The Manor from Unique Homes 2017 Ultimate issue.
Photo courtesy Hilton & Hyland.
As we mark the 17th “Ultimate” edition of Unique Homes, we look back at the exceptional properties and agents who have been a part of the annual celebration of the most expensive real estate in the U.S.
Over the 50 years since the first issue of Unique Homes rolled off the presses, countless estates have graced our cover. Hundreds have captured a top position on Ultimate Homes’ list of the most expensive, but only a very few are real estate legends. Trackback through record-setting sales and property listings, and a handful of properties filter to the top, including an equally select cadre of real estate agents.
What destines a property for legendary status? Rarity, provenance, architecture, land and location all play a role. “We have represented and sold many properties that are above and beyond, but what makes them legendary is the architecture and the history of the property, including notable prior owners, location, and the property amenities that set the bar for other luxury properties,” explains Judy Zeder, a member of the Jills Zeder Group (along with Jill Eber and Jill Hertzberg) with Coldwell Banker Realty in Miami.
“What truly makes an incredible luxury property is that it’s something that someone else would never have. It’s not just another house with a different material feature,” shares Shari Chase, founder of Chase International Real Estate in the Lake Tahoe/Reno region. “Rarity is huge,” she says, as is “not being bumper to bumper with a lot of mega mansions that are exactly the same.”
The 2016 sale of the Playboy Mansion cracked the $100 million benchmark in L.A.
Photo by Jim Bartsch.
Owlwood, Pickfair, Le Belvedere, Greenacres and Chartwell: the list of legendary properties that Joyce Rey, who heads Coldwell Banker Global Luxury’s division for Southern California, has sold is only surpassed by the number of accolades she has received over her more than 40-year career. Her sales have achieved price records multiple times, sometimes for the same property. In 1976, she sold the Sonny and Cher mansion for $1.2 million, a record at the time. Two years later, she sold it again for $4.2 million, which surpassed all other prices, setting a new high in the U.S. and worldwide. “It was a really big deal,” she says. “It changed the marketplace.”
The storied history of this property, which was renamed Owlwood to honor owls living in the estate’s towering trees, continues to the present day. The acquisition of neighboring properties and additional acreage over the years enhanced the value. Last offered for sale well above $100 million, it appeared on Unique Homes’ Ultimate list last year at $115 million. It sold in December in an off-market transaction for a reported $88 million.
Once dubbed “the Crown Jewel of Beverly Hills,” Owlwood’s resume includes a number of other high-profile names and celebrities, including Marilyn Monroe.
Ultimate Manhattan? The Tommy Hilfiger penthouse at The Plaza in New York City graced the cover of Ultimate Homes in 2014.
Casa Casuarina, seen here on the Unique Homes Fall 2012 cover, was the home of Italian fashion designer Gianni Versace.
Having a much-loved celebrity often adds to the cachet of a property. “Americans love celebrities,” says Jill Eber. “When a celebrity is comfortable using their name in connection with a property, it really makes a difference. Every home comes with a story and a celebrity’s story just makes it more interesting. A lot of properties are sold by very successful business people and the properties are just gorgeous, but when a home is sold by a celebrity or athlete, buyers are curious and sometimes they are attracted to that cache.”
Few celebrity homes received as much buzz as the Miami Beach mansion owned by the late Gianni Versace. “Everything about the Versace property, known as Casa Casuarina, was fun and exciting,” says Jill Hertzberg, who, along with Eber, sold the property. “It was a totally iconic property known worldwide. Every room was different with the most extraordinary mosaic tile designs throughout. The property was built for fun and entertainment and the buyers who purchased it just loved it! They all jumped into the pool on the day they got it. Standing in front of the mansion with reporters from all over the world is something I will always remember.”
Among our Ultimates, few have generated as much interest as The Manor, dubbed The Spelling Manor when it came to market in 2009 at an unprecedented price of $150 million, eventually selling for a reported $85 million in 2011. The buyer, Petra Ecclestone, daughter of Formula One billionaire Bernie Ecclestone, embarked on an extensive remodel, eventually bringing the estate back on the market in 2016 at $200 million. The 2019 sale price, $119.7 million, set a new, but short-lived, record for Los Angeles. Only a few months later, another legendary property, Chartwell, sold for a reported $150 million, achieving a new benchmark.
Designed by Sumner Spaulding in 1933, Chartwell, like several other legends, including the Manor, was inspired by French chateaus. Located on 10 acres in Bel Air and surrounded by pristine gardens, it ticks off all the attributes of a legendary estate. Although it is notable for the highest list price, $350 million, in 2017, few other mansions are as familiar to so many. Featured on the 1960s sitcom, The Beverly Hillbillies, it was home to the Clampetts.
It’s worth noting the estate is actually in Bel Air. The Bel Air Hillbillies might not have been as catchy a title as the Beverly Hillbillies, says Gary Gold, with Hilton & Hyland, one of the agents listing the property. Using a home at one address, but identifying it as being in another location in films and television is not unusual, according to Gold.
