Real Estate Gossip

By staff October 1, 2007

Neighborhood Watch

Glittering Golden Gate Point

Once a ragtag assemblage of low-slung, ‘60s-era vacation villas, Golden Gate Point has turned it into one of the area’s hottest luxury condo communities. The pretty 22-acre peninsula was called Cedar Point back in the 1920s, when John Ringling’s name was on the property deed and his Italianate mansion, Cà d’ Zan, was under construction up the road. Nowadays, it’s prime real estate, boasting The Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota as a next-door neighbor. The knockout views encompass Selby Gardens, Bayfront Park, Bird Key, the Ringling Causeway and beyond Big Pass across the Gulf of Mexico. A building resurgence in the mid-1990s resulted in signature buildings like The Phoenix, Alta Mer, Renaissance and Golden Bay. These premier properties have been joined in the last three years by distinctive skyline silhouettes including Grand Riviera, Majestic Bay and LaBellasara. A few of those old-timey villas remain—but not along the waterfront.

Number of Golden Gate Point owners: 1,300

Number of sales 7/2006-7/2007: 8

Range of sales prices: $274,900 to $4.2 million

Average sales price: $1.5 million

Range of square footage: 383 to 6,000-plus

* Sales reflect only those reported to the Sarasota Association of Realtors’ MLS from July 1, 2006, through June 30, 2007, and do not include sales of new condos made by developers, realtor sales not reported to MLS or private sales by owners.

Recent Listing

This 3,290-square-foot, lavishly finished corner residence at LaBellasara is listed at $2.9 million. It has three bedroom suites with private terraces, a study, designer kitchen and breakfast room, separate dining room and grand salon opening to almost 800 square feet of terrace, complete with summer kitchen. LaBellasara’s amenities include fitness center, club and catering areas, media room, pool and spa. Pat Betts of Michael Saunders & Company is the listing agent.

Recent Sale

Spectacular western views of Sarasota Bay and the John Ringling Causeway were definite selling points for this 3,785-square-foot, three-bedroom unit at The Phoenix, which sold recently for $1,975,000 following an original list price of $2.25 million. A top-of-the-line European kitchen, bamboo and slate floors, fireplace, spacious outdoor terrace, private elevator and private two-car garage are among its luxury features. Michael Moulton and Annette Rogers of Michael Saunders & Company were the listing and selling agents.

MLS statistics courtesy of Debra Lichter of Michael Saunders & Company. MLS records transactions and listings by members of the Sarasota Board of Realtors Multiple Listing Service.

Top of the Market

A Sarasota Polo Club home at 8060 Cow Camp Lane, which sold for $6.9 million after an original list price of $8.95 million, captured the highest price in July residential sales. The nine-bedroom estate is set on nearly 14 acres overlooking the polo grounds. Manicured lawns and natural landscaping frame an 8,000-square-foot lanai surrounding a gorgeous swimming pool and spa. There are eight full baths and four half baths, a grand parlor, formal dining room, gourmet kitchen, two family rooms, two offices, a den and exercise room with gymnasium floor padding. The home has 11,763 square feet of living space with an additional 1,352 square feet of guest quarters above the four-car garage. A full barn with multiple stalls is located on the property. Stacy Haas of SKY Sotheby’s International Realty was the listing agent and Jaime Scully of Coldwell Banker was the selling agent.

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

French Accents

A most unusual Longboat Key home meshing Old World elegance and beach cottage comforts is offered for sale for $6.9 million. The Ragland-Lewis estate resembles a country estate in Provence, with ivy-covered walls, flowers blooming in earthen pots and gently rolling landscape—that is, until you wander over the hill and down the bricked pathways to more than 100 feet of private white sand beach. 

The present owner is an American who spends a good deal of time in Southern France, explains listing agent Maureen Horn of Prudential Palms Realty. She saw 1.3 acres of unfulfilled potential on the Gulf of Mexico and was able to see what could be created there. “In 1992, there were three ugly structures on the property, trash everywhere and a dirt road to the beach,” explains Horn. “But this woman focused on the three magnificent banyan trees, the dense foliage and the water views. She moved the smallest structure to the front of the property and transformed it into a lovely carriage house. The largest structure in the center of the property was selected as the main house and capped with a concrete slab in order to create a second floor, portico and balconies. The dwelling closest to the water was turned into an adorable beach cottage complete with fireplace.”

And most importantly, the owner brought in enormous quantities of fill to build up a gentle rise and create the rolling look of French farmland. “As you approach the house, driving up the long and shady driveway,” describes Horn, “the grounds are unlike any place in Sarasota. You absolutely feel like you are at someone’s European estate. ”  

Instead of a front door, the main house has 28 French doors with 28 custom wooden shutters that actually open and close. All of the dwellings have plaster walls and barrel tile roofs and are furnished in the Provence style with sumptuous imported fabrics in the traditional bright blue, strong yellow, soft salmon pink and rose shades of Southern France. Authentic in design and detail, the beautiful kitchen has massive granite countertops for baking pastries and rolling out homemade pasta. Combined, the three dwellings offer more than 6,000 square feet with nine bedrooms, nine bathrooms, a library, dining room, multiple living rooms and numerous covered loggias, terraces and porches.

