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Topics / REAL ESTATE : Expensive New Homes Are Attracting Buyers

August 18, 1994|TED JOHNSON

Developers of a posh new tract of Mediterranean-style homes have managed to sell a handful of units--and at their $759,000 to $869,000 asking prices.

The Riviera Beach Colony, a gated community in the Hollywood Riviera section of Torrance, has sold three homes since it opened last month.

Developers of the project say it's a sign that the market for the South Bay's priciest homes, which dived in value during the recession, is finally coming out of its doldrums.

"The market has picked up, and I think we're benefiting from that," says Rob Dick, the developer of the 28-home neighborhood. "For those who say, 'Where's the bottom?'--I think it was six months ago."

The project, built in a beachfront section of Torrance that borders the Palos Verdes Peninsula, offers homes with views of Santa Monica Bay, in-home security and built-in stereo systems. Since the first four-bedroom model opened at the beginning of July, it has drawn about 300 curious shoppers a week, Dick said.

The buyers of the first home, who didn't want their names used, bought now because they feared the homes would go up in price, their real estate broker said.

"It's the higher end, no question, but the land is hard to come by," he said. "These homes in 1990 (would have) sold for a million dollars, no question about it."

Real estate brokers have praised the location of the project and the design of its first model, which features limestone and marble floors, a master-bedroom balcony, fountains and copper gutters.

But they aren't so sure that it means that the market for high-end homes is recovering. Defense firms still promise more layoffs, which could force more aerospace executives who live on the peninsula from their homes.

Sales on the peninsula have picked up: 472 homes were sold in the first seven months of 1994, compared to 377 last year, according to a real estate listing service. But most of the sales were of homes priced at less than $500,000, real estate brokers say.

"People have to be confident of what is going on in the economy," said Jolaine Merrill, a broker at Coldwell Banker in Rolling Hills Estates. When prices are $600,000 and above, not as many buyers are willing to take the risk, she said.

The Riviera Beach Colony is one of the few new coastal developments to have been built in the South Bay in recent years.

"The key to that development is, 'Can they sustain that rate of sales in the next few months?' " said Michael Vernick, a broker at RE/Max Palos Verdes Realty.

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