Real Estate Gossip - September 2002

By staff September 1, 2002

That Sotheby's Style

There was a time when Sotheby's listings for Sarasota real estate were few and far between. No more. On any given day in the last year, a well-heeled buyer could preview four or five Sarasota properties with the Sotheby's distinction and rest assured that such homes were among the most magnificent residences in the world. Here is a current sampling.

The late architect Don Chapell's highly sophisticated contemporary home is nestled on an exclusive barrier island overlooking tranquil Pansy Bayou in Lido Shores. The 6,630-square-foot structure offers separate guest suite, working studio, children's wing, two master bedrooms, office, lap pool and outside entertaining area. Sculptural quality and use of color give Chapell's extraordinary design a sense of drama, while outstanding craftsmanship and superior finishes provide warmth. "The ceiling is done in woven cypress," explains listing agent Kim Ogilvie, "while the terrazzo floors showcase these beautiful pieces of gleaming sea glass-huge chunks, actually-collected by the Chapells." Richard M. Moeser, senior vice president of Sotheby's International Realty, dubbed this property "the most significant home in Florida, if not the entire Southeast." The Chapell home is priced at $5.3 million.

Just across the bridge on Longboat Key and elevated several stories above the Gulf of Mexico is a very different feast for the senses. Enter this glamorous residence at Vizcaya and step back in time with marble floors, elaborate ceilings, recessed lighting and richly textured fabrics with a decidedly retro accent. Anne Folsom Smith created a 1930s Moderne masterpiece using unique furnishings, period artwork and tropical details. The team of Patricia Landsberg, Jeffrey Granston and Mary Ann Pipes is delighted to present this Sotheby's listing for $4.25 million.

Or perhaps you prefer total privacy and vast views? Landsberg and company also offer a Mediterranean beauty on the Manatee River, featuring 8,000 square feet of living space on more than two acres and a private beach looking across water all the way to the Skyway Bridge. "This house is absolutely incredible," says Landsberg, "from the marble floors to the disappearing-edge pool. It has guest quarters, over 200 feet of river frontage, a gorgeous dock, phenomenal finishes and total seclusion within a very upscale subdivision. When Richard [Moeser] came to have a look for Sotheby's, his jaw dropped. And the price is an astounding $2.95 million. This might be the best luxury buy on the market right now."

Discerning buyers who value quality and charm yet don't want a mega-house will love a Spanish-style gem overlooking a pretty yacht basin on deep water in Harbor Acres. Lovingly and expertly renovated by Margo Bohaty and Phil Chmieleski of Sandcastles of Sarasota, the home sits in its original footprint but features the finest finishes, high ceilings, an exceptionally appointed kitchen with a butler's pantry and luxurious master retreat with office, exercise room, wet bar, sun porch and two porticos. "This is 4,000 square feet of incredible detail and one-of-a-kind materials," says listing agent Debbie Judge. "Each bedroom has its own courtyard. The fountain basin in the garden is handmade. The handpainted Mexican tile is simply beautiful. Sandcastles redid this home with authenticity and integrity." Judge and partner Tonni Welch have this Sotheby's listing for $2.85 million.

Dog Day Afternoon

The Sarasota Film Festival attracts many celebrities to Sarasota, and some decide to take a look at our real estate market, seeking a good investment and a pristine paradise where they can escape from Tinsel Town for a while. Such clients have a reputation for eccentricity, and some degree of self-absorption is to be expected.

But realtor Karen Chandler has a story of indifference to others that few can match. "I scheduled a meeting with a gentleman in the film industry to discuss selling one Sarasota property and purchasing another," recalls Chandler. "I walked into his absolutely beautiful home for our appointment and was practically knocked to the floor by his two gigantic Russian wolfhounds. These dogs were all over me, jumping and leaping, and my client was absolutely deadpan. He kept right on talking, never missing a beat, while these animals persisted throughout the entire meeting. I literally could not get them off me. It was a physical battle with these two huge dogs, and I swear the man did not even blink an eye. I had to go home after the meeting and completely shower and change clothes. I joked with people in my office that I'd better get flowers and candy from the dogs the next day. But the client never even noticed."

