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Global Wealthy on Multiple Home Crusade

06.11.19

Two decades ago, a $100 million home sale was almost unthinkable. Times have changed: Four homes in the U.S. have closed at or above $100 million this year alone, with at least one more expected to trade by the end of 2019.

The properties that have sold for nine-figure price tags—and the many more that have sought the landmark sum—paint a telling portrait of the uber-wealthy in the early 21st century, a time period when massive wealth has come to be increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few. What has emerged are a small number of staggeringly rich buyers who will pay once-unimaginable sums for the home of their choice.

The population of billionaires across the globe hit a record of 2,754 in 2017, with their wealth surging 24% from the prior year, according to a report by data provider Wealth-X. There were 2,170 billionaires world-wide in 2012.

Accompanying this surge are home sales at never-before-seen prices. Since the first nine-figure sales took place in 2007, roughly 20 homes and ranches across the country have sold for $100 million or more. At least five of those purchasers made their fortunes in tech, including Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, who paid about $130 million for roughly 700 beachfront acres in Hawaii with plans to build a home for his family, according to people with knowledge of the deal. Roughly seven of the homes were purchased by buyers in finance, mostly hedge funds.

For some of these elite buyers, one $100 million property isn’t enough. In 2012 Ken Griffin, founder of the hedge-fund firm Citadel, paid just under $130 million for an oceanfront compound in Palm Beach, Florida, where he plans to build two homes: one for himself and one for his mother, according to a person with knowledge of his plans. Then earlier this year, he spent about $238 million for a new Manhattan penthouse apartment overlooking Central Park.

New York—which has seen two nine-figure sales to date—has the highest population of billionaires of any city in the world, the report found. The Los Angeles area, which moved up to seventh place from 11th place the previous year, has seen two nine-figure sales this year, with more uber-wealthy purchasers circling, real-estate agents said.

International buyers, particularly those from the Middle East, are reportedly more interested in Los Angeles than in the past. Another factor is the growing presence of technology companies in the area, which has led more tech entrepreneurs to purchase homes even if they don’t live there full time.

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