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Real Estate newsletter: A billionaire buyer revealed – Los Angeles Times

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Welcome back to the Real Estate newsletter, which arrives on the heels of a mystery being solved.

Reporters and readers alike have been trying to figure out who paid $25 million for San Marino’s famed USC presidential mansion, and records finally revealed that the buyer was Chinese billionaire Tianqiao Chen. It makes a lot of sense, as the philanthropist recently donated $115 million to Caltech for neuroscience research, and the university dedicated a new 150,000-square-foot facility to him that opened earlier this year just a mile away from the home.

It’s still a great time to sell, and this week saw a few celebrities test their luck in the high-risk, high-reward real estate market. “Charlie’s Angels” star Shelley Hack did about as well as one can do, selling her Santa Monica Craftsman for $11.43 million — or $2.58 million more than her asking price.

Actress Helen Mirren and director Taylor Hackford are hoping for similar success in Hollywood Hills, where their colossal compound on 6.5 acres is on the market for $18.5 million. If the power couple get their price, it’ll be one of the priciest sales the ritzy neighborhood has seen so far this year.

If you don’t believe me regarding the seller’s market, believe the data. The numbers are in for June, and Southern California’s median home price soared to $680,000 last month. That’s an all-time high, shattering a record that stood for all of … 31 days.

Some news on what may come ahead: UC Berkeley researchers published a new report on a California Legislature bill that would allow denser home building in single-family zones. The study says the bill, which passed the state Senate, would produce an uptick in the state’s housing supply, but it likely wouldn’t cause the mass redevelopment that skeptics fear.

While catching up on the latest, visit and like our Facebook page, where you can find real estate stories and updates throughout the week.

Billionaire buys USC house

The seven-acre grounds center on a 14,000-square-foot American Colonial-style mansion surrounded by sprawling lawns.

The seven-acre grounds center on a 14,000-square-foot American Colonial-style mansion surrounded by sprawling lawns and English rose gardens.
(Compass)

When USC’s presidential mansion set a San Marino record by selling for $25 million in early July, it was initially unclear who the buyer was. Real estate records now show it was purchased by Tianqiao Chen, a Chinese billionaire with deep philanthropic ties to the community.

It was pure circumstance how he first came to the area. While watching the news, he and his wife, Chrissy, saw a story of a Caltech scientist helping a quadriplegic man use his thoughts to control a robotic arm and grab a beer.

Shortly after, the couple flew to Pasadena to meet the scientist — a trip that led Chen to give Caltech $115 million for neuroscience research, one of the largest gifts the university had ever received. In 2016, he founded the Tianqiao and Chrissy Chen Institute for Neuroscience at Caltech complete with a three-story, 150,000-square-foot facility on campus that was dedicated to the couple earlier this year.

He’ll have a short commute if he ever visits it, because his home sits about a mile away from the facility.

Actress gets way over asking

The half-acre estate includes a 99-year-old Craftsman, one-bedroom guesthouse and rustic barn surrounded by gardens.

The half-acre estate includes a 99-year-old Craftsman, one-bedroom guesthouse and rustic barn surrounded by gardens and fruit trees.
(Noel Kleinman)

In the latest example of Southern California’s seller’s market, “Charlie’s Angels” actress Shelley Hack sold her Santa Monica Craftsman for $11.43 million — or $2.58 million more than she was asking.

Hack and her husband, director Harry Winer, are walking away with a huge profit. Not only did they haul in significantly more than their original asking price of $8.5 million, but they also paid just $1.6 million for the property in 1988.

The secluded compound sits about a mile from the ocean in Santa Monica’s North of Montana neighborhood. Across half an acre, there’s a 99-year-old main home, one-bedroom guesthouse, rustic barn and manicured backyard with a deck and pool surrounded by gardens and fruit trees.

Power couple will either sell or lease

The 6.5-acre spread includes a main home, guesthouse and apartment that combine for nine bedrooms across 10,200 square feet.

(Marc Angeles)

Space is at a premium in Hollywood Hills, but not on the sprawling hillside compound of actress Helen Mirren and director Taylor Hackford. The power couple’s longtime property, which spans 6.5 acres at the foot of Runyon Canyon Park, listed for sale at $18.5 million.

If you’re eyeing a shorter stay, it’s also available to be leased at $45,000 per month.

At 6.5 acres, it’s the second-largest property currently available in Hollywood Hills. To put its relative size into perspective, only three estates on the market in the star-studded neighborhood claim more than 3 acres.

According to the listing, there have only been four owners — all famous — since the home was built more than a century ago: “The Squaw Man” actor Dustin Farnum, writer Mark Hellinger, “Perry Mason” producer Gail Patrick, and Mirren and Hackford, who acquired the estate in the 1980s.

SoCal home prices break another record

A for sale sign starts the bidding on a house in this cartoon

Southern California’s median home price surged to $680,000 in June.
(San Diego Union-Tribune)

Southern California’s real estate market hit another historic peak in June, with home prices soaring to yet another all-time high, though analysts see the extreme bidding wars of the last year beginning to ease.

