Sand Castle White House 1

For each year of his presidency, President Obama spent the holidays on the same stretch of Kailua beach, near the Marine base at Kaneohe.  Rumors continue to swirl on which home exactly the president is in.  Partly for security reasons and partly because several of the homes in the area have changed hands during his presidency.  At any rate, this year, as has been tradition, several friends drive over to the long expanse of beach for a Christmas morning walk.  The 3.5 mile round trip’s turn around has been the Secret Service tent at the far end of Kailua beach to keep looky loos away.

This year, in addition to the tent, was this White House replica in sand with a message from the people of Hawaii to the outgoing President.

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Ventana by Buckner

Ventana by Buckner

If we’re lucky, we age.  If we’re not, we either die early or equally tragically, become old. What’s the difference between aging and getting old?  It’s the difference between continuing to lead your personal definition of an active and engaging life versus always finding one more change to bitch about while counting out your remaining heartbeats. Climb a mountain versus get off my lawn.

Of course while our attitudes and demeanor are largely controllable, physical limitations can be more fickle.  I stay active in part because I know there will come a time when stamina, or worse, mobility will abandon me. There may also come a time when my mental acuity and memory become physically impaired.

When these things happen, living independently becomes less ideal.  But fear not, the days of shipping grandma off to “the home” are fading away.  Just as technology and gerontology advance, so do the ways in which people age.  We’ve all heard the tropes that “50 is the new 40,” etc.  For years the meaning of “old” has been changing as people take more control and expect more out of their latter years than soft food and a TV blaring Matlock reruns and Wheel of Fortune.

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Magnum PI's Robin's Nest From the Air (highlighted in red)

Magnum PI’s Robin’s Nest From the Air (highlighted in red)

The Magnum PI estate went on sale for $15.75million in March of 2014 and less than a year later, it was sold for $8.7-million … but to whom? Of course the press jumped on the confluence of Obama courtiers involved in the convoluted sale. There were non-disclosures, LLCs, and executive assistants signing mortgage papers … and then denials that the Obamas were involved.

Having been on Oahu for over a month, I have to say the locals I’ve chatted with firmly believe it’s all a smokescreen and that the Obama family will be the next residents of the Anderson Estate (no relation, more’s the pity).

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This home is in Kingston, New York, in the Hudson River Valley, and was just written up in the New York Times. I’m writing about it because a) it is a second home for a NYC couple and b) it was built in 1958 by the grandparents of a friend who grew up in the area but now lives in California. They were the “meticulous couple” mentioned in this article. My friend, Samantha, says all that is missing is the Day-Glo white Christmas tree and — oh yes — she also says she has never heard it referred to as the Jetson’s House. The home is in a lovely neighborhood and the mid-mod design makes for easy maintenance, which can be a real pain when you own multiple homes. (Maintaining one drives me nuts!)!

“The couple who had commissioned the architect who designed the house lived in it until we bought it. They had been meticulous. It has a butterfly roof, so the front slopes gradually downward, rising again about halfway back. It‚Äôs great in the winter because there are no drainage problems. The sun melts the snow, and it runs along the center and off. You hear about second homes becoming money pits. This was so well built and so beautifully designed, it will never be that.”

You are looking for the best real estate values in greater Dallas, right? You want a maintenance, headache-free first or second home close to that great maker of getaways, D/FW Airport. Yet you continue to look in Dallas. Are you crazy? Las Colinas is right next door, closer to D/FW, and has some of the best home values in North Texas. Look at this darling pretty-as-pink town home: 6843 Verde, Irving, TX. Beautiful hardwoods throughout the down stairs. Granite, stainless steel, convection oven, breakfast bar, and glass front cabinets make the kitchen sleek and sexy. (No time to cook but we must look good.) The living area overlooks the patio. There are three living areas and 2 dining areas, upstairs office loft. Built in 2006, it has 1772 square feet, three bedrooms, two bathrooms, two living afraes and gorgeous kitchen, two car rear garage, only $160 per month in association fees so you can lock and leave. La Villaita is a beautiful nook centered around a lake, two canals, trails and parks minutes from DFW Airport,¬†Downtown Dallas and Fort¬†Forth¬†with¬†convenient access to I35, I635,¬†George Bush Turnpike. How much you ask? (Thought you never would!) Don’t faint — only $230,000.

