33 home sales cap record December

An aerial view of the $75-million estate recently purchased by Russian billionaires. 

Year 2012, already gaining momentum after six agonizingly slow years, ended with one of the greatest months in Malibu real estate history. It was not just the busiest month of 2012, by far, it was a blockbuster sales period like no other. 

A staggering 33 homes closed escrow during December, and that was just those reported in the Multiple Listing Service. On Dec. 31 alone, 10 homes recorded with new owners, a single day of title-transfers that beat out many months from the dreary 2008-2011 period. 

Among the December bombardment was one of the largest sales in Malibu history, a deal for over $36 million in Paradise Cove. And that was not even the biggest news in town. The month concluded with widespread rumors that the famous Harrah Estate (as it was once known) on Encinal Bluffs had changed hands in one of the biggest sales in American history. Indeed, according to public records, a transfer was recorded on Jan. 4, 2013 for the property, and the widely reported figure for the transfer is $75 million. That would double the record for Malibu that had been notched four times in the $35-38 million range. 

It was not just the mega-deals that were notable, however. Every facet of the Malibu home sales market was gangbusters during December. Beach homes, properties under $1 million and every price tier experienced numerous sales. 

The 33 closed escrows was a pace equal to any time in Malibu history. In the very best of years, such as 2000-2005, just over 300 homes traded hands all year, with 30-40 sales representing the most exhausting months. 

The record flurry was all the more unusual for the timing. The busiest month of the year for Malibu homes closing escrow? Usually it is March, or May, or maybe possibly April or July. But never December, until last month. 

Sales had been steady all year, with March, May, June and September escalating over 20 units for single family homes sold in the 90265 ZIP code. November was surprisingly strong also, with 21 deals. 

Then came December, which seemed to be rather mild with only 11 transactions through December 20, when activity usually begins to shut down. Not this time. In the final 12 days of the year, just under $100 million in real estate traded hands, not including the $75 million deal that would swap a few days later. That 12-day period alone produced more volume than any three months combined during 2009. 

The year-end splurge was more a reflection of a market gaining momentum that a common occurrence. During December 2011, only nine deals wrapped up during the final two weeks of the year. In 2010, not a single escrow closed after Dec. 23. Surely, however, tax law and potential “fiscal cliff” developments were factors to some degree. 

Thanks to the strong month, the total number of sales for Malibu last year topped 200. That was a given, going into December. But the thrust of more buyers combined with a more-than-normal diminishing of homes available for sale made December something of a watershed month. The power has shifted to sellers now. It is clearly a seller’s market, for any listing that is reasonably priced. 

Rick Wallace as been a Realtor in Malibu for 25 years.