Home Prices Up in 94 Percent of Major U.S. Markets

Homes Prices up for 2019Across the country, home prices remain on an uptrend, escalating in 94 percent of major metropolitan markets, according to the latest National Association of REALTORS® quarterly report, based on findings for the fourth quarter of 2019. In the fourth quarter, the existing-home median price was $274,900, a 6.6 percent gain year-over-year.

Buyers continue to lean on low mortgage rates, the report shows. In the final quarter of the year, household incomes rose to $79,740—an increase of roughly $2,650 year-over-year. At the same time, to afford a mortgage, NAR estimates home buyers needed $48,960, or about $3,940 less, year-over-year, due to lower mortgage payments. In the fourth quarter, the average 30-year fixed mortgage was 3.76 percent.

For first-time home buyers, affordability also expanded last quarter. To afford a mortgage, the average first-time home buyer needed $48,288, or approximately $575 less year-over-year, and their average monthly mortgage payment slid to $1,006, assuming a 10 percent down payment.

Still, housing options remain sparse. At the end of the fourth quarter, 1.4 million existing homes were on the market, an 8.5 percent deficit year-over-year, according to the report.

“We saw prices increase during every quarter of 2019 above wage growth,” explains Lawrence Yun, chief economist at NAR. “It is challenging—especially for those potential buyers—where we have a good economy, low interest rates and a soaring stock market, yet are finding very few homes available for sale.”

In the fourth quarter, appreciation climbed considerably in 18 major markets, including:

  • Trenton, N.J. – 18.2% year-over-year
  • Boise City-Nampa, Idaho – 13.7%
  • Gulfport-Biloxi, Miss. – 11.8%
  • Kingston, N.Y. – 11.2%
  • Albuquerque, N.M. – 11.1%

Meanwhile, the coasts continued their high-price streak, with the costliest homes in:

  • San Jose, Calif. – $1.25 million (-0.3% year-over-year)
  • San Francisco, Calif. – $999,000 (3.9%)
  • Anaheim-Santa Ana, Calif. – $828,000 (3.6%)
  • Urban Honolulu, Hawaii – $812,600 (0%)
  • San Diego, Calif. – $655,000 (4.6%)
  • Boulder, Colo. – $630,400 (6.4%)
  • Los Angeles-Long Beach, Calif. – $617,300 (7.2%)
  • Seattle-Tacoma, Wash. – $528,800 (8%)
  • Nassau County, N.Y. – $496,600 (3.7%)
  • Boston-Cambridge, Mass. – $482,800 (4.9%)

To afford these areas, a family has to make more than $100,000, assuming 5 percent down on a 30-year fixed mortgage, according to the report.

“Rising home values typically create wealth gains for existing homeowners as shown in NAR’s latest study,” says Yun. “However, areas that are deemed ‘too expensive’ will obviously have trouble attracting residents and companies looking to do business there. We need a good balance that benefits both current and future homeowners, but right now, the balance is still in favor of home sellers.”

Rismedia.com February 12, 2020

Luxury Homes Sales Strong in Sarasota


In luxury residential real estate, the first half of 2019 demonstrated the strength of the top-tier market. One of the things that Southwest Florida can usually bank on is people with deep pockets, usually stuffed with cash, buying multi-million-dollar homes.


The evidence:

• “It’s been a great year so far,” said Roger Pettingell, associated with Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate and a waterfront real estate specialist based on Longboat Key. “With over $60 million in pending sales, we are on track to break the $100 million mark. … We are ahead of last year at this time. June has been particularly good for the upper end. We have been working with multiple buyers and have received three offers over $3 million in June. We put one of our $4 million-plus listings under contract in June.” Pettingell and his team reached a record $106 million last year, his first in triple million digits.

• “The luxury market has led the charge for our business,” said Joel Schemmel, associated with Premier Sotheby’s International Realty and based in downtown Sarasota. “Our sales overall have been great in the last six months. We closed $57 million in all of 2018. So far in 2019, we have closed over $45 million and have another $5 plus million pending. The showing activity in the last several months has also been solid in the luxury and ultra-luxury market. Therefore, I expect the sales to continue.”

• “Ultra luxury is selling. I track this market,” said Georgina Clamage, the manager of Michael Saunders & Co.’s Longboat Key office. “Our area is becoming more attractive to the affluent.”

Past headlines indicate the enduring allure of luxury living: In 2006, unlike the rest of the area’s real estate market, $10 million-plus listings remain a bright spot. Seven years later, in 2013, a $10 million home sales on Siesta Key were part of a luxury resurgence as the region continued to exit the effects of the Great Recession.

Quantifying luxury

A basement price point of $5 million defines the ultra-luxury market. Mere luxury starts at $3 million, though some quarters drop that figure to a pedestrian $1 million. During the first six months of this year, 41 homes sold above the $3 million threshold. Last year, that number was 56. While the number of luxury sales is down year over year, average prices are 5% higher and time on the market shorter, Clamage said.

