4 questions for a pro: Lakewood Ranch Realtor Jim Soda


Jim Soda came to Sarasota on golf trips from northeastern Ohio before selling his trucking business to one of his clients and moving here permanently.

He and his wife, Donna, started their real estate business, the Soda Group, as part of Keller Williams Realty. Since making Lakewood Ranch their home base, the team has grown to nine members. Correspondent Chris Angermann met with Jim to talk about the place he calls home.

Q: What’s the news in Lakewood Ranch?

A: The new mall is the big excitement now. It will be like its own little city. That and the new rowing facility have put Lakewood Ranch on the map.

The developer, Schroeder-Manatee Ranch, has done a fantastic job bringing the community along with the extension of Lakewood Ranch Boulevard to Fruitville Road and the planned extension of Lorraine Road to Fruitville, too. They’re going to have their own connector over Interstate 75 to get in and out of the mall, so they’re providing a lot of the infrastructure. Main Street has become a destination area with its restaurants and theater. On First Fridays, you can’t find a parking spot. It brings in 2,000 to 3,000 people.

Q: Who is buying property in the Ranch?

A: We’ve got an amateur soccer facility, and these amateur sports bring in moms, dads, aunts, uncles and coaches who are seeing Lakewood Ranch as the new frontier, the new shiny kid on the block. A lot of people move here solely because their children are going to IMG. Many will buy a house for a couple of years, and, when the kids graduate, move on. Some will like the area and stay.

We have both the “move up” and “move down” market. “Move up” is people coming from out of town. Florida buyers represent 36 percent of the people purchasing property in Lakewood Ranch this year. It’s probably because the east coast is so hectic. We’re also seeing a lot of buyers from New York and New Jersey; plus people from Canada — the largest international group — followed by United Kingdom. Most of them are buying second homes.

We’re also seeing a raft of people already living in Sarasota or Bradenton coming into Lakewood Ranch. They looking for a bigger home and they want the new construction.

The “move down” crowd is folks who have had luxury homes, but the kids are off to college, and they are downsizing. They’re going to smaller communities with lower maintenance. A lot of the country club people have stayed in Lakewood Ranch because they enjoy the place so much. They like the people they meet here. It’s the Midwest influence and atmosphere: laid back, genuine, friendly people.

Q: What should buyers be looking for when coming into LWR?

A: It depends on their age. Are they coming in with children, looking for private schools and activities? Are they coming as second-home buyers? Or are they retirees who want to enjoy the rest of their lives here? Lakewood Ranch offers lots of lifestyles and caters to all walks of life.

We’re seeing new construction, and that’s driving the train. Through September, we had sales of 375 existing homes and 453 newly built residences, so new construction is outpacing resales. The average price in new construction is a little over $400,000; resales range from $250,000 to $2 million and higher.

Q: What do you foresee?

A: I expect this season to be busy. Lakewood Ranch is such a viable area for the next five to 10 years. SMR has all the property it needs, and the people there are planning so well. They never get ahead of themselves. Manatee County has been friendly both to development and business. There is a lot of new business coming to town. We’re seeing an uptake now in Realtors scheduling showings for existing properties. It’s exciting for us — we always have product to sell.


Last modified: December 13, 2013
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