Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Sarasota Herald Tribune 11/29/06

Project planned in East Manatee
County to consider traffic issues at huge Lakewood Ranch park


LAKEWOOD RANCH -- A massive Lakewood Ranch commercial project would bring more than 700,000 square feet of new retail and office space to Lakewood Ranch Boulevard south of State Road 64.
The Lakewood Ranch Commerce Park, planned for the southeast corner of S.R. 64 and Lakewood Ranch Boulevard, would provide more shopping and service options for the exploding residential growth along Lakewood Ranch's northern boundary.The 727,000 square-foot project is part of a larger retail and office development planned for that fast-growing intersection.

For comparison, consider that the new Super Target store at University Parkway and Interstate 75 is 174,000 square feet, or less than a quarter the size of this project.Manatee County is reviewing plans for the project, which had received initial approval in 2000.The county is reviewing the plans again because developers get three years to build approved projects before having to resubmit them.

In this case, the county is sure to consider whether the project would cause traffic problems in the increasingly congested East Manatee region.If the county decides existing roads can't handle traffic from the project,

Lakewood Ranch developer Schroeder-Manatee Ranch would be responsible for adding capacity.County Planner Laurie Suess said resubmittals are crucial with long-term projects such as these."A lot has happened since 2003 and we have to make sure it won't impact traffic," she said."They're taking the next step in keeping their project alive so they can finish it."One phase of the commerce park, the sprawling Publix plaza and its strip malls, is already complete.

This latest phase promises to bring 127,000 square feet of commercial space, 300,000 square feet of offices, and 300,000 square feet of industrial space.When built out, the commerce center would total 2.4 million square feet.

SMR submitted a new traffic study to the county. Planners are expected today to let SMR know how they feel about the project.

Final approval is expected sometime in the first part of 2007.

The commerce park is a welcomed addition to East Manatee, especially for residents like Bobbie Griswold.Griswold and her husband built their Waterlefe home knowing there weren't many stores around.But the couple lived under the premise that if homes were built, then commercial would soon follow.It has, but not fast enough for them.For the Griswolds, trips to doctor appointments, clothing stores and restaurants mean a drive into Sarasota or Bradenton."I just don't like to drive that far to go shopping all the time," she said. "I would just like to see more out here."

Lakewood Ranch spokeswoman Sondra Guffey said the commerce park has taken a long time to develop because it is so large.Another nearby project will bring more needed services to far East Manatee.Lorraine Corners, a 13.65-acre retail project on the southeast corner of Lorraine Road and State Road 70, promises to bring a pharmacy, office space, restaurant, stores and a day care.

Sarasota Bradenton Homes Prices down 18%


Home prices drop 17 percent

The Charlotte County-North Port median price falls to $202,800.


Prices remain the story in home sales, with Sarasota-Bradenton prices falling 18 percent in October, the second biggest drop in the state.The median sales price in the Sarasota-Bradenton market was $277,900 last month, compared with $340,700 during the same month in booming 2005.

The Charlotte County-North Port market was not far behind, with a drop of 17 percent, from $243,900 to $202,800.

Only Fort Myers-Cape Coral took a bigger fall, posting a 44 percent decline in median sales price, from $445,100 to $249,200, the Florida Association of Realtors reported on Tuesday.The median is the point where half the homes sold for more and half for less.Those numbers came against the backdrop of a national decline in sales price of 3.5 percent, to $221,000, the biggest year-over-year drop on record. It marked the third straight month that prices have fallen nationally, the longest stretch on record.

Home price have been declining in Sarasota-Bradenton since June.Sellers are giving ground on prices, recognizing that in a local and national market flooded with listings, how much you ask for your home is one of the few ways to differentiate yourself from the competition.

"It's often a matter of educating the sellers that in order to move their property, they've got to give on the price," said Brandy Coffey of Sarasota's Good Life Realty.Many buyers are well-acquainted with that fact.After looking at about 40 homes in the $800,000 to $1 million range, Craig Aberle and his wife just landed a deal in a south Sarasota golf course community.The house they are buying was on the market for about a year, and they were able to get it for 20 percent less than the sellers were asking a year ago."They wanted to move," said Aberle, who will close before the end of the year. "They were reluctant to take our offer, which was a strong offer, mostly cash. But we said, 'Look, this is all we are willing to spend, and there are several other houses.'"You're in a position where, if you want to be aggressive, you can play the sellers off against each other."

Aberle took his own haircut earlier this year when he sold in New Jersey: "We sold for 10 percent less than it would have been in 2005."

