A group of wealthy art collectors and philanthropists dined on risotto and listened to chamber music at a 10-bedroom estate on a private island off Florida’s Biscayne Bay last month. The mansion isn’t owned by a Russian oligarch or a certain NBA player who recently moved to town. It was built purely on speculation by developers in search of a buyer.
Its asking price: $60 million.
Despite the current housing slump, a small but growing group of developers and investors is building multimillion-dollar mega-mansions for wealthy potential buyers who’ve never seen them. Candace Jackson explains why.
Three years into the housing bust, at a time when home values are hitting new lows in many markets, a small group of developers has plunged into the risky business of betting millions on high-end speculative homes. They are erecting amenity-rich mansions for wealthy buyers that they hope will materialize. While the vast majority of the “spec” market remains moribund, some developers, pointing to a handful of big sales and the recent recovery of the stock market, believe the world’s wealthiest buyers are out again shopping for trophy mansions, often as second, third or fourth homes.
While there aren’t any national sales statistics for homes in this range, there are signs that purchases by the super-rich have begun to rebound. Though down from the peak three or four years ago, art auctions in New York and London in 2010 brought in total sales that far surpassed 2009, including an all-time auction record of $104.3 million for sale of a Giacometti sculpture in February, topped in May by a $106.5 million sale of a Picasso painting.
The current crop of newly built spec mansions on the market includes a five-bedroom, seven-bathroom ski home on 1.2 acres of land in Aspen, Colo.’s Red Mountain neighborhood. Built by a group of investors last year, it has hand-scraped wide-plank ash floors, an onyx-and-steel chandelier in the dining room and a garage that has a dock for charging hybrid or electric vehicles as well as a dog-washing facility. Price tag: $23.9 million. In New York’s Hamptons, an eight-bedroom farmhouse-style home in Sagaponack, built last year, is on the market for $26 million. In Los Angeles, a minimalist house with a 26-foot-long fire trough and a home theater with stadium seating is on the market for $13.7 million.