NEW YORK (
) -- In golf, there are two options: Play conservatively and lay up when necessary or come out swinging. On the links and in
, Greg Norman has chosen the latter.
With the same passion that won him two British Open titles, but lost him the 1996 Masters in one of the worst meltdowns in sports history, the golf legend recently relisted his eight-acre estate in Jupiter Island, Fla., this month for $60 million. Nevermind that he'd originally listed his nine-bedroom, 11-bathroom, 18,000-square-foot
and its myriad amenities for $65 million two years ago before dropping the price to $47.5 million. You don't beat the price of Tiger Woods' $40 million estate on the same island by playing scared.
Sheikh Abdul Aziz al-Thani, a member of Qatar's royal family, joined Norman by raising the price of his Trump Park Avenue apartment in Manhattan from $10 million to its original asking price of $14 million. His and Norman's brokerage
declined to comment.
New York broker Gerard Longo discusses the city's real estate market in this video.
Newly confident sellers, buoyed by a trickle of positive real estate data, are raising their asking prices and balking at the low offers that had become common during the depths of the housing downturn. Eighteen of 20 major U.S. cities surveyed showed upticks in home prices from May to June, with only Detroit and Las Vegas lagging behind, according to Standard & Poor's Case-Shiller Home Price Index.
Median prices of existing homes are up by an average of $14,000 since January after dropping more than $50,000 from July to December last year, according to the National Association of Realtors.
"There's a lot more activity," says Peter McCuen, head of New York and Miami luxury brokerage
Peter McCuen and Associates
, whose listings include artist Julian Schnabel's $28 million Palazzo Chupi residences in Manhattan's West Village. "Prices have fallen so far within the last year that they might now be driving the market instead of the other way around."
In July, existing-home sales rose 5% to 5.24 million from a year earlier, but moving trucks aren't backing up to mansions yet. A survey by Ultimate Homes put the number of U.S. properties selling for more than $20 million at 320. Ultra-expensive homes, such as the 22,000-square-foot Greenwich, Conn., home of the late Leona Helmsley, have foundered on the market. Her estate has dropped its asking price from $125 million to $75 million.
Even when one sells -- like the 21,000-square-foot mansion in Aspen, Colo., that fetched $43 million last month -- it's by no means a signal of better days ahead. Tom Carr, owner of
Leverich and Carr Real Estate
in Aspen, says there are still 256 homes for sale in Aspen. Nine of those properties are under contract.
"There are so many people waiting to buy in this market and, if a newspaper came out and said 'tomorrow's the bottom,' people would buy in," Carr says. "With all this curiosity and this level of inventory, people think they may be able to make a better deal by waiting."
Sadly for buyers, desperate $20 million sellers are becoming rarer than interior Cristal fountains. The Federal Housing Finance Agency's house price index rose 0.6% in May and 0.5% in June, with many buyers refusing to back off on asking prices already discounted from last year.
"We just don't see a bunch of distressed sellers," says Robert Dullnig, a broker with Kuper
International Realty Ranch Sales in San Antonio. "If it came down to selling at a 40% discount or not selling, the majority of our sellers would just not sell and take it off the market."
In more popular markets, a quaint concept known as the bidding war has resurfaced. Chris Burnside, a Hamptons, N.Y.-based broker for
subsidiary Brown Harris Stevens, says a 61.5% drop in Hamptons home sales and a 4.4% decline in median home prices from last year have started to reverse in recent months. A $2.5 million bid wasn't enough to snag a $2.6 million, half-acre teardown in Bridgehampton, while a $2.2 million offer on a $2.8 million lot surrounding a burned-down house in Waterville was outright rejected.
Burnside notes that prices are still below 2008 levels, but that the scales are slowly tipping in the seller's favor -- just not as quickly as Greg Norman thinks.
"There's nothing going on in the world that makes you think people can just raise the prices on homes," Burnside says. "You've got people still waiting for things to go back down, so maybe those people are the ultimate losers because they didn't buy."
-- Reported by Jason Notte in Boston.
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Jason Notte is a reporter for TheStreet.com. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Esquire.com, Time Out New York, The Boston Herald, The Boston Phoenix, Metro newspaper and the Colorado Springs Independent.