In real estate for nearly 30 years, homegrown South Bay resident Kevin Moen has a keenly tuned sense of the local market. He sat down with South Bay DIGS in his Rolling Hills Estates office to talk about the state of South Bay real estate — and the role of today’s realtor.
AS TOLD TO CONSTANCE DUNN | PHOTOGRAPHY BY PAUL JONASON
How did you get your start in real estate?
I played football at Cal and had some opportunities to play pro football. When those ended I got into teaching, at a time when enrollment was going down, so I wasn’t being offered permanent positions. I started having a family and bought a house, so I went to work for a friend of mine who had a local developing company. It led to real estate, which was the perfect environment for me to be an independent contractor and create my own destiny. Over the years I’ve performed different roles in this industry, from owning a company and managing a real estate entity to doing what I’m doing now, which is assisting in managing the RE/MAX Estate Properties office in Rolling Hills Estates, along with representing my clients.
How does your approach differ from other area realtors?
What I perceive as my strength is an in-depth understanding of the local area and the values for this market. If a house is selling for a certain amount — is that a good value, a fair value, or a great deal?
How has the role of a real estate agent changed over time?
Nowadays, anyone can look at properties online. My job as a realtor is to give context to that information; to inform people of the lifestyle differences in each area, the schools and how areas compare to one another, value-wise. I can go shop in any marketplace online and find a great house. But is it next to a dump? Does it have a toxic waste plant nearby? There are a lot of elements — from a home’s view and lot size to its age and uniqueness — that impacts its value. And that’s what a skilled realtor brings to a valuation.
Being enmeshed in the local real-estate scene and knowing the players brings certain advantages then?
Yes. You’re going to encounter 10 hurdles in each transaction. Escrow companies, Title companies. Inspection companies. So the job of an agent is to get the client through those hurdles as efficiently and with as little stress as possible. Good agents have the ability to work through the processes of a transaction to get the buyer to the finish line as quickly as possible and get the home sold. When I do a deal with, say, Chris [referencing a recent issue of South Bay DIGS featuring Chris Adlam of Vista Sotheby’s International Realty], it’s going to be a smooth process. I’ve known him for 28 years. What has stayed the same during your years in South Bay real estate? The South Bay is a consistent and steady buy. The excellent schools have a lot to do with that, and are a driving force for families, which creates a constant demand for our area… and the beauty of our community, as well. When you drive around here, some of the views you get are world-class. There are some high-level elements — schools, beauty and security — that make this a very desirable area. And it’s just a fun place to live. You have the beaches, you have horses and you have open trails. There’s a ton of activities, all right here.
What are some of your favorite activities?
I grew up with a family that had a farm, so I love that lifestyle. I’ve got a good buddy who kept after me to get involved in the Empty Saddle Club [a Western-riding club in Rolling Hills Estates]. So I got involved with the club about three years ago. It has 14 acres of horse facilities and there are close to 40 cows for roping and doing various cowboy activities. It’s a great escape. You feel like you’re on your own ranch.
So what is the current demand like for horse properties in Rolling Hills Estates?
There are just not as many people coming to this area to buy horse properties for the purpose of having horses. There is much more of a demand for large lots. Someone may buy a horse property with the idea of converting the barn area to a sport court or a playground for kids. So buyers like the ambiance of space, but not necessarily for use as a horse facility.
What do you see coming around the bend in local real estate?
We’ve come through a few years of pretty high escalating values, and initially I projected this year as a stabilizing year with not a lot of growth in price. What’s turned out so far in this first quarter is a little spike in prices because there’s very little inventory. We’ll see how the balance of the year plays out, but right now, there’s very little inventory and there seems to be a very strong demand. We’re still being influenced by extremely low interest rates, they’re still hovering around 4-percent or under, and that should be a tremendous incentive for buyers who are utilizing loans to buy a house.
Any trends in local demographics?
We’ve always had a fairly large international buying community, whether from the Asian market or the Middle East, that has identified the stable home values and good schools in this area as an opportunity. It’s great. If our economy is kind of going slow and theirs is going strong, overseas interest in local real estate affords us a good buying environment.
What are some of your favorite spots in the South Bay?
The Bull Pen in Redondo Beach has always been a favorite little getaway. And I enjoy The Admiral Risty, which I call ‘my favorite little haunt.’ It’s about a mile from my house. My family and I know the people who work there and we know the menu. We’ve got our favorite dishes.
A Sprawling Hilltop Hacienda, with Top-of-the-World Views and Plenty of Places to Play, is Pure Pleasure — Palos Verdes Style
WRITTEN BY CONSTANCE DUNN | PHOTOGRAPHY BY PAUL JONASON
OFFERED BY RAJU CHHABRIA, SHOREWOOD REALTORS | LIST PRICE $4,999,000
In the early 1980’s, a prospective buyer, with the last name Richards, went searching for a spacious house with generous city and ocean views in Palos Verdes Estates. At the time, the residential community was still a lightly populated area of modest-sized homes. Not finding any properties to his liking, he purchased a lot atop the highest curve of Via Del Monte.
Back then, “there wasn’t much to choose from,” Richards recalls. “It was very new. Most of the homes had small windows and small rooms, so I decided to go ahead and build.” So after hauling away an unfinished house built by the sellers, Richards built a meandering, custom spread: a 5-bedroom, approximately 9,853-square-feet Spanish Colonial Revival home, packed with luxe features and Mediterranean-inspired recesses and perches.
“It took about two and a half years to do it,” notes Richards of the substantial undertaking. “A guy by the name of Arthur Valdes, he did all the Red Onion Mexican restaurants back then, and is well-known in Newport Beach; he came up with a lot of great design ideas for the house.”