In the Sarasota-Manatee-Charlotte region, ultra-luxury homes on the islands are an especially hot commodity.

Siesta and Casey keys are particularly popular, Clamage said, with seven sales on Siesta and five on Casey, both figures up from 2018′s first two quarters. Longboat Key, with a whole lot more pricey properties, claimed nine sales, down two from 2018.

Many buyers are coming from high-tax states — including California and New York — that got worse after federal tax laws clamped down on deductions for state and local taxes, including property tax writeoffs. “The tax impact is definitely helping us,” Clamage said.

June’s top sale

Deborah Beacham, a Realtor with Michael Saunders & Co., scored a double victory in the $6.725 million transaction for the island residence at 2016 Casey Key Road on Blackburn Bay. She was both the listing and selling agent for the 7,508-square-foot home.

That monetary figure easily surpassed the second-place sale, $4.6 million for 7224 Point of Rocks Road on Siesta Key’s Gulf side. Judie Berger of Premier Sotheby’s listed the home, and Lisa Warren of Own SRQ LLC brought the buyer.

Beacham is having a good year, placing fourth, too, with the sale of her $3.35 million listing also on Casey Key Road.

All told, June saw 13 homes sell for $2 million or higher, with four of those surpassing $3 million. Single-family homes almost pitched a shutout, but one condo got on the list.

Cash paid off eight of those transactions. “That’s typical in that price range,” Clamage said.

2019′s winner (so far)

Debra Pitell-Hauge and Barbara May, come on down. The listing and buyer’s agents respectively, both with Michael Saunders, didn’t have to haggle over the price in their January transaction. The buyer paid full fare, $9.85 million for the residence at 1233 Hillview Drive, on Sarasota Bay, in the Harbor Acres neighborhood.

That represents the highest sale in Sarasota County since 2014.

Second place, in a tie, went to Pettingell as listing agent for a Longboat Key beachfront estate in Regent Court. The $7.5 million sale in April came with a distinction — as the highest Longboat Key sale recorded through the Multiple Listing Service in eight years.

Ian Addy and Gail Wittig of Michael Saunders brought the buyer for the sale of the off-market beachfront estate, portending a possible trend in transactions where a property does not enter the open market.

Schemmel also recorded a $7.5 million sale — for the residence at 8218 Sanderling Road on Siesta Key. That transaction, though, came with its own distinction — extra dollar signs since Schemmel earned both buyer and seller commissions.

As far as real estate companies, Saunders stands head and shoulders above the competition in representing either buyers or sellers. So far this year, the regional brokerage handled 40% of the market. Of the 82 sides in the 41 transactions (either buyer or seller), Saunders brought 33 home.

Four of those sales took home 100% of the asking price. The majority of buyers pitched counter offers that landed in the 80s and 90s. One of the two outliers only fetched 58%, plunging from $10.9 million to $6.235 million. A property is only worth what someone will pay for it.

Billionaire buyers

This puts luxury real estate in a perspective of extravagance gone wild.

The most expensive sale of an American home occurred in January for an unfinished 79th-floor penthouse on Billionaires’ Row in Manhattan. Imagine paying $238 million for a residence you’re unlikely to use as anything more than a palatial hotel room instead of a primary residence.

American hedge fund multi-billionaire Kenneth C. Griffin — founder and CEO of the Chicago-based global investment firm Citadel and one of the richest men in the world — padded his pad holdings with this purchase. Griffin already owns a $60 million penthouse in Miami, and a $122 million mansion in London, among other trophy homes. That Miami deal set a record for a Miami-Dade residential sale. His January 2019 purchase of the top four floors of a Gold Coast condo tower for $58.5 million eclipsed the previous high mark in Chicago. And the London acquisition broke the city’s old record.

During recent years, Griffin has spent more than $750 million on homes in Chicago, New York, Miami, Palm Beach and London. He owns $230 million in Palm Beach property alone, various media outlets have reported. The New York Times described the 50-year-old’s latest acquisition as setting a “new standard for conspicuous consumption.”

That $238 million would pay the price for almost every single affordable house on the market in North Port, equaling the 1,133 homes in that Florida city priced at or below $216,388. Redfin’s analysis calls homes priced at that mark affordable, employing various data points.

While the luxury market is robust in the city, the Wall Street Journal described New York City’s top-tier condo market as “reeling,” with few indications of a rebound this year. Prices for condos $5 million and up plunged 28 percent in 2018.

Overall, though, New York City reigns as home to the most billionaires in the world — 85 — and that point is driving the city’s luxury housing prices higher, according to a report from the research arm of Savills, a global real estate services provider. Billionaires have helped propel ultra-prime property prices up 15% over the past five years.

Fun fact: In the global billionaire population, New York is followed by Hong Kong (79), Moscow (71), Beijing (61) and London (55).

