Of the 25 most expensive houses and condos sold last year, eight went for more than $6 million. In 2015, there wasn't a single sale higher than $4.9 million.
To be in the Top 25 last year, a house had to sell for at least $3.7 million. In 2015, a home that brought "only'' $2.65 million made the cut.
Though most home buyers will never be able to afford anything close to those prices, they reflect the appeal of an increasingly dynamic area that has much to offer residents of different ages, interests and backgrounds.
"Our area has become so much more vibrant,'' said Dania Perry, a Pinellas County Realtor who was involved in three of the Top 25 sales. "In our favor we have a very growing, vibrant downtown (St. Petersburg) and our beaches are just phenomenal. We have a lot of new construction along the beaches and improvement to our beach fronts.''
Last year, Tampa Bay had nearly three times as many $6-million-plus sales as Sarasota even though that county has long been considered much more of a luxury market. The bay area, however, boasts sizable advantages over its neighbors to the south, noted Realtor Jennifer Zales.
"Tampa has an international airport, corporate businesses and professional sports teams based here, which added to the buyer pool,'' said Zales, listing agent for two of the Top 25 homes last year. "Having some of the best and most affordable waterfront in a market convenient to an airport with international connections makes the Tampa Bay area very attractive to affluent buyers.''
As in 2015, several buyers of the most expensive homes in 2016 make their living from the nation's mammoth health are industry. Others have prospered in tech fields, insurance and employment services. High-end buyers in 2016 also included a star Tampa Bay Lightning player, the 26-year-old grandson of Publix supermarkets founder George Jenkins, and an Orlando man who spent time in federal prison for bribing a Jacksonville port director.
Other noteworthy nuggets about 2016's uber-luxury sales:
• Of the 25 buyers, 19 paid cash. In 2015, there were just nine cash buyers.
• Only two condos — both in downtown St. Petersburg's Ovation — were among the top 25 priciest homes sold last year. In 2015, five condos made the list.
• Once again, Tampa's waterfront Davis Islands had the most sales in the Top 25 with four. Among other areas with two or more sales were Tampa's Culbreath Isles, Belleair Shore in mid-Pinellas County, St. Pete Beach and St. Petersburg's Snell Isle.
Realtor Bonnie Strickland, the listing agent on two Snell Isle homes in the Top 25, sees no slow-down in the bay area's luxury market despite rising interest rates and uncertainty over how President Donald J. Trump's polices might affect the financial and housing markets.
"'I've had the busiest January I've ever had in my life,'' said Strickland. a St. Petersburg native who's been in real estate for 30 years. "I think the Fed raising rates just a bit is getting people off the fence and thinking about buying now because they don't want to miss the opportunity.''
And do people who can afford a $4 million home really worry about a quarter- or half-point rise in rates?
"They're just like everybody else,'' Strickland said. "They like to take advantage of a lower rate.''
Times researchers John Martin and Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Contact Susan Taylor Martin at email@example.com or (727) 893-8642. Follow @susanskate
Here's a look at 2016's most expensive homes and their owners:
• $6.9 million, Beach Drive, St. Petersburg
The basics: 5,330 square feet, 3 bedrooms, 3 full baths
Lloyd J. Thornburg, founder of an internationally known yacht racing team and a director of a New Mexico-based foundation, bought a 28th floor penthouse in Ovation for the highest amount ever paid for a Tampa Bay condo.
[Courtesy of Hi Res Media]
This contemporary Safety Harbor estate on 10-plus acres overlooking Old Tampa Bay sold for $6.875 million, the most paid for any single-family home in the bay area since 2013 and one of the highest prices paid for any residence since 2000.
• $6.875 million, Safety Harbor
The basics: 9,365 square feet, 6 bedrooms, 6 full baths
On 10 gated acres overlooking Old Tampa Bay, this contemporary estate sold in October to Pers and Svetlana Wickstrom. He is CEO of several drug and alcohol rehabilitation in programs in Michigan. The price was the most paid for a single-family bay area home since 2013.
• $6.7 million, Belleair
The basics: 11,207 square feet, 4 bedrooms, 5 full baths
Surrounded by century-old oaks, this Belleair estate was among three non-waterfront homes that sold for more than $3.7 million in 2016. The new owners are James and Marsha Emanuel: He is a former chief financial officer of Lincare, a Clearwater-based provider of in-home oxygen and respiratory therapy services.
[Property Marketing Partners]
This 10,850 square foot home in Tampa's Culbreath Isles sold last year for $6.625 million.
• $6.625 million, Culbreath Isles, Tampa
Basics: 10,850 square feet, 6 bedrooms, 7 full baths
Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers Coach Greg Schiano built this home in the gated South Tampa community, then sold it in July to Tampa attorney Robert S. Walton as trustee.
