Real Estate

Fancy that!

High end properties offer amazing amenities -- for a price

by Karla Kane

Fancy a private lake or two? How about a vineyard, equestrian trails or a summer home?

It's no secret that property on the Midpeninsula costs a pretty penny. A one-bedroom condominium in Palo Alto was recently listed for more than a million dollars. But there are certain properties that are a cut above listing for $10 million, $20 million or even close to $70 million. And though they're surely out of reach for all but a fairly exclusive group of potential owners, these homes offer a wealth (pun intended) of amenities and attractive elements.

For homes with such high price tags, "There's obviously not a lot of buyers in that range, so you just have to do all the right things," Alain Pinel Realtor Monica Corman said. She leads private brokers' tours rather than holds open houses. "I do all the showing directly," she said.

Corman represents clients in the communities surrounding Stanford University and is currently listing an historic home in Los Altos Hills. The property, at 12775 Viscaino Road, is listed at an even $15 million. The house was built in 1916, as a summer home for San Franciscan Dr. Thomas Shumate.

"It's really the best of the old and the new," Corman said of the house, which was renovated in the 1990s. An Italianate-style, six-bedroom main residence is joined by a handicap-accessible guesthouse, two-story pool house and tennis courts, covering around 3 acres in total. The house's Great War-era vintage features blend with updated, high-tech "smart house" elements that were added in the renovations. And while the property is stately, it's "very gracious and graceful, not overpowering," she said. "Sometimes you get these new houses that are like showplaces. This one definitely has a soul, and a good one."

An older home, despite the price tag, can also offer a bit of a financial perk.

The previous owner of the Viscaino home applied for preservation under the Mills Act, which offers greatly reduced property taxes in exchange for maintaining historic properties. "My client paid just $14,000 in taxes this year. That's like nothing," she said.

Arti Miglani, one of the listing agents for 190 Island Drive in Palo Alto's posh Crescent Park neighborhood (asking price: $11,995,000), said the home's location is the key to its high value.

"Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Young are in the neighborhood so it's in good company. Entrepreneurs, innovators, all want to come make their home there. It's close to downtown, Rinconada Park, schools and the whole civic community," said Miglani, who works out of Alain Pinel's Palo Alto office. That makes it attractive to young families, especially for those with jobs within biking distance. Of course, the 1929-built home's Spanish Colonial Revival style, inviting yard with tiled terrace and tall redwoods and remodeled kitchen don't hurt, either.

At press time, topping the list of local high-end homes for sale was another piece of history: the Flood Estate in Woodside, with an asking price of a cool $69,800,000. For sale for the first time since its construction, the 91.94-acre property, built in 1941 for the prominent James Flood family, boasts two lakes, a reservoir, a vineyard, private trails, gardens, tennis courts, a Colonial-style mansion with nine bedrooms plus "staff quarters," a gatehouse, caretaker's house and a barn. The estate, listed by Alain Pinel Realtors Mary and Brent Gullixson, is two miles from the town of Woodside proper and is bordered by Huddart Park.

Can't quite afford that one? The Gullixsons are also listing, for $21,800,000, a midcentury mansion in Atherton, at 50 Belbrook Way, which encompasses 5 acres and offers wrap-around decks, contemporary design by architect Joseph Esherick, a cascading pool, a wine cellar and a separate cottage. And for those looking for a little more intrigue, a "secret" door in the foyer leads to a private wing containing two bedroom suites with swimming-pool access.

So who are the people able and interested in purchasing such properties? The home on Viscaino has been on the market since July, and Corman said she's received quite a bit of interest so far, and from varied sources. Her properties often draw interest from wealthy foreign buyers who already own homes in Asia, Europe, and/or the East Coast and are looking for a Western home base.

"I do know this home has been widely seen in China and other parts of Asia and we've had a lot of showings. It's a good place to invest, and they do travel here, and educate their children here," she said. "The school district is fabulous; we see a lot of people who have adult children and grandchildren. It's perfect for extended families."

Miglani said foreign families interested in moving for the top-notch local schools have also viewed her Palo Alto listing, on the market for about three months so far. With homes in such a high price range, "It's known to take some time. People want to make the right choice," she said.

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