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From mini mansions to apartments, Tampa Bay luxury is in demand

What price luxury? The answer depends on one’s definition of luxury.

A widely accepted definition of a luxury home in Tampa Bay is one that costs at least $1 million and looks it. But like many things, luxury is in the eye of the beholder.

When Mary Kelly, an agent specializing in luxury homes with Smith and Associates Real Estate, was a child, she watched actor Dustin Hoffman floating peacefully in a sun-drenched pool, seemingly without a care in the world. Ever since, a backyard pool with the sun glinting off its rippling surface has defined luxury for her — or at least one aspect of it.

“I think it’s like that for a lot of people,” said Kelly. “Luxury is something that’s planted in us when we’re young, and it stays with us as we grow up.”

“If it’s a million, it must be Mary” is a slogan that’s come to define Kelly, who sells scores of luxury homes to buyers seeking luxury in Tampa Bay. It’s a feat she can only accomplish if she knows a buyer’s definition of luxury. It doesn’t always mean Italian marble floors, elegant chandeliers or opulent, winding staircases leading up to second and third floors.

“There’s all kinds of luxury,” Kelly said, and it’s not always about the home itself.

For example, it might take $1 million to get a small, historic bungalow in downtown St. Petersburg or South Tampa. Long on charm but short by anyone’s definition of luxury, it’s the ground beneath these homes that earns them the luxury label. “There’s such a thing as luxury of location,” said Kelly, and downtown St. Petersburg and old South Tampa, where Kelly lives, fall into that category. A 1970s-era plain-Jane ranch with a water view is luxury to many, she said. A country home overlooking expansive fields, woodlands or rolling hills qualifies for others.

“I think if you can see a spectacular sunset out your door every day, that’s luxury,” said Kelly. “If you can walk to shops and restaurants or a museum, that could be someone’s idea of luxury.”

An upgraded chef’s kitchen with high-end cabinetry, professional- grade appliances and slick fixtures can push an otherwise hohum home into luxury territory.

“Luxury kitchens are a big thing for a lot of people,” Kelly said, even if the rest of the home “isn’t so nice.”

Of course, for those with the budget, the ultimate in luxury is an exquisite home on an exquisite piece of land. That’s where the widely accepted $1 millionand- up minimum ante comes into play, said Kelly.

But like many Realtors this year, Kelly is witnessing a redefining of luxury. In the past, a lot of that $1 million has gone toward luxuries like custom cabinetry, imported tile, and fancy moldings. During the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s space that’s become the most prized luxury.

As people find themselves hanging out at home more than ever, space for home offices and Zoom rooms for business meetings and classrooms are the new

See Luxury on 2H

½ baths and 7,379 sq. ft. of living space. It features a guest house, two formal living rooms and 106 feet of waterfront.

Photo courtesy of Jennifer Zales

Times Total Media Correspondent

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