HomeCity NewsSan Marino Estate Sells for Record $30 Million

San Marino Estate Sells for Record $30 Million

The most expensive home in San Marino history and the larger San Gabriel Valley area has been recorded for a cool $30 million, sold by none other than the city’s homegrown Brent Chang, a top agent at Compass.

The historic John L. Severance Estate/John A. McCone home and sprawling 5.4-acre estate, located at 1100 Oak Grove Ave. in San Marino, was listed on May 8 for $22.5 million and recorded as selling on June 5 for $30 million. The official 28-day listing belies the intensive 13-day open sale period crafted by Chang, he said, and the work and strategy he generated behind the scenes over a six-month span.

In total, there were eight or more potential buyers who vied for the stunning property through private showings, a feat Chang said felt fairly smooth and seamless compared with some other sales he’s heralded.

“I have a special process and one that is a bit different from other sellers — at this price range people have very little time, so I try to make it as easy and transparent as possible,” Chang said, adding that still “you don’t get to $30 million from $22.5 without a bidding war.”  

Chang declined to divulge information on the home’s ultimate buyer or other suitors, noting that his clients’ privacy is his priority and one of the reasons the property was so enticing.

“The next person who owns it doesn’t want others to have videos or photos of walk-throughs; they want to make sure there weren’t hundreds of people trudging through what will become their intimate space,” he said.

One of the largest private estates in the area, there are dense, 20-foot privacy hedges surrounding it (which are grandfathered in by the city), and two hydraulic auto gates for added security, details that reflect the home’s long-standing previous ownership.

Built in the 1920s, the estate features nine bedrooms and 15 bathrooms spread over three independent structures, connected by formal gardens, Engelmann oaks, lighted pathways, a 50-foot pool and original aquatic park with multiple streams, waterfalls and tide pools.

One of Chang’s favorite aspects of working in specialized, “ultra high-end” real estate is becoming a historian and doing a deep dive on the properties he represents. For this sale, Chang went back in time to its 1921 origins, when the land was developed by Ohio oil magnate John Severance as his summer estate, and who commissioned the still-preserved, majestic gardens to renowned landscape architect Paul G. Thiene. The estate then passed to John McCone, chair of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission under President Dwight D. Eisenhower and director of the CIA under Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson.

By speaking with surviving relatives and heirs of the property, and researching newspaper and architectural magazine archives, Chang unveiled details of the home’s historic past to give the buyers a more personal connection to unique touches, such as the 15-foot ceilings, intricately carved wood doorways and fireplace mantels and marble patios, all representing the opulent and elegant Roaring ’20s. 

Yet, because of the privacy the estate has long protected, it was difficult to find proof of some of its legacy, he noted.

Brent Chang

“There is no hard proof that the Eisenhowers frequented the home, but they did. The Kennedys were there, but I cannot prove that either,” he said. “The knowledge and history surrounding a home is part of why I love what I do.”

The property is considered to be one of the last large, intact landmarks and still “a true working estate” in San Marino. The 1930s-built Lord & Burnham greenhouse, attached workshop and slat house cultivate orchids and other fauna; honey is produced and bottled from working beehives; harvesting from citrus and vegetable gardens; and a mix of bamboo and hardwoods allow for on-site carpentry in several workshops or one of the five detached garages.

Chang, who was born in the area and attended San Marino public schools, beat his own record for the highest sale point of a local home. His previous record sale was for the USC president’s house, which traded hands for $25 million. Of the top 10 sales in San Marino, Chang has represented five as of June 2024.

As to his industry secrets on how to secure a $30 million sale tag in the San Gabriel Valley, Chang expertly skirted specifics but laughingly noted that he waited until the rose garden was in full bloom to “heighten all the senses.”

He recognized that although not all properties are so unique in acreage or desired location, Chang has learned to turn any house for its worth if the seller is willing to listen. It’s an intimate process, he added, and sellers sometimes love their home more than the price reflects.

“I try to be honest and transparent throughout the whole experience, and I want the buyer to know as much about the house as possible,” he said. “If it’s a good fit, they’ll see the value in that. I’m not pulling magic tricks here.”

First published in the June 13 issue of the San Marino Tribune


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