The priciest listings in the burbs

A round-up of the most expensive properties on the market in Nassau, Bergen, Fairfield and Westchester counties

Dec.December 01, 2013 07:00 AM
The indoor pool inside a $15.9 million Upper Brookville home, Nassau County's priciest listing

The indoor pool inside a $15.9 million Upper Brookville home, Nassau County’s priciest listing

As the Manhattan luxury market continues climbing, pricey homes outside the five boroughs are seeing plenty of action of their own.

This month, The Real Deal brings you a roundup of the priciest listings in New York City’s toniest suburbs: Nassau, Bergen, Fairfield and Westchester counties. They may not break Manhattan records, but they have plenty of luxury cachet.

With new foreign buyers, Nassau’s luxury sales boom

Foreign investors are a growing presence in the luxury residential market in Nassau County. And the priciest listings those buyers have to choose from are all about the bling — including indoor basketball courts, home movie theaters, and the like.

Nassau’s five most expensive listings range in price from $15 million to $15.9 million, with several ties to boot.

Many of the buyers eyeing properties with price tags of $10 million or more are Chinese customers purchasing homes that can also serve as corporate retreats or entertainment venues for overseas guests, sources say.

“Foreign investors don’t know a great landscaper, who to call to put a pool in, who to call to furnish,” said Shawn Elliott, founder and CEO of Shawn Elliott Luxury Homes and Estates. “Because of the language barrier in most of these cases, they want it all there.”

Nassau County’s Gold Coast — which includes Sands Point as well as the Oyster Bay villages of Old Westbury, Muttontown, Centre Island, the Brookvilles and Mill Neck — is drawing most of the high-end buyers, said Elliott, who has the county’s priciest listing.

Long Island sales overall grew 4.1 percent in the third quarter, with median prices also up 6.6 percent since the start of the year, according to Douglas Elliman’s latest market report.

And like in the Manhattan market, inventory in Nassau County is tightening, feeding into the urgency to buy. Indeed, year-over-year, inventory shrank 13.5 percent to 15,652 homes countywide. Properties are also moving faster than they did a year ago, with listings spending an average of 102 days on the market in the third quarter, down from 116 days in the comparable quarter last year. Specifically, Elliott said that properties priced over $10 million are moving much faster than in the past.

Nassau County’s second priciest listing — a $15.8 million contemporary home finished in 1994 — belongs to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles creator Mark Freedman.

Freedman purchased three adjacent, two-acre vacant lots in 1992 in a subdivision called Broad Hollow for $1.5 million. He then constructed a 15,000-square-foot home. The property is decked out with all the trimmings a youthful ’90s cartoon creator might want, from a movie theater to indoor basketball courts. (When reached late last month, the listing broker said the property was “in the process” of being taken off the market.)

Another quirky high-end offering is the so-called Twinight estate at 103 Centre Island Road in Centre Island. It is owned by the world’s foremost porcelain collector, Richard Cohen, and modeled after Versailles’ Le Petit Trianon. The home did not make the top five list, but does come with a hefty $14.98 million price tag. The home’s Napoleon room, decorated in the general’s favorite colors (purple and green) and accented with his crest, pays homage to the leader, who housed his mother at Le Petit Trianon after he came to power. Twinight spans more than 21,000 square feet and the porcelain collection housed there is itself worth $15 million, according to Elliott, the listing broker.

Best school districts draw Bergen’s high-end sales

Kennedy family patriarch Joseph Kennedy once owned this Englewood, N.J. home

Kennedy family patriarch Joseph Kennedy once owned this Englewood, N.J. home

While the luxury market in Bergen County is strong — with the most expensive listing clocking in at $29.9 million — brokers say there is no Manhattan-like madness there.

The market in New Jersey is municipality-sensitive, meaning that buyers are especially keen (and willing to pay top dollar) for areas with excellent school districts, such as Alpine, according to Dennis McCormack, a broker with Prominent Properties Sotheby’s International Realty, who currently has two of the county’s five most expensive listings. (The other three are also listed by his firm.)

“I think that in the mid-to-late 2000s, even in 2007 and 2008, it seemed to be widespread where the luxury scope of the market was fruitful in all the municipalities — but that’s not the case today,” said McCormack, who’s worked in the area for 18 years.

“Alpine is very strong because the school system is excellent, and prices are higher than they’ve been in past years,” he added. “I find that the towns with the higher taxes, and not-as-good schools, are the ones that have sat out the uptick in the market.”

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Cresskill and Englewood fall into that category, he said, though the latter is actually home to the county’s priciest listing — the $29.9 million Gloria Crest estate, once home to actress Gloria Swanson.

Kennedy family patriarch Joseph Kennedy, who owned the property and for years maintained a public affair with Swanson, sold it to the Wassil family, heirs to a trailer-park fortune, before Kennedy died in 1969.

Current owner Edward Turen, chairman and CEO of the property management and security firm Control Equity Group, paid Wassil $4.6 million for the estate in 2000, according to New Jersey’s Multiple Listings Service.

Since Turen took ownership, the property has undergone a gut renovation and complete system overhaul, according to McCormack, who has the listing.

