Real Estate Gossip - May 2002

By staff May 1, 2002

Tom Stone of Michael Saunders & Company has sold gorgeous homes on Casey Key for more than a decade, doing $80 million worth of sales in the last four years alone. In 2001, Stone sold more than $25 million worth of property on Casey Key and listed seven properties priced at over $1 million. He sold six of these homes, many at record prices for Sarasota County. "People buy two things," explains Stone. "Views and architecture. Casey Key offers both."

Award-winning design and unsurpassed vistas command pretty prices on this luxury island, where home prices hover just above $2 million. Imported materials and luxury finishes are de rigueur, along with state-of-the-art electronics and lush landscaping. But Stone's newest listing of a 7,000-square-foot modernist beauty on the beach may just be the most glamorous house he has ever shown.

Designed by architect Carl Abbott, the house is placed at a 45-degree angle on the acre-plus property for an extended sight line 1,000 feet down the beach. Glass walls offer 180-degree panoramic views and slide open to admit the sea breeze. The concrete, glass and stone structure soars above the Gulf of Mexico with terraces on each its five levels. Bedroom windows are placed to offer views of both Gulf and bay, and interior ceilings rise to between 12 and 28 feet. Finishes include polished Brazilian granite, white oak and pale butterscotch Italian travertine marble, cross-cut for a scroll pattern. There are no blinds or curtains in living spaces, with the focus on the view of the Gulf framed by walled gardens, natural vegetation and waving palm trees.

A raised bridge leads from the family room to the rooftop sundeck of a spacious guest house. The slender rectangular swimming pool is surrounded by tropical plantings, and an orchid house is adjacent to the guest cottage. Carl Abbott calls this one of his best homes. "The elements came together and the house responded so well to the site," he says. The house enjoys an extended view to the south, offering "the best light and wind direction, movement of storms, everything." The property is listed for $5.5 million. Abbott is currently designing a new home east of town for the owners.

Secluded Hidden Harbor surrounds another superb example of the Sarasota School of Architecture in an ultra-contemporary home designed by architect James H. Rieniets and built to Dade County hurricane standards by Donaldson Franklin Inc. "There is a 40-foot wall of glass standing 13 feet high and measuring over an inch and one half thick," explained listing agent Suzan Cromwell of Michael Saunders & Company. "But the glass is made so that is can bow out three inches in case of storm. The roof is commercial-grade materials and construction. This home is built to last." Spectacular glass railings edge the tiled stairs and continue through walls to exterior terraces overlooking a dock fashioned of imported woods finished to look like teak. No bridges to the bay and deep water allow access for a 70-foot yacht. The industrial-grade elevator connects all three levels and rows of glass block allow natural night to illuminate the interiors. Naturally, the home features a gourmet kitchen, marble balconies, a disappearing-edge pool and four-car garage. Some 4,000 plants were brought in to augment the nearly one-acre site, and owner Fred Hollingsworth saved every tree, flower and shrub possible to preserve the lush, overgrown feel.

Hollingsworth envisoned the home as a showcase for his art collection and was involved in the design and construction process for the two years it took to build the place. Once the house was completed, however, he changed his mind about living there. And what do the neighbors think of the home's modernist look? "At least one of the neighbors is crazy about the place," says Cromwell with a laugh. "Mr. Hollingsworth bought the house next door-a lovely Key West-style residence-and will move in very soon." His former address is listed for $5.5 million.

A slice of Sarasota history is up for sale in the museum area. Built during the roaring '20s for the Ringling family and later owned by the David Lindseys, this grand villa features five bedrooms and a beautifully landscaped setting. The home was this year's ASID Design Showhouse, and visitors were amazed at the glorious detail work and old world charm. The house is priced at $1,395,000 and listed by Susan McLeod of Michael Saunders & Company.


