Archives August, 2010

Back to School

New College of Florida - Sarasota

Stopped behind a school bus recently gave us an appropriate moment to reflect on how very fortunate we are to live in a region that takes education very seriously at all levels.

Families with school-age children can look forward to enrolling them in one of Florida’s highest-rated public school systems. The Sarasota County school district has been designated an “A” district by the Florida Department of Education, with 95 percent of its elementary schools and 84 percent of its high schools receiving “A” or “B” grades in 2009. Its graduation rate is at an all-time high of 86 percent; and even though we are rarely thought of in the same breath as Florida’s better-known college towns, our college-bound seniors have no less than 15 institutions of higher learning to choose from within Sarasota, Manatee and Charlotte Counties.

Many of our public and private schools, colleges and universities are routinely ranked among the nation’s best. U.S. News & World Report, for example, consistently ranks Pine View School for the Gifted among the nation’s very best public high schools. The school also ranks 1st in the State of Florida both for mean SAT scores and mean ACT scores.

Just last Tuesday, U.S. News’ 2011 edition of America’s Best Colleges hit the newsstands. It ranks Sarasota’s New College of Florida among the top five of all public liberal arts colleges in the U.S. For the sixth consecutive year! Offering apologies to Harvard, Yale and Princeton, Parade Magazine—in its August 22nd edition— ranks New College among the top 7 colleges where you can get an Ivy League education at a public university price.

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Ask Michael – How Do I Price My Home to Sell?

In this Ask Michael Video, Michael Saunders talks about how to price your home to sell.

Sarasota, Manatee & Charlotte Counties: July – Year Over Year Sales Comparison

Sarasota County:
Consistent with the national decline in sales that followed the expiration of the home buyer tax credit, sales in Sarasota County declined by 22.9% versus last July—when the tax credit was in full effect. Pendings remained flat, year over year, which is an encouraging sign. They kept pace with last July, when the tax credit was in effect.

Manatee County:

Year over year sales were flat, an indication that July sales without the tax credit kept pace with last year’s sales when the credit was in full effect. Year over year pendings not only kept pace with last year, but finished the month up by 5.1%.

Charlotte County:

Sales down by 8.2% in the first month since the tax credit expired. Pendings kept pace with last year, when the tax credit was in effect.

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Right Place, Right Time

Michaelsaunders.com - "Best Opportunity," luxury waterfront listing.

Michaelsaunders.com - "Best Opportunity," Luxury waterfront listing.

Few have survived the recessionary effects of the past few years with their financial psyches in tact.  Thus, today’s luxury home buyers are much different from the “boom-and-bling” buyers of the past decade.  In a case of reshuffled priorities, they have become relatively frugal; which includes a change in behavior when it comes to buying luxury properties.   For even if their wealth has rebounded to some extent with the stock market, the sting of lost value to their portfolios—even if only on paper—still smarts.

In embracing these new attitudes, luxury buyers haven’t gone totally thrifty.  High net worth individuals still regard luxury properties as solid long term investments; and still demand noticeable “bling” in the ones they end up buying.  Just less bling overall, but more focused on where it will ultimately help boost the home’s re-sale value in future markets; while fully accommodating their own lifestyle.   Nevertheless, in this new age of more disciplined spending—amid the most advantageous buyers’ market in recent memory—whatever “extras” a property has to offer had better be part and parcel of an unquestionably great deal.

Grounded in a new sense of financial realism, many of today’s buyers now eschew such once-desirable extras as upstairs laundry rooms and home theaters; preferring instead more practical and cost-effective uses of space.  For many, the next primary home they buy will be smaller and more flexible version of their current one.   So even if there is a home theater or media room it may have to do double duty as a den, office or spare bedroom.

Trading-down in size is one thing; but trading-down in quality and prestige is quite another matter.  Buyers accustomed to luxury are willing to scale back on the absolute number of extras or amenities, but rarely will they skimp on the quality of the ones they are most determined to have.

“Location, location, location” remains amenity number one for the high net worth buyer.  In the 2010 Private Wealth Report conducted by Citi Private Bank the “reputation of an area” is singled-out as the most important factor when considering where to buy a primary residence. Security, design and size come in second, third and fourth respectively.   Clearly, it’s perfectly acceptable to buy the smallest house on any given block; so long as the property exudes quality and the block is situated in a highly prestigious neighborhood.

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Michael Saunders & Company Premiers New Web Site Combining Consumer-Focused Design and Content With the Expertise of a Market Leading Real Estate Brokerage

Michaelsaunders.com  now features rich neighborhood profiles, community videos, local real estate market data and improved property search functionality

SARASOTA, Florida—(August 17, 2010)—Michael Saunders & Company, the leading real estate company on Florida’s Gulf Coast, announces the premier of its new web site, michaelsaunders.com.  The distinctive new site combines consumer-centric design and ease of usage with the compelling neighborhood content, market data and advanced property search capabilities that buyers and sellers need to make important decisions impacting their real estate goals.  The new site is now live at michaelsaunders.com.

