Ever wonder who buys those multi-million dollar mansions we spotlight each month when new sales figures are released?

For the third consecutive year, we've delved into property and other public records to put names to those jaw-dropping transactions. The research reveals that buyers of Tampa Bay luxury homes are an increasingly eclectic bunch, reflecting what has become one of the most diverse and desirable areas of Florida.

Two of the 25 most expensive homes of 2018 went to well-known buyers: Blake Casper, who owns many of Tampa Bay's McDonald's restaurants, and Thomas James, chairman emeritus of Raymond James Financial.

But while unfamiliar to most of us, other buyers have made their mark in a wide range of industries and professions. One co-founded a company that supplies temporary housing for victims of natural disasters. Another is a top executive of a major casino resort company. A third plays a key role in the making of gold and platinum jewelry. As in past years, buyers with ties to the health care industry outnumbered buyers from any other field though the tech industry was also well represented.

Despite concerns about climate change and rising sea levels, high-end buyers continue to flock to the water. Of the top 25 sales, 16 were on Pinellas County beaches. Redington Beach alone accounted for five sales, the most of any community in the Tampa Bay area. And prices have steadily risen, notes agent Dania Perry, who had three of the Redington listings.

"I remember telling a developer when he first built over on the beach that 'hey, (Pinellas) county has only four or five home transactions a year over $3 million so you've got to be prepared — we don't have those kinds of buyers,' '' Perry said. "Now we had 20 homes over $3 million in Pinellas (in 2018).''

Prices are climbing in Hillsborough County, too. Tampa had the top sale in either county -- $9.5 million. Overall, a bay area home had to sell for at least $3.45 million to make it into last year's top 25, versus $2.65 million in 2015.

Prices will keep rising, agent Jeff Shelton predicts.

"In 2018 we had a lot of volatility in the stock market and people are now realizing that real estate is a solid investment,'' he said. "I think 2019 is going to be a fantastic year.''

He and partner Mike Hughes currently have a $7 million Davis Islands home under contract.

Although they concentrate on their respective sides of the bay, Perry and Shelton agree that the Tampa Bay area overall has much to offer.

"We've got some of world's best beaches, professional sports teams and owners that support the town, excellent museums, great restaurants, a world-class airport — What's not to like?'' Shelton said. "You couple that with the fact that waterfront pricing is still a bargain compared to Miami, Naples or Sarasota.''

The increase in international flights — direct service to Amsterdam starts this spring — and Britons' uncertainty over the impact of withdrawing from the European Union could encourage more foreign buyers to consider Tampa Bay, Shelton said. And, Perry noted, "we still have our Canadians that love our area.''

Here's a look at who bought the 25 most expensive home in Tampa Bay last year. (The listing agent's name is in parentheses.)

$9.5 million, Bayshore Boulevard, Tampa

[Courtesy of Coldwell Banker]
[Courtesy of Coldwell Banker]

The basics: 8,930 square feet, six bedrooms, nine full baths (Jennifer Zales)

Blake Casper, CEO of a company that owns dozens of Tampa Bay McDonald's restaurants, and wife Tate bought the historic Stovall-Lee House with plans to turn it into a private club. The price was the highest ever for a residential property in Hillsborough County and third highest in the Tampa Bay area.

$7.25 million, Redington Beach

[Courtesy of Dania Perry]
[Courtesy of Dania Perry]

The basics: 8,629 square feet, eight bedrooms, eight full baths (Dania Perry)

This gulf-front home with a 33-foot high foyer and 11-car garage was bought by Robert Dohmen and Shawn Buending. He is chairman of Dohmen, a group of Milwaukee-based companies active in the health care field.

$6.399 million, Redington Beach

[Courtesy of Debbie Blume/Bill Horne]
[Courtesy of Debbie Blume/Bill Horne]

The basics: 4,841 square feet, three bedrooms, three full baths (Debbie Blume)

Built in 2016, this house sold to Canadian entrepreneur Jeffrey Scott Fettes. He is co-founder and chief operating officer of 24/7 In Touch, an IT company with offices in Clearwater and 16 other sites in North America, Guatemala, Jamaica and the Philippines. It handles customer service calls for major companies like Walmart.

$6.2 million, Redington Beach

[Courtesy of Sherry Keenan]
[Courtesy of Sherry Keenan]

The basics: 6,582 square feet, four bedrooms, six full baths (Bill Newsome)

Anton and Donna Nikodemus bought this home with 120 feet of beach and a 900-bottle wine cellar. He is the chief operating officer of regional operations of MGM Resorts International, which has casinos in Las Vegas, Mississippi and other areas.

