Market Snapshot: Harbor Acres, revisited


E.A. Smith, a former mayor who was involved in the 1920s housing boom and had a hand in the creation of Harbor Acres, wrote in 1946, “The development of this property is a tremendous asset to Sarasota’s growth ... ideally suited for a fine type of community.”

Most Realtors agree with his assessment and often tout Harbor Acres as the quintessential “West of the Trail neighborhood with the best location in town.”

A home for sale at 1378 Harbor in Harbor Acres in Sarasota.   STAFF PHOTO / NICK ADAMS

A home for sale at 1378 Harbor in Harbor Acres in Sarasota. STAFF PHOTO / NICK ADAMS

“You’re close to everything and can get to everywhere quickly — downtown, the bayfront, schools, restaurants,” says Marcia Salkin, a Realtor with Michael Saunders & Co., who has sold a number of homes in the neighborhood over the years.

Southside Village, Selby Gardens, Southside Elementary and Sarasota Memorial Hospital are all within walking distance.

What was originally a mosquito-infested mangrove jungle — although a treasured habitat for fish and other wildlife — became a boating paradise when fill from dredging the bay and the surrounding canals was used to create two large peninsulas with a boat basin between them. That was when dredging and filling was legal.

Two entrances lead from South Orange Ave toward the bay. The gently curving roadways are lined with beautiful, mature palms and live oaks. A long section of Hillview Drive, from the southernmost entrance, is almost fully canopied for a magical atmosphere.

The homes on the basin and bay have spectacular views of Sarasota’s harbor, the downtown skyline and the Intracoastal Waterway. The sunsets look like the lush-colored canvasses in colors that would have inspired the Florida Highwaymen painters.

Lots were first sold in 1951 and went quickly. Inland properties went for $2,500, and waterfront sold for a little more than $10,000. Sizes varied from a third to a full acre. “It allows you to build a big home that can spread out. In other places, you have to go vertical,” says Salkin.

Different builders put up custom Florida ranch houses, starting the tradition of giving Harbor Acres residences a variety of architectural looks. Today, only a few of those original homes are still standing, surrounded by large two- and three-story estate residences. Although Spanish and Mediterranean-style homes predominate, none of them look alike. There are also a few striking examples of modern architecture.

A view of Sarasota Bay from the Harbor Acres neighborhood in Sarasota. STAFF PHOTO / NICK ADAMS

A view of Sarasota Bay from the Harbor Acres neighborhood in Sarasota. STAFF PHOTO / NICK ADAMS

Initially there were 171 lots, but today there are 166 addresses because some owners combined two teardown properties to put up a mansion.

Salkin remembers when most Harbor Acres still consisted of ranch homes. “The trend of replacing teardowns has accelerated in recent years,” she says.

“It’s in part because of FEMA, which has encouraged it,” she explains. Because flood-zone regulations allow limited funds for renovation, based on the value of the structure, it is more cost-effective in luxury, waterfront real estate to replace the original home. As a result, eight new homes are being built in the neighborhood.

Harbor Acres was one of the first neighborhoods to recover after the housing debacle, and it continues to be in the vanguard of upward trending property values. “We are talking serious increases,” says Salkin.

Consider her listing at 1204 Hillview Drive, which is active-with-contract. Designed by local architect Clifford Scholz and built in 2008, the 7,687 square foot, two-story mansion has five bedrooms, five bathrooms and three garages. In 2013, it sold for $2,997,500. This time, it was only 40 days on the market before it went under contract. The listed price is $7.775 million.

A view down arbor Drive in Harbor Acres in Sarasota. STAFF PHOTO / NICK ADAMS

A view down arbor Drive in Harbor Acres in Sarasota. STAFF PHOTO / NICK ADAMS

Not every home has seen such a steep upsurge, but all sections of Harbor Acres — waterfront, the boat basin and inland, have experienced substantial increases in value from 2014 to 2015. The three-story mansion at 1540 Hillview Drive, for example, sold twice in one year and jumped from $4.5 to $4.9 million. Even some of the older ranch homes, which used to go for around $500,000, now command prices in the $800,000s.

Some of this is because of the popularity of Harbor Acres and the new clientele. “Harbor Acres has always attracted successful business owners and professionals, especially doctors, and their families,” says Salkin. “But I’m seeing more new CEOs and new Eastern Europeans with money.”

She continues, “People want a good place for their family, even if it’s their second residence. They’re not just looking for a house, they’re looking for a home.”

Both seasonal and new owners love the congenial, low-key atmosphere. HOA fees of $150 a year are not mandatory, although just about everyone pays them. There are couple of small gatherings a year. “Everybody’s out walking, with their dog, It’s a really friendly neighborhood,” says Salkin.

Currently, six houses are on the market, including one under construction, with prices ranging from $1.49 million to $5.59 million.

Last modified: December 11, 2015
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