“When we opened our first office 34 years ago, we did so with the commitment to deliver an outstanding real estate experience to every customer who passed through our front door,” said Michael Saunders, company founder and CEO from her headquarters in downtown Sarasota. “Times have definitely changed; with today’s “front door” very often being the home page of our web site.  The new site renews our commitment to an exceptional experience no matter which portal a customer comes through.” (more…)

Bay Isles, FL – Neighborhood Video

Bay Isles is what most people think of when they picture Longboat Key. It is gated, of course, and impeccably manicured, with lavish yet discrete homes. Views of the water or the golf course – or both – are everywhere. The lifestyle epitomizes affluent Florida living – year round golf, tennis, boating, with the famous cultural pursuits and fine dinning of Sarasota just a few minutes away.

Located at the southern end of historic Longboat Key on land that was first developed by John Ringling, the common thread that runs through Bay Isles’ collection of gated communities is a unique level of taste and luxury.

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Did You Know? – Top 10 Fun Facts and Places of the Sarasota Area

Walk above the trees at the Myakka Canopy. Photo courtesy of 511enews.com.

Beyond the crystalline waters, world-class beaches and swaying palm trees lies a rarely discovered world involving historical significance, cultural importance and natural exploration. It is among these unique charms that one truly discovers what our area is all about, and why those of us who live here are fortunate to call this slice of paradise home.

Here are the top 10 fun facts and places off the beaten path here in the Sarasota area:

1.  Burns Court – Nestled away in downtown Sarasota, in the middle of historic Burns Square, is a small raspberry-colored theater that many people consider a landmark of the surrounding area. After opening its doors in 1993, Burns Court Cinemas has continually proven to be the best place around to find first-run, hand-picked foreign language, independent, and art films. Fun fact:  Money Magazine has called Sarasota the best small city in the U.S., and has named Burns Court one of the best places to live in Sarasota. Click HERE to see what’s playing today.

2.  Myakka Canopy – One of only about a dozen worldwide where you can walk along the treetops, the Myakka Canopy Walkway puts you 25 feet above the ground and extends 85 feet through the tree tops above the Myakka floor. Fun fact:  Completed in June of 2000, it is the only one in the world in a subtropical forest. Click HERE for more information.

3.  Paul Rudolph Houses – Take a rare look into one of Florida’s most influential architects and view the early residential works of Paul Rudolph, which were widely published at the time of conception and played a significant role in the culture of mid-twentieth century American design. Fun fact:  Rudolph’s Sarasota time is now part of the period labeled Sarasota Modern in his career. Learn where to find them HERE. (more…)

Ask Michael – Who is Buying Real Estate Today

In this Ask Michael Video – Michael Saunders talks about who is buying Real Estate in today’s market.

The Neighborhood Report – Rivendell

Discover the ultimate Florida lifestyle in Rivendell.

A newer community located in the village of Osprey, Rivendell includes almost 500 homes in various neighborhoods spread among 400 acres, which include 14 wetlands and more than 20 lakes and ponds. Located conveniently within walking distance from the Pine View School, this master-planned community is designed to complement your active Florida lifestyle

Rivendell is governed by an active volunteer board of committed residents who are interested in maintaining the beauty of the natural surroundings and upholding the property values.

Market Activity – Rivendell

Home sales have been brisk this year so far, as 15 properties have sold with prices ranging from $200,000 to $585,000 with the time from listing to contract averaging three to five months. There are currently 13 properties actively listed for sale priced from $238,500 to $495,000. There are also eight under contract listed between $220,000 and $519,000.

Sales comparisons for the past few years show that the Rivendell market is “holding its own.”

2008: 23 sales at an average sale price of $393,000, days on market averaged 3-5 months. (more…)

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Happy Re-Birth Day

Yesterday michaelsaunders.com was re-born after more than 14 months of intense labor.   Needless-to-say, re-developing the site was a labor of love involving not only our technology, marketing and management teams, but also the most nationally prominent interactive communications and web design agency in the real estate industry.  More importantly, it involved significant input from our clients, customers, and agents.

For the fifth time since it debuted 15 years ago michaelsaunders.com has been completely made over to provide users with an online real estate experience more befitting of today’s vastly improved web technology.  Combining up-to-the-minute market conditions by city with a simpler, more advanced property search function, the site has been extensively tested by many of the industry’s leading experts—with additional improvements the direct result of their participation.

In the end, however, it was the input of home buyers and sellers—along with our own agents—that mattered most.  These will be the site’s most frequent end-users—and its toughest critics.  So far, we’ve received raves about its wealth of relevant content and user-friendly design.

Specifically, here are the three major features that users find most relevant:

– A simple, straightforward search function that includes property information delivered directly from the MLS—including big bold photography.

– Up-to-the-minute market reports—compiled by Altos Research—a company that pulls statistical data from a variety of sources, including city property records, to deliver local market conditions for incorporated cities.  While traditional data sources still rely on months-old or incomplete data, we now provide visitors to michaelsaunders.com with a clear, concise view of current market conditions.

– Neighborhood pages filled with content to help facilitate important real estate decisions.  These pages combine real estate listings with High Definition community video tours, local business reviews, a library of area photos; and much more.

Obviously the best way to find out about michaelsaunders.com is not by reading about it; but by visiting the site yourself and sampling its features. As always, we welcome your comments, criticism and suggestions for improvement.  It took a lot of hard work to re-birth this “baby” and we want to make sure its just right.

Email us your comments at editor@michaelsaunders.com.

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