Real Estate newsletter: COVID-19 fortune fuels a real estate shopping spree

Real Estate newsletter: COVID-19 fortune fuels a real estate shopping spree

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Welcome back to the Real Estate newsletter, which this week delivers more drama than the usual celebrity-fueled luxury deals.

The juicy details come by way of Pasadena, where a company called Innova Medical Group made billions during the pandemic by selling questionable coronavirus tests to governments around the world. According to a Times investigation, executives then used the money on a real estate shopping spree, leasing a pristine office in Pasadena and buying luxury homes around the area for the startup’s top brass in addition to a pair of private jets.

In other news, the week’s housing headlines saw sellers ready to move on. John Legend and Chrissy Teigen floated their Beverly Hills Post Office home for sale over and over during the last year and finally made a deal this week — albeit for 30% less than what they originally wanted.

Former San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh is hoping for better luck in the Bay Area. Seven years after leaving to coach the University of Michigan Wolverines, he finally found time to put his Atherton mansion on the market for $13 million.

But enough about homes with eight-digit asking prices. With the hot market making it difficult for people to even dream about buying a home, we took a look at what $400,000 buys around L.A. There aren’t many single-family homes on the market for that price, but there are plenty of condos up for grabs.

On the commercial side, a welcome sight is coming to San Gabriel, where one couple is transforming a former Masonic lodge into a Grand Central Market-style food hall called Blossom Market Hall. It’s set to open in September.

While catching up on the latest, visit and like our Facebook page, where you can find real estate stories and updates throughout the week.

Exterior of an office building with a sign for Innova Medical Group

Innova Medical Group, a startup that hit a gold mine with a rapid antigen test for the coronavirus.

(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

In the last year, executives at a Pasadena startup began flying from Burbank to destinations around the world on a pair of newly registered Gulfstream jets, one a G650 decked out in white plush seats, burnished interiors and other luxury finishes.

Two executives associated with the same company also bought multimillion-dollar homes not far from the startup’s posh headquarters. And when Realtors asked for proof they could pay such prices, one of the executives handed over a bank statement showing a $128-million deposit into the company’s account from the British government.

The recipient of that massive windfall was Innova Medical Group, a company formed at the start of the pandemic that became an unlikely global supplier of coronavirus tests.

Power couple finally sell

Exterior of a modern mansion with large windows and a swimming pool

John Legend and Chrissy Teigen sold for about 30% shy of their original price tag of $23.95 million.

(Anthony Barcelo)

Musician John Legend and his wife, model Chrissy Teigen, just sold their Beverly Hills Post Office home for $16.8 million about a year after they first put it on the market.

That’s about 30% shy of their original price tag of $23.95 million but still $2.7 million more than they paid for it five years ago.

The power couple moved to a different part of Beverly Hills Post Office last summer, shelling out $17.5 million for a 10,700-square-foot ultra-modern mansion a few miles west in Benedict Canyon. The one they just sold is a bit smaller at 8,500 square feet but still wows with 33-foot ceilings, a sculptural staircase and primary suite complete with a “glam room.”

Former 49ers coach lists home turf

The 1.3-acre estate includes a main house and guesthouse that combine for more than 8,500 square feet.

The 1.3-acre estate includes a main house and guesthouse that combine for more than 8,500 square feet.

(Zachary Kinovsky)

Jim Harbaugh’s stint as head coach of the San Francisco 49ers ended in 2014. Seven years later, he’s shopping around his Bay Area home for $13 million.

That’s about double the $6.3 million he paid for the property in 2012, records show. Harbaugh, who played high school football nearby at Palo Alto High School, picked the place up after leading the 49ers to the NFC championship game and being named NFL coach of the year during his first season with the team.

The estate covers 1.3 acres in Atherton, an affluent enclave that is home to Bay Area sports stars such as Stephen Curry and Jerry Rice and regularly ranks as one of the priciest ZIP Codes in the country.

What $400,000 buys right now

2135 Bellevue Ave #2, Los Angeles, 90026

2135 Bellevue Ave #2, Los Angeles, 90026

(Eric Charles)

Unless you’re looking for raw land or a years-long renovation project, $400,000 won’t go too far in L.A.’s single-family housing market. L.A. County’s median home price soared to a record $790,000 in June, and according to Zillow, the average home value in the city is hovering around $882,000.

With starter homes going for anywhere between $500,000 up to $1 million in most L.A. neighborhoods, condos can be a more affordable path to home ownership, and there’s a healthy dose of options across the city. Take a look at what $400,000 buys in five L.A. communities.

A food hall comes to San Gabriel

An empty food hall with high ceilings

Blossom Market Hall will open in a former Masonic lodge in the historic San Gabriel Mission District.

(Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

A few years ago, Nellie and Chris Tran moved from San Francisco back to their hometown in the San Gabriel Valley to raise their son, who was 1 at the time, writes Jean Trinh. While there were plenty of shopping plazas — and restaurants — to explore, there wasn’t much room for their son to run around, except the parking lots. The couple thought the area was lacking the type of public gathering spaces they’d seen in other cities.

The city of San Gabriel needed a food hall, they thought, something similar to Grand Central Market and Anaheim Packing House, a space that would bring diverse communities together through food, performances and art.

In 2018, the Trans started the process of transforming a former Masonic lodge in the historic San Gabriel Mission District into Blossom Market Hall. There were pandemic delays that slowed construction, but they never stopped working on it, and they plan to open in September.

“We’re essentially creating a public space that’s centered around food,” said Nellie Tran.

What we’re reading

In the latest sign that the hot housing market might soon cool off, pending homes sales in June dropped by 1.9%, CNBC reports. Low inventory is still keeping sales prices high, but the slight drop in pending sales indicates that homes aren’t selling quite as rapidly as they were in previous months.

House on the outside, bunker on the inside. A common brick façade makes this Dallas listing seem innocent enough, but inside are concrete rooms, fluorescent lights and two electrical grids that combine to create “the ultimate safe house.” KPRC-TV Channel 2 in Houston has the story.



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Cindy Rose

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