Bridging the History between the Mainland and Casey Key

In the United States, only 83 swing bridges remain in existence, 9 of which are in the state of Florida. One such bridge is the one-lane swing bridge located on Blackburn Point Road.  Not only is this bridge one of four historic bridges left in Sarasota County, it is the only swing bridge in Sarasota County that connects the mainland with a barrier island.  However, this bridge is more than just a means of transporting you from the hustle and bustle of mainland life to the serenity of island life on beautiful, 8-mile Casey Key; it is a key player in the 90+ year history of Sarasota County. 

Photo courtesy of Center for Architecture Sarasota and State of Florida Archives

The bridge’s history traces back more than 130 years, to 1881 when Iowa homesteaders, John and Belinda Blackburn, settled along the bay.  Their son, Benjamin later settled 80 acres of land, which today is known as Blackburn Point.  Early homesteaders used to take boats out to Casey Key for hunting and collecting wood.

By 1920, the Florida land boom and the popularity of the automobile were in full “swing” (forgive the pun), and better transportation infrastructure was a growing need.  During that time, the area was governed by the county seat in Bradenton — modern-day Sarasota County was once included in the southern portion of Manatee County.  Residents of Sarasota and Venice felt that their demands for better infrastructure were not being taken seriously and thus, in 1921, residents took matters into their own hands and formed Sarasota County, citing improved transportation as one of their primary reasons.  To give you an idea of how important an issue transportation was at the time, the bond for new roads and bridges passed a year before that of the construction of the new county courthouse.

The contract for building the bridge was awarded to Champion Bridge Company of Wilimington, OH (the company still operates today) and the swing bridge was built in 1925.  A little more than 9 decades later, the bridge, while having undergone many repairs, still retains its original physical integrity and character and is still operated on demand by a bridge tender 24 hours a day/7 days a week.  

In 2001, the bridge was placed on the National Register of Historic Places

If you have been considering a move to our beautiful and historic area, contact me today!

Latest Market Report Shows a Continued Upward Trend


The latest data compiled from My Florida Regional Multiple Listing Service shows an increase for single family homes sales.  Compared to last year at this time, August 2017 figures showed an increase in closed sales, median home prices and inventory for Sarasota and Manatee counties.  While there have been some fluctuations month-to-month in closed sales this year, the total number through August 2017 still remain higher than the first 8 months of 2016.

Year-over-year, as the number of distress properties continues its decline, median prices continue to rise.  The median price for single family homes in Sarasota County rose 1.5% over August 2016 to $258,000 and more than 6% in Manatee County to $286,855.  

Although inventory is higher than it was at this time last year, the month’s supply of inventory has been on a slow decline since March 2017, remaining just under the threshold for a balanced market.  In Sarasota County, there was a 3.8 month supply of single family homes for sale, while Manatee dropped to a 4.1 month supply. Sarasota condos dropped to a 4.3 month supply, while Manatee is now at a 3.9 month supply.

In response to how Hurricane Irma will affect our market in the coming months, Xena Vallone, 2017 President of the Realtor® Association of Sarasota and Manatee stated that while several conditions can affect the timing of when the increased pending sales will convert into closed sales, right now there is no way to determine the true effects the hurricane will have on our market.  At present time, there have been some delays in closed sales due to financed transactions requiring either a re-inspection or the lift of the disaster designation.

Click here to read the full report from the Realtor Association of Sarasota and Manatee.

If you have been considering buying or selling a home, contact me today!

Median Home Prices Rising Due to Low Inventory and High Demand


The latest data compiled from My Florida Regional Multiple Listing Service continues to fluctuate in July 2017 for Sarasota and Manatee counties.  In Sarasota county, closed sales increased 5.8 percent over July 2016; however, Manatee county saw an 8.9 percent decrease in closed sales over the previous year.

In response to the low inventory of active properties for sale combined with the a decreasing number of foreclosed and short sales, median home prices continue to rise.  Compared to July 2016, both Sarasota and Manatee counties saw just over a 7 percent increase in the median price for a single family home.  Condo median prices tell a slightly different story with a 4.5 percent increase for Sarasota County but in stark contrast, a 10.9 percent decrease in Manatee county.