Chartwell was listed by a team of agents including Rey and Jade Mills with Coldwell Banker Realty, and Gold and Jeff Hyland with Hilton & Hyland. When prices breach $100 million, it’s not uncommon to have multiple brokerages marketing the property.
“These big sales have many layers of complexity. It can be a trust, a bankruptcy or a probate, and everyone at this level is well represented. And at $100 million, no one is flexible,” explains Gold. Often the team of agents and brokers will divide the tasks depending on their expertise. Gold says he is always 100-percent committed to getting the deal done.
Having brokered the sale of the Playboy Mansion, Gold jokingly refers to himself as the “Roger Bannister of luxury real estate.” Like Bannister’s one-minute mile, the Playboy Mansion smashed the $100 million ceiling in L.A. and opened the door to a number of legendary estates trading at or over $100 million, including Chartwell and The Manor.
“These types of mansions usually come on the market once in a blue moon, once a decade, but recently a number have traded in the last couple of years,” Gold shares.
When it came on the market, the Playboy Mansion received lots of media coverage. Still, when Jade Mills, who represented the buyer, initially saw the property, she wasn’t expecting to find a zoo. The property had “been talked about, but not really the zoo and the peacocks and everything that was there,” she says.
“When I first went there, there were all of the animals, monkeys, peacocks were all over the property — I just thought that it was so amazing that right in the middle of Holmby Hills, you had all those fabulous animals. So, it was just fun to see, and to see the grotto.”
Gold says the number of birds increased over time as local avians decided it was a great place to call home and joined the menagerie.
Another interesting tidbit was an abundance of pushbuttons in this home, sort of a smart home before the era of home tech. For example, push a button and the bed would turn around. The grotto had an array of buttons, all glowing red, and a phone from which you could dial up whatever music you wanted
Foundation of Value
But for legends, it is the amount of land or an impossible-to-replicate location that usually sets them apart. A majority occupy sizable parcels, whether it’s hundreds of acres like Tranquility in Tahoe, or a dozen or less in Bel Air or Holmby Hills. The exception are places such as Malibu, where a setting on the beach is more prized and rarer than acreage.
“Regardless of the condition — like new, falling down or anything in between — each owner puts their heart and soul into these homes,” shares Robert Kinlin, co-owner of Robert Paul Properties, who works with some of the most expensive in Boston and on the Cape. “But a lot of times, people are buying the land and the feeling it evokes when they’re outside walking the property, because you can’t change the land, but you can change the house.”
“The biggest thing you can have with a beautiful estate is Mother Nature,” adds Shari Chase.
When Chase founded her brokerage in 1986, the word “luxury” really wasn’t part of the vocabulary. Instead, she says, “we talked about estates and extraordinary estates, and her tagline was Exceptional Properties for Exceptional People. “I wasn’t going to bother with just any kind of real estate. I only wanted the best, and whether I had one or two or three sales a year, it didn’t matter. I mean, as long as they were fantastic. I think the very first sale was lakefront.” Early on, Chase was involved in what she describes as “the most extraordinary sale we ever had at Tahoe,” the Thunderbird Lodge at a record $50 million. “It held the price record in the entire nation for over 8 years.”
Not often are newly constructed homes destined to become legendary, but Le Belvedere, sited on over 2 acres in Bel Air overlooking the city with a romantic landscape that includes a swan pond, rose gardens and a 280-degree panorama of city lights, is the exception. Over-the-top features such as opulent materials, a ballroom seating 200, a media room seating 50, and a 500-bottle wine cellar, were exceptional when it came on the market in 2009, but the way every detail is executed, the stateliness of the architecture and the sense of harmony from all facets working in perfect sync pushes it from a “stellar property” to a legendary estate.
Le Belvedere, like Tranquility, is also exceptional for its amenities. At that time, shares Rey, “people weren’t building so many of those major theaters. Before that, only those in the industry had large screening rooms.
Rey was involved in the sale of Le Belvedere for $50 million — the highest in the U.S. in 2010 –— and again in 2018 for $56 million.
In recent years, there have been a number of newly built for-sale trophy homes, some with list prices stretching current benchmarks. What sets these properties apart is the number of over-the-top features, including curated art installations, stocked wine bars, car collections, an onsite staff and even a helipad. The objective — to include everything someone might want in a home — is aligned with the motives behind the inclusion of extensive amenities in classic estates.
No matter how exquisite a property, new owners have a penchant to put their own stamp on it. “I just think that it’s amusing that people must make even, you know, the most expensive, beautiful home — they must make it their own. So sometimes it’s just been remodeled, and then torn completely apart. And they start over,” shares Mills, who brokered the 2019 sale of The Manor. And this practice is not limited to prime estates. Instead, it reaches across the entire price spectrum, whether a house is $1 million or a $100 million.
Few other homes on our annual list have received as much attention as this estate. “The Manor was sort of like no other,” recalls Mills. With 123 rooms and more square footage than the White House, it is one of the largest in Los Angeles. Size and prices generated publicity, but it was the extensive amenities, including gift-wrapping rooms, vast closets, a barber shop, hair salon, bowling alley and nightclub that captured the public’s fancy. There aren’t as many closets as large as the one in the master,” Mills ventures, estimating it to be in the 2,500-square-foot range.”
