How The Slavin House Hasn't Sold

Maureen McDermut

The Slavin House is a Famed Piece of Santa Barbara Real Estate. So Why Won't It Sell?

One of the most sought-after design styles in homes is the mid-century modern style. This is no surprise, as these homes boast some simple, yet elegant features. Some of the most famous homes in America are built and designed in this style. One such home is the Slavin House in Santa Barbara. However, despite the red-hot California real estate market, this home has sat on the market, unsold. Let's explore why.

The Slavin House: A Quick History

The home was built by famed architect Richard Neutra, who was known to be quite eccentric. He had built homes for wealthy clients all across the world, and the Slavin House is known as one of his more prized accomplishments. The home sits on over an acre of land, with a sprawling view of the Pacific Ocean. From many angles, the home appears almost suspended in mid-air. 

Other famous homes built by Neutra include the Tremaine House, which sold for $12 million  in 2020. Now, with home prices at record highs, the asking price for the Slavin House is $10.5 million. So why hasn't it sold?

What are the Problems With The Slavin House?

The current owner of the home is also acting as his own agent (problem number 1 in selling a home). But furthermore, other problems exist with the property. For one, there was a fire in 2021, which damaged the home significantly. In other words, the original structure, which was completed in 1955, had to be completely re-done. At this point, many believe that the home has lost its historical integrity. However, the rebuild was done in the original style.

The other issue has to do with the most famous line in real estate: "location, location, location." Not to say that the home is in a bad neighborhood or doesn't have a gorgeous, scenic view. But the home is in an area that is difficult to access, which was made clear by the fire department when they were attempting to put out the blaze.

Santa Barbara buyers are all too aware of the potential for wildfires to break out and damage homes. The ability to access the property to fight the fire is something that needs to be taken into consideration when buying a home in Santa Barbara. 

One of the other issues with the Slavin House is in the way homes like this are evaluated. Unlike most homes, the appraisal for the Slavin House is conducted more like an art appraisal than a home appraisal. While the appraiser still has to keep an eye on the usual structural details, the value some of the original items in a Neutra home is determined much like a Michelangelo sculpture. It might have some structural issues, but these become less important. The value is truly given by the artist.

Is the Slavin House Overpriced?

Many claim the home is overpriced at $10.5 million. With the significant renovations that need to be completed, and the headache of getting the permits required to do the work, many Santa Barbara home buyers may take a pass. While Neutra is a famous name, there are other mid-century modern homes that do not require the work the Slavin House will require.

However, the current owner is also working to get the permit needed to tear down the remaining part of the home that is fire damaged. If he obtains this and does the work, will he raise the price even more? When the house was originally listed, the asking price was $10 million. It has since been increased by $500,000, and this is before the work that needs to be done is completed. If a buyer pays $10.5 million for this home and completes the renovations, will there ever be a return on investment when they go to sell? No one can be sure with the fluctuations in the current Santa Barbara housing market. 

Why Might the Slavin House Still Sell?

The home was restored in its original form. This was made possible because the original plans for the home survived the fire. This meant that the owner, who purchased it for $2.7 million could stand to make a nice profit if it is able to sell. With the efforts put in to maintain the architectural integrity of the home, it is very possible that this home could be on its way to being sold.

Additionally, many of the mid-century modern homes, including Neutra's Tremaine House, have had renovations made. Tremaine, for example, was updated to make the home ADA compliant. Many of Frank Lloyd Wright's homes have also undergone significant renovations and have sold for millions of dollars.

Trying to sell a home in Santa Barbara? Hire a professional Realtor with the knowledge of the market and the marketing skills to get it sold.



Maureen has been around the industry for a lifetime. Her business is based on the core values and ethics taught to her at a very young age: integrity, honesty, and great communication.