|The NBA star has sold his Miami mansion for $3 million less than he paid for it.|
Shaquille O'Neal may gain another championship ring by joining LeBron James in Cleveland, but leaving Miami has already cost him nearly $3 million. The Big Diesel's trade to the Cleveland Cavaliers from the Phoenix Suns last week came just as he sold his home on Florida's Star Island Drive -- four years and two teams since he first put it on the market. Sitting on 2.5 acres along 300 feet of Biscayne Bay waterfront, the 19,400-square-foot home has eight bedrooms, a two-bedroom guest house, a tennis court, an indoor racquetball court, a six-car garage and a pool splashed with the Superman logo. It's just as flashy and formidable as the future Hall of Famer who owned it. However, its closing price -- despite being the highest in Miami this year -- is as steep a dropoff from its original $32 million price tag as Shaq's acting ability is from his court presence.
"Shaq's house was the record sale so far at $16 million," says Jill Eber, Shaq's selling agent and partner in The Jills real estate firm in Miami. "Even though it's substantially off the price that he started at, it's still a very good sale, considering what's happening in our economy." Eber and business partner Jill Hertzberg helped Shaq purchase the oversized property from former Miami Heat center Rony Seikaly for $18.8 million in 2004 when Shaq was traded to Miami from Los Angeles. After Shaq put the property back on the market nearly a year later, Eber watched as his asking price deteriorated faster than his relationship with Kobe Bryant. The property was relisted last year at $29 million and again this spring at $22.5 million.
It's a familiar story in South Florida. In Miami-Dade County, median existing home prices have plummeted nearly 40% since last year, according to figures released last week by the Florida Association of Realtors. It's been even rougher in the condo market, where prices have slid 50%. Eber saw a penthouse she'd originally listed at $25 million sell for $9.9 million in May. "I think everybody was rudely awakened this past year," Eber says. Once as glittery as Shaq's trophy case, the luxury housing market more closely resembles his moribund hip-hop career. Homebuilders D.R. Horton ( DHI), Lennar ( LEN), Toll Brothers ( TOL), Centex ( CTX) and Pulte Homes ( PHM)have seen their shares drop by as much as 44% since September, when the financial crisis relegated buyers to the sidelines. Sellers are just as jittery. Many people have their properties on the market out of necessity, Eber says.
Buyers like the one who bought Shaq's place (reportedly the Russian real estate magnate and Naomi Campbell paramour Vladislav Doronin) are helping drive sales as once extravagant properties become merely pricey. They're also helping the four-time NBA champion and 15-time All-Star pull off one of his most amazing feats yet: turning a celebrity compound into a bargain-basement fixer. "A lot of people feel that opportunities are out there right now," Eber says. "The property is amazing and the person who bought it is going to completely redo everything."