Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Palm Beach Real Estate Roulette

La Casa Sin Nombre is John Kluge’s four-acre Mid-town compound. “The House with No Name” has a market value of $35 million, an assessed value of $24 million and a 2009 tax bill of $426,000. Located at 89 Middle Road, Mr. Kluge has a life estate on the property, already deeded as part of his gift to Columbia University, a compound that includes a Mizner-designed oceanfront named Audita.
By Augustus Mayhew

Despite the media’s distorted image of island residents as pawn beachers following the Madoff mess and considering the problematic real estate market, 33480 denizens might take cheer in learning their offshore sandbar is valued at more than $13 billion, according to the county property appraiser’s latest property tax assessments released last week.

Along with a look inside the resort’s exclusive club of property taxpayers writing checks for more than $1 million, other news includes a Wellington horse barn selling for $11 million, albeit marketed as an equestrian complex, another swap shop where Mid-town mansion owners engineered a tradeoff, a lakefront lot fire sale, Casa della Porta sold, again, a glance at some of the island’s foreclosures and several households on the Madoff list had their mortgage apps approved. Whew!

Palm Beach property valued at $13.5 billion

Of all the town's private clubs, the Everglades Club's mix of club and commercial uses has the highest assessed value and steepest tax bill even though it is not an oceanfront club.
Palm Beach properties are incomparable except once a year when property tax bills arrive, and then, it seems residents want their property to be more or less like everyone’s. With budget hearings to establish the Town of Palm Beach’s final tax rate set during September, last week the owners of the island’s nearly 10,000 residential, commercial and cooperative properties received their preliminary 2009-2010 tax notice envelopes. Overall taxable values were down approx. 2 percent; the Town’s property tax rate remains the same as last year. And yet, as in most things Palm Beach, these painless sounding stats do not apply to everyone.

For Nelson Peltz, whose North County Road properties, Monsorrel and Louis-Louis style tennis house are across the street from one another, the tax assessor will expect a check for $1.86 million to cover his estate's combined assessed value of $91.8 million.

Next door, the elusive $95 million man, Dmitry Rybolovlev, whose County Road Property LLC office is located on the 10th floor at 477 Madison Avenue, saw his assessed value for Maison d’Amitie jacked from $65M to $78M and his tax upped another $400K, making for a $1.44M tax bill, if he would like the pleasure of keeping an empty Palm Beach oceanfront mansion.

Martha and Dwight Schar
Joining this select celestial crowd, John Thornton, whose assessed value of $56 million may be $20M less than what he paid last year for 1236 South Ocean Blvd. but still, qualifies him for a $1.03M tax bill.

Even though Dwight Schar’s market value for Casa Apava’s 11 acres at 1300 South Ocean nose-dived $20 million from $84M to $64M, his assessed value remained at $48M, making for a $1.09 million tax bill. Nearby, Sydell Miller just missed out joining the million-dollar club, this year $assessed at only $48.7 million making for an $898,000 bill.

Over on North Lake Way, things have not been the same since Henry Kravis paid $50 million for his five-acre spread at 700 NLW. Now, after four years of artful landscaping (before the next hurricane strikes you really shouldn’t miss the aerial shot of the property on the property appraiser’s web site, really more thrilling than crop circles) renovations and additions, the assessed value has dropped from $54M to $43M with his taxes dues lowered $100K to $806,000.

And, you are probably wondering about the island’s Area 51s, its private clubs. The Palm Beach Country Club’s ocean-to-lake 85 acres were assessed at $14 million with a $262,000 bill due. The venerable Everglades Club, a mix of private club and commercial properties along Worth Avenue among its 100 acres, is faced with an assessed value of $40M with approx. $1 million due from its members for the coming year. And, in what appears to be a serendipitous coincidence, both The Mar-A-Lago Club and the Bath & Tennis Club have a proposed assessed value of $18.6 million with Mar-A-Lago shelling out slightly more than the B & T’s $370,000 tax bill.

And, if you are charting the financial health of Robert and Ellen Jaffe, the assessed value of their 444 North Lake Way house dropped from $17M to $14M, thus they will be writing a check for $253,000, $20K less than last year.

