Luxury bank-owned home with private lake listed for sale at $3 million

2012-12-01T07:30:00Z 2012-12-06T13:36:48Z Luxury bank-owned home with private lake listed for sale at $3 millionKAREN RIVEDAL | Wisconsin State Journal | | 608-252-6106 | @PropTrax

One of south-central Wisconsin’s most unusual residential properties is also Dane County’s biggest bank-owned property, barely a dozen years after its former owner carved out a 23-acre private lake as a backyard amenity.

Used for fishing and water sports by the family and friends of Dan and Patricia Levine, the lake — at nearly nine football fields long and complete with trucked-in sand for two beaches — is now a key selling point for the 196-acre rural Oregon property at 6163 Oak Hollow Drive, which includes a single-family home of more than 8,000 square feet.

“The lake is the heartbeat of the property,” said Tom Bunbury, CEO of Madison-based Bunbury & Associates Realtors, who was hired by Johnson Bank to sell the property. Listed at $3 million, it’s assessed at more than $2 million.

“The house is gorgeous, and it’s all very private. It’s right near everything, but you’ve got your own little world,” Bunbury added. “There’s nothing like this in Dane County.”

The home’s price tag makes it the third most expensive residential listing in Dane County, bank-owned or not, with one of the largest homes on it, according to the South Central Wisconsin MLS, an online database for agent-represented listings.

Only 10 other listed properties boast bigger houses now, led by a 14,000-square-foot home in Cross Plains with an asking price of $2.35 million. The highest list price for a Dane County residential listing now is $3.29 million for a five-bedroom home on Lake Mendota.

Home well maintained

The Levines transferred ownership of their property to Johnson Bank on March 23, 2011, in a transaction known as a deed in lieu of foreclosure, according to records at the Dane County Register of Deeds. The state Department of Revenue, which records title transfers, also said the transfer type was a deed in lieu of foreclosure, and listed the value of the property conveyed at $3.6 million.

Dan Levine, 54, president of Universal Presentation Concepts, a Madison manufacturing company, did not return calls and an email seeking comment. He and his wife have continued living in the home, pending a sale, in exchange for supervising bank-paid maintenance at the property, Bunbury said.

“This is a unique situation because it was Levine who built and developed the place,” Bunbury said. “He takes care of it like it’s his own. He keeps it immaculate.”

In a Capital Times story in November 2000, three months after the lake was finished, Levine, a former water-ski instructor, said the uproar and concerns then being expressed by his neighbors would quickly fade. He also described the residence he would soon start building on the property for his family — including a 17-year-old son, Loren, who was a nationally competitive wakeboard athlete — as his “dream home.”

Deed in lieu of foreclosure

Greg Dombrowski, president of Racine-based Johnson Bank, declined to comment on Levine’s mortgage deal, except to confirm the bank’s ownership of the property and to stress that under the arrangement it was “never foreclosed on.”

“It’s complex,” Dombrowski said. “I’ve got confidentiality issues.”

Typically taking place after a mortgage default, a deed in lieu of foreclosure is a foreclosure alternative that comes to essentially the same end — the bank takes the property and the homeowner takes a credit hit. The former owner may or may not still owe the bank for any deficiency following the sale of the distressed property, depending on what’s negotiated.

But generally, it’s a faster and cheaper way for the bank to recover its collateral on a failing loan, eliminating the cost of taking a foreclosure case to court.

Bunbury estimated the former Levine property, in total, originally cost $5 million to $6 million.

“It’s going to sell for literally pennies on the dollar,” he said. “It isn’t what it cost to build. It’s what somebody will pay for it.”

Photos show off home

The house itself, finished in 2005, is a three-bedroom, five-bath stunner, a one-story ranch in prairie/craftsman style, with a stone and wood exterior, floor-to-ceiling windows, gleaming wood floors and two fireplaces, along with a wet bar, wine cellar, gym, steam shower and sauna.

The house also has a deck, gazebo, outdoor hot tub, patio and a nearly 2,000-square-foot boathouse, which was built in 2000 at a cost of more than $200,000, according to township records.

“It’s nicer than most of the houses I sell,” Bunbury said about the boathouse. “You could live in it.”

The bank wouldn’t let the State Journal on the property for photos, but they are available online in real estate listings.

The property’s oval-shaped private lake is a half-mile long by 480 feet wide, and sinks to a depth of 24 feet. An earthen berm created from the excavated material rings the lake, and a high-capacity well drawing from a deep aquifer originally filled it and still recirculates water through the lake with a system of pumps and continuously operating aerators.

Bunbury said it cost about $1.2 million to build the lake, which Levine stocked with sport fish.

“It’s a very nice lake,” town of Oregon assessor Andy Blomstrom said. “It’s crystal clear, and it’s full of trophy fish.”

On the property’s surrounding acreage, miles of walking paths and riding trails stretch, amid hunting preserves, forest and farm land, with perimeter fencing, no-trespassing signs and a locked front gate at the northern end, beyond which a private road leads to the house.

But only by looking back from the property’s southern edge, along Judd Road, and from a few spots on Highway D to the east, can the home, in the northeast corner, be seen in the distance. The lake is not visible, except from overhead.

“You can walk around that whole property and the world can’t get to it and can’t see in,” Bunbury said.

Three potential buyers

There are three potential “local and qualified” buyers for the property who are “circling and negotiating” offers, Bunbury said. “That’s a long way from closing,” he said. “I need to work with every one of them and find out how I can help connect the dots. You can get right to the closing and have somebody stub their toe (on some detail or concern) and they walk.”

The bank has turned down some offers, said Bunbury, who took over the listing in May for the bank from another agent.

Regarded as an expert in moving high-end, distressed properties, Bunbury’s last such jobs were a bank-owned home in Maple Bluff and a golf course in Dodgeville.

As the seller agent in such deals, Bunbury said his success depended on keeping three sides happy — the bank, the potential buyers and often the former property owner, whose cooperation may be needed for showings and other details.

“I have to get everybody to deal with me and be sure I don’t inherit their fights,” he said. “My job is to get everyone to the table, deal with them all as individuals, and have each of them feel they’re leaving with some kind of prize.”

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(18) Comments

  1. notaparty
    Report Abuse
    notaparty - December 03, 2012 9:39 am
    Mr. K (Joe) is one of those who has had everything handed to him and then expects others to suffer for anything they need.
  2. rabbit
    Report Abuse
    rabbit - December 02, 2012 12:56 pm
    Sorry for plowing your roads in the winter. But hey, you feed me, right?
  3. Thurston Howell III
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    Thurston Howell III - December 01, 2012 2:35 pm
    Rabbit, in Dane County (as in "The People's Republic of") the only legitimate employment is government employment. In the view of the government class, private sector employment is not legitmate, and must be taxed and regulated to death by the government class (while exempting the government from its own regulations, of course). Government employment, is a special and protected form. It is to be expanded and coddled at all cost (costs to be born by the illegitimate private sector, of course).

    Too many people have been on the receiving end of this view for too many years. THAT's where the "hate" of public employees comes from...that and poor government performance and lack of accountablility.
  4. Queen123
    Report Abuse
    Queen123 - December 01, 2012 2:12 pm
    Yes, government workers do nothing which would include our Governor per Jack P. What an idiot. If you can't afford the house, don't buy it . I think I've heard this said by many conservatives.
  5. rabbit
    Report Abuse
    rabbit - December 01, 2012 1:51 pm
    You have got to be kidding. State employees rely on the public to feed them? A paycheck is only earned if it's from a private employer I guess; otherwise all that work and the pay received is worthless.

    Where does this hate of public employees come from?
  6. Wally Kalbacken
    Report Abuse
    Wally Kalbacken - December 01, 2012 12:40 pm
    Everyone knows some variant of this.

    I know a woman in Phoenix who decided to go all in on investment real estate in the Phoenix and South Florida regions(somewhat like M&I.) She bought about $6.6M in houses (7) and borrowed about 95% of that while purchasing in 2006 and into early 2007 (ouch!). Prices crashed severely in both places, she stopped paying the mortgages, and later filed Chapter 11 in 2009. In one of the longest drawn out personal Chapter 11's I have seen in my young life, her plan of reorganization was approved last month. She is cramming down the principal balances on the mortgages to the market values at present, paying interest at 0% in one instance and 2%, 3% or 4% at various times on the other mortgages, which have been amortized at 40 years. Net-net, she has reduced the principal owed to the lenders to about 45% of the amount she borrowed roughly 5 years ago. Precisely where that loss goes is hard to trace with exactitude, but some significant portion is being picked up by taxpayers. She rolled the dice with other peoples money, the economic environment changes, she uses bankruptcy law to foist the loss on to other parties and goes merrily along, bringing in $19,000 a month in rental income from the properties.