See what happens when you venture out of the D Bubble?

You do recall former NBA champ Michael Jordan.¬† Not only is he known as “the greatest basketball player of all times” but he is gaining a rap as the greatest home builder of all times! Jordan is completing a 28,000 square foot mansion in The Bears’ Club, Palm Beach County, Florida, near where Tiger Woods just completed his grand estate. The builder: Lavelle Builders out of Jupiter, Fla. Of course, Tiger’s estate is surrounded by water on three sides to,¬† perhaps, keep the paparazzi (among other things) at bay. Jordan’s mega-mansion, which is still under construction, is not even close to the water. But it now goes down as one of the largest, most expensive homes ever built in Florida that is not on the water, says real estate agent Jeff Lichtenstein of Christie’s Great Estates and Illustrated Properties. Lichtenstein knows of what he talks: he sells real estate in the Palm Beach area, which is notoriously filled with high net worth people who like to enjoy a second or third home here because here they have it all: a backyard marina for their yachts, sea, beach, and plenty of gorgeous Florida sunshine.

Oh yes, and I almost forgot: golf.

Though waning with the general population, the wealthy still love to tinker on the greens. Jeff’s father, Cary Lichenstein, was a golf rater for GolfWeek Magazine and has been playing since he could walk. In fact, he lives so close to Jordan — in Admiral’s Cove – the elder Lichenstein could lend a hammer or nail to the twenty million dollar project.

The Jordan home will have 11 bedrooms, sits on a three-parcel site right in the backyard of the uber exclusive (and hard to get into) Bear’s Club. Let me put it to you this way: it costs $350,000 just to call yourself a member of the club. The area is loaded with courses designed by Jack Nicklaus, but he personally plays at Bears Club — so basically this area is golf nirvana and the membership list is a regular Who’s Who…¬† stars, Fortune 400 execs, and the Nicklaus family.There are 55 residences ranging from $4 million on up to, well, probably Jordan’s home. When complete, Jordan’s mansion will be a contemporary with Spanish-style roof — this I have to see. It will have four separate structures: A main house, a guardhouse, a guesthouse and a poolhouse for the mammoth swimming pool. In other words, the largest spread in the ‘hood.

Neighbors once included chanteuse Celine Dion, who ran into a few problems with her HOA over her desire to add a commercial recording studio or music room to her property — deeds are so tough in this ‘hood that even if a home burns down, you have to re-build it to look just like the original home. I mean, can you imagine the disaster if a Mediterranean went up right next to — another Mediterranean?

Jordan paid $4.8 million for the land and is spending an estimated $7.6 million for the construction. The Lichtenstein boys estimate that the total booty will top $20 million, and they worry a bit about re-sale value:

“It would be interesting to see what the Jordan home resells for, being that its location, while great for MJ’s privacy, is not ideal for resale to the usual trophy-and-yacht buyer,”says Jeff.

Only his banker knows for sure!

