The Naples vs. Sarasota question


Last week’s column (The wealthy may as well spend it here, Jan. 4) generated a lively debate in the Comments section on

The main debate was whether the growth of the upper class is reducing the middle class to a shambles.

But one reader noted that I had become the “Robin Leach of local real estate.”

That was a reference to the British journalist famous for his “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” TV series of the 1980s and ’90s, in which he signed off by bidding us all, in his exceptionally thick British accent, “Champagne wishes and caviar dreams!”

Champagne gives me a headache, and I can take or leave caviar. I do like the little pieces of toast, though.

As for dreams, I sometimes imagine what it would be like to be a New York CEO with a lot of money and a bad case of Florid-itis. Palm Beach is too stodgy and Miami is so hot that it is losing its cool in all that traffic, so I’m looking to spend my real estate dollars on the West Coast. Tampa is gritty and St. Pete tries very hard in Tampa’s shadow. So the million-dollar decision becomes, “Sarasota or Naples?”

Waking up from this dream, the real me really likes to visit Naples, but is biased toward Sarasota. So I posed the question to someone who knows both markets intimately — Judy Green, CEO and president of Premier Sotheby’s International Realty.

“The prices in Sarasota are more reasonable,” said Green, whose office is in Naples, but lived in Sarasota for many years. “No. 2, Sarasota has a great cultural arts program that is so broad.

“Naples is more laid back; somebody can slip in there and be themselves,” Green told me at Premier Sotheby’s “Power Summit” for its agents, held Wednesday at the Charlotte Harbor Event and Conference Center in Punta Gorda (talk about laid-back). “The CEO of the largest corporation in the world will buy somewhere in Port Royal and be able to walk down the street in shorts and flip-flops and be quite comfortable. It is the lifestyle and the anonymity of it.”

I brought up the fact that the beaches are better in Sarasota, and Naples Bay is a mere pond compared with Sarasota Bay.

“No doubt about it,” she said. “Sarasota has a more lively lifestyle. You can go down to Marina Jack, Bayfront Park and all that, and you do not have that in Naples. Just driving over the bridge, going over to Lido and Longboat keys — the essence of what you see, it is like you are escaping to another world.

“One of the things we do in Naples, and in Sarasota, is to put people in boats and drive them by some of the homes. The waterway and the Intracoastal that you have in Sarasota, you just don’t have in Naples.”

Sarasota has excellent golf courses, but Naples has a more lustrous reputation there.

So it comes down to how much money the buyer wants to spend. The record sale in Sarasota has been stuck at about $13 million for a dozen years. In Naples, a Gordon Drive mansion that sold for $47.25 million in March 2012 is back on the market at $68 million.

Caviar wishes, indeed.

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 12, 2015
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