Featured image: ©istockphoto.com / Chinnapong
It’s time to discover these 10 extraordinarily refined places, each with distinctly different waterfront experiences.
What’s tucked inside a Great Lakes luxury property? The better question is, what’s not? Aside from fantastic lakefront views, plenty of room for entertaining, and a spot for any water toys you may fancy, the area itself is famously well-known. Janine Grillo, a Keller Williams Domain Associate Broker, tells Unique Homes that the Great Lakes region is the
No. 1 freshwater boating destination in the U.S.
“The sheer size of this territory affords boaters a whole world of fun and a number of diverse places to explore on the water,” she says, noting that every day here feels like a vacation. “This summer, we are finding buyers are looking to enjoy life more, relax (and work) from home. The updated, roomy waterfront properties sell fast,” Grillo says.
Lake Tahoe, Nevada & California
“The air up there in the clouds is very pure and fine. Bracing and delicious. And why shouldn’t it be? It is the same the angels breathe,” said Mark Twain in describing Lake Tahoe. Chase International President and CEO Shari Chase characterizes it in the same way, recounting this quote from where she calls home, on the Nevada side of the iconic area.
“Lake Tahoe is a real treasure,” Chase says in painting a picture of the 22-mile-long, 12-mile-wide body of water, which is majestically surrounded by mountains. “Everything has a very spiritual essence to it here. The water is beautifully pure, with blues and crystalized greens,” she continues. The land boasts an outdoor lifestyle, where residents can easily take in treasured hiking trails, ski lodges, boating, beaches, art and more. Within one hour of the space are gems such as Virginia City, Genoa, and Jackson, California, which all are filled with wonderful recreation.
Prices here range from $3.75 million to $48 million, with most buyers prioritizing a spacious pier when considering their search.
Chase International Broker Trinkie Watson says that diversity of year-round outdoor activities, alongside good restaurants, art galleries and unique shopping are a huge draw to the area, as well as convenience to Sacramento and the Bay Area. Residents can easily take in treasured hiking trails, ski lodges, boating and beaches. “Whether it’s at the lake or on a beautiful trail in the mountains, it’s all gorgeous,” Watson says.
Londonderry, New Hampshire
The New England waterfront is known for its variety of seasonal landscapes throughout the year. Residents are able to experience the full extent of floral springs, fluttering snowflakes, peaceful waters, and crisp autumn leaves. And right now, in the summertime, the sights could not be better, says Morgan Smith, a Realtor with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Verani Realty.
“We have hundreds of clean lakes with 360 degrees of spectacular scenery. Owners love to watch the loons, fish off the dock, kayak and waterski, and lazily soak in the clear, fresh water warmed by the sun,” she says. Coastal properties in New England feature properties with rocky ledges, crashing waves, and beaches that can be strolled for miles and miles.
With regard to how the market is faring, lower-than-average inventories are leaving very few properties for sale at a time. Prices of waterfront properties range from $1 million to $25 million, with buyers privy to direct access to the water, spacious frontage, and plenty of room for a watercraft, Smith says. She enjoys her daily life in the area, and wishes to share the elegance with new buyers. “I love spending time in Cape Elizabeth,” she says. “If I can be on a boat (or a hammock), and smell fresh air next to a body of water, I’m happy.”
Coronado, San Diego, California
The California oceanfront is star-studded with luxury at every turn. Coronado, San Diego is absolutely no exception. Broker Associate Scott Aurich of Pacific Sotheby’s International Realty has lived in 17 different houses throughout the town and loved every second of it. To get away from it all, Aurich enjoys his early mornings more than anything else; he spends it surfing in tranquil waters, golfing through immaculate links, or entranced by friendly creatures at the stables. He stressed that Coronado camaraderie cannot be replicated anywhere else he’s seen.
Whether it’s the unique amenities the town has to offer, the community center with a gym, or the iconic $34 million Crown Manor estate he is representing, Coronado is truly special. But his favorite piece of home, he says, is the people. “The best thing is the people; it’s hard to describe,” Aurich mentioned. He finds that the kindness of his neighbors is where he feels the most pride. It’s not just Aurich that has noticed the grandeur; the temperature of real estate in Coronado is booming, to say the least. The demand is so high that at press time, only 54 houses were for sale. “The market is white hot,” Aurich said, explaining that the value of homes has gone up exponentially in the last 20 years.
Egg Harbor, Wisconsin
Door County, Wisconsin, is a gorgeous peninsula with 250 miles of coastline — it’s surrounded by the waters of Lake Michigan on the eastern side, and Green Bay on the western side. For weekenders or vacationers, the area boasts incredible opportunities for sailing, water sports, fishing, boutiques, restaurants and quaint villages that dot the shoreline, explains Jamie Sanger, a managing broker with Coldwell Banker Realty.