Sales across Southern California are slumping, too, accompanied by price cuts. “After seven years of jaw-dropping growth, L.A.’s real estate market — including its luxury sector — has officially slowed,” the Hollywood Reporter stated in March.

Developer Bruce Makowsky built what looks like a five-star resort atop a Bel Air hill, but it’s a spec home that he dubbed Billionaire. It was listed in January 2017 as the most expensive in the country, with the asking price setting a record at $250 million. Today, the empty residence — which the Los Angeles Times described as “an extravagant mega-mansion doubling as a monument to opulence” — now lists for $150 million.

Who doesn’t need 21 bathrooms, five bars, three kitchens, a 40-seat movie theater and a four-lane Louis Vuitton bowling alley? And an auto gallery jammed with a $30-million fleet of glamorous cars and motorcycles — including a custom Rolls-Royce. Should it sell for $150 million, it would become the most expensive home ever sold in Los Angeles County.

The current record holder, a chateau in Holmby Hills built by film and television producer Aaron Spelling, sold for $120 million in an all-cash deal, according to reports. The transaction closed last month. Another fun fact: The interior covers about an acre. That eclipsed the previous record. An oceanfront property in Malibu’s Carbon Beach sold last year for $110 million.

Closer to home

The emperor of home sales in the Sarasota-Manatee-Charlotte region? Nowhere near those deals. The home at 1067 Westway Drive in the Lido Shores neighborhood on the northwest side of Lido Key went for $13 million in a March 2006 all-cash transaction.

That comes from MLS records dating back to 1900.

Of the top 24 listings, all sold for $7.5 million and above, and cash completed 15 transactions. Nothing earlier than November 2004 made the sold list, though a home built in 1938 did.

It’s only up from here

“Today, $1 million won’t get you a luxury home in most major markets,” Javier Vivas, director of economic research for Realtor.com, stated in one of the Luxury Home Index reports from last year.

In another report last Tuesday, UCLA real estate professor Paul Habibi told the Los Angeles Times that the $120 million sale is a good sign for developers seeking massive sums for their estates because of the precedent it sets. “If $120 million is the new benchmark, that makes it more plausible to sell a home for $75 million or $100 million,” he said. Must be just California, or wherever billionaires want to hang out.

Up and up we go. That kind of astronomical money puts the luxury market here in a somewhat sensible perspective and less outlandish.

Herald-Tribune July 9, 2019

Acros Luxury Apartments Downtown Sarasota

Luxury ApartmentsThe five-story Arcos luxury apartments may still be something of a work in progress, but 40 percent of its 228 units have been leased and 30 percent are occupied, Phillip Smith said during a tour of the property.

“The big idea here is to create an urban oasis right in the middle of downtown where people can escape, feel at home but also feel separated from the city,” said the president of the Tampa-based developer, Framework Group LLC.

The entrance to the West Indies-styled community is at 320 Central Ave.

High demand for luxury

The apartment buildings and six-story parking garage on the 3-acre site surround a large, park-like setting with a resort-style pool, a fenced pet play area (with a fire hydrant), and a social pavilion with a fireplace and statue. That creates an oasis of privacy and peacefulness. “The outdoor space is something we spent a lot of time and energy on,” Smith said.

“Being in downtown Sarasota has been on our radar for a long, long time. I love the city, I love what’s happened here,” he said. “Residents have responded, they love this location.”

Arcos offers studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments, each outfitted with extra-large windows, city and courtyard views, designer finishes and flooring, upgraded kitchens and baths, and lofty ceilings. Currently, units range from $1,375 to $3,000 per month, or about $2 per square foot, Smith said. The floor plans start with a compact 678-square-foot studio and end with a spacious 1,710-square-foot unit with three bedrooms.

The most popular choice to date is the one bedroom on an upper floor. The higher up, the higher the rent.

“This is definitely A-plus luxury rental living,” Smith said. “Most apartment developers have spent a lot of time and effort to really up the game when it comes to finishes and amenities and just the overall apartment living experience. It just isn’t what it used to be.”

National figures reflect that. Yardi Matrix, which compiles statistics and studies in support of the commercial apartment industry, found that in 2017 the development of luxury rental properties had risen to 79 percent of all apartment construction in the nation — up from 75 percent in 2015 and 50 percent in 2012.

The trend is continuing as 2018 is shaping up to be another banner year for high-end apartment construction. Nationally, about 87 percent of all large-scale apartment complexes completed in the first half of this year are high-end.

Yardi Matrix reports that the average occupancy rate in high-end rental properties was 95.8 percent as of the end of 2015.

Downtown Sarasota and the Rosemary District don’t lack for upscale apartments, including Elan Rosemary, One Palm, The DeSota, Bold Lofts and CitySide, to name a few.

