In A Global Crisis, Luxury Real Estate Can Be An Indicator And An Opportunity
Lee Iacocca’s Bel Air mansion listing a rare ownership opportunity during turbulent times.
It may seem odd to be speaking of luxury real estate during a pandemic, but in many ways, luxury real estate may become one of those industry segments seen as a “canary in the coal mine,” indicating the depth and length of the pandemic’s impact on the global economy, especially specific luxury properties in highly desirable world locations.
An example may be the Bel Air, Calif., estate of the former president of the Ford Motor Company and the former CEO of the Chrysler Corporation, the late Lee Iacocca, now being listed for US$29.9 million.
Iacocca was one of those true American success stories. Born to Italian immigrant parents, he was a super-achiever at an early age, winning a fellowship to Princeton University and rocketing into the workforce. While at Ford, he developed the Ford Mustang, the most successful new car ever introduced in the United States. After he jumped to the troubled Chrysler, Iacocca was the man who introduced the minivan concept and basically saved Chrysler from bankruptcy by convincing the American government to loan the company US$1.5 billion in 1979.
He wrote several bestselling books and his outspoken, no-nonsense, straightforward style made him a frequent guest on television talk shows. He even decided to star in his own Chrysler TV commercials, which always ended with his memorable and challenging catchphrase: “If you can find a better car, buy it.”
Iacocca died in 2019, and his Tuscan-style mansion sits on more than an acre of prime real estate, where he entertained Bob and Dolores Hope, Frank and Barbara Sinatra, Priscilla Presley and countless others from Hollywood and Wall Street. Its listing could serve notice of how luxury real estate during turbulent times can once again be an economic indicator.
While the coronavirus is an unprecedented time for the world, perhaps the closest comparison to its economic impact is the financial crisis of 2008–09; however, their roots are fundamentally different. Over-leveraged banks and the collapse of the sub-prime market caused the Great Recession of 12 years ago, hitting the middle and lower ends of the market particularly hard. Conversely, in the upper end of the real estate market in the third quarter of 2008, Manhattan, N.Y., prices actually increased eight per cent year over year.
Given luxury real estate’s status as an investment safe haven in turbulent times, and some buyers’ instincts to look for deals and opportunities when markets drop, we may actually see some lift in activity, as savvy investors move forward with their real estate plans, and opportunists enter the market looking for discounts. As Lee Iacocca himself once said: “In times of great stress or adversity, it’s always best to keep busy, to plow your anger and energy into something positive.”
Located nearby the exclusive Bel-Air Country Club, the 10,682-square-foot mansion features five bedrooms and eight bathrooms, with four ensuite guestrooms, formal living and dining rooms, a panelled library and five fireplaces, as well as a staff apartment. The huge open-plan rooms open onto lovely manicured terraces, ideal for large entertaining, as well as a swimming pool, a spa and tennis courts.
Price: US$29.9 million
Listing agents: David Kramer and Rick Hilton of Hilton & Hyland, Beverly Hills, Calif. www.hiltonhyland.com