High On The Hog

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Toll strikes it rich with a $1.3 million model in South Florida. Can this be production building?

February 01, 2001

 

Mizner is the name of the community, and that familiar South Florida style is reflected in the Mediterranean exterior architecture of the Carrington.

 

There's something strange going on in Florida, and it has nothing to do with the conduct of elections.

Florida's luxury production, second-home market has always been a little unreal. It's disconnected from the things that drive that sector everywhere else in the country, like local economic conditions, job creation and mortgage rate fluctuations. When wealthy people anywhere in the country close a big deal, make a kill-ing in the stock market or even just pass the age of 50, they seem to show up in Palm Beach, Boca Raton, Sarasota or Naples ready to buy a house.

Now remember, the target market is still snowbird empty-nester couples (at least, for the most part). The trend that's emerging is sales running to big, two-story houses. Not just a little bit bigger. We're talking about very big houses, with four, five or even six bedrooms. And two-story houses lead the parade, where con-ventional wisdom used to dictate that older buyers hate climbing stairs and won't go for a two-story.

 

A spacious and beautifully appointed study is located just off the foyer rotunda to allow the owner a space in which to work and host business visitors.

 

As the size of Florida luxury sales leaders esca-lates, so does the price. It's not uncommon to see de-velopments where the average sale price tops $700,000. And these are inland, luxury production communities (not custom), usually on a golf course, but not on the ocean.

An example of this trend is Toll Brothers' Mizner Country Club in Boca Raton. Toll opened six model homes in this 384-acre golf club community at the opening of last year's selling season in Florida (late December, 1999). There are two models for each of three product lines-large homes on 75- X 140-foot lots and zero-lot-line homes on either 65- X 140-foot or 50- X 140-foot lots. The range for the full offering is 2580 to 4487 square feet, base priced from $409,975 to $799,975. Guess which house is the best-seller?

 

A circular staircase leads from the entry rotunda and family room to a second floor loft. Ceilings in this part of the house soar to more than 20 feet.

 

Of course, it's the biggest one: the Carrington, a monster two-story, designed by Toll's in-house archi-tecture department, with 4487 square feet of air con-ditioned space, base priced at $799,975, but modeled at a cool $1.3 million. Add in the covered lanai, cov-ered entry and garage and the Carrington has 5453 square feet under roof.

Toll sold 117 houses at Mizner C.C. by mid-January of this year, at an average price of $750,000, and the clear sales leader is the Carrington, with 18 on the books.

This house is not just big in square footage. The bedroom count is also huge. There are five of them-two downstairs and three up. But the real shock is that this is a production-built home. "Hard construction costs run at $55 a square foot for the Carrington, in-cluding $16 a square foot worth of standard up-grades," says Dan Grosswald, Toll's vice president in charge of the Florida east coast division. "Those up-grades include a standard swimming pool."

 

Even the formal dining room has a ceiling coffered from 18 to 20 feet.

 

Kathleen Murphy is Toll's marketing coordinator in Boca Raton. She says there are hidden, local move-up families in the Mizner sales, but confirms that the target market is well-heeled, snowbird empty-nesters from the Northeast. "We've seen houses getting big-ger for a few years," she says. "It seems that people from up north are now spending more time in Florida during the winter, so they want a house down here that's closer to the size of their primary home."

Computer communications are now so good that business owners can stay in Florida for six months in-stead of one or two, says Grosswald. "If they stay that long, they know they'll get a stream of visitors, proba-bly including children and grandchildren. That's why they need all those bedrooms. But you'll notice that the master suite in the Carrington is still on the ground floor, along with another bedroom for guests or a housekeeper. That allows buyers to close off the up-stairs and use it only when it's needed for visiting families."

 

The family room is casual but sumptuous, showing the Midas touch of merchandisers from The Interiors Group of Boca Raton, Fla.

 

The Carrington is also big in cubic footage. Ceil-ings in foyer rotunda and living room soar to 22 and 20 feet. The family room and breakfast nook even have 14-foot ceilings, the kitchen ceiling is only eight inches lower. "It's typical flashy Boca style," says Grosswald, who knows a trend when he sees one.

Toll is now working on a new model at Mizner that will be 5400 square feet, base-priced at about $900,000.

 

Granite countertops and dark cabinetry create a sense of traditional luxury in the kitchen.

 

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