After spending 13 years constructing and decorating the second largest home in Santa Clara County, a well-known San Martin family is scrambling to bail out of their ornate, 24,000 square-foot mansion on 20 acres by the end of this month, listing it at a fraction of what it's worth.
News that the Shipley Mansion – owned by Dale Shipley, who founded the Silicon Valley-based Veritas Software Corporation in 1983, and his attorney wife, Helen Anne Shipley – is for sale for under $2 million, when it was appraised for $10 million last year, has created a buzz in the real estate world in the Bay Area and beyond.
“There's nothing like this north of Hearst Castle,” said Morgan Hill realtor Rob Malech of Windermere Real Estate. “The over-the-top wealth and the over-the-top display of wealth, I mean, Hollywood should have filmed 'The Great Gatsby' here.”
Within hours of the announcement that the Shipley Mansion was for sale, Duane Adam of Sotheby International Realty – who the Shipley's hired to sell their behemoth home at 915 West San Martin Ave. – said he received more than 500 calls and emails from interested buyers, including the agent for pop superstar Rihanna and Baltimore Ravens quarterback Ray Lewis.
On Wednesday morning, hundreds of real estate agents swarmed around the expansive grounds of the mansion near the corner of Watsonville Road and San Martin Avenue, gasping at the colossal marble double staircase in the entry, the three ornate kitchens, eight bedrooms and 11 bathrooms dispersed between several wings, the painted dome ceilings in the vein of Michaelangelo and the larger-than-life marble cherub statues peering over every fireplace.
The Shipley’s want to sell quickly – very quickly. May 25 is the deadline to submit offers, according to Adam.
“I don't know the reason, I've just been told to sell it and sell it fast,” he said.
Records from the Santa Clara Tax Collector's Office confirm rumors floating around the real estate community that Shipley is behind in paying his taxes on the property. According to county tax records, Shipley owes $493,958 from not having paid his property taxes for the past three years.
Also, records from the Santa Clara County Office of the Clerk-Recorder indicate that the IRS sent Shipley numerous notices of federal liens on his property from the years 2007 to 2011. The Dispatch inquired about these liens to the IRS, but a spokesperson said the agency does not disclose a person's tax status.
A federal tax lien is the government's legal claim against a property when someone neglects to pay an income tax debt. The lien is placed after the IRS sends a bill that demands payment and the payment deadline is missed, according to the IRS website.
Another lien was placed and released on the property in 2006 by the California Franchise Tax Board.
According to a records person from the Tax Collector’s Office, if Shipley failed to pay his property taxes by 2015, the state would confiscate the home and sell it by auction.
“We need to be in escrow by the end of the month,” Adam said. “If we went close to it's value, it would take a year to sell.”
Pricing a home much lower than it's worth is a ploy used occasionally to generate a lot of interest in a home that the owners hope will lead to a bidding war well above asking price, said Nancy Robinson of Coldwell Banker of Gilroy.
“If he had priced it at $10 million nobody would have looked at it,” she said. “That house is not going to sell for $2 million, I'll tell you that. This is a once-in-a-lifetime thing.”
What Adam is doing isn't unethical because it's at the request of his seller, Robinson said, but this selling technique does create a problem for the industry.
“The hard part is the consumer looks at this and says, 'wow, I can get a 24,000-square-foot home for $2 million,' when the reality is this house is going to sell for more. We don't like consumers to have a false sense of what they can buy,” she said.
The Shipley Mansion closely rivals the largest home in the county, a 25,535-square-foot mansion in Los Altos Hills, and can swallow an average 2,000-square-foot house 12 times.
Real estate agents were taken aback by the home and the 20 surrounding acres of vineyards and orchards Wednesday morning. Many said they were “blown away,” “speechless” and “at a loss for words” to describe it. Others said they thought the house was “bizarre” and “gaudy” and “not my thing.”
Shannon Carver of Coldwell Banker in Morgan Hill said the house was “gorgeous, but a little too much.”
Others said the house would fit perfectly in Tuscany or Beverly Hills but doesn’t fit in with the humble South County area.
“It's an incredible house, but it's out of place. It's way too big. It was the right vision, but the wrong location,” said Scott Robinson of Intero Real Estate of Morgan Hill.
Attempts to reach Dale and Helen Ann Shipley were not successful. The Dispatch left a message with a publicly listed phone number for Helen Ann and a phone number for Dale but calls were not returned. According to an operator at Symantec, the company that absorbed Veritas Software in 2004, Shipley no longer works at the company.