Fabulosity, Law Professors, Law Schools, Lawyerly Lairs, Money, Real Estate

Lawyerly Lairs: A Professorial Palace Sells For Many Millions

One of the most magnificent homes we have ever covered in Lawyerly Lairs is the Manhattan mansion owned by the late Professor Hans Smit of Columbia Law School. Professors at NYU Law School, Columbia’s downtown rival, enjoy some pretty sweet real estate. But how many of them own a 12,000-square-foot house with its own Wikipedia entry?

Back in 2006, Professor Smit put his mansion on the market for $29 million. In 2007, he raised the price to $30 million. In 2008 — before the collapse of Lehman and the financial meltdown — he turned down a $20 million offer.

After being on and off the market for the past seven years, the house finally sold. For how much?

Oh how the mighty have fallen. Reports the New York Observer:

Mysterious, beautiful and fiercely independent — the Schinasi Mansion at 351 Riverside Drive — the Ellen Olenska of real estate, has finally found a buyer. The white marble, 12,000-square-foot French Renaissance mansion is one of the rare free-standing single-family houses in Manhattan (and one could hardly hope to possess Gracie Mansion or the Morris Jumel), but has lingered (some might even say languished) on the market for the better part of seven years. In that time, she has lowered her lofty expectations considerably, dropping her $31 million ask to a much more modest $13.5 million.

(If you don’t know who Ellen Olenska is, you should read The Age of Innocence (affiliate link), by Edith Wharton. I recently did and thoroughly enjoyed it.)

When we called, Corcoran broker Tod Mercy confirmed that the magnificent, 12-bedroom, 11-bath mansion, which Robert A.M. Stern called “unsurpassed in refinement in the West End,” is indeed in contract. But he could not comment on the identity of the buyers or the price (which we had heard was close to the ask)….

Hans Smit

So if the house sold for, say, $12 million, turning down that $20 million was a bad decision. But hey, hindsight is 20/20.

Professor Smit’s widow, Beverly Smit, will have more than enough for a comfortable retirement. She and her husband paid $325,000 for the house back in 1979, so she made a very handsome profit (even accounting for inflation and for the cost of the renovation the Smits did). And if she ever falls upon hard times, she can always get some financial help from her son, Robert Smit, a partner at Simpson Thacher (who lived in the house as an adult with his family).

UPDATE (6/21/2013, 10 a.m.): A reader emailed us as follows: “Beverly Smit may also make some money from her house being featured in a popular series, White Collar. I recognized the outside immediately…. I’m sure you could spend a few hours on Netflix to get [additional photos].”

Why did the house take so long to sell? According to a broker who spoke with the Observer, the mansion is not exactly in mint condition: “The woodwork was distorted, the ceilings were beautiful but crumbling, the exterior was in bad shape. I guess it’s been habitable all these years, but it needs a lot of work.”

I actually don’t think the house looks that bad. Here are some photos….

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