The good life


There are the haves and the have-nots. And then there are the have-a-lots.

For a certain upper echelon of society, the good life isn't as easily defined as Beluga caviar on demand and Paris on a whim. With a new generation of entrepreneurs striking it rich to the tune of billions and wealthy foreigners looking to spend their money abroad, $10 million has now become a reasonable price for a guest house, and flying first class means traveling via private plane. The same standards hold true for vacation destinations: Why risk a semiclad run-in with the hoi polloi, let alone the paparazzi, when one can call a private island home away from home?

"As Forbes magazine will tell you, the wealthy got 30% wealthier last year," says the McMonigle Group's John McMonigle, who has been named Coldwell Banker's top-selling agent in the country, with more than $1 billion in sales over the past five years. "And what these people are looking for, the true trophies, are limited." That means competition for properties that run upward of $75 million can be stiffer than that for a $2 million turnkey.
It's enough to boggle the minds of even those who are already embodying a life of extraordinary privilege. "When (Victoria) and David Beckham were first here looking at properties," says Ernie Carswell, team leader of Coldwell Banker's the Carswell Collection,

"I showed them a few things. But they weren't willing to spend more than $18 million, and (Victoria) looked for weeks. While they live on hundreds of acres in England, that amount won't get you much here."

If only the Beckhams had been willing to up their purchase price tenfold, they might have been in the running for two properties that were recently listed by Sotheby's International Realty's Suzanne Perkins: two adjacent cattle ranches, located outside of Santa Barbara, with asking prices of $110 million and $45 million, respectively. The properties, with a combined nine acres of beachfront, are currently in escrow with an investment company, but, says Perkins, "We had lots of young families looking at the ranches, with the idea of buying them both. The parents were envisioning their kids galloping on ponies and surfing off the beach."

Because for those lucky few for whom money is no object, fantasies can indeed be bought. Following is a guide to indulgence, real estate style.