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The Stampede of White Elephants

Slowing Sales of Luxury Properties
Reveal ‘Trophy Homes’ Weighing Owners Down

By: Christina S.N. Lewis
Source: Wall Street Journal
Date: October 31, 2008

As the luxury real-estate market slows to a snail’s pace, real-estate brokers find themselves struggling to sell a growing number of “trophy homes” that are quietly gaining a new title: white elephants.

The term hails from a legend that Siamese royalty gave albino elephants — revered but financially ruinous to maintain — to unpleasant courtiers. Today, the financial burden of carrying an overly big, overly unique manse is being shared by many wealthy owners, who are finding out the hard way that not everyone is willing to pay up for their vision of a dream home. Realtors concede a growing number of these pricey pachyderms are sitting unsold for months and selling at steep discounts, if at all.

Some sellers are getting creative. On Thursday, the owners of Castlewood, a gothic castle in West Orange, N.J., hosted a live jousting competition to generate buzz among real-estate brokers. Designed in the 1850s, the 5,000-square-foot stone house is on two acres and features two towers, a staff apartment and a round bedchamber with a 28-foot-high domed ceiling. On the market for two years, the homeowners switched to a new agent, Sam Joseph of Re/Max Village Square and dropped the asking price to $2 million from $2.8 million, originally.

For most of the housing market’s history, homeowners knew that big custom-designed homes that aren’t in scale with their environs might eventually cost them. “You build [a white elephant] because you were successful in your career and you want to treat yourself,” says Ed Kaminsky, who runs Premiere Estates, a California-based luxury auctioneer that specializes in marketing unique, hard-to-value houses. “But you can’t expect to get your money out.”

But it seems that tenet was forgotten during the boom. And in the meantime, formerly profligate consumers have become extremely price-conscious, says Gregory Hague, owner of Arizona-based Hague Partners, an affiliate of Christie’s Great Estates. “It used to be that buyers looked for something that got them excited and emotionally engaged and then tried to negotiate a good deal. Now they’re looking at price first.”

Steven L. Good, head of Chicago-based real-estate auction firm Sheldon Good & Co., says the division of the company that specializes in selling homes that cost from $1.5 million up to $40 million has seen a sharp increase in offerings in the last year from wealthy homeowners who are frustrated because their homes aren’t selling. And real-estate Web site Zillow.com turns up a number of unsold homes whose price tags and amenities are far fancier than their immediate environs might suggest.

In Broadview, a Seattle neighborhood known mostly for modest ranch houses, an Italian-style villa for sale features a four-car garage and an indoor koi pond. Nearly 10,000 square feet, the house has an asking price of $2.75 million and has been on the market for over a year.

Barney Garton, the listing agent, says the home’s rare Puget Sound views make it “a great value.” He says it hasn’t sold because of its “unusual” architecture and the downturn.

In Truckee, Calif., a lake community about 17 miles north of Lake Tahoe, a $3.95 million lakefront contemporary house with an elevator, indoor lap pool and two garages stands out from the neighboring A-frame log cabins. Built in 1985 and designed by the owner’s son, an architect, it was listed in June and is the most expensive house for sale on the lake. While it’s received less traffic than expected, the owner is in no hurry to sell, says one of the listing agents, Charles White, of Donner Lake Realty. A more recently remodeled home with fewer amenities but more lake frontage recently sold for about $3 million.

In Dallas, Braden Power, a developer of apartment complexes, spent more than seven years designing and building his dream house: an 8,500-square-foot showpiece with contemporary, traditional and Moorish influences that opens to a central “natatorium,” a double-height entrance courtyard with marble floors, two fireplaces, a mezzanine balcony and a central fountain and reflecting pool deep enough to swim in.

Mr. Power spared no expense: He hired an army of both traditional and contemporary designers. The automated exterior and interior lighting systems cost $500,000; the chandeliers are hand-carved, the floors are all solid marble or limestone (both indoor and outdoor) with radiant heating — a rarity in Dallas where the temperature seldom dips below 40 degrees. “This house was basically a creative outlet,” says Mr. Power, who says his inspirations were the Los Angeles and Miami boutique hotels designed by Ian Schrager.

But last year, Mr. Power decided the home was too big for a bachelor and he put it up for sale, unfinished. With a price tag of $13 million, it attracted a flurry of local press.

Despite being located on three-quarters of an acre on picturesque Turtle Creek, the home didn’t sell and now Mr. Power has relisted the house for $9.8 million with Doris Jacobs, of Allie Beth Allman & Associates.

Although Mr. Power acknowledges that he may not recoup his building and carrying costs, he says the home will become a good investment if fans of the design purchase his architectural plans and custom molds.

He has no regrets about building the house. “Honestly, this house is a dream to me,” says Mr. Power, who also plans to list the home for rent. “I think it’s the most perfect place that I’ve ever been in in my life.”

