What to do with an empty lot


What to do with that empty lot? The answer holds a key to selling two luxury homes in the news.

On Lido Key, Coldwell Banker Previews agent Barbara Ackerman had to figure out what to do about the beautifully landscaped lot next door to a mansion at 1255 Westway Drive in Lido Shores.

Her client was the seller of the 7,400-square-foot house, which was built on a small lot of just 16,000 square feet. The client had purchased the then-new house for $9.2 million in 2003, and at the same closing bought a tear-down house next door for $4 million. The result was a $13.2 million single-closing home sale record for the county.

The owner tore down the house and landscaped the lot. But when it came time to sell, she wanted to keep the vacant land, in hopes that it would appreciate, and sell just the house and its lot.

The problem was that potential buyers saw the house and two lots as one piece, and wanted them both for the $7.8 million listing price.

Ackerman's answer was to install a hedge to visually detach the vacant lot from the occupied one.

"Make it so it doesn't look like it's one piece of property," said Ackerman, who sold the house a week ago for $6.35 million. "That is what did it. If you look at the property right now, it looks like an entirely different piece of property."

Which it is, again.

Clearly excluding the lot, she said, "made the parcel with the house more marketable in today's market. Easier to sell a house for $6.35 million than for $9 million, which could be the value if the empty lot had been included.

"This was an opportunity for a seller to be able to hold onto an asset and watch it grow without much maintenance."

We will see how that works out. Putting another mansion on that 16,000-square-foot piece of dirt will be a tight fit. But at least it has been done before.

On the other hand, the owner of a house in The Oaks that is featured on this page came up with a different solution. Margaret Pennington loves to hold big parties at her house, and her extra lot provided space for parking all those guests in the gated community.

But now she is selling, and she is so motivated that she is including the extra lot as part of the $1,995,000 listing price, along with a detached garage, fully equipped guest house with pool plaza and a 4,100-square-foot house with pool.

A previous agent had listed the house at $2.25 million, without the extra lot. "It is all one parcel now. Margaret is serious about selling and she has priced it accordingly," said Kim Ogilvie, the Michael Saunders agent who has the listing now.

The lesson here: If there is an empty lot next to your house, make sure it is clear whether it is included with your sale. Buyers don't like to be confused.


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: January 9, 2013
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