American’s Most Expensive Homes

25 Jun
America’s Most Expensive Homes
Matt Woolsey, 05.19.08, 4:00 PM ET

© Bloomberg News/Landov

$165 million

Beverly Hills, Calif.

Once the home of newspaper mogul William Randolph Hearst, this 6.5-acre mega-mansion in Beverly Hills was built in 1926 and was featured in the film The Godfather. The compound comprises six buildings that have a total of 29 bedrooms. There are three swimming pools and a movie theater.

For more information, contact Westside Estate Agency.

Courtesy Coldwell Banker Beverly Hills

$125 million

Fleur de Lys

Beverly Hills, Calif.

The latest addition to the $100 million-plus club, Suzanne Saperstein’s gem is aptly called the Fleur de Lys. Modeled after Louis XIV’s palace at Versailles, the 45,000-square-foot home took five years to build following Saperstein’s accumulation of five acres in Holmby Hills during the 1990s. Should strolling the grounds bore you, there is a 50-seat screening room and a library filled with first-edition books. Auto collectors will salivate over the nine-car garage.

For more information, contact Joyce Rey at Coldwell Banker Beverly Hills or Robert Kass at Hilton & Hyland Real Estate.

Courtesy David Ogilvy & Associates

$125 million

Dunnellen Hall

Greenwich, Conn.

On 40 acres of rolling hills, with lawns and meadows broken up by tree lines that provide privacy, this Jacobean manor has 21,897 square feet, 14 bedrooms and 13 bathrooms. Vaulted ceilings, travertine marble floors, bay windows, limestone walls and wood paneling are notable interior features, as is a 52-foot-long indoor swimming pool.

For more information, contact David Ogilvy at David Ogilvy & Associates, an affiliate of Christie’s Great Estates.

Courtesy Chase International

$100 million


Lake Tahoe, Nev.

Conveniently located on the tax-free Nevada side of Lake Tahoe, this 210-acre property is owned by Joel Horowitz, co-founder of Tommy Hilfiger. The 20,000-square-foot main house is modeled after a Northern European mountain home and has a 3,500-bottle wine cellar. An indoor swimming pool and atrium, as well as a 19-seat movie theater, ensure constant entertainment, even if you’re snowed in.

For more information, contact Shari Chase at Chase International.

Courtesy Lawrence A. Moens Associates

$100 million

Maison de L’Amitié

Palm Beach, Fla.

In 2004 Donald Trump bought former health care executive Abe Gosman’s palace, Maison de L’Amitié, center, at a bankruptcy auction for $41.25 million. The refurbished version comes complete with a ballroom, conservatory, 100-foot-long ballroom and 475 feet of oceanfront.

For more information, contact Lawrence Moens at Lawrence A. Moens Associates.

Courtesy Sotheby’s International Realty

$95 million


Stamford, Conn.

With its stone construction, hedged gardens, grass tennis court, manicured gardens and distinctive chimneys, Hillandale has all the markings of an English country manor. The 20,000-square-foot residence has eight bedrooms and 10 bathrooms. It’s so big that the property straddles the New York-Connecticut border. The grounds also include four guest and staff residences and two barns, all connected by five miles of private roads.

For more information, contact Joseph Barbieri at Sotheby’s International Realty.

Courtesy Sotheby’s International Realty

$88 million

BootJack Ranch

Pagosa Springs, Colo.

We included the BootJack Ranch on our list because, while the price includes 3,100 acres of land, it’s a luxury property more than a working ranch. The main house is 13,800 square feet and has four bedrooms and four bathrooms. Outlying guest cabins and lodges can host up to 50 people and bring the total interior space up to 77,000 square feet. In addition, there’s a 12,000-square-foot spa and aquatic center.

For more information, contact Bill Fandel at Sotheby’s International Realty.

Courtesy Coldwell Banker

$85 million

Bel Air, Calif.

One of the last homes designed by famed California architect Wallace Neff, this estate rests on seven acres of land in the Holby Hills area of Bel Air. Lawns, walking paths and gardens surround the 12-bedroom, 10-bathroom main house, and there’s also a hardcourt tennis court and pool. Inside, the home bends around a giant central atrium with curving hallways and overlooks.

For more information, contact Danny Harvey at Coldwell Banker.

Courtesy Sotheby’s International Realty

$80 million

Southampton, N.Y.

The interior space of 13,500 square feet across four stories contains nine bedrooms, 11 bathrooms, four powder rooms and a movie theater. That’s enough to catch anyone’s eye, but what’s really unique about this property is the waterfront. The home is situated between a pond and the ocean, and there is 1,000 feet of shorefront and 1,000 feet of pond front.

For more information, contact Harald Grant at Sotheby’s International Realty.

Courtesy Coldwell Banker

$75 million

The Portabello Estate

Corona del Mar, Calif.

The triple oceanfront lot along the Pacific Ocean in Southern California is only part of what makes the Portabello Estate so pricey. The unique design resembles a nautilus shell, with a dramatic grotto surrounded by "chambers." Built in 2002, the home has eight bedrooms and 10 full baths in nearly 30,000 square feet of ultramodern space.

