Who Pays $1 Million for a Home?

(For a chart of the listing the seven-figure home sales in Pulaski County in 2010 click here.)

Pete Yuan said one of the features that attracted him to his Bretagne Circle neighborhood home was the big, wraparound porch.

"When we saw this house in Chenal ... [it] reminded us a lot of the architecture that we were familiar with in south Louisiana," said Yuan, who came to Little Rock last year to manage Arkansas operations for IberiaBank of Lafayette, La. "And the previous owner had done a lot of work in the backyard."

The backyard of the $1.17 million home has waterfalls, ponds and a pool. The two-story, five bedroom, 6,700-SF home also features a home theater room, four bathrooms and two half-baths.

Yuan and his wife, Tracy, bought the house from Edward and Jacquelyn Love in July. The Loves bought the home in September 2004 for $1.01 million.

The Yuans' home was one of 22 in Pulaski County that sold for $1 million or more in 2010. Last year was the first time since 2004, when Arkansas Business started following the sales of seven-figure homes in Pulaski County, that the number of transactions increased compared with the previous year. In 2009, only 14 homes sold for $1 million or more.

"There were tremendous buying opportunities in 2010 for buyers of upper-end houses in Little Rock," Jon Underhill, who sells upscale homes through his agency, Jon Underhill Real Estate in Little Rock, said in an email to Arkansas Business.

But that doesn't mean the upscale market has recovered. Eight homes sold for less than the sellers had originally paid, and several others sold for less than the owners had invested in them, Underhill said in the email.

Some sellers were willing to accept losses "for financial reasons," he said. "Or some people just sold them because they didn't want them anymore. The nice thing about having resources is you can do what you want to when you want to do it."

In some cases the mortgage holder agrees to accept less than the balance owed on the property in a transaction known as a short sale. If the lender doesn't do that, the property will go into foreclosure and the lender will have to buy the house back anyway.

Currently, in the Little Rock area, 49 homes are on the market with asking prices of $1 million or more, Underhill said. At the current rate of absorption, that's more than two years worth of high-end housing.

"For someone in a position to buy a luxury home, there continues to be great opportunities," Underhill said.


A Look Inside

For those who have wondered who owns these exclusive homes, Arkansas Business has attempted to provide a brief description of each of the homes and of the owners, using interviews and public records.

Here's what we found:

  • The most famous buyer is Cliff Lee, a starting pitcher for the Philadelphia Phillies. After pitching two games for the Texas Rangers in the 2010 World Series against the San Francisco Giants, Lee, 32, signed a guaranteed five-year, $120 million contract with the Phillies. In November, Lee and his wife, Kristen, gave $1 million to Arkansas Children's Hospital in Little Rock in honor of their son, Jaxon, who was treated for cancer at the hospital as an infant.

The Lees had been house hunting in Little Rock when they stumbled upon a 5,729-SF home in Little Rock's Prospect Terrace neighborhood.

They rang the doorbell and made the owners, Lee and Robin Brown, an unsolicited offer for the home that includes six lots. The Browns agreed to sell.

In March 2010, the Jaxon Maci Revocable Trust, named for the Lees' children, bought the home for $2.85 million, the most expensive home purchased in Pulaski County last year.

  • Rodney Breuer said he bought his home in the Waterview Estates neighborhood because of its location in Roland.

He said he had the home custom-built by Carl Gray Henson Inc. of Little Rock. He declined to release details about the 4,200-SF home, which he and his wife, Donna, bought on Nov. 30, for $1.01 million. The home sits on 3.1 acres.

Rodney Breuer is a civil engineer and principal at ECCI in Little Rock, which provides engineering, environmental and industrial engineering services.

  • Deena Burnett-Bailey said she liked the view of the Arkansas River from her new home on Isbell Lane. On Sept. 1, the Deena L. Burnett Revocable Trust bought the $1.2 million, 4,960-SF house from Conkin Enterprises Inc., led by Jeanette Flemister. The Flemister family bought the 1.8-acre location for $145,000 in November 2001.