Luxury ApartmentsArcos amenities, art

The complex’s central indoor gathering spot has a game room with billiards and a poker/card table, a conversational seating area in the middle, and a television and fireplace on the other side. Down a hallway, there’s shared workspace: a conference room with a television for presentations, couches for laptop work, high-top tables for groups and several private cell phone rooms for privacy.

“We trying to offer as many different work areas as we can,” Smith said.

The other end of the main floor holds more amenities: a fully equipped fitness center outfitted with the latest workout trend — thick “battle ropes” anchored to a wall — and manicure, pedicure and massage rooms as well as a “quiet” room for meditation.

Framework Group, which carries a diverse portfolio of large-scale multi-family projects, and its co-developer, Forge Capital Partners, a commercial real estate investment and management company also based in Tampa, will hold a private grand-opening celebration of Arcos on Nov. 8.

That event will include the unveiling of a sculpture by Daniel Arsham, who has created works for Calvin Klein and Louis Vuitton and was described by Smith as “a phenomenally successful, world famous artist.”

“The work is like a piece of fabric rolling over the form of the figure, but the figure has been removed,” said Arsham, describing the sculpture. “Almost as if it were a trace of a moment.”

His piece — and an on-site art gallery called GAZE Modern — pay homage to the Rosemary District’s art-centric background. The gallery will be curated by Tim Jaeger, a graduate of Ringling College of Art & Design and now a painting instructor and the campus and community engagement manager for the school. GAZE will promote emerging artists from Sarasota and Florida.

The gallery’s opening reception, “Color + Contrast,” features the ceramic sculptures of Taylor Robenalt and Polly Johnson and will be held from 5-8 p.m Saturday.

“We wanted to be authentic and thorough in the brand’s connection to the arts,” Smith said. “Arcos’ location in the Rosemary District’s active art community allows us to embrace modern art while offering living spaces unlike anything Sarasota has ever seen.”

Herald Tribune November 2, 2018

New Luxury Tower Planned for Golden Gate Point

Golden Gate PointAnother new luxury condominium tower is in the works for exclusive Golden Gate Point.

Replacing what was initially proposed to be the Allure townhome project on the same site, Evolution is planned as an eight-story, 20-unit tower, along with a rooftop terrace at 111 Golden Gate Point. Residential units will range from 2,071 square feet to 3,519 square feet for penthouse residences, and the condos are expected to retail between $1.3 million and $3+ million.

The 0.83-acre parcel is the largest remaining open lot in the waterfront residential district, located west of downtown near the John Ringling Causeway.

The developer filed an application with Sarasota officials on the tower late last month, according to a story in the Sarasota Observer, sister paper of the Business Observer.

Designed by DSDG Architects LLC, Evolution will offer each residence floor-to-ceiling windows, large terraces and a private garage. Evolution will have first level parking –  42 spaces — two per unit, and an additional two guest spaces.

An on-site sales office, say the project developers, is expected to be open by the end of 2018, where guests can also reserve pre-construction units. The project is expected to break ground in the first quarter of 2019

 “We’ve had an eye on this beautiful lot, the largest remaining redevelopment opportunity on Golden Gate Point, for quite a while and now is the perfect time to convert the space into luxury homes,” says WB Golden Gate Point LLC Principal Wojciech Zukiewicz in the statement. “We’re very excited to be working with DSDG Architects to create something truly unique for the Sarasota luxury landscape.”

Golden Gate Point has seen a surge of new construction in recent years. Until the 1990s, the peninsula was covered with small, two-story rental apartment buildings, but most have been torn down to make room for luxury high rise projects.

Sarasota Observer, Business Observer – September 27, 2018

Kolter Group Begins on Ritz-Carlton Residences Tower

Ritz-CarltonThe Kolter Group has officially begun construction of the Ritz-Carlton Residences condominium tower in downtown Sarasota, which its backers contend will be the “pinnacle of Sarasota living.”

The 73-unit waterfront tower, adjacent to the 18-story Ritz-Carlton Sarasota hotel and condos and part of the 15-acre Quay Sarasota mixed-use project, is scheduled for completion in the fourth quarter of 2020.

To date, 29 of the residences in the SB Architects-designed tower have either been reserved or sold, generating $105 million in sales, says John Harper, a Kolter Urban senior project manager.

“This is going to be the most magnificent luxury building on the west coast of Florida,” says Harper, during a morning ground breaking ceremony on site. “For residents, it will be an indelible experience.”

The residences, measuring 3,200 square feet to 6,100 square feet, exclusive of terrace space, will feature private elevators and “flow through” views of the water and the city’s skyline. Each is priced from $2.5 million to $5 million.

In addition, each unit will have access to 24-hour concierge services affiliated with the 266-room Ritz-Carlton Hotel, together with amenities like the resort’s beach club on Lido Key and 18-hole golf course near Lakewood Ranch. Owners also will be able to join the resort’s Members Club.

