SAFE AT HOME
Sarasota is remembering last September and conducting an over-the-shoulder analysis of how the tragic events affected our lives. Strangely, the same aftermath that shook the stock market and tumbled entrepreneurial empires may have given Sarasota’s real estate market a boost.
"Many young couples who have experienced marvelous financial success and could choose anyplace in the world to settle are coming to Sarasota," explains Andy Cail of Michael Saunders & Company. "Some of our very own young people who intended to live and work in New York City are rethinking their decisions. They are reflecting on their own childhoods and recalling lovely days without fear. Safety has become a selling point. And Sarasota offers that cosmopolitan flavor. One can go anywhere in the world and people will know who we are, where we are."
When asked how the real estate market has fared since the events of last September, Michael Falkenstein of Remax remembers a line spoken by a realtor back in the 1960s. "This veteran realtor told me that as long as the sun comes up in the morning and the Gulf waters touch the shoreline, the Sarasota market will stay strong," says Falkenstein. "He was right."
Rarely does one stumble across any buildable Gulf-front property, and rarer still is a pristine two-acre parcel for sale on prestigious Westway in Lido Shores. Bruce Myer of Coldwell Banker Previews on Longboat Key has the lot listed for $5.985 million and touts the 100 x 1,000-foot piece of paradise as an incredible find.
"There’s a spec home down the street priced at $8 million," says Myer. "And this lot sits between two homes priced at $11.9 million and $16.75 million. You can come in here, build your dream house for $4 or $5 million and sit on the back porch for the rest of your life looking all the way to the horizon."
Not to mention the fun you will have name-dropping about the neighbors. Bobby Vinton’s former residence is just down the way and designer Adrienne Vittadini lives practically next door. Myer was besieged with phone calls about the lot and discovered that many prospective buyers have difficulty visualizing a house on the site. So he had well-known architect Guy Peterson design an ultra-contemporary home offering 10,000 square feet of luxurious living space to give people an idea of the possibilities. "As more and more people cash out of the stock market they are turning to real estate for investment," says Myer. "Here is a perfect opportunity."
Sarasota welcomes Michael Connor of Pure Prairie League as our latest celebrity resident. His wife Heidi is a local girl, and once she introduced Connor to the place he fell in love with the white sand beaches and the laid-back island atmosphere. The Connors’ home in on Siesta Key and their realtor is Susan McLeod of Michael Saunders & Company, St. Armands office.
St. Armands Story
A gorgeous Mediterranean mansion is currently available on South Washington on St. Armands, with sweeping views across Sarasota Bay and room for a 96-foot yacht. The charming Old World-style home features massive French doors, detailed woodworking, textured paint finishes and a gourmet kitchen. The swimming pool is oversized, set amidst mature tropical landscaping on a double lot; and there is a separate guest house or nanny’s quarters with complete kitchen. The home looks like something from a storybook; and in fact, the history of the couple who lived there has a definite fairy tale quality.
"She was stunningly beautiful and working as a waitress at the Colony and he was a wealthy German businessman who fell in love with her at first sight," explains listing agent Barbara Dumbaugh. "They married and divided their time between this home and his baronial estate in Germany, near Munich. They were totally devoted to each other."
Sadly, he passed away; the children wish to reside in Germany, so his widow decided to put the property up for sale. The home is situated on what has been described as the most beautiful street in Sarasota and is offered for $4.9 million. In a market where spec homes fetch $5 and $6 million and more, this one-of-a-kind beauty with a romantic history is certainly worth watching.
Hitting Her Mark
Congratulations to Annette Rogers of Michael Saunders & Company for sales topping the $40- million mark during the first half of 2002. Rogers credits her impressive numbers to staying focused and working around the clock. She refuses to get locked into a specific niche or turf and does not change her strategy whether a property is priced at $100,000 or $10 million. "If someone wants something, I will find it," says Rogers. "Have car, will travel." Currently, Rogers says waterfront still leads the market, followed by country club properties. Requests for homes with privacy or seclusion come in at No. 3.
Let’s Talk Turnkey
When potential buyers walk into an empty house, it can be difficult to envision a finished environment. If the property is a vacation home, many buyers simply don’t want to spend their time furnishing and decorating the space. And everyone knows that furniture, window treatments and floor coverings make rooms look more spacious and finishes more luxurious. So what’s a savvy spec builder like Doug Martel to do?
Enter Howard Firth of Robb & Stucky, armed with excellent taste in a neutral palette. Firth has done five homes for Martel Development, spending between $100,000 and $175,000 per house to dress up living rooms, family rooms, dining rooms and master bedrooms for buyers who will pay from $3.5 to $6 million for these homes. Firth takes his design cues from flooring, cabinets and wall colors, pulling in accents from the West Indies or the Mediterranean and punching up color here and there against eye-pleasing backgrounds of subtle shades. Firth does not repeat interiors among homes on the market; and in the three Martel spec homes that have already sold, the new owners loved and kept everything.
"This is a service, a convenience to the buyer," Firth explains, "and in our real estate market a finished home will always appeal more than an empty structure." Often, the buyer will hire Firth to finish the house, so this concept increases potential for everyone. Maybe next we will see live mannequins demonstrating how real people might actually sit on barstools and recline on the sofa….
Bye, Bye, Birdie
Barbara Dumbaugh was recently showing a very expensive property on Nettie’s Bayou, one that looks across to Roberts’ Point Road, her own neighborhood. As she escorted clients to the back patio, there was a horrible screeching sound echoing across the water; and Dumbaugh’s clients held their ears and grimaced, asking what in the world could emit such ghastly noises. Dumbaugh’s face reddened as she realized the squawks were coming from her own pet parrot. "I had left the bird on the back porch because it was such a beautiful day," says Dumbaugh. "But I never knew his screams carried across the water like that. I felt so embarrassed when admitting to my clients that it was my parrot." The bird’s backyard privileges have been permanently revoked.