It's a damned nuisance, having the country club send announcements to the wrong residence. But, Rosamary Bogert said after a moment's careful reflection, that could be the only downside to owning multiple homes.
In the same affectionate tone most people use to describe their children, she said, "We love each one of our homes." Commuting between various parts of the country is no problem, provided you remember to bring the sterling when you move from house to house.
For the Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday July 6, 2000 Home Edition Part A Part A Page 3 Metro Desk 1 inches; 31 words Type of Material: Correction
Billionaires' homes--A May 17 article on multiple home ownership incorrectly reported the number of U.S. billionaires. According to Forbes magazine, there were 268 billionaires in this country in September, 1999.
With addresses on Chicago's Lake Shore Drive, in a Michigan resort town called Lakeside and in Osprey, Fla., the Bogerts are part of a growing group of well-to-do Americans who own and enjoy three, four and even five or more homes, sometimes on several continents.
Second homes, once the purview of those then-rare birds called millionaires, are soaring in popularity among an increasingly affluent population. Not to be outdone, an emerging segment of ultra-rich Americans is building real estate portfolios to rival its conquest of the stock market. The first step in attaining this kind of opulent profile is acquiring at least a third home.
Only a very narrow slice of America can think of owning many homes for personal use. But after years of exploding stock prices, that slice has widened considerably. "It's like we've repealed the laws of scarcity in this world," said Wellesley College economist Karl Case.
New York University economics professor Edward Wolff, a specialist in real estate statistics, said 4.48% of American households owned three or more residential properties in 1998, against less than 1% in the early '90s.
Third residences range from a one-bedroom co-op in Manhattan at $350,000--a cozy pied-a-terre for someone whose main home is in Boston, or on the West Coast--to a $20-million spread in the Hamptons. Property in that pricey part of Long Island is so hot that sales of million-dollar homes in 1999 more than doubled over the previous year. But for most third-home buyers, money is generally no object: Real estate agents in choice third-home spots like California's Napa and Sonoma valleys complain of a dearth of inventory, not a lack of buyers.
The fact that third homes often are occupied for only a few weeks a year has spawned a small industry in destinations such as Deer Valley, Utah, where high school girls can earn $20 an hour for checking on unoccupied houses.
Economists say the rush for multiple homes is among the most visible reflections of the wealth effect, the huge purchasing power made possible by widespread participation in a flourishing stock market. Just since the end of 1995, said Case, the U.S. stock market has shown an appreciation of $8.5 trillion, more than the entire value of the United States housing stock.
Many buyers of third homes often have so much disposable income that they literally have to work to spend it. Whether or not it increases in value--and generally it does--real estate seems like a sensible investment. Residential real estate prices usually are less volatile than the stock market. And where home buyers of a decade ago were aiming for substantial growth in their investment, today many multiple-home buyers are seeking to safeguard astounding new wealth they have made on Wall Street.
Consider the well-known Americans who flit between multiple residences. Oprah Winfrey has at least four homes. Martha Stewart's three abodes include a private island in Maine. Investment tycoon Henry Kravis has both a ranch and a ski place in Colorado, a home in Manhattan, a weekend place in Southampton, N.Y., and an island getaway in the Dominican Republic. Media wizard Ted Turner has a home in Atlanta, a plantation in Florida and a ranch in Montana. Having sold his place in Malibu two years ago, producer Steven Spielberg is down to just three homes: in Pacific Palisades, East Hampton, N.Y., and Brentwood.
Feinsteins', Kerrys' Multiple Manses
Along with their mansion on one of San Francisco's most exclusive cul-de-sacs, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and her husband, investment mogul Richard Blum, have residences in Hawaii, Colorado, Washington and on a beach north of San Francisco. Another Democrat, Sen. John F. Kerry of Massachusetts, and his wife, Theresa Heinz, have a home on Louisburg Square, Boston's most fashionable address, as well as a grand home in Washington, a farm near Pittsburgh, a place in Sun Valley, Idaho, and a house on Massachusetts' Nantucket Island.
The national Social Register and magazines such as Vogue and Town & Country abound with the names of moneyed Americans who cavort at homes on several continents. For example, textile manufacturer Bob Baras and his wife, Francine, a psychologist, have homes in Manhattan, Long Island, Sun Valley and the south of France. Los Angeles compensation consultant Peter Mullen has a house in Brentwood as well as a castle in Scotland, a villa in Tuscany and a place in Big Sur.