Real Estate Go$$ip - March 2006

By staff March 1, 2006


Island of Venice

Connected to the mainland by three bridges, the Island of Venice boasts 17 miles of waterfront, palm-lined boulevards, lots of parks and a charming retail district with restaurants, boutiques and an old-fashioned ice cream parlor. Enthusiastic audiences pack the award-winning Venice Little Theatre, and some of the area's best fishing can be found at the South Jetty. The Gulf side of the island is a rich mix of private residences, condominiums and hotels, while the Intracoastal side is mostly made up of quiet residential neighborhoods.

Number of Island of Venice properties: Approximately 7,500

Number of sales 11/2004 to 11/2005: 2,526

Range of sales prices 11/2004 to 11/2005: $239,000 to $3.97 million

Average sale price 11/2004 to 11/2005: $650,000

Square footage: 768 to 3,116 square feet

Sample Sale

A three-bedroom home at 504 Alhambra Road sold recently at its list price of $500,000. Built in 1953, the home is within an easy walk of the beach and downtown Venice. Selling agent was LueAnne Wood of Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate. Wood co-listed the property with Larry Kurtzo, also of Coldwell Banker. Previous sales: $485,000 in December 2004; $420,000 in March 2004.

Sample Listing

A custom-built home at 316 West Bay Drive, designed in the Italian Renaissance style, is offered for $3.7 million. The Old World masterpiece is located on a private road adjacent to the bay, offering full bay views and no bridges to the Gulf of Mexico. The home has the feel of a luxury estate, featuring 3,512 square feet of living space, three-car garage, formal dining room, state-of-the-art kitchen, wet bar, gym, pool, spa, seawall, dock and boat lift. Lush landscaping is enhanced by outdoor lighting and a working fountain. Top-of-the-line finishes include stained glass, travertine, granite, onyx, bamboo and Florida cypress. Listing agent is Andrew Smajdor of Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate.

MLS statistics courtesy of Don Saltzman of Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate of South Venice. MLS records transactions and listings by members of the Sarasota Board of Realtors Multiple Listing Service.

Top of the Market

A recently renovated Harbor Acres residence at 1309 Vista Drive, situated on 1.5 acres and 230 feet of bayfront, takes the top price for residential sales this month. The two-story, 5,688-square-foot home was built in 1969. Dramatic panoramic views capture the downtown skyline, Ringling Causeway, Bird Key and Big Pass, stretching past Siesta Key to the Gulf of Mexico. Manicured grounds and two mature banyan trees provide shade and privacy. The original list price was $7.8 million and the home was sold for $6.5 million by Debra Pitell of Michael Saunders & Company.

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

CHARLESTON CHARM Homebuyers hungering for a sense of community along with historic charm and traditional style may have found their Camelot. Charleston Place, a 95-residence community being built on Venetia Bay Boulevard in Venice, seeks to re-create the urban character and neighborhood feel of its namesake city.

The project will feature a mix of one- and two-bedroom condominiums and townhomes ranging from 1,200 to 2,100 square feet along tree-lined boulevards with period streetlamps. Taking its architectural and landscaping cues from Charleston, S.C., the development will offer exteriors that replicate the pleasing color palette of Charleston and interiors with hardwood floors, fireplaces, crown moldings and elevated ceilings. Lushly landscaped common areas will incorporate walking paths with benches, fountains, statuary and wrought iron.

Landscape architect Larry Washmuth spent time in the South Carolina city studying indigenous plants and trees before creating his outline for the Venice community. Linda Stevenson of Stevenson Architects, the firm that oversaw the $15 million restoration of Cà d'Zan, designed the community meeting house. "When I learned that one of the goals of Charleston Place was to emulate the ambiance of Charleston, my interest level soared," says Stevenson. "I saw this as a wonderful opportunity to echo that city's historical charm and elegance in the design."

