High-end demand is unabated


The real estate market’s EKG might be showing a few suspicious blips, but at the high end of the market, the pulse is strong and steady.

Some contractors are reaching not for beta-blockers, but for 5-Hour Energy as they attempt to keep up with the demand for upscale new houses and renovations.

Builder Pat Ball of Sarasota is among them. He calls it a “mini boom in luxury construction. We can’t look at any more work.”

Ball has two big renovations of old houses in Boca Grande’s historic district, and is planning to start a house in Country Club Shores in the fall — new construction for the architecture firm of Halflants + Pichette.

On Siesta Key, he is building a Carl Abbott-designed house next door to the midcentury modern Revere Quality House. He’s finishing another house on Alameda Avenue.

Ball does not build in subdivisions; each of his projects are either a renovation or a new house on an “infill” property.

“The economy is a little bit better, and the scare is over for people who have money,” he said. “Things have settled out and they feel like prices are going up, so they had better get on the bandwagon.”

On 13th Street in Boca Grande, Ball is adding a guest house to a beachfront property. The client, from Texas, paid $6 million for a house, $1 million on the renovation and $1.8 million for the guest house.

The other project is a 1930s house on Gilchrist Avenue.

As hot as the barrier islands is Sarasota’s West of the Trail neighborhood.

“Every buildable lot that doesn’t have problems getting closed, is being built on,” said Ball.

The builder, a longtime Sarasotan, said he has gained perspective from his clients who come here from other states or countries.

“Being around all these people . . . certainly is a humbling experience when you think that we were just born and raised in this paradise. We have known it all along. However, being around these people, and seeing how they react, gives you a heightened appreciation for it.”

As for the market chill recently reported in the newspapers, Ball said, “I think the good stuff is picked over. I have one guy who has been diddling around and has been too cautious. He is locked into last year’s prices and hasn’t bought anything yet, and he is getting desperate. He has rejected a few that were overpriced because they were 15 percent more than he thought he ought to pay, and someone else bought them.

“Are they overpriced? I don’t think so. The inventory that is left really stinks — or it has hair all over it.”

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: June 27, 2014
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