Luxury sales slow after banner year in 2012

By Patrick Anderson
PBN Staff Writer

The last time a mansion at 339 Ocean Avenue in Newport changed hands, in 2004, it was known as Avalon and set a record for a Rhode Island single-family residential sale at $10.3 million. More

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REAL ESTATE

Luxury sales slow after banner year in 2012

COURTESY GUSTAVE WHITE SOTHEBY’S
GOOD INVESTEMNT: Despite a $45 million asking price, the Newport property at 339 Ocean Avenue could turn a profit for a buyer willing to subdivide and develop.

By Patrick Anderson
PBN Staff Writer

Posted 12/16/13

The last time a mansion at 339 Ocean Avenue in Newport changed hands, in 2004, it was known as Avalon and set a record for a Rhode Island single-family residential sale at $10.3 million.

Now the 45-acre oceanfront estate, featuring a newly built stone villa and named Seaward, is on the market for $45 million, a price that would more than double the state’s current record sale.

In a year when luxury home sales have slowed slightly from a booming 2012, smashing the state record and quadrupling the property’s value from nine years ago might seem unlikely.

But Paul Leys, broker owner of Gustave White Sotheby’s International Realty in Newport, said the market is healthy enough, and size and location of Seaward rare enough, that $45 million is far from unreasonable.

“All of those big sales last year – Clarendon Court, Hopedene, Belcourt all were on smaller lots – this is 45 acres and has the potential for further development,” Leys said. “When we looked at the top comparables and adjusted for potential, and looked at the prices on Martha’s Vineyard and the Hamptons with this kind of acreage, it made sense. This is a special property.”

Seaward’s Ocean Avenue neighborhood is zoned for lots of at least 160,000 square feet, or 3.7 acres, which would allow a developer to, theoretically, subdivide them into more than 10 individual properties.

With other Ocean Avenue homes on 4 acres reliably selling at or above $10 million, Leys said the math might work for a developer to invest $45 million.

The record for the most expensive residential sale in Rhode Island is currently held by pop star Taylor Swift, who bought an 11,000-square-foot mansion perched on a bluff in Westerly’s Watch Hill for $17.75 million in April.

Swift’s home edged out the state’s previous top sale of $17.15 million set in 2006 by the buyer of Miramar on Bellevue Avenue in Newport. Miramar is still the highest Newport sale.

Yet despite the big transactions in Watch Hill, 2013 has been a bit of a disappointment for luxury sales compared with 2012, when the number of $1 million-plus sales climbed 46 percent from the previous year.

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