The University of Virginia Board of Visitors has authorized spending $800,000 in private funds to create a real estate foundation for acquiring and developing property that would be free of state review and control.

Because the foundation is designed to serve the university's interests, it will not be a commercial venture and thus will gain tax-exempt status, U.Va. President Robert M. O'Neil said in announcing the creation of the foundation.

By forming a real estate foundation, U.Va. will not have to go through the time-consuming state purchasing process when desirable properties become available, O'Neil said. Land owned by the foundation will be subject to local zoning laws and taxes, unlike properties owned by the state, he said.

"It is conceivable that, at times, the foundation might act in the same area" of interest as that of a private developer or investor, O'Neil said. "But if the foundation was acting in that capacity, it would be subject to the same regulations and taxes as a private developer, and thus it is not engaging in unfair competition."

The board authorized Ray C. Hunt Jr., chief operating officer and vice president for business and finance, to enter into transactions and agreements with the foundation.

Because the university's vice president for development will be a permanent member of the foundation's board of directors, Hunt said the foundation's private fund-raising efforts with alumni and corporate sponsors will be coordinated with those of the university. U.Va.'s endowment fund now tops $280 million, he said.

The foundation will not necessarily make all of the university's land purchases, because the existence of the foundation does not bar the school from obtaining tax-free land directly through the state, O'Neil said.

Five U.Va. administrators were appointed to oversee the foundation, but six public members have not been selected, O'Neil said.

Baltimore District Judge John Themelis this week fined Banner Realty Inc. more than $63,000 for 216 housing code violations.

Officials said the fines are the second-highest imposed at one time against a landlord in the city.

Most of the fines were levied because Banner did not register 208 rental properties with the city after the judge ordered the firm to do so last June.

Banner attorney Larry Caplan told Themelis he believes that the fines do not fit the crime because violating the city housing code is a criminal misdemeanor.

An average penthouse apartment for sale in a new Manhattan luxury apartment building costs more than $1 million and some penthouses run as high as $5 million, a survey showed this week.

The $5 million would buy the largest of three penthouse apartments atop 100 United Nations Plaza, a 4,488-square-foot residence fit for a king -- or at least a diplomat.

For those with a more modest budget, two other penthouses in the building are selling for $3.5 million and $2.5 million.

The survey, conducted by Bartlett Associates, a New York real estate firm, covered 35 luxury penthouses offered for sale in 12 new condominium towers.

The apartment that was deemed the most expensive -- because it had the highest price per square foot -- was a penthouse apartment on West 66th Street.

The $4 million price tag on the apartment broke down to $1,350 a square foot, more than double the average $573-per-square-foot price of a basic $1 million luxury penthouse.

Grubb & Ellis Co., a large independent real estate services firm, has bought the commercial brokerage business of Leggat McCall & Werner Inc., a privately held commercial real estate brokerage firm with offices in Boston and Washington. The sale price was not disclosed.

"The addition of Leggat McCall expands Grubb & Ellis' presence to two new markets and brings to us the pretige and experience of one of the finest real estate firms in the East," said Harold A. Ellis Jr., chairman of Grubb & Ellis, which has offices nationwide.

IN THE BUSINESS . . . The Long & Foster realty firm has named Paul Wilson as vice president. The firm's Jane Hayward has been named "Salesperson of the Year" by the Prince William County Board of Realtors . . . Gary Garczynski has been appointed chairman of the Metropolitan Washington Builders Council, an umbrella organization that coordinates the efforts of builder groups in D.C., Maryland and Virginia . . . Washington Corp. has started construction on the first building at Fifty West Corporate Center, a 23-acre office park at Fair Oaks in Fairfax County. The three-story, $8 million office building is scheduled for completion late next summer . . . Deborah A. Koons of Ken Murphy & Associates in Vienna has been named Rookie of the Year by the National Sales and Marketing Council. She sold 118 homes worth more than $9.5 million in just under 11 months . . . Connie Apter, a Shannon & Luchs real estate agent, has been elected president of the Montgomery County Board of Realtors Housing for the Handicapped . . . Montgomery Realtors is offering a four-week course on how to buy a home, starting March 6. Tuition for the once-a-week classes is $5, and more information is available at 933-8484 . . . Questor Strategic Real Estate Letter reports that the number of real estate megadeals -- those of $100 million or more -- soared last year to 65, more than doubling the 31 in 1984 . . . Centennial Development Corp. says it will deliver nearly 400,000 square feet of office space at three buildings in Reston this year . . . U.S. construction contracting rose 8 percent last year to a new high of $227.7 billion, according to the F.W. Dodge Division of McGraw-Hill Information Systems Co. . . . Arlington Housing Corp. has bought the 152-unit Westover Apartments, at 1649 N. Longfellow in Arlington, from the Jewish Federation of Cleveland for $5.1 million. The housing corporation, a nonprofit low-income housing developer, said it will invest $1.4 million in renovations to keep Westover as a rental property. Arlington County has pledged $765,000 for the project.

PERSONNEL FILE . . . Porten Sullivan, a Washington-area home builder, has named two new vice presidents, Ron Lethbridge to direct construction activities and J. Larry Galey to handle sales and marketing . . . Stephanie A. Biggs has been named vice president at PaineWebber Mortgage Finance in Columbia . . . James J. Mooney has been named board chairman and Leon King chairman of the executive committee of District-Realty Title Insurance Corp. King and Mooney are chairman and president, respectively, of Industrial Valley Title Insurance Co., a Philadelphia firm that recently purchased District-Realty . . . Enterprise Development Co. in Columbia has named James D. Beste as senior vice president for development . . . Walker & Dunlop Inc., a mortgage banking and commercial realty firm, has named David D. Kent as vice president and controller, Arthur L. Richmond as vice president and manager of the firm's property management department, and Douglas G. Waters as vice president and manager of the production support department . . . Clifton J. Martin Jr. is Shannon & Luchs' new vice president for the Maryland region in the firm's residential management division. From staff reports and news services