Friday, May 25, 2007

Hamptons, ocean view: Sold, $103M

Cost of new home not included in record buy
By Noelle Knox

Ron Baron, founder of the Baron Funds investment company, has paid a record $103 million for a residential property in East Hampton, N.Y. And get this: That price doesn't even include the cost of the house he wants to build.

The price — equal to what Texas plans to spend on border security this year — tops a record set in 2004, when Revlon Chairman Ronald Perelman sold his estate in Palm Beach, Fla., for $70 million to Dwight Schar of builder NVR.

But Baron's bragging rights might not last long. Three homes — well, estates — for sale are asking even dizzier prices.

In December, real estate baron (with a small b) Tim Blixseth boasted that he'd start building the world's most expensive house. His $155 million asking price tops the high of $149 million for Updown Court in Windlesham, England, still on the market.

"It's amazing how much growth there is in the very high end of the market in terms of wealth," says Rick Goodwin, publisher of Ultimate Homes magazine.

Overall in the USA, home sales slid 8.4% last year, in part because prices in many areas had climbed out of reach for the middle class. But for residences priced at $5 million or more, sales soared 18% for 2006 and 31% in the first quarter of this year — both record highs, according to DataQuick.

"Properties over $10 million are becoming very commonplace," says Jonathan Miller of Miller Samuel, a Manhattan appraiser. "When you compare it to the national median, which is hovering around $215,000, there's a lot of disparity."

Blixseth envisions his project, called The Pinnacle at Yellowstone Club, in Big Sky, Mont., as a 32,000-square-foot home on 160 acres. He says it will include an 8,000-bottle wine cellar, a 26-seat cinema, a hair and nail salon, a private gondola to ski lifts, a fleet of Suburban SUVs for the underground garage, and a helipad with pilot's quarters.

As for Baron, his 40 acres of oceanfront property are vacant. He bought the land from Adelaide de Menil, heiress to the Schlumberger oil fortune, and her husband, Ted Carpenter.

Four antique houses had stood on the property. But the sellers donated them to the town, which moved the buildings and plans to use them as a new town hall.

Baron declined to comment on the deal, which was hush-hush and sold without a broker, says Judi Desiderio of Town & Country Real Estate in East Hampton, who confirmed the sale and price.

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