The home looks as though the residents have just stepped out for a moment.
A blanket is thrown casually across a bed. Dolls grace the shelves in a little girl's room. The refrigerator is stocked. The dining room table is set. Wood is stacked in the soot-stained fireplace. Portraits of smiling children rest in small frames here and there.
But no one has ever lived here.
This house in Dana Point is new and for sale--as is.
John Lloyd, a San Juan Capistrano builder, is betting that someone will spend $3.65 million for a four-bedroom oceanfront home that requires the buyer bring only a toothbrush and clothes on move-in day.
In a unique approach to building and selling luxury homes in Orange County, Lloyd, 56, is offering the 5,300-square-foot Lantern Bay home for sale fully equipped from towels in the bathrooms and a rolling pin in the pantry to a parlor grand piano in the living room and a new Rolls-Royce in the garage.
"If you stop with the structure, a house is like an unfinished symphony," Lloyd says. "It's like a car without upholstery or a teddy bear without stuffing. Something is missing.
"I see a house as a work of art. If a guy doesn't like my vision, then he can buy another house. I like being a pioneer. I'm in no hurry."
Fully furnished houses have occasionally been sold in such upper-crust real estate markets as Bel Air and Brentwood in Los Angeles and some areas near New York City. But Tom Hribar, a real estate broker with ReMax South County and an 11-year veteran of selling luxury homes, says Lloyd is on the cutting edge in terms of both price and concept.
"He's at the absolute high end of the market. I'm not aware of any at the moment where the asking price is that high."
Hribar said he doesn't know anyone else in the area who has tried to sell a completely furnished house, "but in this market, there is always room for creative thought. He that dares to be different may prove to be successful."
Most high-end buyers are sophisticated, experienced dealers in real estate, very demanding and very critical, Hribar said. "The jury is still out," he said, on whether such a buyer would be willing to accept Lloyd's choice of home furnishings.
"But there may be that one individual out there to whom buying a $3.5-million house is the same as the rest of us buying one for $100,000, who will just step up and say, 'I'll take it.' "
Lloyd, who has built homes, offices and business parks throughout Southern California, says he was inspired by his own experience to build and sell a people-ready home.
"I built the Bank Americard facility in Pasadena (in the early 1970s) and I had a lot of money. I made my first million when I was 39. I was new rich, looking for a way to spend it. I lived in Pasadena, but one day in 1974 I was in Newport Beach looking to buy a boat, and I stopped to look at homes in Promontory Bay. I walked into a model, completely furnished. I told the man I wanted to buy it the way it was--artwork, dishes, towels, everything.
"He didn't take me seriously until I pulled out my checkbook and wrote a check on the spot. On June 15, 1974, we brought our clothes down and walked in the door.
"I thought this was a fabulous way to do it. I was amazed no one else did and I said I'm going to do this."
Lloyd, a builder by trade but architect at heart, is an ardent admirer of early 20th Century architect Frank Lloyd Wright.
"He brought the outside inside. He married the structure to the environment; he eliminated the feeling of having entered a house."
The starting point for Lloyd, too, is the site for the house.
"Many people look at a site in terms of problems. I don't. I spent $1.4 million for land (in Rancho Santa Fe) that has huge rock outcroppings. Most people would blast them out. I'm going to build them into the house.
"I'm looking for an environment that I can draw through and inside the house. I want many spaces, open, fluent, so people aren't boxed in. A building is people with a skin around them. If you forget the people, then you have no reason to build."
Lloyd says it typically takes him two to three years to complete a project.
"I'll go to a site in a motor home with a landscape architect and an artist. We'll take lunch and a bottle of wine. We'll walk around, talk, sit and just look at it. Then we'll go back and each come up with wildest thoughts about how to build. I never laugh at a creative idea. I believe in what Walt Disney called 'plussing'--in brainstorming there are no negative thoughts, only thoughts that take an idea further."
Although he works with a team throughout a project, Lloyd says he relies on his own vision to make key choices about design, materials and furnishings. "The worst thing is to design and build for someone else. I only need one person to see things as I do and buy what I make."