The county of Door has fantastic experiences in the arts, theater, and golf courses, but most of all, it is best known for its natural scenic beauty, she tells Unique Homes. With even multimillion-dollar homes and estates selling like hotcakes, any inventory that is available is selling for well over asking price. Sanger feels that her area and the lifestyles awaiting there are in particularly high demand: “I feel the pandemic has fueled our market, in that folks want to be able to ‘get away’ from the urban areas to enjoy a more peaceful, private, and healthy lifestyle,” she continues. This is what she sees in her own hometown as well, Ellison Bay, which she says has stayed tranquil and untouched by development in recent years.
Over in Sarasota, Candy Swick, president and broker at Candy Swick & Company, is dazzled by the diversity of people she meets every single day. “One minute you are having a conversation with an astronaut, a rocket scientist, an author, or an international ballet virtuoso from Russia,” she says.
Swick describes the water in Sarasota as “Carribean blue,” alongside a breeze that drifts in soft and cooling. Residents can enjoy multitudes of water sports, a world-class ice skating rink where Olympic figure skaters have trained, and ballet and opera performances.
As for the price tag, luxury homes are running from $2 million to
$20 million. Houses are frequently selling the day they enter the market, at list price or often in a situation with multiple offers. A typical bayfront home in Sarasota starts at $2.5 million, where buyers can view the magic, nightlife, and restaurants outlining the entire city. “We know that if an individual desired to enjoy a new restaurant for lunch and another for dinner, it would take more than a year to explore them all,” Swick said.
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
“Think of a place that has beautiful beaches, with crystal-clear water and clean, silky-smooth sand; a place that is known as the yacht capital of the world, with spectacular vessels cruising in daily through the port,” says Shai Mashiach, a Coldwell Banker Realty agent, in painting a picture of his beloved home.
He notes that in the bustling housing market, several waterfront neighborhoods in Fort Lauderdale are in high demand; particularly Las Olas and Harbor Beach, where prices start in the millions. Mashiach noted the convenience of the area as well; it’s only a one-hour boat ride to the Bahamas, a 30-minute drive south to Miami or north to Palm Beach, and one hour to the Florida Keys. “It’s a place that has the best restaurants, great nightlife, and magnificent people from around the globe,” he continued.
As far as his personal favorite to-dos, Mashiach and his family enjoy quality time on the water, fishing, or docking at a favorite restaurant on the Intracoastal for a spectacular meal. “From yoga on the beach to amazing deep-water fishing, Fort Lauderdale has a wonderful ambiance and everything you need to enjoy life,” he says.
Cozumel, Mexico is known as one of the top scuba diving destinations in the world. A hundred-plus feet of visibility in the pristine, cobalt water is perfect for a deep dive, whether you’re a novice or expert. “The clarity of the water is just extraordinary,” says Cindy Case, a Realtor with Douglas Elliman. The island takes pride in differentiating itself from the mainland; as opposed to cities like Cancun, Cozumel boasts a private, more intimate community.
“It’s a unique, small island with a very relaxed vibe,” Case says. Yet, this does not eliminate the availability of ample restaurants, shopping, and hospital care. There are many properties available for sale along the water, and well-priced at that. Case notes the affordability of property on such a prime Caribbean island. When recalling her favorites, Case enjoys beach hopping along the backside of the island; she treasures the chain of beautiful, wide, white-sand beaches with restaurants and bars.
Picture year-round warm weather and sunshine, vast cultural diversity and delicacies, and a fabulous cosmopolitan lifestyle when thinking of residential life in Honolulu, Hawaii, says Tracy Allen of Coldwell Banker Realty.
“Breathtaking hikes along the Ko’olau mountain ranges and scenic coastal trails offer incredible vistas second to none. Visitors and residents love the vast cultural foods found in Hawaii, and come to the island to enjoy many different dining experiences,” Allen describes.
For purchases on the water, prices start at around $6 million, and can range from $8 million to $20 million as well. Allen says that waterfront homes in the area have generally been built within the last 10 years, and include modern touches such as lighter wood tones, smart technology, gyms, home offices, and large, professional kitchens.
Surfing, paddle boarding, kite surfing, jet skiing, and canoe paddling are just a few activities keeping residents entertained. Allen wants buyers to know: if you’re looking for a diverse experience, Hawaii is for you. And when asked her perfect way to spend a day, her answer is simple; “The beach! You can never go wrong with our turquoise crystal-clear waters!”
In another part of the islands, luxury on Kaua’i translates to “soulful” according to Hawaii Life broker Neal Norman. It is that very soul and heart that keeps residents smiling in the sunshine, just as Norman found himself when he moved in 25 years ago.
“We’re seeing purposeful buyers who want to live the lifestyle: that luxury, soulful living that Kaua’i provides,” Norman says. In the North Shore region where he is located, buyers and sellers are connected on the ocean view at a variety of prices, ranging from $3 million to $50 million. Dream homes are purchased on the daily in this blue-sky paradise, where residents can spend quality time with loved ones and friends.