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For further information or if you wish to see your property featured here.
Please Contact:The Smiths – Luxury Resort Portfolio at
(561) 445-2282

Luxury Resort Portfolio
Estate Specialists Representing Both Buyers And Sellers



The information herein is believed to be accurate but not guaranteed and may be subject to errors, omissions and changes without notice. This is not to be construed as a solicitation of property presently listed for sale. All information is derived from the Palm Beach County Property Appraisers website and the MLS.

The information herein is believed to be accurate but not guaranteed and may be subject to errors, omissions and changes without notice. This is not to be construed as a solicitation of property presently listed for sale.

All information is derived from the Palm Beach County Property Appraisers website and the MLS.

Negotiating Tactics In Today’s Crazy Market!

Can you believe this crazy real estate market? How did we get to this point? Everyone is at a stand-still…and each side is waiting for the other to crumble! Both Buyer and Seller are refusing to accept the other’s position. No wonder deals are not happening!

How I long for the days of the not so distant past when inventory was low, demand was high, and homes were not on the market for very long. Buyers were anxious to purchase their South Florida dream home, and felt confident and elated in their purchase. Our Sellers were getting stratospheric prices for their homes and laughing, skipping and nearly pinching themselves all the way to the bank. Realtors were superstars! These days not so much, no matter how hard we work, no matter how much we do, we are told we can’t do anything right! How quickly they turn on us. Boy! Talk about a 180.

That is why Realtors, Buyers and Sellers have to come up with new innovative ways of getting a deal done. This week I was pleased to receive from one of our loyal subscribers a great article from the New York Times, written by Ron Lieber, on what might be the “new tactic” from Buyers and Sellers trying to at least get a deal started. After reading the article, I came to the conclusion that these days it’s not all “Dollars & Cents” that will get you to the closing table. It is all about “Wooing the Other Side”. Go figure? Love Letters they call them (I personally would say they are letters with a lot less love written into them and a little more of a bitter dose of reality). I am talking about a letter addressed to either side delivered by the Realtor, to start a dialogue!

Buyers these days have to finesse the Seller, plead their case by complimenting the sellers’ home but also stating the cold hard facts of the current market and the dreary news of what is yet to come. Sellers on the other hand, have to respond to these so called “Dear Seller Letters” with a lot of restraint, be gingerly in their use of words, respond strategically to keep their potential Buyer interested without scaring them away from the deal and appearing not to look as uninformed, unrealistic, stubborn people.

So, Philip and I have decided that this might be the most effective tool when submitting an offer. The Realtors always get yelled at when the Seller sees a low offer. People don’t shoot the messenger! We suggest you read the letter…see why the Buyer put in the offer at that number, listen to their reasoning. Let the letter speak for itself. The Sellers then should respond with their counterpoints and suggestions. Who knows? Maybe, just maybe…when everyone is miserable, moody and agitated and both sides give in and compromise a little…we all just might have a deal!

Please view The New York Times article (05/31/08) : https://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/31/business/yourmoney/31money.html?_r=3&ref=business&pagewanted=all&oref=slogin


View our website: www.LuxuryResortPortfolio.com



The information herein is believed to be accurate but not guaranteed and may be subject to errors, omissions and changes without notice. This is not to be construed as a solicitation of property presently listed for sale.

All information is derived from the Palm Beach County Property Appraisers website and the MLS.

Have You Done A Windstorm Mitigation Inspection On Your Home

Can you believe we are here again…”Hurricane Season”. According to tonights newscast it begins in June and we all are very familiar with the anxiety we all suffer until it ends.

Word is getting around about a way of cutting windstorm insurance premiums. You necessarily won’t have to change a thing, and you can save thousands of dollars.

The answer: A Windstorm Mitigation Inspection

By meeting the protection criteria of the F.W.U.A (Florida Windstorm Underwriters Association), Insurance companies will reduce your property insurance premiums accordingly. But to qualify, it’s up to you to contact your insurance carrier and request the inspection. Call your local insurance agent and they will provide you with a list of local inspectors that are approved by your insurance carrier to perform the inspection.

The requirement from state regulators to offer discounts apply to all residential windstorm policies, condo association policies however, are not. Many homeowners are not aware their homes have what it takes to receive these discounts… and surely Insurance companies are not going to go out of their way to tell you! So call tomorrow…and try to get through the season with a little less worry and a lot more money in your pocket.

The information herein is believed to be accurate but not guaranteed and may be subject to errors, omissions and changes without notice. This is not to be construed as a solicitation of property presently listed for sale.

All information is derived from the Palm Beach County Property Appraisers website and the MLS.