Meanwhile, Alpine’s $49 million Stone Mansion (also known as the Frick Estate) was Bergen County’s priciest listing until it was taken off the market in June. The property — which was originally listed in 2010 for $68 million and has been on and off the market — was co-listed by McCormack and Oren Alexander, a Manhattan-based Douglas Elliman agent, in its last go-round. But owner Richard Kurtz told TRD that he will re-list the property before the end of the year. (He said he is currently interviewing agents.)

Kurtz’s $58 million purchase of the Frick Estate in 2006 still ranks as the state’s priciest-ever sale, according to published reports. (Kurtz subdivided the land and built the Stone Mansion.)

Overall, Bergen County saw a 26.3 percent jump in sales activity in the third quarter year-over-year, with a total of 1,973 single-family homes changing hands, according to New Jersey-based residential brokerage NRT, parent company to firms including Coldwell Banker, Sotheby’s and the Corcoran Group. The median sales price rose as well, up 6.7 percent to $480,000.

Fairfield County’s astronomical prices top the suburban heap

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Fairfield County tops the New York area suburban luxury market by a long shot.

Overall sales are booming, while luxury market prices are stratospheric, sources say. Indeed, the Connecticut county’s priciest listing was at one point the most expensive listing in the country.

Copper Beech, a massive 50-acre estate, was listed for $190 million when it came on the market in May, but has since been chopped to $140 million.

However, it may not be a listing for long. At press time, rumors were swirling that an offer had been made on the property — which is owned by timber magnate John Rudey — and that it may even be in contract. That’s despite the fact the industry observers said they thought the property seemed wildly overpriced.

“It’s been well-documented that Copper Beech is leveraged to the gills,” said one source who asked to remain anonymous. “People are snarking that it’s the biggest short sale in the country, so it will be interesting to see what happens with it.”

According to public records, a lis pendens was filed by the bank in 2011, but was dropped in December 2012.

Listing broker David Ogilvy of David Ogilvy & Associates did not respond to a request for comment.

Meanwhile, the other listings rounding out the top five most expensive for-sale properties in the county range in price from $30 million to $62 million.

Of those, 207 Byram Shore Road in Greenwich, which is listed for $32 million, has the most interesting history.

The 1916 Greenwich mansion, owned by the Weinstein Company’s Bob Weinstein, measures nearly 13,000 square feet and is located on a street dotted with grand “summer cottages” that served as vacation homes for the wealthy industrialists of a century ago.

Should the home, listed by Coldwell Banker’s Tamar Lurie, fetch its full asking price, Weinstein would land a hefty profit. He paid $16 million in 2000.

In Greenwich overall, sales have increased steadily since 2009, according to David Haffenreffer, manager of Houlihan Lawrence’s new Greenwich office.

The two hottest neighborhoods are Old Greenwich and Riverside, where young New York City families often come for what Haffenreffer calls a “smaller lot experience.” Many of those areas are zoned for quarter-and-half-acre lots, which Haffenreffer said encourages communities where “more people are meeting at the mailbox than those in a four-acre zone.” Many of these neighborhoods are also within walking distance to the Metro North train.

While the number of high-end home sales rose 13.2 percent throughout Connecticut, it leapt by even more — 20.1 percent — in Fairfield County in the third quarter from the same time last year. Within the county, Greenwich led the way with 492 property sales in the third quarter. It also registered a median price of $1.6 million.

Westchester draws priced-out New Yorkers

The real estate market in Westchester County is a “tale of two cities,” according to Houlihan Lawrence’s Anthony Cutugno.

The market in lower Westchester, in New York City-adjacent towns like Bronxville, Rye, Scarsdale and Mamaroneck, is much busier than it is in upper Westchester. The former areas, he said, account for 70 percent of Houlihan Lawrence’s luxury business.

“Our theory is that because the [Manhattan] condominium market has pushed itself to such a height, more people are selling at top dollar in New York City right now who are not able to buy back into the market and get the size of apartment that they actually need,” said Cutugno, director of the firm’s Bedford-based Luxury Country Properties division.

“Once they sell, it’s not so easy to buy back in, and they’re coming [here] because Bronxville’s only 20 minutes to New York,” he added. The majority of properties these exiles pick up, he said, are in the $2- to $4-million range.

But those, of course, aren’t the priciest properties in Westchester.

Indeed, 17 Cowdray Park Drive near Armonk, which came on the market in October and is listed for $24.9 million by Missy Renwick of Renwick Sotheby’s, is currently the most expensive house on the market in Westchester. Other homes rounding out the top five range in price from $17 million to $24.7 million.

Cutugno and Houlihan colleague Linda Gracie have one of those listings: 58 Cat Ridge Road in North Salem, which is asking $18.5 million.

The 9,000-square-foot home was designed by architect Mott Schmidt. It’s been dubbed “the last of the Georgians” in reference to the signature American Georgian Classic style Schmidt employed in designing early 19th-century grand homes for the likes of the Vanderbilts and Rockefellers.

The home, designed for Woolworth heir Richard Woolworth in 1934, sits on a 26-acre estate, has indoor and outdoor pools, a horse stable and paddock. The property came on the market in March 2012 at its current asking price.

Overall, Westchester sales were down 3.2 percent in October from the same time last year. The average sales price was $723,490 — down 12.3 percent from the same time a year prior.

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