NAPLES, Fla. - Two is better than one.
Naples has seen two record home sales in less than two months. Two beach-front mansions on Gordon Drive in the Port Royal area — a haven for the ultra-rich — recently sold for more than $40 million each, beating a record set in 2007.
One of the estates fetched nearly $47.3 million in an all-cash deal, making it the most expensive home ever sold in Naples. The other went for $42 million, putting it in second place.
"That's amazing, if you think about it," remarked Naples developer Jack Antaramian, who sold his home on Gordon Drive late last year.
Boosted by the record sales, the Port Royal area has seen more than $160 million worth of property exchange hands since January, said Philip Collins, a broker associate for Premier Sotheby's International in Naples. There were four sales made for more than $10 million.
"What we are finding out is that people that have the disposable income to purchase such a property find it somewhat of a safe haven, relatively speaking. I think they think it's a good investment from the standpoint that the real estate market is coming back and it's coming back rather strong and they do not make anymore waterfront," Collins said.
Naples isn't the only market attracting the attention of billionaires. The Miami market has seen some eyebrow-raising home sales of its own in the past year, including a sprawling estate that recently sold for about $40 million on the exclusive Indian Creek island.
The two record-breaking sales in Naples were made in March and April. Local Realtors sold them privately, so the homes were never publicly listed on a multiple listing service, or MLS.
Jim Forrest, owner of Forrest International Realty in Naples, represented the seller of the most expensive home, which has 23,000 square feet of living space and 275 feet of frontage on the beach. He described it as one of the top five most valuable single-family homes in Naples. The original asking price was $55 million.
"I have very deep connections worldwide that can write a check for these types of properties, and I basically facilitated the deal in a day or two," Forrest said.
He said the home, built in 2009, was a unique find because of everything it had to offer. It has five bedrooms and seven bathrooms and includes a library, an office and a pool overlooking the Gulf of Mexico.
The property last sold for about $13.8 million in 2004, county records show.
"It's one of the most magnificent parcels in Naples that happens to be in Port Royal," Forrest said. "If somebody flies by it, they can see it's just a rare commodity."
The most recent sellers were listed as Gardner and Jane Larned. The buyer was Randal Bellestri, a U.S. entrepreneur who sold two tool-making businesses to Hampson Industries, an aerospace company in the United Kingdom, in 2008, reportedly for more than $250 million.
Property records show Bellestri also owns vacant residential lots in Naples on Gulf Shore Boulevard, Seventh Avenue North and on Nelson's Walk, valued at more than $19 million.
The second mansion that fetched $42 million in Naples was sold to an unknown buyer, going under the name Harold Square Land Trust. The seller was the Susan McCurry Revocable Trust. The asking price was $47 million.
The home, stretching a little over 15,800 square feet, sits on more than three acres, including 200 feet of frontage on the beach. The sale also included a guest house at just under 2,000 square feet. There's a tennis court and a so-called infinity pool, which appears to drop off into the nearby Gulf of Mexico.
Paul Graffy, a Realtor with Premier Sotheby's International Realty in Naples, handled the deal for the seller. He signed a confidentiality agreement that doesn't allow him to talk about the specifics of the sale, or even the interior of the home.
The property last sold for about $18.1 million in 2000, according to county records.
After getting the private listing, Graffy had it under contract within 15 days, said Craig Jones, a vice president of marketing for Premier Sotheby's.
"The quality of the property, with that kind of exposure, 200-foot exposure, on the beach made it extremely appealing," she said. "There has not been a huge inventory of that quality property on the sands. So it's very sought after."
The record home sale in Naples had been $40 million. That now twice-beaten record was set in 2007, when Arthur L. Allen Jr., the founder of a Naples-based software provider, bought a waterfront mansion on nearly five acres on Gordon Drive. It too was marketed privately.
The highest end of the Naples market continues to strengthen, Collins said.
Some wealthy investors are pulling their money out of the stock market and putting it into real estate, as a way to diversify their holdings, he said.
In the Port Royal area, there have been 13 sales this year and another 14 are under contract and pending, Collins said. There are about 100 homes and lots for sale in the area, which he said is normal for this
time of year.
One day, local Realtors say they wouldn't be surprised to see a beach-front mansion in Naples selling for $100 million, if land prices continue to rise and the sprawling estates built over the past five or six years come to market.
"There are still a number of significant properties on the beach not yet brought to market and we don't know if they are coming to market," said Jones, with Premier Sotheby's. "But we still think there are a huge number of valuable opportunities there."