Luxury Homes

Super-luxury home sales in 2021: ‘A phenomenon on steroids’

In 2021, at least 40 residential properties sold for more than $50 million in the U.S. Eight went for $100 million or more.

Rupert Murdoch stands before a microphone wearing a dark gray suit, a purple patterned tie, and brown glasses. Two American flags hang in the background.
Rupert Murdoch’s $200 million purchase of a 340,000-acre ranch in Montana is atop a list of the year's most expensive residential property purchases. Mary Altaffer/Associated Press

(Bloomberg) — In 2021, at least 40 residential properties sold for more than $50 million in the United States, according to data appraiser Miller Samuel compiled.

That’s about a 35 percent increase over 2020, which was also a record year. “The surge in this tier is unprecedented,” said Jonathan Miller, the company’s president and chief executive officer. “We’ve never seen this kind of growth.”

Fueled by a booming stock market, low interest rates, and a pandemic-era’s heightened emphasis on home life, prices for luxury houses have risen to stratospheric heights across the country.

“It’s a national phenomenon,” Miller said. “Not enough words have been written on the impact of low rates, even on the über-wealthy. And one big takeaway in housing is: The lower the rates, the higher the prices. And this is that phenomenon on steroids.”

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The country’s eight most expensive homes, according to Miller Samuel’s data, each sold for $100 million or more and are spread equally between the Los Angeles metro area, the New York metro area, Palm Beach, Fla., and ranches in Montana.

“Since 2014, there’s been the establishment of a new class of property,” said Miller, referring to these $100 million-plus houses. “Initially, it seemed comical or whimsical; these numbers we were seeing came across as a flash in the pan. But now we’re in our seventh year of it.”

A caveat: Miller said his tally is provisional, because, as financial advisers rush to line up deals before 2022 begins, he predicts a flurry of closings at the very end of the year.

“I don’t think anyone is saying that in 2022, taxes are going to be cut,” he said, “so it’s just hedging.”

New York vs. Florida

For all the chatter about rich people leaving high-tax states, New York still topped the list for the number of sales over $50 million, with 13; Florida had 11.

The $157.5 million sale of a duplex at 220 Central Park South was No. 3 on Miller’s list, while the most expensive sale in Florida, 535 North County Road in Palm Beach, sold for $122.7 million.

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The value of New York real estate on Miller’s list totaled around $931 million, whereas Florida’s added up to roughly $941 million.

New York’s Hamptons did some heavy lifting.

More than a third of the sales in New York state occurred in the Long Island enclave, including the former Ford family estate in Southampton, which sold for $105 million; two East Hampton beachfront parcels totaling $85 million on West End Road, reportedly sold by Calvin Klein; a humongous house at 840 Meadow Lane in Southampton that sold for $70 million; and 30 Spaeth Lane, a six-acre oceanfront parcel in East Hampton, which sold for $60 million.

In Florida, the action was mostly in Palm Beach and Manalapan, the area to its south.

No. 6 on Miller’s list is the massive property at 1840 S. Ocean Boulevard, on the stretch known as billionaire’s row, which sold for $109.6 million. Following that is the 33-bedroom, 15-acre compound in Manalapan sold by the Ziff family for $94.2 million. Hot on its heels is another Manalapan home, 1020 South Ocean Boulevard, which hedge funder Paul Saunders reportedly sold for about $90 million.

The priciest condo sale in Greater Boston, according to the Multiple Listing service was a Back Bay penthouse at 776 Boylston St. that went for $21,500,000. The priciest single-family home sale was a waterfront Barnstable estate on Scallop Path that dropped for $19,000,000 after only two days on the market. These tallies, however, do not include off-market sales.

Wide-0pen spaces

Some of the biggest prices paid this year were for huge tracts of land.

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Rupert Murdoch’s $200 million purchase of a 340,000-acre ranch in Montana topped the list. No. 4 on the list is Climbing Arrow Ranch, an 80,000-acre working ranch near Bozeman, Mont., which sold for about $136 million.

Even if other properties couldn’t match the sweep and scale of a county-sized ranch, they were at least adjacent to wide open spaces. Indeed, the second-most-expensive home on Miller’s list, a 7-acre compound in Malibu purchased by venture capitalist Marc Andreessen, sits on the edge of the Pacific Ocean. Every Palm Beach home on the list has waterfront, as does every Hamptons home included.

The Carter Estate in Maui, Hawaii, which Jeff Bezos reportedly purchased off-market for $78 million, is on the water, as is the $70 million Laguna Beach, Calif., mansion reportedly purchased by hedge fund manager Joseph Edelman. So is a $50 million mansion in Greenwich, Conn., that has 340 feet of frontage on Long Island Sound.

Go big and go home

Only homes in New York and Los Angeles bucked a trend in which the emphasis was on square footage rather than square acreage.

Los Angeles homes were particularly massive. The musician known as the Weeknd purchased a 33,000-square-foot home in Bel Air for $70 million. A newly constructed mansion in Brentwood’s tony Mandeville Canyon covers 19,000 square feet and sold for $62.6 million.

Meanwhile, billionaire Nicholas Berggruen acquired the 29,000-square-foot Hearst Estate in Beverly Hills for $63.1 million; not far behind, the Hilton family sold a 15,000-square-foot Beverly Hills mansion on 2.5 acres for $61.5 million.

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The lowest-priced entry on the list, a nearly 29,000-square-foot home at 67 Beverly Court, was initially listed at $165 million. After failing to find a buyer, it sold at auction for $51 million.

Miller cautions against applying these sales to the wider market.

“This suggests — or illustrates — the widening wealth gap,” he said. “In many ways, it’s a circus sideshow. It has very little, if anything, to do with local markets, and has everything to do with a global perspective and investing in tangible assets instead of financial instruments.”

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