The Right Stuff

Deganit Shemy & Company - "Arena" performance at the Ringling Arts Festival

Deganit Shemy & Company - "Arena" performance at the Ringling Arts Festival. Photo: ringlingartsfestival.org

It was nice to hear someone else say it for a change; someone who is both in the loop, professionally-speaking, and who spoke from a place well outside our market area.

That “someone” was Barbara Corcoran, long familiar to regular viewers of the Today Show as the program’s resident expert on all things real estate.   What Corcoran—who built a small empire selling properties in New York City, the Hamptons and Palm Beach—said in an interview with Al Roker confirms what hard-core statistics have hinted at for some time now.  There’s absolutely no time like right now to jump in and take advantage of the unprecedented opportunities that await homebuyers in Sarasota’s value-laden real estate market.

Said Corcoran moments before revealing the top ten U.S. markets in which prices have dropped the most, but come back strongest over the last quarter: “If you can time a real estate market—which you can’t often do—this is the time to buy in these particular places.” She then placed Sarasota squarely atop her list of the nation’s best-priced real estate markets; based on actual sales statistics compiled monthly by the National Association of Realtors. What these statistics don’t necessarily reveal is that only the most aggressively priced homes in every price range are moving into the sold column.

“The Florida markets were hit early,” Corcoran said in explaining why Sarasota is out in front of the real estate comeback. “Last year alone, prices went down by a full third in Sarasota. But prices are already up 13%. So it’s moving fast as buyers snap up bargains.”

That’s not all Ms. Corcoran had to say about Sarasota being a most attractive place to buy. When the affable Roker mentioned that Sarasota is also prized for possessing some of the country’s best beaches, Corcoran concurred, but went a step further. “It’s a beautiful beach,” she agreed offhandedly. “But on top of that,” she emphasized, “it’s a sophisticated city. It’s an urban city, with all the things that sophisticated people like to find there.”

Wow. Talk about winning the trifecta. Any one of these three positive attributes—great prices, awesome beaches and a richly cultivated lifestyle—is enough to lure most discerning buyers to Sarasota. Yet, even if you never plan to set foot on a beach or attend a live music, theater or dance performance, you still have unlimited recreational opportunities, great retail, restaurants, nightlife and—of course—low prices to take advantage of.

Being hailed publically as the best-priced market in the nation adds to a remarkable string of economic shots-in-the-arm for Sarasota in an otherwise forgettable year for the U.S. economy. Earlier this year, in his annual, highly-publicized ranking of the best beaches in America, Dr. Stephen Leatherman—also known as Dr. Beach—named Crescent Beach, on Siesta Key, the best beach in the contiguous 48 states. No surprise there. Anyone who has ever ambled along the wide, cool, powdery-white strand will take no exception to that.

Then, just two days after Ms. Corcoran praised Sarasota for being just as sophisticated as it is a bargain place to buy a home, the opening-night curtain rose on the first-ever Ringling International Arts Festival as if to prove her point right on cue. When the final curtain descended—five days and some 40 live performances of original music, dance and theater later—the festival had not only played to near sell-out audiences, but had also far exceeded even the wildest expectations of its two teams of organizers—one from the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art; the other from New York’s Baryshnikov Arts Center. The legendary Russian-American dancer, choreographer and actor, Mikhail Baryshnikov, was on hand to witness the event, which imported dozens of visual and performing artists to the museum and its adjacent FSU Center for the Performing Arts.

Going in, of course, it was hard for anyone to predict how many people would attend the festival and how they would respond to such original, cutting-edge performances. A full two years in the making—the event was an unknown quantity, at best, and made its debut during the sleepiest days of our off-season amid one of the most hostile economies on record for arts organizations. Which makes the festival’s over-the-top success that much more impressive and puts the world on notice that Sarasota takes its cultural identity very seriously.

“I’m just overwhelmingly pleased with how everything went,” said Stanford Makishi, executive director of the Baryshnikov Arts Center, in an interview with the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. He rated the festival “a 20 on a 10-point scale” and there’s already talk of mounting an annual version of the event; although it will definitely be back on a grand scale every two years as originally envisioned.

When Barbara Corcoran tilted the national spotlight as much toward Sarasota’s cultural sophistication as she did toward its bottomed-out home prices she telegraphed to her nationwide viewers that there’s much more to Florida than warm weather, picture-perfect beaches and the lowest prices in a decade. She let it be known in no uncertain terms that if you’re accustomed to a sophisticated menu of cultural, culinary and recreational amenities you needn’t starve when you also opt for sun, sea and value. You can choose Sarasota and have all the right stuff.

  • User Gravatar Ingrid Petri
    October 19th, 2009

    Thanks, that was very interesting. Looking forward to the next. Did you get our newsletters?

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