For the Ursini family, building has always been something of a family business. In 2000, with the help of his wife, Gina, Mark Ursini founded Brista Homes, a development and construction company. But the establishment of Brista Homes wasn’t the beginning of Ursini’s career. Ursini first got his start in the construction business at the age of fifteen, cleaning job sites for his father, who was a developer and builder in Connecticut. 

Over time, Ursini would work his way up in the family business until he eventually found himself running the construction division. After relocating to Longboat Key in the early 90s with his wife and their two young daughters, Ursini joined a local developer building new homes in a gated community.

When he took that cleaning job at the age of fifteen, Ursini couldn’t have predicted that it would lay the foundation for a new generation of the family business. But Brista Homes is a true family affair. The company was named for Ursini’s daughters, Brittany and Christa, each of whom has played key roles in the business in areas like copywriting, marketing and graphic design. Wife Gina is also involved in many facets of the business and has launched a boutique real estate brokerage called Brista Realty. While the team at Brista Homes specializes in custom-built residences, they have also become known throughout the Longboat Key and Sarasota areas for their luxury remodels. Mark Ursini shared his insights on what goes into a successful renovation.

Photography Courtsey of Brista Homes

What are your favorite parts of taking on a remodeling project?  We enjoy the before and after changes in a remodel project. A lot of our remodels are in Longboat Key condominiums that were originally built in the 70s, 80s and 90s with dated tiles and cabinets, low popcorn ceilings, and closed-off galley kitchens that blocked the beautiful water views. Most of our remodels are demoed down to the metal studs and we open up walls, raise ceilings, and install all new electrical, plumbing and AC. Smooth drywall finishes, along with solid core doors, new tile, cabinets, countertops, appliances, and fixtures give the units new life and allow our clients to enjoy th Florida lifestyle and the water views. 

How does the remodeling or renovation process differ from client to client?   The exact scope of work and selections vary from client to client but the overall process is very similar. Some clients are very hands-on while others rarely visit the site. The second was more common during the recent COVID pandemic. We had one client that was quarantined in  Scotland for the entire renovation and we were able to handle everything through video calling.

Photography Courtsey of Brista Homes

Do the challenges of a condo renovation differ from the challenges of renovating a stand-alone home?  Condominium remodels do offer challenges, from getting the demolition debris from a 3000 square foot penthouse down 19 stories or getting materials up 19 stories in small, crowded elevators. We regularly have to rope up 16’ baseboards, casings, and miscellaneous materials from the exterior balconies and load drywall, countertops and large glass and mirrored wall panels in the tight elevators. We often use cranes to load these larger items when the location of the unit is within reach of the parking lot. It is more cost-effective to rent a crane for a half day than have four workers load a unit the entire day. Parking and limited working hours are also a challenge in condo remodels.  A single-family remodel is much easier in a lot of areas but still has its challenges. Parking for the subcontractors can be difficult on the narrow side streets in Longboat Key.

Brista Homes focuses largely on luxury remodels. WHAT Are the challenges in this niche?  I would say the shortage of high-end products and the talented labor needed for luxury properties have been the most challenging, especially during COVID. Some kitchen appliances are out twelve months or more, and the availability of regular items such as electrical parts,  drywall and concrete has made it difficult to maintain a consistent and productive construction schedule.  Over the past few years, cost increases have made it very challenging to stay on budget. A lot of these remodels are priced six months or more in advance of the start dates and by the time we are ready for items such as drywall or AC units, there have been multiple price increases.  These increases come mostly from the manufacturer or supplier so unfortunately there is nothing we or the client can do about it. That is the reason why we have moved to cost-plus contracts. It would be unfair to our clients if we tried to project where costs might go six months or a year in advance. We now prepare a control budget based on the current pricing and reprice items 30 days out from installation. We then share any cost changes with the owners. If there are significant increases, we offer our clients more affordable options to make a final selection.