Offering numerous outdoor endeavors, hiking, surfing, sailing, snorkeling, swimming, beach combing and biking are just a few of the fantastic opportunities in Kaua’i. “Buyers are finding solitude and serenity on this little island in the Pacific Sea,” Norman says. “Kaua’i is a rare and special place.”
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties
111 Corporate Dr., Suite. 210, Ladera Ranch, CA 92694
Phone: 949-307-4040 | email@example.com | www.marianncordova.agent.bhhscalifornia.com
Mariann is a multi-award-winning Realtor and marketing expert with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties. Her goal always has been successful marketing of residential properties, employing professional ethics, sound planning, persuasive skills and a strong support system. With a Bachelor of Arts from the University of California and a certificate of interior design from the Los Angeles Design Center, Mariann carries years of in-depth real estate and current market knowledge. Her fluency in English and Swedish and working knowledge of Norwegian, Danish and German are valuable assets in assisting international clients and those looking to relocate.
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Strand Hill Properties Christie’s International Real Estate
716 Yarmouth, #202, Palos Verdes Estates, CA 90274
310.373.3333 | Cell: 310.902.7799 | firstname.lastname@example.org | www.StrandHill.com
Lily Liang is an expert of the Palos Verdes Peninsula, a prestigious Southern California coastal community, as well as the beach cities along the Los Angeles coastline. Having been a resident of the Peninsula for more than 30 years, Lily knows this area quite well. She is the Co-founder and Executive Vice President of Strand Hill Properties, Christie’s International Real Estate. Lily is fluent in Chinese and English, and she has represented both buyers and sellers from around the world in transactions worth over $1 billion. Having worked and lived in Asia and Europe, Lily has a keen appreciation for working with clients from different cultures. She has been recognized as a leading South Bay business woman and she has been featured in Forbes, Time and Los Angeles Magazine as well as other local medias.
MODERNE Real Estate, Inc.
CA DRE 00363882
220 West G Street, Suite A, San Diego, CA 92101
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Trudy@TrudyStambook.com | www.TrudyStambook.com
Renowned for discreet, individualized client service, Trudy Stambook is a key resource for real estate clients and those actively engaged in the business, development and cultural community in San Diego.
– First named among the nation’s elite luxury real estate agents back in 1995 by Unique Homes Magazine, and recognized annually ever since
– Over three decades of experience as a luxury real estate professional, specializing in downtown San Diego
– Over three decades of worldwide marketing expertise
– Representing both Buyers and Sellers
– Repeatedly voted Five Star “Best in Client Satisfaction” by readers of San Diego Magazine
– Recognized by Forbes Magazine in 2019 and 2020 “Five Star Market Leader,” and recognized by Fortune Magazine in 2021.
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The following is a
Unique Homes Online Exclusive
During the mid-year height of the Covid-19 pandemic, real estate agents comment on how the market stood, and in some cases prevailed, under enormous pressure.
This past Fall, luxury real estate agents from across the country spoke on Unique Homes’ first Zoom panel to discuss topics from the recent article “Space: The New Currency,” from Unique Homes Magazine’s recent Fall issue, written by Camilla McLaughlin. On this exclusive virtual panel, agents were able to discuss how the real estate markets of America endured (and continue to endure) through the turbulence that the Covid-19 pandemic has caused. Throughout the discussion, these experienced panelists spoke on the changes their area(s) have undergone and the how the pandemic has affected the homebuying process. We’ve highlighted some of our distinguished panelists and their unique experiences below.
Mauricio Umansky, Founder/CEO of The Agency
Los Angeles, CA
In the beginning of “Space: The New Currency,” Mauricio Umansky, Founder and CEO of The Agency, notes that in the midst of the pandemic, consumers who were staying at home also found themselves asking impactful questions regarding their homes and their futures: where am I sequestering versus where am I at home? What do I want my home to look like? What do I want my second home to look like?
As one of the opening speakers, Umansky adds that though many of these questions may not be answered right away, the pandemic proved to be a catalyst for many potential home buyers to start a dialogue with their local real estate agents. “Sequestering at home, stay in, shelter in place, whatever it is we want to call it, has caused a conversation that is equal amongst everybody, whether it’s politically driven, whether it’s answering ‘what do I want to do with my life?’ and understanding that we can now work and operate from anywhere.”
Courtney Hampson, Vice President of Marketing
Palmetto Bluff, SC
Palmetto Bluff is a community in coastal South Carolina that caters to a mix of primary and vacation homeowners. Courtney Hampson, Vice President of Marketing for Palmetto Bluff, says on the panel that at the beginning of the pandemic many residents were already staying in Palmetto Bluff due to Spring Break, and were mandated to stay due to the shutdown. Many stayed until May when the state began opening up again, and there were several instances where those who extended their stay ended up moving to Palmetto Bluff full time. About a particular couple from New York with young children, Hampson says “They literally walked down the street into our real estate office, went on our tour, looked at available homes, closed two days later, our fastest closing ever, and that was it. ‘This is where we are,’ they said, ‘This is the plan now.'”
