Mitt unloads two more-than-McMansions (plus a Q of the day)

By pams
Thursday, April 9, 2009 17:24 EDT
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Getting ready for another self-funded 2012 move?

Race-car driver and money manager Hal Prewitt bought Mitt Romney’s ski house at Deer Valley Resort for “a little less” than the asking price of $5.25 million, his agent said Tuesday. “It’s beautiful. Absolutely gorgeous, very tastefully and artfully decorated,” Prewitt, 54, of Miami Beach, said Tuesday from the 9,500-square-foot house. “He wanted to sell and I wanted to buy, so it wasn’t difficult to come to an agreement.”

Romney also has a tentative buyer for his suburban Boston house, his spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom said Tuesday. The 6,400-square-foot Colonial on 2.5 acres in Belmont is expected to fetch about $3 million.

The Romneys plan to keep a $10 million summer home on the shore of Lake Winnipesaukee in Wolfeboro, N.H. and a $12 million beachfront compound in La Jolla, Calif.

The sale of the Utah and Boston homes has been described by political analysts as a way for Romney to prepare for another presidential race without having to explain why he owns excess real estate – the issue that brought ridicule on rival Republican candidate John McCain last fall.

The article also quotes the Romneys as saying they are “downsizing and simplifying.” Good grief. Now our house here in NC is about 1,500 sq. feet and it’s a bear to keep that amount of space clean and uncluttered between the two of us. I guess the Romneys obviously have hired help to do that sort of thing, you know, like the most of the Joe Six Packs whose vote he was asking for last time around.

Speaking of real estate, I was kind of curious, since the mortgage meltdown, how high-end homes are faring — like those Romney homes, not the McMansions you see all over the place. The latter market has tanked around here, with developers in this area going bust with half-finished McMansions rotting with a few homes sold out of dozens. More below the fold — plus a Q of the day… Raleigh N&O:

At Brighton Ridge, a new subdivision in Angier, a sign welcoming buyers features a child in sunglasses and bathing suit, lazing on an inflatable doughnut.

But the neighborhood is hardly so inviting. Empty lots are littered with bricks, sewer pipes and for-sale signs. Fewer than a quarter of the 55 homes planned at Brighton Ridge are finished.

Down the road is Wellington, where street lights line a network of roads that lead nowhere. Brush is growing on land that was cleared to sprout 70 houses. Not one has been built.

…As jobs and credit have disappeared, such ghosts have multiplied around the Triangle. They were envisioned as vibrant communities with new homes radiating from fancy clubhouses, children splashing in the community pool and suburban dads pursuing the perfect lawn. But that was before the banking crisis curtailed the flow of credit to home builders and froze some developments before completion.

The scenario has put about one-fifth of this region’s homebuilders out of business, leaving homeowners angry about absentee developers, worried about their financial future or simply wanting for pool-side cabanas that may never be.

While the developers leave buyers high and dry, a lot of the people who moved into McMansions maxed out to get into them and can’t afford them when one spouse loses a job. And the would-be McMansion buyer is probably seeking something more modest if they are in the market now. Honestly, the situation is not nearly as bad here as they are elsewhere — where the boom caused outlandish rise in values and with the crash and burn as the market collapsed.

It’s spring, so it’s the traditional uptick in homes going up for sale. At least in our neighborhood, it looks like homes are going up and turning over fairly quickly, we see more open houses and people driving around for showings. Then again, most of the homes where we live are not McMansions, since it’s not a new subdivision (houses were built in the late 80s some in mid 90s). The McMansion boom came later, and seems to have exploded more over in Wake County — Raleigh and Cary (lovingly called Containment Area for Relocated Yankees by folks native to the region). I’ve spoken to a few people who are seeing inventory stay high, so it’s hard to sell. Well, this could explain things:

The sign at the neighborhood’s entrance boasts the developer’s motto: Perception is reality. But at L’Hermitage at Beaver Creek in Apex, that reality means weeds taller than a teenager, a clubhouse pool filled with green water and half-built, mold-infested houses.

Families live in two completed homes, which sold for $536,000 and $480,000 in 2007. For neighbors, they have the skeletal remains of homes that never came to be. Diversified Communities, the New Jersey builder behind the project, walked away last year.

“They left town,” said Dianne Khin, Apex’s planning director, “and they didn’t come back.”

So, Q of the Day — how bad is it where you are? If we’re seeing pain in a steadier area of the country, I can’t imagine what is going on in, for example, California, Florida, Nevada or the Rust Belt states.

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