“The quality services being provided are really a large part of what’s driving this project forward,” says Michael Saunders, founder and CEO of real estate brokerage Michael Saunders & Co., the listing agent for the tower.

“Every day will be a red-carpet day at the Ritz-Carlton Residences,” adds Saunders, whose firm also sold the condo units associated with the hotel nearly two decades ago. “What does red carpet mean? It means the best of the best.”

The building’s amenities will include a resort-style swimming pool, fitness center, clubhouse, pool bar, demonstration kitchen and private dog park.

Rick Harcrow, regional president of Jacksonville-based GreenPointe Communities, says the new Ritz-Carlton Residences will be a “signature building” that will be the “most special parcel of this entire project.”

“I can’t think of two better brands to launch the Quay Sarasota than Kolter and the Ritz-Carlton,” Harcrow says of the $1 billion, mixed-use Quay.

Kolter acquired the roughly one-acre tract for the Ritz-Carlton Residences earlier this year for $19.3 million.

“Sarasota is a city that deserves the very best,” says Bob Vail, Kolter Urban’s president. “The Ritz-Carlton Residences will be the next chapter in luxury living here.”

Observer Sarasota, September 13, 2018

Sarasota Luxury Market at the Top in the Nation

Sarasota Luxury MarketSouthwest Florida — the Sarasota metro area in particular — has a reputation for its wealth of gold-plated residences. The latest Luxury Home Index from realtor.com validates that celebrity status, or, from another viewpoint, notoriety.

In the site’s May report of the top 10 fastest-growing U.S. luxury markets nationwide, the Sarasota-Manatee market stood atop the list. Collier County, near Naples, came in third in the rankings of the percentage increase of the top 5 percent of the most expensive home-sales prices.

The overall transaction total doesn’t matter. Sarasota’s entry-level luxury price rose 19.1 percent year over year, reaching $993,000,

Whether that sales price merits the luxury label is debatable. By many measures, a home’s sales price must reach at least $1 million before entering the so-called luxury market. But who’s quibbling over Sarasota falling $7,000 short?

Roger Pettingell, a luxury waterfront specialist with Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate, cites two price points for opulent status.

“Coldwell Banker’s starting price for what we consider a Global Luxury listing is $1.2 million,” he said this week. “More anecdotally, I consider a luxury Sarasota property to be one which is priced over $3 million.”

Let’s stick with that higher figure, since many a million-dollar home on the water ranks as a tear-down. Plus, there are a lot of $3 million homes on the market, 129 to be exact. The top dog comes with a whopping $19.5 million price tag. That’s 19,300 square feet at $3,884.57 for one square.

Of the 79 that recently sold, the highest sale reached $9 million for 9,202 square feet, and that’s with an $800,000 cut-off list. That’s also thousands more per square foot — $6,448.41.

The average and median list price of all those $3 mil-plus homes stand at more than $5 million. The median closing, though, was $3.6 million.

Luxury homes, luxury prices, indeed.

The lowest on the market and sold went for exactly $3 million each, a veritable bargain at a mere $428.41 per square foot.

Michael Saunders & Co. currently has 45 active listings in the $3 million-plus range. Last month countywide, sales of seven homes in that price category were closed, a 75 percent increase over the four in May 2017, said Samantha Emelock, a Saunders communications specialist.

Saunders recently closed on two big sales in Sarasota, at $7 million and $5.4 million.

Collier’s $1.65 million sales mark is only surpassed by three California counties, but the percentage increase for all three Silicon Valley counties did not beat Collier’s.

Prospective home buyers from northern states are propelling the two Florida markets, realtor.com reported, not residents trying to escape the super-heated West Coast.

“Luxury prices in the Sunshine State are rising quickly as buyers from places like New York, Boston and Chicago get wind that there is a better bang for their buck available down South,” Javier Vivas, director of economic research for realtor.com, said in a news release. “Meanwhile, we’re seeing signs of a luxury-market glut in many established markets, which is in some cases leading to spillover demand for their less-pricey neighbors.”

No warning signs here.

“Is there a glut of luxury properties for sale?” asked Longboat Key-based Pettingell? “If you say a luxury property is any property over $3 million, there is less than a two-year supply of properties of $3 million.

“There is certainly not a glut of those premium, market-priced properties, which tend to sell much more quickly,” Pettingell said.

From Jan. 1, 2018, to date, Coldwell Banker in Sarasota has sold or held a contract on 25 properties over $3 million and Pettingell sold seven, said Laitin Schwerin, a senior public relations specialist in a Sarasota Coldwell Banker office. During that same time span in 2017, the company sold 20 properties in that price range, and Pettingell sold six.

Apparently, if you list a luxury home, someone will come to buy.

