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Five Real Estate Follies, Now Reaching Their Inevitable End

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Photos: Lakebutlermansion.com

Five years ago, David Siegel and his wife Jackie were living the high life, as the billionaire real estate mogul continued to rake it in with a successful time-share firm. The couple were planning their dream home, a 90,000-square-foot mega-mansion outside of Orlando, when the financial crisis hit, crippling Siegel's business and eventually spawning the story at the center of the much-lauded documentary The Queen of Versailles. The couple, who were already living in a 26,000-square-foot mansion nearby and attended to by a staff of 19, spent many, many millions on the custom palace, but, so far, have had no luck unloading the mansion, the price of which has been chopped down to $90M complete, or a bargain $65M in its current condition. Yes, someone might come along and scoop up the shell, but given the less-than-desirable location, the condition, and the massive cost of completing a now-gauche, infamous white elephant, it seems unlikely the Siegels will ever recover their investment. Instead, they're still trying to complete the place and move in, years behind schedule. Such tales of excess and failure are not uncommon, and, even as the economy regains its footing, some ultra-rich folks are engaging in similar flights of fancy, with the potential for similar financial consequences.

? Back in 2004, University of Phoenix billionaire Peter Sperling bought this partially-complete limestone mansion on a section of San Francisco's Broadway known, fittingly, as Billionaire's Row. He spent $32M on the property itself, a French limestone shell with more than 21,000 square feet under the roof, then began completing the place, before quitting in 2006 and listing it for a whopping $65M. That would have been some shrewd investing, had it sold. Instead, it's still on the market and has seen its price chopped all the way down to $38.5M. Yes, there's still a modest profit to be had here, but the carrying costs and unknown expense of his renovations make this a folly nonetheless.

? Prolific East End builder Joe Farrell has earned his fair share of ire from his neighbors over the overgrown Bridgehampton mansion he has been attempting to sell for $43.5M. Built, like many of Farrell's near-identical shingle-style constructions, as a spec house, the 31,000-square-foot "Sandcastle" has been successfully renting for short terms over recent summers, but Farrell isn't satisfied with the $40K/day—or with the fact that the place hasn't sold—so he's attempting to add even more amenities. He applied for variances to build a a horse barn and riding facility on the 8.6-acre property, even though the town keeps a ten-acre minimum for horses. That posh add-on would join a 10-seat theatre, a skateboard half pipe, a rock climbing wall, a squash and racquetball court, a two-lane bowling alley, full bar and disco, underground garage with hydraulic lift, sunken tennis court, and a baseball field on the property. If that doesn't do the trick, at least he's hedged his bets: the massive main house is crammed into one corner of the spacious property, leaving plenty of sub-dividable land should no one pony up for the whole thing.

? When Paramount Picture honcho Brad Grey bought Frank Sinatra's old place in L.A.'s Holmby Hills, many hoped the entertainment mogul's millions could bring the worn-but-storied place back to life. Grey plunked down $18.5M for the house and its 2.3 acres, proceeded to get married there, then the disappointment set in. The Paramount chief attempted to flip the property for $23.5M. By the time Grey changed his tune and began marketing it as a $20M teardown, preservationists knew they were in trouble. Then things got really bad. Instead of waiting for a buyer to come along, Grey just tore the house down himself and is now trying to sell the parcel as vacant land. The end result: no more money in Grey's pocket.

? This sort of misguided hubris isn't limited to the upper reaches of the luxury market, as the story of this vacation home in Cambridge, Md. can attest. Known as Ragged Point, the four-bed, five-bath mansion was constructed in the "South Hampton Beach Style" on seven acres of Chesapeake Bay waterfront. Originally listed for more than $4M, the place has been steadily chopped down to a measly $975K, less than 25% of the original ask and, by the broker's admission, "a price well below the actual construction cost." Worse yet, it still hasn't sold, so we'll have to wait and see just how depressing this one can get.

· A 90,000-Square-Foot Mansion Reduces its Price to $65 Million [WSJ]
· Come Take a Tour of "Versailles," America's Largest Home [Curbed National]
· Billionaire's Row Features San Francisco's Most Expensive Home Currently For Sale [Curbed SF]
· Joe Farrell Looking To Add More Amenities To His "Sandcastle"? [Curbed Hamptons]
· Brad Grey Razed Frank Sinatra's Holmby Hills House and is Still Asking $20 Million For the Land [Curbed LA]
· A Seven Porch Mansion Now At A Bungalow Price [Curbed DC]