No Deep Discount Here: Haft House Goes for Record $$$

By Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts
Wednesday, March 29, 2006

House hunting? If you were considering Herbert Haft 's $20 million mansion, you're too late. The seven-bedroom, 11 1/2 -bathroom house (chandelier imported from France, fireplaces from England, marble floors from Italy) is under contract and will close next month -- the most expensive residential property ever to sell in the District.

Myrna Haft , widow of the discount retail magnate who died in 2004, listed the 23,522-square-foot property in August and signed a contract March 17. Details of the sale are hush-hush, but the buyer is not from Washington, and the price is reportedly close (give or take a million or two) to the $20 million price tag.

"This is a very quick sale for a house of this price," said Jennifer Wellde, who, along with agents Maggie Shannon and Jean Smith, is sworn to secrecy by confidentiality agreements standard for megabucks contracts. According to the MRIS real estate database, the buyer's agent gets 2 percent of the sales price -- which would be $400,000 if the house sells for the whole $20 million.

"For Washington, this is big," says Connie Maffin , a broker with Coldwell Banker and chairwoman of the D.C. Real Estate Board. Previous sales records in the District were set by properties with lots of land: A 17-acre estate on Foxhall Road (briefly proposed as a mayoral mansion) sold for just over $16 million in 2001; a 16-acre lot up the road went for $21 million last fall. ( Steve Case ponied up $24.5 million last fall for Merrywood and it's seven acres, but that's in McLean.) But the Haft mansion sits on less than an acre at 2501 30th St. NW (not far from the vice president's residence), so the money is all about the house.

Cash burning a hole in your pocket? There are still four luxury homes available in the District for more than $10 million.

One Big Happy Family, at Long Last

Rebecca Roberts is about as local as they come -- Bethesda-born, daughter of Washington journalists Cokie and Steve Roberts , granddaughter of congresspeople Hale and Lindy Boggs . And after 18 years away (college at Princeton, work on the West Coast), she's coming home as host of a new WETA-FM daily talk show on local issues. Roberts, 35, will move back East from San Francisco, where she has hosted a public radio call-in show, before starting "The Intersection" this summer. She says she's excited about her return, but Mom and Dad are even more so. "They're beside themselves," she told our colleague Paul Farhi. "I expect to see a billboard along the Beltway reading, 'Our grandchildren are coming home.' " She is married with three boys -- 4-year-old twins and a 16-month-old.

Hey Isn't That . . . ?

· Lance Armstrong , perching in the VIP balcony of the 9:30 club for the Monday night Arctic Monkeys show. The cycling champion and eligible-again bachelor, in town for business with his Lance Armstrong Foundation, went backstage to meet the Brit band and pose for this photo with club owner Seth Hurwitz and his wife, Caroline .

When Ms. Cousteau's Coming, Don't Serve . . .

Ah, zee irony! Among the panelists at a Natural History Museum screening of scenes from Jacques Perri n's upcoming documentary "Oceans" was Alexandra Cousteau , environmental activist and glamorous granddaughter of legendary deep-sea explorer Jacques Cousteau . During a Q&A after the film, she was asked what regular folks can do to save the oceans.

"Don't eat shrimp!" she said, noting that shrimp harvesting disrupts vast swaths of underwater life. So everyone heads out to the reception, where, of course, they were serving . . . shrimp. Big bowls of it.

At least, says Roland Celette , head of the French American Cultural Foundation, which sponsored the event, "we avoided fish." Perrin, best known for the dazzling "Winged Migration," will show more "Oceans" scenes at a 2 p.m. seminar today at the French Embassy; for reservations call 202-944-6091.

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