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Realty Check

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new looks = more sales 

Tough times have put a new face on today’s home market, says one Naples architect, and the new look is more salable than what came before. “I think that everything that worked in the past has flipped upside down,” states Matthew Kragh, principal and partner of PK Studios, a Naples architectural firm.

Kragh says some current buyers are not as enchanted by traditional houses in country club communities as they once were. They’re looking for less formal, more activity-based facilities.

“Our new clients care about renewable energy options, walkable communities, pet-friendly developments, interesting amenities and a unique sense of style in the architecture,” he explains. Their openness to higher density keeps prices more attractive and sales more viable, he adds.

According to Kragh, other features high on new wish lists are first-floor master suites, authentic details rather than faux and expanded outdoor living areas. “We’re focusing on architecture and planning efforts on dynamic projects that will stand out in the crowd as the economy returns,” he says. “Developers are quickly realizing that ‘unique’ is a concept that is necessary to set them apart from the competition in the future.”

Kragh notes that at Stock Development’s Olé at Lely Resort, the 16,000-square-foot clubhouse has a
bistro, Internet café, ice cream parlor, pizzeria, pub, coffee shop, arts-and-crafts rooms, movie theater, business center and library, in addition to a pool, spa and fitness center. He describes the architecture as California-inspired Mission, with Southwestern characteristics that harmonize with Floridian ambiance.

Paseo in Fort Myers, Olé’s sister community, is similarly equipped. Prices there range from $189,000 for multifamily units to under $500,000 for single-family homes. Olé, with 623 planned homes, is currently priced from $186,000 to $320,000 for multifamily units and casitas. Kragh points out that distinctive style and realistic pricing are proving to be a winning combination in both communities.


The uptown model in the Strada at Mercato has been designed to reflect the panache of its locale: A mini-city set in the subtropics. The style of the two-bedroom, two-bath residence developed by The Lutgert Companies is modern, but the color palette of mochas, taupes, off-whites and celery greens chosen by Antonacci Design harmonizes with the verdant landscape and nearby sandy beaches.

Dark walnut floors, textural wall coverings and contemporary art and lighting are among the sophisticated accents in the 1,548-square-foot unit located in Building Seven, just a stone’s throw from shops and restaurants. The Uptown model is base-priced at $670,000 and priced furnished at $743,750.

The Vizcaya in Treviso Bay’s Pavia neighborhood is a two-story home endowed with engaging personality. Patty Mowry of Decorators Unlimited chose clean lines, straight angles and a creamy vanilla color palette accented in cocoa to compose the fresh, airy ambiance. The flooring in the home’s main areas is honed antique Jerusalem stone with an onyx, cocoa and sage chicklet inlay.

The living room of the 5,830-square-foot model provides views of the pool and lake. The precast stone fireplace is complemented by a dramatic beveled mirror, and the step-down bar is equipped with a granite countertop imported from South Africa.

Columns define the elegant dining room, where the polished floor is a checkerboard of two marbles completed by a decorative border. The square table accommodates eight chairs with sage/cocoa silk upholstery.

The butler’s pantry leads a kitchen fitted with painted and softly glazed cabinetry. The tumbled marble backsplash over the cook top has a distressed glass and stone inlaid detail framed with molding. A fireplace, outdoor kitchen, pool and spa are among the amenities on the Jerusalem stone-floored lanai. With four bedrooms, four full baths and two half baths, Gulfcoast Homes offers the furnished Vizcaya at $5.4 million.

All in one: The Uptown model is part of the mixed-use community Mercato, where the stylish residences overlook busy retail and dining establishments. Opposite, the Vizcaya in Treviso Bay.

Lots to choose from: Communities that offer a variety of amenities, like Paseo by Stock Development, are likely to have more sales, according to architect Matthew Kragh.

Is it the End for Short Sales?

The change-battered short sale may soon breathe its last gasp, according to Realtor Ian Anderson
of Century 21 Sunbelt Realty #1, Fort Myers.

“The short sale has been an option when the homeowner wants to sell a property currently worth only $200,000, but has a mortgage for $300,000,” he says. “In the early stages of the bad economy, banks insisted homeowners take out a promissory note for the amount the banks were losing on the mortgage (which is legal in Florida). The IRS expected homeowners to pay tax on that bank’s loss, which the feds viewed as income.”

Homeowners already in financial straits were ill-equipped to pay on a promissory note what they couldn’t pay on a mortgage, nor could they pony up the tax bite, so short sales floundered. Things improved for a while, Anderson notes, when President Bush last year signed a bill exempting primary homeowners from the tax, and banks eased off on promissory note demands. Short sales became popular. Now Anderson says he sees some banks returning to their promissory note demand. “Who wants to ruin their credit even more by signing a note they can’t possibly satisfy?” he says.

Most homeowners now consider foreclosure the lesser of two evils. They walk away and the bank sells the property as soon as it completes its lengthy trek through the courts.

“Right now, there are plenty of buyers for the bargain-basement prices of foreclosed properties in Lee County,” Anderson says. “In July, there were 25,000 properties in foreclosure, but low prices and renewed interest have sales going strong. In June there were already 10,000 single-family homes sold in the greater Fort Myers area, and in 2005, before the bust, there were only 12,000 sold for the whole year.”

Of course, he adds, prices are low, but at least inventory is diminishing. “In July in Cape Coral,” he says, “you could buy a three-bedroom, two-bath home with a pool for $65,000.”

Anderson says he’s sure the Obama administration will renew the Bush tax exemption, but the reinstatement of promissory note demands could be the short sale’s death knell.


Neighborhood Watch

Bayfront Gardens

Tucked along hickory bay in the Barefoot Beach community is a 21-year-old, gated enclave of single-family homes called Bayfront Gardens. The 6.3-acre Collier County neighborhood currently has 18 homes and four lots. Serenity still rules in the intimate boating community just steps from Barefoot Beach and minutes from bustling Bonita Beach Road.

Number of properties: 22

Number of sales July 2008 to July 2009: 1

Price: $2.75 million

Number of sales July 2007 to July 2008: 2

Prices: $1.6 million and $1,875,000

On the market: Bayside living at its best is offered in the three-story home with private dock at 209 Bayfront Road, above. The huge great room features a fireplace, and the thoughtful floor plan provides two kitchens. Cynthia Joannou, a broker/associate at Premier Properties of Southwest Florida Realtors, notes there are three guest suites, three attached garages, and a sumptuous pool and spa. The four-bedroom, four-bath home is priced, furnished, at $2,595,000.

Recent sale: Built in 1995, the five bedroom/den, four-bath home at 203 Bayfront Drive has wide bay views and sits on two lots. A boat dock, pool, spa, gazebo and fruit trees enhance outdoor living, while a 6,230-square-foot floor plan with elevator and entertainment and bonus rooms are among indoor attractions. The total 8,130-square-foot home sold in 1999 for $1,900,000 and was renovated in 2006. It was sold by Barry C. DeNicola, broker, Barry DeNicola Realty, in July 2008 for $2,750,000, unfurnished.

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