Real Estate

Why do Cal Ripken Jr., Ray Lewis, the late Tom Clancy struggle to sell their posh homes?

Pity the not-so-poor seller who dropped the price of his home to a mere $9.7 million, still couldn’t find a buyer and now will auction it off. Or his neighbor, who slashed his multi-million-dollar price, took the house off the market and now has re-listed it at less than $2 million. Or the estate of the guy whose Inner Harbor condo remains unsold after almost 2½ years and a $4 million price drop.

Does no one want — or can no one afford — to live like Cal Ripken Jr., Ray Lewis or the late Tom Clancy?


Ripken’s lavish home in the horsey, moneyed Worthington Valley of Baltimore County goes to auction on May 12.

While the Orioles legend has the longest consecutive-game streak in baseball all to himself, his stymied home sale puts him in familiar company, at least locally: Neighbor Lewis, the Ravens linebacker extraordinaire and now Hall of Famer, and the estate of Clancy, the mega-bestselling novelist, have also been unable to unload their mansions.


Why? Forget location, location, location — some real estate professionals say that even at this rarefied end of the market, it’s all about price, price, price.

“The market will set the price,” said Bob Lucido, the Realtor who is taking Ripken’s house to auction.

Lucido said the market decided the house wasn’t worth $12.5 million, the initial listing price when it went for sale in September 2016. Nor did anyone bite after the price was dropped to $9.7 million in April of last year, before it was taken off the market entirely in August.

But Lucido said there’s no reason the price won’t hit those levels at the no-minimum, no-reserve auction.

“It creates urgency,” he said. “It’s not a distress sale.”

Lucido doesn’t like the term “auction” — he prefers “accelerated marketing program.” By going to auction, he said, a seller can avoid overpricing the property, and leaving it to “sit on the market and get stale.”

Eddie Meushaw, who was Lewis’ first listing agent, agreed that the wrong price can prevent a house, particularly a high-end one, from selling.

“You have to get the numbers right,” he said. “You can’t be overpriced.”


Meushaw, of Berkshire Hathaway Home Services in Baltimore, put Lewis’ Tufton Avenue spread on the market last April for $2.95 million. About two months later, the price was dropped to $2.5 million. He showed it to seven or eight potential buyers, but no one bit. It was taken off the market on Jan. 2.

The house recently went back on the market — Heidi Krauss is now the listing agent — at just under $1.89 million. Krauss did not return a call for comment, but Meushaw thinks the price is finally right.

“It’s a lot of property and a lot of house,” Meushaw said.

Georgiana Tyler, president-elect of the Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors, said these celebrity properties are undeniably “unique and beautiful and captivating,” but the number of potential buyers shrinks as you get into the stratospheric reaches of the marketplace.

“I think it goes back to the basic law of supply and demand,” said Tyler, of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Roland Park. “There’s just a limited number of people during any one period of time looking for a ‘trophy’ house.”

The supply may outpace demand at the highest price points. In Baltimore County alone, there were 22 active listings for homes priced at $2 million or more as of last week, according to a scan of Metropolitan Regional Information Systems, yet only 12 such properties have sold in the past 12 months.


Tyler said houses go on and off the market for multiple reasons, from job transfers to sudden influxes of cash. The “expensive property” market has remained steady over recent years, she said.

Ripken’s 24-acre estate on Dover Road in Reisterstown boasts breathtaking vistas, six bedrooms, 10 full baths, a pool, a gym, a baseball diamond and, most famously, a basketball court where he hosted an array of pro and college players for regular and highly competitive games back in the day.

Still, the enviable property with the stellar provenance didn’t sell in the year it was on the market.

Now DeCaro Auctions International will try its hand. A representative of the Florida-based luxury real estate firm declined to comment for this article.

“It was overpriced, they reduced it, and it was still overpriced and now it’s going to auction,” said William J. Ganz III, a real estate broker based in Baltimore. “Now we’ll see what it sells for, versus what it was listed for.”

Ganz, who owns Ganz Exclusive Real Estate, represented the buyer of an Inner Harbor condo that sold last year for $5.65 million.


It created quite the buzz not just for the price, but also the rumored buyer: “House of Cards” actor Kevin Spacey. It was eventually revealed that the five-story, 9,000-square foot mansion in the gated Pier Homes at Harborview complex was bought by Spacey’s friend and manager, Evan Lowenstein.

The property initially was put on the market by the estate of the late developer Leroy Merritt on Jan. 24, 2011 for $8.5 million, Ganz said. It went off and on the market before Lowenstein bought it for less than its last listed price of $7.9 million.

“Overshooting” the market doesn’t help anyone, Ganz said. The seller gets frustrated, and the property gets viewed as problematic because it hasn’t sold.

Meushaw said some high-end homes linger on the market because they’re “over-personalized:” The seller has added pricey amenities that don’t particularly interest prospective buyers.

“That happens a lot,” he said. “It’s something they wanted, but it’s not what someone else would want.”

The listing for Lewis’ home, for example, shows off its 27-acre site, with what you might expect at this price point: sweeping views, cathedral ceilings, a pool. But it also shows and describes a theater, a “decadent multi room dressing area” and a “dedicated holistic wellness center, commercial gym, meditation, massage & salon space.”


Oh, also: “zippy access to [Interstate] 83 & Wegmans.”

Pricing unique properties can pose a challenge, Meushaw said.

“You’re not comparing Rodgers Forge townhouses to Rodgers Forge townhouses,” Meushaw said. “It’s more subjective than objective.”

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Additionally, there just aren’t as many potential buyers.

“When you get into the ultra high-end, there’s a smaller pool,” he said. “It becomes a numbers game.”

Ganz said he believes there is enough money in town — what he calls “silent wealth” — to buy up even the priciest properties. But houses still have to be listed at the right price.


“It’s got to be the right value for the buyer,” Ganz said. “It doesn’t matter what the seller paid for it.”

The penthouse condo of Tom Clancy, who created the iconic Jack Ryan character that spawned multiple novels and movies, went on the market in October 2015 for $12 million. Clancy, who died in 2013, had actually spent $12.6 million to purchase four units of the Ritz Carlton Residences to combine into a single, 12,000-square foot home with sweeping views of the Inner Harbor.

Since hitting the market, the price has dropped several times — to $10.9 million in February 2016, and again three months later to $8.7 million. About a year ago, the price dropped to $7.9 million, where it remains.

Baltimore Sun reporter Jeff Barker contributed to this article.