The U.S. real estate market is finally easing — but you wouldn't know it by looking at prices at the very top of the market.
We're not talking about "luxury" custom homes, high-end subdivisions or fancy new glass-curtain condos. These are the most expensive residences in the country, with prices so astronomical that only a very small handful of very wealthy people could even dream about owning them.
For the sixth year in a row, Forbes.com has scoured real estate listings around the country and ranked the ten most expensive homes on the market in the U.S. This year, they range from a mega-mansion on Manhattan's Upper East Side, priced at $55 million, to a brash and brand-new Palm Beach listing that rings in at $125 million. (Our look at the most expensive homes by region is coming in June.)
In the past several weeks, we have seen plenty of indications that the real estate market is slowing in many parts of the country. The National Association of Realtors, a Washington, D.C.-based trade group, predicts that the national median price for existing homes will rise 5.7 percent this year, in contrast to the 12.7 percent increase in 2005. Meanwhile, the average price of a house on our list has jumped from $58.1 million last year to $71.5 million this year. And just this month, a record-setting home became an official listing.
Of course, just because you ask for it doesn't mean you're going to get it — even if you are Donald Trump, whose Florida property tops our list for the first time. The French Regency-style estate, which is undergoing the final stages of a massive renovation, includes 475 feet of waterfront, an 18-bedroom mansion, eight-car garage, conservatory, carriage house, guest house and pool house. The most startling aspect of the place, however, is the $125 million price tag, the highest asking price ever for a private residence in the United States, and perhaps the world.
The palace, which once belonged to former health care mogul Abe Gosman, is $50 million more expensive than the next priciest home on the market. Though "The Donald" shelled out a far lower $41.25 million for it at bankruptcy auction, he says he won't accept a penny under asking.
"It's just a fantastic piece of property," Trump says. "The biggest site. The biggest oceanfront. The best location in Palm Beach. And Palm Beach is the richest community in the world."
We're hoping he doesn't need the cash immediately, because it can take months and sometimes years to sell properties this pricey. One of the homes that made our list last year, the grand Duke Semans mansion, located across the street from New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, has since sold for $40 million. That was $10 million under its asking price — not to mention a rare exception.
Three Ponds, a $75 million Bridgehampton, N.Y., estate that has lingered on the market (and our list) for years, is still up for sale. So is the $70 million triplex that tops off Manhattan's Pierre Hotel. Other homes, such as a $60 million Lake Tahoe playground that was No.4 on our 2005 list, have been taken off the market. (To see our 2005 list of the most expensive homes in the U.S., click here.)
But that doesn't seem to be deterring owners or brokers, since several new listings snuck onto our roster this year. An oceanfront estate in Corona del Mar, a modern masterpiece designed like a nautilus shell, is priced at an ambitious $75 million and ties for the No. 2 spot. A San Francisco mansion clad in French limestone is asking $65 million, twice what it sold for two years ago. And, it's still only 70 percent complete.
Still, brokers say there is no shortage of interested parties. But don't expect packed open houses and don't bother ringing up the broker for a go-see unless you can prove you have the means to buy the house — and much more. To purchase any of these properties, you need a lot of green — and we don't mean the kind you get from looking at our slide show.
"You need to have $800 million to see it," says David Barrett, who represents the San Francisco house for Warwick Properties Group. "And at least once a week, we get a prospective buyer who has that."
In compiling our list, we examined listings and spoke to real estate brokers around the country. We did not include listings that are privately being shopped around or "pocket listings," properties that might be available for sale to the right buyer, should one happen along. We also didn't include homes if we couldn't confirm with brokers or owners that they are currently on the market and that their prices are accurate.