For the past 3-4 years, high-end real estate agents across the country have been on the horn nonstop about how it’s the “perfect time to buy” and “get that sh*t while it’s hot” and otherwise endlessly trumpeting the skyrocketing global real estate sale prices. Other experienced observers, of course, have been rolling their eyes and and are braced for the seemingly-inevitable downturn ahead that follows an era where the property prices are so divorced from reality.
So here we are, barreling through the first quarter of 2016, and your gurl Yolanda Yakketyyak is seeing what she believes are the first few trickles before the damn dam breaks and floods us all with a river of foreclosures and bankruptcies. Not only are high-end properties (many of which would have gone for over asking only a year or two ago) lingering on the market, but many new-to-market $1 million+ properties are displaying dreaded foreclosure activity, something that had become practically nil by 2014 or so. Ready to take The Plunge again, y’all?
Despite her pessimistic outlook, even the cynical Yolanda was shocked recently when one of the LA area’s largest, most lavish, and downright garish homes suddenly popped up in our database of distressed properties as a NOD (Notice of Default), although perhaps she should have seen it coming.
Sprawling across 8 fully-landscaped acres, the Bradbury Estate is easily the largest compound within the exclusive “Bradbury Estates” gated community in the tony but tiny San Gabriel Valley city of Bradbury. Equipped with nearly every luxury amenity, including a 1,000-gallon trout pond, an underground firing range, a guest house, pool house, a movie theater, gym, the place is perfectly designed for your typical powerball winner.
For those who haven’t been keeping track, the property has been available on the open market for four whole years… and counting. When it originally thudded onto the marketplace with “screams of flabbergast and a crash of symbols” the asking price was an astounding and publicity-generating $78,800,000. In the ensuing years, the ask has nosedived to its current $48,800,000 but the house is still without takers.
The property was constructed over a period of 8 years by a once-hugely wealthy real estate tycoon named Donald Abbey. His firm, the unimaginatively-named Long Beach-based “The Abbey Company” owns more than 3.5 million square feet of office and retail space in Southern California, which they lease out to a variety of tenants.
One may wonder why a smart and successful business man like Mr. Abbey would allow his primary residence to become in danger of bank seizure. Well, Yolanda did a little asking around and it seems that word on the street is that Abbey’s once highly-profitable firm is (allegedly) in some sort of financial trouble. Indeed, a little investigation uncovers that the Abbey Company appears to have lost at least two commercial properties to foreclosure in 2015.
Our snitch also told us that Abbey has a history of profligate spending and living far above even his vast means. He once donated $3.5 million to fund a complete overhaul of his fomer university frathouse. He rides around in a chauffeured $350,000 Maybach and keeps a $400,000 Ferrari for weekend use. He only flies private (natch) and is rumored to be a member at the exclusive Annandale Golf Club in Pasadena. And he’s spent millions in vain to aggressively pursue litigation with regard to his home in Montana.
That’s right y’all, not only does Abbey have a second mansion in Montana, he owns an entire island up there, on which he’s built a 24,000-square-foot stone behemoth that’s believed to be Montana’s largest private residence. Beyond the untold millions it took to transport all the rare building materials (African Mahogany, French Limestone) to the remote island location, Yolanda gets a fierce migraine at the thought of what it must cost to maintain this place on a monthly basis. Surely the combined bills and taxes on this place and the Bradbury house could easily drive an ordinary multi-millionaire to an early financial grave with the quickness.
Court records show Abbey’s company “Abbey Land LLC” spent a stupefying $47.9 million to construct his Montana getaway, which is also currently on the market for the greatly-reduced price of $44,500,000. That amount guarantees that even with a highly-unlikely full-priced sale, Abbey’s going to take a massive $3.4 million hit to his pocketbook. Of course, that number doesn’t include the millions of dollars in related legal fees, taxes, and utilities/maintenance expenses incurred by the property since its completion.
Back to Bradbury. Records show Abbey initially purchased the land the home sits on way back in 1991 for just $2 million but did not begin building the current estate until more than 10 years later. Yolanda peeped at mortgage documents on the property and was flabbergasted when we saw that Abbey took out a $31,000,000 construction loan in 2004 to finance the assembly of this behemoth. Holy mother above! $31 million?!?! Our head spins thinking of the monthly payment required to stay current on a loan that size. No wonder that by September 2015, when the foreclosure process was initiated, records show that Abbey was already more than $500,000 behind on the payments.
The thing that Yolanda just can’t seem to grasp is why this house was built in the first place. We happen to know that Mr. Abbey is an unmarried man with no domestic partner, no children, and no close relatives. Why an approximately 70-year-old man with that living situation would require a house so gargantuan that it probably takes a good 10 minutes to walk from the dining room to the master bedroom confounds Yolanda to no end.
Perhaps the property was built to sell. Okay, but why a house that size? Why the cross-shaped pool, which is unquestionably an acquired taste and will almost certainly turn off some prospective clients for good? And why Bradbury, of all places? Don’t get us wrong, Yolanda has a friend who lives in Bradbury Estates and it is a beautiful area, but it’s hardly ground zero for mega-mansion sales. In fact, there’s only been one sale to date that exceeded $10 million. Despite the hugely reduced ask, Yolanda still believes that Mr. Abbey’s home will require several more pricechops and a whole lot of luck to unload.
So what of it, y’all? Is this property’s default a signal of “Bad Things To Come” or just an anomaly caused by a spendthrift owner? We’ll leave that for you to decide. Meanwhile, Yolanda and her gurls will be holding weekly prayer sessions at this mansion to aid Don Abbey unloading this beast. As we gaze upon the cross pool, we pray that God in his grace may relieve us of this burden. Amen.