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Is it time for ‘Million Dollar Listing: San Diego’?

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James Harris (right) is one of the stars of “Million Dollar Listing: Los Angeles” on Bravo TV. He has launched a partnership with Jeff Toth (left) to start selling super-expensive homes in San Diego County. The two are photographed at one of his million dollar properties, in Rancho Santa Fe on Rancho La Cima Drive.
(Nancee E. Lewis)

A star of the Los Angeles-based reality TV show is launching a new venture in San Diego County

If there was a slowdown in the luxury housing market, James Harris didn’t notice.

Harris, one of the stars of reality TV show “Million Dollar Listing: Los Angeles,” has teamed up with a local real estate company to sell some of San Diego County’s most extravagant properties.

Known for his English accent, swearing (bleeped out) and sharp suits on the Bravo TV show, Harris said his move into San Diego is because of what he sees as an advantage in the market for affluent buyers — who would pay triple for similar properties in Los Angeles.

“For me, (San Diego) is a place that represents a lot of value,” he said earlier this month at a Rancho Santa Fe home recently listed for $6.8 million. “And it’s only a two-hour drive from Los Angeles.”

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Harris is major presence in “Million Dollar Listing: Los Angeles” where he navigates the changing Southern California home market for wealthy buyers. Spin-offs of the show have been in New York City, San Francisco and Miami.

As part of his entry into the San Diego market, he has teamed with Jeff Toth, president of Caimeiju, a website that advertises luxury San Diego homes to Chinese investors, and his business partner in Los Angeles, David Parnes, who also appears on the Bravo show. They call the new venture Luxeally and are starting out by getting listings in La Jolla and Rancho Santa Fe.

Toth said he came up with the idea out of necessity. His website is meant to be a place for real estate agencies to list properties that can be easily viewed by potential buyers in China, but San Diego County home sellers kept contacting him looking for an agent.

It can be a difficult decision not to go with a local agent, Toth said, but sometimes luxury properties need someone like Harris to get it out to a larger audience.

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That appeared to be true in the case of the La Jolla Razor House, which sold to singer Alicia Keys for $20.8 million in late August. The home had been on the market for a year, but sold in two months after the listing was given to brothers Josh and Matt Altman. Josh Altman is also on the “Million Dollar Listing: Los Angeles” show.

Multi-million dollar homes in San Diego County are taking longer to sell, according to September data from the Greater San Diego Association of Realtors. Homes listed for sale at $5 million and above stayed on the market an average 109 days, up 4.8 percent from the same time last year. Homes listed for $2 million to $5 million took 72 days to sale, up 5.9 percent.

Homes listed for $250,001 to $500,000 stayed on the market an average 29 days in the past year, said the Realtor group. In that price range, sellers get 98.2 percent of what they listed the home for — compared to 87.9 percent for homes listed at $5 million and above.

Harris said the problem with the luxury market is often a tendency to be overpriced. He gave the example of a 12-bedroom mansion in Bel Air, built by developer Bruce Makowsky, that sold for $94 million in October. It went on the market for $250 million and sat on the market for two years.

“It seems like a huge cut but was it really worth $250 million in the first place?” Harris said. “Absolutely not.”

But, do wealthy Los Angeles buyers actually want to live in San Diego County? Harris argues there is a type of affluent buyer that really wants to be seen in certain L.A. neighborhoods, but there is also another type that prefers to stay under the radar. He said that group would be ideal for some of San Diego’s most high-end properties.

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James Harris at home in Rancho Santa Fe that he may soon list on the market.
(Nancee E. Lewis)

Mark Goldman, a real estate analyst with C2 Financial Corp., said the right real estate agent can make a difference. In addition to understanding a potential buyer, and having a robust list of clients, high-end sellers might need to be knowledgeable about hiding their buyer’s identity.

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“Whether you are selling a very expensive home, or a moderately priced home, the skill of your agent matters,” he said.

Harris and his business partner David Parnes sold more than $500 million in real estate in 2017, said Bravo TV. They have continued to have high-profile sales including being part of a group of agents that sold TV producer Aaron Spelling’s former Holmby Hills home, called The Manor, for $119.75 million in July. It is the highest selling price ever for a home in Los Angeles County.

It makes sense that high-end real estate agents from out of town would be attracted to San Diego. It has a higher percentage of $1 million and above homes than Seattle, New York City, Boston and Miami.

A study in early November from loan website LendingTree found the San Diego metropolitan area had the fourth-most properties valued at $1 million or more in the nation’s 50 largest metros. The place with the most $1 million homes was San Jose, followed by San Francisco and Los Angeles.

LendingTree said San Diego metro had 84,769 homes valued at or above $1 million, or 14.12 percent of all housing units. For contrast, Cincinnati, Ohio, has 3,703 homes valued at or above $1 million, about 0.66 percent of all housing units.

Harris said there is nothing stopping “Million Dollar Listing: Los Angeles” from showing up in San Diego County, despite the name. It might be a while before audiences know for sure if it will be featured, with a Harris property or the Razor House. Bravo has yet to announce a premiere date for the show’s 12th season.


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