Manatee Rising

Rising wealth in Manatee County.

By Chelsey Lucas October 31, 2014

by Susan Burns

Manatee County doesn’t attract the same numbers of affluent as does Sarasota County, but the landscape is changing.

Between 1992 and 2011, Manatee County ranked seventh statewide in terms of attracting adjusted gross income and 45th nationally out of 3,100 counties measured by Travis Brown of How Money Walks.

Wealth adviser Gardner Sherrill, who moved to Manatee County in 2000, says the affluent market is growing in Manatee but in specific areas. “Manatee is still an old Florida town,” he says. “Our wealth is much quieter.”

Perhaps for that reason, quiet, quaint Anna Maria is top on his list for wealth concentration. But the area north of Manatee Avenue in Bradenton, University Park Country Club, Lakewood Ranch and the neighborhood around IMG Academy—think about all those families spending $50,000 to $65,000 a year on tuition to turn their kids into tennis stars—all attract wealthy newcomers, he says.

“I’m amazed at the amount of wealth. Ten million used to be a lot of money. Now you see multiples of $10 million. They are the minority, but they exist,” he says. “People who have $1 million now are almost apologetic because they’re surrounded by so much wealth.”

Lakewood Ranch is one of the communities changing Manatee’s demographic profile. The average household income is $120,000, according to Jimmy Stewart, the vice president of sales at LWR Communities LLC. Stewart has seen home sale prices rise this year to an average of just over $500,000. Part of this came from a couple of huge multimillion-dollar sales in the pricey Lake Club neighborhood last summer, but even removing those sales, the average sale was $470,000-plus. “Year over year, 2013 compared to 2014, the average sale price has increased 24.3 percent,” he says.

The average age—45—of Lakewood Ranch residents is younger than Sarasota and Manatee, too. Some of the new wealth is due to the Premier Sport Campus, which introduces new people with families to the area, he says, and he notes that visitor center surveys are showing a 6 percent increase from 2013 in people who want homes between $400,000 and $500,000.

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