Real Estate newsletter: The fight for L.A.’s most extravagant mansion – Los Angeles Times

Welcome back to the Real Estate newsletter. There a huge property smackdown happening in Bel-Air.

The players: Nile Niami, the slick Hollywood real estate developer whose mega-mansions keep getting bigger and bigger, and Don Hankey, the hard-nosed money lender who helped Niami bankroll his latest project.

The prize: A 105,000-square-foot house called “The One” that is, without hyperbole, unrivaled in size and splendor — even in one of the country’s most affluent regions for luxury real estate.

Once rumored to list for $500 million, the long-awaited residence is finally coming to market for $225 million. But its future is far from concrete, and Times reporter Laurence Darmiento documents it all in his latest piece.

In “less than $225 million” news, Joe Jonas and Sophie Turner set the highest price of the year, for Encino anyway, when they sold their modern mansion for $15.2 million. It’s also the second-priciest sale the San Fernando Valley neighborhood has ever seen. Joe’s brother Nick holds the top spot.

Encino saw another high-profile sale this week as Kelly Clarkson unloaded her farmhouse for $8.24 million — a hefty price, but still shy of the $8.5 million she paid for it three years ago.

Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis are hoping for better luck in Hidden Valley. After finishing their custom hilltop compound dubbed KuKu Farms, they listed their traditional-style spot nearby for $12.25 million.

Thinking about making an offer on a house? Whether you’re vying for Kutcher and Kunis’ place or a more affordable spot, think twice about penning a love letter to the seller along with your bid. Columnist Steve Lopez looked into the practice, which is simultaneously becoming more popular and more controversial.

If you want your own story in this newsletter, now’s your chance. I’m writing a house-hunting column filled with wild real estate tales, and I’d love to hear the details from yours. Click the link and give me some details.

While catching up on the latest, visit and like our Facebook page, where you can find real estate stories and updates throughout the week.

The fight for ‘The One,’ Bel-Air’s infamous mega-mansion

A giant mansion on a hilltop.

“The One” in Bel-Air.

(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

It’s hard to grasp the enormity of “The One,” but an aerial photograph of the largest modern home in the United States provides perspective, writes Laurence Darmiento.

Viewed from a drone, the white marble structure once marketed for $500 million looks every bit the fortress towering over the scattered dwellings of a village.

That such a giga-mansion could be built says much about the asymmetrical excesses of our age — in which the struggle for housing plays out in the valleys as spec homes that only a minute fraction of the world can afford rise above them.

It’s also a testament to the will of an obsessive developer driven to build the most extravagant mansion he could imagine. Now, the place is slipping through his fingers as he battles a hard-nosed money lender who’s in for more than $100 million on the project.

Power couple set a yearlong high in Encino

A rectangular pool in a big yard in front of a sprawling mansion.

Built in 2019, the modern mansion is filled with glass, imported stone and aged natural wood.

(Jae Omar Design)

Joe Jonas and Sophie Turner are swapping coasts. A few days after shelling out $11 million for a glass mansion in Miami, the couple have sold their Encino showplace for $15.2 million.

That tab wasn’t big enough to grab the Encino price crown from another Jonas brother, Nick, who paid $20 million for a 20,000-square-foot home in the San Fernando Valley neighborhood two years ago with his wife, Priyanka Chopra.

Jonas (Joe, not Nick, if you’re keeping score) and Turner walk away with a profit of $1.1 million after paying $14.1 million for the property when it was newly built in 2019, records show. They first listed it over the summer for $16.75 million.

The modern pad was designed by Jae Omar, who used a design palette of glass, imported stone and aged natural wood. It holds nine bedrooms, 11 bathrooms and myriad unique amenities including an aquarium, cigar humidor, fog machine, DJ station, disco lights and a kegerator (if you’re not familiar, that’s a specialized refrigerator used to store and dispense beer).

‘Idol’ singer finally sells

A compound with a pool and big yard.

Built in 2018, the modern farmhouse includes a swimming pool and two-story guesthouse.

(Laura D’Anna / MediaCarrot Photography)

The selling spree continues for Kelly Clarkson. Months after shedding her 20,000-square-foot Tennessee mansion for $6.3 million, the “American Idol” alum has hauled in $8.24 million for her Encino farmhouse.

It chalks up as a slight loss for the singer, who paid $8.5 million for the property in 2018. She’s been shopping the home around since last year and most recently listed it for $9 million.

Clarkson is still keeping roots in the San Fernando Valley. Over the summer she opted for a smaller home, shelling out $5.445 million for a 5,000-square-foot Colonial-style spot a few miles east in Toluca Lake.

At more than 10,000 square feet, the home she just sold has eight bedrooms, 10 bathrooms, a movie theater, billiards room, gym and wine cellar across two stories. Spanning half an acre in the Royal Oaks neighborhood, the property also adds a two-story guesthouse and leafy backyard with a pool, spa, lawn, fire pit and covered lounge with a pizza oven.

A big pool and a house.

The 1990s home includes five bedrooms, 5.5 bathrooms, a mahogany office, bar, wine cellar, sauna and gym.

(Simon Berlyn)

Now that their sustainable farmhouse in Beverly Hills is complete, married actors Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis are looking to sell their East Coast-inspired home a few streets over for $12.25 million.

That’s about $2 million more than the pair paid in 2014 a few months after becoming engaged.

Built in 1999, the 7,300-square-foot spot is a bit more traditional than their new property — a stunning hilltop compound they built as a passion project dubbed KuKu Farms complete with a well and cornfield, which they planted and harvested during the pandemic.

The real estate love letter is under fire

A for-sale sign among a row of houses.

Townhouses in Chula Vista’s Otay Ranch community in mid-September.

(Phillip Molnar / San Diego Union-Tribune)

It’s the perfect house in the right neighborhood, so the competition is stiff, but you’ve absolutely got to have it, writes Steve Lopez.

So what do you do? You make your bid, offering more than the list price because that’s how insane the California real estate market can be in many neighborhoods, and then you sit down and write a love letter.

This practice has always struck Times columnist Lopez as creepy, and he describes it as a fawning essay contest in the dream house sweepstakes.

Such creative writing exercises have come under attack as bogus efforts by buyers to gain the upper hand over other buyers. And they’ve been banned in Oregon as a possible tool of discrimination.

What we’re reading

The New York Post is handing out awards for New York City’s most exclusive buildings. But these awards aren’t about architecture and design elements. Instead, they celebrate “buildings that address the real (and dubious) needs of rich New Yorkers. Categories include “the overcompensation award,” “the paparazzi-proof building” and “the best building for extramarital activities.”

Halloween is weeks away, but the year’s most popular front lawn decoration might be hard to find. After going viral last year and selling out fast, Home Depot’s 12-foot-tall skeleton is again sold out at many of the chain’s stores, and third-party sites are listing the $299 item for as much as $1,200, Business Insider reports.