$6.2 million, Davis Islands, Tampa

[Courtesy of Raif Fluker]
[Courtesy of Raif Fluker]

The basics: 7,284 square feet, five bedrooms, seven full baths (Julie Lux)

This home sold for $200,000 above the asking price to Carlos and Cassandra De Quesada. He is CEO of InSync Health Care Solutions, a Tampa-based medical software company. He is also a director of Allegra Motorsports, which competes in races throughout North America.

$5.7 million, Belleair Shore

[Courtesy of Erica Kuykendal]
[Courtesy of Erica Kuykendal]

The basics: 6,390 square feet, six bedrooms, five full baths (Kerryn Ellson)

Chris and Maria Callas, trustees for the MCC Revocable Trust, bought this house shortly before selling for $5 million a nearby mansion that they had owned for barely over a year. He has been the CFO and she the CEO of Apollo Industries, now known as PLAZE Georgia, a specialty chemical contract packager of insecticides, cleansers and other household products.

$5.45 million, Harbour Island, Tampa

[Times]
[Times]

The basics: 7,399 square feet, six bedrooms, six full baths (Ralph Harvey)

This house, one of just nine behind a secondary security gate in the gated part of Harbour Island, sold to Brian F. Prince. He is a founder of Hegemon Capital, a Tampa-based private equity investment company, and an investor in Florida Funders, a firm providing early-stage capital to Florida technology companies.

$5.2 million, Redington Beach

[Courtesy of YourDigitalPro]
[Courtesy of YourDigitalPro]

The basics: 5,639 square feet, five bedrooms, four full baths (Dania Perry)

Shawn and Dagmar Moore are the new owners of this home, which sold in an off-market transaction. He has been chief technology office of Solodev, an Orlando-based software company.

$5.1 million, Belleair Shore

[Courtesy of Coastal Properties]
[Courtesy of Coastal Properties]

The basics: 6,807 square feet, six bedrooms, six full baths (Cheryl Franzese)

This home with multiple levels of outdoor lanais sold to Crossroads Trust, a private trust based in Palm Beach.

$5 million, Belleair Shore

[Courtesy of Coastal Properties]
[Courtesy of Coastal Properties]

The basics: 4,988 square feet, four bedrooms, five full bathrooms (Kerryn Ellson)

Thomas Kerr, a vascular surgeon, and wife Holly Ann Kerr, a vein removal specialists, bought this three-level home with salt water pool. The house also was among Tampa Bay's 25 Most Expensive in 2017.

$4.9 million, St. Pete Beach

[Courtesy of Robyn Gunn]
[Courtesy of Robyn Gunn]

The basics: 5,915 square feet, five bedrooms, six full baths (Robyn Gunn)

This three-story home with a 22-foot-high white Carrara marble fire place sold to a revocable trust with Stacey L. Whidden as trustee. Whidden, a Tampa native, is founder and CEO of EZ Dental Care, a dental insurance agency, and founder of other businesses in the health care and workers compensation fields.

$4.7 million, Snell Isle, St. Petersburg

[Courtesy of Strickland Property Group]
[Courtesy of Strickland Property Group]

The basics: 11,023 square feet, six bedrooms, eight baths (Bonnie Strickland)

Thomas James, chairman emeritus of Raymond James Financial Inc., and his wife, Mary, bought this home on Brightwaters Boulevard. Their James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art opened last year in downtown St. Petersburg.

$4.4 million, Palma Ceia, Tampa

[Courtesy of Aaron Flores/High Res Media]
[Courtesy of Aaron Flores/High Res Media]

The basics: 8,250 square feet, six bedrooms, six full baths (Mary Pond)

This home on the 3rd fairway of the Palma Ceia Golf Course sold with T A Ballard as trustee.

$4.35 million, Belleair

[Courtesy of Aaron Flores/High Res Media]
[Courtesy of Aaron Flores/High Res Media]

The basics: 9,425 square feet, five bedrooms, eight baths (Rafal Wazio)

Tim Arenberg, president of Columbia Pipe and Supply in Chicago, is the new owner of this home on Belleview Island, a double-gated enclave of 31 home sites within the Belleair Country Club compound.

$4.2 million, Tierra Verde

[Courtesy of Tony Sica]
[Courtesy of Tony Sica]

The basics: 6,391 square feet, five bedrooms, five full baths (Debi Eagan)

This home on Oceanview Drive, one of Tampa Bay's most expensive streets, was bought by Quinn Properties LLC. of Lexington, Michigan.

