It’s common knowledge in real estate circles that Jay Leno and his wife of 40 years, Mavis, bought a Newport, R.I., mansion for $13.5 million in 2017. But the story of how the former “Tonight Show” host found Seafair, a 15,861-square-foot Louis XIV inspired chateau, is less known.
Seafair was designed and built by British architect William Mackenzie Jr. for Vernor Zevola Reed Jr., heir to a mining fortune and a banker.
The estate sits on 9 acres and features a slate roof and rubble-stone construction. The home boasts an inimitable crescent-shape design that follows the curve of the land and allows for expansive views of the Atlantic. The gated compound has a tennis court, private pool, a carriage cottage, a six-car garage and private beaches.
The 15,851 main home has 12 bedrooms and 13 bathrooms and features a paneled library, a formal dining room and a chef’s kitchen.
In the years before and after Jay Leno ended his NBC “Tonight Show” run in 2014, the comic icon has bought a lot of stuff. Leno’s famed Burbank garage is home to 199 cars, 68 motorcycles and a small team of dedicated mechanics. The admitted gearhead drives every vehicle and is often seen taking a Duesenberg or his McLaren F1 for a spin. So it would be appropriate that Leno, who moved to Los Angeles from Andover, Mass., to pursue show business in the 1970s, would discover the Newport mansion while enjoying a scenic drive along Ocean Avenue.
During a moment away from shooting his sixth season of CNBC’s automotive show “Jay Leno’s Garage,” Leno spoke to Forbes about finding Seafair, owning a historic home and the secret to never having buyer’s remorse.
Michelle Hofmann: How did you come across Seafair? Were you looking for a second home?
Jay Leno: No, I wasn’t planning on moving back east. I was with my wife visiting family in Newport in October 2017. We were driving around Ocean Avenue, which is kind of like 17-Mile Drive, a scenic road through Pebble Beach and Pacific Grove in California. Ocean Avenue is a fancy place. I had my cousin with me and we were driving along and Mavis said, ‘Look at that house. Look at that house. It is unbelievable.’ And I said, ‘You’re right. It is unbelievable. It looks like a castle.’ So, I said to Mavis, ‘Do you want that house? Let’s see if it’s for sale.’ I turned the car around to go back to the house. Just as we drove by, the gate opened and the gardener came out. We all looked at each other and said, ‘The gate is opening. It’s a sign.’ So, I drive in and ring the bell. The caretaker answered and said, ‘Your Jay Leno.’ Then I said, ‘Hey, it’s nice to meet you. Is this house for sale?’ And the caretaker said the house is for sale but not listed currently. I asked if we could look around, and the guy gives me a tour. Then, I asked him to get the owner on the phone. So, we get the owner on the phone, and I said, ‘Will you sell the house as-is, with everything, all the furniture, the ketchup in the refrigerator, the salt shakers and just walk away? And he said, ‘Yeah, I’ll walk away.’ We agreed on a price, and I bought it. We closed in 30 days.
Hofmann: The house had been listed for $19 million not long before you bought it, so it looks like you made a smart business move.
Leno: I have no idea if this was a smart business move. I bought Seafair because I liked it. The thing about me is I don’t buy things for investment. I buy things because I like them, and if they go down in value, I still like them. If they go up in value, that’s fine, but I don’t want a sell them, so it makes absolutely no difference to me whether the price goes up or down. Obviously, I like it when things go up in value. I bought my McLaren F1 in 1998 for $800,000; the last after I got was $17.5 million. And one just sold for $20 million. I have cars that I bought that are not as valuable, but I don’t like them any less than I love the McLaren. Some go up, and some come down. But if you always buy what you like, you’ll always be happy because you did it for the right reasons.
Hofmann: How does Seafair compare with properties in Beverly Hills?
Leno: For the price of a condo on Wilshire Boulevard, I got a castle in Rhode Island on the ocean. There is no equivalent in California to that house for less than $100 million. I’ve got neighbors in Beverly Hills with homes down the street from me that cost $168 million, and there is not even any water. You’re right in the middle of Beverly Hills, but there is no view and the same amount of land, 9 acres.
Seafair is completely furnished. I wouldn’t have bought something where I had the look of swatches of fabric and hold them up to the wall and say, ‘No, not that one. Let me see another one.’ I didn’t want to do that. I like that this house was beautifully furnished with the best of everything, and everything was included in the price. So, when I go there, it’s like going to a hotel. I check in, and I check out. I’m not constantly moving tables and chairs. If I couldn’t have bought it as-is, it would have taken forever to make it a home because I wouldn’t have furnished it.
Hofmann: Why Newport?
