Luxury Real Estate: The Sport of Tycoons

Clockwise from top left: Stephane Cardinale/Corbis; Marilynn K. Yee/The New York Times; Robert Caplin for The New York Times; William Zbaren for The New York Times

GOING SHOPPING? Casa Casuarina, top left, Gianni Versace’s Florida home, is for sale for $ 100 million. The 89th-floor penthouse at Trump International Hotel and Tower, bottom left, is listed for $ 32 million. Top right: duplexes in One57, at 157 West 57th Street, sold for at least $ 90 million apiece. Bottom right: the 18th-floor penthouse at the Sherry-Netherland may be had for $ 95 million.

IT was a year of record-high sales for luxury real estate. But 2012 will also enter the books for its chart-topping listings, as sellers sought to ride the wave of irrational exuberance for trophy properties.

In Manhattan, it all began in March with the record sale of a penthouse at 15 Central Park West for $ 88 million by the former chairman of Citigroup, Sanford I. Weill, to the daughter of a Russian billionaire. Then the casino king Steve Wynn paid $ 70 million for a 14-room duplex at 50 Central Park South. Mystery buyers signed contracts for a pair of duplexes at One57, a Midtown tower still under construction, for at least $ 90 million apiece.

The copycats soon followed. New York, while seeming to set the tone, was not alone. High-end markets in cities across the country, including Miami and Chicago, caught the fever, producing record sales prices in 2012, and affixing record price tags to houses and apartments.

Yet for all the hype, at year’s end most of the biggest listings still remain on the market. In Manhattan, sellers of properties of $ 50 million or more have been stubborn about reducing prices, while in other parts of the country, brokers have begun to drop prices rather than lose out on the billionaire-buying wave.

Still for sale is the $ 100 million penthouse at CitySpire at 150 West 56th Street. So, too, is the $ 95 million full-floor co-op at the Sherry-Netherland hotel at 781 Fifth Avenue. The 9,800-square-foot penthouse at the Mark hotel that was on the market for most of 2012? It’s still available for $ 60 million.

“You had some records being set,” said Jonathan J. Miller, the president of Miller Samuel, a real estate appraiser, “and then that created a chain reaction of copycats who were hoping to piggyback onto that phenomenon.”

The blast of sales at One57 — where billionaires in 2012 scooped up full-floor apartments with unobstructed views of Central Park for about $ 50 million apiece (or about $ 8,000 per square foot) — seemed to embolden owners of other would-be trophy properties to expect as much or more on resale.

One that was apparently pulled off the market was a duplex penthouse at 50 Central Park South that had been listed in August for $ 95 million by Halstead Property.

For Miami, 2012 was also a year of record sales. An Italian buyer paid $ 25 million for a penthouse on South Beach, while a Russian bought a 10-bedroom house at Indian Creek Village for $ 47 million. Those sales inspired agents to go for broke on other properties. A six-bedroom penthouse in South Beach owned by the New York developer Ian Bruce Eichner has been listed for $ 39 million for several months.

The biggest Miami trophy of all is Casa Casuarina, the former mansion of the fashion designer Gianni Versace, who was shot to death in 1997 as he opened the gate of the 23,462-square-foot house. Owned now by the telecom mogul Peter Loftin, it went on the market for $ 125 million in June — and was at that time one of the two most expensive residential listings in the country, according to Forbes. The house has 10 bedrooms, 11 baths, and a 54-foot mosaic-tile pool lined with 24-karat gold, and it sits on Ocean Drive in the heart of the South Beach scene.

Jill Eber, a Coldwell Banker broker who is listing the house with her partner, Jill Hertzberg, said there had been “serious interest” from around the world. But with nobody biting at $ 125 million, “the Jills,” as they are known, lowered the asking price to $ 100 million in November. “We really wanted to open it up and have the price right for the winter season,” Ms. Eber said. “We have been seeing numbers like we have never seen before in Miami.”

While Casa Casuarina has come down toward earth somewhat, an apartment in Chicago soars above all others. An 89th-floor penthouse at Trump International Hotel and Tower, at about 1,200 feet above the ground, it is the tallest residence in North America, and perhaps in the world, said Chezi Rafaeli of Coldwell Banker, the listing broker. The $ 32 million price tag makes it the highest-priced apartment in the Midwest, brokers say.

“You feel as if you can go out of your window and walk on the clouds,” Mr. Rafaeli said of the 14,250-square-foot spread, which has seven bedrooms.

Sellers seemed eager to try to break records in 2012. Leroy Schecter, the steel magnate, decided to list two apartments on the 35th floor of the tower at 15 Central Park West as one combined unit for $ 95 million, or more than $ 15,800 a square foot. The finished product will have a little less than 6,000 square feet; it has no outdoor space. Mr. Schecter jumped in just a few days after two other Manhattan listings topped $ 90 million.

NYT > Real Estate

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