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Beyond the Hedges: Rare-to-the-market condo sells quickly

Historic Warden House has only six condominiums, and they seldom hit the market. So when one sells, it’s noteworthy.

That’s what happened last week when Adria and Dr. George C. Roush’s updated unit in the historic complex at 200 N. Ocean Blvd. sold for a recorded $2.12 million. The buyer was Samuel “Sandy” J. Bloomberg, acting as trustee of a family trust in his name, along with co-trustee James H. Grandberg.

Before this month’s deal, the last sale at Warden House dated to 2006, when the Roushes paid about $1.6 million for condo No. 3, their 1,778-square-foot condo about a block from the beach. They transferred ownership of the two-floor unit to Adria Roush’s name in 2007.

The apartments are among Palm Beach’s most intriguing, at least as far as their architectural history is concerned. They were carved out of a 40-room, Mediterranean-style mansion designed in 1922 by noted society architect Addison Mizner; the house was converted into condos by Palm Beacher Bob Eigelberger in 1980.

Eigelberger’s revamp — along with his similar “adaptive restoration” of nearby Bienenstar, another celebrated historic mansion — earned its own place in island history when it received the Preservation Foundation of Palm Beach’s inaugural Robert I. Ballinger Award for historically sensitive renovation in 1988.

The Roushes completely overhauled their two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment in 2009, adding a third bedroom and a half-bath in the process. The update created a light-and-bright apartment with a “transitional twist,” according to the Corcoran Group’s property description prepared by listing agents Paulette Koch and her son, Dana Koch.

Among the apartment’s features are crown moldings, Venetian-plaster walls, an antique mantelpiece, a stainless-steel kitchen and a sophisticated Lutron lighting system.

“This apartment is outstanding in every way possible. It really takes your breath away,” says Paulette Koch, who had priced it at $2.75 million.

Corcoran Group had the listing for a little less than two months before it went under contract in early January.

“People are also looking for ‘turnkey’ and ‘easy,’ and this was one of those,” Koch adds. Neither she nor her son would comment further on the sale or the parties involved.

Folks with New England ties figured prominently on both sides of the deal. The Roushes have a home in Greenwich, Conn. Dr. Roush, who specializes in internal medicine, is affiliated with St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Bridgeport. His wife, meanwhile, is a jewelry designer known professionally as Adria de Haume.

Buyer Bloomberg, meanwhile, founded Tweeter Home Entertainment Group, a now-defunct multi-state chain of audio and video electronics stores that was based in Canton, Mass. In 2008, Bloomberg and his wife, Carolina, sold a 2.3-acre parcel they owned through a trust in her name at 1040 S. Ocean Blvd. in Manalapan for $9.2 million, property records show.

“We moved in a week ago and we love it,” says Sandy Bloomberg, who has other homes in Massachusetts and Vermont. “It’s a wonderful apartment and a great location.”

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New market analysis — In case you missed it, houses are moving again in Palm Beach. The number of single-family homes that sold during the first quarter of the year was up substantially compared to the same period a year ago. So confirms an analysis of data, including selling prices, drawn from data in the local multiple listing service and just released by the Douglas Elliman agency.

Thirty-three Palm Beach houses sold in January, February and March, compared with 18 in the first quarter of 2012, according to the Elliman report. The independent analysis was prepared for the agency by Miller Samuel Inc., a New York City-based real estate appraisal and consulting firm.

A key reason for the increase in transactions? The gap between the asking prices of properties and the prices they actually fetched has narrowed substantially, says Jonathan Miller, who heads Miller Samuel. Expressed as a percentage, that gap fell from nearly 20 percent in last year’s first quarter to 13.5 percent this year, according to the report.

In other words, buyers and sellers have increasingly found themselves on the same page during negotiations.

“Properties are moving off the market,” said Miller. “And what you’re seeing is that higher-quality properties move more quickly.”

Year-over-year first-quarter comparisons show prices also were up in the single-family sector, with the median sales price jumping nearly 42 percent to $2.8 million. The median is the price at which half of the houses sold for more and half for less.

Also noteworthy: Bigger houses sold during the first quarter of this year versus the same period last year. The average size of the properties sold between Jan. 1 and March 31 of this year was 4,351 square feet – an increase of 11 percent in square footage over those that sold in the first quarter of 2012. That hike “partly caused the large increase in price indicators,” the report says.

On the condo scene, the first-quarter figures were not quite as buoyant, with the number of condos sold falling from 59 to 54. The median condo sales price in January, February and March of this year, meanwhile, was just about flat, at $397,500, when compared to last year’s figure.

The report does not take into account sales of properties that were not listed in the MLS, nor do the sales prices necessarily match those recorded with the deeds by the Palm Beach County Clerk’s office.

Miller prepared similar first-quarter reports for the markets in Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Boca Raton, where Douglas Elliman also has brokerages; similar reports are available for New York City and nearby areas.

You can see the complete Palm Beach analysis by clicking the “Florida” link at Elliman.com/MarketReports.

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