Stahr went to the table where he was expected and sat down with the Cafe Society group - from Wall Street, Grand Street, Loudoun County, Virginia nad Odessa, Russia. They were all talking with enthusiasm about a horse that had run very fast . . ."
F. Scott Fitzgerald
"The Last Tycoon
They're still talking about fast horses, an athe Cafe Society group is still meeting in Loudoun County, Virginia - and in Fauquier County and Albemarle County. Wall Street is still involved but Odessa is now represented by Brazil, Germany, Italy and England.
In the past two years, scores of Europeans and South Americans have been buying up large estates in Virginia's Hunt County. In November, an English couple paid $750,000 for the 400-acre Edgemont Farm near Charlottesville,' an estate complete with a spacious home designed in 1796 by Thomas Jefferson.
In December, Belvoir Farm near The Plains went to a Brazilian family for $1.95 million, a price that brought 850 acres, terraced boxwood gardens, an anti-bellum gazebo, indoor horse-training facilities and a Palladian mansion built in the late 18th century.
In September, the 700-acre Barboursville Farm near Charlottesville was purchased for $800,000 by a group of Italians who plan to live in the circa 1800 Jefferson-designed manor and turn the field into vinyards.
More recently a British couple signed an option to buy Rose Cottage Farm, with its 1790 vintaga home near Winchester, for $200,00.
Peter Cook, the 30-year-old Briton with the contract on Rose Cottage Farm, capzulizes the financial concerns of many of the foreigners investing in Virginia:
"Britain, like a number of European countries is moving down the primrose road to socialism. It's too far down the road to turn back now. The choice has become simple: If you believe in capitalism, you move to the United States; if you like communism or socialsim, you stay in Britain."
Says Charlottesville realtor Bill Stevens:
"They all seem to be worried about political situations, about socialism, about ridiculous taxes. "There's nothing new about wealthy people buying Hunt County properties. What's new is that we've been seeing a lot of Europeans and South Americans in the last two years. These are people from families that go back to the 1200s, the 1300s. They're interested in horses. They're interested in culture. They're aware that people like Paul Mellon live in this area. But underneath it all, they realize that what made them survive through all else were their land holdings."
Of course, there are a lot of ways to accumulate realty in the United States. A large house in New York City could easily cost as much as a farm in Virginia. A Europena could invest in tract-home developments in Southern California. A South American could probably raise beef on a Texas ranch as well as in Argentina.
"They're very interested in the land and the people who live on it," says Charles H. Seilheimer Jr., who heads the Sotheby Park Bernet International Realty Corp., on offshoot of the world famous art auction house. Seil sold almost $7 million in property in the last year, much of it in Virginia.
"I took a German man to Iowa to look at a farm, and when the seller asked him if he was from East or West Germany, he said, "If a man is that ignorant, I don't want my children around him.' You can cultivate every square inch in Iowa, but it's like buying stock in General Motors. These people are very conscious of land value for agriculture, but they also want a place to live. When I show clients properties in Virginia, I make it a point to take them in to a ballet in Washington and some parties in the country, so they realize that the culture here isn't all that different from where they come from."
It was Sotheby that sold Belvoir Farm, and the company was quick to annouce publicly that the property was "located in Facquire (sic) County, Virginia, where Mr. and Mrs. John Warner live (she was the former Elizabeth Taylor), an area fomous for horse breeding, fox hunting, steeple-chasing and farming."
The company was also quick to point out that the deal was consumated on a "sale lease back" arrangement. Common with commercial properties, this allows the previous owners to lease the property back from the new owners for a certain period of time. In this case, the Brazilian and his family "will lve at Belvoir Farm for two months each American summer while it is winter in Brazil. The former owners will continue enjoying their old home the remaining 10 months of the next 5 years and vacation the other 2 months.
The problems of the rich.
Beyond the economic factors affecting real estate purchases here by foreigners lie political problems.
"Virginia's fundamentally conservative government appeals to them," says Frank J. Quayle, a 30-year-old UVA graduate who gave up a professional football career to become the president of Charlottesville's Ray Wheeler Realty Company. Quayle says he's sold in excess of $5 million in properties to foreigners. "There's no limitation on the amount of acreage they can buy here. In the Midwest, you frequently run into grange laws that prohibit the sale of more than 200 acres to non-citizens. And the climate here is very similar to the climate in Europe."
So they keep coming. And bringing their horses with them. The Cook from England. The family from Brazil.
And Quayle and others keep showing properties. Blue Ridge Farm ($1.65 million for 650 acres). A Frenchman interested in that, Island view Farm. A 998-acre dairy operation being perused by a German family. $1.5 million. Some other Germans interested in Chestnut Lawn. A mere $425,000 for 224 acres.
"Sometimes people ask me if I feel guilty about selling these places to foreigners," Quayle says, "I feel a lot more guilty about selling a farm and having it divided up into 5 or 10-acre parcels." CAPTION: Picture 1, Drawing by Carl Rose; 1936, 1964, The New Yorker Magazine Inc.; Picture 2, Blue Ridge Farm; Picture 3, Bushy Park, a $1.25 million estate in Virginia's Hunt Country.