It’s a place that is the “best priced mansion” in the area and boasts nine rooms and 13.5 bathrooms surrounded by 7.8 acres. And yet there is difficulty in selling in the $16.9 million mansion. How come?
The Rockbridge Road mansion was built on property that used to be a part of the Riven Rock estate, which belonged to the McCormick family. Riven Rock’s main house was lost in a fire after the 1925 earthquake and the estate has since been divided into smaller residences. (Riven Rock was the title for a 1998 novel by T. Coraghessan Boyle about Stanley McCormick, the son of billionaire Cyrus McCormick, who was schizophrenic and confined to the house for decades.)
Natalie Collins-Smith, who co-listed the property with Icon Realty Founding Partner and Vice President Alexandra Iovtchev, praised the amenities the mansion offered, pointing out the library and spa. Most of the amenities have been around since the mansion was built in 2003, though some features, such as the jungle gym and the children’s cottage, have been added since. She described the amenities, including a Japanese-style garden, as “out of this world.”
“I had one guy say that you should be charging for admission,” she said, adding that the same individual stated it was like something out of the “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous,” a TV show that ran in the 1980s and 1990s.
The mansion has a short history. It was sold in 2009 for the price of $25.2 million. It was listed for sale at $34.5 million in 2015, before being listed in 2017 at $22.9 million. The price was raised to $25 million before being pulled and listed again in April 2019 at $16.9 million.
Ms. Collins-Smith said price is one of the reasons the mansion hasn’t sold,
“It takes the right buyer. It’s a lot more difficult than it sounds,” Ms. Collins-Smith said.
But another reason for the difficulty in selling the house are the natural disasters that have hit Santa Barbara in the past few years, such as the January 2018 debris flows that killed 23 people. The debris flows were the result of the massive Thomas Fire of December 2017 and January 2018 that denuded ground of vegetation, and a massive storm that struck Jan. 9, 2018.
“Montecito lost 300 homes in the tragedy,” Ms. Collins-Smith said. “The fires, the natural disasters in the area have made everyone apprehensive.”
She added there is an “air of fear” surrounding Montecito.
The home was pulled from the listing in 2018, after the debris flows. Since its reappearance on the listing, the real estate agents have tried to assure people it is not in the “redzone” and that the property was unaffected by debris flows and fires, Ms. Collins-Smith said.
Santa Barbara Board of Realtors President Paul Schultheis does not disagree that there is apprehension surrounding the Montecito market.
Mr. Schultheis cautioned that when talking about the real estate market, people to “need to remember that the market as a whole consists of several smaller sub-markets, such as price ranges and location. Depending on the type of influence, some sub-markets may suffer while others surge.
“In the case of the Thomas Fire and the Montecito mudflow, several factors were at play,” Mr. Schultheis said in an email.
“First, the fire and mudflow negatively [a]ffected the affected areas by physically damaging inventory,” he said. “The disasters also created a lot of seller and buyer uncertainly about the possibility of a reoccurrence of one of these disasters. This uncertainty, in part, also negatively [a]ffected the Montecito market as well in value and activity.”
He added that since the since the fire and debris flows, “we are seeing insurability issues arise that are negatively affecting sales in high fire hazard areas (across California).
“Surprisingly, surrounding areas that were not immediately [a]ffected by the disasters, such as Hope Ranch and the Mesa, observed a small increase in activity due to increased demand,” Mr. Schultheis said.
As for different marketing strategies following the natural disasters: “I have observed some Realtors mention that a specific property was not damaged or not within an affected area but would not go so far as to say that marketing strategies have drastically changed,” Mr. Schultheis said.
The overall real estate climate is mostly “stable and balanced,” according to Mr. Schultheis.
“Interest rates are great, inventory is still on the low side and buyer demand seems to be present. Certain sub-markets are experiencing a slight slowing while others are outperforming expectation,” he observed.
Mr. Schultheis sung Santa Barbara’s praises, saying the best part about living in the city is the community itself and how “Santa Barbara is small enough that no matter where you go, you are connected.”
“This connection is, in my opinion, what makes Santa Barbara so special. Other obvious perks would be the climate, the culture, the lifestyle the area provides, the access to natural beauty, the passion our residents have for each other and the list goes on,” Mr. Schultheis said.