The Malibu Real Estate Report

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Malibu West has a flurry of sales-and new values

By Rick Wallace/Special to The Malibu Times

Prospective buyers often wonder why many houses are for sale or, conversely, why nothing seems to be selling in a particular neighborhood. There is never a good reason why that is the case. The pace of sales in any Malibu neighborhood is virtually always random.

“Why have so many people sold their house lately?” may be the suspicious query. There is no mystery; the number of sales depends purely on the collective whims of the residents at the time.

Serra Retreat in 2001, for example, had no sales. No particular reason why. Nobody felt like selling. Ten homes sold the next year to make up for it. Malibu Road may have 12 sales one year (2003) and only two in another (2002).

Thus, when the Malibu West area had only one sale last year through September, it was just a fluke. The area normally sees 10 to 15 sales in a year. It just happened to be a slow period.

The flurry of sales since then is equally capricious!

Eight homes have reported closed escrows in Malibu West in only the past four months. What is most significant about the cache of recent transfers, however, is the new reality of values. Only one of the sales was for less than $1.2 million. The average sales price has been a whopping $1.4 million. There goes the neighborhood; so much for what used to be regarded as Malibu’s distinctly most affordable area.

The average is partly skewed by a recent sale of an out-of-character two-story mansion, which, after years on and off the market, scored for about $1.8 million. Nevertheless, $1.2 to $1.5 million is where the action is.

One-hundred seventy-seven homes (and 60 condominiums) make up Malibu West, mostly built from 1962 to 1964. Practically every house is walking distance to Zuma Beach. Some homes in the upper mesa have ocean views over Zuma and Broad Beach. The neighborhood has a major unique feature for Malibu-its own wastewater treatment facility. Essentially a private sewer, only the Malibu Country Estates adjacent to Pepperdine University can boast such a claim locally. The facility is slated for a major retrofitting project this year, and also accommodates a few dozen homes up the highway.

Malibu West has its own beach club and tennis courts, which particularly add to its appeal. The beach facility boasts locker rooms and showers and the sand is supervised with a lifeguard throughout the summer. The large meeting hall has a big screen TV, kitchen facilities and, while available for rent to the public, hosts numerous neighborhood events year-round. Bridge, movie and exercise clubs use the place regularly. The beach has a volleyball court, barbecues and a children’s playground. Summer activity booms on the beach, and overnight campouts on the sand are often arranged. Two combination tennis/sports courts sit at the back of the canyon, near hiking trails into the hills.

It wasn’t that long ago that $500,000 seemed a steep price in Malibu West. In 1997, the average sale price was $448,000. It jumped to $535,000 in 1998. The great boom in real estate values is partly due to great organization and the unquantifiable benefit of intense local attention and effort within Malibu West. The beach club has been well-maintained and upgraded. Other aged locales such as the Outrigger Condominiums and Tivoli Cove condos underwent massive modernizations in recent times and have seen similar exponential increases in value thanks to the cleanliness and beautification of their facilities.

The typical Malibu West tract house features a one-story California ranch style with a hallway leading to three or four bedrooms. Homes average about 2,300 square feet in size. Many models include courtyard entries and some have pools. In 2003, the average sale price was $913,000.

Malibu West is not in the most convenient location. It is 15 minutes to mid-Malibu and a half-hour to reach the I-10 freeway. For some, it is just too far away. Similarly priced canyon alternatives, not in a tract setting, with larger lots and views, can be competition to Malibu West. Long gone are the days, however, that kids bussed one hour to Santa Monica High School. The nearby Malibu High School makes Malibu West much more viable and values reflect that.

At this writing, only one of the 177 homes as listed available for purchase. A couple of the townhouses are listed in the $800s (and one sale registered $790,000 on the Richter Scale last year).

A third generation of kids is growing up in Malibu West, long a bastion of young families. With clean, private cul-de-sac streets, kids’ play activities in the street are renown in lieu of back yards. Schools for every grade K-12 are about a mile away. Perhaps most impressive is the annual Halloween parade and trick-or-treat ritual. Hundreds of kids from all around town flock to Malibu West for an epic evening that brings out the greatest haul of candy and fun possible.

It costs residents a paltry $3,000 or so annually for the extra amenities of the neighborhood, but most of that is paid to the county to maintain the sewer plant. The beach club and tennis court dues are modest, running about $1,200 per year.

Rick Wallace of the Coldwell Banker Co. has been a Realtor in Malibu for 17 years. He can be reached at his website, www.RICKMALIBUrealestate.com.