Leno: Since I’m from the area, it’s a great meeting place for all my relatives to come and have fun. They all get to stay there and it’s great. I love the place.
Hofmann: Can you share a little history about the house?
Leno: Seafair is also called the Hurricane Hut by the locals and history buffs because there was a huge hurricane—in fact, many hurricanes—that killed a bunch of people. There is some fascinating history about the house. There is this impressive steel and lead peacock statute [about 4-feet tall] that was on the front lawn that got wiped out to sea during a hurricane. The owner, who survived the hurricane but lost a very nice peacock statue, sold the property, returned 25 years later to visit and noticed that the peacock statue was back on the front lawn. She rang the bell, told the current owners who she was and said, ‘Did you have another peacock made? How did you know about the peacock?’ And the new owner said, ‘No. We didn’t have another peacock made. We had another hurricane about five years ago, and that lead peacock washed up on the lawn.’ So that is kind of interesting. There are a lot of stories like that about Seafair.
Hofmann: I understand the house is sometimes called a cottage. Can you explain this reference?
Leno: Yes, it was originally called Terra Mae. The second owner named it Seafair. It’s the last of the Gilded Age cottages. During the Gilded Age [from the 1870s to about 1900], rich people used to call these mansions summer cottages. The cottage reference was a tongue-in-cheek joke. Most of them were built in the late 1800s or the early days of the 1900s and the 1920s. Seafair is the last grand one, built in 1936, and I think it would be almost impossible to duplicate today.
Hofmann: It sounds like the house has a bit of magic. It looks like a castle, and even the idea that you were driving by and the gates opened seems mystical.
Leno: Yeah, I mean, it was an impulse buy, but I knew it was right. I’ve only done a couple of impulse buys. Most times, when you’re looking for a house, you’re looking for one thing, and you settle for another. Like in California, I always thought it would be cool to have a house on the ocean, but with many of these houses, you’re right next to Pacific Coast Highway. That always seemed crazy to me. This house is right on the ocean and has a couple of private beaches. I have to laugh every time I go to the house and the gate opens because I feel like I’m in the opening of “Downton Abbey.”
When I asked myself if I could have any house in Newport regardless of cost, this is the one that I would buy. How often does something like that actually happen? The idea of finding precisely what you want is great. My wife loves Victorian novels set on the English coast with the girl with the bonnet and the Fabio guy on a windswept bluff, so it makes me laugh because Seafair is the house I would have wanted. It really is. The nice thing about it is that it looks like a castle. Even though it’s a mansion, with Seafair, all the rooms are small and have individual fireplaces. There are like eight or nine chimneys. When I had the chimney sweep come, the place looked like a scene from Mary Poppins.
Hofmann: Do you have a favorite room in Seafair?
Leno: I like the library. I always wanted to have a proper library. My wife and I have about 4,500 books, and the library can accommodate all of them, so that’s kind of fun. The home came with books. Someone was a Zane Grey aficionado. We’ve also got books by the Brontë sisters [of Wuthering Heights fame] and that whole gang. They are not necessarily my thing, but they are interesting to have. There are a lot of books on art history.
Hofmann: Can we talk about what it takes to maintain a home of this size and stature?
Leno: Of course, I thought about what it would cost to maintain the property when I bought the house. It’s big. I’ve yet to flush every toilet in the place. There’s someone on the property all the time, and it probably costs about $50,000 a month to maintain the home if you count all the expenses.
Hofmann: Does that include washing all those windows?
Leno: Yes. The house is on a peninsula, so you’re right against the sea, and all that salt pounds the windows. Consequently, the windows almost become opaque from the wind and rain and salt, so you do have to replace them every other year or quite often.
Hofmann: Any advice for somebody buying a historic home?
Leno: Yes, don’t buy a house like Seafair as an investment; buy it because you love it. Because if you love something and get stuck with it, you’ll still like it. And that’s my advice on everything. Occasionally, I’ve paid too much for things, but that’s OK because I still like them.
Hofmann: The sea life at the home must be amazing.
Leno: Yes, the sea life is interesting. One day, I was at the house, and I started hearing this noise and thought someone was trying to break in or throwing rocks at the windows. Then, I realized what was happening. The seagulls were picking up clams and dropping them on the balcony off the bedroom that is flagstone. They drop them from some height to crack them open. Then, they come down and eat the clams.
Hofmann: You are famous for your love of cars and your automotive collection. What do you drive when you’re at Seafair?
Leno: The house has a six-car garage, but I don’t keep any cars there because there’s nothing worse for an automobile than to sit in the salt air. It will just rust on its own unless you have humidifiers going all day long. When I am at Seafair, I rent a car.
