Real Estate Go$$ip - January 2006

By staff January 1, 2006


A true country club lifestyle with sparkling swimming pools, acres of fairways and winding bicycle paths attracts homeowners to the gated community of University Park. Tucked into Sarasota's northeast corner and technically part of Manatee County, University Park offers a quiet alternative to the bustle of downtown and the traffic of the keys, yet is just minutes away from restaurants, schools, shopping and cinemas. Residents have easy access to the interstate, if they ever wish to leave their neighborhood of broad boulevards and shady cul-de-sacs.

Number of University Park properties: 1,100

Number of sales 9/2004-9/2005: 94

Range of sales prices 9/2004-9/2005: $272,000 to $1.93 million

Square footage: 1,344 to 5,076 square feet

SAMPLE SALE A Spanish Mediterranean residence at 7211 Marlow Place sold last summer for $1.14 million; the list price was $1.25 million. Outdoor living areas make the most of private preserve views, with swimming pool, spa, pavered deck and summer kitchen. Sarasota Reciprocal sold the home; the listing agents were Mary Mastro and Jana T. Martin of Keller Williams Platinum Realty. Previous sale: $960,000 in March 2004.

SAMPLE LISTING A lakefront home at 8309 Abingdon Court, offered for $939,900, boasts a poolside entertainment center and beautiful palms and blooming plants. The kitchen has granite counters, breakfast bar and a butler's pantry. Furnishings may be purchased separately. Listing agent is Ed Haggerty of Prudential Palms Realty.

MLS statistics courtesy of Ed Haggerty of Prudential Palms Realty. MLS records transactions and listings by members of the Sarasota Board of Realtors Multiple Listing Service.

Top of the Market

A 6,300-square-foot beach home on over an acre of Gulf-front recently captured the top of the market, selling for $7.5 million after being listed at $7,975,000. The comfortably elegant home at 6121 Gulf Of Mexico Drive in Longboat Key's Sleepy Lagoon has six bedrooms, four-and-a-half baths and a garage that can accommodate eight automobiles. Reid Murphy of TNGR-Developers Realty Inc. was the selling agent.

Sales information provided by Kim Ogilvie of Michael Saunders & Company.

SADDLE UP Buyers hungry for a bit of breathing room may want to saddle up and ride east. The gated equestrian community of Steeplechase Estates in Manatee County has opened Phases I and II, with 60 five-acre parcels offered at $55,000 to $75,000 per acre.

Broker Mary Smedley of La Vista Homes Realty Group is enthusiastic about the new development, which features bridle paths, lighted trails and a beautiful polo club. "The community will be a blend of elegant ranches, spacious country homes and handsome traditional architecture, with each custom home designed and constructed by five of the area's top-notch builders," says Smedley.

Formerly a sod farm, the development will ultimately encompass some 184 lots for single-family homes. Builders are Trend, Avalon, Mark Cahill Homes, Eslinger Homes and La Vista Homes. Current pricing for five-acre home sites and homes starts at approximately $700,000.

WORLD VIEW Realtor Mark Riley, of the Mark P. Riley Luxury Real Estate Group, has a degree in international economics, so it makes sense that he travels the world selling Sarasota. Riley talks to would-be buyers on every continent about the investment strategy of purchasing a slice of the Sarasota pie. To date, over a third of his real estate sales are to international clients. "Our little niche is the upper-end buyer who is keenly interested in luxury real estate as a business investment," explains Riley.

Riley recently returned from Buenos Aires, where he met with interested investors and described some of Sarasota's innumerable charms. "Some people sell real estate from the office, but I get on a plane and fly to other countries with my laptop," says Riley. "We have found our corner of the market."

A typical Riley listing is a Boca Siesta Bayside home offered for $3.295 million. The Mediterranean beauty is surrounded by security fences with an electric gate and overlooks sparkling water and a 45-foot deep-water boat dock. Completely furnished and accessorized in the Tommy Bahama theme, the interior has travertine marble, cherry hardwoods, an elevator and state-of-the-art electronics. The gourmet kitchen is loaded with granite and stainless steel appliances.

LET'S CHAT Convenience is clicking on the computer to survey available properties. But what happens when prospective buyers have questions? David Barr, broker/owner of Abode Realty, built his business on technology's cutting edge and, as usual, is again one step ahead.

