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Super-luxury home sales surge across America

Rupert Murdoch’s $200 million purchase of a 340,000-acre ranch in Montana is atop a list of the year's most expensive residential property purchases.Mary Altaffer/Associated Press

In 2021, at least 40 residential properties sold for more than $50 million in the United States, according to data compiled by the appraiser Miller Samuel.

That’s about a 35 percent increase over 2020, which was also a record year. “The surge in this tier is unprecedented,” says Jonathan Miller, the company’s president and chief executive officer. “We’ve never seen this kind of growth.”

Fueled by a booming stock market, low interest rates, and a pandemic-era’s heightened emphasis on home life, prices for luxury houses have risen to stratospheric heights across the country.

“It’s a national phenomenon,” says Miller. “Not enough words have been written on the impact of low rates, even on the über-wealthy. And one big takeaway in housing is: The lower the rates, the higher the prices. And this is that phenomenon on steroids.”

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The country’s eight most expensive homes, according to Miller Samuel’s data, each sold for $100 million or more and are spread equally between the Los Angeles metro area, the New York metro area, Palm Beach, Fla., and ranches in Montana.

“Since 2014, there’s been the establishment of a new class of property,” says Miller, referring to these $100 million-plus houses. “Initially, it seemed comical or whimsical; these numbers we were seeing came across as a flash in the pan. But now we’re in our seventh year of it.”

A caveat: Miller says his tally is provisional, because, as financial advisers rush to line up deals before 2022 begins, he predicts a flurry of closings at the very end of the year.

For all the chatter about rich people leaving high-tax states, New York still topped the list for the number of sales over $50 million, with 13; Florida had 11.

The $157.5 million sale of a duplex at 220 Central Park South was No. 3 on Miller’s list, while the most expensive sale in Florida, 535 North County Road in Palm Beach, sold for $122.7 million.

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The value of New York real estate on Miller’s list totaled around $931 million, whereas Florida’s added up to roughly $941 million.

New York’s Hamptons did some heavy lifting. More than a third of the sales in New York state occurred in the Long Island enclave, including the former Ford family estate in Southampton, which sold for $105 million; two East Hampton beachfront parcels totaling $85 million on West End Road, reportedly sold by Calvin Klein; a humongous house at 840 Meadow Lane in Southampton that sold for $70 million; and 30 Spaeth Lane, a six-acre oceanfront parcel in East Hampton, which sold for $60 million.

In Florida, the action was mostly in Palm Beach and Manalapan, the area to its south.

No. 6 on Miller’s list is the massive property at 1840 S. Ocean Boulevard, on the stretch known as billionaire’s row, which sold for $109.6 million. Following that is the 33-bedroom, 15-acre compound in Manalapan sold by the Ziff family for $94.2 million. Hot on its heels is another Manalapan home, 1020 South Ocean Boulevard, which hedge funder Paul Saunders reportedly sold for about $90 million.

Some of the biggest prices paid this year were for huge tracts of land.

Rupert Murdoch’s $200 million purchase of a 340,000-acre ranch in Montana topped the list. No. 4 on the list is Climbing Arrow Ranch, an 80,000-acre working ranch near Bozeman, Mont., which sold for about $136 million.

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Even if other properties couldn’t match the sweep and scale of a county-sized ranch, they were at least adjacent to wide open spaces. “It’s not that surprising,” says Miller. “It’s proximity to water and views.”

Indeed, the second-most-expensive home on Miller’s list, a 7-acre compound in Malibu purchased by venture capitalist Marc Andreessen, sits on the edge of the Pacific Ocean. Every Palm Beach home on the list has waterfront, as does every Hamptons home included.

The Carter Estate in Maui, Hawaii, which Jeff Bezos reportedly purchased off-market for $78 million, is on the water, as is the $70 million Laguna Beach, Calif. mansion reportedly purchased by hedge fund manager Joseph Edelman. So is a $50 million mansion in Greenwich, Conn., that has 340 feet of frontage on Long Island Sound.