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What $2-million buys

What makes this house worth almost $2-million?

The Mienna II, by John Cannon Homes, is big, yes: 4,178 square feet of air-conditioned space, plus another 1,980 square feet of garages, entries, upper and lower lanais.

There's the home site, at MiraBay, a waterfront community on the eastern shore of Tampa Bay: 100 by 175 feet on the lagoon with a dock, close to the boat lift that allows direct access via canal to Tampa Bay. Cost of the site: $212,000; today, a similar lot goes for $290,000. (The average price of a single-family home and home site at MiraBay is $600,000.)

It's an upscale neighborhood: Custom builder Bobby Alvarez is working next door on a model priced at $2.5-million. A few doors away, Bayfair Custom Homes built the Coastal Living Idea House that will open in October. On two lots down the street from this model, Cannon is building a home of more than 13,000 square feet that will cost $4.5-million to $5-million.

In communities such as this, ones with lots of amenities and high land prices, an 1,800-square-foot home may cost more than a 3,200-square-foot home on a standard site in a subdivision with few amenities in a less desirable location.

The house would cost $1.9-million to replicate, builder Cannon said. That makes it among the most expensive models around the Tampa Bay area. The house has been sold but will be kept open for a year as a model.

So there's size, and there's location, but as you walk through the house, where did the money go? What brought the price tag up to almost $2-million?

For starters, the furniture. The model was sold furnished, everything from the window treatments to the knickknacks. Price: $275,000.

The floor plan is familiar, traditional Florida, Cannon said recently as he walked through the house: a split plan, with master suite on one side, entertaining areas and kitchen in the middle, secondary bedrooms on the other side, another bedroom and bonus room upstairs.

"But it's the height of the ceiling, the crown molding, the niches, the way the stepped ceilings are proportioned, the thickness of the ledges," he said.

"It's proportion, symmetry and massing. They're what makes the house feel good."

It's also "the level of finish and the quality of materials," Cannon said. Several ceilings have been meticulously hand-painted and faux-finished. The tile work throughout the house _ an upgrade from standard tile _ is enhanced by accent tiles, striping and framing, all of which involves additional labor and materials.

Some of the components that raise the price of a home are obvious: replacing the tile or concrete with pavers at entrances, walkways, lanai and driveway, for example. Or replacing the standard GE appliances with models by Wolf, Asko and Sub-Zero.

Others require closer scrutiny. In the foyer, standard paint-grade wood crown molding has been replaced by larger stain-grade molding with a custom-milled bull-nose finish.

Elsewhere, granite replaces Corian in the master bathroom. Plumbing fixtures are upgraded. The standard wooden stair rail to the second floor has been replaced by powder-coated metal. Built-in drywall arches and columns replace a flat wall in the bonus room. Bamboo flooring and upgraded carpet replace standard tile and carpet.

Some of the upgrades are mechanical or technical: a 75-gallon water heater instead of 50-gallon. A third air-conditioning zone. Additional electrical outlets.

The basic house, without lots of upgrades, would cost about $1-million plus home site, Cannon said. And there are ways to save money: Fewer drywall details. Flat ceilings instead of stepped or tray ceilings (each of those is a $1,100 upgrade). Standard tile, carpet and appliances instead of the many upgrades in this home. Standard paint colors, plumbing fixtures and countertops (which are, by the way, quite nice).

So why spend the extra money? Buyer preference, obviously; but beyond that is the investment consideration.

"In the upper-end market, you often have to be careful not to underimprove the property," Cannon said. "Everyone's on a budget, but a lot of these nice features aren't that expensive." Fifty thousand dollars spent on upgrades is a small percentage of the overall price, and at resale, buyers in the price range of $2-million and above tend to expect a high level of finish. Spending $50,000 now can increase the price by $150,000 at resale.

"You have to finish the home to a level commensurate with the buyer that's going to be looking at it," Cannon said.

Buyers look at an underimproved resale home in a top price range and wonder why it doesn't have the elaborate molding or top-of-the-line countertops and appliances they see in other homes in that price range. Cannon cited a home he built on spec a few years ago on Longboat Key without those extras. The buyer now has it on the market for more than $2-million "and it's not selling. It would only take another $10,000 or $20,000 to get it up to a level of finish that . . . would have attracted a more sophisticated buyer that would have paid the seller's price. If it doesn't have those features, buyers look at the house and say, "It needs to be redone.' "

Visiting the Mienna II

The Mienna II by John Cannon Homes is at 624 Balibay Road in the Bay Estates section at MiraBay, on U.S. 41 in Apollo Beach, Hillsborough County.

The home is open 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday, noon to 5 p.m. Sunday.

Information: (813) 641-8811.

Pavers at entrances and walkway, driveway and pool deck instead of concrete and tile add $20,000 to the price tag of the Mienna II by John Cannon Homes at MiraBay, on the eastern shore of Tampa Bay.

The price tag includes all the furnishings, window treatments and accessories, priced at $275,000. A stepped ceiling, like the one in the living room, is an $1,100 upgrade. The hand-painted ceilings here and in the dining room and master bedroom: $10,000. The living room overlooks the lanai, where the pool package (pool, spa, fountains, planters) costs $40,000.

Paying more for extras and amenities brings up the price tag. Larger, stain-grade crown molding throughout, instead of simpler paint-grade molding, casing and base, and cased windows: $12,000. Upgraded carpeting adds $6,000; bamboo flooring instead of standard tile or carpet, $20,000. In the master bedroom, the custom headboard and the raised sitting area also are upgrades.

In the master bath, the seamless aquarium glass that encloses the shower, which overlooks a private garden, costs $8,000. The upgraded free-standing tub _ 6 feet long with is own rails, instead of a 5-foot tub in a tiled deck _ adds $12,000.