When you’re selling $80 million pocket listings outside the boundaries of Beverly Hills, you just might be at the top of your real estate game. What’s extraordinary about Joyce Rey is not that she can add a sale of that magnitude to her résumé — it’s that it doesn’t even crack her top five.
After four decades of selling L.A.’s A-list real estate and over $5 billion in career sales, she has become as legendary as some of the properties she’s sold — so legendary that they come with their own names, like Pickfair, Owlwood, Green Acres, Le Belvedere and Chartwell, which set a record at the time for the highest price in California history. (She could soon be adding another $150 million estate to the list if it sells off-market this year.)
That’s why we turned to Rey for our very first “Trend Talk” interview. If you want the pulse on L.A.’s hottest luxury housing trends, you turn straight to the source — the grand dame and first lady of real estate herself.
Coldwell Banker Global Luxury Given all of your decades of experience selling L.A. real estate, how are you viewing all of the changes that have happened over the last 18 months?
Joyce Rey When we were about three weeks into the lockdown in 2020, most realtors thought we were never going to sell a house again. I remember I had to do a media interview around this time and I was struggling to find a positive view of what was happening. You have to understand that for the first time in my life, I spent three solid weeks inside my house. Pre-COVID, I wasn’t in my house very much and this was true for a lot of successful people. But I started to wonder, “If other people are locked in their houses as well, maybe they will be inspired to want bigger and better houses and maybe it’s going to inspire them to want to improve their houses. So that’s what I went on to say in that interview and I turned out to be right about that. By mid-May and June 2020, sales started to pick up and they’ve simply continued on that trajectory. The stock market is at an all-time high. People are searching for places to put their wealth. Real estate is also the best investment to protect them against inflation, which is becoming a real concern this year.
Coldwell Banker Global Luxury What’s been the most notable shift in the market from 2020 to 2021?
Joyce Rey People do not seem to be as concerned with density as they were initially in 2020. Last year, there was a tremendous push to the suburbs or drivable vacation destinations — in particular, in our area – Montecito and Palm Springs. Thanks to vaccinations, I’ve noticed that people are much more comfortable being in the city.
Coldwell Banker Global Luxury Much has been written about the mass city exoduses of 2020. Did the affluent really ‘leave’ L.A.?
Joyce Rey I would say on the whole, they did not leave L.A. during the pandemic. They may have moved their primary residence to another state for tax savings, but that didn’t mean they were selling their residence here. The largest beneficiary of that movement was Miami. I just read an article in The RealDeal that said Miami has overtaken Los Angeles for the second least affordable housing market in the country (after New York City).
Coldwell Banker Global Luxury Sum up the L.A. high-end real estate market in one word right now.
Joyce Rey Hot.
Coldwell Banker Global Luxury How so?
Joyce Rey Prices and sales are soaring, compared to 2020 — a year many of us in the real estate community considered to be an incredible year. When you look at single-family homes over $3 million on the Westside, sales are up about 82% from this time last year. The average sale price in this category is now roughly at $7 million. In 2020, it was about $6.7 million. The numbers we’re seeing are truly remarkable.
Coldwell Banker Global Luxury What are the main factors driving demand this year?
Joyce Rey Buyers seem to want many of the same things they wanted in 2020. They want an additional office, a gym and a nice outdoor area. Very large properties — especially when you get up over 30,000 to 40,000 square feet — have lost some of their luster since they take such a large staff to operate and maintain.
New construction also remains in high demand and inventory remains tight for these homes. Building is a problem today because there is a shortage of available houses and workers. People do not want to deal with building — especially right now with longer wait times for materials and the shortage of construction labor.
Coldwell Banker Global Luxury In terms of size, what’s the sweet spot for luxury developers?
Joyce Rey I would say it’s about 15,000 to 20,000 square feet for developers, and that’s what is attractive to wealthy individuals. They want amenities like a large primary suite with big closets and a movie theater.
Coldwell Banker Global Luxury Has construction stalled or is it still going strong?
Joyce Rey Developers are in the market. They are having trouble finding well-priced projects to develop because the price of land is high and remodeling costs are high. It speaks to a supply issue in the future.
Coldwell Banker Global Luxury What areas are most in-demand right now?
Joyce Rey Bel Air, Beverly Hills, Brentwood, Palisades, Santa Monica, Malibu and the Sunset Strip — these neighborhoods comprise the Westside market and are considered the crème de la crème of Los Angeles real estate. Outside of Los Angeles, it’s Montecito. It has such a dearth of inventory right now. As far as attached properties, it’s the Wilshire corridor. Obviously, the condo market went through a tougher time during 2020 as people weren’t looking to scale down like in years past. I’ve seen interest pick up a little this year.
Coldwell Banker Global Luxury Would you say that the luxury price threshold has risen on the Westside due to demand?
Joyce Rey Yes, the luxury price threshold has gradually risen over the last several years. I would say it’s now about $3 million.
Coldwell Banker Global Luxury And the most in-demand luxury price categories?
Joyce Rey In the luxury space, you’re probably talking $7-15 million.
Coldwell Banker Global Luxury Is low inventory still an issue?
Joyce Rey Yes, it’s still a factor.
Coldwell Banker Global Luxury What about multiple offers?
Joyce Rey If you are priced correctly, you will see offers immediately. Even for pocket listings. I just had an off-market property near the Bel Air Country Club. At $29.9 million, it was attractively priced. We had two offers.
The majority of sales in California are done with multiple offers now, and that just shows you the level of demand, especially in the under $3 million market.
Coldwell Banker Global Luxury Have international buyers returned to L.A.?
Joyce Rey L.A. continues to attract some international buyers. Obviously there has been a dent in that supply because of travel restrictions. There were quite a few foreign buyers who were here and were spending the lockdown here. We usually have an average of 20-25% international buyers compared to domestic buyers in the $20 million+ market.
Coldwell Banker Global Luxury What has been the biggest surprise to you this year?
Joyce Rey There was an off-market sale in the Pacific Palisades that was in excess of $80 million, which is much more common in Beverly Hills than in the Palisades — so that was surprising. This particular home was about 20,000 square feet, brand-new and done by an extremely talented designer and developer with sensational views of city, ocean and mountain. It shows you just how in-demand new construction and high design has become.
Coldwell Banker Global Luxury Where do you see the market heading in 2022?
Joyce Rey A lot of predictions have been made that the market will be flat or plateau in 2022. But my prediction is that it will not be the case if we see significant inflation in the next few months.