In 2004, Rupert Murdoch bought an apartment from Laurance Rockefeller for $44 million, which was then a record price for New York City.
Located at 834 Fifth Ave., the entire building was bought by Rockefeller, son of Gilded Age oil tycoon John D. Rockefeller, in 1946 and happened to break the record previously—in 1986 a duplex became the first Manhattan apartment to be sold for more than $1 million (paywall). That was in cash. Almost 20 years later, Murdoch also paid cash for his 4,000-sq-ft triplex. The co-op board demands it as one of the many conditions of entry into the building.
Paying cash for prestige properties is generally standard for the billionaires of the world. Yet many now are doing something that most ordinary mortals dread and do because they have no choice—take a mortgage.
Beyoncé and Jay-Z bought a huge mansion in California last year for $88 million—which they partly financed with a $52.8-million mortgage from Goldman Sachs. Interest starts at a fixed rate of 3.4% and becomes variable in 2022. The Wall Street Journal estimated (paywall) the couple’s monthly payments at more than $200,000. The Journal points to others, such as Canadian billionaire Daryl Katz, who is paying a similar monthly amount on the $85-million place in Malibu, California he bought this year, due to his $47.5-million mortgage.
Why are they taking these huge debts on? With property prices rising in the US and interest rates near historic lows, it becomes worthwhile for even the wealthiest buyers to take out one of these “superjumbo loans” and use their tens of millions of free cash in investments elsewhere, which could yield a higher rate of return and easily cover their loans.
They’re also not exactly sitting around waiting for a bank manager to approve a loan. “Delayed financing”—when a buyer pays in cash and then gets a loan after the fact privately—also happens at the lower end of the market (paywall), but is dependent on the buyer having enough cash to get a deal done in the first place.
And because they don’t need the money, the big names get more of it at more favorable terms from the aforementioned Goldmans of the world compared to you. “If you have a client who has $50 million with your bank,”Jon Maddux, CEO of large-loan-issuer FundLoans, told the Journal, “you would do everything you can to keep them from taking that money out.”
Whether you’re able to pay all cash or not, it doesn’t mean that the dream home always works out, even for the wealthiest people in the world. Murdoch, for example, had to give up his place during his last divorce. The triplex is now owned by his third wife, Wendi Deng.