The Iron Curtain Has Come Down and Designer Curtains are Going Up

PALM BEACH (Tuesday, April 27, 2004) -- The Iron Curtain has come down and designer curtains are going up.Luxury homes in Eastern Europe could be the next hot real estate market, an international consultant told about 75 agents gathered Monday at The Breakers for a two-day meeting of Who's Who in Luxury Real Estate."There are beautiful properties -- castles in the mountains of Slovakia, villas in the Bohemian region and government properties available for privatization," said Alex Romanovich of Corporate Crossings, a business consultancy in New York and Prague, Czech Republic.Slovakia and several other countries, mostly former communist nations in Central and Eastern Europe, are scheduled to join the European Union May 1, Romanovich said. "That means a lot to the United States, which has the least amount of investment in that region." As U.S. companies begin to expand into the region, Romanovich said, their executives will need places to live."It's a great opportunity for you folks," he told the agents, who sell some of the most expensive homes in America and around the world.'s Web site, for instance, lists more than 30,000 homes with an average price of more than $2 million.Homes in Eastern Europe are still undervalued, Romanovich said -- but not for long, he cautioned."The Germans, French, British and Australians are driving prices up by buying the choice properties," he said.John Brian Losh, head of Seattle's oldest real estate firm, Ewing & Clark Inc., founded Who's Who in Luxury Real Estate in 1989 to help agents and buyers in one region connect with luxury listings and agents in other regions. Membership is by invitation only and currently includes 580 individual agents and companies who are the top-selling luxury agents in their areas. The association does not disclose its annual dues."I come to these meetings for the networking," said Chappy Adams, president of Palm Beach Gardens-based Illustrated Properties. "If they know you, they send you business."After morning seminars, some agents headed for a golf tournament, while others piled into two 16-seat, white stretch Hummer limousines for a tour of homes for sale on the island, organized by Palm Beach brokers Rosalind Clarke and Laura Coyner of McCann Coyner Clarke. The first home on the tour -- The Vicarage, the 1897 former home of actor Douglas Fairbanks, on the market for $7.95 million -- "symbolizes what Palm Beach is all about," said Peter Klemm of Klemm Real Estate in Washington Depot, Conn.