5.25.2007

                   
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I Knew I Should Have Married Rich. Homes Of The Billionaires.


Most Expensive Homes In The U.S.

Homes Of The Billionaires by Matt Woolsey, Forbes Magazine
Call it quaint, but there was a time when a $75 million house made news. In 2005, that's what happened when the Three Ponds Estate in Bridgehampton N.Y., landed at the top of our list of most expensive homes in the U.S.

No more. That number is practically pocket change compared with what the market currently bears.

This year, the country's priciest properties include a $135 million Aspen, Colo., ranch and a $125 million Versailles-inspired estate in Beverly Hills, Calif.


above: $135 million
Hala Ranchin Aspen, Colo.
Owned by Prince Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdul Aziz, former Saudi Arabian ambassador to the U.S., this 95-acre estate boasts a 56,000-square-foot, 15-bedroom, 16-bathroom mansion. Several smaller buildings, including stables, a tennis court and an indoor swimming pool, complete the property.
For more information, contact Joshua Saslove at Joshua & Co., or Gregory Antonsen of Christie's Great Estates.

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Why such price acceleration in the top-flight market?

The simple answer: a good mega-mansion is hard to find.

"Try to find eight or 10 acres in the middle of the Hollywood Hills," says Mauricio Umansky, a broker at Hilton & Hyland. "God's not making any more land. [Trophy properties] are a true microeconomy with much less supply than demand."


Above:$100 million
Tranquility
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.

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In addition, the financial muscle of flush buyers allows for quite a bit of upward price flexibility. Twenty percent of a household's wealth consists of home equity, according to the National Association of Realtors. Following that logic, steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal--worth $32 billion--could easily afford $6.4 billion in housing.

"The net worth of the buyers and the sellers is such that they can do whatever they want," says Joshua Saslove of Joshua & Co., an Aspen-based affiliate of Christie's Great Estates. "The rules of the regular real estate market don't apply."

Sellers who find themselves able to piece together huge pieces of land in desirable locations can expect large listings.


Above: $65 million
San Francisco, Calif.
This French limestone-clad Gold Coast palace is certainly exclusive--you won't even get a go-see without having $800 million in the bank. The dramatic neoclassical villa was sold two years ago for $32 million; neighbors on "billionaires' row" include the Getty family. The limestone on the mansion comes from a single quarry in France. The windows are also European, as is the 19th-century Italian tile roof on the guest house.
For more information, contact Warwick Properties Group.

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Gigantic Gems:

above:$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 the five acres in Beverly 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 to entertain. Auto collectors will salivate over the nine-car garage.
For more information, contact Joyce Rey at Coldwell Banker Beverly Hills.

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The latest addition to the $100 million-plus club is Suzanne Saperstein's Los Angeles jewel aptly named the Fleur de Lys. Listed at $125 million and built in the style of Louis XIV's palace at Versailles, the 45,000-square-foot home took five years to construct following the accumulation of five acres in Beverly Hills during the 1990s by Saperstein and her now ex-husband, billionaire David Saperstein.

In Florida, beachfront land drives the highest-end market.


above:$125 million
Maison de L'Amitie, Palm Beach, Fla.
In 2004 Donald Trump bought former health care executive Abe Gosman's palace, Maison de L'Amitie, 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 Christina Condon at Sotheby's International Realty or Dolly Lenz at Prudential Douglas Elliman.

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"There's nothing under $20 million that has 120 feet of ocean frontage in Palm Beach," says Cristina Condon at Sotheby's International Realty. "[ Trump's house] has 475 feet on the ocean."
Is your city in one of America's overpriced real estate markets?

While it's not news that private jets and telecommunications make the world smaller, an increasing number of buyers for trophy properties are international. This, says Peter Kozel, executive managing director of Newmark Knight Frank, an international real estate appraisal firm, "is easy to understand in light of the cheap dollar."

Hot Holdings:


Above:$75 million
Malibu, Calif.
It seems a steep price for a beach house, until you see the land accompanying it. In addition to the panoramic ocean views, the flat seven-acre plot, which sits on its own bluff, offers two riding stables, a riding ring, swimming pool, tennis court and private access to the beach. The seven-bedroom estate is listed with Westside Estate Agency.

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What better place to develop a foothold in the U.S. than in the most desirable neighborhoods of Malibu, Aspen, Palm Beach or the Hamptons?


Above:$75 million
Three Ponds
Bridgehampton , N.Y.
Three Ponds, which encompasses more than 60 acres of Hamptons farmland, is named for its surrounding lakes but also features its own USGA-rated Rees Jones golf course. Surrounding the main house are 14 gardens, a 75-foot-long swimming pool, golf pro shop, grass tennis court and a guest house. The main house, designed by architect Allan Greenberg, has a great room with a 28-foot-high domed ceiling.
For more information, contact Susan Breitenbach at Corcoran.



Above:$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.

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"Trophy properties can serve as a branding for big, new money," says Dolly Lenz, a broker at Prudential Douglas Elliman. "For a Russian oligarch, a trophy home in New York or Palm Beach is a way to brand themselves in the U.S."

As a result, brokerage houses are ratcheting up their efforts to reach out to potential buyers all around the world.

"International marketing has been very good for our [Florida] properties," says Condon. "We advertise in Russia, Asia and the Middle East."

But problems can arise when it comes to verifying those international buyers. In order to schedule a showing of a $65 million or $125 million home, brokers need to know you can afford to buy the house beforehand. If you don't appear on the Forbes billionaires list, a simple note from a Swiss banker will do.

"The hardest thing for me is to differentiate the people who contact me, to find out if they're real," says Lenz. "They can get very annoyed, but I need to know they can write the check."

Ah, the check. Sometimes there is no need. After all, when an international jet-setter pays $100 million for a third or fourth home, why take out a mortgage?

Many top-tier transactions are "done in cash," says Condon.


Above: $70 million
The Pierre Penthouse
New York , N.Y.
This ch√Ęteau in the sky occupies the top three floors of one of the most posh hotels in New York, located on the edge of Central Park. The Pierre's original ballroom was the site of many an elegant event. Now, it's a spectacular grand salon with a 23-foot-high ceiling. The balconies and windows have 360-degree views of Manhattan, Central Park, the East River and the Hudson River.
For more information, contact Elizabeth Lee Sample at Brown Harris Stevens Residential Sales, an affiliate of Christie's Great Estates.

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Real Estate Rat Race
As for which mega-mansion will sell first, it's anyone's guess. The decision to purchase a home of such caliber comes down, more than anything, to personal preference.


above:$65 million
Belvedere, Calif.
The vistas alone may be worth the $65 million price tag on this palace. Indeed, the six-bedroom, 10,000-square-foot home offers breathtaking views of San Francisco, Angel Island, the Golden Gate Bridge and the bay. Among its other spectacular features are herringbone floors, marble baths and front gates designed by Hearst Castle architect Julia Morgan.
For more information, contact Olivia Decker at Decker Bullock.

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"Think of it this way," says Umansky. "I could put three mega-yachts in a line-- one contemporary, one traditional and one Mediterranean. I don't know which one is going to sell because I don't know which one Larry Ellison or Bill Gates is going to pick."

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C'mon people, it's only a dollar.
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