Bubil: Roaming through Ohana gives one appreciation for details


“The whole is more than the sum of the parts.”

That is how Drayton Saunders of Michael Saunders & Co. describes the local real estate market’s crown jewel — the $22 million listing known as Ohana that just went on the market on northern Longboat Key.

Taken piece by piece, the house has many of the same elements found in other high-end properties. But it is the totality, the number of interesting and well-thought-out spaces; the precise fit of the walls, windows, doors, built-ins and trim; the unique selections of materials, including exotic woods and even limestone from Miami; and a resort-like setting with unobstructed views up the beach, that give the house its character. Oh, and a rare seawall.

“The north end combines the setting — there are only so many places you are going to see a beachfront curve like that — where you can find this privacy,” said Saunders. “Buyers who are looking at Sarasota are looking at understated elegance and privacy. We are testing a new desire for that after an 8-year pause in the upper end of the market.”

“You will not find a better house in all of Florida,” said Deborah Beacham, the listing agent who is fully aware that the state is lined with thousands of massive and elaborate mansions.

Such listings are more common in Miami and Palm Beach. In a booming luxury market that attracts the wealthy from the Caribbean and Central and South America, Miami has 36 houses or condos for sale at $22 million or more, topped by an under-construction, 15,500-square-foot Sunny Isles Beach condo at $55 million. Palm Beach has 22.

One wonders where Ohana would be priced on Gordon Drive in Naples or a short walk from Worth Avenue in Palm Beach.

“To me, it is not what it would sell for in Palm Beach or Naples,” said Saunders. “We are not those two communities. It is, what are people looking for in Sarasota?

“This is going to be an exciting property to market because we have lost some of those buyers when they couldn’t find it here and had to go elsewhere.

“The upper end in general, and Ohana specifically, is an opportunity to bring in a buyer profile that we have hitherto not been able to capture, because they are pretty much immediate-need gratification. If there is not a reason to come visit, they don’t even have it on the radar. This is putting Sarasota back on the radar of a set of buyers that may not have realized the immense value and what, I think, will be the destination in Florida looking forward.”

The million-dollar home has become common. In a 20-mile radius, Sarasota has 784 houses priced between $950,000 and $2 million; Naples has 1,365 and Palm Beach has 1,261.

Real wealth today is parking itself at $5 million or more. A thousand dollars a square foot is where ultra luxury begins, and builder Michael Walker and architect Guy Peterson spent a lot more than that to build Ohana.

They won’t say how much more.

Peterson said all the houses he has designed “have different qualities.” But he added, “This matches the best of the best in terms of the qualities that are important to the clients and to us as architects.”

It dawned on me that there is more to the $22 million price than the cost of the labor and materials. You are paying for a big house and a big site with big views. But also, you are paying for the brainpower of its designers and the skills of the hundreds of craftsmen who built it.


Last modified: December 21, 2013
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