Sarasota Herald-Tribune June 22, 2018

Why Sarasota Florida Is A Hidden Travel Gem

From Forbes Travel Guide – September 2016

Sitting in The Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota’s Beach Club Grill on Lido Key, you get a real taste of Sarasota, an underrated town where everyone seems to have a backstory. As you dine on succulent scallops and bacon risotto, with the stunning pool and the Gulf of Mexico’s lapping waves in the background, server Irmy checks on you. The friendly elder German woman will share that she’s a grill veteran, but if you probe a bit, she will reveal that she landed in town many years ago because she had a unicycle-acrobatic act with her husband, which was risqué at the time.

The encounter demonstrates the many facets of the southwestern Florida city — the fresh Gulf Coast cuisine, the inviting beaches (Sarasota County boasts almost 40 miles of shoreline) and its history as the Circus Capital of the World. Find out why our Forbes Travel Guide editors think Sarasota should be your next travel destination.

The Beach Club – Ritz-Carlton Lido Key

Where to Stay

The Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota debuted with a fresh new look in December 2015, making it the hot place to stay in town. Taking inspiration from the Gulf, the rooms have a modern beach vibe that avoids cliché and veers chic. Soft blues and purples come from Sarasota sunsets, sea green from the water outside and gray textured walls lend a contemporary touch. Bathrooms blend white marble and gray walls.

The seashore accents are subtle: The carpet bears a nautilus shell pattern, the bedside lamps have a golden shell base and local artists and Ringling School of the Arts students create the framed pieces.

Upgrade to a room on the eighth-floor Club Level to receive two daily garment pressings and access to the Club Lounge, which offers food and drinks throughout the day. Sip a sparkling rosé, nibble on a mini crab roll and admire the great views of Sarasota Bay.

Where to Play

One of the best amenities at the Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star hotel is its private Beach Club on Lido Key three miles away (the complimentary shuttle will bring you back and forth). While popular Siesta Key impresses with its flour-like sand, the beach here is more quiet and exclusive.

If the clear ocean doesn’t call to you, try the heated pool overlooking the Gulf. Or snap up a cabana to gaze at the waves from a hammock. Just make sure you have a potent mai tai from the onsite Lido Key Tiki Bar in hand when you’re watching the sun set and a drummer welcomes the evening in a daily ritual.

For active pursuits, borrow free equipment back at the hotel to do kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding. Or remain at the beach and make use of the gratis snorkels, masks and fins.

Duffers should head about 16 miles from the luxury hotel to the 18-hole Tom Fazio-designed Golf Club. Spread across 315 acres, the scenic course is a certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary with more than 100 plant species, 12 lakes (check out the lily pond at hole No. 17) and a setting for bald eagles, snakes, alligators, boar, bobcats and even a panther. It has one of the best driving ranges in the area, so don’t be surprised if you spy a pro practicing there. And if you have your own PGA dreams, enlist the help of genial instructor Randy Kok.

What to See

Beyond the beach, Sarasota’s biggest attraction is the sprawling Ringling campus. The city’s big top legacy started in 1927, when circus mogul John Ringling relocated Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey’s winter headquarters there from Connecticut.

Learn more at the Ringling Circus Museum, where you can see everything from aerialist Dolly Jacobs’ glittering dress with rhinestones, sequins and feathers; to vintage circus posters; to ornate circus wagons.

Marvel at a meticulous 44,000-piece miniature replica of the Ringling circus as it would have looked during the 1920s and 1930s and what it took to bring the show to each town (the 26,000-yard big top alone took four hours to raise). In 1926, a typical Ringling show would spotlight more than 800 performers in 22 displays.

Elsewhere on the campus, you’ll find the waterfront home of John and Mable Ringling. The 56-room 1925 mansion called Cà d’Zan showcases a distinctive Venetian Gothic design. Step inside to see rooms like the Court — an atrium space with a checkerboard floor, velvet sofas and a crystal chandelier from the former Waldorf Astoria — where the Ringling’s entertained guests.

Ringling is also home to an art museum with 21 galleries’ worth of work from old masters and contemporary artists. It just opened a new Center for Asian Art in May 2016. The 25,000-square-foot addition sticks out from the perfectly pink surrounding buildings with its mosaic of more than 2,700 green-glazed terra cotta tiles that were designed to look like jade. Inside, discover works like the Phoenix Door Panels (Ramma) from Japan’s Edo period. The Ringling’s originally purchased the pair of carved wood painted panels for their home.

You could spend days covering the 66-acre Ringling campus, but take time to walk the grounds. In particular, swing by Mable Ringling’s Rose Garden, the oldest continuously operating rose garden in the state, and the Museum of Art courtyard, with replicas of ancient Greek, Roman and Baroque statues on a pristine manicured lawn and lining the top of the buildings.

Explore more of Sarasota’s natural beauty at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens. It’s the only botanical garden in the world focused on epiphytes, non-parasitic plants that grow on other plants, like orchids and bromeliads. Traverse the nearly 15-acre grounds and you’ll encounter a banyan grove, a Children’s Rainforest Garden with a waterfall and swinging bridges, rare putrid-smelling corpse plants and a koi pond.

