INSIDE ‘BELLE MER’ THE $40 MILLION ELBERON MANSION: FUN DETAILS + THE LAWSUIT THE OWNERS WANT TO FORGET, 1129 OCEAN AVENUE, LONG BRANCH
Article originally published October 6, 2015. Editor’s note: Belle Mer was relisted in July 2016 at $39 million, making it the second most costliest house in NJ at the time…
Check the couch for loose change and let’s buy the recently listed $40 million oceanfront “French Colonial” style mansion at 1129 Ocean Avenue in the Elberon section of Long Branch named Belle Mer (translation “beautiful sea”).
So, what do you get for that kind of money? The record-breaking asking price ($4,560 / square foot) has everyone talking but the real estate broker and the notoriously private Brooklyn-based owners who own multiple properties in the area.
But we’ve dug deep and learned more about the almost two-acre compound, including the interior layout and details of the 2014 lawsuit Belle Mer’s owners brought against the City of Long Branch. When was the last time you heard Spring Lake called “inferior?”
The brief Zillow listing reads: “This Grand Chateau is a true masterpiece of French inspired architecture. Brilliantly designed by internationally acclaimed architect and designer Anthony Ingrao, the residence also illuminates the 150 feet of dazzling beachfront. Exceptional planning and craftsmanship are evident in every detail, resulting in a home artfully blending form and function for grand scale entertaining and intimate family living. Interior materials of limestone, marble, mosaic and onyx are throughout the residence. Spectacular seascapes dominate 14,000 +/- square feet including 10 bedrooms, 6 full baths and 2 half baths.”
Belle Mer’s Interior
Sources tell us Belle Mer’s primary kitchen boasts five refrigerators, two ovens and two dishwashers. The interior features hand-crafted wood moulding details and coffered ceilings throughout. There’s a billiards room, solarium and salon with built-in bar on the first floor, in addition to multiple bathrooms, formal and informal dining rooms, a family room and living room.
The second floor is all bedrooms – two of which are en-suite – and bathrooms. The basement has three staff bedrooms, bathrooms and a kitchen, as well as a laundry room, recreation room and exercise room.
“In every way, the property is the ultimate in luxury and designed from the ground-up to cater to a family used to having it all,” said our source of Belle Mer, built in 1995. “Though it’s a little dated, imagine the best and finest of everything and take it up a notch.”
Continuing the symmetrical design by Ingrao (named one of 100 “world’s best” by Architectural Digest in 2014), Belle Mer has two pool houses – one is open-air cabana-style and 600 square feet. The second is enclosed and double the size. It features a commercial laundry room and two posh dressing rooms, each with rare marble bathrooms.
European limestone patios line the front and rear of the property and lead the way to the two, mirror-image, two-car detached garages.
Wrestling With Long Branch
Proving that everybody thinks property taxes in New Jersey are too high, Bell Mer REC Inc. (the compound’s formal owner) hired a powerhouse law firm in 2014 to contest the property’s 2012 assessed value of $8,100,000 by the City of Long Branch.
Noting that the vast majority of homes in the area are sold through private transactions and that representing brokers “refuse to divulge” home sale prices, Belle Mer’s expert witness claimed it was difficult to find comparable property sales records – even in public documents.
During the trial, the expert submitted home sales in Spring Lake and Monmouth Beach in an attempt to persuade the court to lower the property tax assessment to the requested $5,714,150, which would have put the home in a lower “tax corridor.” Despite the submissions and his testimony to the contrary, Belle Mer’s expert concurred with the city’s attorney that Spring Lake and Monmouth Beach were “inferior” to the Elberon section of Long Branch and did not share the same real estate market.
Both side’s experts testified Elberon is “exclusive, affluent and expensive.”
Ultimately, the state’s tax court affirmed the original assessed property value of $8,100,000. In 2014, Belle Mer’s representatives cut a check to the city for $171,153 in annual property taxes for a home they listed September 9 at $40 million.
Why was this compound listed publicly for sale, bucking standard protocol for the area? Why didn’t their attempt to sell the home privately Summer 2015 work out? Is the asking price realistic or a dream? Why is the family selling their ‘premier’ property, rather than one or more of the others they own?
All photos courtesy of Monmouth Ocean MLS.