Wealthy Chinese eye priciest US home listing

Updated: 2014-01-25 03:19

By ZHANG YUWEI in New York (China Daily USA)

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At the end of an 1,800-foot cobblestone driveway in the woods in Greenwich, Connecticut, a Victorian French-renaissance mansion sits on 50 acres on Long Island Sound.

Including two offshore islands, Copper Beech Farm is listed for sale. Even after a $60 million price reduction – including a $10 million cut recently -- it still carries a $130 million price tag, making it the most expensive property listing in the United States.

Since it was put on sale in June, the property has been visited by a number of investors, including several Chinese who have showed interest.

David Ogilvy, president of David Ogilvy & Associates and the property's listing agent, said one group of Chinese — families and friends of a Chinese businessman — paid the property a second visit last year and could be a potential buyer.

"I'm sure we have a potential Chinese buyer; we've actually shown it to several people who would look to be very interested in it," Ogilvy said.

Among the investors who visited the property, about half were American, and the rest were foreign. Half the foreigners were Asian, Ogilvy said.

Wealthy Chinese eye priciest US home listing

David Ogilvy, president of David Ogilvy & Associates and broker for the most expensive property in the US -- Copper Beech Farm located in Connecticut -- shows the living room of the property which is currently on the market for $130 million. Ogilvy said several Chinese have been visiting the house and there is a potential Chinese buyer. (photo: Zhang Yuwei / China Daily)

Built in 1896, the property was named for the huge copper beech trees populating it. Besides the two offshore islands, the 12-bedroom home has some 4,000 feet of private frontage on Long Island Sound, a carriage house, a guest cottage, two swimming pools, two greenhouses, a wine cellar and a grass tennis court.

It has had three owners. Harriet Lauder Greenway—son of George Lauder who joined Andrew Carnegie to create US Steel—became the property's owner in 1904 and lived there for 75 years.

The current owner is a New York businessman who uses it as a weekend and summer house with his family, according to Ogilvy.

"The family lived here for the past 35 years very quietly so people have no idea this particular house and this incredible property event exist. It's very surprising," Ogilvy said.

"The buyers who have come to look at this property have a great wish to be on the water and to have great privacy," Ogilvy said. "Security has become increasingly important to many people around the world today," he said.

Ogilvy said the property's uniqueness is a major attraction for international buyers.

"People love ‘unique' and when they can honestly say ‘I have the only 50-acre waterfront property in Connecticut', that says something to other people who are also successful," Ogilvy said. "They want something no one else has — and that is this property — and truly no one else has it."

Greenwich, located about 45 minutes north of New York City, has several of America's most expensive ZIP codes – and some of its priciest property, according to a Forbes ranking.

Copper Beech recently became neighbor to one of the world's savviest investors and one of the eight billionaires (by Forbes ranking) who lives in Greenwich: Ray Dalio, founder of investment-management firm Bridgewater Associates. Six acres of waterfront near Copper Beech were purchased for $25 million through a limited liability company with the same address as Bridgewater and managed by Bridgewater's chief financial counsel, local news site Greenwichtime.com reported. The land Bridgewater purchased does not offer the same open-water views as Copper Beech.

Copper Beech is marketed through Christie's International Real Estate and its Hong Kong office to reach international buyers who have become increasingly prominent in the US real estate market in recent years. Christie's recently expanded into Shanghai and Beijing to introduce its high-end properties to art collectors and high-net-worth individuals in China.

Kathleen Coumou, senior vice-president at Christie's International Real Estate in New York, said the property is the "perfect investment" for a foreign buyer, because of its convenient location and available water frontage.

"Copper Beech is located in Greenwich, which is considered a desirable location in an affluent community with high-profile retail establishments and easy access to New York City by car or train," Coumou said. "This is a premium investment due to the limited availability of waterfront properties," she said.

Ogilvy said some potential Chinese buyers — who visited the property for investment purposes — could possibly subdivide it into 12-13 lots from the current two big lots. The location of the house — about six miles from the local airport — is convenient for travel, he said.

Eileen Hsu, an agent with New York residential real estate brokerage Douglas Elliman, who has handled high-end property deals with many Chinese clients, said Copper Beech could be an option for those who plan to build new communities on the land.

"They can be inspecting and thinking building new construction buildings or new home communities," Hsu said. "Many Chinese investors that we work with like to get into building new developments or large commercial buildings, in our experience."

Many Chinese investors "are very savvy", Hsu said. "Therefore, depending on their plans, the 50-acre property can be profitable."

Multiple deals involving Chinese investors in the past year reflect a strong appetite for US real estate.

Chinese have left investment footprints from the West Coast to the East Coast, ranging from China's Vanke and Tishman Speyer's luxury condominium project in San Francisco to Soho China CEO Zhang Xin's joint investment in a 40 percent stake in New York City's iconic General Motors building.

Wealthy Chinese eye priciest US home listing

Wealthy Chinese eye priciest US home listing

An aerial shot of the 50-acre Copper Beech Farm in Greenwich, Connecticut. The property, with a price tag of $130 million, is the priciest home in the United States. (photo provided to China Daily )

Chinese cross-border investment in global real estate has increased rapidly since the 2008 global financial crisis, according to a new report by Savills, a global real estate-service provider, and Wealth-X, a Singapore-based consultancy.

With about $23.7 billion in cross-border real estate investment, China trails only the US in the category, said the report, which focused on how private wealth increasingly shapes the world's real estate markets.

Yolande Barnes, head of Savills world research, said that even mega-rich Chinese run into difficulty investing in real estate outside China.

"The most common way is to buy accommodation for student offspring, or to channel investment through a Hong Kong or Singaporean vehicle of some kind," Barnes said.

"I would not therefore expect Chinese wealth to form the bulk of overseas investment in a city like New York," she said. "A great deal is likely to come from the rest of Asia, Europe and South America."

Contact the writer atyuweizhang@chinadailyusa.com