June’s median home price of $680,000 tops the previous record of $667,000, set in May, according to data released Tuesday by data firm DQNews. It represents a 22.5% increase from June 2020, when the market in the six-county region slowed significantly as sellers pulled homes off the market because of COVID-19 stay-at-home orders.

Since then, a dramatic rebound has seen 11 straight months of double-digit median home price rises.

Experts credit multiple factors: the fast-expanding buyer market of millennials, more demand for space as more people work from home, and ultra-low mortgage rates, which are attracting wealthy investors who compete with the middle class for limited housing stock.

Housing bill put in perspective

A new bill would allow most lots now zoned for only one house to have up to four units.

(Willis Allen Real Estate)

A bill advancing through the California Legislature to allow for denser home building in single-family zones would be likely to produce an uptick in the state’s housing supply, but the so-called upzoning probably won’t cause mass redevelopment, according to a report published Wednesday.

Andrew Khouri and Ari Plachta write that the study by the Terner Center for Housing Innovation at UC Berkeley offers the most detailed analysis yet of the potential effect of Senate Bill 9, designed to allow up to four homes on most single-family lots and spur the construction of badly needed new housing.

Because of the way unit development would pencil out, the study found that “the vast amount of single-family parcels across the state would not see any new development,” said David Garcia, policy director at the Terner Center, which supports the bill written by Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins (D-San Diego).

SB 9 passed the state Senate and is expected to be taken up in the Assembly Appropriations Committee by Aug. 27. If approved, it would go to a final vote in the Assembly and then to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk. The Terner Center study found that under the bill, a total of 714,000 new homes would make financial sense to build, and it would take years to build them — if they ever are, since not all homeowners would want to sell or develop their own property.

What we’re reading

USC is on a selling spree. After unloading its presidential mansion, the school is offering up another home it owns in the Hollywood Hills for $4.25 million, according to House Beautiful. Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, the stunning abode is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

If you’re bidding for a home, there’s an increasing chance that the other contenders aren’t trying to live there. They could be an investor, a house flipper, or even a hedge fund, according to NBC News, who reported that investment groups are scooping up homes across the country thanks to their unmatchable financial firepower.

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Dartmouth real estate market strong, realtor reports | Dartmouth – Dartmouth Week

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Dartmouth real estate market strong, realtor reports | Dartmouth  Dartmouth Week



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What About $8 Million Buys In Real Estate Around The World – Forbes

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When it comes to luxury real estate, location is key. From properties with French alpine to Pacific Ocean views, these luxury listings take advantage of their picturesque settings. 

French alpine chalet 

Location: Courchevel Le Praz, France 

Price: $7.542 million (EUR 6.36 million)

This wood-filled chalet overlooks the ski slopes from an expansive living room with a fireplace and an adjacent south-facing terrace.

The six en-suite bedrooms all have terraces. A closed-in area features a pool and spa, along with sauna and massage room.

It is listed with Aurore Lucido of FGP Swiss & Alps.


Creek views in Colorado

Location: Aspen, Colorado

Price: $8.3 million

This ranchette home, remodeled in 2017, sits on a hillside overlooking Brush Creek Valley, the Snowmass ski area and Hunter Creek. The main home, which features antique 19th-century French Provincial/Mediterranean doors, has three bedrooms and 2.5-bathrooms. Features include a pantry with a custom wine cellar. A large outdoor entertaining area comes with a wraparound stone deck. 

A two-story accessory dwelling unit, built in 2005, houses an art studio and kitchen on the first floor and one bedroom, one bathroom, and a kitchen on the second. A three-car garage comes with a full bath.

It is listed with Stephanie Redmond of Slifer Smith & Frampton Real Estate.


Spanish island villa

Location: Son Termes, Bunyola, Mallorca, Spain 

Price: $8.241 million (EUR 6.95 million)

This villa sits surrounded by nature on the island of Mallorca. The 12-bedroom, nine-bathroom stone residence has classic Spanish architecture, shaded outdoor sitting areas and a modern swimming pool. 

It is listed with Antonio Ribes Bas of Inmobiliaria Rimontgo.


Historic oceanfront in Santa Monica

Location: Santa Monica, California

Price: $7.75 million

Designed and built in 1910 by architect Robert D. Farquhar, this three-bedroom home sits just off the Santa Monica Bluffs, with views to the Pacific Ocean. The home has been reimagined with luxurious finishes, including white oak flooring and custom automated shades. The kitchen features custom two-tone Italian cabinetry and stone countertops and Wolf, Sub-Zero, and Miele appliances. The bathrooms include luxe fixtures by Brizo, Rohl, Newport Brass and Toto. 

This home features a patio and the ground level and a deck on the second floor comprising more than 1,000 square feet of private outdoor space. 

It is listed with Bjorn Farrugia of Hilton & Hyland.


FGP Swiss & Alps, Hilton & Hyland, Inmobiliaria Rimontgo and Slifer Smith & Frampton Real Estate are exclusive members of Forbes Global Properties, a consumer marketplace and membership network of elite brokerages selling the world’s most luxurious homes.

