BY LIZA STROUT - It started as a whisper, and over the last few months has gathered steam. Word on the street is that the island real estate market is recovering by leaps and bounds.
While 2011 sales numbers showed the Charlotte County market was up by 11 percent and Sarasota was up by 17 percent, Gasparilla Island is up by 57 percent.
“We are insulated from most market change here on the island,” said Olivia Jones of Parsley-Baldwin Realty. She also pointed out things have slowed considerably from the giddy highs that started the decade.
Brian Corcoran of The BLC Group, LLC, said, “It has certainly turned a corner in Boca Grande in the luxury market. 2009 was the worst year for real estate in recent memory. The financial meltdown affected people’s ability to spend. We began to pick up in 2010, and just finished a much improved 2011.”
The optimism is spread throughout most of the real estate community. According to Ralph DiLena, Jr., Boca Grande Real Estate has seen an upswing in business.
“We are off to a fantastic start into the new year,” he said. “We’ve had more interest in the last two months than in the previous six months combined. Offers are being accepted. Right now may be an excellent time to consider buying real estate and a strategic time to exit the market if your basis or opportunity costs are profitable.”
Not everyone is as sanguine about the term recovery. Becky Paterson, of Seale Family, Inc., remarked that, “Calling it a recovery may be premature. The market out here is so seasonal, until we see what happens in January and February, we really don’t show a trend. Most everything sold recently has been sold at a significant discount.”
Kevin Hyde of Michael Saunders & Co. said there has been a steady double-digit increase in demand for island real estate in the last three years. Island-wide in 2009, 36 properties sold for a combined $42.6 million. In 2010, 53 properties sold for $65.3 million. The numbers from last year are even better, with 93 properties selling for $111.7 million.
Hyde also said he sold two parcels of land on the north end of the island to one investor, and at least two others sold in late 2011.
“People see the value in land right now, and they have the opportunity to build on it for less than they would have in the past. They’re investing,” he said.
Gulf-to-Bay Sotheby’s had a wonderful year. Donna Moore, owner and broker, said of last year, “It was a great season for the first time in several years, so we were thrilled.”
As of December 20, 2011, there were 95 transactions on the island, and Gulf to Bay Sotheby’s International Realty was involved on one side or both in 55 of them. Buyers Resource, who acts exclusively as agents for those purchasing property, reports an increase in inquiries from people interested in buying an island home. According to Karen Hugger, who works with that company, the interest is from around the country, not any one particular region.
As a welcome close to 2011 and start to the New Year, there are currently four properties pending contract on the island. Hopefully by the end of February, we can call it a trend.