During the panel Hampson also stated that the utilization of virual tours and showings became more widely utilized, so much that they had to include the option on their website right away on their website.” She also noted that in the midst of everything, they found that buyers were buying almost like they were suffering from FOMO, or a Fear of Missing Out. “[Clients] are booking their stay at the hotel first, and … they have almost a fear of missing out. They’re not waiting to get here to look at real estate — they’re doing that virtually, going under contract and seeing their property the first time they come to visit.”
Carrie Wells, Coldwell Banker Mason Morse Real Estate
Though located on the opposite side of the United States, Carrie Wells of Coldwell Banker Mason Morse Real Estate in Aspen, Colorado experienced similar situations as Hampson had in South Carolina. March is typically the latter part of the state’s skiing season, but due to the pandemic the season was cut short, and those visiting found themselves sequestering in Aspen — and staying. She remarked that you can see this reflected in the school district alone, where 175 new students were admitted and a weight list was created for the Aspen Country Day School, Aspen’s main private school. She also noted that with the help of Matterport virtual tour technology many sales were able to happen, as clients wanted to be able to visit openings safely.
Wells remarked about her own experience with a New York family who stayed in Aspen until the summer. “He said, ‘I never realized that Aspen is so enjoyable in April and May,’ which are normally our off-season months. … People have experienced being here year-round, when they normally would not be here, and there’s so much to do other than downhill skiing that I think regardless of what happens with our winter, we’re still going to see our market continue to be strong.”
Russ Lyon Sotheby’s International Realty
The title of the article “Space: The New Currency,” as well as the main point of discussion for the panel, was inspired by profound statement by Frank Aazami of Russ Lyon Sothebby’s International Realty. During the panel Aazami notes that when the pandemic began and people were sequestering, he noticed that areas that were previously difficult to sell beforehand, regions outside of Phoenix and Scottsdale such as Fountains Hills, Cave Creek, etc, were now like beacons that buyers were gravitating towards. Before there were no sales north of $3 million, but eventually there were closings reaching upwards of $4 and $6 million. The reasoning for this market change? Space!
In the article Aazami notes that from his region of Scottsdale, Arizona, his experience during the pandemic that no matter what buyers were generally looking for, a vacation home, relocation refuge, etc., the key point he saw was that consumers were looking for a safe haven, with plenty of space. Not only that, but consumers are also requesting specifics when it comes to this space in order to make their purchases personal and customized to their lifestyles, from multiple offices and indoor gyms to view decks and larger patios.
Chris Bernier, Churchill Properties
Boston’s North Shore, MA
Located just 30 minutes outside of Boston, Chris Bernier of Churchill Properties notes during the Zoom panel that despite the usual trends of buyers looking for smaller, more minimalistic style homes, space really is the new currency. He affirms that many buyers in his market are flocking toward the larger homes. These market shifts are no doubt due to the pandemic shifting priorities, and continues to show
James Torrance, Keller Williams Luxury International
Palm Beach, FL
James Torrance from Palm Beach, Florida has much to say about the pandemic has shifted Florida into more than just a retirement or snowbird refuge, seen in these clips from the Zoom discussion. He notes further that in fact a large wave of buyers from California and more specifically Chicago brought interest to the area and helped close several sales, a rarity in his area. What was also interesting that he notices are the importance of the private schools and districts in South Florida, as he mentions that many buyers were shopping around different homes once they had found a school system they liked, then picking from available homes nearby.
This, alongside his points about the importance of homes with multi-functional spaces such as guesthouses and just the overall outlook on how the market has shifted, highlight just how much action Florida has seen in the past several months due to Covid-19’s effect on real estate.
Roxann Taylor, Engel & Völkers Dallas Forth Worth
As an real estate agent with 40-plus years of selling experience, Roxann Taylor of Engel & Völkers Dallas Forth Worth was a fountain of wisdom toward the end of the virtual panel. She highlighted much of which was similar to what the other panelists had noted, including buyers prioritizing homes with large space as opposed to downsizing, putting houses on the market through a near fully-virtual process, and much more.
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In 1932, when the impressive Grand Rex Theatre opened its doors in Paris, 80 doormen donned in white gloves and tails greeted guests for a night of glamour and luxury. A night at the theater was an occasion for fine attire, lively socialization, and entertainment. Today, although streaming services have taken technology to the next level and brought the big screen right into our living rooms, the experience is far from the same.
The Open Air Cinema Kamari in Santorini, Greece is a stunning outdoor theater that is surrounded by eucalyptus trees and offers a variety of locally produced wines and ice creams to enjoy alongside movie showings. The owner, Ina Koutroubilis, says, “Our guests tell us that the cinema is like an enchanting secret garden that harks back to the Golden Age of cinema. They come for the whole experience.”
The Oriental Theatre in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, was constructed with details from Indian, Moorish, Islamic, and Byzantine architectural styles and is known today as Milwaukee’s Historic Movie Palace. Karina Henderson, marketing director of Milwaukee Film, notes, “You can watch a lot of movies on your screen at home, but the experience of going into a magnificent building, sitting in a dark theater, putting away your glowing screens for a couple of hours, and letting yourself be immersed in someone else’s story — that’s an amazing thing in this day and age.”