$4.1 million, Hyde Park, Tampa

[Courtesy of FastPix]
[Courtesy of FastPix]

The basics: 5,982 square feet, five bedrooms, five baths (Henderson Everett)

Harrel Lambert and Julia Lambert bought this home, built in the 1920s and once featured in Architectural Digest. The property includes a separate "glass'' house with glass door. Harrel Lambert has been an asset management manager for IBM.

$4.04 million, St. Pete Beach

[Courtesy of Sandy Hartmann Homes]
[Courtesy of Sandy Hartmann Homes]

The basics: 6,027 square feet, five bedrooms, four baths (Sandy Hartmann)

This Pass-a-Grille home with a commercial-rated elevator and room for 11 vehicles sold to Herbert and Patricia Ligon. He is the owner of 166 Research, a Nashville-based market research firm.

$4 million, St. Petersburg

 [Courtesy of Robyn Gunn]
[Courtesy of Robyn Gunn]

The basics: 5,359 square feet, three bedrooms, three full baths (Robyn Gunn)

This penthouse encompassing the entire top floor of the Vinoy Place Tower # 4 sold to Ocean Pines, LLC of Hendersonville, Tennessee. It was a record-breaking price for a Vinoy condo.

$3.75 million, Clearwater Beach

 [Courtesy of Erica Kuykendal]
[Courtesy of Erica Kuykendal]

The basics: 3,698 square feet, five bedrooms, five full baths (Kerryn Ellson)

Built in 2017, this home with an 1,800-bottle wine cellar sold to a trust in North Barrington, Illinois with Mark F. Moon as trustee. He has been a top executive at Motorola Solutions, a Chicago-based data communications and telecommunications equipment provider.

$3.75 million, Bayshore Boulevard, Tampa

[Courtesy of Karla Dorsey/Keller Williams]
[Courtesy of Karla Dorsey/Keller Williams]

The basics: 7,777 square feet, five bedrooms, four full baths (Karla Dorsey)

Donald and Mildred Bigger are the new owners of this home with exercise room and saltwater pool. He has served as president of Multax Corp., an Illinois-based company that makes parts for the aerospace, power generation and mining equipment industries.

$3.7 million, Tierra Verde

[Courtesy of Dania Perry]
[Courtesy of Dania Perry]

The basics: 10,388 square feet, five bedrooms, six full baths (Dania Perry)

This Mediterranean-style estate on Oceanview Drive sold to Robert Napior of Brookline, New Hampshire. He is co-owner of Deployed Resources, which provides temporary base camps for the U.S. military as well as temporary housing solutions and support for those displaced by natural disasters.

$3.65 million, Redington Beach

[Courtesy of YourDigitalPro]
[Courtesy of YourDigitalPro]

The basics: 4,602 square feet, four bedrooms, four full baths (Dania Perry)

This home on a deep, over-sized lot was bought by Terrence and Virginia McCarthy. According to his LinkedIn profile, he is president of TJM Properties, which owns independent and assisted living facilities in several states. Through a separate company he operates hotels in Clearwater, Lakeland and Fort Myers.

$3.63 million, Indian Shores

[Courtesy of YourDigitalPro]
[Courtesy of YourDigitalPro]

The basics: 4,490 square feet, six bedrooms, six full baths (Dania Perry)

Vincent and Mary Guadagna of East Amherst, New Jersey are the new owners of this two-year-old castle-like home. He is president and CEO of United Precious Metal Refining, one of the world’s largest suppliers of master alloys for the manufacturing of gold, silver, platinum & palladium jewelry.

$3.6 million, Clearwater Beach

[Times]
[Times]

The basics: 4,713 square feet, three bedrooms, three full baths (Maria Brandenburg)

This penthouse in the Grandeur at Sandpearl Residences sold to Jill Vissman and Shannon Vissman. Both Vissmans are executives in the health care field in the Pittsburgh area.

$3.45 million, Sunset Park, Tampa

[Courtesy of Jeff Shelton/Mike Hughes]
[Courtesy of Jeff Shelton/Mike Hughes]

The basics: 8,935 square feet, five bedrooms, six full baths (Mike Hughes/Jeff Shelton)

Finished last year, this home inspired by British West Indies architecture was purchased by Chad London. Sorry, we don’t know more about him. This one stumped us.

Contact Susan Taylor Martin at [email protected] or (727) 893-8642. Follow @susanskate.