estate offered by Cleveland, Duble & Arnold and
renovated by Austin Patterson Disston Architects.
River House, designed by the late Richard Henry Dana
and offered for sale by Houlihan/Lawrence (an exclusive
affiliate of Sotheby's International Realty).
at Cross River House.
Lion du Lac: dining room and kitchen.
Lion du Lac: master bath and bedroom.
past May, David Ogilvy & Associates
listed a property in Greenwich for $53 million. Although
Fairfield County is well known for its costly real estate,
53 is a large – and intriguing – number. What
would be the highlights of such a property?
80-acre Conyers Farm estate features 24-hour gated security,
open meadows, and a ten-bedroom main house built in 1904
and recreated in 1982, complete with projection screens,
“major” music system, two-story library, numerous
fireplaces, exercise room, sauna and wine cellar. Also included
are a poolhouse, guesthouse, caretaker's cottage,
stable with 22 stalls, “ruins” which have been
turned into another guest area and “the original private
fire department.” The structure has six garages and
yet another guest cottage. Annual taxes are approximately
“It's your own island within the community,”
remarks Dan Ginell, president and owner of Ginell Real Estate.
It's also the sort of palatial spread that makes one
wonder what's doing in the rest of the Fairfield market.
It turns out that elsewhere in the county, $10 to $25-million
estates are far more common than $50 million plus (though
according to Casey Jones, managing partner at Stamford-based
William Pitt, the average sale in Greenwich is about $2
million). Perks of these properties are similar to the Conyers
Farm estate, but on a smaller scale.
One such example is a spectacular 14,000-square- foot Greenwich
estate listed by Cleveland, Duble & Arnold (see page
66). This Tudor-style residence built in 1908 sits on five
and a half manicured and level acres with parklike views.
It has 11 bedrooms, 13 full baths and 3 half-baths, eight
fireplaces, a four-car garage, swimming pool, lighted tennis
court and poolhouse.
Marjorie Rowe, founder and president of Greenwich's
Preferred Properties, has been working the highest ends
of Fairfield and Westchester county real estate for 35 years,
and has sold to Ralph Lauren, Edward Lampert and Donald
Trump. She says there is no rule of thumb for what type
of home can be acquired for $20 million. One of her current
properties, listed at $37.5 million, “is not a mansion
as you would expect but it's in a prime part of Greenwich,
overlooks a pond and is on 27 acres.” Whoever can
meet this price will have five parcels of land, two access
roads and Leona Helmsley for a neighbor.
to Rowe, Helmsley will most likely be borrowing cups of
sugar from someone with “old money or a young guy
who has been successful in the stock market.” “Hedge
funds and Wall Street are driving the market,” agrees
Jones, who says that when someone suddenly becomes wealthy,
buying property is the first thing on the agenda. A buyer
is also, Rowe says, likely to put in millions of dollars
beyond the asking price to move the pool around, change
the location of the tennis courts and fix the landscaping.
It is not unheard of for a new owner to tear down a main
house entirely. Local brokers tell the story of a young
man who bought a home on the water in Greenwich for $14
million a few years ago, knocked it down and built a 40,000-square-foot
mansion with a 15-car garage. It's next door to a
country club, and many people turn into his driveway, thinking
anything so large must be the club. Jones says it could
now be worth $100 million. And it's most likely not
the owner's main residence.
“Wealthy people from Manhattan always have a place
in Greenwich because the tax burden is so much less,”
says Rowe. Not surprisingly, many of Jones's clients
also have Manhattan, Nantucket and Palm Beach properties.
Private jets and jet shares make this possible. “People
also helicopter back and forth to Greenwich. They're
not worried about traffic on the FDR,” Jones says
with a laugh. (If you're considering a purchase in
Bedford, however, note that helicopters are illegal there.
Nearby White Plains is as close as choppers can get.)
new trend brokers are seeing in and around Fairfield County
is extremely high turnover. Jones has sold one Conyers Farm
estate five times in ten years, including to and from Rosie
O'Donnell. “People love to buy houses,”
he says. “But they like to change. What will work
for three years won't work for five. People renovate
and are ready to move. No one lives in a house for thirty
years anymore.” Says Rowe: “It's a very
active market. The old guard lives there forever but the
younger people have a house and then jump when something
comes on the market. They play musical chairs.”
