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What kind of house $15 million will get you on Capitol Hill

In a neighborhood where the average property is now worth $1 million, one of Capitol Hill’s newest listings is setting a highwater mark for real estate prices across the city.

This weekend’s $15 million listing of the Samuel Hill mansion at 814 E Highland is now the most expensive “single family home” for sale in Seattle:

ESCAPE THE ORDINARY ~ Noted Sam Hill Mansion commissioned in 1910. A peerless and creative collaboration of passion & brilliance. Located on one of Seattle’s most beautiful tree-lined streets in the stately Harvard-Belmont Historic Landmark District. Reminiscent of a true Manhattan Brownstone. Dramatic in form & contemporary in style, this sophisticated & chic residence frames unobstructed views of Lake Union, Olympic Mts & Puget Sound. Stunning rooftop terrace with two fireplaces & spa. Iconic!

(Image: John Feit/CHS)

(Image: John Feit/CHS)

We mentioned the one of a kind, 1910-built Seattle mansion neighboring St. Mark’s in this CHS architectural post in 2013:

Mr. Hill was a railroad executive and promoter of transportation of all kinds in the late 19th and early 20th century (Wikipedia has a nice entry). In the early 20th century, Mr. Hill decided to locate his Seattle residence at the northern edge of the Harvard-Belmont neighborhood. Edge indeed, as the difference between the street side of the house and that of its hillside side must be one of the most dramatic one could encounter in the neighborhood. The drama is best captured by the arc of the driveway, with its foundation forming a formidable wall, making the driveway above appear much larger and more important than it otherwise would. This view came as quite a surprise, as for years I have admired Mr. Hill’s house, but on its Highland Drive side.

The eclectic Hill also built his own stonehenge and the Peace Arch in Blaine.

The mansion has been owned by former Vulcan Capital executive David Capobianco and wife Rosangela Capobianco since they purchased the property in 2007 for $3,300,000.

The couple proceeded to plough another $3 million into the property including seismic renovation and a major overhaul:

If you’re on the fence about whether to make an offer, you’ll not only benefit from the Capobianco’s rosters of improvements to 100+ year old structure, but their investment in a National Register of Historic Places property qualified the parcel for a special assessment so at least you won’t have to pay any property taxes for a few more years as part of a King County preservation incentive program.

If the mansion sells, the deal would easily outpace the most expensive home sold last year on Capitol Hill — a $2,800,000 mansion at 1105 Boylston Ave E.

5 most expensive Capitol Hill house and condo sales in 2015

We asked Coldwell Banker Bain broker Terry Allen what kind of market there is for $15 million national landmark houses. “It’s like a New York brownstone but there is nothing like it in Seattle,” he said. “It will either resonate with you or it won’t.”

“One thing I’ve learned through the years is there is a buyer for everything,” Allen said.

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13 thoughts on “What kind of house $15 million will get you on Capitol Hill

  1. “…at least you won’t have to pay any property taxes…”

    Maybe I’m wrong, but it looks like they are not exempt from property tax, but rather the owner doesn’t have to pay taxes for the additional increment of value following the major renovation. That would be a big deal for a $3m renovation for sure, but not a total exemption. Maybe I’m reading it wrong or they are eligible for a different incentive….

    http://www.kingcounty.gov/~/media/property/historic_preservation/documents/resources/T17_SpecialValuation.ashx?la=en

    This doesn’t seem like the kind of historic property at risk for redevelopment – if super expensive historic castles aren’t paying any property tax, we have a problem!

    • Thanks – that would be great! Would love any additional information. This looks like a great example of the divergence between assessed value and potential market value – looks like the Assessor estimates less than $3m for the house + property. If they got that special historic exemption based on a $3m renovation, maybe that would cover the whole assessed value of the property? Seems weird, though, that the rehabilitation incentive would be totally exempting property tax. Also seems like it should be assessed for a lot more.

  2. $15 million for that house in that location? I think he is really trying to take advantage of the legalization of marijuana in Washington State and get lucky.

  3. Based on the interior photos, it doesn’t appear that they took much care to preserve the inside of the house.

  4. Hey Sawant and other Socialists, where are you when our local government gives away hundreds of thousands of dollars to owners of the highest price home in Seattle, while crying poor about basic needs like education, public safety and transportation?

    This house sold for $3.3 million dollars in 2007 — yet somehow it was assessed at about half that amount. Then, when the owners put another $3 million to make it even more luxurious, the historic preservation board reduced the assessed value to zero, apparently interpreting the statute to give the property owner a double tax break — (1) the value of improvements, which would normally increase the tax bill, is subtracted back off of the assessed value (so no taxes on the improvements) and (2) the amount of the improvements was subtracted again, this time from the already below-market assessed value of the property before the improvements, giving the owner an tax assessment of zero.

    Current property taxes in Seattle are about 1% of assessed value per year. So how much tax break has the owner of the most expensive property in Seattle received. Market value in 2011, after housing prices had several years to recover from the recession, should have been at least $3.3 million — that’s what the buyer paid it and it’s a huge house in an exclusive neighborhood. Let’s say the property only increased to from $3.3 million pre-improvement value in 2011 to $10.3 million pre-improvement value (or $13.3 million full value if you included the $3 million for improvements — that is, well below the owner’s asking price). Let’s also assume the value has been increasing year to year since 2011 instead of jumping all at once. So over the past 5 years, the average value of the property without improvements would have been about $6.8 million,. That means the property should have been generating well over $50,000 a year in property taxes (more this year as the current property tax rate is 1% of value, but less in previous years because property taxes on us taxpaying citizens just keep going up) Using these conservative estimates, the tax abatement on this ultra-luxurious private mansion has already saved an estimated $250,000 in taxes for the property owner over the past 5 years. The abatement lasts 10 years, so even if the property does not increase in value at all, it will wind up yielding the property owners over $500,000 in reduced taxes compared with taxes that would have been due on the property without improvements. That’s without even considering the tax savings due to exempting the improvements from any tax assessment.

    Nice deal for rich property owners. Really bad deal for the public.

    • Doesn’t this reporter have responsibility to reveal the other opulent properties and their owners who escape their tax responsibility to the community? We continually have to propose and pass propositions and levies to fund our schools, police and fire departments, transportation etc .because these free-loaders have no community affinity/ responsibility to pay their TRUE fair share.
      Mr. reporter, we know that you know when the rest of these people are. At least you could publish their names and addresses in public shame of their actions or lack of.
      And to what advantage does the public make of declaring someone’s property historic? Can we make a tour of the property?
      Do we have any access at all of declaring something of importance to the community at large?

  5. The property next door (676270-0806), owned by the same people, but not designated historic, seems similarly under-valued at just $195,000. It’s hard to imagine anything in that neighborhood for that kind of price. Something must be rotten.

    • That parcel appears to be vacant – no improvement value and listed as “vacant.” For what it’s worth, they are paying more property tax for that parcel than their property [purportedly] worth $15m. What a world!