• $6.4 million, Beach Park, Tampa
Basics: 6,589 square feet, 6 bedrooms, 7 full baths
On a lagoon with access to Tampa Bay, this Mediterranean-style estate built in 1925 sold in July to Joey Redner, founder of Cigar City Brewing, and his wife, Jennifer.
[Skyview Photography Services]
This gulf-front estate in Belleair Shore sold in January 2016 for $6.4 million, making it one of the year's 25 priciest homes.
• $6.4 million, Belleair Shore
Basics: 6,487 square feet, 4 bedrooms, 5 full baths
On the Gulf of Mexico, this compound with 30-foot, floor-to-ceiling windows was bought in January 2016 by the Murphy III Living Trust, David James Murphy III and Karen Denise Murphy. A Stanford business school grad, he has been a top executive in several tech companies and has served on the advisory network of Columbia Technology Ventures, which explores commercial uses for Columbia University's academic research.
• $6.150 million, Belleair Shore
Basics: 6,561 square feet, 5 bedrooms, 7 full baths
On more than a half-acre in one of the bay area's private beach communities, this gated contemporary estate sold in June to Leslie Buttorff. She is founder, president and CEO of Quintel Management Consultants, which provides consulting and IT services to utilities. In 2007, she bought a nearby gulf-front property for $5 million.
[Peggy Taylor, FastPix]
This seven bedroom, seven-bath South Tampa home overlooking a pond and the Palma Ceia Golf Course sold for $6.04 million in July, making it one of the 25 priciest homes of 2016.
• $6.04 million, Palma Ceia, Tampa
Basics: 10,771 square feet, 7 bedrooms, 7 full baths
Designed in Old World French Country style, this home overlooking a pond and the 4th green of the Palma Ceia Golf Course was bought in July by David E. Dreyer and Thomas E. Beach of Stuart as trustees. Dreyer is an attorney; Beach is chairman of the Reason Foundation, a libertarian think tank that publishes Reason magazine. Beach is also connected with the non-profit Beach Foundation and Beach Investment Counsel, an advisory group that manages more than $1 billion in assets.
• $5.995 million, Davis Islands, Tampa
Basics: 7,625 square feet, 7 bedrooms, 8 full baths
This West Indies-style mansion, built on spec, sold in July to Dennis A. Hase as trustee of the GTAK Riviera Joint Revocable Trust. The Times was unable to determine where Hase is from or what he does for a living.
[Don T. Ashley]
This five-bedroom, five bath home on Tampa's Davis Islands sold for $5.4 million in August 2016.
• $5.4 million, Davis Islands, Tampa
Basics: 5,580 square feet, 5 bedrooms, 4 full baths
Built in 2014, this estate on Hillsborough Bay was purchased in August by Kent Hughes as trustee. Hughes is managing director of the Quartexx/MFive Sports agency, which represents pro hockey players. Hughes' clients have included former Tampa Bay Lighting captain Vinny Lecavalier, whom neighbors have seen at the house as it undergoes renovations.
• $5.3 million, Clearwater
Basics: 10,177 square feet, 7 bedrooms, 5 full baths
In July, Julie A. Ferguson bought this gated waterfront estate in the historic Harbor Oaks area. Florida corporate records show that Ferguson is CFO of Precision Personnel, a Clearwater job placement and recruiting firm.
This 6,619-square-foot home on the private Dickman Island in Ruskin sold for $4.6 million in August 2016.
• $4.6 million, Ruskin
Basics: 6,619 square feet, five bedrooms, 4 full baths
On a private island with helipad, this home sold in August to Maule Enterprises of Lincoln, Neb. The company's Keith Maule is president and CEO of Integrity Doctors, which calls itself the world's largest coaching and consulting company for chiropractors.
• $4.5 million, Culbreath Isles, Tampa
Basics: 6,809 square feet, five bedrooms, 5 full baths
Although the listing said this bayfront home had been completely remodeled and was "like new'' inside and out, Bruce Thomas Lucas bought it in September to tear down and build an even larger house. Lucas is CEO of Clearwater-based Heritage Insurance Holdings, which took over thousands of policies from state-run Citizens Property Insurance.
• $4.5 million, Snell Isle, St. Petersburg
Basics: 6,080 square feet, five bedrooms, five full baths
This estate with views of downtown St. Petersburg was purchased in September by Wayside Properties Land Trust and Wayside Properties LLC. According to state corporate records, the president of Wayside Properties LLC is Gerald K .Weaver, a pediatric dentist and orthodontist in the Jacksonville area.
