Cosmetic Surgeons Are Building L.A. Megamansions
And the results are over the top.
And the results are over the top.
It could only happen in Los Angeles: Celebrity plastic surgeons are getting into the megamansion-building business.
The latest entrant to the market is Alex Khadavi, a 48-year-old dermatologist known for everything from Botox to buttock-enhancement procedures as well as for a clientele that has included singer Lance Bass and actor David Hasselhoff. Dr. Khadavi is listing his recently completed Bel-Air megamansion for $87.777 million, making it one of the highest-priced properties to have gone on the market in recent months.
Dr. Khadavi joins the likes of Raj Kanodia, doctor to the Kardashian clan and so-called “King of L.A. Rhinoplasties,” and Paul Nassif, a facial-plastic surgeon known for his role in the reality-television series “Botched,” in diverting their attention to the high-end development game. Dr. Kanodia first listed his Bel-Air megamansion for $180 million in 2018, while Dr. Nassif is listing a nearly completed mansion in the same area for US$32 million.
Dr. Khadavi—whose jet-black eyebrows, chiselled features and perfectly coiffed hair allows him to seamlessly blend in with his clients on his Instagram account—says he got carried away with the project. He says he paid US$16 million for the existing property in 2013 and had planned to spend roughly $10 million more on a new glassy contemporary home. Instead, he devoted seven years and roughly $US30 million to the more-than-1950-square-metre compound.
“It’s like when you go to a car dealership to buy a Toyota and they show you a Ferrari or a Lamborghini,” he says of choosing the materials and finishes. “It’s like, ‘Hey, I want that one!’ You can’t pass it up.”
The result is over-the-top, even for Los Angeles. Known as “Palazzo di Vista,” the modern seven-bedroom contemporary sits behind enormous mirrored-steel gates on an elevated parcel of land with 360-degree views spanning from the San Gabriel Mountains to the Channel Islands.
In the middle of the grand foyer, a push of a button reveals a surprise: The floor opens up to reveal a DJ platform on a hydraulic lift. Push another button, and smoke machines send fog throughout “the cube”—the surrounding glassed-in living room area that also has a glass-bottomed bridge overlooking the space.
In the pool outside, several powerful jets are set to automatically begin pumping the water in time with music, so guests in the water can feel the bass. The pool also is the setting for a digital show that Dr. Khadavi likens to Disneyland’s elaborate “World of Color” attraction. A rotatable 3-D laser projector on the roof casts light in a rhombic-shape up to 153sqm over the pool.
The purpose of the light show isn’t to project princesses; it is designed to display the latest art-world craze: NFT artwork. An NFT, which stands for “nonfungible tokens,” is a digital asset that serves as a kind of deed to prove ownership of various digital artifacts, like works of art.
In addition to the NFT pool display, the home also includes a “multisensory” NFT art gallery comprising seven indoor large-screen media displays dotted throughout the house. Valued at $7 million, the art collection is also available for sale and includes pieces by Ghost Girl—a 3-D artist who offers visual experiences for “VJing,” a kind of real-time visual performance—and Bighead, a record producer and DJ who worked on the production of the 2017 hit “Gucci Gang” by hip-hop artist Lil Pump.
The home also includes a glass elevator that is positioned to look as though it is plunging into a koi pond as it heads to the basement. There is also a formal dining room, a Champagne-tasting room, a movie theatre, a massage room, a car museum and a detached guesthouse with an outdoor tequila bar, according to listing agents Aaron Kirman of Compass and Mauricio Umansky of the Agency. Dr. Khadavi planted 56 Moroccan date palm trees around the perimeter of the property for privacy.
Dr. Khadavi, who oversees two dermatology practices in Los Angeles, says his pursuit of perfection became all-consuming. Within the first year, he had fired his architect. Soon after, he replaced his contractor and got rid of his interior designer. “I’ve pretty much been doing it myself,” he says. “I tell people I got a degree in interior design from Pinterest.”
There were other sources of inspiration. The doctor says the proportions of the house were inspired by the “golden ratio” of Italian mathematician Fibonacci. The sevens in the asking price are a nod to Dr. Khadavi’s favourite number; he and his family moved to the U.S. from Iran when he was 7 to escape the revolution.
No expense was spared. “Instead of going for the $10-a-square-foot marble, I went for the $150 to $200 a square foot marble,” Dr. Khadavi says. “This property deserves the best.”
When it came to refining the aesthetics of the house, the dermatologist says he drew on his work. “When I do injectables in people’s faces… I always look and see what I could do above and beyond to make this person better, “ he says. “Every person is beautiful, you have to make them more beautiful.”
Plastic surgeons like Dr. Khadavi are among a larger group of high-net-worth individuals who piled into Los Angeles’s luxury housing development space over the past few years. With the market heating up in the early 2010s, many wealthy people with well-positioned parcels of land began building properties geared toward foreign buyers and billionaires, says Stephen Shapiro of Westside Estate Agency, who is not involved in the home. Suddenly, everyone was a developer, including those with limited or no real-estate experience. That boom resulted in an oversupply of spec homes.
For some of these surgeons, building a distinctive architectural home is a way to express themselves in a new way. “One of the reasons I built [my house] was to express my artistic vision through another medium, in addition to the scarless rhinoplasty and facial enhancement,” Dr. Kanodia says.
