Who Pays $1 Million for a Home?

by Mark Friedman  on Monday, Apr. 26, 2010 12:00 am  

Click here for a chart of million-dollar home sales.


Boyd Corley was attracted to the large pond that circles the house in west Little Rock's Hickory Creek neighborhood.

"It's a large lot. It gives you a feel of country living in the city," said Corley, the owner of BCC Construction in Little Rock. BCC Construction's projects include the Riviera Condominiums in Little Rock, IO Metro and Staples. It reported $39 million in revenue in 2008, ranking it No. 12 on Arkansas Business' list of the largest commercial contractors in the state.

Corley and his wife, Lynn, bought the mansion in August for $1.15 million.

The Corleys' home was one of 14 seven-figure residential transactions in Little Rock last year - and two of those were promptly razed. Sales of million-dollar homes have been declining in Pulaski County each year since 2004, when 29 were sold. In 2008, 21 million-dollar-plus homes were sold in the county.

But million-dollar home sales have bounced back so far this year. Since Jan. 1, seven  homes for $1 million or more have sold and one is under contract. During the same period in 2009, only four had been sold.

Boyd Corley also said he was attracted to the home because it has five bedrooms, five bathrooms and two half-bathrooms and is more than 7,000 SF. The three-story estate also has a workout room and media room.

"It's an open floor plan and that worked out well for our family," Corley said. "It gave us plenty of room for the kids."
The Corleys, though, don't plan on living there long. He said he's building a house on 13 acres in Waterview Estates.

"We buy houses, live there for a little while, sell them and move," Corley said. "Being a contractor, I've done that over the years."


The Buyers

For readers who have wondered who these top-dollar homeowners are, Arkansas Business has attempted to provide a brief description of each of the homes listed and of the owners, using interviews and public records.

Here's what we found:

  • In February 2009, Topview II Holdings LLC, led by James T. Dyke, bought a $2.5 million, 4,400-SF home and tore it down - for a garden.

Dyke is the owner of Dyke Industries, which has locations in Arkansas and Florida. Dyke Industries is a building supplier and lumber wholesaler. With an estimated $91.5 million in revenue in 2008, Dyke Industries was ranked No. 73 on Arkansas Business' most recent list of the state's largest private companies.

In February, Dyke bought the Country Club of Little Rock neighborhood home from former insurance executive Frank Whitbeck, who in December 2008 began serving a six-year sentence in federal prison for fraud.

The property is adjacent to Dyke's home at 4800 Hawthorne Road. Through Briland Enterprises LLC, Dyke bought a 5,574-SF, $1.28 million house in November 2004 and razed it to make room for his $2 million-plus mansion.

Dyke also is a supporter of the arts and donated his collection of 133 drawings and watercolors of the French neoimpressionist Paul Signac to the Arkansas Arts Center.

Dyke also is on the board of directors of the Arkansas Arts Center's foundation.

  • The other seven-figure home that has been razed was bought in June by Savannah Co. LLC, led by Craig and Elizabeth Stephens Campbell.

The Campbells spent $1.35 million on the 3,900-SF, Palisades Estates home that was built in 1955. It overlooked Murray Park and the Arkansas River.

Elizabeth Stephens Campbell is the daughter of the late financier Witt Stephens Sr. In 2006, she and her brother, Witt Stephens Jr., split with their cousin, Warren Stephens, and the investment bank, Stephens Inc., to form Stephens Group LLC. In 2008, the company, which provides growth equity, recapitalization and leveraged buy-out financing to companies in a broad range of industries, had estimated revenue of $250.2 million, which placed it No. 37 on Arkansas Business' list of largest private companies.

  • Dr. Roy "Gene" Graves is once again on the list of million-dollar homebuyers.

Graves, who in 1982 founded I Care of Arkansas, a home IV and nutritional service, paid $1.85 million in 2006 for a 7,886-SF home at 2 Valley Crest that was owned by Sunset Bay I LLC, led by Rick Ferguson.

In February 2009, Graves sold the Valley Falls Estates house to Timothy McGrath's Valley Crest Trust for $1.7 million, a loss of $150,000. McGrath is the chief financial officer of the Tenenbaum Recycling Group LLC of North Little Rock, a 120-year-old recycler and processor of scrap metal. Tenenbaum Recycling was ranked No. 27 on Arkansas Business' list of largest private companies with 2008 revenue of $412 million.

Graves, though, wasn't out of a million-dollar home in Valley Falls Estates for long.

In November, he bought a $1.5 million, 7,456-SF home in the same neighborhood from Markus Homes Inc., led by Jim and Melinda Markus.

Markus Homes bought that mansion in May from Linda and Rush Harding III for $1.6 million. The sale to Graves represented a $100,000 loss.

In 2009, Melinda Markus designed two homes for the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra's Designer House XX. The money from the sale of homes benefits the symphony.

In a March 2009 interview with At Home in Arkansas, Markus said her company helps customers build their dream homes.

"I don't do furnishings, but I work with a client's interior designer on the architectural design of their home," she told At Home. "Rather than having to seek out a variety of different vendors, I do it all for them."

