Whether or not you’re an itinerant British royal looking to put down roots in Southern California, we might just have found an appropriately regal pad for you.
They’re currently the most high-profile yet secretive house hunters on the planet.
Following their shocking “Megxit” from Britain’s royal family, and after a spell holed up in a borrowed, paparazzi-proof location on Canada’s Vancouver Island, Prince Harry, his former-actress wife Meghan and their entitled tot Archie bolted south in March, in one of the last private jets to traverse the 49th parallel before the Covid-19 lockdown.
They’re now allegedly holed up in borrowed, paparazzi-proof digs in Los Angeles.
Tinseltown is an obvious choice for a go-getting power couple with dreams of reinvention, but luxurious social isolation in La-La-Land can’t last forever. Having made much noise about going it alone and becoming financially independent in the world’s entertainment capital, the time is perhaps right to walk the walk. And their timing could also be perfect for picking up a bargain.
According to American finance magazine Barron’s, the Los Angeles luxury market performed better in the first quarter of 2020 than last year, with both the number of sales and median prices rising year- over-year. But that was before the pandemic really kicked in, massively disrupting all aspects of housing activities.
There were 66 luxury sales – defined as the top 10 percent most expensive sales – in Los Angeles in the first quarter of 2020, representing an increase of 15.8 percent compared to the same period in 2019. The average sales price edged up 0.4 percent to more than US$10 million. Now it’s predicted that – even once the virus is under control – the more nervous of the city’s elite might flee to less urban environments, making this a buyer’s market.
But where in the urban sprawl that is LA might H&M choose to settle?
According to British tabloids and entertainment-mag gossip columns, the royal-watching smart money appears to be on Malibu, which, in fact, is officially just outside Los Angeles. Malibu nestles immediately to the northwest, across Santa Monica Bay, and is fronted by an impressive 40km-long strip of white sand and the Pacific Ocean. It’s home to some of southern California’s most exclusive gated communities.
Although on paper a city in its own right, Malibu – with its dinky population of just over 12,000 people (LA has close to four million) – is a self-contained, easily navigable coastal community served by designer boutiques and farmers markets, state-of-the-art movie theatres, top-notch schools, leafy parks, and a slew of perma-tanned celebrity and business-elite residents, including Leonardo DiCaprio and Friends star Courteney Cox.
Hollywood lies just 50km away – or 60 minutes by tinted-window limo along the picturesque Pacific Coast Highway – and it’s 45 minutes to LAX (and another CO2-belching private jet). Hello! magazine quoted “a source” in March of this year as saying a real-estate agent had already shown H&M around several different houses there. “One of them, which is owned by a Baywatch actor, was in Malibu and it has Caitlyn Jenner and Robert Downey Jr as neighbours,” Hello! declared.
It’s also been widely reported that “Just call me” Harry and his missus previously eyed up billionaire media celebutante Kylie Jenner’s former rental home Petra Manor, a sprawling Malibu estate centred on an eight-bedroom Italianesque manor with its own dance studio and valued in the region of US$20 million.
And the UK newspaper The Sun – among many others – even reported a rumour that Harry and Meghan had snapped up Mel Gibson’s US$14.5 million Malibu mansion. The Lethal Weapon actor purchased the secluded, 2.2-hectare, ocean-view estate from X-Files star David Duchovny in 2008.
With five bedrooms, the property’s interior has medieval castle-like appeal, with dark-wood and terracotta flooring, beamed ceilings, occasional bare-stone walls, candelabra-styled iron chandeliers and an open fireplace, so once wrapped in his mink-and-ermine dressing gown, any prince in self-imposed exile would feel right at home. The property also has a detached guesthouse for when friends visit, and a separate pool house and gym.
One of LA’s most affluent and desirable neighbourhoods, Beverly Hills could also attract H&M thanks to pals Elton John, Serena Williams, Beyoncé and Ellen Degeneres having homes there. It would not only place the couple within the status-dripping 90210 zip code, but also within air-kissing distance of their new PR and management team.
And let’s not forget the unmatched quality of life that springs from world-class retail therapy and dining options on palm-lined Rodeo Drive, groomed parks in which to throw frisbee with Archie as he grows, and famous-face neighbours Jessica Alba, Adele, Simon Cowell, Jennifer Lawrence, Jennifer Aniston, Ashton Kutcher, Jack Nicholson, Taylor Swift and Katy Perry, among many others.
Or might Harry plump to become the new fresh prince of Bel Air? This rarefied residential enclave in the foothills of the Santa Monica Mountains is popular with the beautiful people and entertainment- industry haut monde, and shelters some of the most private, grandiose and stately properties in the city, as well as the uber-exclusive Bel-Air Country Club that opened in 1925. Word is that Elon Musk Must put two Bel Air properties on the market.
Interestingly, not only did veteran Hollywood stars Tony Curtis, Marilyn Monroe, Burt Reynolds, Sonny Bono and Cher all once live in Bel Air, but they all resided down the years at the same address – 141 North Carolwood Drive. Unfortunately, it’s not currently on the market, even for picky royalty.
What is for sale is a distinctive contemporary home just minutes from Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu. And it couldn’t be further away in style from the twee English-countryside vibe of Frogmore Cottage, the historic, listed house close to Windsor Castle that was converted into a four-bedroom-and-nursery, single-family home for Harry and Meghan in Blighty, and which they only moved into last year. So, if they genuinely do wish to cut the cord completely with their former life and start afresh, this could be the place to do it.
Almost brutalist in its stark architecture, this 4,062 square-foot, four-bed, four-bath property is located in the gated community of Malibu Pacifica in Latigo Canyon and looks out over the Point Dume surf break (Malibu roughly translates from the Native American language of Ventureño as “the surf sounds loudly”. It’s currently on offer at US$3.295 million by the O’Herlihy Group/Sothebys International Realty.
This home is ideal for entertaining TV-network and film-studio bigwigs when touting for voiceover gigs, the main living area opening to a backyard patio with lap pool. The luxurious master suite features a fireplace and access to a wraparound deck overlooking the ocean, making it ideal for whale-watching eco-warriors.
Also up for sale by the Oppenheim Group in Beverly Hills – but significantly less showy or, at $3.799 million, costly – is a four-bed, three-bath, single-storey home nestled on Coldwater Canyon Drive. Set behind a privately gated driveway, the 3,993 square-foot residence would be ideal for a small family finding their feet in the City of Angels.
Built in 1962, the property benefits today from multiple entertainment and wellness areas, including a spa, two pools, gym, sports court, cold dipping tank, cabana with fireplace, indoor theatre – everything required, in fact, to break free from the drizzle, drafts and damp of the olde world and bask in the sunny Southern California lifestyle. And should the family grow, the property comes with concept plans for an 18,000-square-foot, tri-level estate designed by award-winning California architect Chris Brandon.
Lastly, at $7.5 million, Sotheby’s Realty is offering peace by the Pacific on a 2-hectare estate in Malibu’s secluded Encinal Canyon, where a delightful 8,000-square-foot contemporary home combines both privacy with incredible ocean views, courtesy of multiple floor-to-ceiling windows. With six bedrooms, six bathrooms, an outdoor pool, spa, spacious family room, games room and expansive open terraces with a bar, it’s also ideal for entertaining and the signing of lucrative new business contracts.