In a world of commercial-free marathon-watching, a night out at the theater is even more of a luxury than in the past. These otherworldly theaters around the world take entertainment to a higher level.
Open Air Cinema Kamari
Open Air Cinema photo by cinekamari.
The Oriental Theatre
Photo by Jake Hill / milwaukee film.
San Francisco, California
Photo by Charlie Villyard Photography.
Elevated with Flavor
Foreign Cinema in the Mission District of San Francisco, has been a San Francisco Chronicle “Top 100 Restaurant” for 18 consecutive years and is first and foremost a restaurant. Yet the added 35-millimeter films displayed nightly on their outdoor courtyard screen transforms the establishment into an intriguing combination. This pairing of food and film is not a new one, but one that continues to appeal to guests. Gayle Pirie, co-owner/co-chef of Foreign Cinema, explains that at Foreign Cinema, they united culinary and cinematic experiences in an honest way that proved successful.
“At the restaurant, visual media collides in such a way that the aesthetics of the screen flicker easily alongside the vibrancy of the plates,” says Pirie. “This pairing makes sense since the Mission neighborhood, where the restaurant is located, has a rich theatrical past. In the 1950s, it was the city’s hub for movie theaters. In many ways, we’re honoring this legacy while spotlighting the ideals and flavors that have come to define California cuisine.”
Foreign Cinema’s refined menu elevates the experience to an even higher standard. Keeping with seasonal and local ingredients common in California cooking, the restaurant also draws on inspiration from the Middle East and Africa. “Our sesame fried chicken with madras curry and spiced honey is a signature dish we nearly never take off the menu,” says Pirie.
Another example of food and film can be found at the Edible Cinema in London, England, where each guest is supplied with a variety of mystery boxes containing a small tasting menu tailored to specific moments in each film. The element of taste enhances the experience and entertainment without competing for attention.
The Paris Theatre was the last single-screen movie theater in Manhattan. With its history and overall classic atmosphere, many were highly disappointed when the doors closed in August 2019. According to The New York Times, the theater was a favorite among locals and tourists and was known for playing foreign films in their original languages.
Although the venue closed, a surprising new owner has reopened its doors — Netflix. The streaming company will use the theater for Netflix-original movie debuts, special events, and other screenings. The venue is over 70 years old and instantly brings to mind the Golden Age of cinema as it sits across from The Plaza in bustling Manhattan.
The Grand Rex Theatre
Top photo from Picasa.
Bottom photo courtesy The Grand Rex.
The setting of these theaters begins the journey for guests and sets the tone for the afternoon’s entertainment. For the Foreign Cinema, “The long corridor leads to an unexpected oasis, much like the rabbit hole in Alice in Wonderland, with a climactic courtyard scene illuminated by the flicker of our 35-millimeter projected films and juxtaposed with the roaring hearth centered in the main dining room, all encompassing the warmth of our community of diners,” according to Pirie.
When entering the Open Air Cinema Kamari, “You will find yourself in a lush green garden, surrounded by eucalyptus trees and fragrant night-blooming flowers. We usually play ’50s Jazz music and together with the decoration and lighting design, guests are already enchanted,” says Koutroubilis.
Glitz and Glamour
It was not uncommon for guests to arrive at theaters in sequined ball gowns and tuxedos at the start of cinema and for many years to follow. Although there are more casual options for viewing movies today — such as the living room sofa — the idea of luxury is still a defining component for theaters around the world. According to Henderson, “The grandeur of our building makes any movie into an event,” she says about The Oriental Theatre. “It’s uplifting to be surrounded by the beauty of a gem like the Oriental Theatre, and then sit down and watch an amazing film.”
Similarly, the decadence at The Grand Rex has stood the test of time and continued to draw guests in, only to convince them to return time and time again. Along with the balcony seating and fine finishes, the star-covered ceiling gives the illusion that guests are outside, adding to the glamour of the venue.
There was a sense of community and conversation that stemmed from early theaters when guests would dine, enjoy a film, and then go dancing afterward, making it a whole night of glamourous entertainment and socialization. The theater was a way to experience and learn about far away people and places, which not everyone had the opportunity to enjoy and is still a part of the appeal today. “In 2019, we brought 349 titles from 45 countries over 15 days to our film-loving Festival-goers. It’s truly a community event, and the Oriental Theatre is always busy during the Milwaukee Film Festival,” says Henderson. “Watching a film in a theater is still a special experience that you can’t replicate at home on your TV or tablet.”
On the promontory of the Sestri Levante peninsula in Italy, this villa is surrounded by the sea at 270 degrees, guaranteeing the maximum level of privacy.
It is a singular work of the architect Luigi Carlo Daneri, the most important Genoese exponent of Italian rationalism. “It is an original 1930s villa with the original floor plan and furniture pieces, intact,” says listing agent Niccolo Pigni of Engel & Volkers. “The villa is perfect as a representative house, with large marble saloons and clean modern lines — very charming.”
