If the compound came to the market, the divorcing pair would have to find a buyer looking for a Seattle home with a trampoline room and 66,000 square feet to dust
A trampoline room, an estimated $130 million market value, and a size rivaling that of the White House are some of the unique features of the fortress-like Washington compound of the soon-to-be-divorced Bill and Melinda Gates.
But the suburban Seattle property, should it ever be up for grabs, could be a very tough sell.
“We’re all fascinated with this story for the obvious reasons—the unfathomable wealth, these are both respected people on the world platform,” said Ernie Carswell of Douglas Elliman, a Los Angeles-based agent with upward of 25 years of experience selling some of the city’s most lavish and big-name properties.
“They have an incredible home, but now, if it has to be sold, it’s not going to be a wham bam thank you, ma’am,” he said.
Dubbed Xanadu 2.0.—but listed in property records as the more straight-laced Gates Residence—the Ex-couple’s main home on the edge of Lake Washington near Seattle, is perhaps the jewel in the crown of a hefty property portfolio that has seen hundreds of millions of dollars invested across the U.S. in the form of beachfront mansions, equestrian estates and vast swaths of farmland, property records show.
“I have a nice house,” the Microsoft boss, who’s worth an estimated $124 billion, said on Reddit in 2019. “It includes a trampoline room which seems kind of over the top but my kids love using it to work off their excess energy. I am not sure how guilty I should feel about being in a great house.”
Details of the home are scarce, but glimpses of what lies behind its walls have been revealed over the years, many in an account from a Microsoft intern who visited in 2007 and wrote about the experience in a blog post.
“Going down Bill’s driveway is like arriving at Jurassic Park,” the intern, Robert Smith, wrote, referring to the film. “The driveway is long, windy, go steeply down, and is just covered in plant life.”
He also revealed the existence of a movie theater and “a room that looked to be completely filled with couches and pillows.”
“We checked out his dock, his beach (with sand imported from Hawaii), hot tub, and boat. He’s also got this area of his house where a stream runs down from under the house into Lake Washington,” the intern wrote. “We also saw the indoor/outdoor pool that has an underwater grate that allows you to swim between the two sections.”
Such a degree of customization within a private residence doesn’t make a home more valuable, though it does garner attention, according to Mr. Carswell.
“It gets some great PR, a sound bite,” Mr. Carswell said. “I don’t think it adds value, but it gives great recognition.”
“But the Gates’ trampoline room is probably going to become the next owner’s bowling alley,” he said.
Spanning a reported 66,000 square feet, the compound—which property records indicate has a value of $130.8 million—dwarfs anything else on the market in Washington state currently.
Custom homes built much larger and more lavishly than any property in the area can lead to difficulties when selling.
The Chicago-area mansion of former NBA star Michael Jordan is a prime example.
Spanning 56,000 square feet, Mr. Jordan’s home is three times as large as the next largest mansion in the area and the house is loaded with custom amenities, including a regulation-size basketball court and around an infinity pool with a grassy island at its center.
The 121-acre swath of undeveloped land in Beverly Hills, California, once owned by the late co-founder of Microsoft, Paul Allen, has been reimagined with a new concept for an undulating, futuristic megamansion with matching accessory buildings. https://t.co/zH5CQF83tS
— Mansion Global (@MansionGlobal) May 7, 2021
The basketball legend first listed the mansion in 2012 for $29 million, and it remains on the market today asking $14.8 million.
In the case of the Gates house, the size isn’t a detractor, “but it’s only going to appeal to a very limited number of buyers who come with their staff,” Mr. Carswell said. “You have the privilege and the responsibility of maintaining 60,000-70,000 square feet. Who’s going to be dusting that?”
Encompassing a more than five-acre waterfront parcel, the Gates Residence—which came with a $1.13 million property tax bill last year, public records show—is in the upmarket Seattle suburb of Medina, where the most expensive home currently on the market is asking $22.5 million, according to listing records.
The likelihood of the residence ever hitting the market though—and exact details of the split that was announced Monday have yet to be laid out—is slim, according to local Medina agent Tere Foster, of Team Foster at Compass.
Firstly, “they just have no need,” said Ms. Foster, who is the listing agent on the aforementioned $22.5 million home. “When I talk to clients in these categories they say ‘we don’t sell real estate, we acquire real estate.’”
“So it would be unlikely. Are there buyers out there that can afford it? There are. There’s a lot of local money and a lot of money outside of this market,” she said. But “it’s hard for me to imagine it would ever be sold.”
And secondly, if the sprawling estate were ever going to change hands, it’s unlikely to be exchanged on the open market.
“If the family wanted to sell, it would be marketed in a quiet way. They know all the people that could write the checks,” Ms. Foster said.
The property is somewhat of a local landmark in Medina. “I can tell you when we get people in from out of the country, buyers say, ‘we want to live as close to the Gates compound as possible.’ You have people who move to Medina because Bill Gates lives there,” she added. “They’re very good neighbors.”
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