Living large: A rundown of the most expensive home listings in the U.S.

From a $100 million San Francisco-area mansion to a former Colorado wedding venue, a look at the priciest non-NYC homes
By Tom Acitelli | August 01, 2014 07:00AM
The Beverly House was the priciest residential property on the U.S. market, at $135 million. The Beverly Hills  estate of William Randolph Hearst is full of the lavish touches for which the publishing magnate was known.

The Beverly House was the priciest residential property on the U.S. market, at $135 million. The Beverly Hills estate of William Randolph Hearst is full of the lavish touches for which the publishing magnate was known

Manhattan’s priciest residential properties often make national headlines. But news about the priciest homes outside the city often barely register with New York City real estate players.

This month, The Real Deal attempted to rectify that. To do so, we looked at the most expensive residential properties listed outside of New York City and the Hamptons.

Together with the San Diego–based real estate search portal Point2 Homes, which is owned by the same company as data firm Property Shark, TRD found 10 properties ranging in price from $59.5 million to $135 million and spanning from Connecticut to California. As testament to the fast pace and exclusive nature of the high-end real estate market, several of these luxurious listings surfaced at press time, including the “Beverly House,” the last home of publishing tycoon William Randolph Hearst. The opulent 17-bedroom mansion, which was featured in “The Godfather,” and a honeymoon stop for John and Jacqueline Kennedy, is on the market for $135 million.

At $6,563 per square foot, the Beverly House is among only five of the top-10 priciest homes nationwide that come in higher on a per-square-foot basis than the average Manhattan luxury apartment. (The luxury Manhattan market, defined as the top-10 percent of all condo and co-op sales, saw an average price of $2,735 in 2014’s second quarter, according to the mega-brokerage Douglas Elliman.)

Of course, per-square-foot calculations don’t mean much when comparing space-restricted New York City apartments to homes on sprawling properties. Still, these homes do have seriously hefty price tags and could break records in their respective markets.

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Hillsborough, California
Listing price: $100 million
Price per square foot: $6,250

About 20 miles south of the Golden Gate Bridge sits one of the most expensive home for sale in the country: a roughly 16,000-square-foot mansion on 47 acres asking $100 million. It’s $6,000-plus-per-square-foot asking price even comes close to the average price for listings and in-contract sales at three of New York City’s highest-profile buildings: 15 Central Park West, One57 and 432 Park Avenue. (According to a TRD analysis of StreetEasy figures, those properties averaged $7,391 a square foot.)

The Hillsborough estate, built by the grandfather of the current owner, Christian de Guigne IV, is akin to a French château or an old English country house. In addition to a ballroom, it also includes a library and a pavilion that leads into the pool courtyard. And it has “sweeping views” of San Francisco Bay, according to the listing, which is held by Gregg Lynn and Bernadette Lamothe of Sotheby’s International Realty San Francisco.

De Guigne, whose grandfather reportedly made his fortune in the chemical business, grew up there. But his two grown daughters have no desire to live there, according to local news reports. Lynn and Lamothe declined to comment, citing the seller’s request for privacy after an initial burst of media attention when the estate hit the market in February 2013.

While the price might seem exorbitant, there is recent precedent in the Bay Area for nine-figure deals. Tully Friedman — CEO of a San Francisco-based private equity firm — sold his nine-acre Woodside, California, estate, about 15 miles south of Hillsborough, for $117.5 million in November 2012. The buyer was Masayoshi Son, the CEO of Japanese telecommunications company Softbank, and the richest person in Japan, according to Forbes.

In addition, the Bay Area’s luxury market is sizzling.

Low inventory and steady job growth have helped make the area’s housing market the most competitive in the U.S., according to the Fisher Center for Real Estate at the University of California, Berkeley. Moreover, in the $5 million-and-up market, the pickings are slim and the prices are often non-negotiable. In San Francisco proper, according to Paragon Real Estate Group, homes listed in May were selling for an average of 10.7 percent over their asking price.

The Hillsborough spread does, however, come with a caveat: The 76-year-old de Guigne will live there rent-free until he dies under what’s called an life-estate clause, which means any buyer will have to wait to move in.

Castle Creek Valley, Colorado
Listing price: $89.9 million
Price per square foot: $2,759

This 55-acre compound in prime Colorado ski country includes nine buildings totaling 32,614 square feet, including a main lodge of 15,000 square feet, with 24 bathrooms. The other buildings include a manager’s quarters, guest cottages, and a gym. Before energy heir Bill Koch bought it in 2007, it was called the Elk Mountain Lodge and had been well known in the area as a wedding venue. But Koch, whose net worth is reportedly $4 billion, converted it into a private residential compound, which is now being listed by Lorrie Winnerman of Lorrie B. Aspen & Associates.

Its price, too, has added to its notoriety since its June listing. The listing is by far the most expensive in Pitkin County, which includes the resort town of Aspen. The sticker price is nearly twice that of its nearest competitor, an 18,750-square-foot, seven-bedroom mansion in Aspen asking $45 million. Most Aspen-area homes trade for far less than either estate, of course. In May 2014, the average luxury home sold for just over $2 million, according to local broker Tim Estin, who authors an Aspen-area market report.

Koch is not the first to shoot for such a high asking price. In 2006, two of Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan’s Aspen-area estates were listed together for a combined $135 million. But they ultimately sold for only $49 million to hedge fund manager John Paulson in 2012.

