Even with its own private car wash, tech entrepreneur Yuri Milner paid too much for his .
About $50 million too much.
That’s Santa Clara County Assessor Larry Stone’s conclusion, contained in the $308.8 billion county-wide assessment roll delivered to the county controller July 1. Milner’s assessment notice, like 476,000 others, should be arriving in the mail this week.
“We reviewed 11 estates or mansions in Atherton, Woodside, Los Altos Hills, Saratoga, and Hillsborough and we determined the accurate fair market price was $50,270,000,” Stone said Tuesday.
Milner, 50, is a venture capitalist from Russia, whose timely investments in Facebook, Zynga, Groupon and other start-ups has propelled him into the billionaire’s ranks, according to Forbes magazine.
comes after sending a county appraiser to the 30,000-square-foot property earlier this year and looking at values of comparable properties—so to speak, at this rarified level—and reviewing the assessment through several levels of appraisers.
“We tested one mansion in Beverly Hills but it was a 50,000-square-foot home that was $85 million, Stone said. He was actually referring to Aaron Spelling’s Holmby Hills mansion, “The Manor,” that was sold by his widow in July 2011 to 23-year-old Formula One heiress Petra Ecclestone Stunt (who got it substantially below its $150 million list price).
Stone said he knew immediately when Milner bought the property in March 2011 that the $100 million price was “significantly off.” The highest assessed value in the Santa Clara County at the time was $28 million, he said.
But there’s no judgment on Stone’s part, he says. Fair market value is simply a number, required by law, in assessor-speak. Human desires are not quantifiable on the assessment roll.
“Sometimes very wealthy people have to have something, and price is no object,“ he said. “It probably happens more with art work and diamonds than real estate, but it can happen.”
As with Milner’s mansion, about 137,000 properties in the county received a lowered assessment this year, part of the lingering impact of the 2008 recession, said David K. Ginsborg, deputy to the assessor. Milner’s tax bite will be less than what would have been paid if the $100 million had been counted as the fair market value—about $600,000 instead of $1.2 million.
That tax money will be eagerly anticipated. Beginning last year, Stone said he let local officials know that the assessed value was “probably not going to be anywhere near $100 million” because he didn’t want anyone making budget decisions on that number.
The $600,000 tax revenue from the property will be twice what it currently generates, Stone told the staff of the town of Los Altos Hills, Los Altos School District and the Mountain View-Los Altos Union High School District, Tuesday. They were happy that the assessor’s office completed the valuation in time for the fall tax bill, Ginsborg said.
Even at half its sale price, it’s still the most expensive property assessment on the county roll, Stone said.
The French chateau-inspired home, built by ESS Technologies founder Fred Chan, is one of the largest in Silicon Valley. The 25,545-square-foot mansion that has a ballroom, game room, maid's room, library, two dining rooms, an indoor pool, sauna and spa, two three-car garages, tennis courts and 14 bathrooms. The total square footage rounds up to 30,000 square feet when you add in the 4,613-square-foot guest house. And there’s a car wash.
That was notable.
"I've been in a lot of very nice homes,” Stone allowed, including the previously highest-assessed property. He’s seen massive media rooms, mansions “with dual kitchens and dual dining rooms and many, many bathrooms.” In Silicon Valley, he’s seen as many as 13 or 14 garages if the owner collects cars.
“I've never known of a house with a car wash.”