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Tract homes at $1 million each? Yup

The day of the million-dollar tract home is here. Million-dollar-plus homes are not new to the Los Angeles area, of course. In fact, they dot dome west-side sections of the city and a large part of Beverly Hills. But these are individually designed and built, not "mass-produced."

Construction is scheduled to start in January on the first 11 dwellings of a 37- home projected called Watwood Estates in Hacienda Heights, a community in the Puente Hills, northeast of Whittier in Los Angeles County.

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Actually, the $1 million price tag is at the low end of the range. That's for a 4,500- square-foot house. A 6,000-square-foot version, higher on a hill, will go for $1.5 million.

Lots, while varying in size, average about an acre.

Why Hacienda Heights instead of posh Bel Air or expensive Berverly Hills?

"Because that's where we own the land," says A. E. Watwood, a veteran builder who is head of Watwood Enterprises, Whittier.

Architectural styles of the estates homes will come in Mediterranean, Spanish , Italian, English Tudor, French provincial, Southern Colonial, New England Colonial and, of course, California rancho.

Mr. Watwood mentions he is utilizing the cream of the crop in woodworkers, plasteres, tile setters, and a wide range of other craftsmen for decorative and structural details, such as wrought-iron railings, ornamental plaster, carved wood, leaded glass, and inlaid tile. One Mediterranean-style, two-story, four-bedroom home, for example, will feature a tiled fountain in its courtyard.

Despite spending a half century in the home-construction field, including projects in San Diego; Long Island, N.Y.; and San Francisco, Mr. Watwood asserts that he has "no idea" what the same home would cost in Bel Air, where numerous show-business people live.

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However, he figures "a lot in Bel Air is worth about as much as I'm getting for the whole thing in Hacienda Heights."

Hefty mortgage-interest rates and higher down payments being sought these day do not concern Mr. Watwood.

"The person buying these houses won't have to worry about a down payment," he says. The builder indicates that people signing up for the Hacienda Heights homes will pay a substantial amount of cash, and "the interest factor will not bother them."

The $1 million mass-built home comes much earlier than expected. A recent projection by Stan Ross, co-managing partner of Kenneth Levanthal & Co., a Century City-based real-estate, accounting, and financial consulting firm, put the average price of a new home in adjacent Orange County at $1 million closer to the year 2000. Most new houses in Orange County now sell in the $150,000 to

Meanwhile, inflation and added construction costs have boosted the price of the top-of-the-line condominiums in a luxury complex going up in Los Angeles midway between Beverly Hills and Westwood Village. Orginally pegged at $7 million, the figure now has been raised to $11 million for two 7,000-square-foot penthouses.

A 6,500-square-foot condominium in the 21-story Wilshire House was recently sold for $7 million, according to the developer, who adds that 50 of the 67 units have already been bought -- and the complex is not expected to open till March 1982.

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