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What's your house worth?

A neighborhood-by-neighborhood look at Sarasota real estate values.

Count your blessings if you own a home in Sarasota County. While much of the country is suffering from depressed home prices and sluggish sales, Sarasota's residential real estate market is holding fairly steady.

Hit by the recession, the Gulf War and slowing growth in jobs and population, Florida's residential real estate has left behind the golden days of eternal, inevitable appreciation. In some areas, including prosperous Palm Beach, homeowners actually saw their properties decline in value by as much as five percent last year. And the news from much of the North is even worse. Given that atmosphere, no wonder Sarasota realtors sound almost jubilant when they report flat sales or modest gains in local prices. And a number insist the worst is over, citing increased sales activity over the summer.

Realtors may be professionally optimistic, but they're not the only ones sounding bullish on Sarasota. U.S.A. Today and Florida Trend recently named Sarasota one of the best places in the nation to invest in a home. The Florida Trend report predicts that Sarasota housing prices "will continue to rise." Sarasota is a quality market with a "restrictive growth posture" that makes "appreciation a foregone conclusion," says the article.

Despite the long-term outlook, however, Sarasota did experience a softer market this year. Juanita Bryan, president of the Sarasota Board of Realtors, says the Multiple Listing Service's monthly absorption rate (the number of sales divided by the number of listings) for single family homes was lower in the first half of 1991 than for the same period in each of the five previous years. However, the absorption rate for condominium sales was the second-highest since 1987 when the Board began keeping records.

It's hard to generalize about the Sarasota market, however, since some areas lagged while others seemed virtually recession-proof. Here's a late-summer look at how sales were going in some of Sarasota's most popular neighborhoods. (Unless otherwise noted, statistics come from MLS records for the period from July 1990 to July 1991. Remember that some homes -- especially new homes sold directly by the developer -- are not listed with MLS, so our figures exclude such transactions.)


Land values doubled over the last five years on secluded Casey Key, but this year they're "taking a breather," according to Tom Stone, a broker with Shaw Johnson Realty, Inc. 1990 was a record-breaking year, with $15.6 million in sales, but most of that occurred from January to June. The last half of 1990 and the first half of this year were "pretty flat," Stone says, and transactions were down slightly. Nevertheless, the average sale price in the first six months of 1991 was $700,000 compared to $680,000 for last year, and already two million-dollar properties have been sold.

According to sales figures, from 1987 through the first half of 1990, Gulf-to-bay property appreciated an average of 19.5 percent a year, Gulf-front leaped 16.5 percent and bayfront climbed steadily at 11 percent. During the last 12 months, says Stone, appreciation has varied from five to 10 percent. (To put that in a national perspective, the Urban Land Institute says the average annual appreciation rate in some 30 market areas was 6.4 percent. Boston's was 14.9 percent, San Diego's was 24.6 percent, Atlanta's 2.4 percent and Cincinnati's, .6 percent.)

Stone says he doesn't think the slowdown has much to do with the economy. "Real estate goes in spurts, and we just finished a five-year period of strong sales and skyrocketing prices. I expect our market to be flat for the next year as well." Stone says that although some sales are affected by Northerners who can't sell their homes, Casey Key is usually protected from that problem. Buyers are wealthy and about 60 percent of all houses on the key are second homes.

Prices will hold up on Casey Key, says Lloyd Johnson of Shaw Johnson Realty, because most sellers are willing to wait for the price they want. "If you tell them we're in a buyer's market, they would say, 'Oh, really?' and then wait a year or two or three to sell."


Properties are taking longer to sell on Siesta Key and in many cases, prices are coming down. That's the opinion of Ann Ross of Mount Vernon Realty. "I know some people are saying they're having a great year so far; in fact, I'm having a great year. But I don't think it's realistic to say there's no recession out there. Buyers are being extremely cautious and people are taking a lot less. Even my waterfronts are taking less."

MLS statistics from July 1990 to July 1991 bear Ross out. In the area south of Siesta Beach and west of Midnight Pass Road, 26 houses were listed for an average price of $800,396. Only 11 sold during that period, and the average sale price was much lower -- $331,763. What does that mean? That homes may be overpriced or that upper-end buyers are scarce right now, says Ross. "Basically, it means we're not doing very well."

Even beautiful, private Sanderling is in the doldrums. There's a 2 1/2-year supply of homes on the market right now, says Ross, and while the average MLS list price is $940,000, the average sale was $394,583. (Some very expensive homes on the market are bumping the average list price up, so that discrepancy isn't quite as dramatic as it may seem.) Siesta Isles, a canalfront community of homes priced around $150,000 to $350,000, did better, with 13 homes listed at an average price of $272,230 and 14 sold for an average price of $209,546. "Anything under $200,000 sells better," explains Ross. "There are just more of those buyers right now. What's selling best seems to be Gulf-front condominiums under $200,000."

On the more populated north end of the key, things look better. In the last year, 140 homes were listed and 122 sold. The average list price was $475,965, while the average sale price was $311,219.

Don Hughes of Elizabeth Lambie agrees that Siesta has slowed, but he insists that anything on the water will still sell at a good price. Condos on the Gulf sell better than condos on the bay, he says. Overall, he's upbeat. "When the locals stop buying, the foreign buyers keep us healthy."


You might never know there was a recession along the well-manicured southern end of Longboat Key. Terri Derr of Michael Saunders & Co. says new homes, especially condominiums and zero-lot line homes, are selling briskly inside the Longboat Key Club. "Tangerine Bay, Corey's Landing, Manchester Bay, Winding Oaks, The Sanctuary, The Pierre and Ambiance are all very much in demand," she says. "The buyers here want something new and a convenient, maintenance-free lifestyle."