  • In July, Ron C. Smith spent $1.37 million on a 10,000-SF home in west Little Rock's Hickory Hills neighborhood. He bought the home from Pine Bluff National Bank, which recovered the estate from David Hamilton in October 2008 at a $1.68 million foreclosure sale.

Ron Smith is the president and CEO of Curtis Stout Inc. of Little Rock. Curtis Stout has been in the electrical industry for more than 60 years and touts that it is one of the largest electrical equipment manufacturers' representatives in the country. With more than 100 employees, Curtis Stout has offices in Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi and Louisiana.

  • One of the biggest reported markdowns came from a Little Rock manor that overlooks the Arkansas River.

The former CEO of Acxiom Corp., Charles Morgan Jr. and his wife, Susie, put their 10,000-SF home up for sale in late 2007 with an asking price of $2.75 million.

After the home had been on the market for 14 months, Mark and Sally Kline bought it for $1.5 million, 45 percent off the original price.

Mark Kline said he and his wife purchased the home because of the "phenomenal view of the river and the surrounding countryside."

The Klines had lived in New Orleans, but their house, which overlooked the water, had been damaged by Hurricane Katrina. Sally Kline "really wanted a view of the water" when they bought a home in Little Rock, he said.

He also said the view from their home reminds them of northern California, another favorite spot.

Mark Kline does estate planning and executive benefits planning with New York Life Insurance Co.

  • In October, Brett Barnett bought a 5,000-SF home near the Country Club of Little Rock for $1.1 million because of its neighborhood.

"Where it's located tends to hold the value pretty well," said Barnett, who is president of R&R Sports Co. in Little Rock. R&R Sports rents skis and sells ski equipment. Barnett said he has shops in Utah, Colorado and West Virginia.

Barnett said he was also attracted by the landscaping of the house. He said the dogwood trees and foliage add a nice touch to the four-bedroom home.

The entrance to the house is stone.

"It was well taken care of and the previous owners were really great people," Barnett said.

Barnett bought the home from Thomas and Cecile Rose.

  • In August, Ned "Scott" Rawlings and his wife, Laura, bought a 4,778-SF home in Little Rock's Cliffewood neighborhood for $1.03 million.

In March 2009, Glazer's of Dallas named Scott Rawlings as its Arkansas president. Glazer's operates in 11 states and is one of the nation's largest wholesale distributors of wine, spirits and malt beverage products. Rawlings also maintains regional oversight of Oklahoma and Mississippi. Rawlings was previously Glazer's Louisiana president. He has a degree in business management from East Tennessee State University.

The Rawlings purchased the home from Michael and Larita Berg.

  • In March, Somers and Andy Collins Jr. acquired a 19th-floor space in the downtown condominium tower at 315 Rock St. from River Market Tower LLC, led by Rett Tucker and Jimmy Moses.

The 2,946-SF condominium is "something we have not built out, and I'm not living in," said Andy Collins, the president of Cypress Properties Inc. of Little Rock, which manages commercial property. In late 2007, it developed Cypress Landing in western North Little Rock, which features a $21 million, 184,248-SF Wal-Mart Supercenter that opened in 2008.

Andy Collins said he bought the condo as an investment.

The building opened in 2009 and is the cornerstone of the River Market Place, which features lofts, shops, a courtyard and a Hampton Inn & Suites. "River Market Place is its own little village within a city," the website for River Market Towers said.

  • Jason and Cassandra LaFrance spent $2.5 million on a 5,000-SF home in Little Rock's prestigious Edgehill neighborhood.

The LaFrances bought the house in June from John and Christian Kelly. The Kellys bought the home in October 2004 for $3.2 million, and it was the most expensive home purchased in Pulaski County that year.

Jason LaFrance is executive vice president of USA Drug of Pine Bluff. LaFrance's father, Stephen LaFrance, started Stephen LaFrance Pharmacy Inc. of Pine Bluff, the parent company of USA Drug.

USA Drug operates more than 150 stores in Arkansas and surrounding states. In 2008, Stephen LaFrance Pharmacy had estimated revenue of $971.1 million, up 7.1 percent from 2007.

  • Another Edgehill home made the million-dollar homes list. In December, the Daniel & Tiffany Robinson Trust bought a 4,932-SF home from Wendy and Stephen LaFrance Jr. for $1.19 million. (Stephen LaFrance is Jason LaFrance's brother.)

The LaFrances had bought the house for $1.3 million in July 2005.

Daniel Robinson is an assistant vice president of treasury management for Bank of the Ozarks in Little Rock. His father-in-law is Charles H. "Chip" Murphy III of Little Rock, who also lives on Edgehill. Chip Murphy's father was Charles H. Murphy Jr., who ran Murphy Oil Corp. of El Dorado. In 2009, Murphy Oil reported $19 billion in revenue and $837.6 million in net income. In 2008, the company had $27.5 billion in revenue and $1.7 billion in net income.

  • In April, Nancy and Arthur "Tad" Phillips Jr. bought a 5,617-SF home near the Country Club of Little Rock for $1 million.

They bought the mansion from the Ann Cline Galloway Revocable Trust.

Tad Phillips' great-grandfather, Mark Mathias Cohn, was the founder of the department store M.M. Cohn, which was sold in 1989 to The Dunlap Co., a chain of department stores in Fort Worth, Texas, and has since been shut down.



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