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On Cohasset waterfront, 3 very pricey offerings

The Red Oaks estate, renovated by New York architect Robert Stern, is selling for $7.7 million. The Red Oaks estate, renovated by New York architect Robert Stern, is selling for $7.7 million. (Landvest)
By Johanna Seltz
Globe Correspondent / September 11, 2011

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COHASSET - Three waterfront homes in town are for sale for $7.7 million, $12.9 million, and - gasp - $23.9 million, amid signs, some realtors say, that the high-end housing market is recovering from the yearslong recessionary slump.

“It’s just crazy,’’ said Nancy Hamilton of Dean and Hamilton Realtors in Cohasset. “We’ve had a huge amount of activity. In this office, for the past six months we’ve been selling a house a week, and we [only] have four brokers.’’

Hamilton said she’s even seeing bidding wars, which were once common but practically disappeared after the housing market crashed about four years ago.

“We had a house on the market for three weeks in early July, and in the third week there were three people bidding on it - and it was a complete teardown, completely uninhabitable,’’ she said. The asking price was $2.35 million, she said, and the winning bidder paid $100,000 above that.

“It’s getting back to normal, a little,’’ she said.

Statewide home sales rose in July for the first time in six months. Hamilton credits the change to pent-up demand, record-low interest rates, and homes priced at what buyers perceive to be bargains. That said, the median price for a home in Cohasset is “upwards of $1 million,’’ she said.

“You can find some very nice houses in the $700,000s and $800,000s. Anything below $500,000 tends to need some work,’’ she said. “The least expensive is about $200,000.’’

Water proximity kicks the price higher, with $4 to $5 million not uncommon. Of the 109 properties for sale in Cohasset late last month, four were selling for $3 million or higher and eight were in the $2 million range.

Then there were the three with the more impressive asking prices.

Hamilton’s office is handling one of those properties: Cary Point, a Mediterranean-style home built as a summer cottage in the 1920s on 6 acres overlooking the ocean, and renovated at a cost of almost $6 million in 2004. The asking price is $12.9 million, down from the original $19.5 million when it first went on the market in 2008.

The five-bedroom house comes with access to two private beaches and deep-water moorings. Unusual design features include mahogany window frames with curved mullions resembling waves, and kitchen counters with precious gemstones.

The sales literature touts a “dramatic walled courtyard with a water sculpture and reflecting pool.’’ Then there’s the three-car heated garage, and another garage with a turntable floor that spins so you can get to the kitchen without walking around your vehicle.

Property taxes on the house and land - whose former owners include oceanographer Henry Bigelow, who helped found the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution - were $72,506 in fiscal 2011. Current owner Tom Sullivan started Lumber Liquidators in Stoughton in 1993 and built it into a business, now based in Virginia, with more than 200 stores nationwide.

LandVest in Boston is the broker for Red Oaks, a 7.9-acre estate set on a 40-foot-high granite outcropping on Little Harbor that is listed at $7.7 million. Upscale New York architect Robert Stern knocked off the old ballroom from the 1906 original home and completely renovated it between 1992 and 1996.

The six-bedroom Colonial Revival house, which has 7,000 square feet of living space, comes with a private island, dock, carriage house, three-car garage, infinity edge pool, and a widow’s walk with views of Minot Light.

“It’s gorgeous, absolutely gorgeous,’’ said realtor Terry Boyle of LandVest. “There’s a study completely done in cherry, the floors are mahogany and Southern pine. But the thing that separates it most [from other listings] is the privacy. It has a private causeway leading up to the house. There really are no neighbors at all.’’

Boyle said Red Oaks came on the market about a month ago and has attracted “a lot of interest, locally, nationally, and internationally,’’ despite the $46,120 property tax bill for fiscal 2011.

The other ultra high-end property on the market in Cohasset is Peter and Leah Roy’s home, “The Oaks,’’ which is priced at $23.9 million - the most expensive listing on the South Shore, according to realtor Jonathan Radford of Coldwell Banker.

The 45-room mansion on 9.4 acres along Cohasset Harbor is on the site of a once-thriving 19th-century shipyard. For $48.8 million a buyer can continue around the harbor and also get the Roy-owned Cohasset Harbor Inn, Atlantica and Olde Salt House restaurants, and Mill River Marina.

On the market as a standalone property since May 2011, The Oaks’s 20,000-square-foot main building boasts 10 bedrooms, a china and silver room, numerous entertainment areas, a billiard room, pub, elevator, roof deck, media room, and gym. There are another 4,000 square feet in outbuildings, which include a pond house, carriage house, boathouse, and pool house.

The dock can comfortably accommodate boats up to 100 feet in length, and there’s a private sand beach. Property taxes for fiscal 2011 were $100,733.

Guests to the estate over the years included President Calvin Coolidge and his wife, Grace, a prepresidential Ronald Reagan, and entertainers Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra, and Liberace.

The original home was built about 1850 for actor Lawrence Barrett and bought by Clarence Walker Barron, owner of Dow Jones & Co., the Wall Street Journal, and Barron’s Magazine.

His step-daughter Jane and her husband, Hugh Bancroft, inherited the property and, in the 1930s, razed the house and built the current Georgian Revival mansion. Their daughter, Jessie Bancroft Cox, lived there until her death in 1982.

Yankee Oil and Gas bought the property for its offices and then sold it to Peter Roy, whose family founded Intercontinental Energy Corp. in Hingham. He renovated the property and lived there with his family. They decided to move back to his wife’s native Canada and put the house and commercial harbor real estate on the market for $55 million in spring 2010, lowering the package price and offering the home alone three months ago.

For the record, the most expensive home sold on the South Shore to date was a $10 million one that Coldwell Banker brokered in Duxbury, back in 2004, according to Boyle.

But, he added, Cohasset had a $9 million private sale about five years ago. The owner of Whitehead, another home on Cohasset Harbor, bought an adjacent property with a sandy beach, tore down the house, and built another for guests “to maintain his privacy,’’ Boyle said.

Johanna Seltz can be reached at