Note: This article has been updated with information obtained after first publication.
Concierge Auctions will be auctioning off a Dallas landmark property, the former Crespi Estate now known as Walnut Place, as it was christened by its previous owner, Tom Hicks. The 1938-era, 29,000 square foot estate was commissioned by Count Pio Crespi, built of Indiana limestone by Maurice Fatio, and significantly restored by Mr. and Mrs. Hicks, who acquired the estate in the late 1990s and spent about 16 years and close to $100 million on the near-perfect expansion and remodel.
Dallas-based banker, financier, investor, businessman, and professional poker player Andy Beal bought the estate almost a year ago from Hicks. The location: primo Preston Hollow. George and Laura Bush are nearby. The address is almost as long as the driveway: 10000 Hollow Way Road.
The auction takes place Dec. 20, with Dec. 19 as a preview day. Allie Beth Allman, who has had the property since March of 2015 when it was listed for $100 million, is the listing agent. It was the owner, she told me, who decided to bring out the auction gavel.
There is no reserve. That means, there is no baseline bid required to begin, such as at, oh, let’s say $20 million.
Of course, listing your home as the most expensive home in America is great publicity in and of itself. But at $135 million, that wasn’t enough.
The estate was purchased by Mr. Beal last December. He turned around and put it back on the market almost immediately. Beal also bought the Trammell Crow estate on Preston Road, which was listed for $46 million, in February 2016. He tore that property down. Beal is currently building a home on the 6.13-acre estate site, which is on the tax books for $34 million, which gives us an indication of what he likely paid for it.
The sales price on Walnut Place was undisclosed, but rumor has it to be in the $58 to $60 million range. That purchase price likely included furnishings. Almost all furnishings were sent to Christie’s to be auctioned, we are told. Allie Beth chopped the price to $48.9 million last Jan. 10. The DCAD appraisal likely gives some insight into the value minus furnishings: $42,628,000 plus $3,322,000 for an adjoining parcel: about $46 million.
Agents who showed the property a few weeks ago say the kitchen was also ripped out to be remodeled, and the furnishings were gone. Later today, Allie Beth told me Mr. Beal poured at least $2 million into the estate making it more than pristine.
The Hicks relocated to Museum Tower.
It is always possible that Mr. Beal bought the property as a speculative investment, a gamble, despite the renovation investment. Of course, owners in auctions usually reserve the right to pull the plug on the property sale at any point if they feel the bids are not to their liking.
“It’s owned by an LLC, Daria Drive Trust” says Tom Charron, marketing director/partner of Elite Auctions, who recently sold the Swarovski Vaquero estate by auction. “If they feel they can not get anywhere near what they want, the seller can choose not to proceed.”
Bidders, who must be pre-qualified and have plunked down a significant deposit, can always choose to make a traditional offer, says Charron.
Marketing fees will likely run in excess of $100,000, though most photos and videos have already been taken. One potential buyer who looked at the house says the cost of running Walnut Place is almost $2 million a year — he passed.
“That’s what throws potential buyers,” says a luxury agent who has showed the home numerous times. “It’s just so, so much maintenance.”
You might also wonder why the auction would be held in December, traditionally a slow real estate month, just one week before Christmas? We are totally checking on this, but likely the seller wants to clear the property from his books by year end. If he takes a major league hit on the property, he could use it against this year’s taxes, writing off the entire loss, if there is a loss.
“Our clients often want to sell in December to finalize the annual books, or it could just be a mental decision that they wanted to sell the property and get it closed by the new year,” says Laura Brady, president and founder of Concierge Auctions. “We are also doing a lot of outreach to China with our clients, and have several significant estates coming to auction next month.”
And there is always the possibility that the auction does not go through. That happens. Concierge, quickly becoming the Rolls Royce disruptor of real estate auctions, helped John Goff sell Mariposa, his $8.9 million executive retreat on Eagle Mountain Lake where the deal was sealed to sell Crescent Real Estate Equities to Morgan Stanley for $6.5 billion, a company he would later buy back for pennies on the dollar. That property has closed, says Laura. Champs D’Or up in Hickory Creek did NOT sell at auction, but is under contract to one of the bidders.
“When an auction is unable to be completed, there are several options. It can be postponed, or the seller can go back to the traditional method of selling a home,” says Charron. “Or we approach the bidders, recommend they make a private offer through their representative. Sometimes that works out, and the property sells.”
If an auction doesn’t work out, it’s kind if swept under the rug, hoping people will forget about it.
Luxury real estate is getting harder to sell, agents tell me. They say the auction route is smart because it’s forcing the market to determine the property’s true value in a window of time. Buyers who have been circling will definitely pay attention.
“A developer won’t care about the time of year,” says Christy Berry with The Collective. “They will care about the best price.”
Which leads us to speculation about the future of Walnut Place, and the homes on the property — there is a main house, a guest house, a sort of recreational center and theater, outdoor pool and pavilion, and more. Would they remain if a developer buys the 25.5 acres and subdivides the property into one acre parcels called, perhaps, Crespi Estates?
A Legacy of Luxury: Hidden behind wrought iron gates, in exclusive Preston Hollow, is perhaps the most impressive and architecturally significant private estate in the country. Walnut Place, commissioned by Count Pio Crespi, is a breathtaking 1938 limestone mansion built by Maurice Fatio. Host to Presidents, celebrities and dignitaries, the Count entertained in, amongst others, the silver-leafed Art Deco bar room and the library paneled in 19th century Italian burled walnut. From 2000-2003, a restoration and expansion took as many as 250 craftsmen, including builder John Sebastian, architect and designer Peter Marino and landscape architect Arabella Lennox-Boyd.