Anne Knowles

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July 10, 2014
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Selling $20 million house? Prepare to be very patient

How do you sell a $20 million home?

Very carefully, as the old punchline goes.

“The higher you go, the narrower the market is,” says Trinkie Watson, regional Lake Tahoe broker with Chase International. “It’s a matter of finding a person who wants a big house and wants to live in Reno and has the wherewithal to buy it.”

The house is the Nixon Mansion, located on Reno’s California Avenue, on 2.03 acres above the Truckee River.

The current owners, represented by Chase International, put it on the market last month and are asking $20.4 million.

They spent more than a decade and millions of dollars completely refurbishing the 17,964-square-foot home after buying it in 2002 and after a fire nearly destroyed it in 1979.

The house, built in 1907 by George Nixon, a banker and member of the U.S. Senate, now features eight bedrooms on two floors, each with its own bath; nine fireplaces, all but one original to the structure; an 860-square-foot kitchen; 800-square-foot ballroom; 1,800-bottle wine cellar; and an additional 5,585 square feet of space in the basement.

First, Chase listed it with Luxury Portfolio International, an invitation-only, membership-based network of real estate brokers that routinely handle multi-million dollar properties.

The additional listing allows Chase to reach a worldwide audience.

“We don’t know where the buyer is going to come from,” says Watson. “The Internet helps with that.”

As with all high-end homes, viewings are scheduled only for buyers who can prove their muster.

“That’s typical and there’s no magic number, but for multi-million dollar homes it’s not unusual to have a qualification requirement,” says Watson.

In the case of the Nixon Mansion, the details are handled by a Reno attorney to whom interested buyer can submit proof of financial readiness.

For the rest of us, the house can be viewed in detail online at, which takes you to a dedicated section of the Chase International web site.

There anyone can see more than four dozen photos of the house, floor plans, a 360-degree tour and a narrated video.

“We always use professional photography on all our homes,” says Watson. “But on this one we went to the nines with a virtual tour and video with narrator. We don’t normally do that. It’s such a big house we had to do the extra.”

The home’s size also created a challenge in presentation. Staging, the common practice of furnishing a home for sale, was out of the question.

“So I suggested we do virtual staging of five rooms, like the grand ballroom, parlor and dining room, sitting area in upper hall, bedroom,” says Watson.

Several photos online show those rooms with furniture, digitally drawn to scale, to give an idea of what each would look like furnished.

Chase has shown the mansion to other brokers who are experienced with high-priced homes and is planning an invitation-only showing for Reno luminaries who might know someone who is interested in buying the property.

No one knows how long the sale might take.

“It could sell in a month or it could be two years,” says Watson. “It’s not unusual for more expensive properties to take years. It’s a real Reno treasure.”

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The Nevada Appeal Updated Jul 10, 2014 06:03PM Published Jul 10, 2014 06:03PM Copyright 2014 The Nevada Appeal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.