Burnett-Bailey is the widow of Tom Burnett, a passenger on the hijacked United Flight 93 on 9-11. Burnett was one the passengers who tried to overpower the terrorists and was killed when the plane crashed into a Pennsylvania field.

Deena Burnett is a volunteer and speaker. She serves on the boards of the Tom Burnett Family Foundation and is directing the Angels of Hope mentoring program for the 20th Century Club's Lodge. She also co-wrote the book "Fighting Back: Living Life Beyond Ourselves."

  • In January, Melissa and Dr. Tom Meziere spent $1.4 million on their 6,947-SF home in the Bretagne Circle neighborhood of west Little Rock's Chenal Valley development. The couple bought the home from Souheil and Janet Mousa. The home was linked with an October 2006 mortgage of $500,000. The Mousas bought the home in August 2001 for $232,000.

Dr. Meziere graduated from the University of Oklahoma School of Medicine in 1984 and specializes in gastroenterology. He practices at Gastroenterology Associates PA in Little Rock. 

  • On Feb. 26, Steven and Veronica Molpus bought their $1.35 million, 5,678-SF home in west Little Rock's Valley Falls neighborhood. The sellers were Michael and Jerene Montgomery. The Montgomerys bought the property along with an adjoining lot from VFE Inc., led by Rick Ferguson, in August 2006 for $775,000 and mortgaged it for $1.5 million in December 2007.

Steven Molpus is an oral surgeon and owns Central Arkansas Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery Center in North Little Rock.

  • On Sept. 27, Noel Strauss, through his Acadian Trust, bought a 6,196-SF home in Little Rock's prestigious Edgehill neighborhood. He acquired the home from Michael and Suzanne Brown for $1.82 million. The residence was previously linked with a February 2007 mortgage of $775,000. The Browns bought the remodeled home for $1.97 million in 2007.

Strauss is a managing director at Stephens Capital Partners LLC, which is the merchant banking affiliate of Stephens Inc., the Little Rock investment banking firm. He also managed Stephens Inc.'s Transaction Development Group, where he oversaw both the mergers-and-acquisitions and private placement practices. Since joining Stephens in 1994, Strauss has handled transactions totaling more than $30 billion. Strauss is married to Joan Early, a former anchor of "Good Morning Arkansas" and "Family First" reporter for KATV, Channel 7.

  • Joe Courtright took his time finding his home. The president and CEO of Stephen LaFrance's USA Drug Stores Inc. of Little Rock looked at more than 100 homes, he said in an email to Arkansas Business.

"I was fortunate because I wasn't in a hurry to purchase and also did not have a house that I needed to sell in a down market," Courtright wrote.

He found what he wanted, a 4,930-SF home in Edgehill in October.

"I liked the area, but did not want to go through a major renovation," he said. "Fortunately, the previous owners had recently completed a very nice and tasteful renovation."

Courtright bought the house for $1.27 million from Dr. Robert Jaquiss, the former chief of cardiovascular surgery at the University of Arkansas for Medical Science, and his wife, Cheryl. The Jaquisses purchased the home in December 2005 for $1.2 million. It was linked to a December 2005 mortgage of $960,000 and a May 2006 mortgage of $250,000. Dr. Jaquiss left UAMS for Duke University in Durham, N.C., in September.

  • In March, Dr. Jeffrey Neuhauser purchased a 7,032-SF home in the Chenal Circle neighborhood of west Little Rock's Chenal Valley development.

Neuhauser's practices at Arkansas Cardiology in North Little Rock. He received his medical degree in 1987 from the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine.

Neuhauser bought the home for $1.35 million from Mary Pickering, who bought the lot for $115,000 in March 2002.

  • On March 12, Marilynn and Dr. Robert Porter Jr. acquired a $1.28 million home near the Shadowlawn neighborhood near the County Club of Little Rock. The couple bought the 4,000-SF residence from Wayne Moore Construction Co., which bought the property in September 2008 for $995,000.

Dr. Porter is an orthopedic surgeon and received his medical license in Arkansas in 1978. Dr. Porter retired about seven years ago from practicing at Orthoarkansas Orthopedics & Sports Medicine in Little Rock.

