ST. PETERSBURG — Six months after the Times reported that one in seven homes on prestigious Brightwaters Boulevard was for sale, a third of those 27 houses have sold. But not without some deep discounting.
The homes on the Snell Isle waterfront street spent from 77 to 665 days on the market, and they sold for 7 percent to 54 percent below their original asking price. The house at 2054 Brightwaters Blvd., for example, was listed for $2.3 million in February 2009 and sold for $1.05 million in June. Another home at 2060 Brightwaters was listed for $4.1 million in July of 2008 and sold in June for $2.4 million. One other home sold for $1 million below its original list price, while two others sold for more than $500,000 below their first asking price.
Clearly, some sellers are finally offering deals buyers can't refuse.
"In the last six months, I think we've seen buyers who have finally realized this is pretty close to the price in the plateau," said Frank Malowany, a real estate agent with the Malowany Group, which specializes in luxury real estate. "It's not going to get much below what they are asking."
"I definitely think the market is really coming in line in the upper ends," said Rhonda Sanderford, with YES Homes, at Smith & Associates. "There are very savvy buyers who realize when the market is hitting the bottom and it's a very good time now to buy before (prices) start moving in another direction."
Another factor she credits for increased luxury home sales is the loosening of the reins on jumbo mortgages, in which the loan amount is usually more than $417,000.
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Many buyers, however, still aren't ready to pull the trigger.
"I've always been relatively positive about the market. The problem is buyers hear statewide negative reports about the housing market and they don't buy despite the fact that one cannot compare waterfront homes on Snell Isle to those in another Florida location. This is prime real estate and it will rebound. Buyers are a little hesitant to take the first step before somebody else does," said Alona Dishy, a real estate agent who has several listings and recent contracts on Brightwaters. "The minute a home goes to contract, that's when everybody wants that house. They say: 'Oh, I should have listened. I should have bought it then.' "
An encouraging sign that the market has rebounded is the number of local people to whom she is selling and showing houses. Even in tough economic times, out-of-towners have to buy homes because they have relocated for work.
"When locals are buying, that's a strong indication that the market has jumped back," she said. "Most locals have to sell something themselves. So when they are buying, I think that's a very good gauge of how the market has hit bottom."
Dishy points to several listings she has as priced to sell. A 6,000-square-foot waterfront home with a pool at 1501 Brightwaters Blvd. is priced at $1.5 million and a 3,731-square-foot home with a pool but not on the water is $799,000.
Sanderford has just listed a spec home at 1866 Brightwaters for $4.4 million.
"It's about three months from completion, which gives the potential buyer time to go in and choose the finishing touches," she said. "It's really good to see enough confidence to put a spec home out there. The last couple of years spec building has completely died because (builders) were unable to get financing."
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That three other new custom homes are going up on Brightwaters is another sign that banks and builders are more confident, Sanderford added.
But real estate agents agree there is no across-the-board statement to make about Brightwaters Boulevard because homes vary greatly in size, age and water access. While some homes on the market are priced as low as they are going to go, others are not.
"The remaining product on Brightwaters, some of it is still substantially overpriced,'' Malowany said. "There are some properties I wouldn't take for a listing for what the asking price is now because it's a waste of advertising money to try to convince somebody to write a contract only to find out the bank won't even appraise it for half the value."
There are 18 Brightwaters Boulevard homes listed on the Multiple Listing Service. One of the most recent to come on the market is a 12,412-square-foot home priced at $13.9 million at 2040 Brightwaters. It includes 380 feet of waterfront (room for several boats), 10- to 25-foot ceilings, a five-car garage, pool and even a name: Villa Terranova.
This appears to be the most expensive home listed on the MLS on the street since the historic house at 375 Brightwaters owned by David and Michelle Rau was withdrawn.
The 10,000-square-foot, seven-bedroom house hit the market last November for $18 million and was later listed as two properties, a single family home and a lot. The house was listed at $7.5 million before being withdrawn in September. The land was listed at $3.5 million before it was withdrawn in August. Branch Banking and Trust Co. filed for mortgage foreclosure against David Rau in May. Rau's attorney, Jay Verona, said the foreclosure is pending but not imminent.
Katherine Snow Smith can be reached at (727) 893-8785 or firstname.lastname@example.org.