Real Estate Newsletter: Amazon Takes Over the SoCal Space
Welcome back to the real estate newsletter, where the biggest move of the week is one of the biggest companies in the world: Amazon.
Jeff Bezos already has his own home in Southern California — a cozy little $165 million mansion in Beverly Hills — but now his business is gaining more space in the area. This week, the retail giant announced three new office leases totaling 439,000 square feet in Santa Monica, Irvine and San Diego.
The new offices will accompany a hiring spree of 2,500 locally recruited corporate and technology jobs, but the announcement comes at a crucial time for Amazon. Last week, the company reported a quarterly loss of $3.8 billion, acknowledging that a previous wave of hiring during the pandemic had left it with a surplus of workers and warehouse space.
On the luxury side, two lists showed us exactly how valuable land and space have become in LA’s trendiest pockets during the pandemic.
The first is in Beverly Crest, where the chief executive of high-end furniture retailer RH unloaded his half-built $24 million home. With shuttered windows and weeds growing on the roof terrace, the modern mansion left in renovation limbo looks like something straight out of a post-apocalyptic movie, but it still turned a profit huge. Records show the CEO bought it in the same unlivable condition just three years ago for $15 million.
In Bel-Air, a reality TV star is pursuing similar success. Lilly Ghalichi, who starred in Bravo’s “Shahs of Sunset,” is shopping around for her Mediterranean-style mansion for $32 million – slightly more than the $19.5 million she paid in 2020. Before it, it belonged for almost three decades to the late automotive titan Lee Iacocca, whose many innovations include the development of the Ford Mustang.
On the design side: take a look at a small refuge in Silver Lake inspired by Richard Neutra. It’s only 144 square feet, but the acoustically isolated box in the earth and surrounded by gardens serves as the perfect escape from the cacophony of the city.
In our explainer for the week, we broke down the Investor Repayable Loan Assistance Program, a new state housing initiative with a name so vague and long I got bored just writing it. It’s definitely worth looking into, though, because it provides a potentially life-changing tool for new California homeowners: a down payment loan with 0% interest. Check the details to see if you qualify.
While keeping up to date with the latest news, visit and like our Facebook page, where you can find real estate stories and updates throughout the week.
Amazon expands into SoCal
Amazon is significantly expanding its white-collar presence in Southern California, announcing office leases to accommodate 2,500 new business and tech jobs in Santa Monica, Irvine and San Diego.
The e-commerce giant said it had signed three leases, totaling 439,000 square feet, for what it described as “tech hubs” in the three cities. The leases bring Amazon’s Southern California office footprint to more than 1.5 million square feet, an increase of more than 40%, according to real estate brokerage data.
The Seattle-based company said it plans to hire locally for jobs in a variety of areas, including retail, operations, games and web services. Specific roles include software development engineers, game designers, and user experience designers.
The three offices are the latest in a series of locations Amazon has opened over the past two years to handle increased demand from home consumers during the pandemic. Last week, the company acknowledged that the hiring spree had left it with too many workers and too much warehouse space, as it reported a quarterly loss of $3.8 billion.
A furniture mogul earns a fortune for an unfinished house
Gary Friedman, general manager of high-end furniture retailer RH (formerly known as Restoration Hardware), has just quietly sold his half-built home in Beverly Crest for $24 million.
The off-market deal highlights the skyrocketing land values in affluent pockets of Los Angeles since the pandemic. Records show Friedman bought the property in its half-finished state for $15 million in 2019, so the sale brought in a profit of $9 million.
Even in its unliveable state, it’s no surprise the property has fetched such a fortune. It sits at the end of a cul-de-sac and spans 2.8 acres – a rare amount of land for the neighborhood.
For reference, of the 105 properties currently on the market in Beverly Crest, only 15 are larger than 2 acres. Of these, 14 cost over $20 million.
Reality Star Lists Auto Titan’s Mansion
In Bel-Air, the longtime home of late auto titan Lee Iacocca is on the market for $32 million just two years after being traded for $19.5 million.
The seller is Lilly Ghalichi, a reality TV star who appeared on Bravo’s “Shahs of Sunset.” She and her husband, Dara Mir, made some changes during their two-year stay, updating the kitchen with a marble island and adding herringbone floors in the bedroom.
Prior to Ghalichi, the house had been owned for nearly three decades by Iacocca, which is best known for developing the Ford Mustang and also saving Chrysler Corp. from the brink of bankruptcy as CEO in the 1980s. His daughter sold the estate after his death in 2019.
A terrarium-like gem in Silver Lake
After many years of living in Richard Neutra’s 900-square-foot McIntosh home in Silver Lake, architect John Bertram and his wife, actress and writer Ann Magnuson, felt cramped and wanted more space. space, but didn’t need the kitchen and bathroom that comes with a secondary suite, writes Lisa Boone.
So last year, over a five-month period and at a cost of $170,000, Bertram added a soundproof backyard studio that was designed and licensed as a recreation room. It now serves as a quiet getaway where the couple can work, write and meditate in the quiet of one room.
Like a Japanese tea house, the room is intentionally understated with no visual distractions. Neatly sited on the sloping backyard behind the Silver Lake couple’s home, the recreation room has a terrarium vibe due to its low location and wide Fleetwood windows, including one at chest level that opens easily to allow Lucy, the couple’s cat, easy access to the unit.
New program offers 0% interest home loans
Low-income Californians looking to buy a home have a new tool at their disposal: an interest-free loan to use for their down payment that, if certain criteria are met, doesn’t have to be repaid, writes Andrew Khouri.
The California Housing Finance Agency began offering this assistance last month through the Forgivable Equity Builder Loan Assistance Program. The Times profiled the program in March as part of a series on how to buy a home in Southern California.
Here are some more details on what’s on offer, as the state tries to make it easier for first-time buyers in a brutal housing market.
What we read
Many television shows highlight the absurdity of the luxury real estate market, but an East Coast real estate battle draws comparisons to another type of program: “Estate.” The saga revolves around the Alfieri family, who, like the Roys on the hit HBO show, are vying for a real estate fortune worth hundreds of millions. NY Post has the story.
As a homebuyer in the modern market, you may be competing with real estate companies and hedge funds to find your dream home. A rental fund backed by Goldman Sachs has just taken the worrying trend to a new extreme, buying an entire community of 87 single-family homes in Florida, according to Benzinga.