Real Estate Gossip

By staff March 1, 2008



The serene and settled neighborhood of Cherokee Park is tucked between Tamiami Trail and Sarasota Bay behind pretty whitewashed walls overgrown with bougainvillea vines and hibiscus blooms. Wide boulevards and a parklike setting create a welcoming entry. Neighbors know each other by first name and frequently gather for holiday parties and potluck suppers. Impressive new residences stand alongside gracious older homes occupied by longtime Sarasotans who have seen the town change significantly since the 1930s and 40s, when many of these first houses were built. Quietly prestigious and ideally located between downtown Sarasota and the beaches of Siesta Key, Cherokee Park remains a sought-after address.

Total number of sales 12/2006-12/2007: 5

Total number of property owners: 94

Range of sale prices: $804,000 to $6.6 million

Range of square footage: 2,852 to 10,000

Sample Listing

A spectacular new waterfront home on a double lot at the end of a quiet cul-de-sac is currently offered for sale for $4.7 million. Located at 1509 Lodge Drive, it has four bedrooms, five full baths, a media room, an 800-bottle wine room, library, chef's kitchen, lavish swimming pool and outdoor kitchen. Luxurious finishes include Brazilian cherry and pecky cypress, natural stone counters and travertine floors. Beautiful architectural details abound, including vaulted ceilings, arched doorways and windows, and a tile roof. Boat and jet ski lifts are situated on a private canal with no bridges to the bay and full water views. R. Craig Adams of Paradigm Properties is the listing agent.

Recent Sale

A Key West-style home at 1766 Cherokee Drive sold recently for $1,735,000 following a list price of $1,895,000. The 4,393-square-foot open floor plan has bamboo and tile floors, crown molding, 10-foot ceilings and custom woodworking, and a gourmet kitchen with six-burner gas stove. The oversized pool with brick-pavered deck provides a spacious entertaining area with open and covered patios. The property was listed by Peter Snyder of Century 21 Dockside Realty, and Frank Goerdes of Re/Max Properties was the selling agent. Previous sale: $540,000 in June 2003 (the current home was built in 2004).

MLS statistics courtesy of Dede Curran 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 three-story Georgian mansion overlooking Sarasota Bay in The Oaks captured top price for Sarasota County real estate sales in December at $6,077,500, after a list price of $7.9 million. The 11,293-square-foot home at 120 Osprey Point has seven bedrooms and seven full baths, a chef's kitchen, media room, bonus room, office-library and attached mother-in-law suite. Large outdoor verandas, second-floor balconies and ground-level terraces surround an oversized pool and spa. The property has 145 feet of bayfront with private boat dock and sunset views to the Gulf of Mexico. Jason Grande of SKY Sotheby's International Realty was the listing agent; Deborah Beacham of Premier Properties of Southwest Florida was the selling agent.

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

Backyard Bonanza

Good things come in small packages. And a quaint bungalow with a beautifully landscaped back yard offers a wow factor that few buyers can resist. The two-bedroom, two-bath home in the Ringling Museum area was already loaded with charm, featuring 10-foot ceilings, stone floors and a wood-burning fireplace. But when owners Bill Couch and Jesse Poston transformed the yard into a Shangri-La of waterfalls, fountains, flowers and handsome pool with deck, the property truly became someplace special.

“These two guys are so good at what they do, I really believe they could go into business and make a small fortune,” says Lynn Robbins of Coldwell Banker.

“They took a ho-hum back yard and created this beautiful space that draws everyone outside and offers a sort of al fresco living room. They did every bit of the design and labor themselves, and the finished result is just spectacular.” The 1,100-square-foot bungalow is just two blocks from the bay. Tall trellises atop a six-foot fence are covered with blooming jasmine and offer total privacy. Robbins recently listed the property for $390,000.

Turning the Key

Casey Key reflects the sluggish real estate market with only 10 sales in

2007, half of those tagged with prices below $3 million. But there is a silver lining. Tom Stone, realtor with Michael Saunders & Company, has just listed three Casey Key properties—two of them waterfront, the other with water views—for $1,495,000, $1,585,000 and $1.65 million. He believes these properties at these prices are going to create some momentum.

