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A rare foggy morning in downtown St Pete

We’re accustomed to consistent sunny mornings in St Pete. The colors and patterns of the sunrise vary, but coming down Beach Drive after the sun is up is just about the same every day.

This was a morning not long ago when fog enveloped the tops of the buildings. I wonder if people living on the top floors thought they were living in the clouds.


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Costa Rica homes ARE selling

View of Peninsula Papagayo from Vistas del Pacifico home

View of Peninsula Papagayo from Vistas del Pacifico home

Costa Rica homes ARE selling, especially when they’re priced well. Just 3 weeks ago Tami and I were looking a properties in Costa Rica with our favorite Guanacaste real estate agent. We looked at single family homes, condos, vacant lots and land from $200,000 to over $4,000,000. We looked in Escazu near San Jose, in Manuel Antonio and Esterillos, and from Tamarindo to Peninsula Papagayo. This one was my favorite, in a hillside gated community  in Playa Panama, and offered at $1,350,000 furnished. It wasn’t the biggest or most expensive and it wasn’t the smallest or least expensive, but as Goldilocks said, it was JUST right. 4,000 sq ft of classic architecture, intricate detailing, charming gardens and balustrade-lined terraces overlooking Bahia Culebra – an infinity edge pool, hand painted walls and decor from around the world.  Alas, my dream was shattered when Mike told me earlier this week that “my home” was under contract to someone else.

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Even London isn't immune to dropping prices

Recent real estate activity in London shows that neither very high-end properties nor London properties are immune to price-drops. Even though prices were still increasing this summer, in the last 90 days London prices on homes above $15 Million have dropped by about 7.5%

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Tunnel complex in London for sale at $7.4 Million

This tunnel complex in London has to be one of the most unusual properties on the market – it’s about a mile of underground corridors and adjacent rooms that sprawl under the city of London, England.  It’s listed for $7.4 Million by Niall Gallagher who calls it a wierd and wonderful space.

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Luxury Real Estate Market Update for Pinellas County Florida – October 2008

Luxury Real Estate Market Update – Pinellas County Florida – October 2008
St. Petersburg, Florida
In October, only 3 single family homes sold in Pinellas County Florida for over $1,000,000. 2 of these were in the $1-2 Million range, and the other one sold between $2 and $3 Million. There are currently 527 homes on the market, and based on October sales, there is a 176 month supply of homes on the market. That’s really skewed by the low sales – if you look at 8 homes going under contract in October, that changes to a 66 month supply. We started the year with a 99 month supply and the current inventory has decreased about 9% since last year.  We had less than half as many homes go to contract as a year ago – a reflection of the uncertainly of our economy.

7 luxury condos sold for over $1 Million in October in Pinellas County Florida, a number we haven’t seen since spring.  4 of them were new condos, 1 at Redington Shores Yacht and Tennis Club, 1 at Sunburst Cove, 1 at 400 Beach and 1 at Sandpearl. Based on September sales, there is a 36 month supply of luxury condos. Some of the new developments were selling as low as 82% of list price, yet the sale at Sandpearl Residences by JMC Development was at full price. I think this is evidence that Mike Cheezem, president of JMC, utilizes focus groups and listens to his clients and prospects. It’s also evidence of the quality he builds and how he stands behind his projects.

One of the new listings coming to market in October is a gulffront home on Redington Beach. With 7,254 sq ft, this 6 year old home has 120 feet of sand-duned gulf frontage, about 1/2 acre of land, and is offered for $11 Million. You’ll enjoy the Florida waterfront even more with the soaring cypress ceilings in the living room, which overlooks the Gulf of Mexico.

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Press Release on $750 Million sale on the French Riviera


Immediate release

Contact: Sharon Simms, RE/MAX Metro  (727) 896-1800

Russian billionaire’s purchase of French villa sets new world record for most expensive home — $750 million!

Most expensive home on the market in Pinellas County is listed at $16,999,000 in Tarpon Springs

Most expensive home on the market in Hillsborough County is listed at $25,000,000 in Tampa

August 11, 2008 — The market for the average priced U.S. residence may be soft, but the über rich (especially the Russians) continue to drive prices up at the very top of the world’s luxury market.  Case in point — Villa Léopolda, one of the most historic estates on the French Côte d’Azur, is now under contract by an anonymous Russian billionaire for $750 million (€500m).  This three-quarters-of-a-billion dollar sales price sets a new record for the most expensive home sale in the world. The previous record was set earlier this year by Indian billionaire Lakshmi Mittal, with the reported purchase of a London home for his son for an estimated $236 million. 

“While the French Villa is a fabulous property, this sale does put into perspective the value U.S. properties represent,” said Sharon Simms (www.ssimms.com ), a luxury home expert with RE/MAX Metro in St. Petersburg.  “The most expensive residences on the market locally are listed for just $16,999,000 in Tarpon Springs in Pinellas County and $25 Million in Tampa in Hillsborough County.Both of these homes have between 28,000 and 29,000 sq ft. The record residential sale in the Tampa Bay area was in May of this year, a 13,000 sq ft waterfront home in Belleair that sold for $10,250,000.

