A drop in luxury housing inventory and increased buyer demand drove the high-end real estate market to record prices in 2021, with several sales in the United States eclipsing the $100-million mark. As the pandemic continued, the ultra-wealthy sought second (and third) homes to add to their portfolios and were willing to spend a fortune to make their residences more comfortable for extended periods.
Oceanfront estates in Malibu, Palm Beach and the Hamptons claimed most of the highest sales last year, but a condominium tower in New York also ranked among the most expensive. Home buyers weren’t simply paying for glamorous locations and vast amounts of square footage. Among the luxurious amenities included in these mega-purchases were a retinal scanner for master bedroom access and a funicular that leads to the beach.
As always, billionaires were among the most acquisitive when it came to trophy homes—with Brooklyn Nets owner Joe Tsai elbowing Oracle cofounder Larry Ellison out of the top dozen. Ellison’s purchase of a Palm Beach mansion for $80 million fell just short of the biggest sales last year, based on available public records and published reports.
Meanwhile, December saw the close of a $200-million purchase of a 340,000-acre Montana spread by media tycoon Rupert Murdoch. The seller was Matador Cattle Co., a subsidiary of Koch Industries, headed by billionaire Charles Koch. That property is not included in this tally because it is technically a commercial concern and the closing price cannot be confirmed.
Outside the U.S, luxury properties in Australia and Hong Kong made up some of the priciest transactions in the world, despite both countries experiencing extended lockdown conditions. Hong Kong’s biggest sale played out in the exclusive Peak neighborhood, where an unnamed buyer purchased two units at the Mount Nicholson development for about HKD 1.2 billion (or $150 million). At AUD 60 million (or about US $42.5 million), the reported sale of the Boyd Penthouse atop the ANZ building in Sydney’s Financial District was Australia’s highest transaction of 2021.
And the momentum in the luxury real estate market shows no sign of slowing down in 2022. Earlier this week, billionaire hedge fund manager Daniel Och reportedly flipped his penthouse in 220 Central Park South in Manhattan for nearly $190 million—about double what he paid for it in 2019. That price already eclipses the highest sale of 2021.
Here are the most expensive and noteworthy luxury homes sold in America last year.
Brooklyn Nets owner and Alibaba cofounder Joseph Tsai bought two full-floor units in a New York City condominium tower in two transactions totaling $157.5 million. The more expensive of the units was a nearly 6,000 residence that went for $82.5 million. The deal included the two condos, on the 60th and 61st floors, and a studio on the 18th floor. The sellers were limited liability companies. Designed by Robert A.M. Stern Architects, 220 Central Park South has attracted such buyers of note as music icon Sting and his actress wife Trudie Styler. The building’s amenities include a pool, a fitness club and a restaurant.
An ocean-view estate in Pacific Palisades, California—with such over-the-top features as a retractable bedroom roof—went for $83 million in December. The seller was mega-mansion developer and architect Ardie Tavangarian. Austin Russell, the 26-year-old billionaire founder and CEO of automotive sensor firm Luminar Technologies, bought the acre property through a trust. The 20,000-square-foot home has six bedrooms and 18 bathrooms as well as indoor and outdoor home theaters and a garage turntable. The developer paid about $7.3 million for the lot in 2013. Russell’s new neighbors include Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson.
Fashion mogul Calvin Klein sold side-by-side properties in East Hampton, New York, to related limited liability companies that appear to be the same buyer for $85 million. The larger property, a historic shingle-style five-bedroom mansion on 6.8 acres was the residence of his ex-wife Kelly Klein and went for $75 million. The adjacent 1.63-acre lot accounted for $10 million of the combined sales price. Daughter Marci Klein, a Saturday Night Live producer, was on the deed with her father for the vacant parcel. Among owners of properties on the same street are art gallery founders Lloyd and Barbara Macklowe, who listed their home in the fall for $60 million.
In February, health drink entrepreneur and philanthropist Diana Jenkins sold her beachfront home in Malibu to WhatsApp co-founder Jan Koum for $87 million. He also owns the property next door, which he bought in 2019 for $100 million, as well as a $125-million Beverly Hills estate he picked up in 2020 from entertainment mogul Jeffrey Katzenberg. Earlier owners of the Malibu property, set on Paradise Cove, include billionaire IAC founder Barry Diller and the late country singer Kenny Rogers. The nearly three-acre clifftop site has a funicular that leads to an oceanfront cabana with a wet bar. A five-bedroom main house, a three-bedroom guesthouse, a swimming pool and a guard house make up the compound.
