Luxury on Sale

By Robert Plunket February 17, 2010

Click here to see our Real Estate Junkie discuss Riviera Dunes on ABC7.

The whole town is talking about those luxury apartments at Riviera Dunes up in Palmetto that have been reduced to prices that are truly startling – they now start at $140,000 for a 2,000-square-foot unit that was originally priced at almost half a million. Are they any good? What’s the catch? And what does this mean for the future?

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130-140 Riviera Dunes Way, Palmetto

Riviera Dunes is a very elaborate high-end development on the eastern edge of Palmetto that includes private homes, a big marina, and three large apartment complexes, the one in question being called Bel Mare. It was built at exactly the wrong time and has been purchased out of foreclosure by a company that specializes in turning these sort of situations around. Apparently they purchased 53 units for an average price of $120,000 and are now selling them at greatly deflated prices.

First of all, I love the apartments. They really are luxury construction – 10-foot ceilings, solid walls and doors, great kitchens (granite, stainless), enormous master baths, big balconies. The layouts are terrific – none of those long narrow spaces all jammed together so each unit gets a view, but rather spacious corner units full of windows.


The apartments on the east side of the building get a premium because of the marina view. The real bargains face west, looking out over 301 and the Manatee River. (They also get the sunset view.) I checked out the one $140,000 unit. It was on the second floor, and you saw a lot of traffic from the windows, and the Manatee Convention Center is right across the street. Oddly enough, this was one of my favorite units – there was a lot of activity to watch yet the soundproofing was so good that you didn’t hear a thing. I could live there quite comfortably.


There are currently eight units priced under $200,000, and if you’re willing to spend in the mid 200s you get pretty much your pick of the two-bedroom units. On the higher floors are some spectacular larger units and penthouses that contain up to four bedrooms and go up to 4,000 square feet. For $600,000 or so you can get an apartment that would cost several million in Sarasota.


What’s the drawback? I’d check carefully with a lawyer to find out the pros and cons of buying in a situation like this. The maintenance on all units is currently $733 no matter what the size of the unit. I’d want to know under what circumstances it can be raised. And can they build other, lower-priced units on the development’s vacant land? Who exactly owns the marina and could it be closed due to financial restraints? Read the condo docs carefully. One good sign – it’s being marketed by Michael Saunders, which gives it instant credibility.


And what about Palmetto? If you don’t know the area, it’s the town due north of Bradenton, on the other side of the Manatee River. It’s old (much older than Sarasota) and has the feeling of an old Southern town. I’ve lived in that neck of the woods and can report that while it lacks the glamour and sophistication of Sarasota, it’s a pleasant and interesting place to live. Some Sarasotans who crave the Old Florida lifestyle live up there and commute – it’s a half hour from downtown. It’s also very well situated for the Interstate, St Pete, Bradenton, Lakewood Ranch, etc.


Now what does all this mean for our real estate future? I can only imagine that this will be happening more often – high end developments being taken over by these companies and sold quickly at rock bottom prices. It means some incredible bargains coming down the pike – but I don’t like to think what it will do to existing home prices. $140,000 for a big luxury apartment? That’s what a good quality mobile home used to cost . . . .


For more information call Nell Leffel at 941-721-6055. Or try the Michael Saunders website or

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