Villa Léopolda, a cream-colored, turreted mansion with two guest houses, is midway between Monaco and Nice overlooking Cap Ferrat, near Villefranche-sur-Mer.  The villa was originally built about 1902 by King Leopold II of Belgium. The grounds are regarded as among the most spectacular on the Côte d’Azur.  Fifty full-time gardeners look after 20 acres of gardens and terraces, planted with 1,200 olive, orange, lemon and cypress trees.

The property’s new owner is said to be a Russian oil oligarch but not – despite initial rumors – Roman Abramovich, the highly visible owner of Chelsea Football Club, who already owns a €100m mansion near Antibes.

According to the Nice-Matin newspaper, a contract was signed last week to transfer ownership of the villa from Lily Safra, the widow of Edmond Safra, a murdered banking billionaire.  Rumor has it that Mrs. Safra held out for months as the persistent mystery buyer kept raising his offering price.  The paper also reported that 60 villas or mansions on Cap Ferrat are now owned by wealthy Russians.  

The property has a unique history.  In 1916, King Leopold’s nephew and heir, King Albert I, turned the villa into a hospital for officers wounded during the First World War. It later passed into the hands of the Agnelli family – Fiat automotive tycoons — and became the scene in the 1960s for legendary jet-set parties attended by Frank Sinatra, Ronald Reagan (in his acting days) and other celebrities.

“This sale raises the bar and makes the half dozen or so $100 million U.S. properties on the market seem like bargains,” said Laurie Moore-Moore, Founder of The Institute for Luxury Home Marketing (www.LuxuryHomeMarketing.com), a US-based organization which trains real estate agents who work in the luxury market and awards the international Certified Luxury Home Marketing Specialist designation.  “Today’s affluent are citizens of the world and the successful luxury agent must know how to reach them and what lifestyles they are seeking. It’s an exciting and active market for agents at the top.”

Sharon Simms is a member of The Institute for Luxury Home Marketing. She and her daughter, Tami Simms, are also trainers for the Institute for Luxury Home Marketing.

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Record property sale $750 Million in Villefrance, France

A Russian billionaire just set a record for the most expensive residential property sale in the world – 500 Million Euros, which is about $750 Million. The price is always driven up when a buyer wants to buy a property that the seller doesn’t want to sell. This property in Villefrance, between Nice and Monaco on the French Riviera, a turreted Belle Epoque mansion with two guest houses sits on 20 acres of grounds and gardens. The news article today shows a photo of The Villa Leopolda.

Note that this is a record "sale", which doesn’t mean it’s the most expensive property. We don’t know the cost of the skyscraper that Mukesh Ambani is building in Mumbai, for example.

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Grand Bohemian St Petersburg may not keep the condos

Richard Kessler, developer of the Grand Bohemian Hotel & Residences in downtown St Petersburg, Florida, has asked the city of St Petersburg for a modification and extension on his contract with the city to buy the land at the northwest corner of 1st Ave N and 2nd St N. The request eliminates the luxury condos from the project and wants to delay construction commencement to April 30, 2009. Based on that, completion of the hotel would be  Fall 2011.

Originally designed as 82 luxury condos and 166 hotel rooms, the latest redesign had 22 luxury condominiums and 292 hotel rooms. There have not been enough presales of the condos fo close on the construction loan.

The St Petersburg City Council is scheduled to vote on the request today.

Hopefully the council will allow the extension as having the Grand Bohemian Hotel in downtown St Pete would be a wonderful addition to a beautiful downtown.

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Snell Isle Waterfront Home Keeps Reappearing

Snell Isle Waterfront Home on Snell HarborThis Tuscan style Snell Isle waterfront home keeps reappearing in magazines. It was built in 2003 and when I sold it in 2005 it was a record high priced sale for Snell Isle. Located on Snell Harbor, it’s beautiful from both the street and the waterfront.

Earlier this year I was surprised to see it in a magazine ad placed by Jeffery Wolf, General Contractor. Then a month or so later, I saw the same photo in a magazine ad for Bedinghaus Architecture.

Before I sold it, it had been the location for a Great Chef’s charity event, a fundraiser for Family Resources.

That’s one advantage of great design – it doesn’t get old.

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Mansions are expanding underground

Robert Frank, this morning in his blog, wrote about the number of London mansions that are expanding their homes underground. Apparently zoning restrictions make it easier to expand down than up for their recreation, parking, and staff quarters. Neighbors are concerned about structural issues and any effect on the city’s water table – power lines get cut during the digging as well.

You can generally see buildings from the ground or the air – I wonder how encroachments would be determined under the ground …



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