Bill Kopatich talks with Jeff Chertow, a top producing Malibu Residential Real Estate Agent, about his advice on purchasing a property in Malibu. Jeff is the Managing Partner of Pinnacle Estate Properties’ Malibu Colony office. With over 26 years of experience in Malibu, Jeff helps a variety of buyers and sellers in one of the world’s most famous real estate markets and he has a number of celebrities and CEO’s among his clients.
Bill: Jeff, thanks for spending some time today to discuss some important considerations for people making a multi-Million dollar investment on a home in Malibu.
Jeff: You’re very welcome; I am glad to be here with you today.
Bill: Some potential buyers don’t think they need to work with any specific agent to find a property in Malibu since there are so many listings online and any agent has access to the Multiple Listing Service. What do you think about that perception?
Jeff: Well, it’s pretty simple in my opinion. I think Malibu is such a unique location, and most people with the substantial amounts of funds to buy a house here in Malibu, also have the need for a local expert to really explain it to them and show it to them. Our community doesn’t have big developments; the properties are all very unique homes. It’s very hard to build here, so most of the available properties are re-sales of existing homes. Most people should absolutely want a local expert to show them around.
About 20% of sales in the Malibu market are done off-market, what we call “pocket listings”. Several high net worth sellers don’t want their homes on the open market and prefer to sell this way. Most top agents have several pocket listings that aren’t widely publicized. As an example, I currently have three pocket listings on the beach.
Bill: What questions or concerns do your prospects have about buying a house in Malibu?
Jeff: The first things that buyers are concerned about are the wildfires that we do have in this area. Out of area buyers are concerned about geological conditions like earthquakes. I think those are their biggest concerns, and once we alleviate those concerns then it’s really just finding the right property and the right location. Location for most people is the most important thing in Malibu. We’re 27 miles long and about five miles inland from the coast. We only have 13,000 people that live in that 100 plus square miles. Most of the people live within a mile of the ocean, and not as many live up in our canyons and back in some of the hidden areas up in the mountains.
Bill: How do you alleviate the concerns about the natural hazards?
Jeff: The most important advice on protection from wildfires is to create a defensible space around the property, clearing brush and trees around the perimeter of the home. Also, it is critical to have a geological contingency drafted into the sales contract to allow for a geological inspection and report during the escrow period so the buyer knows the risks at the specific property before closing on the purchase.
Bill: Are there any important points that your prospects may not be aware of or have not considered?
Jeff: I think most buyers here are pretty sophisticated buyers that own multiple properties around the world. I think the only point that out of area buyers fail to understand, is the reality of how precious few homes there are in Malibu. We’re essentially a slow growth city and it’s very difficult to build anything new. That’s the thing that they don’t understand; they see so much open land in and around the Malibu area because 80 to 90% of it are parklands and undeveloped parcels. It is very difficult to get a permit to build anything here, so the rural character remains.
Bill: What is the current market situation in Malibu and is it a good time to be a buyer?
Jeff: Actually it’s a really great time to be a buyer of an existing house. I’ve never thought there wasn’t a good time to be a buyer in Malibu, and I go back to what I said earlier; they’re not making any more of this town. The beach is probably 99% fully developed with homes and there are very few vacant lots available to build on the beach. For anything off the beach, it’s so hard to get a permit. It can take you anywhere from two to four years to get a permit to even begin the construction on a new home.
We’re so close to one of the biggest cities in the world, Los Angeles, and only 15 minutes to a half hour drive into Hollywood, Beverly Hills and Santa Monica. I think most of the buyers buying beach homes are Beverly Hills people that want the weekend or the easy, quick place on the beach. Several international buyers have bought on the beach here because it’s just something that is easy to maintain; they leave it, and they don’t worry about it.
Bill: Malibu is well known as a luxury market. What would you say are typical prices?
Jeff: An average house off the beach in Malibu is close to 3 Million dollars. Your beach house will range anywhere from 6 Million to upwards of 30 Million dollars.
Bill: How should someone interested in purchasing a property in Malibu select an agent to work with?
Jeff: Well obviously I would recommend that they work with an agent who has many years of experience in the Malibu market; someone that is very knowledgeable on subtle aspects of locations, geological concerns, fire concerns and all of the issues that may come up in purchasing a Malibu home and navigating the way through it. It is important to work with a local expert who really understands what a good deal is and what the right price for a house is.
Bill: Why would working with a local expert, like you, greatly improve their chances for success?