4 questions for a pro


Since becoming a Realtor with Coldwell Banker in 2002, Martie Lieberman has specialized in selling residences with distinctive architecture.

She focuses on midcentury modern properties from the 1940s to the late 1960s, and on contemporary moderns, custom-built homes in Sarasota and Manatee counties and throughout the state.

She has a listing in Jacksonville, for example, as well as a Tim Seibert-

designed home on St. Armands.

Lieberman blogs regularly about architecture and art in the area, and is expanding her business to include waterfront homes on the barrier islands.

"Modern architecture is not the only style I like," she says. "I like a lot of things, if they're done well."

Correspondent Chris Angermann interviewed her about her unique area of expertise.

Q:How did you become involved in this particular niche of the real estate market?

A:I'm an art collector, always have been, and I had a nonprofit art gallery downtown. To me, our art form is our architecture. Sarasota is known around the world for it, midcentury architecture in particular. People travel here to see it. When I became president of the Fine Arts Society, I suggested that we make the annual tour of homes about architecture.

So we did a tour and symposium of modernist homes in 2001. We worked with the University of Florida School of Architecture and brought in scholars and all the original architects who were still living. We had three days of lectures at Mote Marine and five days of tours. It was fantastic.

By the end, I had been inside most of the seriously good works of architecture in this area, had met the architects — Tim Seibert, Carl Abbott, Guy Peterson — and the homeowners. So when I went to work as a Realtor, I specialized in selling these kinds of houses.

Q:It's more than just a career for you?

A:Yes, some of it is about saving the important architecture in Sarasota. During the real estate boom, it was easy for people to buy lots with modern homes on them, scrape them off and build whatever they wanted. The way to save these kinds of houses is for people who like and understand them to buy them.

These days, it's become fashionable. All kinds of clients want them — young people, middle-aged buyers and older couples. Many will then redo the interior to their own tastes within the parameters of the architecture they bought.

It has pushed prices up. Many of the homes I sold in the past year or so have gone into a bidding war. But custom-built, modern architecture is not only for rich people. Most of my listings are inland properties — single-family homes from $150,000 to $350,000. They're different from the house next door, they stand out, and a lot of people are drawn to them. They like the inside-out quality: The glass doors sliding back and the wall at the edge of the property looking as if it's part of the interior — the whole yard is their living space.

Q:What are the challenges for this special market?

A:Not enough inventory. These houses are rare. That's why they're getting bid up in price. You might have to wait. I usually tell people, "Come and see me in the summer."

In the wintertime there is "a warm body in every crevice," and everybody who's looking for real estate has deep pockets. In the summertime, it's hot as a firecracker and hardly anybody is here. So I encourage people to work with me then, and they do.

Last year, I had a spike in sales over the summer. They came from all over the world — Germany, Great Britain, a lot of clients from Canada, and people from around the United States.

Q:How do you get your clients?

A:Ninety-five percent of my buyers find me through my website, Facebook and Twitter. I also have cultivated clients. I have close to 3,000 people on my email list.

These are buyers from around the world — architects, photographers, writers and artists. When I get a property listing, I go to them first.

They want these kind of houses; they want to save them. They know what they are and appreciate them. They're not going to put arches or a pitched roof on a flat-top building. They're not going to cover up the clerestory windows underneath the roof line.

They'll make sure that they bring in the light and create a wonderful sense of space.


Last modified: March 22, 2013
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