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Sizing up the booming global market for trophy real estate

Monday, October 10, 2022   /   by Dave Magua

Sizing up the booming global market for trophy real estate

From left: Ken Griffin, Marc Andreessen, and Larry Ellison along with 220 Central Park South in New York City, 3 Carlton Gardens in London, and Casa Del Sole on The Palm Jumeirah in Dubai (Photo Illustration by Steven Dilakian with Getty Images, B1 Properties, No Swan So Fine, CC BY-SA 4.0 - via Wikimedia Commons, and Jim.henderson, CC BY-SA 4.0 - via Wikimedia Commons)

From left: Ken Griffin, Marc Andreessen, and Larry Ellison along with 220 Central Park South in New York City, 3 Carlton Gardens in London, and Casa Del Sole on The Palm Jumeirah in Dubai (Photo Illustration by Steven Dilakian with Getty Images, B1 Properties, No Swan So Fine, CC BY-SA 4.0 – via Wikimedia Commons, and Jim.henderson, CC BY-SA 4.0 – via Wikimedia Commons)


A mansion in Dubai won’t be completed until next year, but it already holds the title of the emirate’s priciest home.

A mystery buyer recently dropped 302.5 million dirhams — the equivalent of $82.4 million — for a villa on Dubai’s Palm Jumeirah, a tree-shaped artificial island jutting into the Persian Gulf.

Though it stands as Dubai’s most expensive home sale to date, the deal pales in comparison to some other trophy properties sold around the world in recent years.

“Years ago, I started calling this market a circus sideshow,” said appraiser Jonathan Miller, who has been tracking trophy real estate, or homes that sell for $50 million and up, since 2007.

Homes in this exalted price tier tend to share a few key characteristics, Miller said –– uniqueness, privacy, amenities and status. They are usually single-family homes, and pricing is often independent of the local real estate market.

“This is not a pandemic event,” he said.

The U.S. trophy property market is concentrated in three main regions: Manhattan and the Hamptons, Palm Beach County, Florida, and greater Los Angeles — particularly Malibu. Miller said some recent transactions have moved beyond those traditional territories and into Laguna Beach, California, Miami’s Coconut Grove and Aspen, Colorado.

Trophy transactions are also picking up pace, and rapidly. When he started tracking the market, Miller would see one or two transactions above $50 million in a year. Now, he sees them every other week.

That has been driven in large part by the rising wealth of America’s richest 1 percent, whose wealth increased by $12 trillion during the pandemic to a record $45.9 trillion at the end of last year, according to CNBC.

Real estate is seen as a stable way to preserve capital, driving demand as billionaires aim to safely park their expanding coffers.

“This is not housing for mere mortals,” said Miller, “It is a rarified universe that very few can participate in.”

Here’s a look at some other recent noteworthy home purchases by the global elite:

$238M: 220 Central Park South, NYC 

A photo illustration of 220 Central Park South (iStock, Jim.henderson, CC BY-SA 4.0 - via Wikimedia Commons)

A photo illustration of 220 Central Park South (iStock, Jim.henderson, CC BY-SA 4.0 – via Wikimedia Commons)

Hedge fund billionaire Ken Griffin has held the record for the most expensive home ever purchased in the U.S. for more than three years. The Citadel founder paid $238 million in 2019 for the most lavish spread at one of the most lavish towers on Manhattan’s Billionaires’ Row: Vornado Realty Trust’s 220 Central Park South. At this point, the condo is just one piece of Griffin’s nationwide real estate portfolio. Including property owned by Citadel, of which Griffin owns an estimated 85 percent, his insatiable appetite for real estate has led him to own well over $1 billion worth of property in Florida alone.

$177M: 27740 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu

A photo illustration of 27740 Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu (Google Maps, iStock)

A photo illustration of 27740 Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu (Google Maps, iStock)

The priciest home ever sold in California sits on seven waterfront acres of Paradise Cove in Malibu. Silicon Valley venture capitalist Marc Andreessen bought the property, which includes a 10,000-square-foot mansion, a year ago for $177 million. The billionaire cut a deal with fashion mogul Serge Azria, who paid just $41 million for the estate in 2013. Miller said price jumps like these do not reflect appreciation, but rather a total reset in valuation by the trophy property consumer base.

$173M: 2000 South Ocean Boulevard, Manalapan, Florida

Larry Ellison, Jim Clark and 2000 South Ocean Boulevard (Getty, Sotheby’s)

Larry Ellison, Jim Clark and 2000 South Ocean Boulevard (Getty, Sotheby’s)

Billionaire Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison also has a hankering for trophy properties, notably this historic 16-acre estate in Palm Beach County, which he bought from fellow tech billionaire Jim Clark for $173 million earlier this year. That was nearly twice the $94 million Clark paid just a year earlier to acquire the compound, known as “Gemini,” from the Ziff family. Another notable trophy property held by Ellison is the Hawaiian island of Lanai, of which the mogul owns 98 percent.

$122M: 3 Carlton Gardens, London

Ken Griffin and 3 Carlton Gardens in London (Getty Images, No Swan So Fine, CC BY-SA 4.0 - via Wikimedia Commons)

Ken Griffin and 3 Carlton Gardens in London (Getty Images, No Swan So Fine, CC BY-SA 4.0 – via Wikimedia Commons)

The same year Ken Griffin shattered records with his 220 Central Park South penthouse, he was also behind Britain’s most expensive property sale in years. Griffin paid the equivalent of $122 million for the mansion at 3 Carlton Gardens, near Buckingham Palace and London’s St. James’ Park. The three-story home, once inhabited by French statesman Charles de Gaulle, includes a pool and private garden.

$111M: 15 Shouson Hill Road West, Hong Kong

A photo illustration of No. 15 Shouson Hill Road West in Hong Kong (Emperor International Holdings Limited, iStock)

A photo illustration of No. 15 Shouson Hill Road West in Hong Kong (Emperor International Holdings Limited, iStock)

A six-bedroom mansion in Hong Kong’s exclusive Shouson Hill sold earlier this year for $111 million. The buyers’ identity was not revealed, but whoever they are, they are now neighbors with Hong Kong’s wealthiest resident, billionaire business magnate Li Ka-Shing.

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