Mapping Manalapan

The 15-acre property known as Gemini is currently listed for $139 million by Cristina Condon and Todd Peter of Sotheby’s International Realty.
The 15-acre property known as Gemini is currently listed for $139 million by Cristina Condon and Todd Peter of Sotheby’s International Realty.

In Manalapan, there are no ordinary beachfront homes, brokers say. Offering unique ocean-to-Intracoastal lots, many of the houses are sprawling megamansions replete with lush lawns, yacht docks and endless water views.

But despite the singular inventory, owners still have to do what it takes to sell their mansions, and sometimes that means drastically slashing prices. One home now on the market in Manalapan — a 15-acre, 33-bedroom oceanfront estate known as Gemini — was originally listed for $195 million in 2015, reduced to $165 million and is now listed by Sotheby’s International Realty for $139 million, which still makes it one of the most expensive homes in the U.S.

The entire town of Manalapan (about 10 miles south of the town of Palm Beach) is only about 2.5 square miles and has 426 residents. Manalapan took the No. 1 spot on Forbes’ 2016 list of America’s most expensive zip codes, with a median listing price of $7.86 million for homes on the market at the time. In 2017 it fell to second place on the Forbes list with an $8.37 million median sales price, behind Atherton, California.

In Manalapan, price reductions are spurring sales, brokers said. According to recent sale records, the last four home sales on the barrier island have ranged in price from a little over $1 million for a two-bedroom villa on Point Manalapan to a five-bedroom home on South Ocean Boulevard, originally listed for $24.5 million, that sold in March for $18.5 million. As of press time, 32 properties in town were on the market.

Although prices are being reduced, “for what you get, Manalapan is almost undervalued,” said Jennifer Spitznagel, a broker with Brown Harris Stevens in Palm Beach. “It’s rare to find a luxury resort community that has ocean and Intracoastal access. If you drive on A1A, you will see large yachts parked behind many of the homes.”

The ocean access, along with the seclusion many of the Manalapan lots offer, has attracted celebrities and billionaires (see sidebar on page 48). Motivational guru Tony Robbins and New Age musician Yanni own homes in Manalapan, as did boxing promoter Don King and famed criminal defense lawyer F. Lee Bailey. Billy Joel, a brief resident of the area, purchased a 13,000-square-foot house in Manalapan for $11.8 million in 2014 and listed it for $19.5 million in 2015. He lowered the asking price in April to $16.9 million and has included the furnishings in the deal.

As The Real Deal reported in December, in this real estate cycle to that point, spanning the years 2011 to 2017, buyers invested more than $540 million in Palm Beach County’s 10 priciest home sales  alone. One of those sales was 1370 South Ocean Boulevard in Manalapan, which sold for $40 million in March 2017.

The well-heeled buyers in Manalapan don’t just get an estate. There’s another perk to ownership in the area: All town residents receive membership in La Coquille Club at the Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa (formerly the Ritz-Carlton Palm Beach), which sits on 7 acres of private beach and has a fitness facility and a private beachfront dining room for members.

Near the hotel are La Coquille Villas luxury condo co-ops, villas and townhomes. The units for sale are priced between $700,000 for a two-bedroom, two-bath unit to more than $1 million for a three-bedroom.

Reached by a bridge, Point Manalapan — the tip of the barrier island — has smaller homes and villas with Intracoastal views, priced slightly lower than larger homes on Manalapan.

Those with less cash on hand can also, surprisingly, find rental opportunities. Single-family homes for rent in Manalapan range from a Colonial-style four-bedroom house for $7,500 a month to a $65,000-a-month seven-bedroom, eight-bath home with ocean and Intracoastal views and private dockage. Town Manager Linda Stumpf said Manalapan does have restrictions on renting: An owner cannot rent for less than three months or more than three times a year.

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Having suffered in Florida’s real estate downturn, Spitznagel said, Manalapan has firmly rebounded. “The price per square foot is rising, and there definitely is room to go up,” she said.

For those who can’t afford Manalapan, the small beachside community has Boynton Beach, Hypoluxo, Lantana and South Palm Beach as neighbors. Patricia Sousa, an agent with Lang Realty, described the local market as competitive for real estate agents and said that rather than focus solely on Manalapan, most agents selling in the town also serve these surrounding waterfront areas.

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In Hypoluxo, the two most recent single-family home sales closed in the $700,000 range. Both were three-bedroom, two-bath homes without water frontage.

For buyers who want new construction, two condo buildings are rising in the area. The first, in South Palm Beach —  3550 South Ocean — is a luxury high-rise on the ocean with 30 units of about 3,000 square feet starting at $2 million; the other is the Bristol Palm Beach in West Palm Beach, a 25-story building with 69 units starting at $5 million for a 3,500-square-foot unit.

The lay of the land

Manalapan’s history dates back to its incorporation as a town in 1931. It’s a true residential community, with only 4 percent of the town’s land area designated as commercial.

Stumpf said there are no areas of Manalapan undeveloped, and the small amount of commercial use has been intentional; the only commercial zoning is for the hotel and one shopping plaza, the 103,000-square-foot Plaza del Mar.

When a Publix opens this fall in Manalapan’s Plaza Del Mar, the event will mark the culmination of years of effort to bring the supermarket to the town, which has only had specialty markets in the center in the past.

Palm Beach Gardens-based Kitson & Partners added the 27,881-square-foot Publix as part of the redevelopment of the Plaza del Mar shopping center and has ensured that the signage will be discreet to reflect the feel of the upscale coastal community.

Real estate agents said the grocery store should prove attractive for homebuyers.

“It will be very beneficial, because residents don’t have to leave the community anymore to do their grocery shopping,” Stumpf said.