"We now offer a live chat feature enabling anyone visiting our Web site to 'talk' with a real, live human being," says Barr. "When someone has questions, this person will have answers. The response time will be instantaneous. And it can all happen without us paying staff personnel to sit inside an empty office and wait for someone to walk through the door."

Abode continues to improve and update its Web site, which features all documents, contracts, even personalized transaction calendars with contingency dates and deadlines highlighted. Buyers and sellers simply log on with user names and secured passwords, and their entire real estate portfolio is accessible for their personal review.

Barr firmly believes his new "live chat" will capture visitors and give Abode the opportunity to establish that first all-important contact. "Technology makes everything easier and therefore less expensive," Barr explains. "This efficiency translates into more quality time spent serving the client's needs."

MATCHMAKING Realtor Marcia L. McLaughlin saw the overwhelmingly positive reactions of every potential buyer who walked inside her listing at 8159 Abingdon Court in University Park. So when the charming residence was chosen as a feature home in Romantic Homes magazine, she was not surprised.

"Everyone falls in love with this house," explains McLaughlin. "The courtyard is filled with flowers, lighting, open decking, hot tub and even a pool with a waterfall. Inside, the homeowner has showcased impressive collections of antique dolls, vintage linen and lace children's clothing, old coins and buttons. Each room features some special touch, and the guest suite is beautifully done in a tropical theme. These owners started with a good house and then transformed the interior into a decorating masterpiece." An expanded version of the Lismore custom courtyard home, the property is listed for $895,000.

EXTREME MAKEOVER Sarasota realtors may be hotly competitive, but sometimes cooperation saves the day.

Janis Collier of Michael Saunders & Company had buyers from Ohio. Michael Cochrane, of Coldwell Banker, had sellers from England. The Tangerine Bay condominium was perfect, and Collier's lovely couple bought the unit, furnishings and accessories included. "But when we did the walk-through just before the closing," explains Collier, "we were horrified to discover that the place had been stripped bare. Gone were all the mirrors, artwork and decorative pieces in the kitchen and baths. The silks were gone. The candles and cushions were gone. Every accessory was just gone. Michael and I figured out, too late, that the British couple did not understand the meaning of the term 'turnkey' and they had taken it all with them."

The sellers agreed to remit a portion of the sale price, and Collier explained to her buyers that they now had the necessary funds to replace everything and accessorize the condominium to their exact taste. But they had no wish to do that. They wanted the condo turnkey, as promised. So Collier and Cochrane got busy.

"We spent three days shopping and hunting and looking and finding everything for that place," says Collier. "I'm talking pillows for the sofa and silk floral arrangements and framed pieces and ornamentals and bathroom stuff and kitchen tchotchkes. We hit every store in Sarasota and when we were finished, we jumped into the air and high-fived each other because the place looked so terrific!"

Both realtors wanted to be there for the reaction, and the Ohio couple did not disappoint. "They absolutely loved the result, the closing proceeded and Michael and I felt so great about the whole experience. We were frantic but it was fun."

THE BRITISH ARE COMING Thanks to years spent visiting his wife's family in London, realtor Al Horrigan, founder with Ronnie DeWitt of RSVP Realty, feels a kinship with Great Britain and delights in showing Sarasota to visitors from across the pond.

That's why RSVP has become the first U.S. real estate company to affiliate with Savills, Europe's respected real estate company and the market leader in commercial, residential and agricultural real estate. Founded in 1855, Savills is the longest-established real estate company in the United Kingdom, with 250 offices in 21 countries.

"Most of my sales to U.K. residents are for investment or vacation escapes from Britain's ugly months," Horrigan explains. "And the moment they see the Savills name, there's instant credibility."

Interestingly, simple name-recognition recently landed RSVP a top-drawer waterfront listing, when the seller decided his Longboat Key Club home would probably sell to a European buyer. "He calls his place 'Las Fuentes,' because there are two lovely fountains at the entry," says Horrigan. "It is a beautiful Mediterranean villa overlooking the Gulf of Mexico, and every detail is magnificent. The house offers some 7,700 square feet of luxurious living space with enough parking for 12 cars. The views are spectacular, and the actual sand on the private beach gets groomed every week." Las Fuentes is offered at $13.85 million.

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