Even in a floundering luxury market, there’s been no shortage of ridiculously over-the-top listings and purchases in 2019. And while the world of multi-million-dollar spec houses and celebrity homes can feel like fantasy, the issues facing high-end listings are not so different from the rest of the industry — think bankruptcies, foreclosures and months on the market without a buyer.
Here’s a look back at some of the most extravagant and unusual homes to hit the market in 2019.
At the start of the year, an oceanfront mansion broke the record for the most expensive home ever sold in Miami. Going for $50 million, the expansive estate spans over 20,000 feet, has 14 bathrooms and overlooks Miami’s Biscayne Bay. The property has 10 bedrooms, a 3,000-square-foot master suite, a chromotherapy spa, a 3D movie theater and a 100-foot-long swimming pool.
It was not the first time that the property made history: It was also marked as Miami’s most expensive sale when it sold for $47 million in 2012. This time around, Douglas Elliman’s Tal Alexander and Oren Alexander were the listing agents who oversaw the sale while Ralph Arias of One Sotheby’s represented the anonymous buyer.
A protracted legal battle over a plot of land in Beverly Hills led to what was once the country’s most expensive listing being sold for a mere $100,000 at a foreclosure auction. Known as “The Mountain,” the 157-acre plot was listed for $1 billion last year — an aspirational price that Compass agent Aaron Kirman set as a way of attracting attention to the property owned, at different times in its history, by the Shah of Iran’s sister and producer Merv Griffin.
But by 2019, 1652 Tower Grove Drive had reportedly been tied to more than $200 million in liens and, subsequently, would require whoever bought it to recoup the debt. After bankruptcy protection for the property was denied, its lender, Mark Hughes Trust, bought it at a fraction of the original price at a foreclosure auction in August.
When one talks about multi-million-dollar real estate, one hardly thinks about shelling out the monthly rent. But this year, a sprawling mansion located at 908 Bel Air Road has gone down in books as the most expensive rental in the United States. The monthly rent price? A whopping $1.5 million a month.
The home that rents for the price of a high-end home in most of the country is, naturally, luxurious. The 908 Bel Air Road covers more than 34,000 square feet and comes with an infinity pool, a health and wellness spa and views of the ocean and the mountains. It was initially priced for sale at $180 million but, after struggling to sell it, celebrity plastic surgeon and developer Raj Kanodia decided to rent it out instead.
In the biggest billionaires-are-just-like-us story of the year, a Chinese billionaire and real estate tycoon paid $75 million for a Los Angeles mansion that he found while browsing through Zillow. Widely believed to be Liang “Johnson” Zhang, the wealthy buyer had reached out to the agents on his own after seeing 822 Sarbonne Road in Bel Air on his phone and deciding that he wanted to own it. The property is a 25,000-square-foot estate that was previously owned by The Arya Group builder Ardie Tavangarian and his wife Tania.
While much of the deal has been kept private, sources revealed that the property had formerly been listed for $88 million and Walmart heiress Paige Laurie was once interested.
One of the most talked-about listings of the year was the La Jolla mansion that reportedly served as inspiration for Tony Stark’s home in the Iron Man movies. The futuristic house sits at 11,545 square feet and is designed with a slender curved structure, floor-to-ceiling glass walls and concrete retaining walls. In August, news broke that a mystery buyer had shelled out $20.8 million for the property — a mystery buyer who, in a few weeks, was revealed to be Grammy-winning singer Alicia Keys and her husband, Swizz Beatz.
The $20.8 million selling price makes the mansion the most expensive sale in La Jolla this year. Douglas Elliman’s Josh and Matt Altman worked with the seller while the Altmans and colleague Stephen Sweeney represented Keys.
A well-known Los Angeles mansion has gone down in history as the most expensive listing in the United States when it hit the market with a $225 asking price in October. The Casa Encantada, which means “the enchanted house” in Spanish, was built in 1932 during the height of the Great Depression. It was, at the time, meant to outdo even the most extravagant buildings in the area — it has over 60 bedrooms while building costs ran upward of $2 million (approximately $35 million in today’s dollars).
