If you have to ask, you can’t afford it
There are homes. And then there is Candy Land -- all 56,500 square feet of it.
Candy Spelling, widow of legendary TV producer Aaron Spelling, has put her 4.7-acre residence in Holmby Hills up for sale. Priced at $150 million, it’s currently the most expensive residential listing in the U.S.
Whether Spelling will have to take a haircut on that asking price in today’s market remains to be seen. If so, she’ll be prepared: The home has its own barbershop. Plus a whole lot more.
Officially known as “The Manor,” the property -- which looks like a French chateau and is slightly larger than the White House -- is the largest home in Los Angeles County. Spelling, the mother of actress Tori Spelling, describes it as the “greatest entertainment house ever” with a “kitchen where you can cook for two or 800.” The parking lot, dubbed the “motor court,” can accommodate 100 vehicles, with 16 carports to boot.
It’s all become a little too much for Spelling, 63, who is downsizing to a 16,500-square-foot condo in Century City. But she said the Holmby Hills spread was filled with fond memories.
“All the stars came through,” Spelling said of her 18 years in residence. “Prince Rainier, Prince Charles, Jackie Kennedy -- every star from every one of Aaron’s shows.”
Built in 1991, the three-story house has many rooms customized for specific purposes. There’s Aaron Spelling’s automated projection room (one of Candy Spelling’s favorites), a bowling alley, a flower-cutting room, a wine cellar/tasting room, even a silver storage room with humidity control. Outside there is a swimming pool with pool house, tennis court, a koi pond, gardens and a citrus orchard.
To house the staff, a service wing has five maids’ bedrooms and two butlers’ suites, one of which has a kitchenette. The house is believed to have more than 100 rooms. Spelling said she isn’t sure, because she’s never counted them.
But can it command $150 million in the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression?
“It’s impossible to price because there’s only one,” said Realtor Kurt Rappaport, co-founder of Westside Estate Agency, Beverly Hills, who is not the listing agent on the property. “If they get the right person at the right moment they have a shot.”
“We’re in a different environment, but there are still plenty of very wealthy people in the world,” he said. “Once a decade one of the trophy properties in Los Angeles becomes available. Certainly it’s a lot of money, but it’s not like there’s another one around the corner for sale.”
Rappaport said he expected the house to be purchased as a full-time residence for someone who has Los Angeles as his or her base, holds large fundraisers and has a big staff.
Spelling’s Holmby Hills home, which boasts the square footage of a small Wal-Mart, dwarfs its neighbors in size and listing price. The 11,000-square-foot house across the street, for example, is listed at a mere $16.9 million, according to Realtor.com. The highest asking price of a U.S. home currently on the website, which gathers data from Multiple Listing Service feeds, is $125 million for Fleur de Lys, a nearby 12-bedroom, 15-bathroom residence with 54,000 square feet of living space on 5 acres.
Michael Libow, a Beverly Hills real estate agent, said setting a price for a property like the Spelling house would have to be done more by feel than facts. “There’s no broker who’s inherently knowledgeable at that price point,” he said, because houses are rarely listed for anything near that price.
“It’s almost intuitive, it’s a trophy property, similar to the Playboy mansion. If there’s still somebody out there who wants a trophy property, this would be it,” Libow said.
The problem would be finding someone with the means and the will to make such a purchase. “Over the last year, we’ve lost many of the foreign buyers,” Libow said. “The fabulous exchange rates have diminished and some high rollers have lost a substantial amount of liquidity.”
Fred Sands, who once owned one of the nation’s largest real estate brokerages and is now a commercial real estate investor, said prices for houses like the Spelling property tend to be set largely at the seller’s whim -- and the listing price could be far from the eventual sale price. “A broker is capable of saying, ‘It’s listed at 150, but make me an offer,’ ” Sands said. “They’d have a better chance at $60 million, $70 million, but it’s an iconic property -- who’s to say?”
Neighbors have not had much luck attempting sales approaching Spelling’s price. The Holmby Hills house currently listed for $125 million has been on the market since spring 2007. The former Marion Davies home in Beverly Hills was taken off the market last year after failing to get a buyer at $165 million. A Bel-Air home designed by Wallace Neff was pulled from the market after eight months last year when it didn’t sell for $85 million.
Libow said competition for the Spelling house could come from a Bel-Air home that is smaller, at 2.2 acres, but has “major views” and was listed last month for $85 million.
So far, the highest price paid for a home in L.A. County remains $94 million for a Bel-Air house bought by former telecom mogul Gary Winnick in 2001.
The local pool of billionaires, 39, according to a list compiled last year by the Los Angeles Business Journal, is likely to have shrunk because of investment declines. At least two were clients of confessed financial swindler Bernard Madoff.
Forbes magazine, meanwhile, reports that the number of billionaires in the world has dropped by 30% in the last year, to 793 from 1,125. Their average net worth is $3 billion. Americans constitute 45% of the pool.
The Spelling property was a celebrity address before the Spellings took ownership. It was the site in the early ‘80s of Bing Crosby’s home, which was torn down to build the current one.
Candy Spelling bought the top two floors of a Century City condo building last summer for $47 million. The purchase set a record price paid of $2,848 per square foot for an L.A. condo. The “apartment,” as the understated Spelling called it, is going to be ready at the end of the year, and she hopes to move in by March or April of 2010.
Her reasons for the move echo those of other baby boomers selling today. “I’m not up-sizing from here,” said Spelling, whose day-to-day companion is her wheaten terrier, Madison. “It’s a big house for one person.”