Luxury home sales in Newport booming in 2021

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A brief walk through one of Newport’s luxury homes for sale

Real Estate Agent Paul Leys, who is the co-owner of Gustave White Sotheby’s International, gives us a walk-through of Honeysuckle Lodge.

Newport Daily News

NEWPORT – Late last month the historic Miramar estate on Bellevue Avenue sold for $27 million, the latest in a slew of multimillion-dollar mansion sales this year in Newport. 

The 30,982-square-foot estate consists of three properties — the mansion, a carriage house and a separate, vacant 1-acre oceanfront lot — on 7.2 acres of land. It was built by architect Horace Trumbauer on behalf of streetcar magnate George Dunton Widener in the early 1900s. 

On Sept. 2, the former home of Claus and “Sunny” von Bulow sold for $30 million. The home was built in 1904, and designed by Horace Trumbauer. His inspiration for Clarendon Court was the John Hedworth House built in 117 in County Durham, England, by Architect Colen Campbell. 

Part of the Seward Estate also sold in September for $16 million, but did not encompass the full 45-acre site originally listed. Included in the sale are 339 Ocean Avenue Lot B and Lot 38. The full property was originally listed for $33 million before being reduced to $29.99 million.

It’s all part of the cycle 

Real Estate Agent Paul Leys, of Gustave White Sotheby’s International Real Estate, said the real estate market lately has been unprecedented, but real estate in general is cyclical, so the fact that many of these luxury homes have been placed on the market and sold doesn’t surprise him.

Currently, he said, there’s a lot of demand for homes, but not a lot of supply, and buyers are continuing to compete with each other over homes that are on the market. 

“In order to get the house they want, then they’ve got to step up to the plate and in some cases pay more than what’s being asked for,” he said. 

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Leys agency has now assisted in selling both Miramar and Clarenden Court twice.  

“I sold Clarenden Court back in 2012, and then we sold Miramar 10 years before that. It kind of goes in cycles, similar to even regular neighborhoods. You’ll see neighborhoods where nothing sells for two, or three, or four, or five years, and then it goes through a spade of 10 things selling in five months. So I think there’s a natural cycle to real estate, whether it’s a multimillion-dollar mansion, or in a subdivision out in Middletown,” he said. 

The National Association of Realtors said the national average for people staying in their house is seven years. Leys said it’s a bit longer than that for these mansions and that what could be happening now with these houses is a generational overturn.  

There could be other reasons also, he said. For instance, the previous owner of Clarenden Court purchased the house 10 years ago, remodeled it and decided it was time to move, so he sold it. 

“There’s death, there’s birth, there’s divorces. People are moving, there’s relocation. I don’t think the multimillion-dollar market is any different as to why places sell,” he said. 

The first year ever 

Lila Delman Real Estate Agent Eric Kirton, who has been a real estate agent for 16 years, said he believes the current market is buyer-driven. 

“I don’t think Newport was given the credit that maybe the Hamptons, or Martha’s Vineyard, or Nantucket, was given. I think a lot of the second home-buyers of significant wealth are starting to look at Newport again as a destination they want to be and are willing to pay. The numbers (are) kind of similar to what those other communities have commanded in the past,” he said. 

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Also, part of the allure of Newport County is that it’s easier to get to from Boston, New York and Connecticut, Kirton said. 

“It isn’t just Newport. It’s the whole island,” he said. 

Still though, Kirton said the amount of higher-end transactions recently is extraordinary. A few of them were estate sales, and one had been on the market for a long time. No one, he said, really sells these high-end, luxury homes with such frequency. 

“This is the first year ever where there have been several transactions at this level. Every year, or every couple of years there’s generally something at this magnitude, but this is the first year ever where there’s been several transactions at very significant price points,” he said. 

Kirton said he believes these high-end sales will continue throughout the year. 

“There’s still a lot of buyers around, that if there’s good quality product that it will definitely sell. I don’t see it slowing from a value perspective,” he said. 

Who is buying 

As for who is purchasing these houses? Leys said much of the clientele he sees is from Boston, Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey, but he’s also seen an uptick in people moving to Newport from California. 

“I had a conversation over the course of six months from two buyers from California. They both pretty much said the same thing. ‘We’re really getting fed-up with California. We’re sick of the taxes, we’re sick of the politics, we’re sick of the wildfires, and we’re just looking east. They told me we’re not looking at Newport per se, we’re just looking east.” Leys said. 

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People are also moving to New England from other western states, and Leys said that’s unusual. 

There’s also been a shift in who is purchasing these homes. 

“Mainly, a lot of private equity, hedge-fund, Wall Street type financial business seems to be where a lot of the high net-worth individuals are coming from. Back in 2000, it would have been tech. It would have been dot-com. That was a real boom of the market for a short time, and personally, I call that the dot.com market. Young guys in their ’20s, who just sold their business for $30 million coming into town and buying stuff. I’m not seeing that this time around,” he said. 

A look at the last five years 

So far in 2021, there have been 222 sales of luxury homes in Newport County with a median price of $1,505,000. By the end of 2020, there were 166 sales with the median price of $1,500,000. 

In 2019, the median price of homes in Newport County was $1,361,200, with 121 sold, which was a slight uptick from homes sold the previous year, being 115, but a decrease in the median price of $1,485,000. In 2017, there were 108 homes sold at the median price of $1,380,000. 

The following is the June to August sales from out of state buyers of $1 million plus Newport County homes in the last five years. 

  • 2017 12 out of 26 total sales were from out of state buyers. 
  • 2018  9 out of 29 total sales were from out of state buyers.
  • 2019  12 out of 17 total sales were from out of state buyers.
  • 2020  29 out of 57 total sales were from out of state buyers. 
  • 2021  44 out of 80 sales so far this year were from out of state buyers. 

Bethany Brunelle can be reached at bbrunelle@newportri.com  907-575-8528 or @bethanyfreuden1 on Twitter, Insta: bethanyfreudenthal, TikTok: thehijabicrimereporter, Muckrack: https://muckrack.com/bethany-freudenthal

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