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The 'micromansion': Big on luxury, less to maintain

Thu, 03/31/2016
Frank McKinney is developing a 4,000-square-foot "micromansion" that he expects to sell for at least $4 million. (Frank McKinney / Courtesy)
Frank McKinney is developing a 4,000-square-foot "micromansion" that he expects to sell for at least $4 million.
 (Frank McKinney / Courtesy)

By Paul Owers | Sun Sentinel

Frank McKinney, the real estate entrepreneur known for building oceanfront palaces in Palm Beach County, now has a new venture: the "micromansion."

McKinney said wealthy buyers still covet luxury homes, but they want smaller properties that are easier to maintain.

"I'm really seeing a shift away from oversized mansions that I have been building in my career," he said. "There's a little bit more common sense with the square footage."

McKinney is building his first micromansion at 19 Tropical Drive in Ocean Ridge. It's a dry lot — 345 feet from the ocean, east of State Road A1A and west of Old Ocean Boulevard.

The 4,000-square-foot home, with three bedrooms and four bathrooms, is less than a quarter of the size of some properties McKinney has built. It will be offered for sale "on spec," without a buyer in place.

He says the two-story micromansion will feature an ultramodern design with high-end finishes ($128,000 sea glass kitchen countertops) and unusual amenities (a sun deck floating between two pools).

A company tied to McKinney paid $350,000 for the vacant lot in October, public records show. He's not sure of the home's eventual price tag, but he thinks it will fetch at least $4 million.

He hopes to have it completed by the end of the year or early in 2017. If it's successful, he said he'll look to build more.

Housing observers say there is a market for luxury buyers who want a single-family residence, but not all of the maintenance hassles that go with a megamansion.

"A lot of people are relieved not to have to make a greater commitment on a larger home," said Lewis Goodkin, a South Florida housing analyst.

"Builders have been scaling down large homes in the coastal market for years," she said.

One concern about a smaller, custom home with fancy finishes: It might have trouble appraising when it comes time for a buyer to resell, Giachetti said.

"Appraisers don't care if you have a gold toilet," she said. "They'll give a little bit more [value] for high-end finishes, but they're not going to give the amount that people are spending in these homes to take them to the next level."

McKinney, 52, of Delray Beach, sold his first spec home in 1992 for $2.2 million.

Since then, he says, he has completed more than 40 real estate deals — renovating properties, selling vacant land and building spec homes.

In 2004, he sold an 18,000-square-foot Manalapan mansion at 1370 S. Ocean Blvd. for $22.4 million, records show. Six years later, he renovated the 11,000-square-foot Acqua Liana at 620 S. Ocean Blvd. in Manalapan and sold it for $15.5 million.

McKinney, also an author and motivational speaker, drew the ire of Delray Beach city leaders in 2002 when he built a treehouse for his daughter in their front yard without permits. The dispute finally ended eight years later when he moved the structure to a different spot in the yard.

In 2003, McKinney created the Caring House Project Foundation, a nonprofit group that has built 23 villages in Haiti. He said the charity now runs on "auto pilot," giving him the opportunity to devote time to building the micromansion.

"It's small, but it's exciting," he said. "I'm supremely confident this will be well-received."

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