Inman Luxury Connect returns live, Oct. 25-26, 2021, at the Aria Hotel and Resort in Las Vegas. In the lead-up to the big event, we’re talking with scheduled speakers and other top luxury agents about a big recent deal. Consider this a taste of the knowledge that will be shared at Luxury Connect. Make plans to join us.

It turns out, a nearly new, $25 million mansion overlooking the Riviera Country Club is much harder to sell the first time around.

Cindy Ambuehl would know. The Compass luxury real estate agent has done it twice.

Ambuehl may have made her first mark as an actress with appearances on popular television shows like Seinfeld and JAG. But in the years since, she’s established herself as one of the most prominent luxury agents in Los Angeles, assisting high-profile clients with complicated transactions.

A couple years ago, Ambuehl helped one of those clients purchase a newly built mansion with seven bedrooms and 11 bathrooms located at 1116 Napoli Drive in the Pacific Palisades. More recently, when the same client came back to her and said they wanted to sell, she steered them through a process that led to a quick conclusion at full list price.

In a phone interview, Ambuehl told Inman how the most recent deal came together — and whether it could have fallen through. This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

Cindy Ambuehl | The Cindy Ambuehl Group, Compass

Inman: What can you tell us about this property?

Cindy Ambuehl: It’s in the Riviera, which is one of the most prestigious neighborhoods in LA, and definitely on the West Side. The property was just this magical, Old World-meets-contemporary [home].

It had these unparalleled views of the Riviera golf course, all the way out to the Pacific Ocean. I had the listing when it was mid-construction two years ago, and this particular seller bought it mid-construction. Those are very challenging deals, because you have a buyer who’s buying when they’re looking at two-by-fours.

But we got through it and ended up with this remarkable product, this trophy property that was just a standout in the area. And then [they lived] in it for less than a year and sold it.

Why were they looking to sell so quickly?

They bought it, they loved it, and they are working so much out of the area that they thought, “You know, maybe we’ll buy elsewhere.” What happened in 2020 made a lot of people want to move. 

You said that this ended up going for $25 million. What did it list for, and what was your strategy to put this on the market initially?

Originally the seller just wanted me to show it off-market. So I had the signed listing and showed it just off-market at first. We had extremely qualified buyers coming through, but we weren’t getting to that $25 million number.

So I went back to my sellers, and I said, “I know you’re very private people, but I highly encourage putting it in the MLS.” The more exposure, the more you’re going to get. And I believe in that, always.

It’s great to sell something off-market. It’s better to sell it where you’ve had a chance to truly expose it to the buying pool. They did, and within the first week we had one offer, and then we had [three] offers by the second week. And all of them at full price.

It sounds like it ended up going for exactly that list price. What did you do to figure out which of these offers was actually going to be the best structure for the seller?

Every seller has their own sense of priority. My seller, they wanted their price, No. 1, and they wanted clean and easy.

My sellers are very kind, respectful people, and they just wanted to feel that energy from the buyer as well. And they did. They just knew, and I knew, that this was the buyer.

After this buyer left the showing the first time, I called the sellers and I said, “I met your buyers today.” I just knew they were the right ones, and they were. They were lovely, they were full price, they were easy terms, they were quick-close.

It was kind of a dream deal for both parties, with super cooperative people on both sides. But again, this is a property that I’ve now sold twice — once mid-construction, which is very difficult. It turns out to be a nine-month escrow. Very difficult. And so I was a little deserving of this one being easier, after all that! 

I’m sure! I’m wondering if there were any other potential challenges that you saw at the outset of this transaction. 

When you’re selling at this price point, you better make sure that you are marketing it at the highest level of luxury. When you’re selling a $25 million home, it has to be perfect. And your marketing has to reflect that.

I have to say too, on a deal like this, with your clients, trust is everything. These were high-profile clients who I’m actually friends with, and they trust me. They trust me to keep their names private, which I’ve always done.

And also, in doing that, I have to protect them while doing showings. When people ask who owns it, I never talk about it. There has to be trust with the seller.

After the offer was accepted and you moved on to the next phase, what did navigating that look like? I imagine there was a lot to figure out along the way.

You have to coordinate with your seller and their team — and usually at that level, they have a full team. Getting into escrow is just the start.

You have to be in constant communication with every bit of micromanaging you can, all the way to the finish line. So I worked diligently with their team, and they had a remarkable, efficient team. We had spreadsheets and we had to-do lists. We cross-checked each other.

When they put in the landscaping when it was new, it crushed part of the sewer, so they had to actually do sewer work prior to closing. So I’m over there in the trenches with the guys doing the sewer inspections, and trying to figure out the best course of action for it, and handling all of this all the way to the end to make sure that all of this work was completed prior to the close, which was required.

Was there a point in that process where it seemed like the deal might not go through?

It got a little… not that it wouldn’t go through, but you never know. You never know. Sometimes it takes the smallest thing to scare a buyer. 

Email Daniel Houston

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