Bob Vila, America’s Favorite Handyman, Asks $52.9 Million For Waterfront Florida Home

Home-improvement guru Bob Vila made a name for himself sharing DIY advice on shows like “This Old House” and “Bob Vila’s Home Again.”

But even he has his limits. In 2005 when he and his wife, Diana Barrett, wanted to renovate their 1940s home in Florida, Vila said the job was too big for him to handle himself. So they enlisted a general contractor and landscaper to overhaul the house, putting in a new electrical system, roof and windows but retaining a number of the Palm Beach home’s original details.

True to form, Vila said he has enjoyed making small repairs to the waterfront house in the years since then. 

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 “In terms of doing little home improvements around here, that’s always part of the deal,” he said. “It’s an older house, so there’s always something.” 

Still, “you get to a point in life where you want to simplify things,” said Vila, who is in his 70s. So he and Barrett have decided to downsize, putting the home on the market for $52.9 million.

Seller Bob Vila, pictured in 1979, shared DIY advice on shows like ‘This Old House.’

PBS/Everett Collection

Located on Everglades Island, which sits in the Intracoastal Waterway just off the main island of Palm Beach, the 0.84-acre property has about 175 feet of water frontage, a pool, a hot tub and a dock, said Chris Vila of PB Realty Advisors, the couple’s son and listing agent. 

Vila and Barrett, a former Harvard University professor of business and public health, purchased the home from her late mother’s estate for $6.1 million, records show. Barrett’s parents bought the house for $375,000 in 1975. 

Designed by architect Marion Sims Wyeth, the house was built around 1949 and has a formal, H-shaped floor plan, according to Chris Vila. It has about 6,300 square feet of interior space with seven bedrooms. There is a loggia on the east side of the house with black-and-white marble flooring that extends to the pool terrace, where there is a similar pattern in pink- and sand-colored stone. There is original cypress paneling throughout the house. 

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Self-described “preservationists” when it comes to real estate, Vila said they spent about a year renovating, but intentionally retained the flow and many original details. “Our goal was to keep it feeling very old Florida,” Barrett said. 

The 0.84-acre property has a pool and a dock.

PB Realty Advisors

In addition to the new roof and electrical system, the couple expanded a guest wing by connecting a detached cabana to the main residence. They also redid the kitchen, which flows into a large dining area and family room with glass pocket doors to the outside.

Barrett said one of her favorite things about the house is that from the driveway, it looks like a modest, brick house. Visitors are hit with expansive water views once they walk through the front door. 

Vila, an avid gardener, said the grounds have a tropical garden with royal palm trees dating back to the 1950s, as well as Ylang Ylang trees, an orchid garden and other native plants. They have hosted parties, Easter Egg hunts and, a few years ago, their daughter’s wedding, he said.

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With two of their children living nearby and one in California, Vila said he and Barrett plan to move to a smaller house in Palm Beach. Barrett said they had a “15-minute flirtation” with the idea of moving to a new apartment building in West Palm Beach, but facing the prospect of glass walls, they wondered where they would hang their art. “We realized it’s just not us,” she said. 

Market values were also a factor in their decision to sell, Vila said. Home prices in Palm Beach shot up during Covid. In the third quarter, the median luxury sale price was about $34.7 million, more than double that of the prior year, according to real-estate appraisal firm Miller Samuel. 

During the third quarter, luxury inventory in Palm Beach dropped 47.2% year-over-year, but there are signs inventory could pick up. Goya Foods heir Andy Unanue recently listed a Mediterranean-style estate in Palm Beach for $36.5 million.

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