In French, “Le Rêve” means “The Dream.” For one Atlanta-based entrepreneur who spared no cost in building his stateside chateau, Le Rêve translated into a nightmarish real estate loss.

One of the biggest and most expensive properties in all of Georgia real estate, Le Rêve took three years to build and nearly $50 million in construction costs. What makes the tale of this pricey property most startling are the dollars it ultimately fetched: A “mere” $11.5 million, according to in Atlanta. That’s a whopping 75-percent drop from Le Rêve’s original list price of $45 million.

Le Rêve was the creation Hubert Humphrey and his wife, Norma. Their wealth was the result of a quintessential American rags-to-riches story, stemming from Humphrey’s beginnings as a railroad brakeman and conductor who could barely support his family of four to his later entrepreneurial successes. He sold insurance for A.L. Williams, where he earned record sales, then launched his own company, Humphrey Worldwide Network, before selling it to Primerica, which is now part of CitiGroup. He then formed World Marketing Alliance, followed by the World Leadership Group, a marketing, financial services and mortgage company based in Atlanta.

In 2005, with the real estate bubble frothing, Humphrey began building Le Rêve, a Versailles-like compound on 72 acres that wound up almost as large as the White House. The palatial digs contain so many windows that it literally took two boatloads to import them from Europe.

Ultimately, explains listing agent Troy Stowe, Le Rêve was built without a budget.

“No expense was spared. It was built with the best of the best. Best craftsmen. The best material. It’s a masterpiece,” Stowe said.

But no-expenses-spared approach may have cost the Humphreys their house, Stowe said: “You’re in this project and suddenly things get out of control and I think when they finished, they had created ‘the big dragon.’ ”

According to the Real Estalker, the home was listed shortly after it was completed for $45 million. Then the bank took possession of the property, hiring Stowe as the agent, and the list price dropped to $28 million, then $16 million before the new owners offered the sale price of $11.5 million.

Even with low mortgage rates, it would require a pretty steep monthly payment to float Le Reve, a home that has 82 rooms — 7 bedrooms and a whopping 14.5 bathrooms on a 72-acre plot. The house has more entertainment options than most luxury resort hotels, including an arcade, model train room, golf simulator, massage room, exercise facility, bowling alley and a remarkable home theater designed to mimic the Fox Theatre in downtown Atlanta. The theater has a faux theater front, concession stand and room for 27 viewers.

And that does not even account for what what sits outside the gated property, since Le Rêve comes equipped with its own campgrounds, an 18-hole golf course, private playground, sports courts, and stables.

Stowe said one of the hardest things about selling Le Rêve wasn’t the price but the upkeep.

Purchasing the home is the easy part. It’s the maintenance that’s tough. A lot of people could have afforded that house, but when the past homeowners were living there with full staff, with upkeep and taxes, it was running a million a year. You stay there for 10 years and that’s $10 million.”

That kind of tab is about three times more than the $241,500 median sale price of homes in the Cumming real estate market.

About the Author

Erika Riggs, the Zillow Digs manager, covers home design and trends.

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