  • In May, Martin and Patricia Rhodes downsized from a 5,000-SF home near the Country Club of Little Rock to a 4,211-SF home just a few blocks away. The couple acquired a $1.03 million home from Benjamin McMinn and Betty Turner. The property was bought in 2007 for $940,000. The home was linked with a pair of May 2007 mortgages totaling $750,000.

Marty Rhodes is the president and CEO of Stephens Insurance LLC of Little Rock. He founded Rhodes & Associates Inc. in 1986 and then sold it in 2002 to Brown & Brown Inc., a publicly traded brokerage based in Florida. He joined Stephens in 2005. He also is on the board of directors of Arvest Bank of Fayetteville.

On the same day the Rhodeses bought their home, they closed on the sale of their 5,000-SF home to David and Susan Matthews for $1 million. The Rhodeses bought the home in April 1992 for $125,000. The home was linked with an April 2009 mortgage of $417,000.

Susan Matthews said she was attracted to the house because of its location, layout and landscaping in the backyard.

"It's got a very small courtyard and fountain, which is great for entertaining without being too huge," said Matthews, who is the owner of Cupcakes & Caterpillars, a children's and baby boutique in Little Rock.

She also said she was attracted to the floor-to-ceiling windows throughout the two-story, four-bedroom home.

David Matthews is the president of the commercial real estate firm Matthews Management Co. LLC of Little Rock. He is a great-grandson of the North Little Rock real estate tycoon Justin Matthews Sr.

  • In October, Dr. Stanko and Jasna Vuk bought a 6,000-SF home in the Waterview Estates neighborhood of west Pulaski County. They bought the estate from James A. Matthews for $1.15 million. The residence was previously tied to an April 2008 mortgage of $1.3 million and a February 2008 mortgage of $105,470.

Jasna Vuk is an assistant professor in the Office of Educational Development at UAMS. She holds a doctorate in educational psychology from Mississippi State University. Stanko Vuk specializes in pediatric neurology. He received his license from the Arkansas State Medical Board in February 2010.

  • On Sept. 30, Isabel and John Ed Anthony purchased a 6,600-SF mansion in the Pinnacle Point neighborhood of Cammack Village for $2.02 million. They bought the home from Charles and Marisa Ensminger. The residence previously was tied to a March 2002 mortgage of $1 million and a July 2005 mortgage of $351,594. The Ensmingers bought the home for $1.35 million in December 2001.

Isabel Anthony said she's not sure what will be done with the house and didn't want to comment further on the plans.

John Ed Anthony is the chairman of Anthony Timberlands Inc. of Bearden, the company his grandfather founded in 1907 and one of the state's largest private companies. Its self-reported revenue for 2010 was $141 million, down almost 10 percent from 2009.

Anthony Timberlands has a hardwood sawmill and a pine sawmill and makes treated products. The company's subsidiaries include Anthony Wood Treating Inc. and Anthony Hardwood Composites Inc. John Ed Anthony's family is considered one of the wealthiest in the state. He is a member of the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame for his Loblolly Stables, which produced thoroughbred horses that won races at Preakness and Belmont.

  • In March 2010, Amy and Todd Denton, through Aspen Realty Trust, bought a $1.35 million estate in west Little Rock's Valley Falls Estates neighborhood. The sellers were Eugene and Jamie DeJordy, who bought the home for $2.3 million in 2006.

Todd Denton said one of the selling points was the home's big backyard.

"We have young kids," said Denton, who is director of business development in the national transportation practice at Aon Risk Services in Little Rock.

The two-story, 6,754-SF home also has a home office of between 500 and 600 SF, "which was something we were looking for," he said.

He said they were about to build in the area when the DeJordys' house became available.

Todd Denton graduated in 1993 from Ouachita Baptist University with a degree in business and finance.

  • On Nov. 30, William and Patricia Carlton bought a 7,800-SF home in Little Rock's Kingwood Place neighborhood near Cammack Village for $2.4 million.