House-hopping is less prevalent in New York State even though
the towns in Northern Westchester are slightly less expensive
than their Connecticut cousins. “Since 2000, only
seven houses have sold for over $10 million in all of Westchester,”
says Westchester specialist George M. Stone, co-owner of
Julie B. Fee. “A $35-million waterfront in Greenwich
is half the price in Rye.” Taxes account for a large
part of this difference.
In late June there were only ten Westchester County homes
on the market over $10 million, all with decent acreage.
The hottest property in this area is either in “horse
country” – Katonah, Bedford, North Salem –
or on the waterfront. “Reservoir, Hudson or Long Island
Sound,” says Stone. One of his current listings includes
a $13-million 105-acre estate featuring a 1930s Art Deco
main house with ponds, views and a boathouse on eight-acre
Journeys End Lake in Croton-on-Hudson.
Listed for $13.5 million in Bedford by Houlihan/Lawrence,
Cross River House (see pages 67, 68 and 69) overlooks the
Cross River Reservoir. The property includes a 5,300-square-foot
circa 1928 main house, 3,400-square-foot guesthouse, 1,400-square-foot
gatehouse, 50-foot pool with spa, poolhouse and tennis court
– on 17 acres.
Available for $13 million (represented by Coldwell Banker
in Bedford): a 17,000-square-foot North Salem château
reminiscent of a Newport mansion (see Cover, this page and
opposite). It overlooks the Titicus Reservoir, has indoor
and outdoor pools, many fireplaces and a six-car as well
as a three-car garage.
Not only do Westchester buyers hold on to the properties
once purchased, but they tend to tear down less here, too.
Stone says recent buyers are “self-made middle 40s,
50s and some 60s. The celebrities we tend to see come into
the market on a quiet basis – they send people in
to do it for them.” Brokers note that this is true
in Fairfield County as well. Often scouts, consultants and
decorators do most of the house-buying legwork.
Still, there are a few higher end properties currently on
the market in Westchester, including a $22-million 100-year-old
Bedford Corners estate. The main house burned down and was
rebuilt in the 1960s. It has 25 acres and is, according
to Ginell, surrounded by land other families have bought
and put into conservation. At least one “famous entertainer”
has sent his scout to view the tennis and basketball courts,
but Ginell won't name names. There might be other
properties nearby worth even more that are on sale but not
listed: “We have people who have an interest in selling
in the next couple of years but they don't want to
be officially on the market,” says Ginell. He'll
help broker a deal if the right person comes along at the
Last year Ginell sold author Michael Crichton's Bedford
property for around $25 million after six months on the
market. It's on 70 acres with a large guesthouse.
Before Crichton's sale, the most expensive Westchester
property ever sold was Ralph Lauren's Bedford estate
and this was, according to Rowe who brokered the sale, about
12 years ago. By all accounts Lauren has been steadily “accumulating
adjoining properties” ever since. Rowe credits Lauren
for “saving Bedford from having 10,000 little contemporary
houses” by buying close to 300 acres. “Ricky
[Lauren's wife] is the nicest gal,” Rowe says.
“Very low key. When they decided to buy she was standing
in the courtyard. I think she had jodhpurs on and he said,
‘Now doesn't she look just great there?'”
seekers and owners might want to know how these $20-million-estates
measure up to the rest of the country. The waterfront is
up there: “Even in Newport they don't get prices
like most prime waterfront in Greenwich,” says Rowe.
Still, “Compared to
Aerial view of Château Lion du Lac,
a 17,000-square-foot North Salem, NY,
Photograph courtesy of
Coldwell Banker Bedford.
we have much less land,” she says. “They have
all these fancy houses. I was hearing numbers the other
day like $80 million for Silicon Valley and Hollywood.”
Anyone planning to pony up that $53 million can use Rowe's
words as the perfect purchasing excuse.