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A battle of benchmarks

Are the upper reaches of the economy — like high-luxury home prices — unaffected by an economic downturn? The US economy is going through its biggest upheaval in decades, and the housing market has been particularly hard-hit, writes V Krishna.

world Updated: Oct 06, 2008 22:39 IST
V Krishna

Are the upper reaches of the economy — like high-luxury home prices — unaffected by an economic downturn?

That question is being asked again after a Washington, D.C., house was listed for sale at $49 million (Rs 233.2 crore), a record for the area.

In India, of course, we know the answer: they are not affected. But the US economy is going through its biggest upheaval in decades, and the housing market has been particularly hard-hit.

Then again, Evermay isn’t your average house. It is a historic 12,000-square-foot Georgian-style mansion that sits on 3.58 acres in the tony Georgetown area, with great views of the Washington Monument.

Evermay is nearly as old as the city itself. Its first owner was Samuel Davidson, a Scottish maritime merchant and real estate speculator. The house was designed in the early 1790s by Nicholas King, surveyor of the city. Davidson financed the construction in part by selling off other land he owned, including the site of the White House, according to a report in the Washington Post's archives.

In 1923, diplomat Lammot Belin bought the mansion, landscaped the grounds, restored many original details and added two wings, according to The Wall Street Journal. Its 22 rooms include a grand ballroom, a dining room that seats 40, eight bedrooms and six full baths. There are six fountains on the grounds, plus parking for 100 cars.

Belin’s grandson is selling the house, which has been the setting for many important events and host to presidents and other dignitaries. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.

The city’s current record for a sale is about $25 million, also for a house in Georgetown, last year.

“This is a unique property, unlike anything else that’s been on the market in a long time,” Jeanne Livingston of Long & Foster Real Estate’s Georgetown office, one of the listing agents, told the Hindustan Times.

“We are optimistic that people in a high income bracket won’t be affected by the current economic situation.”

How does Delhi compare? The Business Standard reported in May that Parsvnath Developers had bought a 1.18-acre plot on Kasturba Gandhi Marg for Rs 200 crore, setting a new benchmark for land in Delhi.