In 2005, Bill Carlton sold Carlton-Bates Co. of Little Rock, an electronic components supplier co-founded by his father, to Wesco International Inc. of Pittsburgh. He told Arkansas Business in 2006 that he sold the company for $250 million in cash, which was split among the company's few shareholders. Carlton also founded the Carlton Group, a capital advisory company in Little Rock.

The Carltons bought their new home from Clark and Janell Mason, who had purchased it in March 2003 for $599,000. The home was tied to an August 2007 mortgage of $1.4 million and an April 2010 mortgage of $100,000.

  • On March 11, 2010, Dr. Greg Wood bought his 8,400-SF home in the Waterview Estates neighborhood in west Pulaski County because of the view of Lake Maumelle. Wood bought it for $1.25 million from 2610 Acres LLC, led by Rick Ferguson.

"I can sit out there on the back porch and just relax, take in a great view and a nice little breeze comes through," said Wood, an obstetrician and gynecologist who practices in central Arkansas. "At night, it gets dark and you can see all the stars."

The five-bedroom, two-story estate also provides enough space for his six children, he said.

Wood said he wasn't house shopping but stumbled across it. He "just kind of ended up out there," Wood said.

The 5.5-acre spread was valued at a purported $3 million in July 2007 when 2610 Acres acquired it from Gene Cauley, who lost his law license and is now in federal prison for stealing $9.3 million from clients. The residence once secured a June 2005 construction loan of $2.36 million.

  • On Dec. 3, Brian and Dr. Susan McGeorge bought a 5,800-SF home near the Country Club of Little Rock. They bought the home for $1.39 million from Wallace and Sue Rowland, who bought the property for $215,000 in 1996. The property was tied to a 1997 mortgage of $640,000, a 2003 mortgage of $98,434 and an October 2009 mortgage of $100,000.

Brian McGeorge is the chief operating officer and vice president at Pine Bluff Sand & Gravel Co. Dr. McGeorge is a pediatrician at the Children's Clinic PA in Pine Bluff.

  • In January 2010, HSBC Bank USA of McLean, Va., recovered a 5,300-SF mansion in Little Rock's gated Valley Falls Estates neighborhood in a $1.2 million foreclosure sale. The bank recovered the property from Michael and Rhonda Martin, who acquired the home in 2006 for $1.5 million.

After acquiring the home, HSBC Bank sold the property at a loss a few months later to David and Sarah Wengel for $950,000 on April 5, 2010.

  • On June 11, Dr. Xiang Gao and Lin Tong bought a $1.1 million estate from BancorpSouth Bank of Tupelo, Miss. The 6,800-SF home is in the Bretagne Circle neighborhood of west Little Rock's Chenal Valley development.

The bank recovered the property in December 2009 when it was forfeited in lieu of foreclosure by Russell Huckaby. Huckaby acquired the home in a reported $1.8 million swap transaction with Sunset Bay I LLC, led by Rick Ferguson.

Dr. Gao practices at Radiation Oncology Associates in Little Rock.

  • Rod and Caroline Ford bought their $1.76 million, 6,570-SF estate in Little Rock's Prospect Terrance neighborhood in July from Marilynn and Dr. Robert Porter Jr.

The Porters bought the home for $400,000 in June 1989. It was linked to a $350,000 loan in April 2003 and a $700,000 mortgage in December 2008.

Rod Ford is the president and CEO of CognitiveData Inc., a marketing technology company in Little Rock. Ford recently told Arkansas Business that his company is in the middle of an expansion and it has 130 employees and will likely add another 30 during the next year. Its revenue was $21 million in 2010 and was on track for revenue of nearly $30 million this year.

Caroline Ford is the daughter of Charles Morgan, the former CEO and board chairman of Acxiom Corp. of Little Rock. She teaches marketing at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

  • Lee and Robert "Dennis" Harpool bought a 17th-floor condo in downtown Little Rock for $1.08 million. The Harpools acquired the 3,593-SF unit in April from River market Tower LLC, led by Jimmy Moses and Rett Tucker.

Lee Harpool was listed as a homemaker in political campaign contribution reports. Dennis Harpool is the owner of Complete Computing Inc. of Little Rock, but an employee said he hasn't been in the office in years and wasn't sure how to get a message to him.