Many realtors say a healthy absorption rate is at least .5; according to MLS statistics for all of Longboat Key, the absorption rate for single-family homes is .478 and for condos -- a strong market this year -- it's .72.

"Even with the war and the economy, Longboat was an oasis this year," says Pamela McCullough, marketing director for Tangerine Bay, Lighthouse Point and Winding Oaks. "To a large degree, these are second homes. Many buyers are upgrading, moving from a house or an older condominium on the key to one of the new products."

McCullough thinks there's a glut of single-family homes on the market "because people want to move into condos."

Outside the Longboat Key Club, things are slower. "Appreciation in the resale market has been flat -- maybe zero to five percent," McCullough says. And Terri Derr says that some sellers are dropping their prices. "I had a house with beach access and deep-water dockage in Hide-away Bay that was listed at $545,000. Three months later the owners came down to $499,000 because they were afraid the market would get away from them."


Bird Key has suffered a bit, but Phyllis Garfinkel, a broker associate at Michael Saunders & Co. says, "Things are getting back to normal. It's looking like the old Sarasota."

MLS statistics show a .49 absorption rate for Bird Key, with 51 listings and 25 sales from July of 1990 to July of 1991. The average listing price during that period was $536,796 and the average sale price was $480,620.

If things are priced right, says Garfinkel, they will sell. She's seeing properties sell at as much as 25 percent below the list price. "In Sarasota, it used to be location, location, location that sold. Today it's price, price, price."


Demand and price are fairly high in this area. MLS statistics show 37 listings and 23 sales last year, for a .62 absorption rate. There are seven properties listed from more than a million dollars; last year, two St. Armands' properties sold for $1 million-plus.

"We're doing as well as we always have," says Alan Gibbs, a broker at Royal Palm Realty. "A home selling last year for $420,000 could sell this year for $440,000."

Renovations have kept prices rising, says Derr. "People bought so-so houses, tore them down and built luxurious homes in their place and brought the price up considerably. It's rare to find a listing under $140,000 in this area now." Gibbs says renovated houses on South Washington on the bay go from $800,000 to $1.6 million. Along the side streets, houses sell from $160,000 to $240,000. The priciest house in town is singer Bobby Vinton's house on Lido Shores. Vinton and his wife recently listed it for more than $6 million.


Pat Taylor of Mount Vernon, a resident of this long-established neighborhood that winds along the bay near the Ringling Museum, says that she showed fewer homes here last year but that properties are still moving at good prices. MLS recorded 38 listings and 29 sales last year for a very healthy .76 absorption rate.

Taylor says locals, especially young professionals, love the age of this neighborhood and its proximity to the museum and other cultural centers. Prices vary from $50,000 to over a million. "The locals and diversity in prices keep us healthy," she says.

Renovations are popular here, too. A 68-year-old Spanish-style house on Sapphire Drive sold for $183,000 in July 1987; after renovations, it sold in March 1990 for $390,000 and was listed this June for $465,000. "Our neighborhood has not reached its potential in value," says Taylor.


This was a great year for sales for new homes in this 15-year-old, 1,700-acre community off 17th Street. In fact, says Rodney Robinson, president of Taylor-Woodrow Homes, his first quarter was better than last year. "I was surprised. Most sales are off in the United States and in Sarasota, but we were up 25 percent. Our second quarter leveled off, so we're now 15 percent ahead of where we were last year."

Robinson says those gains were even more surprising, because traffic -- or the number of prospects -- was down 20 percent. "I attribute our sales to the fact that The Meadows is more mature as a community. Seventy percent of our sales are from referrals. People who live here tell their friends about us and it snowballs. And the recession is not an issue -- half of our buyers pay cash."


It has not been the most active year for real estate in this prestigious older bayfront community off Orange Avenue. According to MLS statistics, only two houses sold in the 12 months from July 1990 to July 1991. (Remember, MLS statistics are not all-inclusive; some sales are private.) Currently MLS lists 10 homes, at prices ranging from $149,000 along Orange Avenue to $1.5 million on the bay.

Favored by local residents, especially those in the medical, legal and financial professions, Harbor Acres attracts fewer second-home buyers. In recent years, many of the original, relatively modest homes have been torn down to be replaced by lavish structures. "It's a pretty slow market now, but there is tremendous pent-up buying power here," says Terri Derr. "I think a lot of waterfront prices shot up and got away from buyers for a while. Prices are starting to get realistic and homes should start selling again."


"Sarasota is in a buyer's market, just like we have been for the past five years," says Tad Murray, vice president and general manager of Palmer Realty. And so is Prestancia, a group of eight different neighborhoods in a pricey golf-course community in south Sarasota. "About one property in resale out of 20 sells in a year," says Murray.

New product sells more briskly, especially townhouses and condos in the $160,000 to $200,000 range and single-family homes priced from $350,000 to $400,000.

Buyers should take a second look at those resales, says Terri Derr, who handles a number of listings in Prestancia. "These are the lowest prices you will ever see here. The spec houses got caught in the gap in the market and you can buy so much more for the dollar. Pretty soon the market will catch up. I consider Prestancia to be the most undervalued and one of the nicest communities in Sarasota. The convenience of lifestyle is not to be believed."
COPYRIGHT 1991 Clubhouse Publishing, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:Sarasota County real estate values
Author:Burns, Susan
Publication:Sarasota Magazine
Date:Oct 1, 1991
Previous Article:A Step Above.
Next Article:Bath & Racquet: Sarasota's country club of fitness.

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