So does the increase in the median price for single family homes mean we are headed for a repeat of 2006?  Not necessarily.  Overall median prices in July still remain lower than during the recently ended season. Xena Vallone, the 2017 President of the Realtor Association of Sarasota and Manatee states that while median prices are rising, the increase is driven by supply and demand and not artificial factors that were experienced a decade ago. “The increase began in 2011 and has continued at a gradual, sustainable rate,” Vallone adds.

While inventory is reported as being low, it is important to mention that inventory levels still show an increase year-over-year but that the lowering trend has been occurring since February. Last year at July month-end, there were 6,687 properties for sale in the two-county area. By the end of February 2017, the level had increased to 8,557 and by the end of July 2017, there were 7,182 properties on the market. 

The month’s supply of inventory peaked in March with levels inching toward a balanced market. However, like inventory, this figure has been steadily decreasing since then. In Manatee County, there was a 4.2 month supply of single family homes for sale, while Sarasota dropped to a 4.1 month supply. Sarasota condos are at a 4.6 month supply and Manatee condos are at a 4.1 month supply. The market remains a seller’s market.

Click here to read the full report from the Realtor Association of Sarasota and Manatee.

If you have been considering buying or selling a home, contact me today!

Top 10 Homes Released by Clientele Luxury Magazine

Just Released by Clientele Luxury – the Top 10 Homes USA Fall 2017 Edition!
 

Top 10 Homes in the USA – Fall 2017
Clientele Luxury Magazine

Have a first look at the Top 10 Homes USA Fall Edition that will Premier in Barnes & Nobles Oct 3, 2017 and at several Luxury High Net Worth Events in October & November.
 
Click here to view the entire publication online.
 
I am proud to announce that my ‘Ohana listing located at 6633 Gulf of Mexico Drive on Longboat Key made this Top 10 list. Sitting upon 2.57 acres directly on the Gulf of Mexico, ‘Ohana is an island paradise. Nick Churton of Mayfair International Realty once described the peacefulness of ‘Ohana by stating, “If Zen could be described in the form of a building then this would be it. Whether the property is best expressed as a house or a small, intimate and very private southeast Asian inspired super-spa, Ohana has soul – lots of it.
 
If you have been considering a move to our beautiful area, contact me today!

Ohana on Longboat Key as Featured in Clientele Luxury Magazine’s Top 10 Homes in the USA – Fall Edition
Click to view the magazine.

“Up On The Roof” at the Newly Opened Westin Sarasota

Photo Credit: Westin Sarasota guest

Photo Credit: Westin Sarasota guest

According to one Associate Editor for Sarasota Magazine, the views from atop The Westin Sarasota will leave you awe-struck and with a vocabulary full of “Ooohs, Aaahhhs, and WOWS!” Perhaps it was The Drifters who said it best in their 1962 hit song, “Up On the Roof ” – “Right smack dab in the middle of town, I’ve found a paradise that’s trouble proof (up on the roof).”

The newly opened, pet-friendly Westin Sarasota Hotel, sitting adjacent to the picturesque Sarasota bayfront and attached to the VUE, features 18 floors, 255 luxurious rooms and suites, a salon/spa, a fitness studio with state-of-the-art equipment, 26,000 square feet of meeting space, the new Evoq restaurant that is open daily to the public for casual elegant dining, and the literal crown of this jewel that is also open to the public, The Roof Bar and Eats with comfortable couch seating, poolside dining, and spectacular views of Sarasota. 

If you are looking for a piece of Sarasota paradise for your out of town guests to stay or just need to unwind for an evening and take in a more panoramic view of Sarasota, visit The Westin Sarasota today, located at 1175 N. Gulfstream Ave.

If you have been considering a move to our beautiful area, contact me today!

Michael Saunders & Company Ranks Among the Nation’s Top Brokerages

Out of the top 500 real estate brokerages nationwide, Michael Saunders & Company was ranked at #70 in terms of sales volume and #96 in terms of sides of transactions.  REAL Trends, a leading authority on news, research and information about the real estate brokerage industry, recently announced these results in the REAL Trends 500 report, an independently verified compilation of the nation’s leading residential real estate companies.

It is important to understand two factors about this report.  First, in order for a brokerage to qualify for REAL Trends 500, that brokerage must close a minimum of 500 residential transactions sides (either buyer or seller) over and above the previous calendar year. Second, this compilation only includes the sales of residential homes; leases, commercial property sales or vacant land sales are not taken into account.

To give a better perspective on what this report means for the nation’s top brokerages, Steve Murray, president of REAL Trends states that while “housing sales in the nation were up 4.9 percent in 2016 from 2015…the REAL Trends 500 firms were up 6.6% in the same period.” This marks the third consecutive year that the nation’s largest brokerage firms gained market share and further demonstrates that “America’s largest brokerage firms have figured out how to grow their share in all kinds of markets.”  In other words, whether a buyer or seller market; a slow or hot market, the agents of the REAL Trends 500 firms are stepping up, conquering challenges, and closing the sales! 

As a company, we are always honored to be recognized nationally; however, we are just as honored to be recognized locally.  When REAL Trends compared our firm with others in the Sarasota real estate market, Michael Saunders & Company showed a strong lead both in the number of transaction sides and sales volume for 2016. 

Sarasota County
COMPANY 2016 Sides
Michael Saunders & Company . . . . . . . .  . 5,857
RE/MAX Alliance Group . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4,470
Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate/NRT . . 4,368
Keller Williams Sarasota Lakewood Ranch . . . . . 1,953
Premier Sotheby’s International Realty . . . . . . . . 1,771

COMPANY 2016 Volume
Michael Saunders & Company . . . . . . . . . $2,430,886,648
Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate/NRT . . . $1,606,303,000
RE/MAX Alliance Group . . . . . . . . . . . . . $1,249,148,937
Premier Sotheby’s International Realty . . . $878,682,050
Keller Williams Sarasota Lakewood Ranch. $507,941,433

So, if you have been considering buying or selling a home, consider Michael Saunders & Company and contact me today!

US Pending Home Sales are the Highest in Almost a Year

National Association of Realtors logo (PRNewsFoto/National Association of Realtors)

National Association of Realtors logo (PRNewsFoto/National Association of Realtors)

The National Association of Realtors reported on Wednesday that the pending home sales index climbed 5.5% in February to 112.3%, which is the highest point in almost a year and the second highest point since 2006.

Lawrence Yun, the Association’s chief economist, suggested that a combination of a rising stock market, an uptick in consumer confidence and warmer weather have all played a part in encouraging prospective home buyers.  It was also suggested that rising median home prices may be urging people to make offers now rather than wait and risk price increases.

Additionally, the Association reported last week that even with the sales of existing homes falling in February after a strong January surge, sales are still solidly ahead from a year ago.  Similarly, local pending sales experienced a slight decrease in February, but 2017 started out strong with a 9% increase in Sarasota County and a 6.4% increase for Manatee County and overall, sales are still up from where they were at this time last year.  Even despite a sharp rise in mortgage rates since last November, the U.S. housing market as a whole is looking very strong.

For the full story from Herald Tribune, click here.

If you have been considering buying or selling a home, contact me today!

Sarasota – The Cultural Capital of Florida

Photo by Cliff Roles – Cast of Asolo Repertory’s production of West Side Story 

When we say that Sarasota is full of “arts and culture,” what exactly does that mean?  Well, aside from being internationally recognized for our beaches, Sarasota is also gaining “arts and culture” notoriety not only in the state of Florida, but nationally and even internationally for being one of the “few communities in the nation that have the depth and quality of arts and cultural offerings” that can be found in Sarasota.  Those offerings include live theater, concerts, ballet, opera, galleries, museums, exquisite architecture, art walks, festivals, and of course, our beloved circus. 

John Ringling

John Ringling

In fact, the foundation of our community lives within the arts and circus magnate, John Ringling of Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus.  When he decided to bring the circus’ winter headquarters to Sarasota, he also brought with him a keen vision for real estate development and an incredible passion for arts and culture.  Thus, “with the seed of arts planted in prominent style, a community was created where artists were valued and creativity was cherished. Today, that legacy lives on.”

