Local Mansions, a Relative Bargain

By Sandra Fleishman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, January 28, 2006

It may seem as if Washington area home prices are ultra high, but only 21 properties here made a list of the 1,000 most expensive houses on the market in America that was published this week.

And at $8 million to $25 million, the farmland, estates and mansions here look like absolute bargains compared with the asking prices of hundreds of properties elsewhere, mostly in New York, California and Florida.

At $25 million, the most expensive Washington area listing, an 11-acre parcel of land called Rokeby Farm in McLean, pales in comparison with the $125 million that Donald Trump is asking for his six-acre spread plus mansion in Palm Beach, Fla.

While Trump may command much more money these days, Rokeby was once briefly home to an even bigger celebrity in her time. In August 1814, first lady Dolley Madison landed at Rokeby, the home of her friend Matilda Lee Love, when the White House was torched by the British.

The property, which is home now only to stables and horses, was listed in May by Dan and Jan Laytham of Long & Foster Real Estate Inc. in Great Falls.

To find a local house to compare to the Trump hacienda -- which boasts 15 bedrooms and 14 baths -- you have to look at the second-most-expensive listing in the Washington area as ranked by Ultimate Homes Magazine. The Princeton, N.J., publication, issued its second annual ranking of the top listings on Tuesday.

The most expensive local listing for a house rather than land, according to the magazine, is the last home lived in by retail magnate Herbert H. Haft, who died in 2004 at age 84.

The seven-bedroom, 11 1/2 -bath mansion at 2501 30th St. NW in the District went on the market for $20 million at the end of July, according to agent Maggie Shannon of Long & Foster in Georgetown. It was assessed at $8 million in 2005.

Myrna Haft, Haft's widow, received the house as part of a $50 million estate inherited from her husband, whom she married in a deathbed ceremony.

Shannon said this week that the Haft property, which is gated and sits on a half-acre of land near Embassy Row, has attracted "a lot of interest" from locals and international visitors. The house has Italian marble floors, French and English lighting fixtures, such as a chandelier from the Paris Opera House and marble fireplaces. The custom-made furnishings are for sale separately.

Typically, houses in the highest end of the market can take months or years to sell if the "right buyer" doesn't show up immediately, real estate experts say.

An example of a property that was expected to sell promptly but hasn't -- perhaps because its original price was excessive, according to some local agents -- is Hickory Hill, the McLean mansion of Ethel Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy.

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2006 The Washington Post Company