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A castle with a view . . . of Italy

Local real estate agent gets a rare listing - a fifth-century castle in Italy with 37 rooms, a separate cottage, vineyards and a $12-million price tag.

By JUDY STARK, Times Homes Editor

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 15, 2002

Local real estate agent gets a rare listing -- a fifth-century castle in Italy with 37 rooms, a separate cottage, vineyards and a $12-million price tag.

The popular notion in real estate is that you should list your property with an agent who sells a lot of homes in your neighborhood and knows the area well.

This doesn't explain why Coldwell Banker agent Mollie Gilliard, who sells a lot of property in the Countryside area of Clearwater and in Palm Harbor and Safety Harbor, is listing a fifth-century castle in Italy.

But the other truism about real estate may explain it: referrals, contacts, who you know.

Gilliard got the listing through a longtime client.

A local investor with whom she has worked for several years asked her to get in touch with his friend, a doctor in Toronto who bought the castle 32 years ago and wants to sell it as he retires and prepares to move back to Israel.

"I've never even been to Italy," Gilliard said. "And I've never worked in this price range before."

And that price would be what, Mollie?

Make it $12-million for Castello Carbonana, on a hilltop in Umbria, 2,300 feet above sea level. It was built in the fifth century as a military signal post when the Senate met in Rome and the Emperor resided in Ravenna. Other portions were added in the 12th and 14th centuries.

The castle, once used as a monastery, is an hour from Florence and 21/2 hours from the Rome airport. There are 37 rooms including wine cellars, tower rooms and five apartments. A cottage offers 12 more rooms. On 50 acres there are vineyards, olive groves, fruit trees and a cypress forest. There's a swimming pool and a waterfall.

The taxes -- hey, if you can afford $12-million, why would you care? -- are $3,000 a year.

For help in marketing the listing, Gilliard turned to two other Coldwell Banker agents in her office, Joyce and Wayne Adams, who have long experience marketing multimillion-dollar and foreign properties.

Wayne Adams acknowledged that "it is very unusual" for agents in Clearwater to be handling a property such as this in Italy.

The property will be advertised in publications such as the DuPont Registry, a thick, glossy magazine of high-end properties around the world that is published out of offices in mid-Pinellas. It will also be advertised in the Wall Street Journal's international edition and in European publications.

But a major marketing effort in the world of Real Estate of the Rich and Famous is through a network of personal contacts, Wayne Adams said. One of those contacts, representing a number of "very wealthy international families," visited the castle this week to see if his group wanted to use it as a family resort or develop it as a luxury private resort.

Another contact, he said, represents a major insurance company that might be interested in exchanging a big insurance policy for the house. This procedure often appeals to buyers because it can be a significant tax shelter.

A third potential buyer would use the castle as an international headquarters.

The marketing and advertising costs, which can be substantial, might be split between seller and agents, Adams said, and there may be additional referral fees or finder's fees to people "with access and contacts," as well as splits with other agents who participate in the transaction.

Adams declined to say what fee the listing agents would earn.

"It's confidential," he said, "but let's just say it's sufficient, and it can make for a very nice weekend."

So you want to buy a castle? Mollie Gilliard and Joyce and Wayne Adams can be reached at (727) 797-1665.

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