The trust that oversees President Donald Trump's assets is intensifying its efforts to shed a luxury beachfront estate he owns on the Caribbean island of St. Martin, slashing the asking price of US$28 million ($37.8m) by more than US$11m in recent weeks.
Lesley Reed, the agent for Sotheby's International Realty who is representing the property, confirmed that the sales price of US$16.9m now listed for Le Chateau des Palmiers on the agency's website is accurate. She said it had been lowered about a month ago, declining to comment further.
It is unknown what prompted the nearly 40 per cent reduction, which puts the price of the waterfront estate in line with those of other ultraluxury properties for sale on St. Martin. The White House referred questions about the price cut to the Trump Organization, which did not respond to requests for comment.
In May, The Washington Post reported that the US$28m price tag for the 11-bedroom gated compound on Plum Bay far exceeded the going rate for the most exclusive estates on the island. The sum also appeared to be substantially more than what Trump paid for it in 2013, when he bought the property from a business associate, Steve Hilbert and his wife, Tomisue. The couple was seeking US$19.7m for Le Chateau des Palmiers at the time, although the final sales price was never disclosed.
Trump's business holdings are controlled by a revocable trust overseen by his son Donald Jr. and longtime Trump Organization executive Allen Weisselberg. Under the terms of the trust, the president is supposed to be walled off from day-to-day business decisions, such as price reductions.
It is unknown why the trust is selling the estate, which generated as much as US$3m in rental income in the past three years, according to Trump's financial disclosures. His most recent filing, which the president signed June 14, set the value of Le Chateau des Palmiers at between US$25m and US$50m.
The sale of the St. Martin estate would be one of the biggest transactions involving Trump's assets since he took office. Ethics experts have warned that entering into such a deal while he is in office could raise potential conflicts of interest and attract buyers seeking to overpay as a way to curry favor with the president.
The palm tree-ringed estate - whose name translates to "Castle of the Palms" - covers nearly five acres and comes with a pool at the beach's edge, a tennis court and fitness center. There are nine bedrooms, including a two-story master suite, as well as a commercial-size catering kitchen and media room. Chandeliers, marble floors, gold-hued wallpaper and heavy gold curtains dominate the interior, according to photos accompanying the listing. The estate comes with an outdoor sound system, a state-of-the-art security system, surveillance cameras and an eight-foot-tall boundary wall "for complete privacy," the listing notes.
The price reduction comes as the luxury market on St. Martin has been improving, with an increase in sales and qualified buyers during the last year, local real estate brokers said.
Jonathan Schaede, a broker with Sunshine Properties, said that at $16.9 million, Le Chateau des Palmiers is "definitely getting close to the bargain scenario. It's a good deal."
Schaede noted that the estate is one of just a handful of ultraluxury properties on St. Martin, with a coveted beachfront location. The price drop could turn what has been until now largely chatter about the property's lineage into serious interest from buyers, he said.
"This property has some particularities, being that the owner is the president of the United States, and there are some positives and then some unwanted attention that come with that," he said. "It definitely makes for conversation, but I don't see anybody lining up outside."
Arun Jagtiani, owner of Island Real Estate Team, said the estate was overpriced at US$28m. "A drastic price drop like this normally suggests the seller is getting serious about wanting to make a deal," he said.
The challenge, Jagtiani added, will be finding a buyer who will not be put off by the media attention that would accompany such a purchase. "Not sure how easy it will be to find someone that can afford a property like this and also embrace all the media attention this transaction will generate," he said.
With the price reduction, Le Chateau des Palmiers is no longer the most expensive listing on the island. A short drive away, a cliffside estate called Mes Amis that Sotheby's describes as "undoubtedly the finest property in St. Martin" is for sale for US$17.5m.