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Post–Great Recession, the spec-home market in Los Angeles didn’t simply recover, it exploded into one of the world’s true real-estate juggernauts. Today teardowns routinely fetch $30 million and above, while completed mega-compounds with nine-figure price tags are no longer real-estate one-offs. The explosion of mega-mansions has spawned a one-of-a-kind residential race to the top, where developers, architects, and designers continue to push the boundaries of opulence to new extremes, in terms of size, amenities, and price.
Currently, the most expensive home for sale in the U.S. is a 38,000-square-foot Bel Air spec spread developed by QVC handbag tycoon Bruce Makowsky. The $250 million, 21-bath, three-kitchen compound comes loaded with a helipad, $30 million worth of cars, and a seven-person staff for two years.
Far from an overpriced developer’s pipe dream, however, these types of over-the-top mega-estates typically sell for asking price, says real-estate agent David Parnes. “There is unprecedented action in this market. There’s a lot of money chasing very few products, and the special properties command these premium prices. They sell quickly,” says the Million Dollar Listing Los Angeles star, whose current projects include a 14,000-square-foot Bel Air spec estate poised to hit the market this summer. Designed by South Africa–based SAOTA Architecture, the home will include multiple master suites, a solarium, a cigar bar, a full spa, and a screening room. It will be listed at nearly $50 million.
Few developers have ridden the spec-home wave with more success than Nile Niami. A former movie producer, Niami started developing hyper-contemporary, high-gloss homes 16 years ago and has completed 23 homes since. Buyers have included everyone from Sean Combs to the Winklevoss twins. His latest creation is a 20,000-square-foot compound currently on the market for $100 million. Called Opus, it includes a gold Lamborghini Roadster, a gold Rolls-Royce Dawn, three original Damien Hirst artworks, Roberto Cavalli floors, and a Cristal Champagne room worth $250,000.
If that sounds extravagant, it turns out it may pale in comparison with Niami’s next project, which is currently under construction. Called the One, the Bel Air home has earned the moniker of “giga-mansion” for its mind-boggling 100,000-square-foot size and features that will include a 5,000-square-foot master suite, a 30-car gallery, a four-lane bowling alley, and a 45-seat IMAX theater that “rivals any commercial theater,” says Niami. And then there’s the jellyfish room. Niami is creating a lounge area where “jellyfish swim around you and surround you.” The home will also feature a moat that “surrounds the entire property so it feels like the mansion is floating on water,” he says.
To realize the mega-dream, Niami conscripted architect Paul McClean, with whom he’s worked on almost all of his latest homes. “These projects are designed to bring everything you’d find in a city to the home—restaurant-grade kitchens, salons, theaters. Wellness spas are really big right now—steam rooms, saunas, hammams, salt rooms, which are entire rooms made out of salt—it’s supposed to be beneficial.”
The One’s most jaw-dropping feature, however, may be its proposed price tag of $500 million. But will anyone actually pay that much for a home, even if it is located down the street from Jennifer Aniston? “The market size requirement is one buyer,” says Paul Habibi, professor of real estate at UCLA. “This is not a logical thing. There’s a lot of offshore money looking for a safe haven. Putting it in U.S. real estate is a way to park those extra funds.”
As for the future of the L.A. spec-home market, many wonder if it’s reaching critical mass. “I don’t know if this is going to go on forever,” says McClean. “There is pushback on these large homes in both neighborhoods and cities,” referring to recently passed building ordinances aimed to limit square footage in places like West Hollywood and Beverly Hills.
Ironically, that may end up being one of the One’s biggest selling points, according to Niami. “I’ve set a new bar, and this is the only bar that will ever be set because they will never allow a home of this size to be built. They changed the hillside ordinance rules so a home of this size on this much land will not be allowed to be built in L.A. again.”
Source : Architectural Digest