Hofmann: You spend a lot of time working in your garage in Southern California. What you do in and around Seafair if you are not tinkering on cars?
Leno: Actually, I am working with cars in Newport because I am very involved with the Audrain Automobile Museum. Nick Schorsch [one of the museum’s co-founders] is a good friend, and we work together to pick out cars for the museum and plan events like parties, concours exhibits, and cars and coffee gatherings. The Audrain Newport Concourse & Motor Week was canceled in the fall because of COVID, but it is set to return from Sept. 30 to Oct. 3.
Hofmann: Anything else?
Leno: We’ve been shooting a show in Newport called “Audrain Mansions and Motorcars” with Donald Osborne, a TV presenter on “Jay Leno’s Garage.” We showcase vintage cars and vintage mansions with the new show and put the two of them together. We take a ride in the car and talk about the car and showcase the mansion.
Hofmann: What can we expect from “Jay Leno’s Garage” this season?
Leno: We got a late start because of COVID with “Jay Leno’s Garage.” We just did a shoot with musicians Huey Lewis and Kelly Clarkson and have a few exciting people this season, so it’s great fun. The show focuses on people interacting with and talking about how cars have affected their lives and their first cars or the first car they drove when they went on a date and other personal things as well, so it’s a little bit of everything.
Hofmann: I hear you might be coming back to primetime. Care to share?
Leno: Yes, we are doing a new spin on “You Bet Your Life,” a question-and-answer game show hosted by Groucho Marx [from 1947 to 1961]. We start filming 180 shows in June. The show is syndicated on Fox and Fox affiliates and has sold in more than 85 percent of the country, so it’s doing quite well. It’s exciting. We will see what happens. It should debut in the fall.
Producer’s Compound In San Miguel De Allende Is A ‘Catch’ At $6.25 Million
If old town charm, modern luxury and outdoor living spaces are high on your wishlist, the vibrant home of “Deadliest Catch” and “Storage Wars” producer Thom Beers in the inland Mexican state of Guanajuato checks all the boxes.
Set along a cobblestone street two blocks off the central plaza of the colonial-era city of San Miguel de Allende, the three-time Emmy-winner’s fully furnished compound blends artistry with comfort.
Called Casa Tres Cervezas, the turnkey property features two courtyards, plus rooftop and patio areas, that make the most of the temperate climate with indoor-outdoor living. Views take in the pink “wedding cake” towers of the neo-Gothic Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel as well as other church spires.
“The rooftop garden has a remarkable direct perspective of the churches that transports you into another time and space,” said Joseph Lown of CDR San Miguel, who is co-listing the property with fellow agent Eduardo Mora.
A heated swimming pool and spa sit in one of the courtyards, which connects to a yoga studio and a full bathroom with a changing area. Hand-carved stone walls and columns bearing botanical motifs surround outdoor spaces framed by plantings.
A lanai courtyard across from the living-dining room, bar and kitchen includes a shaded loggia with a lounging area and an in-ground fire pit. The rooftop deck contains an outdoor kitchen.
The grand entry opens into a living room with a stone fireplace and large skylight. The domed and arched boveda ceilings are made of brick. Metal and glass lighting fixtures, ironwork and concrete Mexican tile are among other details throughout the more than 11,000 square feet of living space.
Lown said the level of craftsmanship reflects Beers’ appreciation of the vibrant community, roughly 10% of which is made up of expats. To create the compound, the producer pieced together five parcels of land and sourced artisans from all across Mexico to update the property while keeping it entirely authentic.
“Rarely do you find someone so in love with the Mexican culture that they are willing to work with an architect to keenly preserve and enhance a property such as this,” Lown said. “[Beers] sourced the best artisans from across Mexico to do the stonework, carvings, glass etchings, metalwork and even some of the home’s paintings.”
The attention to detail is further evidenced in the formal dining room, which pairs rustic stonework with a fireplace, cantina-style bar and floor-to-ceiling windows.
The stone-walled kitchen is large enough to accommodate a table for eight. A seating nook with a fireplace anchors one corner of the room.
Among the nine bedrooms is a suite with a loft. Another room has a skylight view of the koi pond for a total of nine bedrooms and nine bathrooms—and those are just the main living areas.
“There’s even a recording room with soundproof walls that doubles as an Xbox lounge,” Lown said.
The $6.25-million asking price includes a separate adjoining property consisting of a garage, a ground-floor restaurant space, some rustic apartments and a garden area—though most aspects can be negotiated separately.
Suppose the owner is open to offering the property as a short-term vacation rental. In that case, the income produced is capable of paying for the carrying costs of the house, maintenance, utilities and staff fees, according to Lown.