Don’t miss a trip between February and July 2017, when “Marc Chagall, Flowers, and the French Riviera: The Color of Dreams” will take over Selby. Chagall’s famous flowery paintings, archival nature photos from his estate and other objects from his life will be woven into the garden setting for a unique first-time curation.

The prized piece of the exhibit will be The Lovers, a 1937 oil painting on loan from The Israel Museum, Jerusalem. Quotes from Chagall, like “Great art picks up where nature ends,” will be highlighted in the garden as well. The exhibit marks Selby’s move to become a living museum; it plans to feature a new artist every February.

Where to Shop

Shoppers will want to stroll the coconut-palm-lined sidewalks of St. Armands Circle, a quick shuttle ride from the hotel. Peruse more than 130 upscale shops (McCarver & Moser fine jewelry), restaurants (open-air Shore Diner) and gourmet specialty stores (Big Olaf Creamery’s handmade Amish ice cream). In the center of the shopping quadrants you’ll find Circle Park with Italian statues from John Ringling’s personal collection.

Another nice walking area is Burns Court Historic District. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the area south of downtown Sarasota is made up of 15 stucco bungalows in vibrant hues like cornflower blue and fuchsia. They house everything from art galleries to residences.

Pop into the Pepto-Bismol-pink Burns Court Cinema building to catch an independent movie before heading to the next-door Owen’s Fish Camp for seafood. Keep an eye out for art, from painted bikes (a pink two-wheeler with a plastic flamingo perched on the handlebars and a sky-blue bike with a matching fish on top) to wall murals (Anat Ronen’s work shows hands grasping a Leica camera, Pixel Pancho’s skull-faced Mickey Mouse rides a mechanical flamingo).

Jack Dusty's Ritz-Carlton - Downtown Sarasota

Jack Dusty’s Ritz-Carlton – Downtown Sarasota

Where to Eat

In this beach town where the dress code is resort casual, dining options are just as easy. Downtown, go to Nancy’s Bar-B-Q for a hearty Southern meal. Pitmaster Nancy Krohngold, whom you will recognize with her trademark pearls, tortoise shell glasses and thick hoop earrings, turns out tender 12-hour brisket and popular pulled pork. Pile on the unusual barbecue sides — a light sesame slaw adds crunch and edamame elevates the sweet succotash.

The aforementioned Beach Club Grill is a solid lunch or dinner option — don’t miss the creamy citrus-burrata salad with Thai basil, Marcona almonds and a vanilla vinaigrette. It gets a kick of sweetness from honey that’s made on the hotel’s golf course.

The Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota’s Jack Dusty restaurant is a pioneer in the Ritz-Carlton chain. It bucks the more formal fine-dining model of the hotel dining experience for one that is casual and upbeat. While the white tablecloths may be gone, the food remains focused and well executed.

Start with mussels doused in a sage-pesto broth and the compressed tomato and watermelon salad with basil, chili flakes, fennel pollen and Meyer lemon oil. For seafood, order the whole fried local snapper or the grilled lobster with drawn butter. And if you prefer meat, try the short rib BLT with cheddar grits, fried green tomato caponata and wilted lettuce.

Save room for sweets; it would be a shame to forgo executive pastry chef Lyndsy McDonald’s decadent desserts. The most comforting — and Instagram-worthy — is the coffee milkshake served in a mason jar with big doughnuts threaded through the red striped straw.

Sotheby’s International Realty Network Reports Significant Gains for 2014

Sotheby’s International Global Growth 2014

Sotheby’s International Realty Affiliates LLC reported that in 2014 its affiliated brokers and sales professionals achieved $70 billion in U.S. home sale transaction volume (transaction sides multiplied by average sale price). This is the highest sales volume performance in the history of the brand’s franchise system, and marks a 17% increase from the prior year. Driven largely by an 11 percent gain in transaction sides, the growth experienced by Sotheby’s International Realty far outpaced the overall U.S. housing market as compared to the one percent increase in sales volume and a three percent decrease in home sales reported by the National Association of Realtors®. Watch the video

Global Growth

The Sotheby’s International Realty brand also reported growth in its global network, which now encompasses 60 countries and territories worldwide. At year-end, the network totaled approximately 760 offices, a gain of 8.5 percent, and more than 16,570 sales associates, up 14 percent.

The Sotheby’s International Realty network grew substantially in 2014,” said Philip White, president and chief executive officer, Sotheby’s International Realty Affiliates LLC.  “The luxury sector continues to outperform the overall market, which reflects the value consumers see in high-end real estate to grow their wealth, as well as the increasing level of international buyers in key luxury markets.”

