Record deals and tax-avoidance maneuvers: Southern California’s priciest sales of 2023

Southern California’s luxury real estate market never sleeps. But this past year, it collectively caught its breath.

Luxury sales slowed down in 2023 — a combination of soaring interest rates, a newly introduced “mansion tax” and an inevitable drop-off from a pandemic market when megamansions flipped like hotcakes.

In 2022, there were 17 home sales above $50 million and 48 over $30 million in L.A. County, according to the Multiple Listing Service. In 2023, there were only five sales over $50 million and 23 over $30 million.

But even in a down year, there were still plenty of headlines. Jay-Z and Beyoncé set the all-time price record in the state of California, while other celebrities sold homes and left L.A. just in time to avoid paying taxes under Measure ULA.

Here are the top sales of the year.

$200 million

A large, low home along a seacoast.

Bought for $200 million, the 40,000-square-foot mansion overlooks the ocean in the affluent enclave of Paradise Cove.

(Google Earth)

History was made in May when Jay-Z and Beyoncé shattered California’s price record, paying $200 million for a concrete compound in Malibu.

The L-shaped house, which topped the previous record of $177 million, looks more like an airplane hangar or supervillain’s lair than a home. It was built by Tadao Ando, a decorated Japanese architect who also designed a home for Kanye West a few miles down the coast. Ando brought in 7,645 cubic yards of concrete to erect the 40,000-square-foot home.

It never officially hit the market, so photos are scarce. The property is perched above Malibu’s Paradise Cove and features concrete hallways and walls of glass that open to a swimming pool and lawn overlooking the ocean.

$60.85 million

Another power couple — Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck — claimed the second-highest home purchase of the year when they shelled out $60.85 million for a five-acre spread in Beverly Crest. High interest rates weren’t a problem; they didn’t need a 30-year-fixed. The pair paid in cash.

The deal marked the end of a year-long house hunt for Lopez and Affleck, and the house boasts an array of amenities that few other mega-mansions can match. Across 38,000 square feet are 12 bedrooms, 24 bathrooms, 15 fireplaces, a movie theater, wine cellar, nail salon and sauna, as well as a 5,000-square-foot sports facility with a boxing ring and pickleball court.

The $60.85-million sale actually came at a discount; the home originally hit the market with a gargantuan price tag of $135 million.

$55 million

A mansion surrounded by an expansive lawn.

Built in 2014, the European-inspired mansion comes with 12 bedrooms, 20 bathrooms, a skate park, movie theater and grotto.

(Anthony Barcelo)

Some scratched their heads when Mark Wahlberg unloaded his Beverly Park mega-mansion for $55 million in February. The movie star spent years designing the French-inspired palace, and he originally asked $87.5 million when he first listed it in 2022.

But Wahlberg was a motivated seller. He moved to Nevada last year, and by selling the home in February, he avoided Measure ULA, a transfer tax that took effect April 1 and would’ve charged a 5.5% tax on the sale. At $55 million, Wahlberg’s tax bill would’ve been more than $3 million.

The European-inspired showplace is truly one of a kind, featuring amenities such as a five-hole golf course, driving range, grotto-style swimming pool and skate park. Wahlberg, a native of Massachusetts, also added a Boston Celtics-themed basketball court during his stay.

$52.056 million

Malibu’s second entry on this list comes via attorney Stuart Liner and his wife, Stephanie Hershey Liner, who sold their beach house on Point Dume for just over $52 million.

The Liners have made a fortune flipping houses over the years, including doubling their money on a house they bought from actor Danny DeVito. They scored a hefty profit here as well; records show they paid $21.758 million for the oceanfront home in 2020 before extensively remodeling the place.

The 6,000-square-foot house comes with a swimming pool and tennis court. It sold to Tom van Loben Sels, a partner at Bay Area tax firm Apercen Partners.

$52 million

A mansion fronted by a circular drive with a fountain.

Built in 1998, Villa Firenze combines three lots across nearly 10 acres and centers on an Italian-inspired mansion.

(Hilton & Hyland)

For years, Villa Firenze was a cautionary tale, an extravagant reminder that while fortunes can be won in Southern California’s lucrative real estate market, you have to be strategic in how you sell to truly cash in.

Hungarian billionaire Steven Udvar-Hazy was not. The airplane mogul built the Italian-inspired mansion in 1998 and listed it for $165 million in 2017, which at the time was one of the most ambitious asking prices in California history.

Clearly overpriced, the house sat on the market for years until it was auctioned off for $51 million in 2021 to biotech entrepreneur Roy Eddleman, who, for some reason, tried the same thing as Udvar-Hazy.

Eddleman quickly attempted to flip the house for a massive profit, putting it back onto the market for $120 million just a year after he bought it. Unsurprisingly, there were no takers, and he died before it sold.

His estate slashed the price on the luxurious villa, which features 40-foot palm trees, 20-foot ceilings and a two-story library complete with a secret passageway that leads to a bedroom and bar.

After a year of price cuts, it finally sold in February for $52 million, just $1 million more than Eddleman paid for it at auction two years prior.

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