* * *
A pair of 6-year-old Des Moines boys who offered their $30 life savings are among the growing list of admirers eyeing the $14.9 million West Okoboji Lake property that former Iowa Regent Tom Bedell is selling.
Realtor Eric Hoien joked that while the boys' bid fell a bit short, it gives a flavor of the fun and “astounding” response he's gotten so far on the 24,876-square-foot mansion loaded with nine bedrooms, 16 bathrooms, a basketball court and the full-size Kevin O'Sullivan's Irish Pub equipped with billiards and live band areas.
“Marketing this property has been a blast,” said Hoien, who is handling the sale. “Once people get past the curiosity level, everywhere you turn brings a new 'wow' to their lips.”
Many Omahans and others who make the seasonal trek to Okoboji's glacier-carved lakes are familiar with the outside view of the Bedell property, called Peace Harbor, but Hoien's “virtual tour” via the Internet provides a peek inside. The residence sits along the spring-fed West Lake Okoboji, the centerpiece of a chain of lakes that make up the Iowa Great Lakes.
Hoien said the sale is poised to break records. Consider:
>> The highest-priced residential sale to date in Iowa's Dickinson County was in 2007 when a lakeshore home on South Manhattan Beach sold for $5.55 million. That 14-year-old property, according to county assessor records, was about a third the size. With its assessed value of $12,390,200, Dickinson County Assessor Stephanie Sohn said the Bedell property has the highest assessed value of any residential dwelling in the county. (Hoien said recent trends have had lake properties selling for above the assessed value.)
>> The highest home sale in recent memory in Nebraska's largest county was the 1999 sale of a Fairacres mansion for $6.5million, Douglas County Assessor Roger Morrissey said.
>> One would have to go to Colorado or Illinois to find a for-sale residential property priced as high as Peace Harbor, according to the National Association of Realtors. A five-bedroom, six-bathroom home on a forested 1.2 acres in Mountain Village, Colo., is listed for $15million; a Barrington, Ill., home sprawling across eight acres and lakes is on the market for $15.9 million.
Hoien suspects the eventual buyer will be a fan of entertaining, as were owners Tom and Molly Bedell, known for having fundraisers and hosting international visitors to their Pure Fishing company founded seven decades ago as Berkley Fly Co. by Bedell's father, former U.S. Rep. Berkley Bedell.
The younger Bedell, a Spirit Lake native, expanded the business before selling it in 2007 for a reported $400 million.
Tom and Molly have moved on to other enterprises: Molly today runs a Nashville-based retail and Internet store called Two Old Hippies; and Tom opened a guitar company based in Bend, Ore.
The Bedells were unavailable this week for an interview, but a question-and-answer piece last year in Nashville Arts Magazine asked if the couple were happy with where they were headed. Tom told the reporter that life was not about reaching goals but was about making a difference and being alive.
“Look, I'm 63 years old, and I'm starting a guitar company. My goal is to have the best acoustic guitar company in the world, and I've got about 10 years to do it.”
Asked for their favorite place in the world, Molly said she loves Kenya in Africa. Tom pointed to their Peace Ranch near Aspen, Colo.
That 600-acre secluded property with a horse-riding area went on the market in 2012 for $49.5 million, and the price recently dropped to $39.9 million, according to Joshua & Co., which has the listing. According to an Aspen Times story, Molly said that the decision to sell the ranch wasn't easy but that she and Tom were spending significant time in Bend and Nashville.
The Bedells built the three-story West Okoboji lakefront mansion on 1.3 acres in 2004. It contains six fireplaces, an art studio, a theater room complete with concessions area and a 10-space garage. Even the caretaker's cabin across the road has its own four-car garage.
A long glass wall covered with etchings and modern art adorns the main entryway, while cobalt blue and red glass features dot the high-ceiling gathering area that is fit for a conference. Blue marble from a Brazilian mine is set in flooring, pillars and other key accent spots.
On West Okoboji, a handful of properties have similar lake frontage as Peace Harbor, said Hoien, but he believes that in terms of overall home size, Peace Harbor could be the largest.
Much of the interest so far has been driven by news media coverage and the Internet. Traffic to the property's “virtual tour” has been about 30 times stronger, Hoien said, than any of the company's previous listings. Direct mail and other marketing efforts are planned.
“There's a lot to take in,” he said. “It's just a matter of exposing the property as widely as possible.”