Luxury conference lures national group of Realtors to view Charleston’s opulent residences inside and out

The four-story mansion at 32 Legare St., built in 1808, is priced at $23 million. It was on the “Leaders in Luxury” tour Oct. 15 (Leroy Burnell/postandcourier.com/10/15/2012).

By JIM PARKER

The Post and Courier

After touring 17,142-square-foot 32 Legare St. last Monday, a guest at a luxury Realtors conference took time to shake hands with the listing agent.

“I feel like I’ve been in a true Southern mansion,” she said, in a satisfied tone.

The guest, rather than a casual fan of classic homes, is in the rarefied business of brokering ultra-high-end properties. She joined a larger-than-expected 100 fellow professionals on the afternoon tour Oct. 15, which was a highlight of the three-day Leaders in Luxury summit.

The overflow crowd of well-heeled Realtors walked through three downtown luxury residences, including 32 Legare — known as the Sword Gate House for its street-side metal gate made by ironworker Christopher Werner in 1838, according to the Preservation Society of Charleston.

Billionaire investor Michael Dingman owns the striking mansion, framed in 1808 with original hardwood floors and serving as recently as the late 20th century as an inn. Daniel Ravenel Sotheby’s International Realty is the listing agency for 32 Legare, a private residence for the past decade. It is priced at $23 million.

“Oh my gosh, I think this tour is very enlightening,” said Susie Lawson, a Miami area Realtor, as she headed down the flowing staircase to the main floor. She had arrived three days earlier and had inculcated herself with the historic district.

Lawson specializes in super-modern condominiums on the south Florida coast. So when it comes to contrasting markets such as historic Charleston, “I have to rely on local expertise.”

That’s more than okay with local Realtors who were involved in the three-day event. They’re excited about attracting agents from across the country to see the Lowcountry’s homes up close while steering their deep-pocket contacts to local professionals.

If there’s any doubt of the luxury Realtors’ clout, note that an agent at the conference sold the highest-priced home in the U.S. over the past year, fetching a staggering $100 million.

The first house on the walkthrough was 65 S. Battery, a 6,300-square-foot Colonial-style home built in 1931 and boasting six bedrooms, a swimming pool and guest house. The residence is for sale for $4,195,000.

Cuyler Applegate, listing agent with William Means Real Estate, says he didn’t expect such a large turnout. Could it lead to a sale? “I hope so,” he says, noting that the house is on a double lot and includes an 800 square foot outbuilding (included in the square footage figure). “We have had a lot of interest.”

Wrapping up the tour was 63 Legare, built in 1890. The nearly 3,500-square-foot house underwent extensive interior and exterior restoration, according to listing agent Brian Mello with Handsome Properties Inc. The home features two screened piazzas, landscaped garden and private pool and courtyard with water fountain. There’s also a carriage house.

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Assembling dozens of Realtors with such a wealth of experience can paydividends, says Matt O’Neill, agent with ReMax Advanced Realty.

It could play a role in capturing one of the comparatively few buyers ready to pay $23 million for 32 Legare, or the multimillions of dollars for other sky-high properties in and around Charleston, says O’Neill, who headed the five-member hospitality committee that pitched Charleston for the annual Leaders in Luxury conference.

The organization tends to pick locales with plenty of luxury properties such as last year’s site, Dana Point on the southern California coast.

According to O’Neill, this year’s conference will help get the word out about Charleston’s posh districts.

The region’s appeal as a luxury destination can get overlooked, says Brenda Piaskowski of Keller Williams Realty and hospitality committee member. “We’re in a high-end area as well,” she says.

Consider 32 Legare.

“This has really made the tour,” said Ann McAnallen, also with Keller Williams Realty and hospitality member, as the conference guests filed out of the Sword Gate House.

Reach Jim Parker at 937-5542 or jparker@postandcourier.com.