For most people “moving up” in real estate means selling a condo to buy a first single-family house.

But for one potential buyer it’s a case of moving much further up than that.

A person not yet publicly named has signed a contract to buy the 18,000-square-foot mansion on 215 acres built by Fintan Ryan starting a decade ago. The house along Highway 22 went on the market early this year with an advertised price of $35 million.

Realtor Tom Evans, who had the listing, said the buyer already has a home in Jackson Hole but “wanted some more space, wanted to run some horses, more room for the family.”

Though the deal isn’t scheduled to close until the second half of September, Evans said that “the buyer appears to want it” and that the usual due diligence is in process.

The deal is part of a surge in Jackson Hole realty since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, a surge especially obvious in the high end.

First half reports showed the total number of sales down 23%, though with dollar value up a strong 115%. But luxury sales, those above $3 million, were up 22% to 61 transactions. There were 36 sales worth more than $5 million, up 90%, and June ended with 38 luxury sales pending.

But the Ryan place, if sold anywhere near its asking price, would be among the biggest ever in the valley.

Evans said the house “had a lot of interest, because it’s a beautiful location, a one-of-a-kind house, one-of-a-kind property.”

Besides the main house’s seven bedrooms and 11 bathrooms, there is a four-car garage, a gym and a wine cellar, a movie theater and a library. There are decks all around the house, which has views of the Tetons over 14-foot berms that shield the occupants from seeing and hearing traffic on the highway.

There are two barns, one of 7,000 square feet, and a 2,000-square-foot workshop. There are two separately deeded 5-acre parcels, one vacant, one with the 2,100-square-foot house that was there when Ryan bought the property in 2008.

Much of the property is protected by conservation easements, but those allow agricultural uses. Two ponds in the protected part of the property are the seasonal home to a variety of waterfowl.

Ryan battled the county in the planning process and in court to win approval for the house, which nearly doubled the county’s 8,000-square-foot house limit. Some artful site prep work that partly buried much of the lower floor allowed an argument that it was basement, not included in county regs as livable space.

Work continued on the house until less than two years ago, making it essentially “a brand-new beautiful home,” Evans said in January.

Evans said he was surprised by the recent strength of the market, both in general for high-end property and in particular for the Ryan house. After the house went on the market in January he predicted it might take some time to move it, given its price.

His opinion of how fast the property might sell wasn’t encouraged by the arrival of the novel coronavirus.

“I would have thought we’d be dead in the water” this summer when the COVID-19 pandemic struck, he said Monday.

But while he said the effects of the virus and subsequent economic disaster are still unfolding, Jackson Hole has so far emerged as a winner.

“There’s momentum in the market,” he said. “Lots of people are running to Western states. ... to find a place to live.”

Contact Mark Huffman at 732-5907 or mark@jhnewsandguide.com.

Mark Huffman edits copy and occasionally writes some, too. He's been a journalist since newspapers had typewriters and darkrooms.

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