Real Estate Gossip

By staff March 1, 2007



The longtime secret beachfront paradise of Manasota Key straddles two counties, giving it a split personality. On the northern Sarasota County end, lovely single-family estates nestle into one-acre lots, shaded by coastal oaks, red cedar tree, palms and tropical flowering foliage. On the southern Charlotte County end, low-rise condominiums and mom-and-pop rule. Mother Nature is respected here; homes meld into the landscape instead of dominating their sites and dwarfing their neighbors, and most buyers are remodeling rather than razing and rebuilding.

Number of Manasota Key properties: 475

Number of sales 12/2005 to 12/2006: 14

Range of sale prices 12/2005 to 12/2006: $700,000 to $5.050 million

Average sale price 12/2005 to 12/2006: $2,095,909

Range of square footage: 1,800 to 7,000  

Recent Sale

This 1,891-square-foot, two-bedroom, two-bath home at 8185 Manasota Key Road sold for $1.5 million after an original list price of $1.65 million. Built in 1978, it offers long south views of the Intracoastal Waterway, a new dock with boat lift and deeded easement to the Gulf of Mexico. The home was completely rebuilt in 2002 with new plumbing, roof, appliances, insulation and more. Nelda Thompson of Nelda Thompson and Associates was the listing agent, and she was the co-selling agent with Paul Reynolds of Realty Executives West Coast.

Sample Listing

Pop star Bobby Vinton owns five separate properties on Manasota Key (he, his mom and his son live in three of them, and two are used for guests). One of those Gulf-front guesthouses, at 7820 Manasota Key Road, is offered for sale at $2.9 million. At 18 feet above sea level, the home’s elevation is extremely advantageous. An impressive stand of coastal oaks shields it from the road and provides privacy. Nelda Thompson of Nelda Thompson and Associates is the listing agent. Previous sales: $500,000 in 1996; $580,000 in 1998; and $2,175,000 in 2005 without any major improvements.

MLS statistics courtesy of Nelda Thompson of Nelda Thompson and Associates. MLS records transactions and listings by members of the Sarasota Board of Realtors Multiple Listing Service.

Top of the Market

Maggie Hutter and Jo Rutstein of Prudential Palms Realty recently captured the highest sale in 2006 for a Longboat Key condominium. A fourth-floor double unit at Vizcaya, 2399 Gulf of Mexico Drive, sold for $5.45 million to buyers from the Midwest who had been looking for their dream home for well over a year. “Maggie and I worked very hard to find something that was just right for our buyers, and when they walked into the Vizcaya condominium, they knew at once that this was the one,” says Rutstein. The 6,600-square-foot home has five lavish bedrooms and five baths, extensive balconies, a gourmet kitchen, full bar, formal dining room and four-car garage. Designer Anne Folsom Smith’s interior boasts incredible workmanship with Grand Illusions trompe l’oeils and custom glass creations by artist Virginia Hoffman. The Vizcaya sale represents the fifth-highest price paid for a resale property on Longboat Key in the last 10 years and the third-highest price ever paid for a Longboat Key condominium.  

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

MEMORY LANE Back in the 1950s, Zelda Dale Walker attended Sarasota’s Alta Vista elementary school and later graduated from Sarasota High. Today she sells real estate in her hometown as a broker/associate with Horizon Realty, and while many talk about the changes time has wrought, Walker has lived them.

“I drive down Bahia Vista past Hidden Oaks North and I can still picture the old homesteaded land that once belonged to the Sirus Family,” recollects Walker. “When I sold the old Stickney Point Hotel, I remembered how Siesta Key once looked with single-family homes on the beach. And I recall the pre-computer days when a home went into estate and I had to track down 13 heirs. It took over a year to find all of the nieces, nephews and cousins, but we got it done.”

Walker says the most significant changes have occurred on Golden Gate Point and in Sarasota’s downtown, with tall buildings drastically altering the city’s silhouette. And Walker is astounded by the ever-increasing numbers of buyers from Britain, Sweden and Australia in addition to the Northeastern United States and California. “The old Sarasota was very beautiful and relatively undiscovered,” says Walker. “Now people know who we are and where we live. The secret that was Sarasota is out.”  

