Sunday, October 14, 2007

Bright Spots in Real Estate

It's not all bad out there in the residential real estate world. Areas with less for sale inventory and lower supplies of land have faired quite well this last year despite national woes. Areas such as Portland, Seattle, and some trophy areas of California. I was especially intrigued by this relatively recent article in Wall Street Journal regarding America's Riviera, Santa Barbara, and the strength of its housing market..............

The New Gold Coast
One Stretch of California Defies Housing Slump;

Median Sale, $1 Million

CARPINTERIA, Calif. -- Other than an 18-foot-tall rooftop Santa Claus visible from the highway, this middle-class beach town used to be but a blur for wealthy vacationers speeding toward tony Montecito and Santa Barbara, about 10 miles up the road. Today, the statue is gone, and a clutch of the megarich have made Carpinteria an unlikely stop for buyers who can afford any ocean view in the world.

Public records show that New York billionaire hedge-fund manager Bruce Kovner spent $83.3 million this year to amass 15 bluff-top acres, including a luxury villa, near the end of a highway exit ramp. He also has agreed to buy part of Kevin Costner's field of dreams next door: Last year, the actor acquired 17 grassy acres dominated by a polo field for $28.5 million. Just down the road, a beachfront house on a mere quarter-acre is listed for sale at $24 million.

Carpinteria's arrival on the luxury-estate scene illustrates how California's gold coast is defying the downdraft in the national housing market. Eye-popping sales are spreading along a 40-mile stretch of southern Santa Barbara County, through sprawling ranch lands and past hillside homes, to the enclave of Carpinteria. In July, when existing-home sales slumped by 9.3% nationally and plummeted 23% in California compared with a year ago, sales along the county's southern coast soared nearly 28%, according to the California Association of Realtors. It also was the only region of California where the median sales price surpassed $1 million.

Estates in the exclusive Hope Ranch and Montecito communities set the standard in an area long prized by tycoons and Hollywood players for its mild climate, natural beauty and low-key sophistication. Indeed, at Oprah Winfrey's Montecito fund-raiser tomorrow for Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, more than her political firepower will be on display. Ms. Winfrey's 40-acre hillside estate, bought six years ago for around $50 million, has swelled in value to $84.7 million, according to public county-assessor records.

Santa Barbara's high-end housing market is set for its best year ever, according to Wendy Gragg, chief executive of the Distinctive Real Estate agency. Just counting properties with a value of at least $10 million, the area notched more than $195 million in sales so far this year, putting it on track to beat last year's local record of $219 million............


For rest of article click here

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