In the past few months, Donald Trump‘s Mar-a-Lago residence in Palm Beach, Florida, has repeatedly grabbed the headlines, as the estate became, first, the stage of a high-profile FBI raid and, then, the platform from which the former president announced his third White House bid.
On August 8, Mar-a-Lago was raided by FBI agents in search of sensitive and classified documents improperly kept inside the former president’s estate.
Then, on September 21, New York Attorney General Letitia James accused Trump of having overvalued Mar-a-Lago by tenfold, in what she alleged was a years-long fraud scheme orchestrated by the former president.
James’ lawsuit said that Mar-a-Lago was valued as high as $739 million, a claim that was “based on the false premise that it was unrestricted property and could be developed and sold for residential use, even though Mr. Trump himself signed deeds donating his residential development rights and sharply restricting changes to the property.” According to James, the value of the property should be closer to $75 million.
On November 15, after most of the midterms’ races had been called across the country, Trump chose his “Winter White House” as the stage from which to announce his third presidential bid for the 2024 election.
These last few months of turmoil around Mar-a-Lago reflect the importance the property has had in Trump’s life and political career.
The former president has been the owner of the resort since 1985, when he bought it for about $10 million, something of a bargain for a residence that was considered a national historic landmark, according to Palm Beach real-estate agent John Pinson.
Already at the time, Mar-a-Lago was a very special property, Pinson told Newsweek.
“Mar-a-Lago is quite unique,” he said. “It’s an ocean to lakefront property, with a little over 17 acres of land. It’s well connected, and it has a cabin and swimming pool right on the beach. It was built between 1924 and 1927 by a lady named Marjorie Merriweather Post, the former owner of General Foods Corporation.
“When Mrs. Post passed away, her daughter Dina Merrill, a very famous actor, was in charge of the estate, but she couldn’t really afford the upkeep, so she offered it to the federal government. And they didn’t want it. They tried giving it to the state of Florida, and the state of Florida didn’t want it, so they gave it back.
“Finally, it went on the market and Trump bought it for $10 million, which was a pretty good price at that time because the market was a little bit down. But he bought it and it needed a lot of work, a lot of restoration,” Pinson added.
“And so over the years, he carefully restored the place very, very nicely. It’s not a fixer-upper job. He really went to great efforts to restore it. And after owning it for seven or eight years, he decided to see if he could open up a club, which he was successful in doing. So he keeps a residential apartment there, but it’s a private membership club and they have events.”
The transformations that Trump made to Mar-a-Lago has only made the property more valuable on the market, said Pinson.
“If it was for sale, the price would be astronomical,” he said, adding that he can’t imagine Trump selling the property. “I wouldn’t imagine that place selling for less than half-a-billion dollars.”
According to Forbes’ latest evaluation of the property in March, Mar-a-Lago is worth $350 million.
Ken Johnson, associate dean of graduate programs and a real-estate economist at Florida Atlantic University, told Newsweek that the average property in Palm Beach has appreciated 180 percent since 1996. But Mar-a-Lago has likely gone up in value more than that.
“My gut feeling is that Donald Trump’s property has appreciated more than that [180 percent] because it’s in that high-end exclusive property level where prices are really going to go up more than the average home in boom times. It’s probably going to contract more than the average property during downturns in the housing cycle,” said Johnson.
However, Mar-a-Lago is more than just a historically relevant, spectacular luxury resort. That the property is owned by Trump has to be factored into any potential price estimate.
“Donald Trump’s property can go one or two ways: it can become a stigmatized property, and therefore will have difficulty selling. But on the other hand, it can become this unique property to have in your portfolio,” said Johnson.
“There would almost certainly be Donald Trump supporters in the country who would probably beat the price up if they have the opportunity to buy the property. But who can tell?
“I’ve seen cases of homes where a murder had been committed in the property, and it was very stigmatized at first—but once that crime became popular, the price of that property skyrocketed, and it sold very quickly. It was so weird.”
Johnson said it wouldn’t be surprised if Mar-a-Lago became a stigmatized property or a unique property instead. “But you’re going to have to be a wealthy individual to be able to buy the property. So it’s just hard to tell which way it’s going to go,” he added.
Pinson agrees that the fate of Mar-a-Lago, should Trump decide to sell it, it’s unclear.
“Someone would buy it,” he said. “But some people might buy it to bulldoze it and other people might buy it to make it a museum, you know? But I think it’ll continue to be a club.”
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