For sale: Nation's most expensive home
By Chad Abraham
July 12, 2006
For $135 million you, too, can live like a prince.
That is the asking price for the palatial Aspen compound of Prince Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdul Aziz, a real estate financier confirmed Tuesday. It is the highest real estate price in U.S. history, and possibly in the world, experts said. The price tag trumps Donald Trump, who had the previous highest offering on the national market, $125 million for a beachfront home in Florida.
Bandar is the former Saudi Arabian ambassador to the United States. His 95-acre Starwood Ranch property includes a nearly 56,000-square-foot mansion, and several smaller homes and buildings.
The main home is larger than the White House, and includes 16 bathrooms, 15 bedrooms, stables, a tennis court, an indoor swimming pool, outdoor water features and a snowmelt driveway.
Real estate agent Joshua Saslove said his brokerage is handling the sale through the real estate arm of Christie's, the exclusive auction house. Saslove, who previously represented the buyers of Hollywood mogul Peter Guber's $46 million property, is the regional affiliate of Christie's.
He said Bandar regretfully reached his decision to sell the spread. However, the prince is spending too much time in Saudi Arabia, chairing his nation's new national security council, to enjoy his Aspen home.
"I have therefore concluded to allow some of the property to pass on into other hands," Bandar said in a statement he released through Saslove. The prince will retain ownership of some homes and property at the ranch.
Bandar, 57, became his country's ambassador in 1983 and resigned the post in 2005. He began developing his land on Starwood Drive in the 1980s, and the main mansion was finished in 1990. Starwood is a gated subdivision on a mesa across from Buttermilk, off McLain Flats Road, between Aspen and Woody Creek.
The decision to sell also means the town will lose one of its best-known philanthropists. While he will no longer live here part-time, Bandar said he intends to still visit Aspen "from time to time and enjoy its unique natural beauty and the generous welcome of the Aspen community."
The upper valley proved to be a welcome retreat during his 22 years of ambassadorship, he said, and he has always enjoyed his time here with friends, family, diplomats and other figures of renown.
"He has become very close to Aspen," said Saslove, a friend of Bandar's who has visited the home numerous times. "I'm sure he gave this [decision] considerable thought."
The prince donated to many local charities and causes, including Aspen Valley Hospital, the Aspen Youth Center, the Shining Stars Foundation, Wintersköl and the Aspen Education Foundation.
Unprecedented in Pitkin County
Bandar's main home needed special review from Pitkin County before its approval in the late 1980s, recalls Cindy Houben, community development director. The maximum number of bedrooms allowed at the time was five, she said. Bandar was "allowed to have a lot more."
"The commissioners were the ultimate authority on the special review," she said. "There were tons of hearings on it because it was just such an enormous home that was being proposed."
Saslove said it is a magnificent residence with many amenities, including ponds, trails and buildings for staff housing.
There are "a considerable number of people" in the world who can afford the asking price, he said. The sale will be offered through the Christie's network and private marketing in the future. No immediate advertising is planned.
"There has never been a sale of that size in this area, and to my knowledge it is the largest single-family residential listing in the United States," Saslove said. And "maybe" the world, he said.
It is definitely the nation's highest priced property, confirmed Nick Antonicello, director of sales at Unique Homes, a magazine that covers luxury real estate. But for how long is unclear.
Antonicello said there is speculation that the widow of TV mogul Aaron Spelling will put her 56,500-square-foot mansion in Los Angeles on the market for $150 million.
But that property is on only six acres, as is Trump's Florida property. Given the acreage at Starwood Ranch, Rich Wagar of Rich Wagar Associates said he was surprised Bandar's asking price isn't more.
Wager represents the sellers of a home on Central Park West in New York City that is about $5,500 a square foot. Wagar noted Bandar's mountain palace is on the market for $2,400 per square foot.
"I know it comes with a fair amount of land so [the price] is not too bad from that standpoint," he said. "The hard part is, how many people want to spend $135 million? How many people need 55,000 square feet?
"However, it only takes one."
Bob Starodoj, president and CEO of Mason & Morse Real Estate, predicted Bandar's land will be tough to sell.
"It's a very personalized, specialized property," he said. "I'm not sure what you do with that. My sense is the only guy who's gonna buy it is some guy who's in the same financial stratosphere as Bandar."
And the number of such people is apparently increasing. Wagar said the number of billionaires he speaks with now is "phenomenal compared to how many I used to come into contact with just 10 years ago."
Not a billionaire? Don't despair, Wagar said.
But "you're going to be $500 [million] net worth or above before" the Starwood Ranch is a consideration for you, he said.
Saslove said the premium end of the real estate sector remains active.
And "there is only one Aspen, Colorado," he said. "These people have a choice. With their wherewithal to spend their time in any place in the world, they choose Aspen."
Price: $135 million
What that gets you: A home fit for a prince. Bandar's place comes with about 56,000 square feet, more than 30 rooms, indoor pool, trails, employee living quarters and stables on 94 acres.
Price: $125 million
Where: Palm Beach, Fla.
What that gets you: Donald Trump's property is on six acres with 475 feet of Atlantic Ocean beachfront. The home has a 4,100-square-foot conservatory, media room, library and three pools.
Price: $75 million
Where: Bridgehampton, N.Y.
What that gets you: A 25,000-square-foot estate that includes a U.S. Golf Association-rated golf course, 14 gardens, and a grass tennis court.
Price: $70 million
Where: New York City
What that gets you: An 11,000-square-foot penthouse with 360-degree views of Manhattan.
Price: $68 million
Where: Belvedere, Calif.
What that gets you: An estate that sits on 1.1 acres of land overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco and the Bay.
Source: Unique Homes
Paying the mortgage
Wondering if you can afford Prince Bandar's $135 million mansion? Here are some figures to help put it into perspective.
We'll start with 10 percent down, or $13.5 million. That drops the principal down to $121.5 million.
For a 30-year mortgage at an interest rate of, say, 5.75 percent, your monthly payments would only be $709,041.
Chad Abraham's e-mail address is email@example.com