Sally Forster Jones is the Los Angeles-based executive director of luxury estates at Compass, leading the SFJ Group at the firm.
Ms. Forster Jones specializes in luxury to ultra-luxury properties, architecturally significant properties and new developments in Southern California, where she’s had 40-plus years of experience in the industry.
Before Compass, she was president of luxury estates for Pacific Union International, where she was rated as a top producer year after year.
We caught up with Ms. Forster Jones to discuss the increasing popularity of urban areas, buyers’ requests for convenience and more.
Mansion Global: Describe your dream property.
Sally Forster Jones: I love the ocean and I love the beach, so I’d love a place on the beach with views of the ocean. Something casual and contemporary, without a lot of clutter. I like something with a California style of living, a place that’s great for entertaining. Something with open space, and a great master bedroom that’s sort of a sanctuary.
MG: Do you have a real estate property that got away?
SFJ: When I look at homes, I look at potential. It’s just about being located well, that it has potential and I can see the vision of what I would make it. There’s one I can think of that was in the Beverly Hills flats that I wish I’d bought. It was done well.
MG: What does luxury mean to you?
SFJ: For me, it’s less about size and more about the workmanship and the quality.
MG: What area do you think is the next hub for luxury properties?
SFJ: Right now, the lifestyle [in Los Angeles] has changed quite a bit, where buyers want to live closer to areas that are walkable, to places they can walk to and get coffee. Anything that’s in an area that’s either centrally located or coastal, like Malibu, because there’s limited ocean and limited beach. That applies to everywhere in the country. And everywhere in the country, traffic is becoming a big concern, and that’s one of the reasons walkability is such an important factor.
MG: What’s the biggest surprise in the luxury real estate market now?
SFJ: Bigger used to be better. Now people are looking at properties and thinking “no, I’d rather have something cozier.” People still want luxury in some form, but less so in enormous properties. It’s about an easier lifestyle.
MG: Where are the best luxury homes in the world and why?
SFJ: In the U.S., the 90210 ZIP code in Beverly Hills is world-famous. Malibu is world-renowned, too. Some of the Asian cities are very expensive. Having a home in the South of France is amazing. Beverly Hills and New York are so vibrant. The San Francisco Bay Area is impressive with all the tech millionaires and billionaires.
MG: What’s your favorite part of your home?
SFJ: I rebuilt my home. I looked at what my lifestyle is like and what’s important to me. The fact that it is more casual—I have a kitchen, family room and great room area that is just for hanging out. The living room is rarely used. I also love my master bedroom, my closets and my bathroom.
MG: What best describes the theme to your home and why?
SFJ: It’s really livable. It works for entertaining and for relaxing, too. It’s more of a traditional style, but the overwhelming theme is that it’s so livable.
MG: What’s the most valuable thing in your home?
SFJ: When I was shopping for my home, I bought some fantastic light fixtures. Each is really special. Some of it is Art Deco.
MG: What’s the most valuable amenity to have in a home right now?
SFJ: The open kitchen/family room. Everyone wants an office of some type, whether you can put a desk there or just have a laptop, as long as you have a space for an office. A gym, too. In L.A. people tend to be physically fit. Spas are important at a certain price point, too. I’ve even seen health spaces, where your physician can come and see you privately.
An elevator is something people look for, too.
MG: What’s your best piece of real estate advice?
SFJ: Location and lifestyle are most important. Some people love a lot of light and open space, some people like a cozier feel. But it has to fit your lifestyle.
MG: What’s going on in the news that will have the biggest impact on the luxury real estate market?
SFJ: The world is global. So what happens anywhere in the world affects us. We’re having fewer international buyers because it’s becoming harder to get money out of countries such as China and Russia.
So much of our market is dependent on the world. The market was noticeably slower for us in November and December when the stock market had gone down.
Interest rates do matter, too.
MG: What is the best area now for investing in luxury properties?
SFJ: I still go back to Beverly Hills. Our market in Los Angeles is strong. Our prices are still strong. Our demand, though slightly slowed, is still there.
MG: If you had a choice of living in a new development or a prime resale property, which would you choose and why?
SFJ: I’m much more comfortable in something that’s a resale, that has character and can be upgraded.
MG: What area currently has the best resale value?
SFJ: Anything with walkability.