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Friday, August 12, 2005

Most Expensive Homes In America 2005: South - Forbes.com

Most Expensive Homes In America 2005: South - Forbes.comMost Expensive Homes In America 2005: South
Sara Clemence



A $10 million mansion? Available in droves. A $20 million estate? Practically commonplace. It's not until you reach the dizzying heights of $25 million and up that you enter the realm of the most expensive homes in the South.

For the second installment of our annual series on the most expensive homes in the U.S., we turned our gaze to the region below the Mason-Dixon line. (For the Most Expensive Homes in the U.S.: Northeast, click here.) We found that prices are highest at the bottom. In other words: Florida.

With perpetual sunshine, abundant beaches, no income taxes and plenty of docking space for yachts, Florida has long been a hot spot for the wealthy and well known. So it's little surprise that nine of the ten most expensive houses in the South are in the Sunshine State.

To see full list click here.

In fact, although there are pricier properties currently on the market in other states, Florida holds the record for the most expensive house ever sold in the U.S. In late 2004, Ronald O. Perelman, the billionaire who controls Revlon (nyse: REV - news - people ) and other brands, sold his six-acre oceanfront estate, Casa Apava, in Palm Beach for $70 million.

Unlike the most expensive homes in the Northeast, every single home on our list is on the water--sometimes two bodies of water, in the case of barrier island estates.

Florida's real estate market has been getting more expensive across the board. Statewide, the median price of an existing home increased 31% from June 2004 to June 2005, and 108% from five years ago, according to the Florida Association of Realtors. In Palm Beach County, the median sales price--the point at which half the homes cost less and half cost more--hit a record high this year.

The most expensive homes moved up a notch as well. Last year, the lowest-priced home on our list cost $24 million.This year, it was replaced by a $25.5 million property that ranked higher on our 2004 list.

The most expensive home on last year's list, Abe Gosman's $48 million Palm Beach mansion, sold at a bankruptcy auction to Donald Trump. In its place is an even costlier palace on an exclusive man-made island in Biscayne Bay. The Star Island estate features exotic amenities, including a biometrically secured wine cellar and outdoor air conditioning system. Neighbors include Sean "P. Diddy" Combs and Miami Heat center Shaquille O'Neal--though not for long, he hopes.

O'Neal recently put his outsized Star Island estate on the market for $32 million, placing it fourth on our list. It has its own tennis and racquetball courts (no basketball court, as far as we know), but rumor has it he was tired of the tourist boats that lurked outside his property. Maybe he could swap properties with another celebrity, Latin recording star Julio Iglesias, whose home on nearby Indian Creek Island was built for privacy, and hits our list at a mere $29 million.

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