Thursday, September 28, 2023 | The Latest Buzz for the Appraisal Industry

Appraising the Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous

The fifth largest economy in the world, California is home to some of the most extravagant residential properties you’ll find anywhere in the US. As a Southern California appraiser for 12 years, I’ve seen my share: homes with vineyards as backyards, celebrity mansions, even a castle. Yep, a castle. Try to find a decent comp for that!

Although it tops most lists of best states in the country for year-round weather, California’s climate is a lot more diverse than you’ve heard. I’ve had appraisal inspection days that took me through snow in the late morning (in the city of Tehachapi) and, just a few hours later, to a sun-drenched beach home in Malibu, where the weather was in the mid-90s and the locals were all wearing shorts.

Only in California (and really, only in Southern California)

In fact, it was during this Malibu beach-home inspection that I had one of the stranger experiences I can remember as an appraiser. It was the home of a well-known actor. You’d recognize him.

And it wasn’t, technically speaking, a beach house at all—not in the way most of us understand that term. This home wasn’t located on the sand and was, in fact, some distance from the water. Think of it as beach-adjacent.

Because the property offers no direct path to the beach, it requires what Malibu residents call a “beach key.” The town has an interesting practice of building—and then promptly hiding—gates that grant residents access to the Malibu sand and shore. Some of these gates are underground, and at least one will take you literally through a mountain.

The gate my subject’s owner took me through to see the beach was designed specifically for golf carts. So that’s how we got there: a custom-built golf cart, driven by an actor you’ve seen a million times on TV, and a beach key to get us out onto the shoreline. And as I took those beach photos for the report, I reflected on how odd it was that one of this property’s amenities was… the Pacific Ocean.

It wasn’t the type of inspection most appraisers are ever likely to have. But when you appraise property in California—the country’s most populated state, with the most diverse types of housing you’ll find anywhere—you can expect to see just about anything.

Appraisers – share your stories below! What’s the most expensive property that you’ve ever appraised?

Have any comments or would you like to submit content of your own? Join the Buzz Forum to comment below or email