California's Gold Coast

ByABC News
February 19, 2009, 9:24 AM

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif., Nov. 27, 2007— -- The hills of Bel Air, Calif., is where the super rich move to get away from the merely rich down in Beverly Hills.

Kurt Rappaport, one of the co-founders of the Westside Estate Agency, gave "Nightline" a tour of one of the mansions.

"Never been lived in, took a little over two years to build, the owner started construction in 2005 and just finished," he said.

The 12,000 square feet of living space includes a wood-paneled library, massive living room and a kitchen with everything, including two dishwashers.

"The floors are all French limestone, all hand cut, each piece individually selected," Rappaport said.

And then came the closet, which was the size of about two large bedrooms. Or a New York City apartment.

The asking price is $18 million, and the final sales price is likely to be pretty much the same. Buyers in Bel Air won't find any deals as a result of the subprime crisis, or the mortgage foreclosures.

"We have no foreclosures, and in the high-end areas here, there are no foreclosures," Rappaport explained. "We have no subprime mortgages."

Usually, he said, there is no mortgage.

Most people might think of high-end real estate as something that costs maybe $750,000, but the real high end is $10 million, $20 million, $100 million. It is a world apart from the kind of real estate that's in crisis. This market doesn't need to keep prices down.

"It used to be that 75 percent of the buyers on the high end were people you knew or people you'd heard of. Now it's the opposite," Rappaport said. "There's wealth coming from so many different sectors. From Europeans to Russians, Chinese, technology people, all coming into our marketplace, which we didn't have a few years ago."

In October 2006, in Rappaport's office alone, sales of homes priced $10 million or above amounted to $81 million.

And in October of this year, sales of homes $10 million or above totaled $161 million. Sometimes, unlike in Monopoly, the property is worth more with no house. Rappaport pointed out 12.5 vacant acres in the heart of Bel Air.

"The person who buys this isn't spending just $60 million for the land. They're going to spend another $40 or $50 million in building the house, so somebody will spend in excess of $100 million here," he explained. "But at the end of the day, they'll have something that's probably worth double that."