Record year for $20 million sales

It is the bowling alley that you remember most. The ocean view over Zuma Beach below is nice.

The house — mansion — is spectacular, and there is incredible landscaping all around. But, seeing the Brunswick bowling alley with two lanes within a veritable recreation center in the massive basement was the impression that stuck with me seeing the Malibu Park home on Thursday caravan in mid-June. The property was hard to top.

So was the price. Practically a $25 million list price, and not even on the beach? Who would pay that? The place was spectacular, but would somebody?

Yes, somebody would. A major rock celebrity wasted little time nabbing the property for $23 million in a listing-to-closed escrow process that lasted about one month.

Normally, that would be the highlight sale of the year in Malibu. But not this year. It merely joins the crowd.

2014 has seen six sales of $20 million or more so far in the Malibu/90265 ZIP code real estate zone, beating out the record of 2007 of five sales. What’s more, five such transactions closed escrow within a recent 60-day period.

With August through October representing the best year ever for $20 million deals, something is going on here. Perhaps economic worries are ebbing? Alternative sources to park big money may be overpriced? Malibu’s nice new restaurants and increasing recreational areas are helping promote elite properties? Possibly the worldwide demand for rare, quality “collectible” real estate has simply increased?

In this case, our rock star friend not only has the only bowling alley in town — that I have ever seen in Malibu — but a saltwater pool, six gorgeous flat acres, a huge home theater off the bowling alley, 12 bathrooms, floor-to-ceiling French doors throughout, and on and on.

The six sales, so far, for 2014 equals the total number for 2011-2013, combined.

The high sale of the year is a Point Dume bluff property that traded at $33.5 million. The stunning property, which is like a resort hotel, has seven bedrooms, a huge 60-foot pool on the bluff overlooking the Santa Monica Bay, and a giant subterranean garage. It is a contemporary home with large indoor/outdoor open areas, and also features a gym and theater, Lutron lighting, and a 16-zone music system.

Another giant sale was on Carbon Beach for nearly $29 million. That was in April. Located on 80 feet of “Billionaire’s Beach,” sold by a software icon, the transaction brought to five the total number of $20 million deals historically on Carbon.

Make it six, now: Just closed in October was a $25 million sale on 147 precious feet of Carbon beach sand and a 9,000 square foot contemporary home.

A home in the Malibu Colony, outside the gates on Malibu Road, where the beach is widest, sold for $20 million — after being listed for $15 million.

Lastly, another Point Dume bluff property sold for $26.5 million in September, and it was not even listed. The quiet deal of a six-bedroom home on more than an acre, was the same property that raised eyebrows in 2001 when it sold for about $7 million. Things have gone up in value since then, apparently.

Another interpretation of this phenomenon, however, may be negative, but worthy of discussion. It is this: When the top of the market is hot like this, it may signal the end of the overall bull market for local real estate. The reasoning is that the market works in phases, first heating up at the condo level and then at each successive tier higher up the ladder. When the highest tier is hot, that may mean the full span of appreciation has exhausted itself.

That happened in 2007-2008. It may not be coincidental that 2007 set the previous record for mega-sales in Malibu, and then 2008 set a record with the highest median, only to see a full-fledged collapse in values in 2009. It was clear during 2008 that while the big money was leaping into the market, more modest market niches were rapidly slowing. It so happens that the last half of 2014 is showing a slowing of sales units, also, in contrast to the mega sales.

The huge deals are plentiful; but transactions otherwise are stalling. Is price stabilization the next phase?

In any case, about $113 million in overall volume was just added to the 2014 tally on just five rapid-fire deals, and the march to the first year at $1 billion in Malibu sales moves forward with confidence. Malibu real estate really shines with such deals. So it has been in 2014.

Rick Wallace has been a realtor in Malibu for 27 years.