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Historic Clearwater estate sold for $9.3 million, highest home sale of 2020

The sale closed on Dec. 23 on the expansive property, which was built in 1915.

The priciest home sale of 2020 came in just in time for Christmas.

On Dec. 23, Century Oaks, a 3.5-acre Clearwater estate overlooking Clearwater Harbor, sold for $9.3 million, which according to Multiple Listing Service data was the top residential sale of the year for the Tampa Bay area.

The property consists of a more than 16,000-square foot main house, with 10 bedrooms and eight full and five half bathrooms, plus a 5,000-square foot guest house, which has six bedrooms and five and two half bathrooms, according to the listing. Its features include a grand ballroom, a library, wine cellar, two lighted tennis courts, two pools, a waterfront promenade, historic bell tower and terraced gardens.

The ballroom of the main Century Oaks house.
The ballroom of the main Century Oaks house. [ Cary John, Florida Visual Marketing. Courtesy of Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate ]

The listing agents were Martha Thorn and Jennifer Zales, who said in a joint statement that the property “was very unique for our market as it was both a historic property and it consisted of two large parcels.”

The property was listed in December 2019 for $13.9 million after its previous owners, a couple from Dubai, defaulted on the mortgage and it went into foreclosure. They purchased it for $11.18 million in 2017, which was then a record price for a home sale in Tampa Bay.

Related: Fabled Clearwater estate back on the market — for nearly $14 million

When it comes to its final sales price, Thorn and Zales wrote that “a seller can price a property as they choose. But it is important to listen to the feedback in the market,” noting that Tampa Bay has only recently began to see double-digit million-dollar sales become more common, unlike top dollar areas like Miami.

The buyer recorded in the deed is Clearwater Beach Company, a Florida limited liability company which lists local real estate lawyer Bryan J. Stanley as its registered agent in state records.

Stanley confirmed that his company was listed on the deed on behalf of a client, though he declined to reveal the identity of the buyer.

“I can tell you it is a group that has as its principal a gentleman who’s been a local since he was born,” he said. “This presents a major renovation project for him but he’s excited to be here and plans at this point to have his significantly large family to move into the home.”

Stanley said some of the landscaping has been torn up and the roof needs repairs, for example, but the buyer “intends to maintain the historic integrity of the home and maybe bring more of it back, because some of it was lost from recent prior owners.”

The Century Oaks estate in Clearwater
The Century Oaks estate in Clearwater [ Cary John, Florida Visual Marketing. Courtesy of Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate ]

The estate dates back more than 100 years. It was built in 1915 by New York City developer Dean Alvord on the site of Fort Harrison, a military post for settlers during the Second Seminole War.

Its neighborhood, Harbor Oaks, was Clearwater’s first planned residential subdivision.

The estate was once owned by Robert Brown, who invented the black paint used on Model T Fords, as well as British Formula 1 driver Nigel Mansell. In 1996, he sold it to powerboat racing champion Hugh Fuller for $5.5 million.

Thorn and Zales said the estate’s appeal was its “extremely high square footage and the opportunity to restore a magnificent home to its renowned grandeur.”

An aerial view of the grounds of Century Oaks in Clearwater.
An aerial view of the grounds of Century Oaks in Clearwater. [ Cary John, Florida Visual Marketing. Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate ]