A lot of fantastic ideas have come to people over cocktail napkins and dinner meetings. And the sale of the Blue Heron designed custom home in the Henderson hillside MacDonald Highland community for $25 million is no different. Vegas Modern 001 was completed in April, listed for $28 million in early June and sold on June 25.
The deal set a new record for the most expensive residential sale in the history of Las Vegas real estate. However, the truth behind the historic transaction and what it means for luxury real estate in Las Vegas goes well beyond the sales price. Four business associates, friends with ambitious goals, spectacular dreams, and the tenacity to manifest an audacious vision no matter the obstacle sit at the heart of this story.
Betting the house wins
The story began at Henderson’s King’s Fish House in January 2016. As realtor Kristen Routh-Silberman recalls, she joined Shelly Stewart, Tyler Jones and Rich MacDonald for dinner.
Stewart was head of sales and marketing for custom home builder Blue Heron. Today, she is the firm’s executive sales strategist.
Routh-Silberman, who represented the seller and the buyer, is an agent with Synergy Sotheby’s International Realty. She has been marketing and selling real estate in Las Vegas and Henderson since 2007 and topped $100 million in sales in 2020.
Jones, a native of the area, has building in his blood. The CEO founded Blue Heron in 2004, but he has been walking construction sites since childhood, framing and building homes with his father, a custom home builder in Vegas. Jones started working for architecture firms in high school, went to college, and founded his firm at 25.
Routh-Silberman and Rich MacDonald met Jones years earlier and loved his designs. “We knew we wanted Tyler to build the home,” she says.
MacDonald, who rounded out the dinner party, is a developer and a legend in Las Vegas real estate circles and founded the master-planned luxury community of MacDonald Highlands, where builders like Jones showcase new home designs.
“We went to lunch and came up with this concept like, ‘Hey, we should do a mega spec home at McDonald Highlands with a great view on Dragon Peak Drive.’ Tyler, me, Rich and Shelly were talking about the specific type of house. We were dreaming and discussing the idea of ‘what if?’ What would it take to create this custom home? What could you do with this mountain and this lot?” she says.
Instead of napkins for notes, the group used topographic maps. “We were trying to look at the maps to carve out a whole community. We picked out the lot and started putting the plans together to do something on a grand scale, something that nobody in Las Vegas had done before. But no one envisioned what Tyler came up with in terms of design,” she explains.
During a trip to Dragon’s Reserve, the group took a four-wheeler. No daily driver would get them there; there were no roads. They surveyed the land and the view. Then, MacDonald got down in the dirt and carved out a plan for the lot. The location moved slightly, one lot over; Jones didn’t like the feel of the original site. Decision made, the four stood together for the groundbreaking for VM001. At the time, they were considering a $10 million house. But the project grew. By the time Routh-Silberman attended the grand opening party in May 2021, the home covered 15,000 square feet.
Routh-Silberman says she knew who the buyer would be. “Anthony Hsieh, founder and CEO of mortgage lender loanDepot came into Vegas, and I saw his portfolio of homes. I had been working with Anthony since November. loanDepot went public in February. I knew the home should be his. I told him that he didn’t want to miss this opportunity,” she says.
Going modern in Vegas
The three-story contemporary is a showcase for Blue Heron’s architectural design and smart technology. The house has an additional 5,000-square-feet of outdoor deck space, and the great room has 25-foot ceilings surrounded on all sides by water features that come up to the edge of the floor.
“The pools are very much part of the overall aesthetic and the overall experience of enjoying the home. Whether you are circulating through the front entry sequence or hanging out in the great room or the kitchen, you are surrounded by water. It’s an essential element to the experience that we’ve created,” Jones says.
The home sits on 1.26 acres and features views of the mountains and the strip, two outdoor kitchens, three interconnected pools, nine fire features, a floating staircase and an executive office with a private entrance. There is a billiard room, a temperature-controlled glass-encased wine bar, stainless steel appliances, a gourmet kitchen with linear islands and a hidden walk-in pantry, and a freestanding fire feature that floats within the coffee table in the great room.
