Forget who has the biggest yacht. The emerging battleground for bragging rights these days is who will lay claim to the world's most expensive home.
Timber and real estate baron Tim Blixseth just upped the ante. He plans to build and sell a 53,000-square-foot stone and wood mansion at the Yellowstone Club, the members-only, Blixseth-developed residential ski and golf resort near Bozeman, Mont. Price tag: $155 million.
That outranks other publicized mega-homes in the category. These include the $139 million Updown Court in Windlesham, England, which topped the Forbes.com list of the world's most expensive homes in 2006. It also exceeds the $125 million that Donald Trump is asking for the renovated estate he owns in Palm Beach, Fla.
It seems price is no object for those with a hankering for souped-up real estate. Blixseth says several members of the Forbes 400 have already expressed interest in the home.
"I can't believe the interest," says Blixseth, who ranks No. 322 in the 2006 Forbes 400 list, with a $1.2 billion fortune. "Some of [the world's richest] just have to have the best. Price is not an issue."
Or is it? The very steep price conveys an exclusivity that only a small number of people worldwide can afford. And that may make these homes all the more attractive. Blixseth has a friend in Beverly Hills who he says raised the asking price on his home from $54 million to $100 million and received many more inquiries.
The 10-bedroom Blixseth mansion will sit on 160 acres and come with a private gondola-like chairlift that will whisk residents up to the Yellowstone Club's private ski slopes. There will also be an indoor/outdoor swimming pool separated by a glass wall that can slide away on warm summer days, as well as a home movie theater--practically a standard feature in super high-end homes. The home will come furnished.
"When someone writes that kind of check, they don't want to have to worry about knives, forks and spoons," says Blixseth. "The wine cellar should be stocked."
Work is 70 per cent complete on the 1.25 mile driveway, which will set Blixseth back $2 million because it runs through rugged, difficult terrain. He aims to strike ground on the home in June and, using a construction crew 10 times the typical size, hopes to finish work in 14 or 15 months. The architect for the project is Jerry Locati of nearby Bozeman, Mont. Locati has designed 35 homes in the Yellowstone Club resort.
The Price Of Luxury
Construction costs are expected to total between $35 million and $40 million. That doesn't include the cost of the land, which he already owns. In 1991, Blixseth paid $19 million for 140,000 acres of timberland near Yellowstone National Park, and later swapped that land for the 13,400 acres that form the Yellowstone Club, plus some other parcels elsewhere in Montana.
Blixseth is confident he will be able to sell the planned super-mansion, if only because so many second homes in the $20 million range are being snapped up of late.
"I've never seen such a feeding frenzy," he says. But, adds the billionaire, who grew up poor as the son of Norwegian immigrants, "I never thought I would ever be talking these numbers."