Feb 25, 2007

Luxurious fittings go along with hefty price-tags for the world's priciest homes

By Paul Zach

HOMEBUYERS now in the market for something bigger than Buckingham Palace are in luck.

A property listed that fits the bill is for sale in the Surrey countryside outside London - but you will also need a budget as big as Buckingham Palace to buy it.

With an asking price of US$138 million (S$210 million), the 103-room, 4,650 sq m residence tops Forbes magazine's 2007 list of the most expensive homes in the world now up for sale.

For that price, you will never be at a loss for a place to sit and ponder how much you have spent. The house has 22 marble bathrooms.

It also comes with a 50-seat cinema, five pools, marble driveways, helipads, 23ha of gardens and woodlands - and a bowling alley.

Also in the top 10 of the magazine's latest list of the world's priciest homes now up for grabs are a sprawling Colorado ranch being sold by a prince and Donald Trump's Florida beach home in the United States.

Mansions in London's Hampstead district and on a mountain in France's C'ote D'Azur, a waterfront home in Istanbul, Turkey, and others round out the top 10 in the list released on Thursday.

For those who find the Surrey property a bit beyond their budget, the cheapest of the priciest can be picked up for a mere US$65 million.

The first question, no doubt, for the vast majority of people confronted by such real estate listings is: 'Who can possibly afford them?'

'These properties are marketed internationally. I supposed you would say to the wealth of the world,' said Mr Joshua Saslove, president of Joshua & Co, the listing broker of The Hala Ranch.

At No. 2 on the list, that 38ha property in Aspen, Colorado, is listed at US$135 million.

'We all know there's been large growth in the petroleum fuel industry, but there's been an enormous amount in money management, private equity, in real estate,' Mr Saslove told Reuters, noting that the properties are marketed internationally.

In fact, The Hala - Arabic for welcome - Ranch's seller is Prince Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdul Aziz, the former Saudi Arabian ambassador to the United States, and he is certainly typical of its potential buyers.

Tied for fourth place in the listings at US$100 million is the Tranquillity in Lake Tahoe, Nevada. The 85ha estate is owned by Mr Joel Horowitz, the co-founder of the Tommy Hilfiger fashion line.

People looking for good interest rates so that they can make a quick resale for a big profit also need not apply for such homes.

'At these prices, buyers pay cash,' Mr Saslove said.

It is also not advisable to wait for a downturn in the housing market if you are interested in such properties.

As Forbes notes, factors that loom large for the average home buyer - a mortgage, appraisal and vacancy rates, moving expenses and, yes, market fluctuations - have little to no effect on high-end buyers or sellers.

'Properties might be sold within a week or stay on the market much longer,' said Mr Thierry Journiac of Terra Cognita, a French realty dealing in multi-million dollar properties, Forbes reported.

'This is because their owners do not really need money and so do not want to discuss the price much.'

As one example, the magazine cites Maison de L'Amitie in Palm Beach, Florida.

American business tycoon and reality show host Donald Trump bought it at a bankruptcy auction three years ago from a health care executive, Mr Abe Gosman, in 2004 for just US$41.25 million.

After some refurbishing, he has put the home, which has 145m of prime Atlantic Ocean front, up for sale for US$125 million.

Mr Trump has said he will not let it go for one cent less.

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'At these prices, buyers pay cash.'
MR JOSHUA SASLOVE, property broker
HERE is a peek at what you get for your money if you buy one of the top 10 homes at the peak of today's world real estate listings, according to Forbes magazine.

1. US$138 million (S$210 million) - Updown Court, Windlesham, Surrey, England.

Bigger than Buckingham Palace, this 103-room, 4,650 sq m home comes complete with 22 marble bathrooms, a panic room, a 50-seat cinema, five pools, a heated marble driveway, helipads, 23.4ha of gardens and woodlands, as well as a bowling alley.

2. US$135 million - The Hala Ranch, Aspen, Colorado.

This 38.4ha property in Aspen, Colorado, features a 5,200 sq m mansion with 15 bedrooms and 16 baths. Separate buildings house stables, a tennis court and an indoor swimming pool.

3. US$125 million - Maison de L'Amitie, Palm Beach, Florida.

Tycoon Donald Trump's beach house additions include a ballroom and conservatory, as well as a 30.5m swimming pool surrounded by gardens.

4. US$100 million - Tranquility, Lake Tahoe, Nevada.

With 1,860 sq m of living space on 85ha modelled after a northern European mountain home, this estate lives up to its name.

An indoor swimming pool and atrium, a 19-seat cinema and a 35,000-bottle wine cellar will further soothe the pain for anyone who pays its price.

5. US$100 million - Waterfront estate, Istanbul, Turkey.

Located on 0.3ha directly on the Bosphorus strait, this mansion sits on a quay that is nearly 60m long.

The residence itself has more than 2,790 sq m of living space in 64 rooms.

6. US$99 million - Toprak Mansion, Bishops Avenue, Hampstead, London.

Built by Turkish entrepreneur Halis Toprak, the 2,600 sq m house has a double staircase and a glass lift.

Its swimming pool is spanned by a glass bridge, and there is a Turkish bath for 20.

7. US$75 million - Three Ponds, Bridgehampton, New York.

Named for the lakes on its 24ha, this house comes with its very own own professionally rated Rees Jones golf course and pro shop, not to mention a grass tennis court.

A great room with a 8.5m-high domed ceiling is the focal point of the house.

8. US$75 million - The Portabello Estate, Corona del Mar, California.

This mansion is shaped like a nautilus shell, with a dramatic grotto surrounded by 'chambers'. The views from a cliff perch above the Pacific Ocean are also dramatic.

Incidentally, it boasts eight bedrooms, 10 full baths and 2,790 sq m of space.

9. US$70 million - The Pierre Penthouse, New York.

This home crowns the top three floors of one of New York's most elegant hotels, the Pierre. Its new owner will have jaw-dropping views of Manhattan, Central Park and both the East and Hudson rivers. The grand salon has a 7m-high ceiling.

10. US$65 million - Cap Ferrat, Cote d'Azur , France.

Here, too, the vistas dominate; this time they include Monaco and the ocean.

Between the main house and three villas, occupants and guests have 19 bedrooms and 21 bathrooms to choose from, all with exquisite mouldings, French panelling and chandeliers.