In the head-spinning world of ultra-luxury real estate, slapping a price tag on a mansion sometimes is less about market value than it is about what one agent calls “crazy math.”
Singer Celine Dion reportedly sold her Jupiter Island digs for close to the $38.5 million asking price — but the home originally was listed in 2013 for $72.5 million.
Farther down the coast, oceanfront mega mansions in Manalapan and Hillsboro Beach once for sale at more than $150 million each have been pulled off the market in recent weeks.
The two listings had drawn skepticism from real estate agents, who said the eye-popping prices are more appropriate for the bright lights of New York or the majestic foothills of California than South Florida.
Rich and famous homeowners can be their own worst enemies, guilty of great expectations at least and “crazy math” at worst, said Stephen B. McWilliam, broker at Florida State Realty Group in Fort Lauderdale.
“As pretty and deluxe and supercharged as a house may be, the reality is South Florida does not have a history of supporting those types of values,” McWilliam said.
High-end housing markets here and across the globe have slowed of late as listings increase and foreign buyers retreat due to the strengthening dollar.
Last year, worldwide sales growth softened for homes priced at $1 million or more even though a record 11 properties — none in Florida — fetched at least $100 million, according to a recent report from Christie’s International Real Estate.
Still, if a South Florida mansion isn’t getting any offers, it’s more likely the result of unjustified exuberance by sellers than a reflection of the lackluster luxury market, real estate observers say.
Market followers say agents routinely tell owners what they want to hear, knowing that the obviously overpriced properties won’t sell. They take the listings to temporarily boost their name recognition and give their portfolios more pizzazz.
“It’s ego, OK?” said Beverly Rothstein, a longtime agent in Broward and Palm Beach counties.
Dion’s 5.7-acre estate, at 215 S. Beach Road in Martin County, spans 10,000 square feet and features a water park with two swimming pools that interconnect, a bridge over a lazy river, a tree house and eight water cannons. And don’t forget the infinity pool overlooking the ocean.
Joseph Montanaro, the listing agent for Sotheby’s International Realty Québec, told The Montreal Gazette that the buyer is an American who intends to use the trophy property as a vacation home.
No deed has yet been recorded in public records, and Montanaro did not return calls Friday.
In Manalapan, the Ziff family owns a seven-building, 82,000-square-foot estate at 2000 S. Ocean Blvd. Its $195 million price tag once was the most-expensive listing in the country, though it expired April 28, multiple listing service data show.
Carmen D’Angelo, broker-owner of listing firm Premier Estate Properties in Boca Raton, declined to comment on the property.
Meanwhile, Le Palais Royal, at 935 Hillsboro Mile in Hillsboro Beach, originally carried a $139 million price tag. But the ownership group — a trust tied to Robert W. Pereira, of The Middlesex Corp., a construction company based in Massachusetts — set its sights even higher and raised the asking price to $159 million in 2015.
The listing expired at the end of March.
William Pierce, a previous listing agent, said the owner decided to take the estate off the market until the second phase is finished in 12 to 18 months.
“If someone is going to drop $159 million, it needs to be perfect,” Pierce said.
When complete, Le Palais Royal will span 90,000 square feet and have 17 bedrooms and 22 bathrooms, Pierce said. Amenities include an ice skating rink, go-cart track, bowling alley, nightclub, an IMAX theater and a private dock that can accommodate a 200-foot yacht.
The town of Hillsboro Beach turned down the owner’s request for a helipad, a decision that will be appealed, Pierce said.
He disputes the notion that the asking price is too outrageous for a county whose highest single-family sale price is $27.5 million.
“Nothing has ever been built in South Florida of this caliber,” Pierce said. “When it’s finished, it’s going to fly off the shelf.”
That may be the case, but real estate analysts aren’t counting on it.
In a vastly different housing market, the former Miami Beach mansion of designer Gianni Versace was listed in 2012 at $125 million. It ultimately sold for $41.5 million at an auction.
On a much smaller scale, Miami Dolphins legend Dan Marino needed six years to sell his 19,496-square-foot Weston home. It fetched $7.2 million in 2011, or less than half the $15.9 million asking price.
Former NBA great Scottie Pippen is still looking for a buyer for his Fort Lauderdale mansion. It started at $15 million in 2007 and remains on the market for $10.9 million, though agents say Pippen needs to reduce the price even more.
“Owners, developers and agents have been overpricing uber-luxury properties in South Florida for as long as I can remember,” said Jack McCabe, a housing analyst in Deerfield Beach. “Sometimes I think people are pulling these numbers out of dark places. Chances are, these listing prices are never going to fly.”
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