Realtor Magazine: Architectural Diamonds

Architectural Diamonds
Unique homes command premium – if you can make the case. by Robert Freeman

It’s not every market that boasts for-sale homes by architecture luminaries such as Frank Lloyd Wright or Frank Gehry. But in Beverly Hills and parts of Los Angeles, homes by Wright and other architects of national reputation aren’t uncommon. And when these homes go on the market, it’s often the sales associates at Mossler & Doe Inc., with their passion for architecture, who serve as the listing agents.

“We’ve been honored to list some of the most architecturally significant homes not just in Los Angeles but other parts of United States,” says David Mossler, who, with another architecture aficionado, Crosby Doe, launched the company in 1978 expressly to list museum-quality properties.

Mossler & Doe, which affiliates 15 active sales associates, has been closing between 160 and 175 transactions a year for the past few years at a volume of about $200 million, an amount that’s held fairly steady for the past several years, says Michael O’Reilly, vice president and broker of the company. The pre-sale prices averages out to about $1.2 million, but many of the company’s listings are significantly higher than that, often around $5 million and occasionally as high as $15 million, the company says.

Much of the partners’ knowledge of local architecture comes from sources accessible to anyone with an interest in the topic, such as books from local historical society and the architectural archives of area universities. Universities in most large metro areas have extensive guidebooks on area architecture and they’re “priceless resources for us” says Mossler.

Architecture expertise is something the brokers would like to see spread around the country, because they’re looking for “correspondents” outside their market with whom to exchange referrals.

The universe of architecturally significant homes is small, maybe a few percentage points in any given market, the two brokers say. But the market for them is growing along with the aging of the baby boomers, who, now in their peak wealth years, are increasingly seeking unique homes.

“Back east, you have a lot of historical homes, and in the Midwest there are a lot of gems,” including homes designed by modernists Frank Lloyd Wright and his friends Bruce Goff, says Doe.

Homes with interesting pedigrees, if a practitioner knows how to identify them, can command a premium on the market, says Mossler.

How much of a premium depends on the architect, the quality and integrity of design, and, like any other home, the location. Homes designed by famous folks such as Wrights, Goff, and Gehry can command a 50 percent, and sometimes significantly higher, price premium. But even homes by lesser known designers sell for top dollar if the design has what Mossler and Doe call “integrity”.

The attributes wrapped up in the term integrity include how the space is configured and how light enters a room, among other things. “There are a lot of intangibles,” says Doe.

“We get calls from practitioners around the country who want information on how to develop this niche or get or give referrals. We’re anxious to develop connections,” says Mossler. “The expertise we look for starts with a passion for architecture.”

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