Iconic Bel Air estate becomes most expensive listing in America

Rick Hilton, grandson of the home's former owner Conrad Hilton, shares the listing with Jeff Hyland of Hilton & Hyland

An historic mega-mansion in Los Angeles just hit the record books as the most expensive property currently listed in the United States.

The Casa Encantada, an eight-acre Bel Air estate that translates as “the Enchanted House,” could well become the most expensive home ever sold in California if an interested buyer plunks down the current asking price of $225 million. As the Los Angeles Times reports, that perch is currently occupied by the Spelling Manor, which sold for $119.75 million in July.

Built in 1938, the Casa Encantada was designed to be the most opulent and extravagant mansion in Hollywood. Even during the Great Depression, building costs for the Bel Air estate ran up to $2 million (approximately $35 million in today’s dollars). Hotel magnate Conrad Hilton purchased the home in 1950 for $225,000.

Architect James Dolena designed the 40,000-square-foot mansion with a whopping 60 bedrooms. The mansion’s H-shape gives almost all of its rooms triple views of the city, the ocean and the park. T. H. Robsjohn-Gibbing, considered one of the most iconic decorators in the United States in the 1930s and 1940s, picked out the interior furniture and design. The listing is held by Jeff Hyland of Hilton & Hyland as well as Hilton’s grandson Rick Hilton and Shawn Elliott of Elite Real Estate Marketing.

“A classic home of this magnitude is in its own world,” Hyland told the Los Angles Times. “It’s not affected by market gyrations, world issues in the economy and other comparable estates.”

The home is designed in the Georgian style, with elements of the Art Deco and Moderne styles on the interior. Iron gates lead on to manicured rose gardens, a lighted tennis court, an architectural pool, koi fish ponds, a guest house and the columned main mansion. The mansion, which Hilton lived in for more than 20 years, has hosted numerous parties and banquets on its grounds — according to some reports, presidents and Hollywood celebrities alike were invited  onto the property.

The current owner, financier Gary Winnick, bought the house from Dole Food owner David Murdock for $94 million back in 2000. The founder and chief executive of the investment firm Pacific Capital Group had fallen in love with the property and spent millions renovating it over the years. The original wood-paneled walls and moldings are offset by some of Winnick’s own touches.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the inside walls inside are decorated with photographs of Winnick with world leaders as well as a portrait of George Washington, which he thought to be the same one as on the dollar bill, above the fireplace.

But despite Casa Encantada’s magnificence and Hyland’s confidence that it will sell fast, it is unclear what will happen now that the listing has been publicly announced. Many luxury homes have been languishing with an average of 506 days on the market while, according to the Los Angeles Times, sales of homes worth more than $20 million are down by 20 percent.

Extravagant homes don’t necessarily sell as fast as their owners anticipate since those with the budget for such a large purchase often opt for a custom home. High asking price can also be a way of drawing attention to a home — last year, the estate of Univision CEO Jerry Perenchio was slashed by more than $100 million after being pocket listed for $350 million.

Hyland, however, is not swayed by market conditions and, as he told the Los Angeles Times, is confident that the sale of Casa Encantada will break local records.

“We don’t expect it to be someone who just made their money in tech on an IPO and is 29 years old,” Hyland said. “It’s going to be someone who is sophisticated, someone who is a world traveler, who has homes in other places around the world.”

Email Veronika Bondarenko