Real Estate Gossip - December 2001

By staff December 1, 2001

As waterfront disappears and prices add another zero, neighborhoods near the bay are becoming more desirable. Call it "next-best-thing thinking," or simply runoff from the waterfront wellspring. In any case, Cherokee Park is seeing huge sales for modest homes. On North Drive, for example, homes offering a mere 2,874 square feet and 2,274 square feet sold recently for $890,000 and $775,000, respectively. Those figures escalate prices above $330 per square foot. And that is prior to the first dollar that will be spent to update them. And on the "flower" streets (Rose, Hibiscus, Wisteria, etc.) between the Trail and Osprey, things are also blossoming.

For example, Linda DesMarais and her husband Doug Barker initially worried that perhaps they paid too much when they bought their pretty home on Bougainvillea last year. The 1925 Tudor revival residence included the original charming three-bedroom cottage with an enormous new master bedroom addition, a pool and terrace, a rose garden and detached garage. The couple gutted the kitchen, redid the dining room and plans to transform the garage into a carriage house and guest quarters. And they are no longer concerned about their investment. Brokers have confirmed that in today's market, the house would easily fetch $1 million. That price would almost double what they paid for the home.

Some new overscale homes are suddenly sprouting on the flower streets. For example, you can avoid the rehab scene and buy a brand-new Mediterranean home on Datura for $650,000. Vaulted ceilings, granite kitchen, crown moldings, deluxe master suite and pretty pool afford all the bells and whistles on a tree-lined street in a traditional neighborhood.

A few blocks away, McClellan Park, with its gracious oak trees and quiet streets, is suddenly very chic. A traditional white house on Okobee-a Sarasota landmark built in 1939-recently came on the market with a price tag of $795,000. The house offers 2,664 square feet with three bedrooms and two baths, pool and one-room guest house. Back in 1974, the owners paid $67,000.

Longboat Key is a boater's paradise with easy access to the Gulf and the sparkling waters of Sarasota Bay. A local yachting enthusiast fell in love with the place and knew it would be perfect for his 94-foot motor craft. He searched out just the right location, settled on a price of $700,000 and secured the wife's okay. Now he can concentrate on finding a house. The $700,000 was for a t-slip at Longboat Key Moorings Marina, the most expensive boat slip available. And it's a good thing he upgraded his dock space. Now it can comfortably accommodate his new yacht, due to be delivered any day measuring in at 114 feet.

It pays to return phone calls. Just ask Tracy Seider of Re/Max Properties; when she received a message from a New York area code, she assumed it was a solicitation but politely called back anyway. Instead, she reached a reporter from Money Magazine who needed some information about the Sarasota real estate market. Seider cheerfully complied. She was pleasantly surprised to find herself quoted in the magazine some months later and even more pleased when a prospective buyer from California, who had noted her name in the article, telephoned to ask about homes for sale.

"He flew in one weekend and at the third showing he called his wife on the cell phone and described the house as we walked from room to room. He bought it that same day," says Seider. People continue to call her from all over the world, thanks to the article. She recently contacted the reporter from Money to thank him and to ask why he did not interview a single other realtor. The answer? Seider was the only one who called back

If only all buyers could be well-read and savvy. Seider fielded a call recently from a man who lived in the Turtle Beach area on Siesta Key and wanted to purchase something else on Siesta. He described how many bedrooms and the type of view and finished with his preference for a price under $200,000. "I told him we could get something like that for about $750,000," she says. Only moments later, someone else called, asking Seider about a lot on the Gulf of Mexico, for which they were willing to pay $400,000. She was en route to a closing just then for just such a Gulf-front lot: It was on Point of Rocks and sold for $1.25 million.

But then, even a professional could have trouble keeping track of Siesta Key prices right now. In 1995, when some eager buyers paid $490,000 for a modest 3,000-square-foot waterfront home on Freeling, at the north end of the key, everyone thought the buyers must be crazy. In April of 2000, the same house sold for $975,000. Recently, that buyer flipped it for a cool $1.2 million. The house was built back in 1956, and there has been no redo. The water views are on the interior, not open bay. The lot is pretty but not large. And the price continues to rise.

An asking price of $12,800,000 for a luxury home in Lido Shores gives listing agents Jeff Granston, Patricia Landsberg and Mary Ann Pipes of Michael Saunders the chance to set a new record high in residential sales prices. Billed as "Sarasota's Grand Estate," the property was the former home of Daniel Kane and sold for around $6 million in May of 2000. It boasts 4.5 acres of land with 381 feet of beachfront directly on the Gulf of Mexico. Two swimming pools, almost 8,000 square feet of air-conditioned living space and more than 11,000 square feet of verandas and terraces offer breathtaking water views with a location just minutes away from everything.

Hot, coastal cities are supposed to lose their appeal during the dog days of summer, with August notorious for no pulse in the real estate market. Yet Sarasota jerked economists' heads around, with 61 active and pending listings over $1 million from Aug. 1 to Aug. 31. Longboat Key boasted sales of $3.7 million in Country Club Shores and $3.2 million in Bay Isles. A Harbor Acres home sold for $3.3 million. Hudson Bayou had a sale for $1.8 million while a house on Lido sold for $3.8 million. The Oaks sold two homes for $1.1 and $1.4 million. And down south in Nokomis, a 3,000-square foot home on the bay sold for $1,895 million. Real estate agents say it's getting to the point that anything with wet stuff behind it will fetch over $1 million. So much for the doldrums.

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