And size matters. "One of the major differences between Charleston Place and the majority of other community developments on the Gulf Coast is scale," explains architect James F. Soller of James Soller & Associates. "Almost everywhere there's a new project built, you see towering construction cranes soaring 15 or 18 stories into the sky. Charleston Place is three stories high, with varying elevations that remind one more of an old brownstone neighborhood than an anonymous glass and cement high-rise."

LISTING HISTORY Nora Johnson of Michael Saunders & Company enjoys selling properties with a past. One of her current listings, a lovely Cape Cod-styled classic on Ainsley Place near the Ringling Museum, is beckoning buyers who seek Old Florida charm and the romanticism of an estate property spanning almost an acre on Sarasota Bay.

"A long, grand driveway leads up to the house, which was built in the 1930s and redone in 1985 and 1991," says Johnson. "Inside there are heart-of-pine floors, pecky cypress ceilings, amazing detail in the woodwork and fabulous crown molding." The 3,841-square-foot main house has five bedrooms and three and a half baths. An original detached garage, situated at the front of the property, is ideal for a guest apartment or artist's studio. Sweeping views and lush lawn with stately palm trees surround the home, priced at $2,795,000.

Johnson has another historic listing with a past: a gracious estate home located on Siesta Key's North Bay Island that was built in 1924. Completely renovated in 1985 and 2004, this residence boasts the easy charm of Florida's casual island lifestyle, surrounded by water and native landscaping. It's priced at $2.95 million.

AT YOUR SERVICE When Susan Robinson and her husband, Ferruh Muktar, were at the height of their corporate careers and traveling constantly, they would have paid an arm and a leg to find someone to prepare their Sarasota vacation home for their arrival. "I remember dragging into Sarasota late and exhausted, pushing a grocery cart through Publix and then unloading the car and vacuuming and making up the beds with clean sheets, all the time thinking how ridiculous this was," says Robinson. "What I would have given to have had someone stock the refrigerator and clean and prepare my house so that when I did find a few precious moments to relax in Sarasota, everything would be ready for me."

Finally retired from the high-stress corporate rat race, Robinson and her husband started Key Concierge, doing unto others as they would have loved others to do unto them. They collect the mail, maintain automobiles and boats, make sure the air conditioning is working and that the landscape crew and pool guy are actually showing up. Bonded, licensed and insured, Key Concierge will arrange for cleaning services, accept deliveries or oversee renovations on properties from Manatee County to Casey Key.

Rates vary, based on the square footage of the home and the types of services required, but Robinson has found that people don't always care about the costs. "When you own a house worth millions, you just want someone to take good care of the place and make your life easy," she says.

NATURE LOVERS ONLY When Barbara Dumbaugh of Michael Saunders & Company listed the fabulous old house on Waldemere Street, she fell in love with the enormous oak trees and gorgeous landscaping in the back yard and was impressed with how the seller brought nature's beauty into the home. "This property was such a surprise when you walked in," says Dumbaugh. "The lot is simply huge, quite lush and very peaceful. The owner, a feng shui advisor, carried that serenity inside with minimalist décor, red and black colorations and beautiful Asian art, furnishings and decor, all in exquisite taste."

While preparing to show the house on a beautiful cool afternoon, Dumbaugh decided to open all of the back doors to allow the prospective buyer to experience the home's tranquility and graceful transition from interior to exterior space. "There I am, going on about nature and the pristine setting and the good karma," says Dumbaugh, "when I observe the buyer looking at me in a funny manner and saying 'Yeah, I see what you mean.'" Dumbaugh turned around just in time to see a squirrel enter the house and seat itself at the dining room table, paws folded expectantly.

"He actually placed his little paws on the table as if waiting to be served a meal," laughs Dumbaugh. "It was the weirdest thing. After a few moments of staring at us and waiting, I suppose the squirrel realized that we were not serving dinner. He looked a bit disappointed as he climbed down the chair and slowly walked away. The whole episode was very peaceful and a little surreal."

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