Villa Nafissa, a once-in-a-generation compound located 26 miles north of Downtown San Diego in Rancho Santa Fe, comes with close to 40 acres of park-like grounds, a private lake, waterfalls, more than 3,000 species of flora and idyllic gardens designed to evoke impressionist painter Claude Monet’s famous water garden in Giverny, France.
The estate, listed for sale at $35 million, reflects a decades-long effort that transformed the property from a dirt field to a lush oasis that is vast yet full of intimate spaces. Tucked away behind gates and largely hidden by the cresting hillside that surrounds, the park-like property has the feel of a modern-day secret garden.
Despite having many large open spaces, the estate is fairly hidden and something “you have to discover,” says luxury real estate specialist Jerome Kerr-Jarrett of Hilton & Hyland, who is co-listing the property with Jeff Hyland and Monica Sylvester of Willis Allen Real Estate.
“A couple of times, I’ve gotten lost walking the property,” Kerr-Jarrett says jokingly, reflecting on the size and scale of the estate. “I can’t quite remember where the fire pit area is; you have to go down a couple of different pathways to find it.”
Getting lost on the grounds is a magical experience, says Kerr-Jarrett. “One minute, you’re down by the lake in a French garden. The spa area is hidden below the pool and you have to walk down a natural stone path to get to this large spa with a waterfall and walled gardens. Walk down another pathway and you feel like you are in England with rows of arches and climbing roses above your head.”
Consider the gym, sports courts, children’s play area, jogging path, yoga area and producing organic vegetable and fruit gardens, and there’s little reason ever to leave the property, Kerr-Jarrett says. “It’s got everything you could possibly want.”
The main residence, measuring about 16,000 square feet in size, was custom built and positioned to take in the lake and gardens below it. A showcase of fine materials and craftsmanship, the residence combines contemporary and European design elements for a timeless look.
Two separate guest houses combine to offer an additional 10,000 square feet of living space. Privatized in their own settings, with landscaping and a view of the pool area, the guest residences were designed to be entirely self-sufficient from the main house and incorporate multiple bedrooms, living areas and kitchens.
A dedicated clubhouse sits near the pool area and incorporates a grand dining room, a commercial-grade kitchen, a media room and an upstairs office. An eight-car garage and a 13-car motor court complete the prized offering.
San Diego County’s real estate boom
The property arrives to market at a time when luxury homes, particularly those with ample space, are selling at a premium. San Diego County, in general, is seeing real estate records broken from month to month. In April, the county’s median home price climbed past previous highs to hit $700,000—a 17.8% price increase in a year, according to CoreLogic data.
The surge in the market has been fueled by a combination of record-low mortgage rates and a continued demand for more space that, for many, crystallized during the COVID-19 pandemic, explains Sylvester.
“Throughout the pandemic, I think the mentality of buyers has been, ‘I can live anywhere in the world and I can work anywhere in the world and be just as productive’,” Sylvester says. “It’s put Rancho Santa Fe, North County and coastal San Diego on the map because [buyers] see the value there.”
An emphasis on remote work and flexible living has helped create a larger buyer pool for San Diego’s luxury markets. Many now realize they can get more for their money in areas like Rancho Santa Fe, Sylvester says.
“This same property in Beverly Hills, Atherton or Woodside would cost north of $80 million-plus. The San Diego area, particularly Rancho Santa Fe, is a great value for high-end buyers.”
If one thing seems certain, San Diego County’s luxury market appears poised for even more activity this year.