Some Enchanted Mansion
PHILIP MORGANST. PETERSBURG - It's not that hard to sell a home in the Tampa Bay area, if the price is right. Last month, a 13,000-square-foot mansion sold for $10.25 million.
Published: June 18, 2008
Published: June 18, 2008
In exclusive Snell Isle, Windstar Homes built two houses to sell on speculation. The first, which hooked a buyer before it was even finished, sold for $4.75 million in November. The one next door has been on the market since December. It's priced at $4.8 million.
La Casa Encanto, it's called - The House of Enchantment. The Spanish-style home on Brightwaters Boulevard is 6,000 square feet, with an elevator, three bedrooms, six bathrooms, a separate guest casita bed and bath, and a central courtyard. The deep-water dock out back can accommodate a 65-foot yacht.
Though despairing stories about the dismal housing market have become the norm, you'll notice they're about $200,000, $300,000 or half-million-dollar homes.
You don't hear of too many desperate multimillion-dollar home owners - except for the occasional anomaly, such as TV celebrity Ed McMahon. (He put his Los Angeles mansion on the market two years ago and, with nary a nibble, may be heading for foreclosure.)
Generally speaking, though, recession isn't a concern for this category.
"You're dealing with this type of client, you're dealing with rarefied air," says David Lesser, who founded Windstar 13 years ago with Bobby Gross, a buddy from his college days at the University of South Florida.
"This client comes in, they want the best quality. They're not going to settle for anything less."
The really expensive homes will generally find buyers if there's something unique about them, says real estate analyst Mike Larson of Weiss Research in Jupiter. Drop to about $1 million and it starts getting iffy, he says.
"We still see a pretty decent supply of these houses in Florida and the market as a whole," Larson says.
The multimillion-dollar market hasn't been completely unaffected by the housing downturn. Buyers of manses priced in the stratosphere have more bargaining power than they once did.
The $10.25 million Belleair mansion - which set a Pinellas sales-price record for existing homes -- turned out to be a bargain for surgeon James St. Louis. William McGill, a yacht broker, put it on the market three years ago and wanted $16 million.
In Hillsborough, 21 homes with asking prices of $4 million or more are up for sale. Although only three in that price range have sold since 2000, that's not a good measure of the market, says Tim Wilmath of the property appraiser's office.
Folks who can afford Taj Mahals tend to like them built to order. What they pay won't show up in the public record.
What Sells A $5 Million House?
Here's a look at what Windstar Homes hopes will enchant recession-proof buyers at La Casa Encanto.
•Enter the front door and your eye follows a foyer to a 17-by-25-foot courtyard that centers the home. A brick tower rises 25 feet at the front entrance. A second-floor tower balcony allows hosts to greet guests in grand fashion.
"One of the things that sells homes is drama," Lesser says. "This is show business."
•Just inside the main house, a circular stairwell climbs toward a cedar wood ceiling. The stairs and banister are walnut. The walnut floor has a "scraped" look, to give it texture and shading. Elsewhere, terra cotta and travertine cover the floors.
It's details that establish atmosphere, as Lesser points out, things such as brick sills and headers on the windows, travertine tile in decorative patterns in the showers, hand-painted tiles that frame the outside of some windows, elegant molding around doors and ceilings.
The windows and doors are lined up with one another
"One subliminal thing that we do is the way we center-line everything. This round window is perfectly centered on that opening, which is perfectly centered on that opening," Lesser says. "So if visitors walk this way, they're not going to say, 'Hey, I really like the way you lined things up,' but, unconsciously, it just feels and flows better. The experience is more seamless."
•A 16-foot ceiling rises in the guest casita, a bedroom and bathroom in a separate building off the portal to the courtyard. A large stone fireplace dominates the bedroom and a below-counter Sub-Zero refrigerator provides room service.
•The master bedroom suite spans the entire back of the second floor. A two-sided fireplace serves the bedroom and the 25-by-12-foot marble-tiled master bath. A huge whirlpool tub filled by a stream cascading from the ceiling is the bathroom focal point.
Beyond the bath, a closet the size of most living rooms is furnished with a granite-top dressing table.
•Appliances abound. The kitchen features a Wolf range and Sub-Zero refrigerator and freezer. Sub-Zero counter fridges are located throughout the house, including the kids' playroom and the master bath.
There are both upstairs and downstairs laundry rooms, convenient when you're busy with a simultaneous task at either level.
•The house offers plenty of places to entertain friends. Meet in the living room or a more casual spot off the kitchen called a gathering room. Both have views of the canal out back that leads to Tampa Bay.
A Florida den, an open space off the courtyard, the covered loggia at the back and the "kids retreat" upstairs all provide comfortable spaces for socializing.
•The three-car garage is a finished room, with painted cypress baseboards and an epoxy floor that makes it easy to clean up grease and oil.
Philip Morgan can be reached at (813) 259-7609 or email@example.com.