In LA, hidden armies of workers keep mega-mansions on the market

Jack Flemming, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Business News

Steve Sheftel works at these types of homes all the time. As the founder of Beverly West Pool Co., he and his two employees service 170 pools per week, handling everything from repairs to upgrades to general maintenance.

He deals in every type of pool: kidney-shaped installations behind a bungalow and extravagant oases with grottos and fountains in the hills. Needless to say, those require a bit more work.

"With hillside pools, you can double or triple your costs because of all the footings and beams. There's a lot more engineering required," said Sheftel, who's been servicing pools for 45 years.

He's not a huge fan of the infinity pools that most developers insist on adding these days. Water cascading over the edge makes for a lovely scene, but behind the facade is a complicated system of catch basins, water-level controllers, filters and pumps. They're attractive in theory and en vogue at the moment, but if not properly constructed, constant repairs will cost owners a small fortune.

Take the aforementioned One, which takes the concept of the residential swimming pool and lets it mutate into something akin to a planned community : the property features five of them, including a pool out back, a pool inside, a floating pool that's perched outside the second-story bedroom and a moat-like pool outside the nightclub complete with lounges and fire pits.

They look immaculate from afar, but a closer look shows that some have foundations that are already cracking. When the estate was still on the market, three or four pool guys would come service them every single week, according to Ted Lanes, who served as the property's court-appointed receiver last year.

The pool staff was one team among many. Even though the house was unoccupied, service staff included a full-time handyman, two security guards that patrolled the property 24/7 and three or four housekeepers who cleaned once a week.

For these services, the monthly bill was roughly $40,000.

Jason Oppenheim, star of Netflix's "Selling Sunset," is currently listing a 20,000-square-foot mansion in Hollywood Hills for $40 million. He broke down the monthly expenses to keep the place looking pristine.

Full-time property manager: $8,000 a month.


General maintenance: $10,000 a month.

Staging: $5,000 a month.

Artwork: $2,500 a month.

Cleaners: $3,500 a month.

Pool guys for the 175-foot-long pool that overlooks the city and cascades into an atrium garden: $1,500 a month.

Gardeners (not only for the landscaping, but also for the "living wall" of greenery along the driveway): $2,500 a month.

Specialists who treat the wood and clean the 20,000 square feet of limestone featured across the property: $7,000 a month.

Total cost: $40,000. And that's not including the mortgage, property tax, insurance and utilities for a home that the seller isn't even occupying, which brings the monthly cost to well over $100,000.

"Some sellers try to save money when preparing to list a house. They don't get curated artwork, don't make any upgrades and leave their own furniture instead of paying for staging," he said. "They might save $50,000 up front, but then lose $250,000 on the sale price."

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