• $4.4 million, Davis Islands, Tampa
Basics: 7,247 sqare feet, six bedrooms, six full baths
This waterfront home was on the market for well over a year before it sold in June to Thomas R. Sweet, former CEO of TechHealth Inc. Sweet is currently a managing director of Protolytic, a Tampa-based company that reviews insurance claims and creates patient treatment plans.
• $4.25 million, Sunset Park Isles, Tampa
Basics: 6,942 square feet, four bedrooms, 5 full baths
This bayfront home with "whimsical'' movie theater, wine cellar and outdoor kitchen sold in April to Mary T. Pipino as trustee. She is president and CEO of a real estate risk management and insurance company.
This 2015 home built in the French West Indies style in Tampa's Culbreath Isles sold in April 2016 for $4.218 million.
•$4.218 million, Culbreath Isles, Tampa
Basics: 7,303 square feet, 7 bedrooms, 7 full baths
This 2015, French West Indies-style waterfront home with views of downtown St. Petersburg was bought in April by Gregory Jackson as trustee for a trust connected to Vincent J. Cassidy of Majesty Title Services.
[Lockhart & Associates Real Estate]
Dubbed the Coastal Castle and featuring a Chihuly sculpture in the foyer, this gulf-front home on a corner lot sold in June to M. David Feinberg and Helen Feinberg.
• $4.1 milllon, St. Pete Beach
Basics: 5,189 square feet, 3 bedrooms, 4 full baths
Dubbed the Coastal Castle and featuring a Chihuly sculpture in the foyer, this gulf-front home on a corner lot sold in June to M. David Feinberg and Helen Feinberg. A real estate investor, he owns Sea Biscuit Properties.
• $3.95 million, Davis Islands, Tampa
Basics: 5,769 square feet, 5 bedrooms, 5 full baths
Victor Hedman, a defenseman for the Tampa Bay Lightning, bought this home on Hillsborough Bay in December.
This lakefront Avila estate of former Tampa Bay Rays owner Vince Naimoli sold in June to Gregory and Yvonne Mixon.
• $3.9 million, Avila, Tampa
Basics: 15,547 square feet, 8 bedrooms, 7 full baths
Six years after it first hit the market, this lakefront Avila estate of former Tampa Bay Rays owner Vince Naimoli sold in June to Gregory and Yvonne Mixon. LinkedIn shows Mixon as vice president of sales for Dole Berry, a subsidiary of the giant Dole Food Corp., which acquired the Mixon family's SunnyRidge Farms. Another Mixon, Patricia, bought a Redington Shores home that was among the 25 priciest in 2015.
• $3.9 million, Beach Drive, St. Petersburg
Basics: 7,320 square feet, 4 bedrooms, 4 full baths
This 22nd-floor condo in Ovation with 84-foot wide floor-to-ceiling windows sold in June to the Cheryl K. Haigley Family Trust and Cheryl Haigley and Dale F. Schdmit as trustees. Dale Schmidt, a CPA, is head of People Premier, an employee leasing company. The couple also own the Feather Sound Golf Course.
• $3.88 million, Carol Shores, Tampa
Basics: 6,661 square feet, 6 bedrooms, 6 full baths
Completed last year, this custom home on Old Tampa Bay in Tampa's Sunset Park area was bought in November by 26-year-old Alexander Howard Jenkins. He is the grandson of George Jenkins, founder of Publix Super Markets, and the son of Howard Jenkins, former CEO of Publix.
• $3.8 million, St. Pete Beach
Basics: 4,516 square feet, 5 bedrooms, 7 full baths
Built in 1935, this gulf-front home was purchased in July by Gregory and Elizabeth Murtagh. He founded Triad Retail Media, an online advertising firm that had grown to 540 employees and $250 million in revenues by the time he left in 2014. He has since started other e-commerce companies.
[Skyview Photography Services]
This newly built home on the Gulf of Mexico sold in July for $3.7 million, making it one of the most expensive homes of 2016.
•$3.7 million, Redington Beach
Basics: 4,410 square feet, 5 bedrooms, 4 full baths
This new Key West-style home on the Gulf of Mexico sold in July to Lance W. Young of Orlando. Young, who owned a dredging company that did business with the Jacksonville Port Authority, was sentenced to 20 months in federal prison in 2012 and was fined $100,000 for bribing a port director.
• $3.7 million, Snell Isle, St. Petersburg
Basics: 5,940 square feet, 5 bedrooms, 5 full baths
Built in 2013, this waterfront estate sold in August to Walter and Christina Scott. He has been a top executive of several software companies, including CEO of GFI Software. GFI, with offices in Malta, London, North Carolina, Hong Kong and Australia, provides internet and email security for small to medium-size businesses.