A Modern Oahu Compound Is Crowned the 2019 House of the Year

A Modern Oahu Compound Is Crowned the 2019 House of the Year

Our 2019 House of the Year winner proves the power of the mantra “location, location, location!”

But a zero-edge saltwater pool doesn’t hurt either.

For the second consecutive year, a home from Hawaii scored the top spot in WSJ.com’s House of the Year poll. Each year, our readers choose from among the 52 House of the Week winners to determine which home is the best of the best. In 2019, 133,631 votes were cast in the poll.

This year’s winner—a sleek, oceanfront estate on the island of Oahu—wasn’t the only Hawaiian property to make a splash in our annual competition. Five homes from the Aloha State landed in the top 15, including a stately villa atop a mountain in Maui and a Lanai home that was built with materials from around the world.

Readers returned to the mainland for our second- and third-place winners. A South Carolina island home with views of the Atlantic Ocean and a cantilevered Colorado property set among woods and native grasses were separated by just 32 votes.

These House of the Year candidates weren’t just competing against each other. Despite a record number of $100 million sales, the homes faced a sluggish luxury market in 2019, thanks to a glut of high-end product and retreating foreign buyers. Prices for luxury homes in Los Angeles fell by 3.5% in 2019, according to Douglas Elliman. In Manhattan, prices in the luxury market dropped 24%.

Thirty-seven of the 52 homes remain unsold, one is in contract and one is due to close in March. Those that did sell mostly did so for less than their asking prices.

At $21 million, our House of the Year winner is the second-priciest home of the 52 contenders. Perhaps its “mana”—or the spiritual energy which the owner believes infuses the home—will bring good fortune in 2020.

It was a simple problem that led Elizabeth Grossman to her future home: She couldn’t find a house to rent in Honolulu that was suitable to host her family—she and her husband, two of their children from previous marriages and their significant others, and their close friends—for the holidays. A broker suggested they look in Lanikai. “I said, ‘Where the hell is Lanikai?’” she laughs. Her grandmother had lived part-time in Maui, so she’d been visiting the Islands her entire life, but she’d never heard of the small beach town on the windward side of Oahu.

In 1999, Mrs. Grossman, a retired managing director at Soros Fund Management Co., and her husband, Richard Grossman, a surgeon and founder of the Grossman Burn Center in Los Angeles, drove into Lanikai. She looked at him and said “Oh my God, we have to live here,” she recalls. “It was like some sort of vortex. I just felt peace.” Being newlyweds, her husband happily agreed.

It took a few years to find what they wanted, but in 2004, they purchased a 0.8-acre waterfront property, a quarter mile from Lanikai Beach, with views of the Mokulua Islands, for $6 million.