Hollywood’s luxury real estate brokers find themselves grounded – The Hollywood Reporter

She designed a yacht for Johnny Depp, more than a dozen homes around the world for Nicolas Cage and a $30 million condo for Matthew Perry, but for interior designer LM Pagano, the project she keeps spinning is the luxury bunker she designed. for a billionaire client in 2015. “It was the biggest, most luxurious private bunker in the world,” says Pagano, who cannot divulge what city he was in, let alone the client’s name, except to say that he was an American businessman living in the Midwest. “The guys who worked on it also helped build the bunker at Camp David and they had never seen anything like it – it was crazy,” she says.

But the three-year project pissed her off. “It was kind of depressing. The thought of someone who could afford to build this kind of bunker made me think, ‘What do they know that I don’t know? in the Topanga Canyon area of ​​Los They installed a state-of-the-art solar and security system, a generator that switches between multiple power sources, planted 40 fruit trees on the property’s six acres, and installed a water filtration system. “It’s just a long way from being totally off the grid,” says Pagano, who ultimately put the house in the Tuna Canyon neighborhood of Topanga up for sale just as the worst global pandemic in more than a year century was beginning to unfold.

Amid the novel coronavirus crisis, Pagano and its brokers are letting the Topanga Canyon listing roll, hoping the serendipity of the cubist-style home’s off-the-grid amenities can outweigh the state of limbo that the market Los Angeles real estate currently finds itself. But the prospect of selling a house is dwindling day by day. Just this week, LA Mayor Eric Garcetti banned all in-person home visits, closing another loophole that a dwindling number of sellers and their agents have been relying on to try to move what little inventory there is. still exist.

“We kicked off the first week of March when there was no talk of quarantines,” says Compass’ Greg Holcomb, who has the $4.5 million listing with Cassandra Petersen. “But everything started to change after a week of work. We had a lot of momentum right from launch and it seemed short-sighted to take it off, especially because the house has features that might be interesting for people at a time like this.

The industry is bracing for the latest market data, which will show a frozen, if not fully spiraling, market at best. Anecdotally, agents say business plummets, buyers pull back and sellers lower prices. According to the most recent data provided by Zillow, new listings in the LA metro area are down 28% from the same time last year, and they are down 49% year over year. other from April 1 to March 5. Although disconcerting, it hasn’t completely stopped a gang of Los Angeles luxury brokers who, either out of sheer willpower — or denial — are trying to go about their business with their hands tied behind their backs.

“I’m negotiating a few big deals right now,” says Hilton & Hyland’s Branden Williams, who together with his wife, Rayni, form the Williams & Williams team, which achieves more than nine-figure sales volume each year. year. “We closed an $8.5 million home and a $3.5 million home this week. A few deals fell – but I think we’ll get through this because LA is king. More people will move here when this is over,” he says.

Until this week, the agents were working under the Department of Homeland Security edict that deemed “real estate services” part of the nation’s “critical infrastructure,” effectively designating the industry as an essential business. This prompted the California Association of Realtors (CAR) to issue an advisory ending all open houses but allowing virtual tours. CAR also did not explicitly ban in-person viewing appointments as long as social distancing measures were adhered to and only one person entered a listing at a time.

“Private screenings are definitely happening,” Williams said, days before Garcetti’s new order took effect. But even in the run-up to the mayor’s new ban, some were wary of the ethical implications of showing a list when everyone was supposed to be sheltering at home. “On the one hand you have people saying, ‘Let’s focus on the future and be productive,’ and on the other hand people saying showing a house right now is incredibly rude,” says Holcomb. . “We have a duty to our client, but we also have a duty to the community and our families. I see both sides,” he says.

In the meantime, agents rely heavily on virtual screenings. The agency’s Mauricio Umansky said he committed to two listings after relying entirely on virtual tours.

Others turn to social media. The Williams, along with Tomer Fridman of Compass and real estate marketing firm Society Group, are hosting an unscripted streaming show on Instagram Live where they discuss their listings and market information.

Other senior officers are suspicious. “I don’t think people are going to sell a house through a virtual tour. Who’s going to buy a house without seeing it,” says Douglas Elliman’s Mark Kitching, who says he manages his sellers’ anxieties and tries to keep the listings he has in escrow from falling. “I don’t think it’s a big deal to take a break and reset. We can all get back on the horse and keep hustling when it’s over,” he says. “People are stuck in their homes right now and they’re going to find out very quickly if they like it. That reason alone could cause the market to jump when we go through this.”

Kristan F. Talley