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The luxury air business is booming — as many Californians struggle to breathe

By Sam Dean, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Business News

LOS ANGELES - Gregory Malin remembers the night he realized a breath of fresh air could help sell a mansion.

The year was 2009. Some 2.8 million foreclosures were underway across the nation. Malin was hosting a party in San Francisco's tony Pacific Heights, where his real estate development and investment firm, Troon Pacific, had bought a house for $6 million to gut and renovate it as a showpiece. They'd turned it into the greenest residence in the city, scoring super-platinum points on the LEED certification scale. Now they were showing it off.

A woman approached him and asked: "Oh, my god. What do you do in this home? Do you produce oxygen? I feel so much better right now than I felt all year," Malin recalls. He had installed a state-of-the-art ventilation system for energy efficiency, but it also kept fresh filtered air moving through the building.

Something clicked. "My late wife looked at me and said, 'Truly, the greatest luxury in life is your health.' "

The house sold for more than $13 million, and Malin began marketing air as a health-and-wellness amenity, the same way builders of yore pitched hot tubs or home gyms.

Malin was early, but the world is catching up. Increasingly, the atmosphere is palpably dangerous. California is burning through the grand finale of its worst fire decade on record, with smoke clouds choking most of the state for much of the last month. The next decade is likely to be worse, as climate change steadily cooks the West Coast. A deadly pandemic is lingering in the air, keeping people cooped up at home, or anxiously thinking about aerosols and air flow whenever they venture outdoors.

 

For buyers at the upper reaches of the real estate market, peace of mind can be purchased in the form of deluxe air filtration systems that keep the world at bay.

Carl Gambino, a luxury real estate agent with Compass in Los Angeles, said that his clients have started bringing up clean air as a must-have amenity in the last year. "Suddenly it's a topic of conversation," Gambino said. For two of his biggest recent sales - a $14.1 million house in the San Fernando Valley and a $23.5 million house in Brentwood - he said deluxe filtration systems helped seal the deal.

Gambino said the luxury market as a whole has been hot during the pandemic, as wealthy clients perpetually stuck at home look to upgrade. "Now they're always in their house, their kids are always in their house," Gambino said. "So the thinking is, if they're locked in and there's a chance of fires or smoke," they want the best filtration system money can buy.

At Delos, a home and office health consulting firm with an office and showroom on Wilshire Boulevard, demand for high-end air filtration tech has exploded.

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