Malibu summer rental season kicks off with a tsunami of a listing

Recession? What recession?

The Malibu summer beach home rental season -- where even celebrities pack up and leave their oceanfront homes when enough dollars are dangled in front of them -- just launched with a saltwater blast in the face of the recession. Fresh to the market is an oceanfront property that is listed at $550,000 for the summer -- more than double what the median home sells for in most of America.

Let me be the first to say that asking prices aren't the same as listing prices. Nevertheless, even in this well-heeled community, the tongues are a'wagging over this one. While many summer listings do fetch between $60,000 and $100,000 per month, not even places in the famed Malibu Colony have attempted this price level lately. And last summer's experience might best be described as dismal, with renters offering what they wanted to pay and frequently successfully negotiating shorter lease terms to make the experience more affordable.

So what will $200,000 a month buy you? A five-bedroom, seven-bath home of approximate 6,500 square feet that sits on 80 feet of oceanfront that technically (and even legally if you want to mince words) you share with the riff-raff. Of course this being Carbon Beach -- aka "Billionaires Beach" and home to mogul David Geffen, who spent the better part of a decade fighting beach access -- the riff-raff will find it exceedingly difficult to gate-crash unless they have some experience with White House dinners.

The house has a 35mm projection room, a pool on the beach deck and is an all-white architectural with dark hardwood floors. The price is $200,000 per month for July and August and $150,000 for June. For $550,000, they could at least throw in Labor Day weekend.

Who rents these properties? Frequently they are homeowners from Beverly Hills and Bel-Air whose families want to summer at the beach while the breadwinner can still commute to work. Perhaps even more frequently, the renters are corporations and marketing firms hoping to stage huge beach parties that draw celebrities and paparazzi -- and lots of product placement. A noisy 24-hour event two summers ago at what was known as the Polaroid House led to the passing of a local ordinance that caps party attendance and requires a city permit if you plan to invite more than 100 of your closest friends. The ordinance, some say, is loosely enforced, and that renters in the 'bu party on.

The property entered the MLS yesterday for sale at $29.5 million.

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