Private parking is another added bonus. “Parking in the city center of any colonial town is golden,” Lown said.
The Baroque Spanish architecture, cultural festivals and an active arts scene are among the attractions of San Miguel de Allende, which draws tourists and expats from around the world. The town’s historic core is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site, requiring structures to retain their historic appearance. Homes painted in a palette of mustard yellows, red and orange hues line the narrow streets.
The nearest international airports are Del Bajío International Airport in Guanajuato, about 58 miles to the west, direct flights to Los Angeles, and Querétaro Intercontinental Airport, some 56 miles away in Querétaro. San Miguel de Allende is about 150 miles north of Mexico City.
CDR San Miguel is an exclusive member of Forbes Global Properties, a consumer marketplace and membership network of elite brokerages selling the world’s most luxurious homes.
Julian Lennon Discusses Art As A Calling Upon Launch Of Partnership With Aston Martin Residences
“I know how it feels to have your privacy invaded by photographers, whether it is in work mode or privately. So I have always been sensitive to that,” says Julian Lennon, describing the philosophy that has driven his decades-long career in photography. “I’m a fly on the wall. Nothing is staged. I don’t want to be in [the subject’s] way.”
Lennon has just launched a virtual exhibit called “Vision” in partnership with Aston Martin Residences, the 391-unit condo building in Miami and first residential project for the luxury carmaker. Now 70% sold, the building made news for its $50 million triplex penthouse, which comes with a hard-to-find Aston Martin Vulcan valued at over $3 million.
“It is every young English boy’s dream to not only be James Bond, but…Aston Martin…are you kidding me?” says Lennon. “As a kid I used to have the little matchbox Aston Martin. So how can I not be happy for the relationship?”
The partnership with Lennon came about after a serendipitous meeting between Lennon and reps for the building at Miami’s annual Art Basel festival. Since The Residences borrows design themes from the original aesthetic of Aston Martin cars, and there are echoes of the same level of artistry in Lennon’s photography, the amenity program organizers invited Lennon to be the inaugural artist on the program.
“That’s why we called the exhibit Vision,” said Lennon. “It’s all about design and angles. In many respects a lot of people can tell the shots that I do because of the angle I take. There’s always a little bit of an angle or an edge or something different. Otherwise anybody could take the shot. You have to define that it’s your work.”
While the building is still under construction the team has created an online immersive exhibit to showcase what will be one of the building’s high-end amenities—a private art gallery for residents. The complete collection launched yesterday and can be accessed here, though organizers for the gallery have provided a few images and an early interview with Lennon exclusively for Forbes readers. The wide-ranging exhibit consists of everything from the artist’s celebrity photos to shots of his travels of far-flung places around the globe.
As the eldest son of John Lennon, Julian Lennon has sought to define his own artistic path. “Whether that’s been through the charitable efforts for the foundation, children’s books, the independent films I’ve been part of executive producing—that’s been my thing. Just creating a relatively large body of work on so many levels.”
His foundation largely supports environmental causes and the needs of preserving indigenous populations. Named The White Feather Foundation, after the shiver-inducing moment when—having been told as a child by his father that if he ever passed away he would send him a white feather to let him know he was alright—Julian was touring in Australia in support of one of his albums and was presented with a white feather by an Aborigine tribal elder in Australia who said, “You have a voice, can you help us?”
“On all those mediums that I’ve been involved with I’ve done my graft on these things,” says Lennon. “If I become more recognizable because of certain pursuits, then it’s not because I’m John’s son or this and that. It’s because I’ve been there doing the work.”
When it comes to photography, Lennon explains he relies almost exclusively on natural light and taking all the time needed to work on the photo in post-production. He says of photographing Charlene Wittstock the morning of her wedding to Prince Albert of Monaco:
“She’s not only got the hairdresser, but the hairdresser’s assistant, the makeup artist, the makeup artist’s assistant. Then the tailor, the tailor’s assistant, and the assistant who is steaming things on the side. All in this tiny little room. I was literally being pushed by all the assistants and have never been in a situation like that so I was really panicking. And I’m going, ‘what am I going to?’ She says, “Jules, I think this is making me feel too anxious I don’t think we can do this.’ I said, “Charlene, this is a moment in history. This is ten minutes before you’re becoming a princess.”
Lennon was able to get a few shots but didn’t think any of them matched the importance of the occasion. “So I desaturated [the colors in one] picture and I got goosebumps. It just took me back to a time and an age.” He applied the same effects to the rest of the photos and was able to create a collection that captured the momentous nature of the event. “It truly reminded me of Princess Grace of Monaco.”
