The O.J. Simpson ordeal brought gawkers, paparazzi and a perpetual police presence to his Brentwood Park neighborhood. But amid all that turmoil, neighborhood property values held steady.
Brentwood Realtors said the notoriety was a nuisance, but has had little impact on area home sales volume or prices. Instead, the number and prices of homes sold in the affluent enclave roughly mirrored those of similar housing markets nationwide between the June 1994 murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman and the foreclosure sale of Simpson’s estate last week.
“The earthquakes couldn’t (drop property values), the riots couldn’t do it, so O.J. Simpson certainly couldn’t do it,” said Murray Weisberg, associate manager of Fred Sands Realty in Brentwood.
Median home sale prices within O.J.’s former 90049 zip code stayed mostly steady during the three-year period at about $650,000, not much above their recessionary lows, according to Acxiom/DataQuick Information Systems Inc.
That’s a far cry from Brentwood’s mid-1990 peak, when homes there fetched an average of $1.05 million.
But the tumble took place well before the infamous double murder. The recession had sent Brentwood’s average home sales price plummeting to $612,500 by the first quarter of 1993, more than a year before the murders.
Similarly, the volume of homes sold in Brentwood followed a predictable course, corresponding with the local economy and seemingly unrelated to the Simpson events.
In the third quarter of 1988, at the height of the boom, 135 Brentwood houses were sold, and in the depths of recession, in the first quarter of 1992, 47 homes were sold.
Both those extremes were avoided during the three-year Simpson turmoil. In the second quarter of this year, a respectable volume of 85 Brentwood houses were sold.
Marjorie O’Connor Lathrop, a sales associate at Coldwell Banker in Brentwood, said she didn’t know of a single resident who moved out of Brentwood because of the Simpson brouhaha, although the police street blockades made entertaining at home “uncomfortable” and the media presence annoyed the neighborhood’s privacy-lovers.
“People had too much invested in their lives, their families and their property to pick up and leave,” she said.
While Simpson’s celebrity may not have hurt the overall Brentwood housing market, it may have hurt the value of his estate at 360 N. Rockingham Drive.
El Segundo-based savings and loan Hawthorne Financial Corp., which held the mortgage, bought the 6,200-square-foot home for about $2.6 million at the foreclosure auction last week. Most Realtors valued the property at $3.5 million to $4 million, and they said a few cosmetic repairs could bump the estate’s value up to $4.5 million.
The house isn’t exactly a dump right now, but Simpson deferred maintenance during the trial and he had “no incentive to give the estate curb appeal” while he tussled with his bank over unpaid mortgage payments and the Internal Revenue Service over back taxes, said John Isaac, a sales associate with Brentwood-based Cargile & Co. Realtors.
The Tudor-style home has its selling points: It boasts six bathrooms, a tennis court, waterfalls, an Olympic-sized pool, and it sits on nearly an acre of flat land, a rarity in hilly Brentwood, said Weisberg of Fred Sands Realty.
Even though the Simpson hoopla did not depress nearby home values, Realtors said they expect their jobs will be much easier now that Simpson has left the neighborhood. They told tales of nearly running over gawkers while trying to show nearby houses to clients.
“I think I can speak for everyone when I say that we’re glad he’s gone,” O’Connor Lathrop said.