Club Living

Where the Golfers Go

Waterfront is wonderful, but have you ever wondered where buyers go when they don't wish to live alongside Gulf or bay? Country club properties generate the second largest amount of real estate dollars and have become a very hot commodity, says Marcia McLaughlin of ReMax Properties. Why? Aesthetics, amenities and a national obsession with a little white ball.

"As retirees continue to pour into our area, they bring a demand for a luxury lifestyle," explains McLaughlin. "Gorgeous clubhouses with state-of-the-art fitness centers, fine dining and sparkling pools have tremendous appeal." Sarasota's country club communities are well-planned and conveniently located, she adds, yet have a distinctive resort feel.

Country club dwellers are a broad mix of ages these days, as younger people are retiring or choosing to relocate to Sarasota and connect to home offices via the Internet. Families enjoy the social life provided by a club and the security of living within restricted access areas. Sidewalks and parks establish a sense of community. Country clubs also provide an upscale option for singles and couples, with luxury townhouses and stylish condominiums. Professionals and young marrieds can entertain lavishly at the club, work out after a hard day at the office and take pride in a grand entry and tropical landscaped surround without one moment of yard work. And then there is golf.

"Sarasota has a reputation as a fabulous destination for golfers," reports McLaughlin. "Golfers fly in to play area courses and decide they want to live here. The quality and diversity of golf in this area have a decided impact on real estate sales." Right now, University Park Golf & Country Club is considered a premier property, and the opening of the new clubhouse at Lakewood Ranch has sparked a number of sales. Buyers can expect to pay anywhere from $200,000 for a modest villa to $7.8 million for a lavish home.

What a View!

The award for most spectacular view simply must go to the Marina Tower penthouse listed by Susan McLeod. Gaze out 32-foot-high windows to see Selby Gardens and across the Gulf to Longboat Key. A stunning roof garden allows a sweeping northward view up the Intracoastal Waterway. "Lying in bed in the master suite, you can look straight out and see a sky filled with stars and all of the sparkling city lights," says McLeod. "The sight is absolutely stunning." The penthouse offers three terraces, marble floors, a private elevator and access to downtown without ever driving a car. "Walk to the Ritz, walk to Palm Avenue, dinner and the theater," adds McLeod. "This is that cosmopolitan, sohisticated city lifestyle that is luring people off the islands for a home in the heart of it all." The penthouse is offered for $3.8 million.

Nigerian No-Go

Realtors Michael and Nancy Falkenstein answered the telephone recently and hastily began scribbling notes for a very special client. "A military general from Nigeria was seeking a large property in Sarasota, with seclusion and acres of land surrounding a massive home," explains Michael. "His representative explained to us that the general intended to create a family compound and was willing to pay an enormous sum of money to get exactly what he envisioned."

The Falkensteins located a $6 million property that surpassed his requirements and e-mailed photographs and particulars. A favorable response followed, with an offer to buy the place sight unseen and the promise of $200,000 more than their commission if the Falkensteins were willing to travel to Nigeria and handle the financial transaction.

"The memo said the general was under surveillance and could not leave the country nor withdraw significant sums of money without drawing attention," says Michael. "The suggestion was for Nancy and me to go to Nigeria and open an account into which we would deposit money transferred to us in cash by the general's representative. Later, we would funnel this money into an offshore account and close the deal."

Smelling a rat, the Falkensteins discontinued negotiations. Since then, they have heard through the grapevine that other agents in Sarasota have been contacted, and the details are quite similar. So if you happen upon a mustachioed gentleman (sporting epaulets and two bodyguards) purchasing fine cigars at Morton's, don't cut in front of him in line.

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