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Simon estate is the latest challenging home listed for sale

October 25, 2014
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No other residential property on the market in the Indianapolis area even remotely compares to it.

A 50,000-square-foot mansion, 6,000-square-foot guest house and 18-hole private golf course are among the Carmel estate’s swanky attributes.

The 106-acre spread known as Asherwood is owned by Bren Simon, widow of real estate magnate Mel Simon. She put it up for sale last month with an asking price of $25 million.

But residential real estate agents say selling such a pricey pad will be a tough chore simply based upon the minuscule market that can afford it.

Greg Cooper, an agent at Berkshire Hathaway Indiana, formerly

ahq-hilbert-15col.jpg Challenges selling the Hilbert estate, above, several years ago will apply to Bren Simon’s Asherwood estate, real estate agents say. Serious potential buyers will need to be filtered from gaggles of gawkers.(IBJ file photo)

Prudential Indiana Realty Group, knows the challenges firsthand. He listed the Hilbert mansion, one of the few homes that changed hands in recent years that could be considered on the same scale as the Simon estate.

“I talked to the agent briefly, and I know they’ve had a ton of inquiries,” he said. “But when we had the Hilbert property listed, we had a ton of inquiries. But only 10 percent were legitimate.”

Just how much interest the Simon estate is generating is hard to tell. Listing agent Natasha Radovich at Carpenter Realtors in Fishers didn’t return phone calls seeking comment.

But it’s creating quite a stir within the residential real estate community.

“I’m dying to show it,” gushed Bif Ward of F.C. Tucker Co. Inc., a veteran agent who lists some of the area’s priciest houses.

Her most expensive sale last year: $3.1 million—a far cry from Asherwood’s asking price.

The property at 10110 Ditch Road is in a class by itself. Built in 1999, the main house consists of 36 rooms, including seven bedrooms and 24 full or partial baths. The property also includes a 7,000-square-foot clubhouse,

and three maintenance buildings for the golf course totaling 20,000 square feet.

At its current size and asking price, Asherwood is something of a white elephant for the central Indiana market. Its value might be in its available acreage for new residential development. The estate is surrounded by luxury single-family-home communities such as Deerfield, Windemere and Coppergate.

Mark Zukerman, owner of the local Encore Sotheby’s agency, developed the 17-lot Laurel Ridge neighborhood across from Asherwood, where homes range from $3 million to $10 million.

He’s been to Asherwood over the years and is familiar with it.

“It’s a really cool property,” he said. “It is unique, and it definitely will be a challenge to sell, but I don’t think it will be impossible to sell.”

Zukerman has yet to field interest from his clients, though that’s not surprising, he said, because there’s a good chance the ultimate buyer will come from outside Indianapolis.

The biggest chore, though, could be sorting through who’s actually a legitimate buyer.

A bid from a now-convicted scam artist complicated the sale of the 25,000-square-foot former Hilbert mansion, also in Carmel. It sold in 2010 to Lucas Oil Products Inc. owners Forrest and Charlotte Lucas for $3 million, a steep discount from the original $20 million asking price.

The sale of the Hilbert mansion occurred under far different circumstances than the Asherwood listing.

Carmel-based CNO Financial Group gained control of the Hilbert mansion and the 33.6-acre estate through a court battle with Stephen Hilbert, the CEO of predecessor company Conseco Inc., over loans he took out to buy Conseco stock.

The home went on the market in 2006 and limped through the housing downturn before CNO Financial became more aggressive in its attempts to unload it, Cooper at Berkshire Hathaway recalled.

He expects the listing agent for Asherwood to encounter some of the oddities that he did.

“They’re going to get all kinds of people who are scam artists or tourists who want nothing but to see the property,” he said, “or they have some scheme.”

ahq-asherwood-15col.jpg As was the case with the Hilbert estate, few people can afford Asherwood; thus, Asherwood will likely sell for far less than the $25 million asking price.(IBJ file photo)

A sham offer on the Hilbert mansion actually landed an Indiana woman in jail as part of a wire-fraud and money-laundering operation.

In 2008, Linda Deavers put the necessary $1 million deposit down on the Hilbert mansion with the stipulation of closing within 30 days. She told Cooper she was an international investor with a philanthropic background.

Deavers, 61, didn’t close on the deal, however, and lost her deposit. She disappeared and ultimately was apprehended and charged for bilking several Florida investors out of $5.2 million.

She was sentenced earlier this month in a federal court in Orlando to six years and six months in prison.

In July, Cooper testified as a witness during the trial.

Another high-profile property that sold under precarious circumstances was the Tim Durham home. A bank assumed ownership of the home in 2010, before Durham was sentenced to 50 years for running a Ponzi scheme.

The home, marketed for years at $5.5 million, sold this summer for just $2.25 million.

“It had a number of liens on it that exceed the value of the property,” said David Jesse, a senior vice president at F.C. Tucker who once listed the property. “That was the key—trying to get the lien holders together on what they would accept.”

To put the Asherwood listing in perspective, and the uphill battle to unload it, the most expensive residential property to sell in the last 10 years went for $8 million. The 59-acre estate and 19,000-square-foot mansion owned by another former Conseco executive, Donald Gongaware, sold in 2005.

A builder is constructing custom homes on part of the property, leading some to think that’s what could happen at Asherwood.

At any rate, the property is quite a gem.

“The Simons don’t do anything halfway,” said Cooper, who’s played golf on the course but has not been in the home. “I’m sure it’s a completely spectacular residence.”•

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