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At $59-million, this Oakville property may be the hardest house to sell in Canada

Chelster Hall sits on 10 acres of prime Oakville waterfront.

The Globe and Mail

For sale: beer baron’s dream home on 10 acres of prime Oakville waterfront, finished in 2006, featuring private chapel, indoor and outdoor pools, killer views and with a new lower price of just $59-million (marked down from $65-million).

That’s how much agents selling Chelster Hall, 1150 Lakeshore Rd. E., built by former Interbrew CEO Hugo Powell, hope to get.

For most Canadians, that’s an absurd number to contemplate for a single-family home. Land sales in that stratosphere are typically reserved for gigantic ranches in the country’s West or for commercial buyers planning to spend millions more to make an office or residential tower.

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So, how do you sell a property like that?

“It generally takes a couple years to sell. It’s a combination of patience and ultratargeted marketing,” said Paul Maranger, broker and senior vice-president of sales for Sotheby’s International Realty Canada, who is managing the listing with Christian Vermast. “Our ideal buyer just sold their company for $300-million and they are out shopping. There are very few homes of this magnitude in Canada to begin with in terms of a supply perspective.”

“This is not a commodity, this is like buying an expensive piece of jewellery or an expensive piece of art,” Mr. Vermast said. The price of Chelster Hall is at least two-thirds about the gigantic lot, he says. “I have confidence because it will sell and sell well.”

Jimmy Molloy, sales representative with Chestnut Park Real Estate Ltd., one of the few agents in Toronto who closes deals in this price bracket, agrees that while it is unique to find a grand house such as this for sale, Chelster Hall is not unique in its value bracket.

“There’s been in the last 10 to 15 years an era of people building really magnificent and unique properties. These houses are not just houses, they have been an expression of hugely successful people building residences that in some respects are gifts to the city,” he said. “Those houses don’t trade.”

The two most expensive houses to trade hands in Ontario in the past two years went for less than half of Chelster Hall's asking price. In 2016, 15950 Weston Rd. (a 14-room house on 40 hectares of forest in King Township north of Toronto), sold for $21.9-million, $3-million below the $24.9-million asking price. In June of this year, mining executive Robert McEwen had to settle for $19.8-million for his Rosedale mansion on 10 Highland Ave. after initially listing for $27.5-million.

The agents representing Chelster Hall said they already have one high-profile mansion sale under their belt: the 2016 sale of the Canadian architectural masterpiece known as Integral House. The stunning 18,000-square-foot residence was built by mathematician James Stewart at a cost of close to $34-million, according to some reports. When Mr. Stewart died in 2014, his estate initially listed the house for $28-million. Eventually the listing price dropped to $19.5-million before it was sold for $14.9-million in 2016 to Canada Pension Plan Investment Board chief executive officer Mark Machin.

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The agents say selling such a grand home as this is less about waiting for a buyer to find you than it is about beating the bushes to flush out some of the world’s ultrawealthy, who in many cases may not know they want such a trophy property.

“The buyer is not just the great Canadian families. You really have to expose the property to the world,” Mr. Molloy said.

Mr. Vermast and Mr. Maranger have already done open houses and taken their roadshow to other Sotheby’s offices in Canada and will begin to show Chelster to some of the company’s 65 international offices.

“We’ve done a presentation in Montreal; it has a lot of foreign investment at the moment because it does not have a foreign-buyers tax,” Mr. Vermast said. “We see the buyer coming from India, China, the Middle East, potentially Russia … someone with global business interests,” Mr. Maranger said.

One potential drawback is that Chelster Hall was built to last. It took Powell five years to finish the house in part because he hoped to build a structure that would survive 500 years, much like it’s inspiration, Blickling Hall in Britain (built in 1616). According to Mr. Molloy, most buyers in this category want the land and they want to build something of their own, to their own vision.

“In many respects, you’re looking for someone that wants to be parachuted into the dream,” Mr. Molloy said.

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