Casa della Porta sells for $13.9 million
Casa della Porta is located on Via del Mar's ocean block. Historic photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.
Nine years after Howard Gittis sold 195 Via del Mar for $18 million, a house some consider among Maurice Fatio’s grandest, Gerald and Margaret Vento have sold the nearly 20,000-sq.-ft house for $13.9 million to oil executive William M. Kallop, according to court documents recorded August 26.

Uber-Realtor Lawrence A. Moens represented the seller and the buyer in the transaction. The house was not on the market at the time of the sale.

Designed in 1928 by architect Maurice Fatio for William McAneeny, president of the Hudson Motor Car Company, Casa della Porta features an irregular L-shaped configuration with a three-story tower, central courtyard and tennis court. Originally built for $350,000 with exterior walls composed of quarry coral stone, the house’s name is derived from its distinctive front entrance of arched carved stone entrance detailed with mythological reliefs that took Italian stonecutters six months to carve.

Mr. Kallop is the property’s sixth owner since 2000. A resident of Houston, Texas, Mr. Kallop is chairman of the Offshore International Group Inc., a privately-held energy company. The company has operations primarily onshore in Texas and Louisiana, the U.S. Gulf of Mexico and Peru, according to a company press release.

The Ventos purchased the property in 2004 for $13.5 million from RGF Holding, an island renovator, who had bought the property the year before for $13 million.
The gryphon fountain, as it looked in 1970. Historic photo courtesy of Library of Congress.
Mid-town swap shop

After former Apple CEO John Sculley and his wife, Lee Adams Sculley, sold 225 Seabreeze Avenue house for $5.5 million to Sotheby’s agent, W. Ted Gossett, and Robert Abee. Then, Gossett and Abee sold their 125 Wells Road property to the Sculleys for $8 million.

This transaction is the third sale on Palm Beach during the past several months where some variant of a trade/exchange appears to have been recorded. "I do not recall ever seeing “trades” occurring in the luxury residential real estate market prior to this time," said Robert Banting, MAI, SRA, one of the area's senior appraiser and president of Anderson & Carr Inc. Mr. Banting is a Special Master for the Palm Beach County Property Appraisal Adjustment Board.
John Sculley and Lee Adams Sculley bought 125 Wells Road for $8 million, according to court records.
In 2006, the Sculleys, who appear to move nearly every two years during their past decade in Palm Beach, demolished an existing 1925 house at 225 Seabreeze and built a new Mediterranean-style house designed by Smith and Moore, architects. Mr. Sculley is the former CEO of Apple and Pepsi who later founded his own investment firm.

After purchasing 125 Wells Road in May 2008 from the estate of Marjorie Minskoff Schleifer and renovating it, Gossett listed it for $9.975 million. The five-bedroom house, built in 1992, has 14-foot ceilings and is in Seabreeze's ocean block. In June 2008, Gossett and Abee secured an $8 million mortgage from Branch Banking and Trust Co. in Winston-Salem, N.C., for 125 Wells Road and another property, 190 Via Palma. That mortgage has since been modified to include the Seabreeze Avenue property.

Affiliated with Washington Fine Properties for many years and currently affiliated with Sotheby’s Palm Beach, previously Mr. Gossett bought Ivana Trump’s Via Palma house for $2.55 million, currently listed for $5.95 million. More recently, he purchased the former Durie Appleton estate on Casa Bendita for $5.7 million.

Keep the moving van’s engine running, according to recently filed documents, the Sculleys are re-renovating 125 Wells Road.
In the latest Palm Beach version of musical chairs, Mr. Gosset and Mr Abee, for the moment, have acquired 225 Seabreeze Avenue.
Lisa and Greg Wilson, of Newport, R.I., paid for $5.73 million for a vacant North Lake Way parcel with 175 feet of waterfront, once owned by the late Fred Keller, who died after being convicted of murdering his wife, according to a published report, although note, a warranty deed has yet to be recorded. Lawrence A. Moens listed the property for $6.8 million before Stephen Ploof, sales-associate at Linda A. Gary’s office brought the buyers. An adjacent lot with 105 feet of lake front, also part of the former Keller estate, sold last month to a New Orleans couple for $3.67 million. The combined sale price of $9.4 million is only slightly less than the $17 million the property was listed for in 2005.

