buying — but he doesn’t mind as long as everyone behaves. Open house horror stories include such occurrences as surprise squatters and kids jumping on the bed with dirty shoes.
“I always tell clients to hide their jewelry before an open house. I had one in Cheviot Hills once where the seller had his watch stolen,” Giddins said.
Compass agent Lucas Cintra doesn’t mind the casual lookers; he welcomes them. He’s hosting an open house Sunday from 2 to 5 p.m. for a brand-new three-story mansion in Brentwood, and he’s hoping for as big a crowd as possible.
“You never know who that person’s going to tell or who that person knows,” he said. “Plus, if I lived in a neighborhood and watched a home being built for the last three years, I’d be curious too.”