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B.C. real estate agent suspended, fined nearly $100K over 'predatory' rent-to-own scheme – CBC.ca

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A Lower Mainland real estate agent has been ordered to pay nearly $100,000 in fines after being found guilty of professional misconduct in relation to a rent-to-own scheme allegedly aimed at financially vulnerable homeowners.

More than three years after B.C.’s real estate council first suspended Kevindeep Singh Bratch’s licence under “urgent circumstances,” Bratch has also been told he’ll have to wait another year before he can apply to get his licence back.

A disciplinary committee found that Bratch committed conduct unbecoming of a real estate agent after a hearing that saw testimony from a man who claimed Bratch acted like a “saviour,” while negotiating a deal to purchase a $2.1 million house for less than a quarter of its worth.

“Bratch’s conduct … constitutes conduct unbecoming because it targets members of the public who are in stressful positions, have limited options and feel pressured into agreeing to any terms to keep their family homes,” the council said in submissions that resulted in the penalties.

“In these circumstances, Mr. Bratch was looking to make an investment and was driven by profit. The homeowners were driven by the desire to keep their homes.”

Deals ‘disadvantageous’ to owners

The case was one of the last handled by the real estate council before the introduction of a new regulatory authority in B.C. The B.C. Financial Services Authority (BCFSA) now oversees real estate agents, mortgage brokers, credit unions, trust and insurance companies and pension plans.

The penalties — which include a $45,000 fine and $50,000 to pay for the cost of the investigation — were announced on the new regulator’s website this week.

The BCFSA will handle the file going forward.

B.C. Realtor Kevin Bratch has been fined and suspended in relation to a rent-to-own scheme that was called ‘predatory’ by the B.C. Real Estate Council. (Bratch Realty)

Bratch could not be reached for comment, but a spokesperson for the regulator said he has appealed the decision to the Financial Services Tribunal.

The rulings make clear that Bratch’s activities were not illegal.

The real estate council claimed they were “disadvantageous” to owners who “did not receive independent legal advice or separate agency representation, and either believed that Mr. Bratch was acting on their behalf, or were at least confused as to his role in the transaction.”

‘This is the best case scenario’

The witness who claimed Bratch came across as a “saviour” told the council that he approached Bratch after receiving unsolicited mail claiming the real estate agent was a foreclosure specialist.

At the time, the witness — whose name is redacted in the decision — was experiencing financial difficulties; his mother had passed away two years earlier and his bank had started foreclosure proceedings on his $2.1 million childhood home.

According to the decision, the two reached a deal that saw Bratch and his wife purchase the home for $500,000 and then agree to rent it back to the former owner for $4,000 a month with an option to buy back the property for $600,000 four months later.

“The language was like this is the best case scenario, this is what you have to do in order to make sure that the bank doesn’t take your home,” the witness told the disciplinary committee.

“I’m walking into this, like Kevin [Bratch], is in my corner, he is not somebody who, who is on the other side of the table in an agreement.”

The deal ultimately ended up in court after Bratch and his wife sued the homeowner, who responded by claiming the deal was “unconscionable.”

All three parties agreed to dismiss the legal action in December 2017.

‘I do wear the different hats’

The real estate council’s disciplinary committee considered evidence related to three rent-to-own deals involving Bratch.

In one case, Bratch evicted an elderly Maple Ridge couple on Thanksgiving 2017 after taking them to the Residential Tenancy Branch, over unpaid rent on a home they agreed to sell for $233,000 less than its assessed value to a company Bratch and his wife controlled .

The council faulted Bratch for failing to disclose the nature of his relationship with the company, and for failing to recommend that the couple get independent legal advice.

That situation led to the interest of local media. It also resulted in a lawsuit that was settled in an agreement that saw the couple buy their home back from Bratch for roughly the same price he originally paid them.

In the third case, the council says Bratch paid $154,000 less than the value of a property assessed at $869,000. He rented it back to the original owners for $4,300 a month.

“When we first signed this deal I expressed concern as to whether or not… [we] would be able to execute the re-purchase option after just one year, to which you assured me, and I quote, ‘I’m not a monster, I’m here to make a return on my investment, if you can’t buy it back after one year I would extent it [sic] another year,'” the original homeowner said in an email to Bratch, shared with the council.

The original owners could not buy the home back in a year and ended up renting on a month-by-month basis before moving out in December 2018.

According to the decision, Bratch now resides in the property. It was assessed at $915,000 in 2019.

Bratch represented himself at the hearing, disputing the allegations against him. He claimed he had advised the elderly couple to get a lawyer and was clear with his clients about the transactions.

According to the decision, he described himself as wearing “different hats.”

“So I provide homeowners with the different options and again I do wear the different hats,” Bratch is quoted as saying. 

“So I would be wearing a mortgage broker’s hat, a real estate agent’s hat and during that time you’re allowed to be … licensed as a mortgage broker and a real estate agent at the same time.”

In addition to the penalties and suspension, Bratch has been ordered to take an “Ethics in Business Practice” course offered by the Real Estate Institute.

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