Sitting on a 22,874-square-foot lot, the home has the familiar earmarks of a Palos Verdes Estates property, from a pitched red-tile roof to a creamy stucco exterior. But its unabridged views—sweeping across the city, ocean and mountains—and grand, leisurely layout combine to create a place of tastefully indulgent individuality.
“I tried to design a home that would have light and views in every room,” Richards reveals. “I had been in real estate for many years, and I decided that this house could be built like something in Beverly Hills. We had a big lot, a big 180-degree view and a lot of things we could do to be creative. I was the first in the area to build a big house.”
A big house with, fittingly, amply-sized spaces. Much of the top floor, for instance, is given over to the master suite, a grand space with vaulted wood ceilings that opens to twin balconies. From this high perch, one has the feeling of being suspended over the green hillside, open sky and blue waters of the Pacific. Back inside the suite, the sleeping area adjoins a plush sitting area—its scale more in line with a full-fledged living room—and windows stream fresh light at every turn.
“We always went for beauty and uniqueness,” Richards remarks. “And usually that meant having something of a pretty good size.”
Indeed. The master bathroom is jumbo-sized with a fireplace and raised soaking tub in its center. Smooth white walls contrast crisply against glossy black travertine and a tucked-away skylight casts a nice glow over the room.
When it’s pointed out that Richards has inhabited the house for a long time, he nods and says, “A lot of years. From 1988. And an interesting thing is that for all those years we had shoots for advertising firms and Hollywood stars.” Among his recollections is Salma Hayek being photographed for People Magazine and a modeling shoot featuring a then teenage Katherine Heigl in the indoor pool; actress Victoria Principal and tennis great Maria Sharapova have both filmed there—and the house was even site of the short-lived reality show Chains of Love.
As for Richards’ favorite space, he answers swiftly: “The family room. It has a nice fireplace and a great balcony. Wood floors and wood ceilings. And lots of light. You can come in almost any place in [the] house and see the ocean.”
The most pleasure-forward spot is arguably the aforementioned indoor pool—housed in an earthy, luxe room of greenery and Mexican sculpture—where a ceiling of rough-hewn wood plays against glassy turquoise water. A hot tub is tucked into the cozy, elevated lounge, while a stray door reveals a discreet steam room.
“It’s nice to have an indoor Jacuzzi and pool,” Richards points out. “If people bring their kids over they’ll be entertained, even if it’s cold outside. The pool is only 4-feet deep, so kids can stand up under the waterfall and be in that Jacuzzi.”
The ocean-facing pool deck, meanwhile, flanked by towering Canary Island Date Palms, is another space made for entertaining. The adjoining bar and barbecue space, an oversized area amply covered from the elements and decked in cheerful Mexican tile, amplifies the feeling.
Yet for every festive spot in the home, there is another offering quiet and solitude. Intimate courtyards, remote balconies and poetic sitting areas meet one at every turn.
A stone-tile inner courtyard that feels more like a plaza due to its sheer size and triple-decker water feature is bordered by a spacious office, which seems a world removed—in a good way—from the rest of the residence. The same is true of the guesthouse, a light-filled hideaway of more than 800 square feet that’s outfitted with dreamy blue walls, pale wood floors and big windows letting in eyefuls of the ocean.
As twilight sets in, the home transforms. The grounds, a wild and verdant stretch down the hill and to the street below, offer a peaceful buffer from the rest of the world. To the left, the peak of La Venta Inn’s charming Jazz Age tower glows softly as one of Palos Verdes Estates’ earliest big homes, its layers reaching into the sky and many balcony lights burning, looks every bit the oasis it was envisioned years ago.
South Bay native Chris Adlam has specialized in residential home sales since 1987. Today, as one of the top realtors for Vista Sotheby’s International Realty, he’s the go-to guy when it comes to the South Bay—and the Palos Verdes Peninsula, in particular—real estate scene. He’s consistently won top awards for sales in the region where he still resides with his family. South Bay Digs recently caught up with Adlam for his take on the current state of real estate in this always desirable area.
Why real estate as your chosen profession?
I started in real estate when I was 23. I was newly married and very involved in a family business, but I wanted to do something on my own and residential real estate always interested me.
How long have you been in the business?
28 years. Now you know how old I am!
What do you like best about your job?
I truly enjoy the challenge of getting my clients the best deal possible. Whether I’m representing the buyer or the seller.
What sets your firm apart from competitors?
Sotheby’s is so well connected and offers a global reach that most other companies just don’t have. The global reach combined with our local expertise gives Vista Sotheby’s a huge advantage.
You’ve won some of the top realtor honors awarded to South Bay brokers. How do you conduct business in a way that leads to such continued success?
I’m happy to say that last year, REAL Trends/The Wall Street Journal named me one of the top 250 realtors in the country. I believe my work ethic, honesty and market knowledge are the keys to my success.
What are the latest market trends you see in the South Bay?
We are seeing an unprecedented rise in prices in certain areas. The average asking price per square foot in Manhattan and Hermosa Beach is over $1,150!
Where do you see the South Bay real estate market headed in 2015?
I think prices will continue on a gradual rise in 2015. Interest rates should remain at or near historic lows, and buyer demand is strong.
How have things shifted in the South Bay?
Buyers are coming or buying second homes from all across the globe—China, Europe and the Middle East. The South Bay is such a desirable place to live.
Your involvement in the community extends to the number of charitable causes you support. Of these, which are most important to you?
I support and served as a trustee of the Peninsula Education Foundation; education is the foundation of our children. I also support both of our local hospitals.
What do you do when not selling homes?
Everyone who knows me [also] knows I’m a car nut. When I’m not spending time with my wife and two daughters, I enjoy golf and my German shepherd, Rocco.