Elizabeth Taylor’s Bel Air Mansion on the Market for $8.6 Million

Elizabeth Taylor, the inimitable violet-eyed Empress of Hollywood’s Golden Age, had quite a love affair with real estate.

Now, about two months after her death from heart failure at the age of 79, her beloved home in Bel Air has hit the market for $8.6 million, says the Daily Mail.

*

The 7,000 square foot home, which features two master-bedroom “suites”, a sauna, maid’s quarters, and a lush English garden, has belonged to Taylor for about thirty years.

*

*

Taylor’s estate seems to be leaking just a few photos of the estate at a time – perhaps to discourage looky-loos, perhaps just because that’s the glamorous thing to do.  The People magazine blurb about the property comes with the caveat “pre-approved buyers only need apply”.

It’s a gorgeous house and we’re happy to see it, but in the end it’s kind of a bummer. Odds are good that the new owner, whoever she is, won’t be filling this house with Oscars, diamonds, and glamour on such an Elizabeth-an scale. We miss you, Liz.

*Pictures from People and from CurbedLa via Architectural Digest. If you want to see the official listing, click here.

Bay Area Crime Drops Dramatically

Recently released statistics reveal that the rate of violent crimes dropped significantly in the Bay Area in 2010. In fact, according to the SF Chronicle, violent crime rates are the lowest they’ve been in 44 years. To give you an idea of what that really means:

“We haven’t seen crime this low since Dwight Eisenhower was president,” said Barry Krisberg, a criminal justice expert at the UC Berkeley School of Law.

That’s an impressive reduction, and it entails a 10% drop in homicides in major Bay Area cities (yes, that actually does include Oakland).

Why have our cities gotten safer? Well, no one seems to know. Government officials and social scientists are puzzled. 2010 was one of the worst years of the Recession and, historically-speaking, desperate times are an incentive to crime.

Possible explanations include better policing – which seems unlikely, given the massive budget cuts  – and the widespread use of technology like iPhones, which allows the average citizen to be more aware of high-risk areas, to more easily share safety information with friends, and to report crimes more efficiently, thereby deterring savvier criminals.

The iPhone explanation certainly holds up. But it’s possible that something less than explicable is at work here. This Recession – with its “wage-less recovery” and larger-than-life metaphysical presence in the media – has taught a lot of people to prioritize intangibles. Relationships, safety, a good night’s sleep – the best things in life are free, and an appreciation of these things may well contribute to a safer society overall.

Dreamboat’s Dream House Languishes on the Market

Curbed.com reports that Cary Grant’s cozy Spanish-style “getaway” house in Palm Springs has been for sale since May 2008 and has yet to find a buyer.

It’s too bad, because the place is absolutely charming (much like its former owner):

The bathroom is a little dated, but other than that it’s the epitome of SoCal elegance, wouldn’t you say? It’s 6,000 square feet, and it’s priced at under $3 million. Totally worth it to say you’d shared a bedroom with this guy right here:

California Creates Task Force Against Mortgage Fraud

The Los Angeles Times reports that California Attorney General Kamala Harris is breaking out her superhero cape/tights and assembling a task force of twenty-five lawyers and special agents in order to pin down and prosecute mortgage fraud throughout the state.

Though investigations into mortgage fraud are ongoing in all 50 states, Harris says that her plan is a triple-threat. Harris and her dream team will go after mortgage fraud at the level of shoddy lending practices, large mortgage/securities corporations, and individual scammers (like lawyers and “consultants”) who profited from the anxiety of distressed borrowers.

Harris estimates that mortgage fraud and the resulting foreclosure crisis have cost the people of California about $640 billion so far. That’s a tremendous amount of money, of course. And while some might argue that home equity loss is more of a private failure on a massive scale than it is an actual state/government issue, Harris says there is a “direct connection” between the foreclosure crisis and the state’s terrifying deficit.

Experts are optimistic that Harris’s plan can work, provided that the task force sticks to its guns and chooses its opponents with care.

Fugly and Proud Los Angeles Real Estate

It’s Tuesday and that’s not exciting, so we thought we’d share a little bit of immensely-entertaining novelty real estate.

Today’s featured bit of real estate insanity comes to us courtesy of CurbedLA. So far as we know, no one especially famous has lived there, but that’s okay. The disturbing decor is really the “star” here.

For starters, the front lawn is lined with plaster replicas of the David. Never mind the David’s long-standing canonical status as a “masterpiece”, and never mind that masterpieces are inherently one of a kind:

But it gets even better. How, you might ask? Well, the house is full of fake dogs. Ugh. Not only that, but no one bothered to remove them from the listing photos. Also, there’s a giant disembodied ceramic hand in the dining room:


To top it off, the kitchen and backyard create an utterly bizarre contrast to the crazed-but-consistent black-and-white-with-creepy-accessories thing they had going on in the earlier photos.

And what’s this charming abode asking? $2.4 million. Not outrageous considering the neighborhood, but certainly amusing. Let’s hope the fake dogs are included.

San Francisco Gears Up for America’s Cup

You may have heard of the “Olympics Effect” – that is, the idea that special events have a positive impact on home values in their host cities. While it’s really just a theory, it’s generally acknowledged that prices often do go up and economies often do improve, but it doesn’t last.

San Francisco is gearing up for a little economic boost from the America’s Cup, which will take place sometime in July of 2013.  Northern California hasn’t seen an event of such magnitude (so far as we know) since Squaw Valley hosted the Winter Olympics in 1960.

Even if the Cup’s financial effect is short-lived, it will be significant for the city’s rental market, tourism, and infrastructure. In a recent interview with SFGate.com, Chairman of the America’s Cup Organizing Committee Mark Buell said,

“Two thousand people will move to San Francisco for two years,” he says. “These are the crews and their families, so we have to get them all settled and get their kids in schools.”

If nothing else, residents of the biggest, most beautiful city in NorCal will benefit from basic preparations to show San Francisco off to the whole world. And intimate knowledge of the best bird’s-eye views of the race (Lafayette Park, anyone?) is a pretty great perk too.

2010 Census Reveals Bigger-but-Fewer Households

The Recession and the housing crisis are doing funny things to California – or so say the results of the 2010 U.S. Census.

More and more single family-owned homes are empty these days – the vacancy rate is reported at 2.1% (a .7% increase from 2000). While one might think that this would mean crowding for rentals, that hasn’t been the case. In fact, the vacancy rate for rentals has risen by an even steeper margin – from 3.7% to 6.3%.

Taken in isolation, those statistics might lead you to believe that the recession-ravaged Golden State is experiencing an exodus – but that simply isn’t true.  The median age of Californians has risen, implying that soon-to-beretirees, despite high costs of living, are not fleeing the state quite yet. And though the number of households has decreased, the size of those households has actually gone up – from 2.87 people to 2.9 people.

According to Silicon Valley-based Mercury News, there are two possible explanations. One is that “households” are actually adding members in an effort to save money. Adult children are returning to the nest, widowed or divorced parents are settling in with their kids and grandkids, siblings and their spouses are pairing up. As for the dream of the single young professional living alone in a chic apartment – well, that dream is dying quickly. Ask many, many unwed 20- or 30-somethings in San Francisco and he or she will tell you that life without a roommate is a luxury they simply can’t consider right now.

The other explanation is the growth of minority groups whose nuclear families tend to stay together for longer – the growing percentage of Asian and Hispanic families in particular may account for this trend toward larger households.

Either way, increased vacancy means lower demand for new homes and rentals – which should mean that prices will remain low. But with rising gas prices and new job growth concentrated in just a few areas in the state, things may not be quite that simple.