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View Homes Are Priced Out of Sight

Depending on the home and what it overlooks, a view can add substantial value to a property.


Whether a house faces the ocean, mountains, cityscape or golf course, in Southern California, buyers are willing to pay extra for a view.

In fact, views add anywhere from $10,000 to several million dollars to a property's value, depending on the view and the home's location, size and amenities.

Real estate agents say there are two types of views that can bump a home's price up by six or seven figures. The first is an unobstructed ocean view from a the large house in an exclusive, gated community. The second is an "airplane view" that stretch from downtown Los Angeles to the ocean and Santa Catalina Island.

There is even a name for the panoramic view of the Santa Monica Bay from homes in Pacific Palisades and the Palos Verdes Peninsula. It's called "The Queen's Necklace," so named because at night, the lights along the bay sparkle like a string of royal diamonds. Realtors say demand for these houses far exceeds supply.

"Today every buyer in the city is looking for a house with a view," says Cecelia Waeschle, a broker with Coldwell Banker Previews in Beverly Hills. "The high-profile buyers like actors, movie stars or those with a lot of money to spend, that's their first requirement."

"The more high-end the real estate, the more specific the buyers' requests are likely to be," adds Danny Bibb, president of Coast Newport/Coldwell Banker in Newport Beach, whose 125 agents specialize in coastal Orange County.

Not only do they want grand vistas, but wealthy buyers also want privacy. Some buyers request an exposure to catch the early morning sun while others insist upon afternoon rays. Some want ocean views but not a home atop a steep cliff. Conversely, others prefer the bluffs to beachfront.

Picky gazillionaires aside, what about views for the rest of us working stiffs?

Realtors say that many homes with views don't cost millions of dollars. They include mountain views, canyon views, golf course views, lakeside views and partial ocean and city views.

"You could have a house in the Echo Park area where you might get $20,000 extra for the city view or a Hollywood Hills home where you'd get $100,000," points out Steve Rosselli of S.B. Rosselli Appraisal in Northridge.

It's impossible to put a price on views because there are too many variables. For instance, you might have a house with a wonderful ocean view on MacArthur Boulevard in Newport Beach, but the noise factor from the big, busy thoroughfare would just about cancel out any price hike from the view.

"I've had a lot of people ask me what the value of a view is, but there isn't any kind of standard; it definitely isn't a science," Rosselli says. "You can't say a mountain view is worth $20,000 or an ocean view is worth $50,000."

Appraisers instead collect what is called a paired sales analysis, he says. If he's appraising a home that sits on Lake Sherwood in Thousand Oaks, for example, he finds two homes in the same area of roughly the same size and amenities that have recently sold. One of those houses will have a view. The other won't. He then compares sales prices for the two homes and the value of the view will be the difference between them, all other things being equal.

For instance, Rosselli has appraised condominiums on the 18th floor of a Beverly Hills building and says that a $200,000 condominium that faces north toward the mountains might sell for 5% less than a condo with more desirable city views that faces south.

Bibb of Coast Newport uses a similar method. He says a home on a 15,000-square-foot lot in the gated community of Big Canyon in Newport Beach with a view of the Big Canyon Country Club golf course would probably sell for $1.75 million while a house on the same size lot with no view would fetch $1.25 million.

But the more expensive the property, the pricier the view. In the gated Laguna Beach communities of Emerald Bay and Irvine Cove, Bibb says, a lot without a view might sell for $2 million while the same lot with a front-row ocean view would sell for $6 million, which means the privilege of watching the breakers roll in all day long will set you back $4 million.

When it comes to Hollywood Hills homes, those that overlook the San Fernando Valley are generally cheaper than those overlooking the L.A. basin. But Waeschle says that's in part because homes in Bel-Air and Beverly Hills tend to be more expensive to begin with, say $6.5 million for Bel-Air compared to maybe $3.5 million for a Valley-facing home in Encino.

But good luck finding it.

"The properties available with views are very few and far between," Waeschle notes. "They've gone the way of the dinosaur. Most people seem to not want to sell. I know clients right now who have a lot of money to spend, but nothing is happening."

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