Small houses get new looks


PHOTO GALLERY:  Small houses get modern look

Every home buyer, regardless of the size or price of the house in question, wants two things -- good location and good value.

Sarasota's close-in subdivisions offer both -- relatively low prices and a commute to downtown of 10 minutes or less. The trade-off is that these houses, in such subdivisions as Gillespie Park, Paver Park, Terrace Gardens or Ringling Park, tend to be small, and many of them have not been updated. Some need a lot of work.

The 1955 home of David Kern on Nancy Street in Sarasota's Paver Park is an example of how an aging postwar house can be modernized for today's market. It is listed for sale at $ 189,000 through Dana Westmark and Donald Geikie of Michael Saunders & Co. (Staff photo / Harold Bubil).

The 1955 home of David Kern on Nancy Street in Sarasota's Paver Park is an example of how an aging postwar house can be modernized for today's market. It is listed for sale at $ 189,000 through Dana Westmark and Donald Geikie of Michael Saunders & Co. (Staff photo / Harold Bubil).

Those are the value properties, says Realtor Donald Geikie of Michael Saunders & Co., who, with business partner Dana Westmark, has listed a 1955 house of 1,683 square feet at 2657 Nancy St. in Paver Park, just west of Tuttle Avenue, at $189,000.

It, too, was tired and outdated when a bank sold it after foreclosing in 2011. Now, from the outside, it is clean and trim with tidy if unspectacular landscaping. Inside, though, it looks like a new house.

Doing a lot of the work himself, owner David Kern has transformed what could be called a "dump" into a small wonder.

His home is representative of what is being done in a lot of Gulf Coast neighborhoods -- the conversion of cozy, well-located houses from shabby to chic.

Some of these owners will stay in their houses. Others will sell and move on, hoping for profits.

That is what Kern hopes to do. Having just completed his renovation project after two years of ownership, he plans to move to Colorado to go into the home-renovation business with a friend.

"I built this for myself," he says at his breakfast counter; over his shoulder is a kitchen that looks as if it's in a builder's model home east of Interstate 75. "It is all personalized for me."

That is before he got the hankering to go west. At least he is still a young man.

The Kern family paid $75,000 for the house in March 2011, five years after it sold for a boomtime price of $260,000. When the market collapsed, the loan went into default. By Jan. 1, 2012, the county property appraiser valued the property at just $64,700.

When Kern's father, Jeff Kern, treasury manager in Sarasota Clerk of the Circuit Court Karen Rushing's office, bought the house in 2011, "it was stagnant in this area," said Geikie.

But not anymore. Listings are sparse in the Paver Park-Terrace Gardens-Ringling Park area, and they sell quickly. Of the past 23 houses to go on the market, 12 went under contract in 10 days or fewer.

Those that have been updated sell for the most money. Three houses listed at $155,000, $159,900 and $159,900sold in less than 21 days for $145,000, $156,420 and $147,500, respectively.

A home listed at $189,000 went pending after one day, said Geikie, while another house, listed at $199,900, went under contract after four days on the market.

"In this neighborhood, you are always looking for someone who wants to be close to downtown," said Geikie of the neighborhood's target market. "The houses are affordable. The last person I showed in here -- he was a teacher, she was a nurse. Perfect for this area, and they wanted to be close to downtown with everything that is going on."

Buyers who want to redo an old house must be ready to act immediately. That means having the down payment and mortgage qualifying in place, or being ready to pay all-cash at slightly above asking price in a multiple-bid situation.

"If you want to buy and redo, I think you've got to go in at $100,000 or less," said Geikie, a native of the United Kingdom. "Then you can live in it for as long as you want.

"If you want to redo and sell, then you have to look for a short sale or a bank-owned property in the $70,000s. They are going on and off so fast -- obviously people are just waiting for something to come on the market."

After its first eight days on the market, the Kern house had 15 showings. If it were to sell at $189,900, it would be the second-highest Paver Park sale since a Nancy Street house sold for $200,000 in April 2008. That property, with 2,846 total square feet of living area between the 1955 main house and a 1977 guest house, sold for $365,600 in 2006 -- a neighborhood record.

But that is unusual, even for the boomtime. Most sales in the area range from $70,000 to $150,000, but then, most houses have from 900 to 1,150 square feet.

"A lot of these homes are unusual," said Geikie. "A lot were three bedrooms and one bathroom when they were built, or two bedrooms and one bath."

He said David Kern "has done everything possible to bring his house into the standards of what people want today."

The house had about 1,100 square feet in 1955, when Paver Park was the answer of fraternal developers Stanley and Paul Paver to the postwar influx of young veterans needing housing. It was added to decades later, bringing it from three bedrooms and one bath to four bedrooms, two baths and 1,500 square feet of conditioned space.

Spending about a thousand hours of his own time on the project, David Kern spent $20,000 for new kitchen cabinets, counters and appliances; $10,000 on floor tile throughout the house; and $8,000 for other materials.

"The kitchen was from the 1950s; they had not updated it," said Kern. "I completely gutted it, had hardwood cabinets put in, brought these counters with me from New York, and all this tile."

He lived in New York for four years and worked for a tile and marble company, buying the counters at a discount.

He also did his landscaping.

"I did it all on my own time," said Kern. "If I had paid someone to do it, it would have been about $25,000 to $30,000 more."

The market

Three other updated homes -- new flooring, trim, appliances, kitchens, baths, landscaping, etc. -- are for sale in Paver Park, Ringling Park and Terrace Gardens, priced from $189,000 to $215,000:

<pbs:dingbats char="n">326 S. Lime Ave., Terrace Gardens, three bedrooms, one bath, 1,400 square feet, pool, $199,900; Florida Sun Realty.

<pbs:dingbats char="n">2574 Belvoir Blvd., Ringling Park, four bedrooms, two baths, 1,700 square feet, $189,900, Dunham Calabrese Realty.

<pbs:dingbats char="n">317 S. Shade Ave., Terrace Gardens, three bedrooms, two baths, 1,438 square feet, $215,000; Michael Saunders & Co.

Recent sales of updated houses in the neighborhood:

<pbs:dingbats char="n">2706 Sydelle St., Paver Park, three bedrooms, one bath, 1,206 square feet, $145,000 (listed at $155,000, 14 days on market).

<pbs:dingbats char="n">470 S. Lime Ave., three bedrooms, two baths, 1,500 square feet, $156,420 (listed at $159,900, 15 days on market).

<pbs:dingbats char="n">95 S. Briggs Ave., Golfview Subdivision, three bedrooms, two baths, 1,512 square feet, $147,500 (listed at $159,900, 21 days on market).

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: August 11, 2013
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