The home has three bedrooms and can be customized for five bedrooms. It has eight bathrooms, including four powder rooms, one bathroom with a 30-foot ceiling.
The Sky Lounge and Sky Deck are named for their panoramic views of the Valley from the top floor. And the Sky Suite bedroom is accessed over a glass bridge and has two outdoor showers, a large public deck, and a private deck for sleeping under the stars.
More than a home, Jones says the house embraces biophilic design, which seeks to connect people and nature by bringing the natural world indoors and creating living areas and spaces that improve mental and physical well-being. Elements like water, fire, light, plants and native rocks are used to enhance connections to nature.
In partnership with Savant home automation, VM001 uses intuitive technology to interface with residents and bring climate, lighting, entertainment, security, energy and other aspects of the home in sync with the resident’s circadian rhythms via touch panels, a smartphone or the Savant Pro Remote.
“Vegas Modern 001 is named for our design philosophy,” Jones explains. “The home is designed first and foremost to be an experienced center for our custom home division and as a physical representation to communicate our design philosophy to our clients. This is a way for us to demonstrate what our team and our firm are capable of,” Jones says.
VM001’s energy management system uses a photovoltaic solar array with 300 panels and has a battery backup system to make sure the home can function, even if disconnected from the power grid. The system is optimized to draw and push power at the best rates.
Jones used materials like metaquartzite stone, unique to Las Vegas, from a local quarry in the Mojave Desert in the home’s exterior and interior. “This was an important part of the sustainability story that enables us to be environmentally responsible. We used local stone. We did not ship it across the ocean. Using locally sourced stone also grounds the aesthetic and makes it feel appropriate and connected to the local climate and the environment of the Mojave Desert. And it’s is a beautiful stone. Walker Zanger helped us source all the local stone. It’s just a very incredible and inspiring and energetic space,” Jones says.
The owner’s suite is one of Jones’ favorite spaces. “There is an incredible indoor-outdoor relationship and this very private outdoor bathroom connection in the owner’s suite. There is a city view from the sinks and an outdoor bathtub, an outdoor shower and indoor spaces. It’s a nicely developed and cohesive space. I think the great room and kitchen are incredible because there are so many different elements that are communicating with you as you are experiencing that space all the way out to the city views and the mountain views and the water elements,” he says.
Designing with an intentional vision
Jones is used to people asking about the design and building process. “People often ask me how we did this. How can you pull this off? How can you visualize this and execute the many details on this cohesive project? And the answer, from my perspective, has everything to do with having a fully integrated team. We’ve spent 17 years at Blue Heron coming up with this workflow that integrates interior design and architecture, the creative aspects, technology and the furniture design team. Everything has to be designed with an intentional vision upfront from the pool and the landscape and all the outdoor space. It takes a ton of tenacity to hold that together through the execution and construction process and make sure you never give up and never compromise. The discipline and diversity of the team that it takes in the overall organization to stick with it and keep it together and make it happen is amazing,” Jones explains.
Though sold, design fans can still visit the home. Hsieh agreed to lease the house back to Blue Heron for 30 months to allow the company to showcase the its design concepts to prospective clients.
The subtle trick to building modern
The challenge in creating a modern home, Jones says, is hiding the connections and the details.
“It’s challenging to do this on a large scale. This home has 80 tons of steel integrated with the concrete foundation and water features and these massive pocket doors and big expansive glass walls,” he says.
The most common question people ask is, “How did you dream this up?”
Routh-Silberman, who sold Wayne Newton’s house for $19.5 million in 2010, is familiar with the local real estate scene. She says Jones is a unique talent.
“From a design standpoint, this home is super advanced. It is really interesting, more interesting than many homes, regardless of price. I hope this puts Blue Heron on the map on a national and international scale because I think that Tyler Jones will go down as one of the great American architects of all time, right up there with Frank Lloyd Wright,” Routh-Silberman says.
Jones says he is most proud of how the home makes people feel when they move through the space. “It has an energy and a calming effect that makes you feel good. You want to be in the home. And to me, that’s the real achievement for any great home. It is a great example of how design can make you feel and evoke emotion from a person. That is the most compelling aspect of what we have done for me,” he says.