Lennon has also just released to the public an extensive collection from his time in Havana, Cuba and several of the images from his collection are on display in the “Vision” exhibit.
As he describes, “I fell in love with the place. It was relatively untouched. You can just imagine harkening back forty, fifty years and feeling what that may have been like. It was captured in time and it still remains relatively as it was. There’s a certain absolute beauty about it. You saw the poverty there and the sadness. You can see a lot of sadness in their eyes but they make the best out of the worst. There’s a lot of happiness within. That’s one of the things that I try and parlay through the photography.”
Here are a few more pictures from the exhibit:
A spontaneous trip to Colombia where a friend had set up an art gallery led to photos such as the street mural above.
The above photo was taken during a songwriting session by U2.
The above photo is of singer Tony Mortimer for the artwork in support of his album, “Songs From The Suitcase.”
For more pictures, the 3D immersive exhibit can be found here, along with an explanation from Lennon about the story behind each photo. For more of Lennon’s photography, complete with several just-launched collections, head to his personal website: julianlennon-photography.com. For more information on Aston Martin Residences, go to their website here.
Costs, Timelines And Steps You Can Take
Cofounder of InstaLend, a non-bank real estate lender providing loans on single-family and multi-family properties for acquisition and rehab.
With the moratorium on foreclosures likely coming to an end soon and millions of Americans still out of the workforce and unable to make their rent or mortgage payments, we may be in for a huge uptick in foreclosure activity nationwide. As a property owner, you may find yourself falling behind on payments to your lender and subject to foreclosure action. Should that be the case, it is critical you have a good understanding of the foreclosure process, timelines and costs.
A foreclosure occurs when a mortgage obligation cannot be financially fulfilled and the lender files a lawsuit against the property owner. The process culminates when the lender sells the property at an auction to recoup the money it is owed.
Property owners usually find themselves in foreclosure as a result of nonpayment of the mortgage obligation. Common reasons that force a property owner to default on their payment obligations to a lender are unemployment, extreme debt, relocation and divorce.
Types Of Foreclosures And Their Processes
A foreclosure can take anywhere from a couple of months to several years, depending on state laws and whether it is a judicial or non-judicial foreclosure.
In a judicial foreclosure, the lender fails to reach a settlement with the property owner and files a lawsuit against the property and its owner. Therefore, judicial foreclosures require the lender to file a complaint, serve the defendant and go through a court motion to eventually get the title (ownership) of the property. This process can last a few months, or it may take several years. States including New York, New Jersey and Illinois have judicial foreclosure laws.
On the other hand, in a non-judicial foreclosure, the lender is not required to file a lawsuit against the property or its owner. Rather, the lender pursues a foreclosure with the help of a third-party trustee, a process that can vary greatly from state to state. Non-judicial foreclosures can be completed in a matter of a few months since they do not require the lender to go through a court process to get the title (ownership) of the property. States such as Alabama and Georgia have non-judicial foreclosure laws.
Once the lender has completed the foreclosure process, the property will be placed for sale at a public auction. Typically, a notice of sale will be published in a newspaper and advertised by a firm of auction organizers.
After Foreclosure: What Happens Next?
The lender is now the owner of the property. Such a property is referred to as REO, or “real estate owned” by a lender. Consequently, the lender may then hire a real estate agent to get the property sold. Being its owner, the lender is now also responsible for the upkeep of the property and must ensure that the property taxes and utility bills are paid.
In addition, the lender must also ensure that the property is kept secured so that no one can break into it. At this point, lenders might seek out experienced and licensed contractors to secure and maintain the property. To secure the property, the contractor must change all locks to the property and seal the windows. Meanwhile, a real estate agent will list the property on the MLS so that the property is visible to all buyers via sites like Zillow and Trulia.
Steps To Take During Foreclosure
Being subject to foreclosure action can be extremely stressful and unpleasant. As a property owner, should you find yourself exposed to foreclosure action, it would be worthwhile to reach out to your lender and transparently share with them your financial difficulties. Do not ignore any communication from your lender and be sure to speak with a foreclosure defense attorney to understand your rights. Understand that since foreclosure action is expensive and time-consuming for your lender as well, they may be willing to settle the matter on reasonable financial terms. Inquire with your lender if they would offer loan modification or a payment plan to resolve the matter. Should none of these avenues prove successful, consider offering a deed in lieu of foreclosure to your lender so you may resolve the matter and eliminate personal liability for any deficiency in loan balance.
With the anticipated rise in foreclosures for 2021, it is imperative that property owners and lenders understand how the process works, the costs and the timelines involved.
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