The Real Deal Miami

Inside the deal: Palm Beach mansion swap

By Sally Apgar | July 22, 2009 02:11PM

For a third time this year, the Palm Beach office of the Corcoran Group, looking for ways to move mansions in a slow market, brokered a deal so that two clients could swap mansions for an even $6 million.

“Trading houses is a creative solution in this market,” said Bill Yahn, director of sales for Corcoran in Palm Beach. The swap earlier this month is an extreme example of how to get business going when the market is nearly moribund, he said. “Swapping is a way to get the maximum values, the highest and best price in a market where there are no takers.”

Yahn said they have only done swaps when both homes are local and both parties are working “internally with Corcoran.”

Jeffrey Cloninger, a well-known independent island broker, said, “A swap is certainly a rare bird in Palm Beach. But they work with people who have complementary interests. But it’s rare to find that exact connection where A wants B and B wants A.”

Corcoran had two clients looking to buy and sell homes in Palm Beach. Both were having trouble in a depressed market.

One, Myron Miller, a developer and full-time resident, sought to sell his four-bedroom Mediterranean villa with 40 feet of oceanfront so his two toddler sons could have more room to run around.

Miller initially listed the villa at 1564 S. Ocean Boulevard for $10.95 million. When it didn’t move, he dropped the price to $7.95 million.

Another client, Fred Michael Brunner of Arkansas, wanted to downsize and was trying to sell his rambling six-bedroom Norman-style Tudor mansion designed by the revered Palm Beach architect John Volk. The historic landmark house sits on 1.3 acres and was once home to Kleenex tissue heir James Kimberley. But the manse needed work.

Brunner first listed it for $12.5 million, then cut it to $8.395 million, then $7.85 million.

Last November, the Millers first saw Brunner’s home at 134 El Vedado Road “and it just jumped out at us,” said Miller.

Miller made an offer, but Brunner turned him down. Miller declined to name his offering price.

Miller’s Dana Koch said, “My clients are a young Palm Beach family, who grew up in Palm Beach, live here full time and wanted more room.”

Koch said the Millers liked “the history and architecture of the house, the big yard and tennis courts. They traded [ocean] views for more space.”

Koch said Brunner, who inherited the house from his parents, is a part-time resident who wants a no-fuss vacation spot rather than undertake a major renovation.

Brunner could not be reached for comment.

Part of what drove the deal was Miller, a developer accustomed to experimenting with deal-making solutions. He is the vice president of Main Street Services LLC in West Palm Beach, a boutique real estate developer founded by his father Robert.

The Millers, who have built resorts and marinas, are planning a luxury resort near Walt Disney and are redeveloping the 426-acre Farnsworth Farms, a renowned thoroughbred breeding and training farm.

“I suggested the swap,” said Miller. “It just seemed it could work for both of us and houses were in the same [price] ballpark.”

Koch agreed. “The key is that both sides got what they wanted. One seller traded the headaches of major renovation for a nice beach house in move-in condition. Their buyers traded the ocean views for space and land for their growing family.”