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The Era of the $100 Million House

Need a sign real estate is back? Nine-figure cribs are moving

Published: Jul 18, 2013 06:24:54 AM IST
Updated: Jul 18, 2013 08:04:28 AM IST
The Era of the $100 Million House
Image: Getty Images
Casa Casuarina Miami Beach, Florida

Casa Casuarina Miami Beach, Florida
List Price:
$100 million
Owner: Peter Loftin, telecom titan (majority owner)
The Digs: 23,400-square-foot former Versace mansion on Ocean Drive with hotel, observatory, 24 karat-gold-lined pool

Sherry-Netherland co-op New York, NY
List Price:
$95 million
Owner: Gilbert Haroche, Liberty Travel co-founder
The Digs: Full-floor, 15-room unit with solarium, separate staff quarters, daily housekeeping

Pierre Penthouse New York, NY
List Price:
$125 million
Owner: Estate of Martin Zweig, late finance guru
The Digs: 12,000-square-foot triplex co-op with private elevators, ballroom-turned-grand salon, five fireplaces

Fleur de Lys mansion Los Angeles, California
List Price:
$125 million
Owner: Suzanne Saperstein, socialite
The Digs: 4-acre, 35,000-square-foot Holmby Hills château with 15 baths, two kitchens, 50-seat theatre, jogging track

Crespi-Hicks estate, Dallas, Texas
List Price:
$135 million
Owner: Tom Hicks, private equity scion and wife Cinda
The Digs: 25-acre Mayflower Estates spread across 42,500 square feet, including mirrored barroom, full-floor theatre room and multiple kitchens

The Beverly House, Beverly Hills, California
List Price:
$115 million
Owner: Leonard Ross, real estate mogul
The Digs: 50,000-plus-square-foot former Hearst estate on 3.7 acres with double master suites, two projection rooms, two-storey library and spa

De Guigne estate, Hillsborough, California
List Price:
$100 million
Owner: Christian de Guigne IV, chemical fortune heir
The Digs: 16,000-square-foot Mediterranean on 47 park-like acres, offered with a life estate allowing seller to live here until death

Once the daydream of fantasy-prone sellers, the $100 million house is becoming, well, not commonplace maybe, but not so rare. “I’m at the point where I’m calling this a new category of housing,” says Jonathan Miller, chief executive of New York real estate appraisal firm Miller Samuel Inc. “It is something that’s come of age in the past two years in response to global economic turmoil, where wealthy individuals are looking for ways to invest, and ultra-high-end real estate seems to be the asset of choice.”

Two US homes have broken past the $100 million threshold since the real estate downturn: A $100 million château in Los Altos Hills, California that changed hands in 2011, and a hilltop estate in nearby Woodside, which quietly went for a staggering $117.5 million in November. Eight more listed with asking prices of $95 million and above are on the sale block, while several others, like financier Gary Winnick’s Bel Air manse, Casa Encantada (reportedly available for $225 million), are supposedly being shopped around as unofficial ‘pocket’ listings.

What makes a home into a $100 million treasure chest? The iron rule of real estate comes into play, of course: A location in one of America’s most expensive Zip codes. In Manhattan, that means a palatial spread in one of the most exclusive white-glove buildings bordering Central Park, like the Pierre Hotel, where the triplex penthouse co-op is listed for $125 million. In Los Angeles, it means a coveted address on one of the guard-gated streets of the Platinum Triangle (Holmby Hills, Bel Air and Beverly Hills).

A prime piece of land is necessary, particularly in an area where abundant acreage is hard to come by, like the expansive 47-acre De Guigne estate in Silicon Valley’s Hillsborough. Offered at $100 million, it’s remained in the same family for the better part of 150 years. In the ritzy Mayflower Estates enclave of Dallas, Texas, where land commands $2 million an acre, the 25-acre Crespi-Hicks estate, designed by architect Maurice Fatio, can be yours for $135 million.

The homes themselves typically span 10,000 square feet-plus and pack in the kind of amenities produced when expansive imaginations meet bottomlessly deep pockets. Los Angeles’s $125 million Fleur de Lys manse boasts a 200-guest ballroom, a 50-seat home theatre and a three-quarter-mile jogging track. Nearby, the Beverly House, once home to William Randolph Hearst, offers over 50,000 square feet of living space that includes two screening rooms, an art deco-themed private nightclub, spa facilities and a lighted tennis court with accompanying indoor bar. The Beverly Hills compound’s asking price, formerly at $95 million, was recently hiked to $115 million.

Equally important is the ownership lineage. A home tied to an esteemed public figure can offer unique bragging rights, even when the connection isn’t a happy one, as with Casa Casuarina, the $100 million Miami Beach mansion where Gianni Versace was murdered on the front steps.

“Homes of the trophy market aren’t simply defined by their price; they are unique properties that attract global interest,” adds Miller.

As the number of billionaires in the world grows, so too does the possibility of more record-breaking real estate. “We will see more $100 million-plus sales in the coming years.”

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(This story appears in the 26 July, 2013 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)

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