Why would someone who could afford almost anything prefer to rent? A recent New York Times article reported that today’s wealthy consumers often prefer short-lived experiences to the hassles of ownership and are leasing everything from private islands to precious jewelry. Here in Sarasota, renting luxury goods is still uncommon. Some young gala-goers do use Rent the Runway, paying $150 to appear at an event in a $1,000 designer gown, but jewelers say they rarely rent jewels, and mega-yachts are mainly found on Florida’s other coast.
But renting luxury Sarasota real estate? That’s a booming business.
How about $25,000 per month for a bayfront mansion in The Oaks? That’s the price Jennette Properties realtor Teresa Ribaudo put on the turnkey-furnished Georgian residence at 136 Osprey Point Drive earlier this summer. And she’s confident she’ll get it. After all, the vice president of a major international corporation had leased the home at that annual rate for the past two years. (That’s $300,000 a year if you’re doing the math.)
Luxury rentals generally start at $10,000 a month during the off season and rise to $25,000 per month January through April, says Ribaudo’s colleague, realtor Kari Epp. Most of these properties—and there are hundreds—are in downtown Sarasota and up and down Longboat, Lido and Siesta keys. Homes with beachfront or at least water views are the most coveted. Most rental properties run around 3,000 to 4,000 square feet and have three bedrooms or more.
Epp’s most expensive seasonal listings, in the $20,000 per month and higher range, are in The Ritz-Carlton Beach Club, where a rental includes membership in the Ritz Beach Club, Golf Club and spa. At the other end of the scale, she’s got a penthouse condominium with “phenomenal views” at Plaza at Five Points rented on an annual lease for $7,500 a month; if it had been rented in high season alone, the monthly rate is $18,000. And demand keeps growing. “We’re clamoring for new listings,” Ribaudo says. “Our biggest dilemma is running out of inventory.”
“Celebrities, major league athletes, hotshot corporate people,” Ribaudo says. “That kind of money is out there.” When asked to name names, she demurred.
And if you’re considering renting something for next season, you may be too late. “A lot of our [seasonal] clients are repeat,” says Epps. “We’re already 80 percent booked.”