- The Washington Times - Monday, May 6, 2002

Lush carpet, granite counters, mammoth closets and a bath out of Babylon: What American hasn't pondered the million-dollar home, in all its domestic splendor?
But what about the $75 million home?
At 445 times the price of a typical new house, it represents extreme real estate, in all its domestic excess. The sprawling, whitewashed monster lords over 13 beachfront acres in Palm Beach, Fla. complete with a 44,000-square-foot main house, two swimming pools, movie theater, and more.
A real estate reality check reveals that the median price for a new home in America is $169,000, and its average size is 2,225 square-feet, according to the U.S. Census Bureau and HUD. The median price of an existing home is $139,000.
Meanwhile, the owner's $75 million asking price on the Palm Beach property is "firm," according to Sotheby's, which is managing it. It's more than twice as expensive as Jerry Seinfeld's $32 million estate in New York's East Hamptons.
"It's not a base need for shelter which motivates buyers of million-dollar properties," says Matt Haber, director of Luxury Real Estate, an online compendium of dizzying, dazzling properties (www.luxury-realestate.com).
"Acquiring something this monumental is really fulfilling a dream for some people," Mr. Haber said. "The house is the symbol of success. And when you have a 20,000-square-foot home to look after, it is also a hobby, an avocation."
While the luxury home market trembled after the dot-com crash and September 11, it is still decent, catering "more towards old money than funny money," Mr. Haber said.
And what money. According to Forbes magazine, the average price on its 2002 list of America's most expensive homes "dropped" from $52 million last year to $47 million this year.
A $95 million Los Angeles property occupies the top spot, owned by Gary Winnick, founder of the fiber-optics firm Global Crossing, now bankrupt and under investigation by several federal agencies.
Mr. Winnick bought the property from a real estate tycoon in 1999 complete with a 33-room house, which Mr. Winnick had razed. Now he is rebuilding what Forbes speculates will be "the most expensive single-family home in the U.S."
But wait. There's more.
In the current market, $62 million fetches three floors in Manhattan's Trump Tower now converted into one colossal apartment with a 360-degree view of the city. And $50 million is the asking price for "Eothen," a clapboard Colonial on a Long Island beach that counts the "cool factor" as part of its asking price.
The isolated home once belonged to Andy Warhol, who bought it for $220,000 in 1970. Elizabeth Taylor and Liza Minnelli have been guests there.
But wait, there's still more. A nice $45 million spot in California's Hidden Valley awaits a buyer, as does a European-style manor just down the road from Bill Gates' place in Medina, Wash., also $45 mil. Thirty-five million buys a four-bedroom house in Scottsdale, Ariz., with seven baths, a six-car garage and 24-karat gold fixtures.
Are there any buyers for such princely abodes? Yes, indeed.
Nevada-based Chase International Distinctive Properties just sold something called the Bourne Estate, on Lake Tahoe, for $33 million. The lawn is so huge that it was used as the opening-scene backdrop for the 1960s TV Western "Bonanza."
Los Angeles-based Hilton & Hyland Real Estate, meanwhile, sold a $31 million Mediterranean house on 7 acres in Malibu. Yes, there are six bedrooms, a formal rose garden and an elevator but the house is in the bluffs of Malibu rather than on the beach.
And some luxury houses turn into white elephants. One $45 million property in Dallas, for instance, has changed hands three times since 1997 and has yet to be occupied though it boasts a 21-seat home theater and a 14-car garage.
"Sometimes these homes sit on the market for years, sometimes they are gone in a day or two. It's always hard to predict," said Mr. Haber. "And it may not seem like it, but the prices are actually more realistic these days."


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