Yetta Levitt knows exactly what she is doing as she attempts to market her own spacious waterfront home in the Nokomis subdivision of Sorrento Woods for $850,000.It is on the Internet with pictures and arrows; Levitt is offering a bonus to the selling agent; she will provide a full mortgage with only 5 percent down.The problem is there aren't many buyers floating around."All I can say is nothing in my neighborhood is moving," Levitt said, noting that one of the less expensive, nonwaterfront homes in her 210-home subdivision sold last month for $410,000. "Prior to that sale, I believe the last sale was November 2005."

The numbers released Tuesday back up Levitt's theme.In the Sarasota-Bradenton market, 24 percent fewer homes sold this October than October 2005. Sales were virtually flat in Charlotte County-North Port: 226 compared with 225 in 2005.The Florida Association of Realtors noted that Hurricane Wilma struck Southwest and South Florida during the last week of October 2005, and that the storm's disruption likely reduced the number of sales in many communities.If activity had been normal, the drop in sales would have been even more pronounced.

Sales nationally edged up 0.5 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 6.24 million in October. It was the first monthly increase after seven consecutive months of declines.Meanwhile, Florida's total sales dropped 22 percent, from 16,407 in October 2005 to 12,773 last month.'About right'Some Realtors said the price drop during October is what is to be expected in a market where listings have multiplied from the heady days of the real estate market of the last three years, a time when homes moved in a matter of days.Pricing in 2005 represented historic highs for the region, said Tom Heatherman, a spokesman for Michael Saunders & Co."We have experienced some double digit declines, but we are backing off what were historic increases over the previous years," Heatherman said.

Chad Roffers, president of Sarasota-based Sky Sotheby's Realty, said the price decline goes hand in hand with slowing sales."An 18 percent decrease feels about right. We're seeing unit sales down by a third across the board and prices off by 20 percent from the peak in mid-2005," said Chad Roffers, president of Sarasota-based Sky Sotheby's."We are seeing a 'liquidity point' at values similar to those that existed in the fourth quarter of 2004. Those sellers who accept that level of value are seeing action. Those who hold out for 2005 prices are not."Budge Huskey, president and chief operating officer of Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate, agreed."These results should not come as a surprise. Price is a function of inventory levels, which have risen across the board," Huskey said, adding that "in some areas we're starting to see inventory levels stabilize or flatten out, although we're not at a point where we've reached equilibrium."Huskey said pricing is the key: "Aggressive pricing and positioning are important right now for sellers."He is not convinced that prices are done declining. "Sell now; you may get less in three months than today."Coldwell Banker has closed 15 of the Florida offices that Huskey oversees from Sarasota, bringing the total to about 160. Real estate agents working for the company, meanwhile, total about 6,800, down 5.5 percent from 7,200 last year.Homes were not the only part of the housing sector taking a hit in October.Sales of condominiums in the Sarasota-Bradenton market were off 51 percent from the same time a year ago. The median sales price dropped 27 percent, from $294,000 to $216,000."Condos always go belly up when economy gets sluggish," said Barbara Anson of Manatee County's Wagner Realty.Charlotte County-North Port saw a 24 percent drop in sales, but pricing in the market, which has few condos to offer, was difficult to use as any accurate gauge.Anson said the 18 percent drop in home prices during October "was caused by homes in the region being overpriced," and she said the same is true across other classes of property."We now have to come back to reality," she said. "I am explaining to my sellers in Myakka that the bubble has busted. They're not going to get $350,000-$400,000 for a 10-acre parcel like they used to. They'll get $200,000."Anson is seeing a lot of "half-backs," people who have moved halfway back north to places like Georgia, the Carolinas and Tennessee, where lower-priced housing is more readily available."We've priced ourselves out of the market and it'll take at least a year to get it corrected," she said. "I tell my clients, 'Don't think some Yankee will come down here and buy your property just because it's in Florida.'"

Chuck Edwards and his wife, a pair of those halfbacks, have been wheeling and dealing in Sarasota residential property for 13 years.They decided last year to cash in their chips and move to coastal South Carolina.Edwards still has eight Sarasota-Bradenton properties that he wants to sell.He has been trying to sell 2408 Riverbluff Parkway for more than a year.At first, he asked for $305,900 on this 55-and-older community home with boat docks available to owners.
Now the price is $285,000 as a straight sale."We bought it right at the tail end of when the market was going crazy, where all you had to do was put a little two-by-five sign out there and somebody would buy it right away," Edwards said.To make his Riverbluff Parkway house more palatable in today's tough market, Edwards is also making it available at a higher price of $289,500 for those who want to lease with an option to buy within a year."
We are offering a lease option for it and any property we have, except for the personal house."I need to cash out of that."
Last modified: November 29. 2006 5:26AM

Monday, November 06, 2006

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