A newly built oceanfront estate stretching the width of the wealthy island community of Manalapan, Florida—just south of Palm Beach—found a buyer in December for more than $90 million. Set on about two acres, the property was sold by hedge fund founder Paul Saunders and his wife, Victoria. They purchased the lot, which has more than 200 feet along the ocean and a dock on the Intracoastal Waterway, in 2018 for $14.5 million. Among others to call Manalapan home are self-help guru Tony Robbins and musician Yanni. The five-bedroom home includes a golf simulator room, an outdoor putting green, an outdoor kitchen and a swimming pool.
Six years after it was first publicly listed at $195 million, an oceanfront estate in Florida changed hands in March 2021 for just over $94 million. The 15-acre compound, between Palm Beach and Delray Beach on the barrier island of Manalapan, was sold by the family of the late media pioneer William B. Ziff Jr., who had owned it since the 1980s. The 1940s mansion at the center of the property was once the home of socialite and fashion icon Gloria Guinness, who occupied a spot in Truman Capote’s inner circle of wealthy swans. The estate spans the island with waterfront on two sides. The 62,200-square-foot compound has 33 bedrooms and 38 full bathrooms.
Security systems entrepreneur Edward G. (Chris) Watkins, grandson of punch time clock creator E.G. Watkins, parted with an oceanfront Palm Beach mansion for $95 million. He made his fortune expanding his grandfather’s company, Simplex Time Recorder Co., and selling it in 2001 to Tyco for $1.2 billion. Watkins purchased the property that same year for $17.7 million and built the more than 28,000-square-foot residence. The seven-bedroom Mediterranean mansion had been listed at $110 million. A trust purchased the property along so-called Billionaires’ Row, which has been home to Bill Gates and Tiger Woods, among others.
Financier Brenda Earl sold a 42-acre estate in Southampton, New York, for $105 million in October. Known as Jule Pond, the property has the most beach frontage of any in the Hamptons at close to a quarter-mile. It was developed around 1960 by Henry Ford’s grandson, Henry Ford II. Earl, a former partner at investment firm Zweig-Dimenna, renovated and expanded the main house to 20,000 square feet, including an octagonal reception room, a 48-foot-long living room and 12 bedrooms. Expanses of lawn and mature trees surround the main house, which is accessed by a long, gated driveway. The estate also has a basketball and tennis court, a meditation garden with a koi pond and a swimming pool.
A trust managed by German entrepreneur and philanthropist Dr. Ernst Langner sold a lakefront-to-oceanfront estate in Palm Beach for $109.6 million to an unidentified buyer in June. Located between Lake Worth Lagoon and the Atlantic, the 2.7-acre property centers on a 16,000-square-foot mansion containing nine bedrooms, a wine room and a gym. Langner and his wife, Nataly, bought the property a decade ago for $23.5 million, razed the existing home and built the opulent new dwelling, which includes a covered swimming pool.
A spec mansion built on an oceanfront site in Palm Beach, Florida, that was once owned by former President Donald Trump sold for $122.7 million last February. The lot was formerly part of Trump’s Maison de L’Amitié estate. The seller was a limited liability company linked to Florida home builder Mark Pulte. The contemporary main house and guesthouse measure about 21,000 square feet and feature such entertainment spaces as a bar, a game room and a wine cellar. There’s also a gym and a beauty salon. An outdoor movie theater and a swimming pool with a Baja shelf complete the two acres of grounds. A trust associated with Tiger Global Management co-founder Scott Shleifer was the buyer.
Coinbase chief executive officer Brian Armstrong cashed in a piece of his crypto empire in December to purchase a contemporary mansion in Los Angeles for $133 million, according to reports. Once owned by the daughter of billionaire Seagram heir Charles Bronfman, the 19,000-square-foot home sits on 4.6 acres in Bel-Air, one of the wealthiest pockets in L.A. In addition to a John Pawson-designed mansion, the property includes a five-bedroom guesthouse designed by celebrated architect Paul R. Williams. A home theater, a gym, a spa and a double-height dining room are among the estate’s amenities.
In November, entrepreneur and venture capitalist Marc Andreessen and his wife, Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen, paid $177 million for a seven-acre estate along the coast in the Paradise Cove area of Malibu, California. The sellers were women’s fashion mogul Serge Azria and his wife, Florence. The property had been extensively renovated and updated since the Azrias’ purchase in 2013 for $41 million. Accompanying the ocean-view mansion of about 10,000 square feet are two guesthouses, gardens and a swimming pool.