    In this instance outside of Madison you have someone making their own personal white elephant of a house, with expensive customization which may mean a lot to him, but would be hard to recover in any real estate market. There has to be an unwritten rule about investment in homes that are something like, say, above the 98th percentile of home prices in a given market. Once you get to that level, say $4M here in South Florida, or, I don't know, $1M in the Madison market, the relevant available substitute to buying someone’s $5M dream home is really building your own $5M dream home. Who wants to buy someone’s peculiar customized vision of something as personal as a home, when you can go an build your own peculiar vision?

    That said, it is exposing taxpayers to the loss generated by such an excess that is the crime here, just as it is in the Phoenix example. Maybe he is a nice guy and employs a lot of people in Madison, but the way the mortgage market, the TARP bailouts, and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac work is that folks in Kansas are picking up some of the tab for his excess in home building. Just as folks in Wisconsin are picking up some of the losses in one woman's dreams of a real estate empire in Phoenix. That's simply wrong.
  7. joe
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    joe - December 01, 2012 12:28 pm
    I would disagree. It looks like a very tastefully done house and property. It may be out of reach for many, but it certainly is not garish. Heaven forbid if a person who worked hard for their money indulged in a nice property.
  8. B13
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    B13 - December 01, 2012 12:23 pm
    How can this possibly be justified as front page news? What relationship between which involved parties resulted in this getting printed?
  9. sebastian
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    sebastian - December 01, 2012 11:49 am
    Maybe the reporter could do a follow up on Levine and how he got into trouble?
    Maybe interview some of his employees and customers?
  10. Jack P
    Report Abuse
    Jack P - December 01, 2012 11:46 am
    Most of your comments may be fair, but the story is sad. I've known the Levines for about 40 years. While many of us in Dane County live off the State and University and reley on the public to feed us these people did not. They started their business out of literally nothing and went on to create something highly successful. In the process, at its peak, they provided a living wage for about 135 families. At one point they were the largest employer of minorities in Dane County.They were willing to hire those other employers were unwilling to take a chance on. The economy has badly impacted on their business but they still fight on and still provide a living wage for about 50 families.I wish them well. Jack.
  11. rhythmbomb
    Report Abuse
    rhythmbomb - December 01, 2012 11:29 am
    I hope when I'm ready to sell my home the WSJ will run an article about it with sections entitled "Photos Show Off Home" and "Home Well Maintained." Who do I have to know to get that kind of treatment?
  12. RightForWisconsin
    Report Abuse
    RightForWisconsin - December 01, 2012 9:53 am
    This is why there should be NO TAXPAYER FUNDED mortgage bailout!

    I hope the imbecile at Johnson Bank that OK'd the Levine's loan is no longer working there.

  13. krf3000
    Report Abuse
    krf3000 - December 01, 2012 9:27 am
    It's because, as the old saying goes: "If you owe the bank $100, that's your problem. If you owe the bank $100 million, that's the bank's problem."
  14. Matthew Emery
    Report Abuse
    Matthew Emery - December 01, 2012 9:13 am
    Fascinating article, but, really: may I list my home for sale with the WSJ, too?
  15. HW
    Report Abuse
    HW - December 01, 2012 9:03 am
    Is this news? Is this an attempt to bailout the poor Levines and Johnson bank? Is this a free advertisement for Bunbury & Associates? I guess the thousands of other people facing foreclosure aren't cool enough to warrant write ups in the newspaper.
  16. modotti
    Report Abuse
    modotti - December 01, 2012 8:10 am
    why do people with far more modest homes not get a shot to negotiate with the banks? the number of people who have faced (and continue to face) foreclosure in southwestern wisconsin is simply not right
  17. Norwood44
    Report Abuse
    Norwood44 - December 01, 2012 6:14 am
    Any person has a right to do this, but there is great beauty is smaller, exquisite design.
  18. RecessionSux
    Report Abuse
    RecessionSux - December 01, 2012 4:49 am
    How excessively obscene and if I dare say "garish!"

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