For more information, contact John McMonigle at Coldwell Banker.


A little over two years ago, when Donald Trump listed Maison de L’Amitié in Palm Beach, Fla., for $125 million, it was a sign of the times. Real estate prices were on the rise, and even though it was $50 million more than the next-highest listing, there was a sense that Trump would get his price. After all, everyone else in America was getting his.

Once again, Maison de L’Amitié points to the state of the housing market. In March, Trump knocked $25 million off the price, the biggest discount ever for a single residence not related to bankruptcy proceedings.

Video: America’s Most Expensive Homes

But that hasn’t pulled other sellers off the $100 million-plus ledge. At the top of our list this year is a $165 million Beverly Hills, Calif., mansion once owned by William Randolph Hearst; a Jacobean manor on 40 acres in Greenwich, Conn., and a Los Angeles château, commended by former French President Jacques Chirac for its architecture, both priced at $125 million; and perhaps the finest property in Nevada’s Lake Tahoe on 210 acres of land with its own private cove. Price tag: $100 million.

In Pictures: America’s Most Expensive Homes

The ultramodern Portobello estate in Corona del Mar, Calif., which has a listing price of $75 million and was, in 2006, the second-most expensive home in the country, rounds out the list. Even though it has eight bedrooms and 30,000 square feet of interior space, not to mention its own private beach, it barely made this year’s elite group.

To compile our list, we spoke with brokers and consulted listing agents and real estate appraisers and scoured real estate listings. Most of the homes on this year’s list are newcomers that have entered the market with high eight-figure or $100 million-plus prices. Estates like Three Ponds in Bridgehampton, N.Y., the Pierre Penthouse in Manhattan and the Portobello–which in previous years seemed excessive at $70 million to $75 million–are now second tier when it comes to price.

Our list did not include land properties. The $115 million Bell Ranch in San Miguel County, N.M., boasts an impressive 10,832-square-foot, eight-bedroom main house, and its own airstrip. But at 250,000 acres, it offers buyers mostly land. That, and 3,200 Red Bell cows and a horse herd.

We also didn’t include private listings, also called pocket listings, because they’re quietly shopped around among elite buyers. One rumored example: Prince Bandar bin Sultan of Saudi Arabia’s $135 million Hala Ranch in Aspen, Colo. It had been on the market for two years but is no longer publicly listed.

Measuring the Market
While sellers nationwide are suffering, the highest segment of the luxury market, in trophy property corners like Palm Beach, Fla., Beverly Hills, Calif., or the east end of New York’s Long Island, has performed well. Setting the tone for this year: a $60 Southampton, N.Y., buy to an unknown buyer. And there’s John Thornton, a former Goldman Sachs partner and chairman of the Brookings Institution, who last month bought a $81.5 million Palm Beach spread.

"Inventory is relatively tight for trophy-type properties," says Jonathan Miller, president of Miller Samuel, a Manhattan real estate appraisal firm. "It’s a contrarian element to some of the slip-off in sales, because the bulk of the market is down largely due to a weaker economy."

A recent survey of wealthy Americans, or those with more than $1.35 million a year in discretionary income, done by American Express Publishing and Harrison Group, found that high-end home buyers feel this year is a great one to buy property.

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One reason has to do with financial market conditions. The Dow Jones industrial average is down 5% this year, and the Standard & Poor’s 500 has dropped 10%. Real estate in prime locations allows buyers to hedge against the risks of a sagging market and a sinking dollar by putting their money into a less volatile asset, similar to the reasons that people invest in gold. The highest end of the luxury market, above $20 million, has not softened like the general market.

"Over the long haul, quality real estate has never been a loser," says Jim Taylor, vice chairman of the Harrison Group, a marketing and strategic research firm in Waterbury, Conn. "If you’ve paid in cash, you’re balancing your portfolio against market risk. They’re not printing any more land, even if they are printing more money."

Miller says that the upper end of the Manhattan market, or homes $8 million and up, has seen its inventory contract by 35% over the last year. "If we were having this conversation six to nine months ago, we’d say it was Wall Street bonuses," he says, "but the weak dollar has certainly played a role."

In addition, sellers like Trump, with his $25 million price reduction, are increasingly flexible.

"The resistance has lessened,” says Nelson Gonzalez, a broker at Esslinger-Wooten-Maxwell in Miami Beach. “Smarter sellers are dropping their prices, and buyers are coming up a little bit more to make deals."

He says in an elite enclave of the Venetian Islands, in Miami Beach, where one will often find sales of $20 million and up, there have been more sales in the first quarter this year than all of last year combined. In 2007, there were 13 total waterfront sales. Through the first quarter this year, 12 waterfront properties have closed or are in contract.

Whether that pickup in high-end activity means this will be the year of the $100 million sale is anyone’s guess. We’ve been waiting two and a half years.

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Posted by on June 25, 2008 in Business


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