Outside the United States, the Sotheby’s International Realty brand expanded its network in 2014 to provide its real estate services in: Belgium, Beijing, Belize, the Canary Islands, Luxembourg, India, Hainan, St. Martin, Poland and St. Moritz.  The Sotheby’s International Realty brand also added 13 new residential real estate firms and 45 net new offices to its network across the United States, including the following markets: Houston, Texas; Steamboat Springs, Colo.; Santa Rosa Beach, Fla.; Sunset, S.C.; Richmond, Va.; Marblehead, Mass.; Wilmington and Topsail Island, N.C.; Kailua, Hawaii; Woodinville, Wash.; Malibu, Calif.; Lancaster, Pa.; Brookline and Jamaica Plain, Mass.; and Pleasanton, Calif.

In 2015 and for the eighth year in a row, the Sotheby’s International Realty brand won Franchise Business Review’s Best in Category for Real Estate Franchisee Satisfaction award.  In addition to its real estate ranking, the brand in 2015 moved to first in the overall top 50 from fourth in 2014, and first among the Top 50 “Systems with 250 or more units,” up from third in 2014.

Last year also marked the launch of the Sotheby’s International Realty Global Referral system, which was designed to streamline the transfer of referrals electronically within the brand’s worldwide network.  The Global Referral system, which the brand developed with Immobel, allows Sotheby’s International Realty network members to assign referrals, manage them through closing and run detailed reports.  The system also features language translation and currency conversion.


From a marketing perspective, the brand’s 2014 campaign delivered more than 800 million impressions.  At the core of the Sotheby’s International Realty 2014 strategy was its relationships with pre-eminent media powerhouses in both the print and online arenas including: The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Telegraph Media Group, Google, Architectural Digest, Bloomberg.com, the Hong Kong Tatler and the Financial Times, developed to showcase unique properties from the brand’s worldwide network.

Sotheby’s International Realty listings are marketed on the sothebysrealty.com global website.  In addition to the referral opportunities and widened exposure generated from this source, the firm’s brokers and their clients benefit from an association with the Sotheby’s auction house and worldwide Sotheby’s International Realty marketing programs.  Each office is independently owned and operated.


Sophisticated Urban Loft Project Underway Downtown Sarasota


Downtown Sarasota Urban Loft Project

Tetra Terra Development (TTD) will build an upscale residential project of just six units in the Rosemary District north of downtown Sarasota.

Vanguard Lofts is being designed by Halflants + Pichette Architects of Sarasota.

Veteran Realtor Frank Lambert of Premier Sotheby’s International Realty will be the exclusive listing agent, said Judy Green, president and CEO of the real estate brokerage.

Vanguard Lofts will be designed with the urban infill philosophy of walkable city environments, with live/work spaces within walking distance of shopping, dining and entertainment venues.

The project will have three loft units and three garden units. The loft are priced from $745,000 for three bedrooms and three baths broad views of downtown Sarasota and partial views of Sarasota Bay.

The loft units will have 2,325 square feet of air-conditioned space. With terraces, balconies and private two-car garages, for 3,503 total square feet.

Loft living downtown sarasotaFeatures include balconies in each bedroom, 20-foot living room ceilings with floor-to-ceiling glass, and “floating” wood stairways to lofts overlooking the living room. The contemporary kitchen and baths will have high-end fixtures.

A fitness room will be on the second floor and a conference/media room on the third floor.

Priced from $530,000, the two-bedroom, two-bath garden units will have a home office and 1,468 square feet of air-conditioned space. They will have 400-square-foot private courtyard entryways, patios, porches, and private two-car garages in 2,280 total square feet.

The garden units will have landscaped private yards, covered wood patios, and 13-foot ceilings with floor-to-ceiling glass, along with a sidewalk entry and street parking.

Buyers will get three hours with a designer to select interior fixtures and finishes, with groundbreaking is expected by year’s end. VanguardLoft.com

Sarasota Herald Tribune Sept 2014

Downtown Sarasota Vertical Luxury Projects Expand

sansara - downtown sarasotaAnother addition to Sarasota’s vertical luxury market is announced with the 10-story “Sansara,” planned for 300 S. Pineapple Ave. in the Burns Square neighborhood. The newest multi-use development project will feature 17 luxury residential units, and first level commercial space, in a zen-inspired design.  A second floor amenities level is planned to include a pool, cabanas, fitness center, spa and yoga studio.

Residential levels will accommodate two units per floor, ranging from 2,280 to just under 2,800 square feet, while the penthouse is planned to boast over 4,500 square feet, with 14 foot ceilings. Residences will feature walls of glass that open to beautiful Sarasota bay views.

The $30 million “Sansara” project joins a series of planned downtown Sarasota luxury condo developments that include: “Aqua” tower and additional eight-unit condominium planned for Golden Gate Point; 18-story “The Jewel” on Main Street and U.S. 41; the “Que” town homes on Ringling, and an 18-story tower, accompanied by a Westin Hotel, at the corner of U.S. 41 and Gulfstream Avenue.