Two Key Factors To Selling Your Home

We hope everyone had a wonderful Memorial Day Weekend with family and friends. Philip and I enjoyed having “one” day off from showing property (not by our choice). Never the less, a little well deserved “R & R” never hurts anyone and spending time with loved ones is always uplifting.

Showings have progressively slowed down since we are coming upon the dreaded summer months. However, we have noticed that real Buyers are out there in the market place, but as suspected, they are all out on a “Feeding Frenzy”. Today’s Buyers are looking for two main factors when making their purchasing decision: “Price” and “Appearance”.

  • Price: Price is #1, if not EVERYTHING!!! Buyers are savvy to the current state of the market, informed on what has sold in the area, and what things are really worth these days. Buyers realize it is absolutely a “Buyers Market” and come to showings with all this documentation in hand. People, I am not kidding you, Buyers have repeatedly thrust in our faces articles from local and national news sources to prove their argument that everyone in Florida who has their house on the market lives in “La La Land”. Last time I checked… our real estate licenses did not cover selling property in any such place… is that even in Florida??? But according to today’s Buyers, that’s exactly where all currently listed properties with unrealistic “List Prices” are located…”La La Land”.
  • Appearance: In today’s market, how your home presents itself is a major factor to potential Buyers. I’m sorry to say it folks, but its a serious “Beauty Contest” out there. With an increase in inventory and the abundance of competition with so many similar homes/models available, your home MUST stand out to make a lasting impression on the “deal seeking” Buyers. They are looking for properties that are not only the greatest financial deal, but best looking with the least amount to “undo” in the home. I know we all get attached to our own “personal style”, and think everyone is going to “love” what we’ve done. Sometimes we get caught up on how much we spent in upgrades based on our own personal taste… but the truth is “the more personalized your home is, the longer you can anticipate it being on the market”. Buyers react the most favorably to listings that are neutral in palette, with clean/well organized spaces, and if your residence happens to look like the sunny “Florida” vacation home they are dreaming of …well then you are one of the lucky ones… you have an advantage.

Seems simple enough…right? Sometimes the best answer is the most obvious one. We know that “Location, Location, Location” is the most important factor in real estate. Well, if the potential Buyer has decided on Mizner Country Club as their place for their future home… there’s your location factor! The good thing is that we all have that one key element going for us, and if you add “Price” and “Appearance” into the formula… There’s your recipe for getting one step closer to having your property sold!

These days Buyer’s are looking to make a deal and feel like they’ve made a “wise decision”. Volatile factors in the economy and real estate market today show that home prices continue to decline, with no foreseen end in sight. So our best advice is… “The offer you receive today, is going to be the best offer you’ll get…until who knows when???

Check back on June 1st for our latest article titled “May 2008 – Year To Date Sales”.

Please View Our Website: www.luxuryresortportfolio.com and see why we are “The Definitive Source for Luxury Real Estate In South Florida”

The information herein is believed to be accurate but not guaranteed and may be subject to errors, omissions and changes without notice. This is not to be construed as a solicitation of property presently listed for sale.

All information is derived from the Palm Beach County Property Appraisers website and the MLS.

Welcome To The Luxury Resort Portfolio Blog

“We Invite You To Experience Our Expertise”

Luxury Resort Portfolio is Philip Lyle Smith and Carla Ferreira-Smith,
Luxury Resort Specialists, and collectively we represent the most prestigious Golf Course and Gates Estate Enclaves South Florida has to offer.

As Country Club Residents we offer our clients first hand knowledge and experience. As Specialists in presenting the Luxury Resort Lifestyle, we would be pleased to introduce you to an exclusive Lifestyle Portfolio of Residences that are sunbathed here on the Gold Coast of South Florida. Whether your needs be in buying of selling and important estate, acquiring and investment property, or simply purchasing another home of your dreams, we can provide the highest level of customized service, matched and exceeded only by the highest level of performance.

The decision to purchase or sell your home is one of the most important transactions you can make. We know you have concerns and considerations, and we want to make the experience a positive and rewarding one for you, providing the style of personalized service you expect and deserve.

We specialize in a Lifestyle Portfolio encompassing the most beautiful and luxurious estates South Florida has to offer. If you would like to preview these magnificent residences or gain maximum marketing exposure for your estate, culminating in the sale of your property, we would welcome the opportunity to be of service.

View our website at LuxuryResortPortfolio.com to preview South Florida’s finest properties.


Continue to visit our “Luxury Resort Portfolio” Blog for the latest information on everything “Luxury”. We also welcome your feedback and look forward to hearing from all of our “Luxury Resort Portfolio” readers.

The information herein is believed to be accurate but not guaranteed and may be subject to errors, omissions and changes without notice. This is not to be construed as a solicitation of property presently listed for sale.

All information is derived from the Palm Beach County Property Appraisers website and the MLS.

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