There are many reasons the 10-acre Owlwood Estate in Los Angeles’ Platinum Triangle could be considered the ultimate trophy property. For starters, it has Hollywood history. Once owned by Joseph Schenk, the founder of 20th Century Fox, the roughly 13,000-square-foot manor has been home to Tony Curtis and Sonny and Cher. Marilyn Monroe is said to have spent many a night there as Schenk’s guest. And–oh yes–it’s currently priced at $150 million, making the estate (tied for) the Most Expensive Home For Sale in America.
But you won’t find Owlwood on the MLS–or even with its own listings page. “We are not advertising it anywhere. We want to keep it very low-key,” says agent Josh Flagg of Rodeo Realty, who confirmed he shares the pocket listing with Ann Dashiell, also of Rodeo, and $150 million price.
That asking price puts the estate neck-and-neck with a second Los Angeles spread: Formula One heiress Petra Ecclestone Stunt’s Spelling Manor. The daughter of billionaire Bernie Ecclestone picked up the property in 2011, when she was 23, for $85 million. She’s since renovated it and is searching for a buyer willing to pay $150 million, which would give her a $65 million gross (before subtracting renovations costs).
Together, these two properties share the No. 1 spot on our annual list of America’s most expensive homes for sale. To compile it, we sorted through listings on Realtor.com, Trulia, Sotheby’s International Realty, Christie’s International Real Estate (and its affiliates), Coldwell Banker Previews International (and its affiliates), The Agency, Streeteasy.com, and others. When we could confirm so-called “pocket listings” (like Owlwood), those not officially on the market that are quietly searching for buyers through well-connected brokers, we included them. The resulting list includes more than 30 homes priced from $60 million to $150 million.
Recent ultra-luxury sales figures have given sellers reason to hope. In April, Greenwich’s Copper Beech Farm, a 50-acre estate once listed for $190 million, traded hands for $120 million. Weeks later, news broke that Jana Partners founder Barry Rosenstein shattered the new record when he purchased an 18-acre East Hampton estate for $147 million.
The giant sales prices aren’t exclusive to the East Coast. In Los Angeles, the Fleur de Lys estate, which had been on and off the market at a steady $125 million price tag for seven years, finally sold for $88.3 million this year. (Initial reports in March erroneously pegged the sale price at $102 million.) In June, news broke that Carolwood, the 35,000-square-foot estate that once belonged to Walt Disney, had sold for $74 million. (List price: $90 million.) Our sources tell us the buyer was Chinese.
“The high-end market seems to be very steady in going up, simply because there’s a lot of foreign money coming in,” says Joyce Essex, the Coldwell Banker Previews International agent who has the $75 million Singleton House listing. So far this year, agents in Los Angeles have closed a record 67 sales over $10 million. Six homes sold for more than $40 million, versus two at this time last year.
Still, the Big Apple takes the cake for the greatest number of pricey listings, with some 15 homes–about half the total–on our list of America’s Most Expensive Homes For Sale. Of the top 10 residences, eight are found in Manhattan, at price ranging from $80 million to $118.5 million. The question is whether those price tags are realistic.
In fact, no Manhattan apartment or condo has sold in that price range since two penthouses sold at the new One57 tower in spring 2012, reportedly for between $90 and $100 million each. (Hedge fund manager Bill Ackman led investors in buying one of the penthouses.) Officially–until someone can dig up the One57 sale paperwork–the highest-priced apartment sold in New York remains the $88 million penthouse at 15 Central Park West purchased in February 2012 by a trust for Ekaterina Rybolovleva, daughter of Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev. That buy also created the record per-square-foot sale for Manhattan: $13,049.
Perhaps that explains why a $100-million, octagon-shaped penthouse in Midtown Manhattan’s City Spire, a decidedly less prestigious address than 15 Central Park West, has been sitting on the market since it first listed at that price in July 2012. According to the New York Times, owner Steven Klar bought the home in 1993 for $4.5 million, after banks took back the building from the developer. Klar has compared the apartment to a piece of art, where the price point is simply in the eye of the beholder. But at his $100 million asking price, a buyer would have to pay $12,500-per-square-foot, in a building where recent sales, on a square foot basis, have been closer to half that price.
Similarly, whoever thinks that three Ritz-Carlton penthouses in need of large-scale renovation to become one unit are likely to fetch the $118.5 million ask price–currently Manhattan’s highest–are probably going to be disappointed. Based on their ask prices when the apartments were individually listed, the properties are overpriced by at least $31.3 million, writes Jonathan Miller, president of real estate appraisal and consultant firm Miller Samuel.
“I think there’s confusion in the market,” Miller says.”I sort of mark the beginning of this disconnect when the $88 million property closed. Now there’s a lot of product that’s on the market that really isn’t in the market…The phenomenon is ‘I hope I get lucky.’”
Outside of Manhattan, however, $60-million-plus offerings in California, the Hamptons, and posh Wall Street feeder towns like Greenwich, Conn., offer more bang for the buck, in terms of living space as well as land. Take the Greenwich estate formerly owned by Leona Helmsley, currently listed at $65 million. Originally built in 1918 for steel-and-banking magnate Daniel Grey Reid, the 42-acres spread lies on Greenwich’s famed Round Hill Road. Helmsley’s estate sold the property for $35 million in 2010, and the current owners have completely renovated the 17,493-square-foot home. New features include an entrance room with limestone walls, a new bourgogne limestone floor, a cove ceiling, an elevator and a new powder room.
Or, if Greenwich doesn’t appeal, how about an island? Pumpkin Island in the Florida Keys can be purchased for a mere $110 million. For that, you’d get a relatively modest, 5,000-square-foot home on 26 private acres, with a 20-slip marina that can, according to the listing, accommodate a mega-yacht.
Then there is the Bradbury Estate, 30,000-square-feet of new construction on eight acres in Bradbury, California. First listed for $78 million in February 2012, the mansion lies inside a gated community at the foot of the San Gabriel Mountains, and is now on offer for $68.8 million. The massive home features seven bedrooms and 10 baths, 40-foot vaulted ceilings, six large fireplaces, and a leather-paneled poker room with built-in humidor. There is also a 5,716-square-foot pool house and a 10-car garage. Reportedly, potential neighbors could include fellow Bradbury (Pop.: 1,048, according to the latest Census figures) residents such as In-N-Out Burger heiress Lynsi Torres, Chinese car tycoon Yang Rong, and porn-star-turned televangelist Melissa Scott.
Notably, several listings that have graced Forbes’ annual tally of Most Expensive Homes For Sale in past years have found buyers. In December, Tommy Hilfiger co-founder Joel Horowitz reportedly sold “Tranquility,” the 210-acre Lake Tahoe estate he’d initially listed in 2006 for $100 million. Reported sale price: $48 million. Also this year, billionaire David Geffen bought Courtney Sale Ross’ 7,500-square-foot Georgica Pond estate for $50 million (List price: $75 million).
Other properties have disappeared from the list simply by chopping prices. Walton Ranch, the 1,848-acre Jackson Hole, Wyo. spread once listed at $100 million, is now asking a mere $48.7 million. In Sagaponack, N.Y., a 33-acre spread once priced at $65 million is asking $59 million.