With sites for just three homes, L.A.'s newest planned subdivision is tiny — but then again, so's the number of prospective residents.
To snag a spot in the exclusive Park Bel Air, a buyer will need to pay at least $45 million, and that's just for the land and permits to build. Want an off-the-shelf house, complete with an Imax theater and in-house beauty spa? That will set a buyer back $115 million.
And that's before additional modifications.
"If you want to put in solid-gold taps and cut-crystal chandeliers with rare quartz, it's going to probably cost more," said Barry Watts, president of Domvs London, the developer pitching the project with financial backing from J.P. Morgan investment arm Junius Real Estate Partners.
Tucked into a hillside just across Stone Canyon Road from the Hotel Bel-Air, the subdivision commands views of distant Santa Catalina Island on a clear day. Domvs and Junius acquired the 11-acre site last year for about $46 million.
But for now it's a construction site, with retaining walls marking out where Domvs hopes to build its massive estates. The smallest mansion would be 58,300 square feet — larger than Aaron Spelling's former estate in Holmby Hills.
The mid-size mansion at 59,226 square feet is already on the market for the lofty $115-million price tag, with the second expected to hit early next year and a third perhaps next summer.
The development is just the latest sign of a global real estate boom geared toward the small but growing ranks of the super-wealthy with seemingly unlimited funds, a trend that has driven up prices for top estates in London, New York and other global cities.
If Domvs finds a buyer at the price it is seeking, it would be the first property in Los Angeles to sell for nine figures. The area's high-water mark was the 2000 sale of a Bel-Air spread for $94 million. Another palatial Westside estate, Fleur de Lys, sold last year for $88.3 million.
But none of those are in a subdivision — in this case a tiny enclave of super wealthy residents who would have to pay a fee to a homeowners association with some uncommon amenities, such as a top-and-tails-clad security guard stationed at the development's entrance.
Watts and John Fraser, a Junius managing partner, are looking for buyers worth hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars. And while they acknowledge that's a small target market — Forbes estimates that there are about 1,800 billionaires on the planet — they say there are so few properties of this size and type that they should be able to find buyers.
"There are people looking to spend $100 million or $150 million, but they're coming here and they're not finding what they're looking for," Watts said.
Real estate brokers and wealth managers who work with monied buyers agree that there aren't many homes of this size available in Los Angeles.
Mauricio Umansky, chief executive of high-end real estate brokerage the Agency, said there are only a handful of houses close to the size that Domvs is offering.
"It's very difficult to buy a 50,000- or 60,000-square-foot home, Umansky said. "There are definitely a few $100-million buyers who can't find a $100-million house."
Domvs isn't the only one trying to reach those billionaires.
Developer Nile Niami is building what he has billed as a 70,000-square-foot, $500-million mansion in Bel-Air, not far from the Park Bel Air. Developer Bruce Makowsky last year sold a newly built home to Minecraft creator Markus Persson for $70 million. There's also the Vineyard Beverly Hills, a hilltop site that's been snakebitten by years of legal wrangling but that's long been considered a prime location for nine-figure estates.
But ultra-pricey homes don't always sell quickly, or for their eye-popping asking prices. Billionaire investor Jeff Greene recently cut the price of a 53,000-square-foot Beverly Hills compound called Palazzo di Amore to $149 million from $195 million. It's now been on the market for nearly a year.
Brad Larsen, a managing director at U.S. Trust, a wealth management arm of Bank of America, said Domvs and Junius are aiming for a very small number of potential buyers
"The builders are taking on some risk. It is a very, very small market," he said, though he expects there's enough money in L.A., and more than enough interest from wealthy foreign buyers, to justify the project.
Still, selling a mansion in a subdivision yet to be built poses its own challenges. Typically, homes in that price range are completed, not just planned and permitted.
If buyers snap up the Park Bel Air estate now on offer, they'll have to wait 2 1/2 years until construction is complete, though they'll have the chance to make changes to the design and furnishings before construction begins. Watts and Fraser pitch it as a middle ground between a self-built project and a pre-built or so-called spec house.
"It's not the same as a ready-to-go spec house, but in theory you won't have some of the tailoring obligations afterward," Fraser said. "In a spec house, you may not love all of it. If you're spending this much money, you should love all of it."
As designed, the estate for sale now features an Imax movie theater, a two-lane bowling alley, storage for 1,800 bottles of wine, an eight-car garage and staff quarters. But Watts expects that buyers are likely to make numerous changes.
In New York, developers recently listed a 9,700-square-foot penthouse for $70 million — a price that works out to more than $7,000 a square foot. By comparison, the Park Bel Air estate's price works out to not quite $2,000 a square foot.
"On a per-foot basis, this actually isn't crazy at all," Fraser said.