Letter From Home: Sarasota offers good value for luxury buyers


If you’ve got $5 million to blow and want to get the smallest home for your money, I’ve got the place for you.

Known as the Ohana Retreat, the Longboat Key mansion at 6630 Gulf of Mexico Dr. was designed by local architect Guy Peterson, and is listed at $19.9 million. It is among the priciest listings on Florida's Gulf Coast. (Dec. 18, 2013) (Herald-Tribune staff photo by Dan Wagner)

Known as the Ohana Retreat, the Longboat Key mansion at 6630 Gulf of Mexico Dr. was designed by local architect Guy Peterson, and is listed at $19.9 million. It is among the priciest listings on Florida's Gulf Coast. (Dec. 18, 2013) (Herald-Tribune staff photo by Dan Wagner)

But if you want the most house you can get for that $5 mil, you may be pretty much in the right place already.

Monte Carlo is the most expensive market in the world — at least the world as defined by real estate brokerages affiliated with Christie’s International Real Estate.

Christie’s senior vice president Rick Moeser said that $5 million — such buyers usually pay all-cash — will buy a 1,300-square-foot apartment in Monte Carlo. At $4,500 per square foot, the tiny principality on the Mediterranean Sea, surrounded by France, is by far the priciest of markets served by Christie’s, which has 1,200 affiliates, representing 30,000 agents, across the globe.

Hong Kong, London and New York also are in the top five, said Moeser, speaking last Wednesday during a reception at a $2.3 million waterfront listing, at 1410 Siesta Drive, presented by Jonathan Abrams and Brian Loebker of Michael Saunders & Co.

Naples and Miami, which had a $55 million condo sale in 2015, are the priciest luxury markets in Florida. Hong Kong had a $194 million condo sale.

This is a world where six bottles of the “finest and rarest” burgundy and Champagne were auctioned by Christie’s for $1.8 million.

In Sarasota, No. 20 among the 90 markets represented by a recent Christie’s survey of its 140 affiliates, $5 million will buy a 5-bedroom house of 8,031 square feet on open bay with sunset views, Moeser said, using figures supplied by the Saunders brokerage.

In Monterrey, Mexico, $5 million will buy a 22,000-square-foot hacienda.

Location, location, location, you know.

Moeser said that the “location” mantra is being replaced by another L-word — lifestyle. In the age of telecommuting, rich entrepreneurs can live anywhere, he said, and they want to have homes in places where they can pursue their interests. Here, that would be boating, fishing, golfing, theater-going — the things that have brought Sarasota so much wealth.

Moeser cited an April article in The Wall Street Journal that promoted Sarasota as an affordable alternative to Palm Beach, where he lives. Sarasota also is one of Christie’s leading “comeback markets,” with a 16 percent increase in luxury sales ($1 million or more) in 2015.

It takes a while to sell such properties, six months to two years or more, and, in 2015, they sold for 19 percent below list price across all Christie’s markets.

Moeser expects the remainder of 2016 to be relatively flat in the luxury market, calling it a “return to realism.” So maybe that $500 million listing in Bel-Air, near Los Angeles, will only go for $300 million.

Faced with a sagging economy in South America, which sends 36 percent of Florida’s foreign buyers to Miami, condo prices are down 20 percent in the Magic City, he said.

As for Brexit, Moeser doesn’t see much of an impact in Sarasota. The National Association of Realtors reports that only 12 percent of Florida’s buyers came from overseas in 2015, and 5 percent of those are from Great Britain — and that was before the Brexit vote.

Instead, Moeser said, savvy American buyers who wanted property in England pounced after its vote to leave the European Union, acting quickly to take advantage of currency rates and snatch up London properties on the cheap.


Here is what I love about architecture:

Henry Hohauser, 1935. Bubil photo 2009.

Colony Hotel, 1935, Miami Beach, Henry Hohauser. South Beach's first Art Deco building. Harold Bubil photo / 2009.

In a changing world, the buildings last, or at least the good ones do. They are a signature of days gone by, days we often view as better than the ones we are living now. That may or may not be true. But it is a delight to find an old building well preserved and imagine the circumstances of its creation, the dreams and talent that went into it, the need for it, the occupants who made lives or livings in it, and it is heartbreaking to see one that is ignored and dilapidated.

Preservationists call that “demolition by neglect.” The restoration of important old buildings is something to be celebrated.

At the same time, architecture is a statement of where we are today and where we want to go. So there is joy in buildings both old and new.

Not all buildings, of course. Architecture stands on three pillars — commodity, firmness and delight. A building must be strong, useful and have that more difficult-to-define quality of delight. That is the art of architecture; it elicits an emotional response. Some buildings are strictly utilitarian and have no delight. Others have limited or narrowly defined utility and only delight, and, it is hoped, enough strength to stand up for a while. These structures are sculptures or monuments.

To celebrate Florida’s architecture, past and present, I have begun a series on Twitter (@htrealestate) and Facebook (facebook.com/harold.bubil) called “Florida Buildings I Love.” It is a series of photographs, almost all of them from my archives. These are buildings, I have experienced the building in some way, either just from the outside or also from the inside.

The selections are both old and new, and represent the diversity of architectural styles that flourish in Sarasota. The series has reached 30 buildings, and, I can tell you, there are a lot more than 30 buildings in Florida that I love. I have put the first 27 in a gallery that is online at realestate.heraldtribune.com.

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: July 18, 2016
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