But there it sits in Indiana, a 36-room home called Le Chateau Renaissance, built by Conseco insurance company founder Stephen Hilbert and his wife, Tomisue Hilbert, for $35 million. It took five years to build and was completed in 1994, but the couple lost ownership when Stephen Hilbert didn't repay money he borrowed from his company, which has since been renamed CNO Financial Group.
Hilbert told his hometown newspaper that he may bid on the home, which has a mural on the entryway's domed ceiling that includes his likeness as a Greek god.
"Until they paint it over, I'll have the pleasure of looking down and watching what they do with the place," Hilbert told the paper.
The mansion is not as big as the main house at Hearst Castle in California, but is "ridiculous in size" and stands out in Indiana, says listing broker Greg Cooper, who is co-agent with Dick Richwine of Prudential Indiana Realty Group. The entire property at 1143 W. 116th St. is 33.6 acres. The main house is more than 25,000 square feet, with a 15,000-square-foot "sports palace" (a massive gym with basketball and racquetball courts) and a catering house and guest house.
It's an amazing place," Cooper told HousingWatch in a telephone interview. "It's just that it's a fish out of water."
There really aren't any similar houses in the neighborhood, let alone the state, and homes in the area have an average sold price of $630,000. The largest house that was sold recently was a 15,145-square-foot home for $500,000. Cooper says the median price of a home in Carmel is $230,000, and $140,000 in the rest of Indiana.
In California, New York, Connecticut or Aspen, Colo., the Hilbert mansion would sell for $9 million or more, he says, and six potential buyers have tried and failed to buy it. They include a business owner, athlete and pro wrestler, and the either had buyer's remorse and pulled out of the deal before closing, or didn't have the money they said they had, Cooper says.
Since the home was forfeited in a legal dispute in February 2005, offers have continued to come in and be accepted -- $20 million, $16 million, $14 million, $12 million and $9 million -- but none of them closed, Cooper says. The home was appraised at $25 million in 2000, he said.
"They have to have an overwhelming capacity to buy the home," Cooper says.
It's a home to get lost in. It has an outdoor infinity pool with double waterfall, indoor lap pool, pool house, six-car garage, media room, atrium, his and her master closets, library, billiards room, spa, sunroom and enough recessed wood on the walls and ceilings of many rooms to make you think you're at Hearst Castle.
While a pro athlete is likely to be able to afford the mansion, Cooper said he thinks someone from Carmel (Indiana, not California) will buy it.
"There's more money here than you'd think," he says. "It's just quiet money."
Aaron Crowe is a freelance journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area.
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