Naples has a new record home sale at $52 million, luxury market sizzles
Bill Earls has been ultra busy these days.
Since the start of the new year, the longtime Realtor — specializing in ultra-luxury properties in Naples — has been involved in sales that top $140 million.
Often, Earls has been both the listing and selling agent.
One of his recent sales — a stately family compound at 2700 Gordon Drive in Port Royal — has set a new all-time record for the most expensive home ever sold in Naples.
The price tag? Property records confirm it went for a cool $52 million on Jan. 29.
Just a day before that record sale, Earls, a top-producing agent with John R. Wood Properties, sold another gulf-front mansion a stone's throw away for a head-turning $36 million.
Not even two weeks later, came another whopper of a sale in Port Royal — known as one of the priciest neighborhoods in America.
A nearly 16,000-square-foot palatial waterfront estate at 3100 Gordon Drive fetched $39 million on Feb. 11, with Earls representing the buyer, who paid very near the asking price.
Along with those colossal deals, Earls recently sold a 100-foot-wide vacant waterfront lot at 4100 Gordon Drive for $13.5 million.
Showings have picked up, so much so that Earls says it's hard to know whether he's coming or going.
"It's so unbelievably busy," he said.
Nothing "in the air"
What's driving the flurry of eye-popping sales of late?
"It's not like something is in the air," Earls said.
However, he doesn't think it's just a coincidence either, attributing the strong activity in part to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has made Naples an even sweeter "garden spot" for the uber-rich.
An increasing number of affluent buyers are fleeing northern cities, not just to get away from the virus and its restrictions, but to escape from "urban and moral decay" and higher taxes — and to claim their slice of paradise while they still can in places such as sunny Naples, Earls said.
"This is a good place to be," he said. "This is a darn good place to be, compared to almost anywhere in the country. If we had to go through this terrible time with this viral pandemic, I can't think of another place I'd rather be on the whole planet earth than Naples, Florida."
Right now, Naples is an especially good place to be because it offers so many outdoor activities, from kayaking to pickle ball, easily allowing for social distancing, and its economy is fully open, including shops, restaurants and entertainment venues, Earls pointed out, unlike in some places in the country, where there are more COVID-related restrictions and limitations on residents and businesses.
"We're not on a panic lockdown," he said. "I mean, we never really were."
If there's one positive from the pandemic, it's that more people have realized they can do much of their work remotely, Earls said, giving them the freedom to live where they want — and the ability to move away from bigger cities and eliminate the long, stressful commutes on congested roads and crowded highways.
"Naples is a safe, easy, clean place, with a bright, bright future," he said. "It's a place they want to call home."
Titans on the move
Earls describes the buyers he's been working with lately as "titans of industry," an elite group of successful and influential corporate leaders who've amassed great wealth.
"None of these people are connected to each other," he said of his buyers. "They all have their own individual stories."
He keeps his clients' identities and backgrounds hush-hush, to protect their privacy. It goes with the territory.
It's not any old buyer who can plop down $56 million, $40 million or even $36 million on a sprawling estate — or mansion.
Property records list the buyer behind the newly set record home sale as a limited liability company going under the name Quarton Capital, with a Delaware address, masking the true ownership.
The seller? That's a bit easier to figure out. The property was last owned by The Judith A. Herb Revocable Trust, tied to billionaire Marvin Herb, a former Coca-Cola bottling plant owner, and his wife.
The lushly landscaped, gated compound the Herbs sold has three homes, sitting on nearly four acres, with more than 300 feet of waterfront footage on the Gulf of Mexico.
Known as Village Vista for its endless views, the classic European-style estate built in 2003 hit the market for the first time in late 2019, with a listing price of $65 million. It has been described as a "one-of-kind property suitable for royalty."
The main house, stretching more than 11,500 square feet, has six bedrooms, with a study, and "6.2" bathrooms, counting partial ones.
Additionally, there's a guest house and a caretaker's cottage.
Together, the homes have 13 bedrooms and even more bathrooms, plus multiple studies.
The finishes and materials builders used in the homes come from around the world. Stand-out features include: a chef's kitchen, gas fireplaces, stone arched doorways and huge his and her closets in the master bedroom.
More big sales
Here's a bit about the other mansion Earls recently sold:
Built in 1999, it's known as "La Campana." At 2750 Gordon Drive, it's an 18,000 square foot-plus Italian Renaissance-style palace, with more than half a dozen bedrooms. It includes a beachside game room, his and hers studies, a two-story rotunda, an elevator and a mahogany bar topped with green marble. There's also a five-car "collectors" garage and 500-bottle wine room.
As for the home Earls found the buyer for that sold for nearly $40 million, it's equally impressive. The Island Colonial-style estate, with five bedrooms and six baths, sits on more than 4 acres, with 277 feet of sandy shore. Built in 2009, it includes a seven-car garage, retractable motorized glass walls and a 66-foot long pool.
The mansion has a storied past, with its former owner sentenced to one year and one day in a federal prison for tax invasion in 2014.
Buyers are purchasing — and owners are building — more magnificent homes in Naples, which has driven listing and sales prices to new heights. Why are the uber-rich investing more money? In part because Naples is becoming their primary residence, not just a place where they have a second, third or fourth home, so they're now pouring more money into their homes here, Earls said.
Newer estates and mansions are in the highest demand. That because they've been built to much higher design and architectural standards, Earls said, offering all the bells and whistles, from top-notch lighting, audio, air conditioning and roofing systems to windows and doors of superior quality that not only look great, but offer greater protection.
Even when the COVID crisis finally comes to an end, Earls still expects to see people relocating to so-called garden spots, including places such as Palm Beach on Florida's east coast and Scottsdale in Arizona, not just Naples.
"We are seeing a tremendous influx of people from New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Illinois and California, and these people are tired of what's going on there," he said.
Asked what's motivating the sellers to give up their magnificent estates and mansions, if Naples is such a great place to live and work, Earls said many are just relocating elsewhere in the city — or Collier County, in some cases just because they want to experience something new and different, such as living in a high-rise condo or gated golf course community.
Many of these sellers have what Earls describes as a light footprint, with grown children who no longer live at home, making a move to a new place so much easier.
While COVID brought the local real estate market to a halt initially, it quickly recovered.
For Earls, the demand at the top of the market resumed by June, then took off from there, keeping him on his toes ever since.
How is he keeping up? "I work eight days a week, as you know," he said. "That helps."
Although there haven't been any record-setting home sales in neighboring Lee County this year, Michael Polly, president and managing broker at Royal Shell Real Estate, with offices in Naples and Fort Myers, as well as on Sanibel and Captiva Islands, said the year has started off with a strong interest in — and strong sales pace for — multimillion-dollar homes, especially those with water views.
With a quick search of the multiple listing service, he found 15 pending sales for $10 million-plus homes that have gone under contract since the end of December.
All but two of those homes are in Naples, with the others located in Bonita Springs and Captiva.