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Malibu's summer rents sizzle

Beachfront leases are hot, with listings up to $150,000 a month and going fast. It's costly to live among the stars.

March 24, 2008|Ann Brenoff | Times Staff Writer

For summer lease: Four-bedroom, eight-bathroom bluff-side Malibu house. Price -- $150,000 a month.

That's a jaw dropper, even for Malibu. The Cliffside Drive property's rental price is a local record high, according to the Multiple Listing Service, but it's just the latest pinnacle in a summer rental market that seems to have no high-water mark. Even mundane beachfront houses are renting for as much as $70,000 a month, and they're still expected to be snapped up by mid-April.

It all seems impossible, when real estate is wilting just about everywhere else. But Malibu in the summer isn't like everywhere else.

The housing market's troubles haven't touched homes valued at $10 million or above -- which pretty much defines the Malibu beachfront, according to John Karevoll of DataQuick Information Systems, a real estate research firm. And rents reflect that.

A big chunk of the summer crowd is from the entertainment industry, and hobnobbing never comes cheap. Plenty of deals are made at the beach -- and if you aren't there, someone else will be. And of course, there's also the opportunity to bump into Pamela Anderson buying organic carrot juice at Ralphs or to sip a latte next to Pierce Brosnan at Starbucks.

Finally, corporate money is pumping up Malibu prices as large publicity firms and companies with products to sell use summer rentals to host celebrity-studded bashes -- chock-full of product placements that wind up in photos in magazines and online. The "party houses" may find themselves on a tighter leash this summer, though, as the Malibu City Council takes steps to curtail noise and traffic complaints.

Still, the prices are head-spinners.

Chris Cortazzo, listing agent for Malibu's new top seed -- all 11,000-plus square feet of it -- touts the property's completely private location (that's Realtorspeak for paparazzi-proof). The Mediterranean-style home has direct beach access via steps down a cliff and interior furnishings described alternately as "tons of marble and fancy chandeliers" or "on the gaudy side." That last description from a competing listing agent. Leasing requires a two-month minimum and a hefty $300,000 security deposit.

Not far behind in price is a $135,000-a-month architectural four-bedroom house plus a detached studio with a pool and spa on Malibu Colony beach, listed by Coldwell Banker Previews agent Susan Monus. Gorgeous as it may be, tire-kickers might not like that the property is on a through street. Still, there are few better addresses than this -- you've got Adam Sandler and Jeremy Piven up the street, Brian Grazer and Mel Brooks around the corner. And it's quite close to where Paris Hilton rented last summer.

The official realty line is that those who don't secure a lease by mid-April are likely to lose out on the primo beach neighborhoods of the Colony, Broad Beach and Carbon Beach, and there seems to be plenty of people ready to pony up more than what average Joes earn in a year for a month of lounging along the gilded coast. (Gawkers can access http:// idx.themls.com/caroldarrow/ lease.cfm and mosey through the marble halls.)

It's the same story on the East Coast, where a house on Long Island's Southhampton Village is listed at $450,000 for the month of August.

"The choice Hamptons properties get rented early," said Silke Oellrich of Prudential Douglas Elliman. "People started coming to look for summer homes in November," she said. (The Hamptons' siren song must have captured the heart of Hollywood heavyweight Steven Spielberg, who just bought a property there for about $20 million.)

Of Monus' three Malibu summer beach listings, one listed at $100,000 a month already has been scarfed up, and she expects the remaining two -- the aforementioned listing at $135,000 a month and another at $80,000 a month -- to go shortly. A count of top agents' websites found at least 11 summer listings for $75,000 or more a month, and there are more that are discreetly held by agents, who don't post them on websites or the MLS.

"Malibu is the Riviera of the United States," Monus says, shrugging off the prices. And she may be right. Even Newport Beach and Laguna Beach top out at about $60,000 a month.

Is it really that incredible to summer in the 'bu?

Apparently so. In the words of actor and Malibu renter Daniel Baldwin, "Malibu in the summer is where the United States ends and life begins."

Baldwin is leasing a furnished Villa Malibu apartment through Coldwell Banker agent Scotty Brown, who lists 10 units in the complex for the summer that rent for a relatively modest $10,000 to $30,000 a month. Villa Malibu, on the inland side of the Pacific Coast Highway, comes with its own concierge, tennis pro, car service and personal trainer. No, they won't cut your meat for you.

Sharon Clayton, 44, a banker, keeps homes in London, Bahrain and Tampa, Fla. She rents the same "small" house on Carbon Beach each summer to entertain business associates. Last year, she paid $85,000 for a three-month rental.

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