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September 12, 2014

Down and Out in Beverly Hills? Not quite, but even L.A.'s top high-end Realtors are having a harder time selling luxury homes this year

by Christopher Palmeri

Beverly Hills Realtor Sally Forster Jones is trying to win over a new client by cutting right to the most important point of the sale—the price. "The house is worth two-ish," Jones says, meaning $2 million. Jones explains that the client could list the home for $2.29 million, but then risk having it sit on the market for months. If the asking price is $1.99 million, "that sounds like a deal," Jones says. The seller should get multiple offers, and the winner will be less likely to seek concessions after the inspections. "The lower end will be a better experience," Jones says.

Such is the new reality of the real estate business, where even in Beverly Hills, settling for less has become a fact of life. In 2006 Jones was the top producer for Coldwell Banker in Los Angeles, selling over $160 million worth of properties. During the boom, she had clients buying houses sight unseen. One home got 70 offers. At "twilight openings"—evening open houses where agents show off new listings—there were fancy catered feasts, open bars, and live music. Now, Jones says, it's "cheaper champagne."

Like the rest of the country, higher-end properties are holding up better than lower-end ones in Los Angeles. Homes there priced above $700,000 fell 4% in the past year, according to the Seattle-based Web site Those priced below $380,000 fell 14%. Travel farther away from the city, to bedroom communities in Riverside and Ventura counties, and prices have falle......

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