Pick a Lautner…Any Lautner

Why are prices cut on several of the modern master’s home designs now on the market?
Fridays On the Homefront
A home designed by the renowned architect John Lautner can be "like an art gallery"—but why are five of them not selling? Pictured here: Wolff House, Hollywood Hills. Photo: David Lena
Fridays On the Homefront
Lautner #2: Bob Hope House - Palm Springs
Fridays On the Homefront
Lautner #3: Rawlins House - Newport Beach

One looks unmistakably like a glorious, cresting wave on a beach. Another looks like a gleaming spacecraft, perhaps an early model Klingon Bird of Prey, perched above a desert moonscape. Another is a log cabin one might imagine set in some classy fantasy flick like 'Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Killer, The Next Generation.'

The houses of architect John Lautner look like no others. Sometimes they barely look like houses.

So imagine the plight—albeit with high reward—of finding a buyer whose aesthetic and financial appreciation of these unique properties is equal to the expectations of the previous buyer.

"It's like an art gallery, and every painting is worth $8 million bucks," says Simon Salloom, of Coldwell Banker, who has represented several Lautners and is currently listing the Wolff House, at 8530 Hedges Place in the Hollywood Hills. Of the 1961 home, he concedes, "Its best feature is that it represents John Lautner in his purist form."

But numerous Lautners have languished on the market of late, considering the universal acknowledgment that they are unparalleled 'collectors homes.' Predictably, several have lowered multimillion asking prices by between 8.3 and 50 percent.

Salloom and the agents representing four other Lautners currently on the California market face a challenge. They must balance time between inquiries from people who really appreciate the home, and those from people who 'heard' they should look at it.

Despite the best efforts of these agents, "Everything is driven by price," admits Patrick Jordan, agent for the 1980 Bob Hope home in Palm Springs. The Lautner, at 2466 Southridge Drive, was initially listed at $50 million in 2013, reduced to $34 million, and it is now at $24.99 million.

"We have had offers on the property but nothing we could agree on,"  says Jade Schuck, marketing coordinator for the company representing the Rawlins House at 804 South Bay Front on Balboa Island in Newport Beach. The 1979 home was listed in March for the first time at $4,799,000, then reduced this month to $4,399,000.

Likewise, the iconic Stevens House, at 78 Malibu Colony Road in Malibu was listed in 2013 for $22 million, then cut to $19 million and this month to $17,995,000.

"We just didn't have the right buyer," says Cory Weiss, listing agent for the 1967 beachfront home.

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