ADAPTATION Cheryl Loeffler, formerly of Prudential Palms Realty and now with Sky Sotheby’s International Realty, has been awarded the Prudential Sales Professional Award for selling the most residential units in the state of Florida during the third quarter of 2006. Loeffler credits her outstanding success rate in a sluggish market to a shift in strategy.

“In analyzing that we were going to have a changing market, I decided to take on as much of the new market as I could handle and go for volume rather than price,” Loeffler explains. “I just went out and showed property all over Sarasota, with an emphasis on condominiums. Instead of selling properties with an average price tag of $1.5 million or more, I began focusing on volume sales in the $200,000 to $400,000 range. As the market or neighborhood shifted, I simply decided to shift as well. You must adapt to the changes around you. I do not believe you can just sit back and take a vacation, waiting for the market to right itself. I stayed out there swinging.”

DREAM SECOND HOMES Oceanfront property and a great golf course beat out ski slopes and a gourmet kitchen for the amenities most desired in a secondary residence, according to a new national study by Architectural Digest and Sky Sotheby’s Realty. Some of the findings: Over 40 percent of consumers under the age of 45 said they may acquire a second home in the near future; of those who already own three or more homes, 49 percent plan to acquire an additional residence within two years; and of those who already own a second home, 35 percent are planning to buy a third home in that same time frame.

The study found that waterfront property is the most sought-after amenity with a score of 75 percent; surprisingly a swimming pool, at a mere 5 percent, was the least significant. Golf courses scored 45 percent, in-home fitness centers and media rooms received scores of 34 percent and 32 percent and wine cellars scored 18 percent. Location on or near a ski slope was ranked at 28 percent, gourmet kitchens scored 10 percent and large back yards, as with pools,  scored a lowly 5 percent. Obviously, luxury homebuyers hate the thought of cleaning the pool or doing yard work. They want a string of houses with no strings attached.

ACCENT ON THE POSITIVE Melba Jimenez came to the United States at 21, earning her graduate degree in biochemistry and conducting research at Shands Hospital in Gainesville while helping her husband start his dental practice. But she held tight to her roots and never forgot her friends back in Puerto Rico.

Today, Jimenez is watching her real estate business snowball and fielding inquiries from prospective buyers who need someone fluent in Spanish to help them find a house and agents searching for a translator. “People find me on the Internet,” marvels Jimenez, of Re/Max Properties. “Some of them know me or my family from Puerto Rico. But many hail from Miami, California, Mexico and Colombia. They seek me out at first for my language skills, but they return because I treat them like family.”

One of her current listings is a Clifford Scholtz-designed Key West-style home on Siesta Key’s Solitude Lane. The four-bedroom home has 3,200 square feet of open living space with a boat dock and pool. It’s listed at $1.5 million.

ALL IN A NAME Karen Thompson married into the British Army and lived in England for many years, where she began collecting artist David Winter’s historically authentic miniature cottages. A self-described Anglophile, Thompson now resides in Sarasota with over 120 porcelain cottages and her own real estate company. But she is so steeped in English tradition that she takes tea with her staff every afternoon and even claims to understand cricket.  So when it came time to name her boutique firm, Castles & Cottages seemed perfect.

“We wanted people to know that we run the gamut here,” describes Thompson, “selling really high-end properties to experienced consumers but also helping babes in the woods buy their very first home. I absolutely love working with young ones who need a bit of hand-holding. And at Castles & Cottages we all labor diligently to create a climate that is warm and welcoming to buyers of widely disparate budgets.” Thompson’s office feels more like a lovely living room than a place of business, with ornate bar and coffee service, leather seating group, thick rugs and antique baker’s rack. The staff of 20 has a decided esprit de corps that Thompson says she finds sadly lacking in mega-companies.

“I refer to our group as The Coterie because we are a circle of people with a common purpose,” she explains. “We have no prima donnas, we do not run roughshod over our own and we are similarly dedicated to serving our clients.” And, she adds, the service is the same, whether someone’s home boasts a turret and moat or is not much bigger than the homes in her collection. 

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