In Los Angeles, relationships between neighbors can be complicated. “I always tell people, when you move into a house … invite your neighbors to a party and hope they don’t show up,” says realtor William Baker, architecture director at The Agency.
But even halfhearted neighborly friendliness has its advantages — particularly when someone is moving out. Sellers in some of L.A.’s best neighborhoods increasingly have found that the perfect buyer is right next door. “My mentor once told me, ‘Always go to the neighbor before you put a house on the market,’ because the neighbor is always going to pay more than anyone else — especially if they are a billionaire,” says Million Dollar Listing star Josh Flagg of Douglas Elliman.
The trend of buying up properties surrounding one’s mansion, sometimes known as “land banking,” has skyrocketed. Celebrities including Adele, Rihanna, Annie Lennox, Anthony Hopkins, Travis Scott, Kevin Hart, Elton John and Rob Zombie have bought neighboring properties, adding to their already luxurious spreads. Moguls and execs also have been snapping up adjoining residences, among them Jeff Bezos, Ari Emanuel, Chuck Lorre, George Lucas, Matt Groening, Facebook’s Jason Rubin, producer Doug Robinson and power couple Barry Diller and Diane von Furstenberg. After buying a $19 million house in Brentwood in 2020, NBA star Blake Griffin proceeded to snap up two neighboring houses, one for $5.9 million and the other for $7.4 million.
Two of the most expensive deals in 2021 ¬— Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel and model Miranda Kerr’s $100 million-plus purchase of two lots in Holmby Hills and WhatsApp co-founder Jan Koum’s purchase of Malibu neighbor Diana Jenkins’ estate for $87 million — are classic examples of the practice.
Some think the trend was kick-started in 2017 when L.A. revised its baseline Mansionization Ordinance, reducing the size of single-family homes that can be built on a lot to 45 percent of its size, down from 50 percent. “When you can buy the property next door, all of a sudden your 30,000-square-foot lot — you can turn it into a 60,000-[foot] lot,” says Santiago Arana of The Agency. “Therefore, one day when you want to sell your property, developers or builders are going to be interested since they make money based on the square footage that they build on. So the bigger the lot, the more valuable it becomes.”