Listen to this article
The oceanfront property for sale in West Tisbury on the island of Martha’s Vineyard in the US is no ordinary home. The main house has one master bedroom, although there is a two-bedroom guest house next door and a one-bedroom pool house, together with a 12,000-bottle wine cellar, tennis court and saltwater swimming pool. There is also a separate one-bedroom beach house, plus 314 acres of spectacular grasslands and woods that include a 35-acre freshwater pond and 1,200ft of private oceanfront beach.
Yet the estate’s most distinctive feature may be its price tag. At $118m, the sweeping property in Massachusetts has one of the highest asking prices for a home in the US. And if a buyer is found at that price, it would likely be the most expensive home ever sold on the New England island.
“There’s certainly a lot here to lure buyers,” says the listing agent Charles Carlson, of South Light Property, which is marketing the home with Knight Frank. “This is one of the largest privately owned and undeveloped coastal properties in the entire northeastern US.”
The hefty asking price reflects the mounting optimism among property owners and real estate professionals about the outlook for high-end sales on Martha’s Vineyard.
Located about five miles off the coast of Massachusetts and surrounded by beaches, the 100-square mile island has long been a coveted holiday retreat for celebrities, business tycoons and politicians. Martha’s Vineyard has been a second home to the Kennedy clan for decades, while Bill Clinton and Barack Obama have spent summers here. British architect Norman Foster paid $21.9m for a 35-acre property on the island in 2011.
Home-buying season typically starts in spring, when the island’s mostly wealthy clientele begins to trickle in. But activity has already been seen at the top end of the market, “from people who want to start looking at properties now so they can already be on the beach this summer”, according to Tom LeClair, an estate agent with LandVest, an affiliate of Christie’s International Real Estate. “Sales accelerate in spring and summer but we’re off to a pretty good start.”
The number of home sales in the six areas that make up the island’s property market rose 28 per cent in the third quarter of 2013 compared with the same period in 2012, according to a survey by Peter Fyler at SplitRock Real Estate. It also reveals that $112m worth of property was sold in the third quarter; an increase of 46 per cent from the same 2012 period.
Dotted with harbours and edged by clay cliffs, Martha’s Vineyard is roughly divided into two parts: down island and up island. The eastern section, which includes the historic port towns of Edgartown, Oak Bluffs, and Vineyard Haven, occupies the down island portion. This is considered the commercial and tourist centre and includes Chappaquiddick, a small island off the eastern end of Martha’s Vineyard, which became internationally known in 1969 when US Senator Ted Kennedy accidentally drove his car off a bridge, killing his passenger, Mary Jo Kopechne.
Up island, in the southwest, features rolling hills and broad ocean views, and the towns of Gay Head, Chilmark, and West Tisbury.
Although the average price of a home on the island was $1.27m in September last year, according to SplitRock Real Estate, the large estates and brightly painted Victorian homes found along the coastline can sell for $10m or more.
Landvest/Christie’s International Real Estate is selling a 12-acre property in Chilmark with more than 1,300ft of ocean frontage for $10.75m. The Cape Cod-style main house has four bedrooms and unobstructed views of the southern shoreline.
Hallmark Sotheby’s International Realty is marketing an estate in Chappaquiddick for $8.9m. The 18-acre property, called Big Camp, has two New England-style homes, a private beachfront and a nine-hole golf course.
Despite the robust real estate environment, properties with sparkling pedigrees and higher price points can still be difficult to sell. Caroline Kennedy, the US ambassador to Japan and the only surviving child of the late US president John F. Kennedy, last year put up for sale two oceanfront properties in the town of Aquinnah, but has since reduced both asking prices. A 39.5-acre parcel with a price of $20m is now on the market for $16.5m, while a 53.5-acre parcel originally priced at $25m now has an asking price of $22.5m.
Similarly, the $118m property for sale in West Tisbury is also available for purchase in smaller parcels. These include a 100-acre portion for $31m, a 164-acre parcel for $43m, and a 50-acre site, which includes the main house, for $44m. “We think selling it in smaller parcels will make it more attractive to a broader segment of potential buyers,” says Charles Carlson, the listing agent.
● Boston’s Logan airport is the closest international airport. Several airlines fly regularly between Boston and Martha’s Vineyard
● The year-round population is 16,535, rising to 100,000 in the summer, according to the US Census
● About 56 per cent of homes in the Vineyard are seasonally occupied
What you can buy for . . .
$3m: A two-bedroom cottage near Main Street in Edgartown
$5m: A 700 sq ft, three- or four-bedroom property near the ocean
$10m: An oceanfront property with a large main house, pool and tennis courts on five to 10 acres of land