“When people wake up and realize they can live on Casey for a million and a half, they are going to make a move,” says Stone. “These are quality homes that have already been remodeled. For land value alone, these properties are priced to sell.”

Traditionally, Casey Key has held its high-end sales very well, with nothing sold under $2 million in 2006 and the average sale price during that same year at $4.1 million. Buyers at this level, explains Stone, have no credit issues and no problem accessing their money, so the luxury market is typically immune to small economic bumps.

And at the height of sales in 2005, buyers were willing to pay a premium for homes that were finished, furnished and ready to receive. “People had plenty of money and very little patience,” explains Stone. “They were unwilling to remodel or tear down and start over, waiting for a year or two to get in. They wanted new product and they wanted it now. Bring the luggage and a toothbrush and move right in.”

In today’s less certain market, buyers have pulled up short, watching the economy and waiting to see if prices will drop. And many sellers have taken their high-end houses off the market because they do not have to sell. The ensuing stagnation slows everything, until a rock thrown into the quiet pool causes a few ripples. “We have been waiting for something to shift and get things moving,” says Stone. “I am sensing a change.”

Top Floor, Top Drawer

Cheryl Loeffler of SKY Sotheby’s International Realty is becoming something of an expert on living high, with an entire portfolio of penthouse properties for the discerning buyer. Soaring high above Sarasota in elevators headed straight for the top, she has seen the breathtaking views and touched the fabulous finishes. But even Loeffler was speechless when she walked inside her newest listing at Orchid Beach on Lido.

“The residence itself is beautifully done, with the best of everything in a sophisticated, tasteful design by Anne Folsom Smith,” she says. “And then you look out the windows, positioned just perfectly for sunsets and sunrises, all the way to Siesta Key and across downtown. You just cannot stop looking.”

A lavish master bedroom, expansive outdoor terraces, chef’s kitchen and three-car enclosed garage at ground level are among its many features. The elevator opens directly into a private foyer, with finishes in creamy marble and beautiful handcrafted woods. Betsy Sublette, Loeffler’s assistant, walked into the residence with a photography crew recently to snap some photos and even the jaded photogs were impressed, exclaiming that this was the most beautiful condo they had ever seen.

At $7.45 million, the Orchid Beach penthouse is currently the most expensive condominium offered on Sarasota’s multiple listing service.

Key to Success

Professional realtors work very hard to protect property and leave residences exactly as they find them, or even a bit improved. So when Maggie Hutter of Prudential Palms Realty was preparing for an open house in a Sarasota condominium and saw that the elevators could use freshening up, she rolled up her sleeves and grabbed the dust cloth.

“There were multiple elevators in the building,” she explains, “so I gathered up the cleaning supplies and some directional signs to tape in place and went to work.” After scrubbing for some time, Hutter was finally finished. In the last elevator, she leaned over to pick up supplies and suddenly felt her keys fall out of her pocket. “In slow motion, I watched my keys fly through the air and fall precisely into the crack where the doors meet and all the way down the elevator shaft,” says Hutter. “I have never knowingly left anything askew at an open house, but my keys are still there, to this day.”

Well Done, You!

Michael Saunders & Company has recently formed an exclusive alliance with Mayfair International Realty, joining forces with 125 real estate brokerages with 350 offices across Europe and the Middle East. “This affords our clients enormous exposure,” explains Debra Pitell, MS&Co. realtor, “not just in London, where Mayfair is headquartered, but across the globe. Every one of our listings priced at $250,000 and above will be featured on the Mayfair Web site, and all properties priced over $1 million will enjoy inclusion on the Web site of Country Life magazine. This is the same Country Life that has enjoyed a publishing history of over 100 years and is hand-delivered every week to Queen Elizabeth.”

High Spirits

Michael and Nancy Falkenstein of Re/Max Properties are working diligently in a soft market to make sales happen. And if help comes from the spirit world beyond, who are they to question it? Michael received a call from a Venice attorney telling him that a recently deceased client had named the Falkensteins in his will as getting the listing on his home. “This marks the first time we have ever received a listing in this manner, but we are grateful,” Michael says.

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