2708 Lench Place

2708 Lench Place

So. You’ve done your due diligence and determined that Sarasota is the best place in Florida. It has the perfect combination of beaches, recreation, culture, sophistication, diversity. It’s clearly the place for you.

But can you afford it? The median price of a home topped $400,000 this summer. All you have is $250,000, and that’s stretching it. Is there any hope? Will you have to live in a trailer?

The good news is you can find a place that will meet your budget. And it will be nice enough to make you a full-fledged participant in the Sarasota lifestyle. But it’s not going to be easy, and you’ll have to move fast. An example: When I started this article a couple of weeks ago, it was called “Sarasota on $200,000.”

Here’s what to expect:

As far as single-family homes: If you can find a Sarasota single-family home for under $250,000, there will be something wrong with it. It will be too small, too dilapidated, on too busy a street, in too sketchy a neighborhood, and sometimes all of the above.

Still, you occasionally stumble across something that can be turned into a nice little home, with some clever hacks and tweaks. A good place to start looking is Kensington Park. It was one of Sarasota’s first developments back in the 1950s, and it’s had its ups and downs over the years. These days it’s a pleasant family neighborhood that’s a little shabby in parts but perfectly respectable—and the location just a couple of miles north of downtown Sarasota is terrific.

The homes are small ranches from the ’50s, mostly concrete block, sturdy and well-designed. If you’re lucky you’ll come across one like 2708 Lench Place, recently on the market for $249,000. It has great midcentury lines and could be a knockout with just some new cosmetics. It has two bedrooms, 1.5 baths, with a carport and a fenced back yard. You also might want to check out Bayshore Gardens, a similar neighborhood in south Bradenton.

Now, about that trailer. Sarasota (and Bradenton and Venice) all have trailer parks. These days they are called mobile home parks, and most people know little about them; they are rarely written about in a serious manner, and they are confusing financially.

There are two kinds of parks. In the first, you lease the land your home sits on. The monthly payment can be surprisingly large (over $1,000 in the better parks) and it will keep going up. Your actual home will be quite a bargain, though. Take a look at 5721 Scarborough Lane in Camelot East, north of Clark Road and east of I-75, recently listed for $109,900. It has two bedrooms, two baths, and the updated interior looks great. You’ll also have the luxury of a 23-foot-long garage. The community itself has winding streets, big trees, large lots and great amenities.

In the second type of park, you actually own your lot, either directly or in a co-op setup. Here your monthly fees will be less—say around $150—but your home will be more expensive. Many are now over $200,000 for newer models; count on at least $150,000 for something decent. These parks (check out Tri-Par Estates in north Sarasota and Trailer Estates, west of the Trail in south Manatee County) don’t have the visual panache of Camelot East, but for affordable living they are hard to beat.

Condos under $250,000 can be found all over town, but some can be pretty dreary. The nicest are often found in older, established communities like the Meadows, where $239,000 will get you a two-bedroom, two-bath home of just under 1,200 square feet.  Check out 4509 Longmeadow. It’s an end unit, bright and sunny, with great views and an upscale look. And the Meadows is a great place to live, with beautiful open space and landscaping, miles of bike paths and walking trails, and a great central location. You get use of the community pool. For even more amenities, you can join the country club. You should also check out nearby Palm Aire and Village Gardens.

The trick to nabbing one of these bargains is to get there first. Have your financing lined up (preferably cash) and be ready to do battle. And hurry—before we have to change the title to “Sarasota on $300,000.”

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