Not to mention the golf! What a pleasure it was to meet Mr. Player, one of the world’s top golfers! He was in La Paz at CostaBaja this past weekend, where he christened the beautiful, ecologically balanced golf course he designed for the developers of CostaBaja. Do I golf? No, unless the clothes are really cute. But here’s why I love golf: it drives real estate.¬† Especially second home real estate. CostaBaja is a beautiful new resort-marina-beachfront-golf-fishing community at La Paz, overlooking the sparkling clean Sea of Cortez, which Ernest Hemingway dubbed “the aquarium of the world”.¬†¬† I am totally in love with this part of Mexico and almost purposefully missed my flight home. If I could live anywhere Mexico, this would be the place — sorry San Miguel. This was my second trip to Baja — a few years ago we toured, with friends, the magnificent golf and luxury living nirvana Querencia, in Los Cabos, which is where the rich and famous of Hollywood have always played on the beach. (In fact, there are now direct flights to La Paz from LAX.) I’m told Michael Dell has an amazing home at El Dorado in Los Cabos — maybe that was his jet we saw on the two point five hour ride to La Paz? Holy cow — looks like recessionary prices start there at $4 million. The entire Baja landscape is striking, and not just for it’s great real estate. The peninsula is composed of volcanic mountains with multicolored layers of volcanic ash and lava. Then each island in the Sea of Cortez is different, and there are so many sprinkled about. Isla Danzante is a place of high volcanic cliffs while Isla Carmen is full of fossilized shell, which is proof that some 20 million years ago, the Baja Peninsula was connected to the rest of Mexico and the Sea of Cortez was non-existent. The great shift of geological plates broke the Baja peninsula apart from the mainland, creating a rift that became filled with the royal blue waters now known as the Sea of Cortez. Incredibly rich in marine life: 800 species of fish, dolphins, whales and sea lions who we were told actually hug you and tickle your face.

But I digress: golf. It is true that interest in golf is waning with the younger generation. Most golfers are fifty-something. Rounds are down, and golf courses are up for sale. I learned that in the boom, almost one golf course per day was going up in the U.S. as 300 to 400 new courses opened each year. They were driving lifestyle communities, and real estate. But golf has suffered with the real estate recession. And country club memberships are on the decline. Many people think golf courses are not good for the environment as they need green turf grass which sucks water but that is always not true: an 18 hole golf course produces enough oxygen for a town of 100,000 people every year. And in La Paz, one ecological about face happened when the CostaBaja developers paid to treat and recycle the city’s sewage. Instead of dumping it into the ocean (which nearly every third world country does) they treat it and use the tank water to irrigate the golf course.

“The rest of the world embraces golf,” said Player. “They see it as a badge of economic wealth.”

He also said the high tech golf ball has created problems in the game because new balls travel 50 yards further, and with bigger, stronger men getting into the game, well, Player says courses may just have to get bigger to accommodate the big boys and their power drives.

Player, 75 (but does not even look 69) later golfed with Mexican-born golfer Lorena Ochoa. Besides his businesses, the South African-born golfer has several causes he works on and links to golf — childhood obesity to try and prevent diabetes, and smacking removing that sense of entitlement from our children.

In the end, even Player admits it’s all about the real estate:

“It’s important to design a golf course,” said Player, “that makes people feel good when they come off the course…”

And go home to their first, second — or third — home.

Value and a pretty darn good view — beachfront or mountain — that’s what people generally want when they seek second home real estate. After all, that’s the whole point of buying a second home, getting out of Dodge and enjoying peace, quiet and nature. But one thing has changed since the real estate bubble burst: folks want smaller second homes. (Do you blame them? Give me a one-vacuum-cleaner home on the range.) Two to three bedrooms max, creative living space, multi-function rooms. According to the E360‚Äôs 2nd Home Trend Report,¬† 45% of homeowners believe this year — maybe 2011, also — is the best time to buy a second home. No brain-killer here: timing, cheap interest rates, close-out pre-foreclosure sales; property characteristics, location, and price were the major preferences or influencing factors.

God, I hope they didn’t pay someone to dig up this earth-shattering news. Cut the consultants, just chop the price.Because guess what, the buyers are out there on the fence:

“More impressively, of the remaining 54% who indicated that now would not be a good time to buy 79% indicated that they would be likely or very likely to purchase in the next 2 years. Martin says ‚Äúthis is a strong indication that demand will continue to grow over the next two years and will strengthen the second home market‚Äù.

Why do second home buyers buy homes? 46% for lifestyle and leisure, 41% for investing, 11% for retirement. Maybe it’s only 11% for retirement because so few of us will be able to retire.¬† They really don’t want much space. One trend I saw at a lovely East Texas shared ownership and conservation development called Cross Pines Ranch was the porch dining room — second home buyers love large kitchens with eating areas but skip building a formal dining room. The large, screened-in porch can be a second dining or living area, especially if there is an outdoor fireplace. Screened-in means not air conditioned and heated which means, non-taxable square footage.