The 10,000-square-foot mansion that “burnt to a crisp” in the Coastal fire was “one signature away” from being sold, says the listing real estate agent. Now, that deal literally is up in smoke.
The unidentified owner, who has another home in Canada, watched helplessly from abroad as security cameras showed the fire’s approach and ultimately the home’s demise.
The mansion, listed for just under $10 million, was perhaps the priciest of 66 houses in the gated, ridgetop Coronado Pointe neighborhood with ocean views.
Fire officials said 11 homes were damaged and 20 were destroyed by the swift-moving wildfire that overtook the Laguna Niguel neighborhood west of Crown Valley Parkway.
Prices for the fire-damaged homes along Coronado Pointe ranged from $2.85 million to $9.61 million, and averaged just under $4 million, according to the most recent Zillow “Zestimates” of home values. The mansion on the cul-de-sac at the north end of the block had been listed for sale at just under $9.9 million.
Most of the homes ranged from 4,000 to more than 6,000 square feet. It’s impossible to find homes of that size for those values in nearby Laguna Beach.
“It’s a very exclusive neighborhood, … very quiet,” said Leo Goldschwartz, the Newport Beach real estate agent who was selling the palatial, French-designed mansion at the north end of the neighborhood. “It’s an under-the-wire, luxury community that’s little-known.”
Future plans devastated
The original gated, one-street community of Coronado Pointe dates back to the late 1980s, when a partnership called Coronado Pointe L.P. launched construction, according to news clippings. Most of the homes were built by the original developer, but six at the north end were custom homes built later.
The custom-built mansion at the north end of the block was the crown jewel of Coronado Pointe, with an elegant motor court out front, twin wings thrusting toward the canyon and a curving back wall overlooking the pool, a golf course and Aliso Beach in the distance. The home was built in 1999, designed by a French architect with Feng Shui sensibilities, Goldschwartz said.
“It’s a very special property. You cannot duplicate that home,” the agent, who works for Compass real estate, said. “The house had separate wings. The adults went one way, the kids went another way. … It was like a palace. The house was a really beautiful home. The finishes were impressive.”
The would-be buyers have been devastated, Goldschwartz said. They had plans to do an extensive remodel. A custom home next door, also heavily damaged by fire, had recently completed an extensive remodel.
The mansion was insured, Goldschwartz added, but fire insurance has been getting increasingly hard and more expensive to get as global warming and drought drive up risks in wildfire-prone California.
“I do a lot of business here on the coast, and for the last three years, it’s been difficult for a lot of my clients to get insurance,” he said.
Stepping back from danger zones
Insurance payouts have risen dramatically: Between 2011 and 2018, insurers paid about $4 billion annually to cover wildfire losses, but the recent fire seasons have resulted in $26 billion in claims paid to homeowners, UC Berkeley researchers found in a study published last year. More than 1 in 12 California homes are located in high fire danger zones, and more than a half-million new homes could be built in these areas under current California rules.
The UC Berkeley study concluded the state should overhaul its policies allowing owners to rebuild their homes after a wildfire.
The Wall Street Journal reported recently that American International Group Inc. and Chubb Ltd. were pulling out of California’s regulated fire insurance market and offering policies in the higher-cost excess-and-surplus lines.
Other insurance companies dropped tens of thousands of California homeowners in rural areas and other fire-prone parts of California following the massive wildfires of 2017-18 in Santa Rosa, Paradise and Ventura County, although that trend has eased somewhat recently.
“We saw increases in non-renewals by insurance companies after the 2017 and 2018 wildfires, but more recently there are some positive signs,” said state Deputy Insurance Commissioner Michael Soller. “In our latest data, non-renewals fell by 10%, meaning approximately 22,000 fewer homes were non-renewed in 2020 compared to 2019.”
Homeowners have been offered discounts for reducing their home’s risk of wildfires through such measures as using non-combustible materials and removing flammable brush and vegetation from around the home.
New state regulations “will require insurance companies to recognize the wildfire safety actions that homeowners take in their pricing,” Soller said. “If you do the hard work of making your home safer, you should see the reward.”
In addition to discount pricing incentives, Soller said California’s “Safer from Wildfires” insurance framework aims to create transparency in insurance companies’ wildfire risk scores used to evaluate risk.
“Most homeowners don’t know there is a score that ranks their risk,” Soller said. “It will require those scores to be available. If you have added a fire-resistant roof or dual pane windows, that score needs to reflect it.”
Soller said he expects the new regulations to be in place this summer. Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara has also sponsored legislation to strengthen consumer protections for wildfire survivors and evacuees.
Protections include providing an advance payment of claims without a detailed inventory, at least two weeks of additional living expenses to cover mandatory evacuation costs, increased payouts for a total loss if you choose to relocate rather than rebuild and additional insurance for disaster survivors who chose to rebuild to cover updated building codes.
Soller suggested homebuyers should take a property’s insurance costs into account during the buying process. Fire survivors can contact the Department of Insurance if they have questions about their policies or about how to file a claim by calling 800-927-4357 or visiting bit.ly/calinsurancehelp.
SCNG art director Jeff Goertzen and the Bay Area News Group contributed to this report.
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