Bubil: On building for fun and profit


I recently visited a Casey Key mansion listed at $16.9 million for an upcoming feature story. It got me to thinking about the mindset of the very wealthy people who build mansions.

No one knows their motivations like their real estate agents.

Said Barbara Ackerman, a top-selling Coldwell Banker Previews agent, many wealthy clients look at building mansions as a good investment.

“For them, there is no downside,” said Ackerman. “Generally, a builder or architect will contact them and present a concept. In every case, there is a lot of cash that has been waiting on the sidelines for the right investment.

“What greater investment? It’s something they can use if it doesn’t sell right away. It’s a home that most likely has all the bells and whistles that they like, so where is the downside?”

Sarasota architect Cliff Scholz, who has designed many high-end houses, says some clients, upon the completion of their homes, are surprised to learn the price for which it could sell.

“The market has to be right,” said Scholz. “But we will have clients come back and say, ‘Let’s build some more.’ I have built five homes for one client. He loved it so much and was making so much money that he was having fun.

“They might have found another property that they had been trying to get, and it became available. But I have never had a client where it was purely about the money. They liked the experience and wanted to do it again.”

Fresh from Facebook

A lot of great conversations have been happening on my Facebook page (Facebook.com/Harold.Bubil), where I post somewhat provocative comments and then watch the fur fly.

A week ago, I posted a link to political columnist Jeremy Wallace’s story about Texas Congressman Jeb Hensarling, who is against changing the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act so some homeowners won’t be forced out of their homes by sharply higher premiums.

“For Hensarling,” Wallace wrote, “the issue is all about taxpayers in other parts of the country subsidizing the lower premiums for flood insurance for people who live in Florida. . . . Hensarling said it was patently unfair for his constituents to be subsidizing ‘some rich trial attorney’s Florida beach condo.’ ”

To which Realtor Norm Luppino of RoseBay Real Estate responded, “It’s not just wealthy waterfront residents that are impacted. I have a house listed for $60,000 that people run from the minute they find out it requires flood insurance. It’s heartbreaking to see this happen.”

I would add that wealthy waterfront residents are hardly impacted at all, especially “rich trial attorneys” who live in mansions that are elevated above base flood elevation, and to whom the National Flood Insurance Program’s $250,000 coverage limit is a pittance of their house’s value.

The House voted 306-91 Tuesday for a bill that would prevent dramatically higher flood insurance rates on primary homes. It is off to the Senate for approval.

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: March 8, 2014
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