A home on Lake Mabel has the distinction of being the largest real-estate sale in Orange County. How does a house get sold for nearly $13 million?
Karan Wienker tapped into her 12 years in a financial position on Wall Street, her time in theatrical management, her studies as a college art major and her experience as a copywriter for a marketing and design firm to sell the most expensive home in Orange County.
“It was my universe colliding,” the Florida Golf & Beaches owner and Realtor said.
Wienker was the listing agent and broker for the 11,565-square-foot, nine-bedroom pool home at 9225 Lake Mabel Drive, Orlando. Ashish Pal and Sunita Bhanot bought the house from KC and Monica Craichy for $12,950,000; it was on the market 45 days.
What most people don’t see is the amount of work that goes into preparing, staging and marketing a property — especially a mansion unlike any other home in the area. Creating “comparables,” in which the home is compared to similar local dwellings, was a nearly impossible task, she said.
Wienker was the listing agent for the sellers when they originally bought the home in 2011 for $2.5 million and was grateful for the opportunity to work with them again.
“We were competing with the usually suspects in this price range, and every other agent was telling them this was a $6 million house because it wasn’t on the Butler Chain (of lakes),” Wienker said.
Other agents asked her how she sold “a $6 million house for $12 million.”
“I said, ‘It was never a $6 million house,’” Wienker said. “It just had no comps. I looked at the building and (thought), ‘What would it cost to build this house?’ In 2019, they had an insurance cost-to-replace report, and it was in excess of $10 million. This was a home that had no paintable surface outside — all stone and brick. It wasn’t that far of a reach for me to imagine that this property could easily go for $12 million. So, I didn’t flinch. … I saw the value in it, and I dug a little bit deeper.”
ATTRACTING A BUYER
When staging a house, Wienker said the first thing she does is determine what kind of buyer will be drawn to this property.
“What is the buyer going to want?” she said. “For this particular home, we thought, since the air rights are protected, it’s ultimately going to be someone who’s affluent. … It’s going to be somebody who really values their privacy above all else.”
The property is within a no-fly zone because of its proximity to Disney.
“We couldn’t even fly a drone,” Wienker said.
She and her team considered borrowing a cherry picker to get some coveted aerial shots of the lakefront property and pool, but it wouldn’t fit on the curved driveway.
“It was all left to the description and the (ground level) photographs,” she said.
But before any photos are taken, the rooms needed to look perfect, and this is where Wienker’s design background came into play.
“Color pop is important,” she said. “All this beige, the beige travertine (needs contrast).”
She adds color to the space whether the home is $100,000 or $1 million or $12 million, she said.
“We have a garage full of pillows and colorful things, flowers, plants,” she said. “We just bring in a truckload to give it some real good color pop and make people feel (happy), and even if you look at the pool, you’ll see there are … lilies floating in the pool. … It’s not just another Florida pool — it’s paradise.”
Buyers want to imagine themselves in the houses they are looking at, so it’s crucial to remove any personal effects that might make them feel like they’re intruding in someone else’s home. Wienker said she made a business decision in this house and left the seller’s beauty pageant display.
Monica Craichy was Miss Florida 1985 and Miss Florida USA 1988, and her tiaras, sashes and other pageant paraphernalia was showcased behind glass.
“Who doesn’t want to feel like they’re queen of their castle?” Wienker said. “And it worked with the proximity to Disney. We assume that whoever buys it has an affinity for Disney. … The fireplace was hand-carved in a replica of Cinderella’s castle. We wanted to relate to that.”
Four luxury cars, including a Bentley and a Rolls Royce, borrowed for the photo shoot are parked in front of the house to add to the appeal of a wealthy lifestyle.
A walk-through video also was made that showcased the grandeur.
“It literally took us a month to get the photography we wanted,” Wienker said. “It’s the rainy season. We had to deal with, ‘What time does the sun come up?’ (and) ‘How do we get the shots of the back side of the house?’ and by then it’s pouring down rain.”
She emphasized the importance of taking twilight shots for all advertisement materials, as well as writing verbiage to pique the interest of home shoppers.
“When I wrote the story on this home and used the word ‘providence,’ it was intentional,” Wienker said. “It was a home that carried with it a lot of good energy and brought providence to the previous owners … as well as the buyers felt the vibe too.”
The buyers made their offer before they even walked into the home, she said, stressing the importance of proper staging, photos and descriptions.
“They made their offer based on what they saw in the photographs and what they read in the story,” she said. “It was a few days later they came to see it. … It was literally within days of posting the pictures that it went under contract. The pictures and those words really matter. That shows us everything.”
What Wienker does is tries to immerse the potential buyer in the home and the lifestyle it can create for them.
Wienker said the aspects of the house she emphasized to the buyers, Pal and Bhanot, were amenities they didn’t have in their current home. Pal was drawn to the long driveway for parking during big social events and the acre-sized backyard for entertaining.
“One thing that was important to the buyer and I picked up on right away,” Wienker said. “He’s a heart surgeon — I knew immediately when I knew what he did — I asked about the two-story office. It’s a library, essentially. He said, ‘Absolutely.’
“This house has everything he couldn’t get in his 12,000-square-foot home on the Butler Chain,” Wienker said.
“He’s a surgeon, and his wife is also a doctor, and there were a lot of spiritual undertones,” she said. “Both the buyer and the seller were both on par with that.”
The Craichys built their fortune with a company they founded called Living Fuel, which they started because of Monica Craichy’s health issues. KC Craichy did his research and developed a diet solution they eventually marketed.
“It was important to them that this home had clean underpinnings, water sources, the water was of a certain caliber, it wasn’t near any power lines or cell tower, no interference,” Wienker said. “The lake is a spring-fed lake. That was important to them and, ultimately, the buyer.”
The estate, dubbed the Windermere Chateau, was the first-place winner in the 2010 Parade of Homes’ High-End Custom Home category.
The listing described the house as having a double bridal sweeping staircase, towering domed rotunda, hand-carved limestone fireplace, conservatory, two-story master study and library, two private apartments and quarters, wine cellar, vaulted ceiling home theater and whole-house generator with a four-day reserve.
The exterior includes pavilions (one has a grill, bar and full ball; the other is an outdoor living and conversation arena, anchored by a massive fireplace), the travertine coped deck, pool and spillover spa, multiple gathering and sunning areas, room for event tents, herb and rose gardens, citrus and fruit trees, a lengthy dock and a covered boat house.
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