The Koch estate, though, has an advantage the prince’s did not, according to Winnerman. “That has to be completely gutted,” she said of bin Sultan’s estate. “This compound is ‘move-in-able.’ ” She declined to comment further about the property, but told TRD that it has received “lots of interest.”

Bradbury, California
Listing price: $68.8 million
Price per square foot: $1,458

The 47,182-square-foot mansion rests on eight acres in tiny Bradbury, California (population: 1,072), just northeast of Los Angeles. The housing market there can be summed up in one (hyphenated) word: ultra-luxurious.

Forbes Magazine, in fact, named the Bradbury ZIP code of 91008 as the most expensive in the nation, and home to just over 350 households, according to the 2010 Census.

The median listing price there as of May, according to Zillow, was just shy of $1.8 million.

The estate at 172 Bliss Canyon Road — with its ocean views, 15-person Jacuzzi, pool house, guesthouse, 10-car garage, 3D movie theater, 2,000-bottle wine cellar, underground firing range and poker lounge — is typical of Bradbury’s over-the-top real estate. It also has a temperature-controlled trout pond to boot.

But will that ultra-luxury be enough to move it?

The listing has been lingering since it hit the market in early 2012 for $78.8 million. Its price has been steadily chopped since, to the current $68.8 million. The listing brokerage has changed, too: Hurwitz James Company took over the listing in mid-April. The brokerage’s founder and president, Bob Hurwitz, told TRD in an email that he’s confident the mansion will sell. He said the key to unloading it may rest beyond California’s shores.

“It has received a tremendous amount of interest, something frankly surprising given the price of the property,” Hurwitz said. “However, its location and grandeur thankfully appeal to a particularly affluent overseas buying segment.”

He said Chinese buyers are especially interested.

He added, “I regularly show billionaires the estate, and we are presently in negotiations, albeit initial, on the property.”

As for its place amid Bradbury’s tiny housing market, Hurwitz said the estate remains one of a kind.

Hobe Sound, Florida
Listing price: $62.5 million
Price per square foot: $2,744

The approximately 22,775-square-foot oceanfront manse was built in 2010 for Canadian pop singer Celine Dion. The largest estate on Jupiter Island, it spreads over 5.5 acres, including 415 feet of beachfront, and is sectioned off from the rest of ultra-exclusive enclave with a high security fence and gate.

In total, it includes 13 bedrooms between the main house and the guesthouse, along with 14 full bathrooms and six half-baths. According to the Sotheby’s listing, there’s also “a cozy beach house with a second-floor sleeping loft and massage room.” The estate is being sold turnkey, with most of its contents, according to the listing, though it’s not clear if that includes any Dion memorabilia. It’s not known why Dion is selling, but her contract to perform regularly at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas has reportedly been extended to 2019, so it’s likely that she will not have time to jet to a mega estate so far away.

In addition to the obligatory driving range and tennis court, the amenities include five pavilions arranged around three separate pools done in a kind of water-park style, with waterfalls and slides.

For all its bells and whistles, though, the property has been price-chopped: The original listing price was $72.5 million back in August 2013, and over the last year, that’s been steadily cut by $10 million. Still, it remains unusually pricey, even for the swank Hobe Sound, 100 miles north of Miami.

“That’s a lot for anywhere in Florida,” said Rusty Abbott, a broker in the area at Bluewater Realty Services. “It’s waterfront Miami prices. Even in the island areas, the high-end properties are $10 million.” Abbott did point out one other estate on Jupiter Island that comes close to Dion’s: The 10-acre spread built by Tiger Woods for more than $54 million in 2010, which the golfer uses as his primary residence.

Fairfield, Connecticut
Listing price: $62M

Price per square foot: $3,647

The more-than-20-acre estate at 1143 Sasco Hill Road on Connecticut’s Gold Coast hit the market for $62 million in September.

The spread, which includes a 10-bedroom Elizabethan mansion of more than 17,000 square feet, a two-bedroom carriage house for staff, and a six-bedroom gatehouse for guests, is far and away the most expensive listing in the town of Fairfield.

The estate, with its 1,850 feet of frontage on the Long Island Sound, is expensive even by the standards of Sasco Hill Road, one of the town’s more exclusive streets. “There are 14 active listing on Sasco Hill Road right now, and they range from $1.6 to $62 million,” said Candace Adams, president of Berkshire Hathaway Home Services, which brokers deals in the area. “Clearly, $62 million is an aberration for that market.”

Another nearby aberration, however, was the Greenwich estate known as Copper Beach Farm, which sold this spring for $120 million.

The listing broker on the Sasco Hill home, Victoria Fingelly of Nicholas Fingelly Real Estate, did not respond to requests for comment. But the buyer for 1143 Sasco Hill could come from New York City, Adams suggested.

The home’s last buyer did: Former Lehman Brothers co-COO Bradley Jack and then-wife Karin bought the estate for $24.4 million in March 2001. In early 2012, the Town of Fairfield almost auctioned it off to settle a $271,923 tax lien. But it settled with Jack, who was arrested, though never convicted, for allegedly forging drug prescriptions.

The median sales price in the Fairfield luxury residential market was $2.46 million in May, according to the brokerage William Raveis. That’s about the same as it was two years ago. Meanwhile, the time it takes to sell a luxury house has risen this year, as has total inventory.