For his part, Dr. Nassif says he found that the patience and attention to detail he honed in his surgery work proved useful in real estate. “You have to look at everything with very scrutinous glasses in surgery,” he says. “I’m doing the same thing with the house.”
In real estate, like in surgery, it’s wise to expect the unexpected, Dr. Nassif says. “You’re dealing with problems all the time,” he says. “An issue comes up with a contractor or you can’t get marble into the Port of California because of Covid delays. It’s never as easy as you think it would be.”
The rush of new contemporary spec homes built in the Los Angeles area has put downward pressure on prices. While Dr. Nassif says he’s had significant interest in his home since listing it earlier this year, Dr. Kanodia recently slashed the asking price of his home to US$99 million from US$180 million. Developers like Nile Niami, known widely as the king of Los Angeles spec homes, handed the keys over to his lenders on at least one project and is facing default on others, The Wall Street Journal has reported.
The spiralling costs of Dr. Khadavi’s project also had consequences. While he initially thought he might live in the property, Dr. Khadavi says he is now selling it largely because he can’t afford to keep it. It’s also too large for him, his girlfriend and his Goldendoodle Cheetos. “I don’t have a large family, and I don’t have the financial capability to enjoy the house,” he says. “I borrowed a lot of money to get it to this level, and I can’t afford living in it.”
Anyone living in the mansion would “need to probably have a couple of butlers and a couple of maids,” he says.
Mr. Umansky says the house is an entertainer’s paradise, and he is confident he will find a buyer looking for that party lifestyle.
“In order to be great you have to dare to be bad. You have to take risks,” Mr. Umansky says, noting that cookie-cutter houses don’t stand out in a crowded market. “There are these tech and cryptocurrency guys who are still young and who want to have fun.”
Reprinted by permission of The Wall Street Journal, Copyright 2021 Dow Jones & Company. Inc. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Original date of publication: May 8, 2021.
Chris Dixon, a partner who led the charge, says he has a ‘very long-term horizon’
Stronger demand in some areas is pushing unit rents up faster than houses
Renters are returning to the apartment market, leading to higher growth in weekly rents for units than houses over the past year, according to REA data. As workers return to their corporate offices, tenants are coming back to the inner city and choosing apartment living for its affordability.
This is a reversal of the pandemic trend which saw many renters leave their inner city units to rent affordable houses on the outskirts. Working from home meant they did not have to commute to the CBD, so they moved into large houses in outer areas where they could enjoy more space and privacy.
REA Group economic analyst Megan Lieu said the return to apartment living among tenants began in late 2021, when most lockdown restrictions were lifted, and accelerated in 2022 after Australia’s international border reopened.
“Following the reopening of offices and in-person work, living within close proximity to CBDs has regained importance,” Ms Lieu said. “Units not only tend to be located closer to public transport and in inner city areas, but are also cheaper to rent compared to houses in similar areas. For these reasons, it is unsurprising that units, particularly those in inner city areas, are growing in popularity among renters.”
But the return to work in the CBD is not the only factor driving demand for apartment rentals. Rapidly rising weekly rents for all types of property, coupled with a cost-of-living crisis created by high inflation, has forced tenants to look for cheaper accommodation. This typically means compromising on space, with many families embracing apartment living again. At the same time, a huge wave of migration led by international students has turbocharged demand for unit rentals in inner city areas, in particular, because this is where many universities are located.
But it’s not simply a demand-side equation. Lockdowns put a pause on building activity, which reduced the supply of new rental homes to the market. People had to wait longer for their new houses to be built, which meant many of them were forced to remain in rental homes longer than expected. On top of that, a chronic shortage of social housing continued to push more people into the private rental market. After the world reopened, disrupted supply chains meant the cost of building increased, the supply of materials was strained, and a shortage of labour delayed projects.
All of this has driven up rents for all types of property, and the strength of demand has allowed landlords to raise rents more than usual to help them recover the increased costs of servicing their mortgages following 13 interest rate rises since May 2022. Many applicants for rentals are also offering more rent than advertised just to secure a home, which is pushing rental values even higher.
Tenants’ reversion to preferring apartments over houses is a nationwide trend that has led to stronger rental growth for units than houses, especially in the capital cities, says Ms Lieu. “Year-on-year, national weekly house rents have increased by 10.5 percent, an increase of $55 per week,” she said.“However, unit rents have increased by 17 percent, which equates to an $80 weekly increase.”
The variance is greatest in the capital cities where unit rents have risen twice as fast as house rents. Sydney is the most expensive city to rent in today, according to REA data. The house rent median is $720 per week, up 10.8 percent over the past year. The apartment rental median is $650 per week, up 18.2 percent. In Brisbane, the median house rent is $600 per week, up 9.1 percent over the past year, while the median rent for units is $535 per week, up 18.9 percent. In Melbourne, the median house rent is $540 per week, up 13.7 percent, while the apartment median is $500 per week, up 16.3 percent.
In regional markets, Queensland is the most expensive place to rent either a house or an apartment. The house median rent in regional Queensland is $600 per week, up 9.1 percent year-on–year, while the apartment median rent is $525, up 16.7 percent.
Chris Dixon, a partner who led the charge, says he has a ‘very long-term horizon’