Real Estate Go$$ip - October 2001

By staff October 1, 2001

Ritz Effect

Everyone knows the 50 residences at the Ritz, priced from $695,000 to $4.3 million, sold out in 18 days. (There are 50 residents but only 48 owners, since two of them combined units to make one mega-apartment.) But the real news is that some of those original owners have already resold their units at prices 30 percent higher than they paid. Debbie Bahr and Joan Dickinson, Michael Saunders & Co. sales associates for WCI's new Tower Residences at the Ritz, say that several buyers of the first Ritz condominiums resold after an initial investment of deposit only, making their return as high as 300 percent.

And about that rumor that the Ritz in Sarasota is receiving more telephone calls per day than any other Ritz in the world? "The Ritz-Carlton Sarasota has generated 600 percent more pre-opening activity than any other Ritz," explains Bahr. "That means 600 percent more inquiries for hotel rooms, group sales, pre-opening bookings and individual reservations."

However many calls they're getting, phones are now ringing for The Tower Residences at the Ritz-Carlton, 80 private condominiums scheduled for completion in the summer of 2003. Located just southwest of the hotel and physically connected through The Spa Club, the Tower will offer residents 24-hour room service, valet parking and housekeeping. They will also have access to The Beach Club on Lido Key, The Spa Club and The Golf Club. Tower Residences start at slightly under $1 million and go up to $4.55 million for the ultimate penthouse.

Real estate insiders declare that they are already seeing a "Ritz effect" as the hotel gears up to attract affluent guests from all over the globe, with a money-is-no-object mentality. Real estate prices are rising in anticipation, say local brokers, with waterfront property reflecting the biggest surge.

"We have seen some dramatic rises in prices for waterfront properties," confirms Bill Baar, owner of Professional Appraisal Services. "The driving force in the Sarasota market right now is water."

On The Waterfront

On Little Sarasota Bay on Siesta Key, Marina Del Sol illustrates that frenzy for waterfront living. The Siesta Key condominium, planned for the current location of Bob's Boathouse, which would be demolished if the project goes forward, sold out in less than one week, prior to construction and, some say, even to final project approval. A party for real estate agents was held on the property, with a rented cherry-picker allowing guests to experience the water views. But agent Sandy Strom says few were interested in cocktail party diversions. "It was amazing," says Strom. "People were huddled in corners, conferencing with their attorneys and buying up every single one." Priced from $500,000 to $1.5 million, the 38 three-bedroom, three-bath units were gone before you could say "Stickney Point."

Size Matters

Who says less is best? Andy Cail of Michael Saunders received an inquiry regarding a gorgeous Gulf-front property located along Longboat's famed Mansion Row. Address? Regent's Court of the Longboat Key Club. Size of the lot? Almost a full acre and a half. Price, please? Just under $5 million. The caller then asked Andy to determine how much house she could build on the property. "She absolutely had to be sure that her home could fit," says Cail. "And her plans called for a minimum square footage of over 10,000 feet." Regretfully, the caller told Cail, she was afraid that little acre-and-a-half just wouldn't do.

Hidden Treasure

Sometimes it's the seller who's eccentric. When Judy Osney of Osney Interiors spotted a slice of tropical paradise on Red Rock Way, she slammed on her brakes and picked up her cell phone. In her mind's eye, Osney was already envisioning her own Tuscan-styled home with courtyard and lush landscaping around the pool. The model designer for Vision Homes, Judy has a way with luxury properties-she just did real estate broker Bob Richardson's drop-dead gorgeous Bay Plaza condominium. Judy called realtor Candy Swick and agreed to the purchase price for the lot. But wait. In the far corner of the overgrown tangle of palms and bougainvillea, she then spotted a tiny dwelling made of wood. The ancient owner lived with dozens of cats and without electricity, running water, air conditioning or heat. A homemade post propped up the sagging front porch roof; and rotted boards and waist-high weeds concealed a long-neglected, in-ground swimming pool.

"From the road, one never would have even known that a house was back there. It was completely hidden by trees," Swick says. " We were afraid to allow potential buyers to walk on the property, for fear they would hurt themselves."

Judy has started building her dream house, which will have a wrap-around veranda, double bay windows and intricate wood and metal trimwork. She paid $245,000 for the "fixer-upper" and lot. Right across the street, a property recently sold for $2.5 million.

King's Castle

A glamorous market attracts a glamorous clientele. Glamorous and sometimes seriously famous, too. Case in point: Superstar novelist Stephen King purchased a home on Casey Key with a $9 million price tag, which the Herald-Tribune reported as the highest residential sale ever recorded in Sarasota County. (Or was it? What about Charles Savidge's 10-bedroom, eight-bath mansion at 2121 Gulf of Mexico Drive that sat on five Gulf-front acres and sold for $10 million? Maybe the paper didn't count that one because the house was bulldozed the day after closing to make way for condominiums.) Anyway, back to King. The writer's desire to close the deal quietly was followed to the letter by the real estate agent who sold the home, but the listing agent, who announced all the details to the public, apparently missed that memo. No longer incognito, the novelist is probably hiding out in Maine until the sensation subsides. Let's just hope he doesn't return mad, like Jack Nicholson did in The Shining, or like Sissy Spacek in that terrifying dream sequence at the end of Carrie. We promise to let you enjoy those Gulf-front sunsets in peaceful seclusion, Mr. King.

Quick Decision

The lovely elderly couple from Chicago who purchased Barbara Ackerman's $7.4 million listing near the Ringling Museum were not terribly interested in how many square feet the various residences on the property boasted. Nor were they ticking off the number of rooms or bathrooms. In fact, they never even ventured upstairs in the four-bedroom guesthouse. "He used a cane, and she did not wish to climb the stairs," says Ackerman. Nevertheless, the elegant bayfront compound enthralled them enough to close the deal. Their attitude about décor details-"surprise me." Or perhaps they were simply in a hurry. Tom Fynes, a colleague of Ackerman's at Coldwell Banker Previews International on Longboat Key, sold the property in less than one week. 

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