DURHAM – The mansion of a former U.S. Department of Defense contractor is the latest luxury home to hit the market.

Tony Moraco’s home on Blue Violet Way in Durham is listed for $5.5 million. Moraco is the former CEO of the defense contractor SAIC, based in Reston, Virginia.

Blue Violet Way, Dominique Sinibaldi with First Impression Real Estate Photography

The reason for his home’s exorbitant price? It’s size and privacy, according to its Triangle MLS listing.

The home is described by Hodge & Kittrell Sotheby’s International Realty as “combining old world elegance with today’s revered ambiance of relaxed luxury, this is a legacy estate, built, and recently significantly upgraded, by master craftsmen.”

Moraco joins other businessmen in putting up for sale their massive Triangle estates. Angel investor David Gardner’s Cary lake house has been on the market since May for more than $8 million.

The home of Gregg Lowe —  the CEO of Wolfspeed, a chip manufacturer that just announced a major investment in Chatham County — has been on the market for the past two years. That listing on Rosemont Drive in Durham is going for $6.1 million.

Feelings around the luxury real estate market are complicated and tumultuous, according to Taylor Marr, deputy chief economist for RedFin.

Blue Violet Way, Dominique Sinibaldi with First Impression Real Estate Photography

Rosemont Drive, Durham, Dominique Sinibaldi, First Impression Real Estate Photography

Atypical market

Unlike the average real estate market, luxury home sales can be unpredictable and affected by small changes in interest rates or the stock market, Marr said.

“It’s not a question of affordability. It’s a question of, is it the right priority for them to park their cash in real estate versus other assets,” he said. “Ultra-wealthy people tend to not lean toward putting all their money in cash when the market gets riskier, as well as when you could get the same returns on investment in a much safer asset like treasuries.”

Homes can stay on the market for years, or sell instantly. They can sell for millions over or under asking price.

While the Triangle has seen an uptick in these luxury home listings, that doesn’t necessarily mean the luxury market is doing well, Marr said.

“If you’re seeing a rise in the luxury listings, then it could be simply that some of the people are wanting to cash in,” he said.

Rosemont Drive, Durham, Dominique Sinibaldi, First Impression Real Estate Photography

Clear trends in how the ultra-wealthy buy and sell their homes are not always easily discoverable.  And when trends emerge, it’s usually due to closed sales, rather than listings data, as solely studying listings may not provide a full picture as to how the market is faring, Marr noted.

Maybe a wealthy person who was planning on listing their home doesn’t, because they are nervous about a recession. Or maybe a homeowner lists their home on the market for millions of dollars and it doesn’t sell, so they eventually decide to pull the listing.

Here’s where there is stability in the Triangle real estate market

Price appreciation across the Triangle

Across the Triangle, home prices have risen by more than 15% year-over-year, according to the latest data from TMLS.  But price appreciation of real estate has slowed in the last few months, as the market saw year-over-year price appreciation of above 22% as recently as April 2022.

And price appreciation across the real estate market would affect how luxury homes are priced and valued, as well, according to Marr.

“That’s a pretty massive increase just overall from demand, from higher incomes, from people willing to buy real estate in the area in Raleigh compared to some other places,” Marr said. “A lot of the wealthy people have been able to cash in on stock market growth, or other asset growth up, until up until this year when the markets perform poorly.”

Rosemont Drive, Durham, Dominique Sinibaldi, First Impression Real Estate Photography

A lot of the cash flow from the stock market has been dumped into these properties. Homes have been given upgrades that increase their value, like larger pools or better security systems.

“It’s not just pure demand for the land. It’s also a lot of money being important to real estate development of those existing structures, too,” he said.

Moraco’s home on Blue Violet Way has had nearly $1 million in upgrades done, including a kitchen redesign, a new wine tasting room and white oak hardwood floors.

Blue Violet Way, Dominique Sinibaldi with First Impression Real Estate Photography

So, why sell now?

Some luxury homeowners in the area say they have their eye on economic developments in the area and hope to make a profit by selling their homes to businessmen who are coming from other states to the RTP. One of the companies cited was Apple.

But for David Gardner, he wanted a change of scenery.

“We’ve loved living where we are, we’ve loved living in Cary,” Gardner told WRAL Techwire back in June. “I’ve served on the Cary Chamber, I’ve invested in a lot of local companies here.”

He said it’s time to downsize and to simplify by not having a yard or a private road to maintain.

Gardner told WRAL Techwire he’ll be moving to downtown Durham, close enough to where he can walk to his office or work out of one of the city’s co-working spaces.

Ruth Williams and Jeff Bruner just listed their Greensboro mansion for $5.7 million, one of the most expensive recent North Carolina listings. The power couple is known for their textile business in the High Point area, The Quantum Group.

Now that the two are retiring, Williams said they have their eye on a new home in Florida.

Williams said she doesn’t think they will have problems selling their home.

She sees Greensboro as being the next hub for innovation in North Carolina, with Toyota bringing a battery manufacturing plant to the area and Boom Supersonic jets selecting the Triad as one of its premiere locations.

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