Numerous publications have noticed Sarasota beyond our gorgeous beaches as well.  Here is a list of recent accolades:

  • American Style Magazine named Sarasota as the No. 1 “Small City for Art in the United States”
  • NerdWallet listed Sarasota in the “Best Small Cities for Art Lovers”
  • Sarasota’s iconic Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall has been recognized as the No. 1 “Performing Arts Hall in North America” in the 2,000-seat category by Venues Today five times
  • Movoto named Sarasota among “The Best Cities in Florida for the Arts”
  • TopRetirements.com said Sarasota is known for “Most Big Cultural Institutions per Square Inch”
  • Coastal Living Magazine named the Sarasota community of Towles Court among the “Top 10 Artists Colonies in North America”
  • The annual Sarasota Film Festival was recently named one of the “Top 25 Coolest Film Festivals in the World” by Movie Maker Magazine

From new museums on the horizon like the Sarasota Museum of Art (SMOA) to the expansion of the Ringling College of Art and Design that includes new sound stages scheduled to open soon, our community is committed to keeping Sarasota as a “hub for creativity and culture.”  Sarasota Bayfront 20:20 is one of the most exciting initiatives dedicated to maintaining our status as “Florida’s premier destination for arts and culture” whereby a long-term master plan has been set for re-investing in 42 acres of land along the Bayfront near the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall. The goal of this project is to create a “permanent expression of Sarasota’s cultural prowess while inhabiting one of the city’s most beautiful and accessible waterfront settings.

Click here to read more on this story from Michael Saunders & Company

If you have been considering a move to our beautiful area, contact me today!

How Does Our Area Rank in Terms of Well-Being?

John Ringling Bridge and the Sarasota Skyline

John Ringling Bridge and the Sarasota Skyline

Florida’s Gulf Coast is no stranger to receiving high praises and accolades from Siesta Key Beach taking the top spot of best U.S. beaches to the Sarasota-Bradenton area being ranked No. 1 for Small Business Vitality.  

Recently, Gallup-Healthways released a study on the State of American Well-Being and has North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton ranked at #6.  To build this Well-Being Index, Gallup surveyed 354,473 people, measuring whether individuals feel a sense of purpose, have supportive relationships, are financially secure, are satisfied with their community, and are in good physical health.  Our region is one of several oceanfront U.S. metro areas to rank highest in terms of residents’ overall well-being. Just over 64% of residents surveyed agreed that our community is the best they can imagine, nearly the largest share in the country and far higher than the 51.6% share of respondents nationwide.

Here is a look at the top 10 cities:

1. Naples–Immokalee–Marco Island, FL
2. Barnstable Town, MA
3. Santa Cruz–Watsonville, CA
4. Urban Honolulu, HI
5. Charlottesville, VA
6. North Port–Sarasota–Bradenton, FL
7. San Luis Obispo–Paso Robles–Arroyo Grande, CA
8. Lynchburg, VA
9. Hilton Head Island–Bluffton–Beaufort, SC
10. Boulder, CO

For more on this Gallup-Healthways study, click here.

If you have been considering a move to our beautiful area, contact me today!

Season Off to Solid Start in Sarasota and Manatee

Jan2017Sarasota

Recent data produced by Florida REALTORS® for our two-county area indicates January 2017 to be off to a solid start to this season’s sales. Here is a breakdown of how 2017 is starting out for Sarasota and Manatee counties:

  • Inventory in the two-county area increased by 17.9 percent over January of last year. Sarasota condo inventory increased by 27.1 percent and single family homes went 20.8 percent. In Manatee County, condos were up by 11.4 percent and single family by 10.9 percent.
  • Median prices for Sarasota single family homes increased to $250,000, while Manatee single family increased to $279,000. Condo median sales prices rose to $239,900 in Sarasota and to $175,000 in Manatee.
  • Closed sales in the two-county area are up by 11.6 percent from January 2016 for condos. Meanwhile, single family home sales in Sarasota and Manatee showed an 8.2 percent decrease. Collectively, distressed sales experienced a 51.8 percent decrease from last year, while traditional sales (nondistressed) experienced an increase of 3.5 percent, making a healthier market.

With the number of new pending sales going up, median home prices rising, and inventory continuing to increase, it shows that the Sarasota and Manatee areas are nearing a “strong and balanced market.” For sellers this means more interested buyers and for buyers this means more homes to choose from.

Click here to read the full report from the Realtor Association of Sarasota and Manatee.

If you are interested in buying or selling property, please contact me for further details.