Ellie Sanchez has worked in the real estate business for years but last November started as a realtor with RoseBay Real Estate. Naysayers and doomsday prophets warned her against jumping into sales, citing a wobbly economy and too much competition. "I showed a house on my first day and had a contract 48 hours later," says Sanchez. "The closing went through, and everyone is happy. My phone does not stop ringing, and I am consistently busy. The Sarasota market is just fine."


There seems to be a wee glut on the market just now of homes priced from $1-$3 million. At press time, 27 properties priced above $800,000 were for sale in the Oaks, and dozens of listings on Longboat Key were priced from $1 million to $2.5 million. Klaus Lang of Mount Vernon Realty comments that a year ago, sellers were getting what they wanted for their homes but not any more. "I believe that today's seller should not depend on last year's comparables because he will be disappointed," says Lang. "From Longboat to Casey Key, buyers have a lot to choose from right now."


If you are considering becoming a member of the Coral Creek Club in Placida, sooner is better than later. "The price was $75,000 a year ago," says Bob Melvin of Gasparilla Properties. "Now you pay $135,000 to join." The club recently celebrated its one-year anniversary, and golf fanatics continue to fly in from all over the world to play the Tom Fazio-designed course. "Tom is the No. 1 guy in the business," says Melvin. "When it was time to redesign the holes at Augusta, he got the call. And you know how everyone feels about that course." Do not be surprised if former President George Bush asks to play through. It is no secret that the Bush family adores the Boca Grande area, but Bush is also good friends with Ken Raynor, head golf pro for 20 years at Cape Arundel in Kennebunkport and director of golf at Coral Creek Club, who spends six months a year as head pro at Kennebunkport's Cape Arundel.

""We go back over 25 years," says Raynor of his relationship with the former President. George Bush is like a second father

to me. They are like family to me." Bush has not played

Coral Creek Club yet, but looks forward to getting on the course very soon.

Coral Creek offers one clubhouse that was just completed, with a second clubhouse in the works. The Angler's Club caters to members who come by boat, while a planned equestrian center will afford state-of-the-art stables, riding rings and trails sprawled across 226 acres of some of Florida's most pristine landscape. "This is just a beautiful place to be," says Melvin.


Sellers say the darndest things. Erick Shumway of Sarasota Realty Group was cornered by an enthusiastic seller touting the special attributes of his property. The seller boasted that his back yard was private, very secluded, totally isolated from the neighbors. When Shumway did not seem impressed, the seller informed him that the yard was so private that he and the wife could-and did-walk around naked all the time. "It was more information than I really needed and not something I felt should go into the advertisement," says Shumway.

Harry Robbins of Harry E. Robbins Associates Inc. listed a lovely home on several acres for an acquaintance who provided the house key but warned Robbins to never enter the fenced yard without calling first so that he could chain his guard dog, a large Doberman pinscher. Naturally, a buyer asked to see the place and Joe, the owner, could not be found. Robbins suggested they simply drive by the house. The buyer loved the place at first sight and pleaded to go in. "I tried calling Joe again, and no luck," says Robbins. "So I opened the gate and went inside. The dog bounded over, I petted him and played with him and took my client inside. After the showing, I placed my card on the kitchen counter and we left." That evening the seller called Robbins and nervously asked how he managed to get inside the house without being torn to shreds by the trained attack dog. "When I told him I just patted him and played with him, there was dead silence," recounts Robbins.

And then there was the seller who demanded that realtor David Groom put his hands in the air and backed up her words with a loaded gun. "We called a real estate office about showing a house and then drove to that office and picked up the key," explains Groom. "At the house, we knocked and rang the bell and waited. When nobody came to the door, we used the key and went inside. Suddenly, there is a lady in the hallway, wrapped in a towel and dripping water on the floor. She believes we are breaking into her house; and she has a gun under the towel, pointed in our direction. We didn't know about the gun until later and I am thankful for that. My client could have had a heart attack." Apparently, the seller's realtor got busy and neglected to call her about the scheduled showing.

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