Sale of Siesta Key mansion latest sign of improving real estate market

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SIESTA KEY, Fla. -- Nestled on Higel Avenue is an 8600 square foot mansion that comes with its own private beach. The home recently sold for a whopping $10.25 million, making it the biggest residential real estate sale in Sarasota since 2011.

"It was the highest price … it did set a record, but it truly is no surprise once you enter the gates and you experience what life could be like," says Michael Saunders, founder and CEO of the real estate company named after her.

The home includes a state of the art kitchen, an elevator, and bedrooms with an ocean view. Other details like Brazilian floors helped increase the price of the property, but Saunders says the record sale is part of a bigger tread.


"The first to recover were the more modestly priced affordable houses, and now I think the discerning and those with significant funds have the confidence in the business climate across the country," Saunders says. She believes that confidence is translating into more high-end home sales.

"If you think three or four years ago, we had five years of inventory of properties that were over $3 million. Today we have less than 2 years," Saunders said.

It’s important to mention that Michael Saunders Company was they listing and the selling agent for the $10.25 million sale, and they have several other pending sales that will come in at more than $7 million.

But million dollars homes aren't the only properties setting records.

"Last month we saw the second-highest level of sales in Sarasota County history," says Susan Phelps, a local real estate agent and the president of the Women’s Council of Realtors.

A total of 1195 homes sold in April, and it would have taken just 28 more sales to beat the record set back in 2004. Phelps says the increased number of sales has also driven up demand, and with it home prices.

"We saw a slight increase in the median home sales price of a single family home from March to April, which indicates a fairly sable steady market," Phelps says.

And she says those worried the increase in an indicator of another market boom can breath easy because the growth has been steady.

How steady? 

The property tax base increased substantially across Southwest Florida this year as the real estate recovery gained a firmer footing, providing an influx of revenue that most local governments likely will use to boost spending or reduce their dependence on reserve funds.

Taxable property values increased by more than 6 percent in both Sarasota and Manatee counties. Local cities also saw values rise, from a high of 11 percent in Anna Maria to 9 percent in North Port, 6.4 percent in Venice, 5.8 percent in Bradenton and 5.5 percent in Sarasota.

The estimates released Thursday by county property appraisers are used to help cities, counties, school districts and other taxing authorities sketch out their budget plans for the upcoming fiscal year. This was the second year in a row that taxable values increased following four straight years of decline during the Great Recession.

"It just indicates that it’s a healthy market,” Phelps says.