Piano-loving Brit buys Liberace's mansion

Liberace

The flamboyant Las Vegas mansion once owned by Liberace has been bought by a British fan, Martyn Ravenhill, for $500,000. It went on the market earlier this summer, after being repossessed.

So what did he get for his money - and has he bagged a bargain?
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The property

The property consists of a 15,000 square foot, two storey mansion. The unusual layout means there are two bedrooms, some enormous entertaining spaces and an impressive 10 bathrooms.

According to Vegas Inc, it was built in 1962 and features a number of flamboyant touches - including a room with piano keys in the floor and a mirrored bar engraved with his signature. Perhaps the most impressive is the $1.6 million reproduction of Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel painting on the bedroom ceiling.

Flawed

However, the property has not been cared for recently. It was sold after Liberace's death, to a couple who owned it until 2006. At that point is was sold for a small fortune to a property developer, who ripped out some of the interior before having the property seized by the bank.

The owner tried to sue the bank for wrongly foreclosing, and they battled for three years while the property fell into disrepair. The courts sided with the banks earlier this year and it went back on the market.

In the early days the real estate agent told the The San Francisco Chronicle it was getting 100 queries a day from curious house-hunters, but in the end they accepted a cash offer from Ravenhill.

The Greater Las Vegas Association of Realtors said that the price was $29,000 below the asking price, and an astonishing $3 million less than it was sold for seven years ago at the peak of the market.

So did he get a bargain? On the one hand this is clearly a big price cut. However, on the other hand, the area where the mansion is based is not the greatest spot in Vegas. The Chronicle says that the area, which is near the University of Nevada, is ageing badly, and that houses nearby are small and tend to sell for between $80,000 and $150,000.

Real fan

To invest in a property that requires an awful lot of work, and is then slap bang in the middle of a less desirable area is perhaps only something that would appeal to a real fan.

And it turns out that this is exactly what Ravenhill is. The holiday property entrepreneur told the website Get Surrey that he heard about the sale earlier this summer and went along to see it for himself. On walking in, he said he knew immediately that he would buy the place.

He added: ""I grew up thinking Liberace was wonderful," he said. "I was inspired by him from an early age. I learnt the piano because of him. I thought he was much more than just a camp figure. He set trends that continue today."

He plans to restore the property, and has been working with the Liberace Foundation. He would like to make it available to the public eventually. However, he told Get Surrey: "Most importantly I want to do what Liberace would have wanted with the house. He wouldn't want it left to gather dust and fall apart. He would want it looking fantastic."
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