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Survey: LJ prices tops in nation

La Jolla’s ‘assets’ still drawing high-end buyers

La Jolla has reclaimed the distinction of having the nation’s “priciest” real estate, according to Coldwell Banker’s annual Home Price Comparison Index.

For the fourth time in six years, surpassed only by Beverly Hills in 2006-07, La Jolla posted the highest average U.S. home price, $1,841,667 in 2008. By contrast, a similar home in Sioux City, Iowa, deemed the country’s most affordable real estate market by Coldwell Banker, cost $133,459.

In Coldwell’s annual housing price survey, eight of the nation’s 10 highest-priced housing markets were in California, while the Midwest had eight of the country’s 10 least expensive home markets.

Local Realtors say there are a number of sound reasons why the Jewel continues to top the charts boasting the country’s most expensive - and desirable - properties.

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Longtime La Jollan Susana Cohen Corrigan of Prudential California Realty said the community’s “assets” speak for themselves.

“This is the best place to live by far,” she said. “Between an idyllic lifestyle, the climate, obviously, and just the beauty of the place: It feels like a community.”

Andy Nelson, president of Willis Allen Real Estate, noted La Jolla’s renewed standing as the crème de la crème of housing has been bolstered by a few big-ticket sales the past few months.

“We had some oceanfront sales that have really driven the high-end market,” he said. “Oceanfront is always a highly desirable spot.”

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Top sales

Since February 2008, five homes sold for more than $12 million in La Jolla, led by a $16.5 million sale at 325 Dunemere Drive and a $15 million sale at 1538 Kearsarge Road.

Those figures could be topped if a new home on the bluff in La Jolla Farms sells anywhere near its listing price of $32 million, which Greg Noonan of Prudential California Realty said is now the most expensive home in the La Jolla market.

While climate is a major consideration for many high-end homebuyers who are looking for a second or even a third residence in La Jolla, he said they’re looking for one other thing: a “turnkey” property that perfectly suits their needs.

“Only one in 10 buyers are willing to go through the renovation process,” Noonan said.

Maxine and Marti Gellens, a mother-daughter team with Noonan at Prudential California Realty agreed the upper-end of La Jolla’s real estate market is thriving.

Different market

“In the last nine months we’ve sold five homes over $10 million,” said Maxine. “La Jolla has never had that kind of market. There are so few properties - 650 condos and homes annually - sold in La Jolla, period. That kind of volume is causing the average price to go up.”

“The high end of the market, people here, thankfully, don’t seem to be affected by what’s going on in the financial markets,” said Marti.

Gregg Whitney, who along with wife Lisa have been selling homes in the Jewel for years, said something real estate here has going for it is international appeal.

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Foreign investors, he said, “are looking for a safe place to put their money, and they buy upper-end properties.”

Looking to future

The qualities that make La Jolla’s real estate market so stable aren’t likely to change, which bodes well for the future, said Prudential’s Cohen Corrigan.

“I have a waiting list for people who want to be in the Shores, or in certain positions with a view,” she said. “I’ve had people lose out on some prime listings because they were just a bit too late. For certain properties, there is still a shortage of inventory.”

Willis Allen’s Nelson gazed into his real estate crystal ball and said he sees things gradually returning to a more normal state.

“I think we’re going to see some stability next year with the new administration, no matter who wins, along with some strengthening of the financial markets which will help remove the (economic) uncertainties we’ve had for the past nine months,” he said.

Whitney said that in this down housing market it is a lot tougher for sellers because people know “they’re getting lower valuations than they would have had two or three years ago.”

But on the plus side, he added, the housing crunch is “bringing the market to a more realistic valuation.”