There are properties in Orange County, however, to which such economic swings and fiscal rules simply don't apply, houses that are so staggeringly vast and expensive that the shibboleth "if you have to ask, you can't afford it" need hardly be mentioned.
The D'Angelo estate on Easter Hill in North Tustin is such a place. Built six years ago for Michael D'Angelo, the man who founded the Clothestime clothing store empire, the estate (the agent's brochure calls it a villa) sits on about 26 acres of hilltop land and 30,000 square feet are contained in the colonnaded building that surrounds an 11,000-square-foot courtyard landscaped with palm trees, koi-filled pools and one swimming pool specifically made for water volleyball.
Within this world is an array of features and amenities that would never--but \o7 never--\f7 appear in your local condo complex: two separate bathrooms in the master bedroom suite, six separate bedroom suites with sitting rooms and baths in each, a staff wing with three bedrooms with baths and kitchen, an outdoor kitchen and barbecue, an elevator, a terraced-seating media room with a wall filled with audio and video components and a surround-sound system, a wine cellar with tasting room, nine fireplaces, a hair salon, seven garages, a separate building to house two RVs, a sauna with television, men's and women's locker rooms with shower bathrooms, a gym with 20 exercise stations, a lighted tennis court, two swimming pools, two spas, three waterfalls, a game room, glass ceilings that open to the sky, a pair of indoor racquetball courts and a discotheque with video cameras and monitors and laser lights and smoke machine.
The asking price: $13,950,000, unfurnished.
If you think you absolutely can't consider it without furniture in it, however, Carole Geronsin, one of the agents representing the property, said a deal might be worked out for a higher price. The place was actually offered furnished near the end of 1990 by a Beverly Hills real estate firm for a cool $22 million, but that price, said Marcia Saunders, another agent currently handling the property, reflected not so much the addition of furniture as the price the Beverly Hills market was more accustomed to.
"This is literally a self-contained resort here," said real estate agent Carole Geronsin. "And the only reason anyone would want to leave the compound would be to procure food."
Well, not exactly. D'Angelo, she said, decided to sell it to move his family onto "a very large yacht and a smaller house."
In this real estate stratosphere, said Geronsin, the winds of a shifting economy barely ruffle the palm fronds. The person who buys the estate--it has been up for sale for 13 months--will not have to wait for another house to sell to obtain the money. It will simply be available. The buyer, she said, might be a movie star, an oil tycoon, "someone who wants it all, wants seclusion, wants privacy and wants to be surrounded by elegance and style. You don't show this house to every Tom, Dick and Harry who comes along."
A couple of miles to the north, and back to earth both literally and economically, is the former house of Jack Youngblood, the Rams' celebrated defensive tackle during the '70s and early '80s. Located in the horsing community of Orange Park Acres, the 3,400-square-foot house looks the part: it resembles an elongated red barn.
Unlike multimillion-dollar properties (it's listed for $799,000), the recession does have an effect on its appeal in the market, said agent Jack Tucker.
"In an economy like this," said Tucker, "there's a kind of chain that's broken. If people can't buy a $300,000 home then there's no one at that level who can move up to a $500,000 home and so on. Newport Beach is a different market, but this market (in Orange Park Acres) has slowed down, no question about it."
And the Youngblood name doesn't seem to help, he said.
"I think there's star value, personally," said Tucker. "There are a lot of wealthy people out here who like to be associated with celebrities. But I've had people call up and want to see the house just because it's Jack Youngblood's house and not necessarily because they want to buy."
Youngblood, now living near Sacramento as the marketing director for the Sacramento Surge of the World Football League, said he wasn't surprised that the house hasn't sold since being put on the market last August.
"The right person has to come through," he said. "It's not suited for everybody. It has to fit. It's one of those cases where sports has enabled an athlete to buy a nicer place than he normally would have and enabled him to do things with it, to put in unique things like a 10-foot ceiling to accommodate him because he's tall, or to put in larger mirrors that don't cut you off at the nose."
Star value won't carry the day, said Youngblood.
"A person can say, 'I bought Jack Youngblood's house,' but that and a dollar will get him a cup of coffee," he said.