Trump’s Palm Beach Real Estate Props Up His Flagging Fortune

The former president’s properties on the Florida island have jumped an estimated $155 million in value during the pandemic.

The pandemic has been tough on Donald Trump. The former president famously dismissed Covid-19 in its early days, then watched his approval ratings crater as the virus spread to millions of people, including himself. His business caught the bug, too. Trump’s hotels shut down, his office buildings emptied out, and much of his residential real estate—concentrated in big cities like Chicago and New York—plunged in value.

Fortunately for the real estate tycoon, he had an oasis. Set off the eastern coast of Florida, the town of Palm Beach has long provided respite for the nation’s richest people. Many of them, Trump included, flocked there during the pandemic. “It seems like half of Manhattan and most of Greenwich all ended up in Palm Beach over a few-month period of time,” local broker Jeff Cloninger said in March of this year, when the boom was nowhere near finished. “It’s somewhat unchartered territory,” another broker, Isaac Klein, explained five months later. “Like anything with momentum, once something becomes popular, it becomes more popular.”

All good news for Trump, one of the most significant landowners on the island. His best-known property there is, of course, Mar-a-Lago. Figuring out what it’s worth isn’t an easy task. Mar-a-Lago generates more than $20 million of revenue a year, but it’s not a typical business. If it were, a club pulling in that much revenue might be worth $75 million to someone who really fell in love with the place. But Mar-a-Lago is more than a business—it’s a living monument, doubling as a house—set on 17-and-a-half acres, with Lake Worth Lagoon on one side and the Atlantic Ocean on the other. Before the pandemic, Forbes figured it might be worth $170 million.

Now, that amount almost seems quaint. In August, someone bought a vacant, landlocked half-acre nearby for $15 million. Another empty lot, with a little less than one acre on the water, went for $40 million in July. Add buildings, and the numbers get bigger. A 28,000-square-foot beachfront mansion on a couple of acres sold for $95 million in May. Real estate experts off the island figure Mar-a-Lago, with eight-and-a-half times as much acreage and 37,000 square feet of club space, could fetch up to $250 million. Local brokers on the island say it’s worth even more, with estimates reaching up to $600 million. For our calculations, we went with a more conservative $300 million, which would make Mar-a-Lago one of the most expensive homes in America.

It’s not Trump’s only property in the neighborhood. He has long owned two other houses next to Mar-a-Lago, as well as an empty lot beside one of them. They’re nice places, but a buyer might tear them down to build even nicer spots. Still, they’re worth an estimated $28 million in their current condition—up $10 million since the start of the pandemic.

Trump is only known to have bought one piece of real estate while he was in office—another mansion across the street from Mar-a-Lago, which his sister sold to him for about $19 million in 2018. That seemed like plenty of money at the time, but today it looks like a bargain. The house, which comes with a beach fronting the Atlantic, is probably worth about $35 million now.

Add it all up—Mar-a-Lago, the three houses and the empty lot—and Trump’s holdings are worth an estimated $155 million more today than they were before the pandemic. The former president appears to only have one loan against them, an $11 million mortgage on the house he bought from his sister. That suggests his Palm Beach holdings are worth about $350 million net of debt, which could come in handy if he has trouble paying back the estimated $1.3 billion his other businesses owe.


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