|The Fleur de Lys mansion in Beverly Hills is modeled after Louis XIV's Vaux le Vicomte palace.|
The Fleur de Lys in Beverly Hills, the most expensive home for sale in the U.S., has remained listed at $125 million since it first went on the market in April 2007. Its owner won't budge on the price, bucking the nationwide trend of discounting top-of-scale housing. Home and condo sales throughout the Platinum Triangle of Beverly Hills, Bel Air and Holmby Hills have been suffering price cuts. The real estate listing search engine Trulia.com lists 112 Beverly Hills properties as having had price reductions since the first of the year. Though many are in the 4% to 8% range, some have experienced more substantial losses. A condo unit on North Palm Drive, for example, now lists at $1,995,000, a decline of 48%, which took effect June 27.
The bigger they are, the harder they fall may be a good way to sum up the luxury housing market. The Fleur de Lys once shared the "most expensive" distinction with Leona Helmsley's Dunnellen Hall in Greenwich, Connecticut. By October, Dunnellen Hall's listing had dropped to $75 million, $50 million lower. In May, casino mogul Donald Trump's Maison de L'Amitie in Palm Beach sold for $100 million, a drop of $25 million. The Fleur de Lys is owned by Suzanne Saperstein, the former wife of Texas billionaire David Saperstein. (She was awarded the house as part of a divorce settlement.) Sprawling over five acres, the home, despite being described as a "single-family residence," boasts 15 bedrooms and 16 bathrooms throughout its 53,812-square-foot living area.
Built of imported limestone, and modeled after Louis XIV's Vaux le Vicomte palace, the estate includes multiple gardens, spas, pools, a nine-car garage, a championship tennis court, a 200-person capacity ballroom and a 50-seat movie theater that might make a trip to the local AMC ( AC) Cineplex obsolete. The interior features Italian marble walls and a more-than-minor use of gold as a décor touch. But a recently available property may give potential billionaire buyers of the Fleur de Lys (rumored to have included Mariah Carey) another option to consider. Though CBS Paramount's ( CBS) rebirth of "Beverly Hills 90210" may not be gaining as much buzz as was once hoped, a recent entry to the market, the Holmby Hills mansion once owned by television impresario -- and original "90120" creator -- the late Aaron Spelling, is. That home is said to be on the market for $150 million, but the listing is being shopped privately with negotiations kept from prying eyes. If that price holds, however, it will have the distinction of being the nation's most expensive home on the market. It also stakes its claim as the largest home in Los Angeles County. But where do this high-profile properties fit within the real estate market for what may be America's most-desired zip code? According to Bennett Carr, one of Beverly Hills' best-known realtors, a market adjustment is under way, but the news is not all bad. Though he declined to comment on those particular properties that have refused to yield ground with their asking price, he did say that having a realistic view of what the market will bear is crucial.
"Pricing today is a bigger challenge than it has ever been because the successful seller has to be priced close enough to what the current market is to entice people to look at the property, but at the same time they have got to price it at a point where they are willing to still take a further discount. Very few people are willing to pay at or near full price today. A lot of people think that the buyers are smarter than ever. I would agree with that. But I think the buyers are grasping for where the market is and they feel more comfortable if they have gotten a discount off of the list price." Overall, Carr said transactions are down. But higher-priced sales, even within the luxury market, are starting to rebound. "In comparing the first six months of this year with the same time period last year, you are seeing about a third fewer sales," he said. "Again, in both years, the preponderance of sales were in the $5 million to $10 million range. Last year, I am aware of approximately five sales in the $10 million to $20 million range. There have been none this year."