Sports stars at the mercy of the market when selling their homes

Sometimes even Boston sports celebrities can’t get what they want for their homes.

Former Red Sox players Curt Schilling, Adrian Gonzalez, and Carl Crawford, and former Celtic Ray Allen all have had to slash the asking prices on their multimillion-dollar mansions in the western suburbs.

Schilling, an ace pitcher for the Sox who officially retired in 2009, bought his 26-acre Medfield estate for $4.5 million back in 2004 from Drew Bledsoe, a former star New England Patriots quarterback, according to real estate records at the Norfolk County Registry of Deeds.  

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Now Schilling is looking to sell the mansion for $3.2 million, according to Ellen Sonis, principal of Landmark Residential Inc., which is handling the sale. A sports lover’s dream, the property includes a tennis court that converts in the winter to a hockey rink, with lights for night action.

“It’s a good opportunity for someone,” she said of the asking price.

Meanwhile, Gonzalez, a first baseman traded by the Sox last season, recently reached an agreement to sell his 10,729-square-foot Weston manse for just under $4.3 million, according to records at the Middlesex County South Registry of Deeds. 

Though the figure is above what Gonzalez paid for the property, it represents a $300,000 drop from his original asking price, according to the website of the brokerage handling the sale, Weichert Realtors/Metropolitan Boston Real Estate.  

Crawford, a Sox outfielder who also was traded last year, is now looking for $2.8 million for his Wellesley home, down from a previous asking price of $3.1 million, according to an online listing by Weichert Realtors. He paid $2.5 million in 2011.

And Allen, who bolted for the Miami Heat before the start of the season, put his Wellesley Hills mansion on the market for $5.2 million last fall, according to Multiple Listing Service Property Information Network, a Shrewsbury-based company that maintains a database of all real estate transactions in the state.  

He wound up selling it for just $25,000 more than he originally paid for it in 2007, or $4,625,000, according to records at the Norfolk County Registry of Deeds.  

These are not cases of rich players overbuying, but rather sports stars caught up in the same market forces as everyone else, real estate specialists say.

“These are expensive houses, make no mistake,” said Terrence Maitland, a broker who specializes in mansion sales for a luxury real estate firm, LandVest. “But they are careful with their money — they are not throwing their money around wildly,” he said of sports stars.  

Area communities are studded with mansions owned by sports celebrities, with towns from Brookline and Wellesley to Foxborough and Attleboro favored by both players and team owners.

Red Sox owner John Henry famously bought the Brookline estate of developer (and then-Los Angeles Dodgers owner) Frank McCourt for $16 million, only to bulldoze it to make way for a new mansion, while Patriots owner Robert Kraft has a multimillion-dollar spread in town as well.  

Kraft has expressed support for plans by Pine Manor College to subdivide its property and sell 5 acres near his home for an expansive spread for an undisclosed owner. The Boston Herald reported that the property, with plans calling for a home that would include quarters for domestic help and a separate, 1,300-square-foot glassed-in yoga studio, would be the future home of Patriots star quarterback Tom Brady and his supermodel wife, Gisele Bündchen.

Over in Weston, Celtics co-owner and financier Jim Pallota built a nearly $22 million mansion a few years ago.  

Red Sox and Celtics players tend to favor towns along the Route 128/Interstate 95 beltway, with Sox players looking for an easy commute via the Massachusetts Turnpike to Fenway Park, while Celtics players typically want to be near the team’s practice facility in Waltham, said Michael Albano, broker and owner of the Weichert Realtors firm.

With a few prominent exceptions, Patriots players tend to favor towns near their workplace, Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, he said.

But investing in real estate can be a tricky business for professional athletes, who might have to move frequently during their careers, and don’t always have control over the timing.

Gonzalez and Crawford, for example, were both traded away to the Dodgers, while Allen, as a free agent, opted to leave the Celtics for the Heat, which just won a championship last season.

That said, some players face an easier time unloading their estates than others.

Gonzalez, Crawford, and Allen all bought homes that, while pricey, were not at the very top of the market in Wellesley and Weston, towns with some of the highest prices in the state and where homes selling for more than $1 million hardly raise an eyebrow.

While Gonzalez didn’t obtain the nearly $4.6 million he was originally seeking in Weston, the final sale price was about $100,000 above what he paid in 2011, according to real estate records at the Middlesex South Registry.  

Schilling, by contrast, faces a much steeper challenge.

He first put his Medfield estate on the market for $8 million in 2008, and pulled it back a year later after knocking down the price to $4.5 million, according to Multiple Listing Service records.  

Schilling put his home back on the market in September for $3.45 million, and recently dropped the price again, to $3.2 million, Landmark Residential principal Sonis said.

The house is far from sitting idle, Sonis said. She said she is fielding a range of inquiries, from out-of-state buyers looking for a Boston-area compound with some privacy to local people lured by the tennis court and other sports amenities, which are harder to find in more densely built Newton and Wellesley.

The price cut of roughly $250,000 has also helped perk up interest, she said.

Still, even the reduced asking price for Schilling’s compound would leave it as the most expensive property in Medfield; its closest rival is a $2.4 million sale in 2005, at the peak of the real estate market, according to MLS.

“Schilling has clearly overshot the market,” LandVest’s Maitland said.

However, Sonis said it’s not usual for a community to have one property that is much more expensive than the others in town, and pointed to the sale of a Weston mansion a few years ago for more than $12 million, a figure that no other sale has come close to matching, she said.

“I don’t see that as a problem,” she said.

It can take longer to sell such “unique properties,” with the real estate market as a whole having struggled over the past few years, according to Sonis.

Better news for sellers may be on the way, with transactions for properties costing $2 million and up reportedly starting to pick up again.

Sales of homes over $2 million in Middlesex County jumped 65 percent last year over 2011. The 127 mansions sold last year broke the previous record of 126, set in 2007, noted Stewart Young, regional manager for LandVest.  

“It’s a good time to be traded,” Maitland quipped.