Jones is no solo act. Blue Heron has about 155 employees. From start to finish, he says, thousands of people came together to create VM001.
A $25 million bargain
Routh-Silberman believes the home was a bargain at $25 million and anticipates pricier homes will hit the market in the coming years.
Routh-Silberman says Hsieh bought VM001 for the architecture, the design and the technology. “He considers it a collector’s piece, a one of one. He saw the value in it. That house would have been between $50 million and $100 million, depending on the market. At the end of the day, while it sounds crazy, $25 million was a great deal for that purchase,” she adds.
Jones shares the vision and is buying as much land in Las Vegas as he can get his hands on. “Clearly, everything is changing rapidly – especially, in the ultraluxury market — so I would not be surprised to see $35 million and $50 million homes in Las Vegas in the coming years,” Jones says.
According to Las Vegas Realtors, through the end of June 2021, area agents have sold as many multimillion-dollar homes as were sold in 2020.
In 2019, LVR’s Multiple Listing Service reported 531 Southern Nevada homes and high-rise condos selling for $1 million or more. That number topped 766 in 2020 and was 759 as of the end of June 2021. The total number of properties selling for $5 million or more was 10 in 2019, topped 32 in 2020 and totaled 26 at the end of June 2021.
A tipping point for real estate
Ivan Sher, an agent with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Nevada in Las Vegas, held the previous record for the most expensive sale when he represented magician David Copperfield and his purchase of a $17.55 million home in 2016.
Sher, who has been selling real estate in Las Vegas for 21 years, says he is happy to see his record topple.
“It’s so wonderful that this happened. It really excites me. Granted, how wonderful could it have been if it was me who made the sale,” he says, laughing. “But my first thought when it happened was, ‘How fantastic is it that this is now a new benchmark for our city.’ I honestly believe that in the next 12 months, that number will be passed by leaps and bounds as well,” Sher says.
“I feel like this is such a great sale for Las Vegas. It’s a moment to be proud of. Our city needed something, and the sale almost topped the highest sale ever by 30 percent or 40 percent. We needed that as a launching platform to grow. And I think for not having an oceanfront property, it’s pretty remarkable that this home was over $25 million,” he adds.
Robert Humann, chief revenue officer at Credible, a digital mortgage marketplace, has been watching the Las Vegas market and took note of the sale.
“Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have seen record-low mortgage interest rates driving home prices through the roof, and Las Vegas is no exception. Affordability, jobs, commute times, and taxes all make the Las Vegas real estate market attractive for prospective buyers. And sellers are cashing in,” Humann says.
While it might be too early to know if this is a flashing sign of things to come for the Las Vegas market, Humann says the buyer is noteworthy.
“Anthony Hsieh, the owner of loanDepot bought that house. You would think if anyone has foresight on emerging markets and where they are not going to lose money on a $25 million house, you would imagine he would have a good perspective on that,” Humann adds.
Routh-Silberman says while homes exist that would exceed the current record, they have yet to hit the market or appear on the Las Vegas Realtors MLS. Still, she is optimistic.
“I don’t see the market downshifting at all. I just closed a $9.5 million sale and a $12.5 million sale. Our luxury market five years ago used to be $3 million to $5 million. Right now, it’s solidly over $10 million. This sale is a beacon of what’s to come. I feel like the sale is a collective win for everyone, and I felt that way the entire time I was doing the transaction. There is a lot of smart money here. The market is there for the uber-luxury and wealth-X clientele looking to buy property. This was a big bet that paid off. You can have a lot of plans. But all the stars have to align. You have to have the right land, the right lot, the right view, the right everything,” she adds.
While the $25 million sale is of note, Routh-Silberman says, there is a bigger strategic play in the making.
“Certainly, Rich McDonald and Tyler and I have other plans in the works. So, you haven’t seen anything yet. Keep an eye out for Vegas Modern 002 through 10. Here we go,” Routh-Silberman says.
Jones agrees: “It’s always hard to imagine what Vegas Modern 002 will be,” he says, “but it will be spectacular and incredible, and we will continue to raise the bar as we go forward.”