Ultra-luxury buyers appeared to be on vacation in the most expensive cities on the Peninsula in the Bay Area, with just one sale exceeding $10 million in December. But in the early weeks of the new year, there have been several closes above that price point, and this brings in valuable offers for luxury brokers in a fast-moving market.
“Demand from buyers in the $10+ million range is strong,” Compass luxury broker Sia Glafkides said via email. “However, buyers are unwilling to pay too high a rate as their stock portfolios fell in value in the third quarter and fourth quarter. It happened quickly and surprised and shocked the real estate community.”
Glafkides experienced the shock firsthand when a French country-inspired Atherton estate she listed for $16.5 million with Compass’s Rich Bassin in October saw a price drop to $14.9 million a month later. A similar property had sold for about $16.3 million during the summer, but the market had “changed abruptly” by the time their listing debuted a few months later, she said. Based on feedback from agents and buyers, Glafkides and Bassin knew they would have to drop the price significantly and the $1.6 million drop did it. In less than 15 days, they had received and sold multiple offers to an international buyer for $13.75 million, all in cash.
The sale of 54 Mulberry Lane closed on Jan. 10, according to public records. The purchaser was Dayone US Inc. and was represented by Wei Huang of DL International Realty. The seller was robotics director Bruce McWilliams, according to public records.
The main house, built in 2016, has five ensuite bedrooms plus a private office with an ensuite and two additional half baths. With 7,500 square feet, mostly on one floor, the property traded at just over $1,800 per square foot. It also has a one-bedroom, one-bathroom guest house, swimming pool, spa and outdoor pavilion with a fireplace.
“The buyer liked the architecture and the ease of casual living in understated elegance,” Glafkides said, as well as the privacy afforded by the stone walls, security gates and more than an acre of flat land in Atherton, the nation’s most expensive zip code. .
The property was designed and custom built by the seller for his growing family, Glafkides said. It was “hard to let go and stressful,” but the seller was downsizing and moving, so it was time to move on. He wisely opted for a quick close rather than waiting for his original $16.5 million award, she said.
“We were lucky and strategic to position the house to sell quickly,” she said, noting that even with the drop, the house was still under contract six weeks after it hit the market in what is typically a slow quarter , with this year even slower than usual.
Year-over-year sales fell 42 percent in December in San Mateo County, according to data from Compass, but higher-end home sales were even scarcer. There were only 138 sales above $3 million in the last quarter of 2022, down 56 percent from the year before.
DeLeon Realty’s Michael Repka, who recently put a $50 million Atherton estate on the market, said he’s recently seen a “resurgence in demand from foreign buyers and affluent people looking to move out of San Francisco.”
Glafkides agreed that international buyers are back in “significant numbers,” a trend she first noticed last spring. Speaking to many at the open days she hosted at the Atherton estate in October and November, she said several offers on the property had come from international buyers.
Sale in January
The first sale on the Peninsula to close above the $10 million threshold in 2023 was another custom build. In Hillsborough, 121 Bella Vista Drive sold on January 5 for just under $15 million. Architect Leonard Ng’s new custom home went for half a million under the asking price, or just over $1,900 per square foot.
The gazebo has six bedrooms, 7.5 bathrooms and a two-story entrance with a mezzanine and large skylight. The kitchen is open to the great room, which opens to the infinity pool. The lower level has a home gym, theater, wine cellar and three car garage.
Geoffrey Nelson of Coldwell Banker Realty represented the sellers, 121 Bella Vista LLC, which purchased the property in 2019 for $2.5 million, according to public records. Joan Zhao of Dydx Realty represented the buyers, Bella View Holdings LLC. They have not responded to a request for comment.
A day after the Hillsborough sale, a nearly $18.2 million sale closed in Woodside. The 1986 house on more than 3 acres was listed for $19.5 million in late October, with Mary and Brent Gullixson of Compass representing the seller, Parkfield Properties Holding LLC. According to public records, the same LLC bought a $19 million property in Atherton last February, built by the founder of Mervyn’s department stores.
The sellers had overhauled the property inside and out since buying it for $12 million in 2016, including re-plastering and tiling the pool, replacing the driveway and patios, adding a solar power system and installing an underground propane tank, per permits for the house. Listing notes also mention a bocce court and a fire suppression system.
Helen Miller, also of Compass, represented the buyer, the 1015 MHR Trust, which is affiliated with the Rosemary B. Sears Trust, according to public records. The trust paid about $2,400 per square foot for the four bedrooms and 4.5 bathrooms. Neither the Gullixsons nor Miller have responded to a request for comment.