Golf course — good. Waterfront — better. Of the 10 most expensive homes sold in Tampa Bay in 2014, just two overlook greens and fairways, while eight boast the spectacular waterfront views that have long lured high-end buyers. A fitness guru shelled out $6.7 million in August for a Belleair Beach estate, making it the year's top local sale. The owners of a Michigan company spent $5.5 million to enjoy sunsets from a 7,000-square-foot mansion on a private island with a helipad in Ruskin.
Among the other buyers of multimillion-dollar residences last year: a banker, lawyers and the wife of Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Lovie Smith.
"I think we're seeing a pretty healthy luxury market in Tampa Bay," said Charles Richardson, regional senior vice president of Coldwell Banker. "We're becoming much more of a strong draw for that kind of buyer."
Last year, 72 homes in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties sold for more than $2 million, a 37 percent jump from the year before. Somewhat surprisingly, seven of the 10 priciest were not in beachy Pinellas but in businessy Hillsborough. And four of those were on Davis Islands, home to Tampa General Hospital and some stunning bayfront views.
The community "has great water, it has that little downtown area that's really charming and has kind of a village feel to it," said Mary Pond, the Smith & Associates agent on two of the Davis Islands homes. "It holds its value very well and the resales are good."
But while Tampa Bay's housing market is clearly on the rebound, none of the 10 costliest homes last year came close to the $9 million that St. Petersburg entrepreneur Bill Edwards paid in 2011 for a 12,400-square-foot mansion on Snell Isle's Brightwaters Boulevard. The only Snell Isle home that made the new top 10 list went for $3.64 million, $200,000 less than its asking price.
And despite extensive publicity, two of 2014's premier offerings failed to sell at auction. Century Oaks, a legendary Clearwater estate, is off the market, at least temporarily. The Avila mansion of former Tampa Bay Rays owner Vince Naimoli has been slashed in price from $14 million to $5.5 million.
Be patient, Richardson advises.
"You put either one of those in Miami and they'd be gone in a heartbeat. I don't think we've reached the level where some of the very high-end properties will get the numbers they would in other markets. We're the best value in the luxury market in all of Florida."
Here are snapshots of the priciest bay area mansions sold in 2014.
Price: $6.7 million
Buyers: Joel and Lisa Marion
Basics: 11,945 square feet, 6 bedrooms, 7 full baths, 2 half baths
Joel Marion is a bodybuilder, fitness coach and author who has been featured on TV and in numerous magazines. The house, modeled after a European estate, has an exercise room and French doors opening to several covered terraces overlooking the pool and Intracoastal Waterway.
Price: $5.58 million
Buyer: 706 Guisando LLC (Darcie Glazer Kassewitz of the family that owns the Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
Basics: 28,893 square feet, 10 bedrooms, 10 full baths, 3 half baths
Built by former gold dealer Mark Yaffe, this Jacobean-style palace on a golf course was taken back by the lender at a foreclosure auction. Originally listed at $25 million, it sold in November for $193 per square foot, by far the lowest of any of last year's top 10 most expensive homes.
Dickman Island, Ruskin
Price: $5.55 million
Buyer: Unique Sales Enterprise, Pontiac, Mich.
Basics: 6,619 square feet, 5 bedrooms, 4 full baths, 2 half baths
Named for a prominent family of farmers and developers in the Ruskin-Apollo Beach area, the 212-acre Dickman Island is the site of three mansions including this contemporary, cedar-accented home. Although the house was purchased under a company name, the $3.885 million mortgage was signed by Matthew Woodburn and Terry Woodburn of Woodburn Inc., a Michigan-based heat-treatment company that serves the auto industry.
Davis Islands, Tampa
Price: $4.9 million
Buyer: John T. Keiser and Pamela Keiser, trustees
Basics: 10,347 square feet, 6 bedrooms, 6 full baths, 4 half baths
Sold by former Tampa Bay Rays infielder Tino Martinez, this home on Hillsborough Bay has water views from almost every room. Keiser owns EnviroTek, a Tampa-based environmental and construction services company.
Davis Islands, Tampa
Price: $4.85 million
Buyer: David L. Koche as trustee of the 310 Blanca Lane Residential Trust
Basics: 7,467 square feet, 4 bedrooms, 4 full baths, 2 half baths
The house, with Tampa lawyer Koche as trustee, sits on nearly an acre of waterfront land and has an elevator, a five-car garage and a 50-foot saltwater pool.
Davis Islands, Tampa
Price: $4.6 million
Buyer: Anne Marie Castenfelt
Basics: 7,018 square feet, 6 bedrooms, 6 full baths, 1 half bath
Castenfelt, from Atlanta, is the first owner of this waterfront pool home, built on spec in 2013 by Hughes Construction with a covered loggia and summer kitchen area.
Davis Islands, Tampa
Price: $4.3 million
Buyers: Bradley J. and Kristi M. Resch
Basics: 7,019 square feet, 4 bedrooms, 4 full baths, 1 half bath
Bradley J. Resch is former president of Gulfeagle Supply, a Tampa-based roofing and building materials firm started by his father and grown to more than 55 locations nationwide. The gated estate, built in 1927, is one of four original Davis Islands designs.
Snell Isle, St. Petersburg
Price: $3.64 million
Buyer: Gerald A. Poch
Basics: 5,608 square feet, 4 bedrooms, 5 baths, 1 half bath
Records show that Poch, a lawyer and owner of this Tuscan-style mansion on Tampa Bay, has been in the broadcasting and capital management businesses.
Price: $3.475 million
Buyer: Maryann Smith
Basics: 10,146 square feet, 6 bedrooms, 6 baths, 2 half baths
Smith, wife of Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Lovie Smith, paid $500,000 less than the asking price for this Mediterranean-style estate, one of just four homes in the most exclusive gated area of Tampa Palms.
Price: $3.4 million
Buyer: William R. Thompson
Basics: 5,100 square feet, 4 bedrooms, 5 baths, 1 half bath
This gulffront home last sold in 2011 for $3.5 million and hit the market a year ago at $4.1 million. Bought by a banker from Arkansas, it came with all furnishings including a 70-inch TV and leather seating in the media room.
Times researcher Carolyn Edds contributed to this report. Contact Susan Taylor Martin at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8642. Follow @susanskate.