US Century Bank filed a notice of foreclosure on 271 La Puerta, Edward and Susan Henkin and Morris Henkin, as principals of 271 La Puerta LLC. In 2006 the company bought 271 La Puerta for $2.8 million, financed with a $2.55 million mortgage, and later, another $1 million mortgage from First Bank of the Palm Beaches. Not bad, huh, considering the property sold in 2005 for $1.3 million. Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. has filed an approx. $19 million foreclosure action against 215 Brazilian Holding LLC, a 390 Park Avenue company directed by real estate titan, Aby Rosen.

Along with the lender, the project’s architect, Oliver Design Group, and contractor, Hedrick Brothers, have filed liens. Mr. Rosen’s unbuilt Palm Beach venture joins the developers other foreclosed projects. 111 Debt Acquisition Holding filed a $22+ million foreclosure on Robert V. Matthews’ in-progress luxe hotel project at 160 Royal Palm Way. A courthouse auction is slated for September 17 unless creditors are satisfied.
With the vacant property now in foreclosure, the sleek Streamline Moderne-style Plaza Inn at 215 Brazilian, photographed in 2007 a few days before it was demolished by 215 Brazilian Holding LLC. a New York based affiliate of Aby Rosen's RFR Holdings.
Westport, Connecticut resident Maureen Murray has sold a three-bedroom unit at Winthrop House, 100 Worth Avenue, to Sigrid and John Van Eck for $2.25 million. Mr. Van Eck, a noted gold bug, directs Van Eck Associates, a Madison Avenue investment advisory firm. Let’s hope that Long Island car dealer, Don Lia, made some cash for clunkers because he sold his Palm Beach penthouse at Bellaria, 3000 South Ocean Blvd., for $400,000 less that what he paid two years ago. A Toronto hedge fund asset manager, Anne L. Spork paid $4 million for the oceanfront unit located south of the Four Seasons Hotel. In May 2007, Spork paid $2.6 million for an apartment on the same condo's third floor.

Ron Baron
East Hampton’s savviest environmentalist, Ron Baron, wrote a letter to the Town Council in opposition to the Palm Beach Steakhouse’s request to expand their interior seating capacity. Baron, who joined with his Il Lugano condo neighbors to protest what they perceived jeopardizes their peace and quiet, purchased his unit in 2005 for somewhere around $6.8 million. Over at author’s James Patterson’s plot on South Ocean Boulevard, the wall is going up around Casa Ananda and the best-selling novelist received approval for his front yard to be raised five feet.

Wellington horse barn sells for $11 million

A 5-acre parcel in Wellington’s horse country has sold for $11 million featuring a 24-stall show barn with 7 paddocks and 4 grooming stalls, along with a separate two-story structure with a four-bedroom apartment above a six-stall barn, as well as other amenities that might make a PB mansion owner envious.

Jeannie and Thomas A. Tisbo,
as Tequestrian Farms LLC, bought 3436 Grand Prix Farms Drive from Kinloch Enterprises Inc., a Virginia corporation whose principals are Janice and Robert Aron. The Tisbos facilitated the sale with an $8 million mortgage from the seller, Kinloch Enterprises. Two years ago, Tequestrian paid $4.875 million to Mark Bellissimo and Far Niente Stables IV LLC for a 6.5 acre vacant residential parcel located at the Palm Beach Polo Equestrian Club.

Realtor Carol Sollak had listed the Grand Prix Village property for $13.5 million. In 2006, Kinloch Enterprises paid $7.28 million for the property. Because of its agricultural exemption, the parcel is assessed at $39,300 with the owners paying $1,676 in property taxes, according to the county property appraiser's 2008 records.

Janice and Robert Aron are perhaps best known for their house at 2698 Sheltingham, currently listed for $6.5 million by Carol Sollak, having bought it two years earlier from Sheila C. Johnson for $3.5 million. Last season, the house made news when it was leased to pop singer, Madonna.
Photographs by Augustus Mayhew.

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