The designs, finishes, materials, furniture are very refined and of great value, but not ostentatious, a very Genoese trait. “My favorite room is the wonderful living space overlooking both the garden and Mediterranean Sea over the cliff,” says Pigni. “The completely restored original 1940s window lifting mechanism is just a rare piece of jewelry and allows you to completely open the living space over the terrace — exterior and interior areas merge together.
With the 5.6-acre park designed by the architect himself, it is one of the most surprising examples of “Mediterranean scrub” with ancient trees. Listed for 20.3 million euros, the property also showcases a swimming pool, patio, football field, four terraces overlooking the sea and a private beach (accessible only from the villa) — which all make this property unique on the Italian Riviera.
“If someone is in love with art, design or architecture this house is perfect,” says Pigni. “It’s a piece of art that should be collected and preserved.”
Stunning Bay Views!
Commanding wide angle vistas are ever present from this superbly elevated Sausalito hillside home. Most interior rooms are appointed with large view windows framing sailboats in the Sausalito Marina, the Mill Valley hills, and spectacular skyline panoramas. The continuous change of colors throughout the days and changing seasons, provides a joyous ambiance year round.
The first floor, with easy access from the street and carport, consists of delightful public rooms flooded with light through wall of windows. Pristine hardwood floors compliment this level, an ideal space for entertaining with viewing deck attached. The large dining area adjoins the living room with newly installed gas fireplace and hearth. The adjacent kitchen is highlighted with all new appliances and sunny breakfast area. A well placed powder room serves guests.
Lower level with 3 Bedrooms, 2 baths features panoramic bay views and attached exterior deck.
Master bedroom with en suite bath and walk-in closet.
2 Additional bedrooms and 1 full bath.
Workshop level presents potential for expansion.
4-car parking deck.
A desire for a serene coastal experience continues to fuel the luxury market in Orange County.
Orange County, California used to be defined by citrus groves and theme parks, but has evolved into one of the nation’s premier luxury residential markets. While some prices have begun to soften, several of the region’s top agents see strength moving into 2020.
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties’ Mariann Cordova reports luxury sales activity eased in 2019, but submits low interest rates and a fundamentally strong economy provide a counterbalance to negative sentiment generated by political uncertainty. “When people are making money, they’re spending money,” insists Cordova, who reports coastal areas like Laguna Beach and Newport Coast hold value best, followed by prestigious inland gated communities like Shady Canyon and Coto de Caza. The agent currently lists a 9,400-square-foot Mediterranean estate — the seller is former hockey superstar Teemu Selänne — in Coto de Caza for $6.9 million.
“The luxury market has suffered more than any other sector,” maintains Surterre Properties’ Chris Valli, who notes the trend began at least two years ago. He suggests the Orange County market has been impacted by the new tax laws, which effectively penalize high-value/high-tax states like California, but also reminds clients the market is experiencing a natural cycle.
“For over five years we went straight up and buyers began thinking prices were getting too high,” says Valli, who expects activity to rebound in the second half of 2020. He believes buyers waiting on the sidelines will soon enter the market and reports election years are historically active. The agent currently offers a sleek 6,500-square-foot ocean-bluff home in Laguna Beach — the charming beach town is becoming a showplace for modern residential architecture — at $13.5 million.
PHOTO COURTESY OF THE SMITH GROUP
Newport Beach, a perennially fashionable community where yacht slips are as important as driveways, remains a strong market. Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage’s Tim Smith set the record last year for the most expensive sale on Newport Harbor, which he believes represents the quintessential luxury Orange County lifestyle — even more so than the region’s signature coastal bluffs. “There’s a connection to the ocean you experience when you live on the harbor that you can’t get anywhere else,” insists Smith, dubbing the area “Billionaires’ Bay.”
Characterizing the market as fragmented, Smith explains, “For new construction in great locations, we’re still setting records,” but acknowledges price pressures on less pristine properties. Smith currently offers a 9,609-square-foot, design-forward home in the oceanfront community of Corona del Mar for $24.995 million.
Jacqueline Thompson of Surterre Properties reports 2019 was among her best years and knows of many clients waiting to buy in 2020. “The number of international buyers, especially from China, has declined, but local money is very viable and results in many all-cash offers,” she says. Thompson concedes luxury purchasers still gravitate to the coast, and currently lists a two-estate compound on Newport Coast’s Pelican Point for $19.5 million. However, the agent closed two $11 million-plus cash transactions in Irvine’s amenity-rich Shady Canyon last year.
Orange County offers a wide range of properties, from glass-ensconced beach houses to palatial Mediterranean estates like La Casa Pacifica, listed by Compass’ Rob Giem for $57.5 million. While Thompson’s all-cash offers are illustrative, some agents insist that even super-affluent buyers can be motivated by low interest rates, choosing to put their own funds to work elsewhere. The cumulative effect of recent interest rate cuts, according to Coldwell Banker’s Smith, results in a 12-15 percent increase in purchasing power.