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Area realty associations look to merge

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SARASOTA COUNTY, Fla. -- The merger of two Suncoast real estate listing agencies is in the works.

The real estate market here can sometimes feel like the tale of two cities. Numbers from July indicate that the average price of a home in the Sarasota metro area was $350,180. In Bradenton, the average price was $195,000.

Compare that to Lakewood Ranch, where the average price in July was $425,000.

After years of talks, the goal for both the Sarasota and Manatee associations of realtors is to become the Suncoast Realtor Association. Both boards voted in favor of the merger Wednesday.

"More effectively and more efficiently is essentially what we view it. If we can provide more value to our members and make their job a little bit easier, then I think we've accomplished our goal," says Peter Crowley, president of the Sarasota Association of Realtors.

By combining their resources, they say they can also more effectively advocate for property rights throughout the Suncoast.

More than 5,000 members, consisting of agents, brokers, and affiliates, make up both associations right now. Many are already showing and selling properties up and down the Suncoast.

"It's the reality that when a buyer comes to our market, they don't always know whether they want to be in Sarasota County, Manatee County, or Charlotte County; and that buyer, you know, their needs change as they get more honed in on the process," says Crowley.

One Manatee County resident found himself in that very situation more than 10 years ago, moving from Indiana. Ron Castle say his Sarasota realtor showed him options from Venice to Bradenton.

He believes the merger just makes sense. "I think with their multiple listings, they're doing that today. They're crossing county lines anyway, which really made it for me that I didn't know that there were two different associations," says Castle.

The members of each association will vote on the merger agreement September 16th, and if approved, the change will be effective January 1st.