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Hurricane Matthew is now expected to make landfall around Palm Beach, Florida. If that happens, its economic toll will include some of the most expensive real estate on the planet.
The average home price in Palm Beach topped $7 million in the second quarter, according to Douglas Elliman and Miller Samuel — believed to be the highest in Florida. And town tax records show that the total value of real estate in Palm Beach County is north of $140 billion.
But those numbers obscure the true scale of many of the homes in the town of Palm Beach, which include several homes valued at more than $100 million.
The highest-profile property in Palm Beach, of course, is Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago. While the premises have a beach club that could suffer damage, the main property is a hulking mansion built from concrete, steel and anchored to a coral reef below ground. According to the Palm Beach Daily News, Mar-a-Lago has withstood hurricanes going back to the 1920s, with very little damage.
The big test will be for the newer mega-mansions in Palm Beach. Among the most prominent homes are Nelson Peltz's 13-acre estate, valued by some at more than $200 million. The compound, on North County Road, features a main house with more than 47,000 square feet.
Palm Beach is home (or part-time home) to more than 25 billionaires. And many have estates valued well into the nine figures. They include investor Jeff Greene, William Koch, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, private equity chief Stephen Schwarzman, brokerage magnate Thomas Peterffy and real estate mogul Stephen Ross.
Real estate experts say the biggest mansions in Palm Beach are built to withstand major storms,
"These homes are fortresses," said Senada Adzem, a leading luxury broker in Florida with Douglas Elliman. "From the design to the construction, they were built with these big hurricanes in mind. They use reinforced concrete, steel beams and hurricane-impact glass. We hope that these storms never happen. But these homeowners are prepared if they do hit."
Adzem said many wealthy homeowners are partially draining their pools and sinking their outdoor furniture in the water to prevent them from blowing away. They are also putting up storm windows and covering any outdoor art and sculptures.
She said the biggest storm threat to some of the Palm Beach mansions is landscaping.
"The fear is palm trees coming down and hitting the house," she said. "So the landscape cleanup will probably be the biggest job after the storm."