Will the Reagans sell their ranch now that they've settled into the mansion in Bel-Air?
Speculation was raised by a Hollywood trade magazine columnist, who wrote: "Word up Santa Barbara way has it that the Reagans are very much planning to unload their 660-acre . . . hideaway."
Several real estate sources in the Santa Barbara area denied hearing of any plans by the Reagans to sell, but the possibility has merit, as Dick Burns, a Rolling Hills broker who specializes in ranches, believes:
"It wouldn't surprise me (if the Reagans sell), because he's not the young ax-swinging guy he used to be, and I would think Nancy would rather be at the Annenberg estate (in Palm Springs), roughing it, so to speak.
"Also, they won't have a helicopter to get them up that hill anymore. It's a long bumpy ride by car. I don't think Nancy would care for that. And they won't have 14 Secret Service men prowling the bush.
"Selling the ranch might also be part of their financial considerations in leasing the Bel-Air mansion from their friends. (Terms of the lease have been kept secret, but the prevailing rate for such houses was estimated at $15,000 a month.) They might plan to lease until they are able to unload the ranch and roll their profit from the ranch into the house."
The Reagans' friends bought the house for $2.5 million, and the ranch, not including improvements, has been calculated to be worth about $1.5 million, but the Reagan trust pocketed about $1 million from the 1981 sale of their Pacific Palisades home.
"Selling also might be a tax consideration, with the Reagans taking that one-time only deal for seniors," Burns added. That exclusion allows people 55 or older to keep up to $125,000 in tax-free profits from the sale of a home that has been their primary residence for three of the past five years.
Or would the White House be considered their primary residence for the past eight years?
"Can you top this?" seems to be the name of the game in Beverly Hills land sale deals, as Margie Oswald of Merrill Lynch/Rodeo Realty announced last week that she and Joyce Rey, Rodeo co-founder, represented the buyer of a 2-acre site, which closed escrow Jan. 13 at a record $7.45 million.
Until this sale, the highest price paid for a vacant lot in town was said to be just under $6 million. As reported in this column last week, that was for a 2-acre site, across the street from the most recent sale, on the Sunset Boulevard property that was once owned by a young Saudi sheik.
The $7.45-million sale went to a wealthy Beverly Hills businessman, who plans to build a home there.
Show-biz executive David Geffen was the seller. He was represented by Juan Alvarez of Alvarez, Hyland & Young. Recording star Herb Alpert also once owned the lot.
Actor Michael Douglas is reportedly shelling out $17 million for the Wildcat Ranch in Aspen, Colo., and there's talk that he will keep half of the 65,000 acres for himself and subdivide the rest into seven or eight parcels that he will sell. He must maintain the land he keeps as a sheep ranch because of zoning and environmental laws.
Douglas has had homes in New York City and the Santa Barbara area.
George Hamilton, who was last seen living on his boat at Marina del Rey, has been on the move, real estate buying-wise.
He paid an estimated $1 million for a Victorian house in Aspen, making him a neighbor of fellow actor Jack Nicholson and billionaire Paul Mellon's daughter, the heiress Cathy Mellon Warner. Hamilton also bought a couple of lots in a new Kauai, Hawaii, development known as Seacliff Plantation.
The $6.5-million sale of John Wayne's longtime Newport Beach estate was no sooner announced last week than the buyers, Robert and Beverly Cohen, put their ocean-view Palos Verdes house on the market.
They're asking $4.9 million for the 7,000-square-footer, which they had built 15 years ago. "They've been remodeling all along," said Jackie Crosby, who has the listing with Coldwell Banker, "and the place is so loaded with palm trees and other plants, it's like going to Hawaii when you enter the property." (It has three koi ponds, three aviaries, and two greenhouses full of orchids.)
Robert Cohen, co-owner of the new Four Seasons Hotel just outside Beverly Hills, was a florist before co-developing the vast Skypark commercial project in Torrance. "That was liftoff time for him money-wise," Crosby remarked.