It took nine years since the last one—2008—but Malibu experienced a new record year for home values in 2017. Both the average sale price and the median price in the 90265 ZIP code set whopping new highs during 2017. The average price of the nearly 250 home sales was more than $6 million.

That is based on another runaway record—nearly $1.5 billion in volume for just the homes alone, excluding local condos, mobile homes and vacant land transactions.

The median price jumped to $3,650,000, breaking the old record from 2008 when it was $3,360,000.  Malibu prices leaped 14 percent from 2016 when measured by the median, and more than 30 percent for the average.

The average price was artificially high, admittedly, because of the multitude of sales over $20 million. It was a year unlike any other, with 12 transactions at that threshold, compared to six in the best previous years (2014 and 2015; during 2016 there were only two). The $85 million deal on Carbon Beach was a record, as was the landside blockbuster on Sweetwater Mesa above the Malibu Pier, for nearly $70 million.

Nevertheless, the market was robust at every level as inventory remained low and big money invaded the market. Homes on the landside that sold for an average of $3.1 million in 2016, for example, took in an average of $4.1 million last year.

It may seem prices are beyond belief and any possible reach, but it also seemed that way in 1975, 1989, 1997, 2004, 2008 and any other year one randomly chooses. Malibu keeps outshining the rest of the world over the long term. The California Association of Realtors reports that the state median is still short of a new record from its high in 2007. Same with the statistics for Los Angeles County. But Malibu has broken into a new stratosphere.

The chart represents a summary of every home sale (from one to four units, though almost all are simply personal residences) in the 90265 ZIP code, culled from many sources and including secret sales not disclosed in the local Multiple Listing Service (MLS). Some unknown sales will yet trickle into the data for 2017, but with minimal effect on the aggregate totals or averages. The MLS (and other reporting services) only identify about 80 percent of the actual number of transactions, but these stats represent virtually everything.

For comparison sake, the years 2005, 2008 (the previous best in Malibu), and 2010 (after a collapse in values everywhere), are added to the chart. The recent change in volume is evident in both beach/bluff sales and on the landside (homes with no direct beach access):

Beach volume: 2015- $580 million; 2016 - $575 million; 2017- $708 million

Land side volume: 2015- $649 million; 2016 - $611 million; 2017- $762 million.

The chart is primarily intended to show general trends in the Malibu home marketplace. Your home may have a much different value than the averages noted. Every neighborhood in Malibu, seemingly, has vastly different products and values. (That is why on line sites that estimate home values, particularly Zillow, are a joke in Malibu. Zillow estimates are almost always far off the mark, both higher and lower than reality. Their algorithms cannot possibly account for all the factors in a Malibu property value. Perhaps Zillow estimates are helpful in Reseda, but not in Malibu where they are more deceptive than anything. I often tell people I think Zillow is a French word that means “inaccurate”).

Neighborhoods with sampling sizes of fewer than 10 sales may not clearly show the rise in values, but it is occurring. And where a sale price transpired far above the usual character of the neighborhood (noted with an asterisk for each occurrence), the numbers may seem inconsistent. Despite these statistical deficiencies, about half of the landside neighborhoods registered the highest price of any year shown, as well as most of the higher-priced beach areas.

Point Dume is an ideal benchmark, as it registers more than 20 sales each year, excluding the elite bluff estates. Prices have topped the previous 2008 high each of the past three years, growing each year.

The one place in Malibu that remains in a value depression is Broad Beach, where an ongoing beach erosion issue is tied up in government bureaucracy and legal wrangling. Broad Beach was long a stretch of $10 million homes and up. Last year, excluding a $24 million deal on a property originally listed over $50 million, homes struggle to capture even $7 million.

Last month, the inventory of homes available for sale in the MLS was 166 (out of about 4000 that exist in Malibu). The January tally is virtually always the lowest level for the year. Nevertheless, 166 is one of the lowest scores since 2009. Little choice means tougher sledding for buyers—and surely continued increase in values. Can Malibu hit double digits three years in a row? (Malibu/90265 topped 10 percent increases six out of seven years, 1999 through 2005).

While prices appear poised to increase during 2018, the average price for Malibu will likely dip. That is, unless a year like last, with so many mega-sales, happens again. The increase from $4.6 million to an average of $6.2 million in one year includes some statistical aberration. More reliable is the median bump to $3.65 million, which is the mid-point for all sales, with half higher and half lower. It is the most vital statistic of the health of the market, and the one that means most to homeowner balance sheets, no matter the price tier.

Rick Wallace has been a Realtor in Malibu for 30 years, and real estate columnist for 24 years.

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