Why Now Is the Best Time to Buy a Home in Sarasota, Florida

With home prices down significantly, Sarasota homebuyers are fueling a recovery of the local housing market.

Affordable housing in Sarasota was hard to come by during the real estate boom years. Like many resort areas throughout the country, Sarasota's beautiful beaches and natural scenery attracted speculative investors, driving up demand and home prices and spurring new development.

Now with the downturn, affordable housing is "everywhere," says Helen Sosso, President/CEO of Prudential Palms Realty, whose brokerage works with homebuyers and sellers in Manatee and Sarasota counties.

The average sale price has dropped significantly, down about 50 percent, Sosso says. "It's not great for sellers, but it's a tremendous opportunity for buyers… We haven’t seen these kinds of prices in Sarasota since 2002."

Many Sarasota buyers are snatching up homes for a median sale price of $170,000, foregoing the McMansions for 3,000-square-foot single family homes and 2-bed, 2-bath condos. "We're seeing lots of people from the North, of baby boomer age, ready to take retirement or are forced into retirement. They've lost jobs," Sosso says.

Sosso is also seeing a lot of investors and European buyers who are looking for a vacation home or a property to hold on to for two to three years, rent out and sell for a profit when the market recovers.

Falling home prices aren't the only thing bringing in buyers. While Sarasota has long attracted wealthy, older residents, more young professionals and families are moving in, drawn to cultural amenities that rival those in big cities, including one of the top five repertoire theaters in the country. Ringling Brothers, of circus fame, called Sarasota home and still has a strong influence on the area today.

Young families are flocking to suburban neighborhoods like Lakewood Ranch, a new master-planned community which boasts diverse housing options, commercial space, entertainment venues and championship golf courses. Meanwhile, retirees, empty nesters and young professionals are driving growth in the pedestrian-friendly downtown area. Siesta Key, Longboat Key and Casey Key are popular areas as well.

"Sarasota has a true sense of community with a phenomenal cultural base and educational base," Sosso says. Other perks include access to three major airports and the city's strategic geographic location away from the destructive path of major hurricanes.

The region's outlook is bright, with Prudential Palms Realty receiving multiple offers on some properties listed for under $300K, Sosso says.

"It was the first market to head downward, and is the first one on the rebound," she explains. "We’ve seen phenomenal growth in the number of properties in sales. We're 40 percent up in unit sales. There's no question that we're on the verge of recovery."

For more information on Prudential Palms Realty, visit prudentialpalmsrealty.com.

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