Bubil: Who has love for an aging mansion?


I am getting the distinct impression that aging mansions have limited appeal. Not even the preservation society likes them.

Those folks only like the really old ones, that were built by community pillars with names like Ringling and Crosley and Keith.

But the mansions that are not so old, yet not so new, don’t get the same respect.

A 20-year-old mansion can sell, eventually, if the right buyers come along.

Often they don’t.

For more than two years, a 25-year-old, 11,000-square-foot palace on Bay Shore Road has been on the market for close to $10 million. It’s even been updated. It’s gorgeous. The interior is elegant. It has a fabulous, 2.5-acre landscape and a drop-dead view.

And it is still for sale.

Similar story for the 100-acre ranch on Jackson Road in Venice with the 19,000-square-foot house. The interior is as fine a residence as there is in the county. But it has been on and off the market for a half-dozen years, and is now back on at $8.9 million.

So don’t be too shocked that Tampa Bay Lightning hockey team owner Jeff Vinik paid $4.2 million for a 12-year-old, 6,100-square-foot waterfront near-mansion (and, essentially, the land on which it sits) on St. Armands Key and knocked it down last week. It happens. People, especially very wealthy ones, love new houses, with design and decor and stuff they picked out themselves. A 15-year-old house can seem dated.

The less-wealthy buyers gut their houses and remodel extensively.

Simply well-off buyers replace the kitchens and baths.

The rest of us buy new pillows.

A lot of people are happy that the Viniks have chosen Sarasota for a second home (their first is in Tampa, on a golf course), and they are impressed by Jeff Vinik’s generosity toward Tampa Bay area charities.

“This is a great addition to our community,” said Realtor Ellen Wells of Michael Saunders & Co. “It shows the kind of people who are coming here.”

It is widely assumed that real estate values are going up everywhere in lockstep.

Not so fast, says real estate appraiser Don Saba. It depends on the neighborhood, says the specialist in high-end properties.

Saba said many golf course communities have “issues,” and land prices in some waterfront areas have been flat, except “mainland waterfront and Bird Key.”

His consistent hot spot?

“The West of the Trail area is the only area where the land values have substantially increased over the past year,” said Saba. “Look at all the new construction, on interior sites. These buyers want the convenience to downtown, the beaches, the hospital.

“That has always been the best area to invest in over the past 50 years, and it was the first area to recover” from the recent bust, he said. “It had to do with the site values.”

But as for home values going up: “That’s not necessarily true.”

Harold Bubil

Recipient of the 2015 Bob Graham Architectural Awareness Award from the American Institute of Architects/Florida-Caribbean, Harold Bubil is real estate editor of the Herald-Tribune Media Group. Born in Newport, R.I., his family moved to Sarasota in 1958. Harold graduated from Sarasota High School in 1970 and the University of Florida in 1974 with a degree in journalism. For the Herald-Tribune, he writes and edits stories about residential real estate, architecture, green building and local development history. He also is a photographer and public speaker. Contact him via email, or at (941) 361-4805.
Last modified: September 21, 2013
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