Hotel magnate Conrad Hilton purchased the home in 1950 for $225,000. The current owner, financier Gary Winnick, bought the house from Dole Food owner David Murdock for $94 million back in 2000 and expects it to sell fast even as market experience has shown that these types of ultra-extravagant homes can languish on the market in wait of a buyer with both interest in the house and deep pockets.
There’s a high chance that you’ve seen the Ennis House before. Designed by iconic architect Frank Lloyd Wright, the Mayan-inspired property has been featured in films like “Blade Runner” and “House on Haunted Hill.” The spacious mansion is composed of individual tiles with Mezoamerican-influenced designs and boasts panoramic views of Los Angeles.
The property has been flagged as a difficult listing by real estate experts. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places while the unique architecture comes with sky-high maintenance costs. But after spending more than a year on the market, the property sold for $18 million. Hilton & Hyland’s Branden and Rayni Williams worked to market the property while Drew Fenton represented the still-unidentified buyer.
In October, real estate developer Bruce Makowsky’s flashy Bel Air mega-mansion has sold for $94 million after more than two years on the market and a $60 million lawsuit filed against Zillow. Named the Billionaire, the 38,000-square-foot home boasts four stories, 12 bedrooms and 21 bathrooms. The top floor has a 17,000-square-foot entertainment deck overlooking the city while the back patio has a spacious infinity pool.
The home also been the cause of a long and protracted legal battle. In February, a Zillow user used a Chinese IP address and a fake phone number to hack into the site and change the listing price and make it appear that the house had sold when it hadn’t — first for $110 million then for $90.54 million and then for $94.3 million. Makowsky claimed that Zillow had allowed the listing to appear devalued and sued the real estate company for $60 million in damages. A judge is yet to make a decision on the case.
Jenny Craig has slashed more than just waistlines. In September, the weight loss queen finally sold her oceanfront estate outside of San Diego after years on the market and a price cut of nearly $20 million. Now 87 years old, Craig bought the house with her husband Sidney Craig in the 1980s when her weight loss company was growing in popularity. But a few years after her husband passed away, Craig started to find the 7,600-square-foot estate lonely and too large to handle.
The property, which is located at 2936 Camino Del Mar, had been and off the market since 2013. Craig ultimately sold it for $22 million to an investment company called Ocean Investments LLC through Zachary Weinger of Willis Allen Real Estate. It made the record books as Del Mar’s most expensive sale since 2007.
Star couple Kanye West and Kim Kardashian have made real estate headlines after buying not one, but two, ranches in Wyoming within months of each other. The cattle ranches are within driving distance from each other and both come with cabins, canyons, creeks and mountain views. West bought the first, Monster Lake Ranch, for $14 million while the second one, Bighorn Mountain Ranch, cost the rapper $14.5 million.
Many a real estate and Kanye fan has speculated on whether the purchases are an escape destination, a midlife crisis, a potential bed-and-breakfast venture or just a love affair with the nature of Wyoming. No one really knows the answer but, if you follow Kardashian’s Instagram account, you’ll know that the couple and their four kids regularly visit the ranches.
At the end of the year, prominent rapper The Weeknd shelled out $21 million for an 18th-story penthouse in Los Angeles. The apartment, which takes up the 18th floor of the luxury Beverly West condo development, sit at 8,200 square feet and boasts four bedrooms and floor-to-ceiling glass windows with views of the ocean and the city. The rap artist has, according to some sources, called the property his ‘mansion in the sky.’
Jeff Hyland, Bill Simpson and Susan Pekich of Hilton & Hyland were the agents representing the Beverly West Developer while Angel Salvador of The Agency represented The Weeknd. The high price tag has turned the property into one of the most expensive condo sales in Los Angeles’s history, not far behind actress Candy Spelling’s $35 million purchase of a two-story penthouse in 2010.