Bubil: Life at the market's high end


Sarasota's No. 5 all-time house sale, the $10 million transfer of Mickey and Brooke Callanen's bayfront estate, Snook Inn, a few days ago, tells me the very high end of the market could start to move.

And by high end, I don't mean $1 million or more. I mean real money, $8 million or more. Twenty such houses are for sale in our area — 15 in greater Sarasota, three on Casey Key, one in Venice and one in Manatee County.

"We are seeing a lot of activity in the upper end of the market," Michael Saunders told me. "Consumers have been waiting and are confident. There is more wealth now than in 2004, and people are spending it. Our upper-end inventory is getting scarce."

Saunders, whose agents had both "sides" of the Snook Inn deal, is referring to property that is difficult to duplicate, such as the Githler mansion on South Shore Drive in Sapphire Shores — 11,000 air-conditioned square feet on two-plus lots, listed at $14.9 million. Or the multi-colored, Guy Peterson-designed Freund residence, listed at $12,950,000 million in Siesta Key's Sanderling Club. Peterson is not going to do another one like it, and neither is any other architect.

Of course, selling one-of-a-kind properties is not easy.

"You always have to be realistic with the seller," said Saunders, "and tell them what is happening in the market. You must communicate constantly — what is the right time and the right price?

"It is building that level of trust so they stay with you until they achieve their goals."

Pam Charron, who brought in the buyers of Snook Inn, worked with them for more than two years. Listing agents Marcia Salkin and Paulene Soublis had the listing for years.

Charron, who showed a $400,000 property to clients a couple hours after the $10 million closing, said her success is based on "the ability to listen to a customer's needs." In this case, they were referred to her.

"Narrowing down where they wanted to live is a process," said Charron. "Knowledge of the market area must be exemplary."

A lot of money is spent on marketing such homes, with lots of advertising and expensive photography.

And Internet exposure.

But there is more to it than that, said Saunders, speaking on her cellphone from Las Vegas, where she was meeting with luxury real estate brokers from around the world at a convention. "Selling is not just putting properties on the Internet," she said. "You have to have those connections."

If selling them is hard, so is appraising them. One must search far and wide to find comparable properties.

"The market expands considerably," said Don Saba, who has been appraising upper-end local real estate for decades. "The higher the price, the larger the market area I am looking at" to do the appraisal.

"When I am looking at $10 million and up, I also am looking at the Naples area."


Read more comments from appraiser Don Saba on my blog at realestate.heraldtribune.com. Follow me on Twitter: @haroldbubil, or search for #FLrealestate or #RESarasota. And don't forget Facebook.com/HaroldBubil.

Harold Bubil

Recipient of the 2015 Bob Graham Architectural Awareness Award from the American Institute of Architects/Florida-Caribbean, Harold Bubil is real estate editor of the Herald-Tribune Media Group. Born in Newport, R.I., his family moved to Sarasota in 1958. Harold graduated from Sarasota High School in 1970 and the University of Florida in 1974 with a degree in journalism. For the Herald-Tribune, he writes and edits stories about residential real estate, architecture, green building and local development history. He also is a photographer and public speaker. Contact him via email, or at (941) 361-4805.
Last modified: March 2, 2013
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