Today’s WSJ reports on several $100 million + homes whose owners refuse to cut their prices, even after four years or longer.
More than four years after the housing market peaked, many of the nation’s wealthiest homeowners are slashing prices in earnest. The asking price on the late Brooke Astor’s Park Avenue duplex has plummeted to $24.9 million from $46 million. Thursday Peter Sperling, son of the University of Phoenix founder John Sperling, dropped the price on his San Francisco limestone mansion to $47 million; he had been asking $65 million since 2006.
Then there are the ultimate holdouts: a rarefied slice of extremely wealthy sellers who are holding the line on today’s deal-making, price-slashing mentality. Even as their properties have lingered on the market, these sellers haven’t budged on initial asking prices, some of which were set in the waning days of the housing bubble.
Suzanne Saperstein, ex-wife of Metro Networks founder David Saperstein, is still asking $125 million for “Fleur de Lys,” a 41,000-square-foot, French chateau-inspired mansion near Beverly Hills with gold-embossed leather wall coverings and a ballroom. The listing has been on the market since at least April 2007, a month when the Dow passed 13,000. Mr. Saperstein has an equestrian estate that’s been asking $75 million since at least August 2007.
Also sitting on the market is the 600-acre Carmel Valley, Calif., ranch owned by Jim Kirk, who founded rental equipment company NationsRent, which sold for $600 million in 2006. Purchased for about $10 million after a five-year search, the property—with a four-bedroom main house, hiking trails and other structures—has been listed at $33 million since November 2006.
With housing prices off about 28% from their peak in 2006 according to Standard & Poor’s Case-Shiller Index, some real estate agents say waiting is a risky strategy. “Everyone, from bottom to top, got hurt in the financial panic, and it’s reflected in the high-end of the housing market being frozen,” says Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Analytics. He adds that price declines, originally confined to the bottom of the market, have begun migrating upward.
“We’ve never been in a more price-sensitive market,” says Janet Owen of Sudler Sotheby’s International Realty, who recently got the listing for the Chicago mansion of J.P. Morgan’s Jamie Dimon. Originally listed for $13.5 million in 2007, the home as of August was listed at $6.95 million. It went into contract in late September. “The smart sellers respond to the market,” Ms. Owen says.
Proving that the rich can be as silly and stubborn as everyone else, there’s this quote from one such seller:
[I]t’s simply a matter of finding that one right buyer.”
Still, it’s a rule of thumb that the longer a listing lingers, the less desirable it often seems to buyers. For some of these holdouts, brokers have masked length of time “on market” by avoiding officially listing them or yanking them on and off multiple-listing services. Instead, properties are marketed on brokers’ own Web sites, by word of mouth or through targeted mailings. Candy Spelling’s “The Manor” in Los Angeles officially hit the market in March 2009, for example, but was shown in 2008.
Drew Mandile of Sotheby’s International Realty, who represents Mr. Saperstein’s equestrian estate, says he and his colleague “go dumb” any time a prospective buyer asks how long the property has been for sale.
Which, of course is where a buyer’s rep comes in.