“This home offers something different, something very special,” says Horn. “The grounds are in pristine condition and the home, cottage and carriage house have been lovingly maintained. The owner is only selling because she owns several estates and needs to spend more of her time elsewhere. She told me that when she stands in the kitchen and looks around she sees her grandchildren crowded around the counter, and you can just feel that warmth. Everyone who sees this home falls in love.”

Prospective buyers have included a gentleman from Switzerland and a woman from Great Britain, both of whom marveled at the European flavor of the homes and grounds.

Go Fish

The unique Siesta Key waterfront estate called Snook Inn has a “For Sale” sign in the yard and a price tag of $19.5 million, luring buyers who wish to live surrounded by water. Set on nearly two acres of gated grounds, the Old-Florida home has six bedrooms and six and a half baths, with 6,500 feet of living space in the main house and a 3,200-square foot-deepwater boathouse complete with captain and guest quarters. A 50-foot swimming pool with tropical landscaping rivals that of an exclusive resort, and extensive porches and verandahs stretch the length of the home.

Snook Inn is bordered by 500 total feet of waterfront, including 270 feet along the open bay. The boathouse was built on the canal side, offering protected water with two docks large enough to accommodate 50-foot crafts. A third dock on Sarasota Bay offers tie-ups and mooring for visiting vessels. 

“Snook Inn is a rare find,” says Paulene Soublis of Premier Properties, co-listing agent with Marcia Salkin. “It’s unusual to find a private gated estate so close to town that allows you to be boating in the Gulf of Mexico just minutes after leaving your dock. The present owner is an avid deep-sea fisherman, and he loved the convenience of no bridges and bayfront access.”

Hoist the Sales

Enticing brokers to preview properties is part of every realtor’s job description, and stirring up enthusiasm can be a challenge. So when Soublis and Salkin needed to get realtors on board with the Snook Inn listing, they chartered a yacht. More than 100 of Sarasota’s top real estate agents were invited aboard the 45-foot Explorer IV to see Snook Inn and three other waterfront properties from a different vantage point.

Calm winds, blue skies and playful dolphins only enhanced the four luxury listings on tour, including properties on Bird Key, Siesta Key and in Harbor Acres. The posh event ended in a catered buffet dinner and tequila bar, and Salkin and Soublis even provided brightly colored flip-flops to those landlubbers whose shoes were not deemed seaworthy.

You’ve Gotta Be Kidding

Jim Festa of ADI Property Management provides a full range of condominium management services, everything from million-dollar budget preparation to hiring the gardener who keeps the flower beds in bloom. “We hear it all,” he says, “from clients who cannot refrain from calling us to those who do not pick up the telephone when they should.”

Take a typical summer afternoon, in the midst of a violent thunderstorm with lightning flashing and rain pouring down in sheets. Festa answers the phone and braces himself. The caller wants to know why the yard men have not shown up. After a taking a deep breath, Festa politely asks if she has noticed the weather or the fact that the power is out in her neighborhood. His client testily shoots back that the crew could at least come and trim her hedges because that machine does not use electricity; she happens to know it’s gasoline-powered.

Not five minutes later, the fire department calls to notify Festa that a metal garage has torn away from a condominium and is being swept along Swift Road. “After determining that the fire department has safely handled the situation and hauled the structure off the highway, I immediately call the resident at this condo and ask her if the garage is missing,” says Festa. “She says yes, that she watched it tear off and blow away. When asked why she didn’t notify us at once, she explained that she figured we were probably very busy during the storm and didn’t need to be bothered.”

Sweet Deal

Brian McGreevy of Re/Max Gulfstream Realty has a friendly, open face, and he frequently hears that he looks like someone’s favorite cousin. But even he was surprised when a recent client swore she recognized him from the distant past.

McGreevy was showing properties to a client relocating to Sarasota for business whose wife was still up North. When McGreevy and he found just the right house, the client was delighted. “He informed me that his wife loved the description and at last, she would be joining him to look at the house,” says McGreevy. “We agreed to meet there, and as we were introduced she looked at me in a funny way and then just kept looking at me instead of looking at the house.” 

The woman seemed so distracted that McGreevy finally asked her if something was amiss. “She asked if I had ever been to New Hampshire and I said yes,” he explains. “She then asked if I had ever heard of New London, and I told her that, coincidentally, I had attended high school there. She inquired if I remembered a girl from New London, and she named my high school sweetheart. I was showing the house to my old flame’s sister!” 

His new clients did buy the house, and McGreevy asked for his former girlfriend’s telephone number. “We are both happily married to other people now, but we enjoyed catching up after all the years,” he says. “You have to love the real estate business. I mean, what are the odds that I would show my former sweetheart’s sister a house?”

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