Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The Ca' d'Zan 'Sunflower'

As lifetime residents of Sarasota, Florida my wife Liz and I seldom do sightseeing in our own hometown except when we have guests from out of town. And it reminds us of what a special town Sarasota is! One of the first places we take them is to the Ringling Museum of Art and we always take the tour of John and Mabel Ringling’s home, the Ca' d'Zan. It just so happens that my late father-in-law, artist John Hardy, gave my wife a special gift that has a connection to this beautiful, historic home. 

My wife and her dad were visiting Judy Axe, a Ringling College of Art and Design classmate of his from the late 1940's. She was a very well known Sarasota artist and during their reminiscing, the topic of the Ca' d'Zan came up and Judy shared a great story. When the Ca' d'Zan was being renovated in 2002, Judy got a phone call from a friend who was working on the renovation project and was told that one of the beautiful tinted glass windows had been broken during handling. Judy, amongst her many artistic talents, created glass mosaic pieces so she rushed right over and collected the broken pieces. She showed Liz and John what she had created with the Ca' d'Zan's brownish pieces broken window glass – it was a beautiful sunflower and the brown pieces are the seeds! John knew that sunflowers were Liz’s favorite (she was even wearing a sunflower t-shirt that day!) and he bought it from for Liz on the spot. It hangs on our lanai and shines in the sunset every day in memory of John and Judy.  

My memories of the Ca' d'Zan are mischievous ones. I grew up just a few blocks from there and I used to sneak in with my boyhood friends. We could always find a hole in the fence and loved romping around in those beautiful Banyan trees!

The Ca' d'Zan (Italian for ‘House of John’) has a wonderful history. John and Mable Ringling finished the $1.5 million mansion just before Christmas in 1925. They moved in the following year and are considered among the first and most important developers in Sarasota history. Measuring 200 feet long, the sprawling estate boasted broad patios, a waterfront dock, Venetian glass windows, and a six-story tower that Mrs. Ringling kept lit in the evenings and reportedly could be seen for miles around. It was meant to look like the palaces and mansions the couple saw while traveling in Venice. The Ca'd'Zan has the oldest residential elevator in the state! Guests, including Will Rogers stayed in a bedroom on the fourth floor, and those beautiful, multi-colored glass windows on all four sides looked out over the bay and the Gulf of Mexico.

Unfortunately, by the late 1990s, the house and grounds had descended into a state of neglect and in 1998, at the depths of its dilapidation, the Cà d'Zan served as the backdrop for an adaptation of the Dickens classic Great Expectations. Its depressing appearance in the movie inspired some action on the part of the state of Florida, which transferred the property to Florida State University and provided more than 40 million dollars toward new building, renovations, and an endowment for the property. In 2002, a six-year renovation commenced which restored extravagant details like the gilded interior doors, fixed the leaky roof, and refinished the original furnishings…and the beautiful Venetian glass windows. And Liz and I are lucky enough to get to enjoy the lovely, sparkling pieces of one of those windows every day!

Sources and Credits: Ringling.org, Curbed.com, Sarsasota History Alive

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Wiping Out on Roller Skates at the Stardust Rink!

I was driving down 12th Street the other day and passed by the Stardust Skate Center and was taken back to the memories of many hours spent there in my childhood…usually crashing and falling on my butt. After watching the elegant figure skaters at the 2018 Winter Olympics, roller skating for me was a far cry from that. Do you remember your first pair of roller skates? I do. I can easily visualize the bulky metal skates that clamped onto my shoes. And I was always losing the dang key that tightened them to ‘fit’ my feet! Mine were nothing like the inline skates used today. Those old clamped-on skates weren’t easy to maneuver either, especially as I navigated the uneven sidewalks of my street, but I recall a certain sense of freedom to having my own set of “wheels” at a young age. At the Stardust rink, my wife Liz remembers going round and round to the song “Pipeline” by the Ventures and “Wipeout” (which was very appropriate since she fell on her butt too) by the Surfaries. 

Those memories piqued my curiosity and I did some digging...here’s a little history about roller skating!

Roller skates existed for almost 200 years before I ever tried on a pair! The first documented use of a roller skating device occurred in 1743 during a theater performance in London, England. However, it wasn’t until 1760 that roller skates received their public introduction, credited to inventor John Joseph Merlin. Further innovations followed. In 1863, James L. Plimpton of New York City produced a design that allowed the skater to turn and glide in a curved pattern using a rocking motion of the feet. However, one of the biggest advances in roller skate design and construction came with the 1881 inclusion of ball bearings that enabled the skate’s wheels to glide smoothly. 

Whether metal skates, sneaker-style skates, boot-style skates, or in-line skates, roller skates offer entertaining physical activity. Skating fell out of favor in the 1900’s until the waitresses at drive-ins started wheeling meals to customers. Remember that? Roller-skating quickly rose in popularity, hitting its peak in the roller-disco era of the 70’s and 80’s. Inline skates took over in the 90’s, but quad skating has once again hit its stride. Here's some more fun facts about roller skating:
  • The first public skating rink opened in 1866.
  • Did you know there’s a National Museum of Roller-Skating? It’s in Lincoln, Nebraska.
  • Plenty of celebrities have gotten into roller-skating. Skating is featured in several famous music videos, from Cher’s 1979 hit to Beyonce’s 2013 chart-topper.

I was a lucky kid back then, carefree and skate-happy! So if you are interested in buying a home in Sarasota and have kids, be sure to call me to find the perfect home for your family and then pay a visit the Stardust Skate Center, 2571 12th St., Sarasota; 941-365-6888. 

Sources and Credits: Wikipedia, rollerskatingmuseum.com,The History of Roller Skating by James Turner

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Showing and Selling a Home with Pets

In a previous Sarasota Home Town Blog, I discussed home buying tips for those of you with dogs. We love our pets, whether they be dogs, cats, hamsters, hedgehogs, or pygmy goats—but that doesn't mean that potential buyers want to see those pets (or any evidence of them) when looking at a home they're thinking of buying. According to Realtor.com, "Pets are either an attractive distraction, so cute they distract prospective buyers from looking at the real estate, or completely the opposite—smelly, frightening, or otherwise off-putting." So why don't home buyers like your pet? There are several reasons:

  • Nervousness-pets make some people very uncomfortable. Not everybody grew up with a family pet or enjoys outings at the zoo. Fur and four legs does not a human make.
  • Inexperience-Pets are not always predictable.
  • Your pets aren't their pets. They imagine that yours bite, jump, vomit, claw, or are just plain hyper and bad, which is not all like their pets. Their pets are perfect.

Here are some tips for selling a home with animals:

  • Cat Litter Boxes & Dog Potty Pads -Keep them out of sight and impeccably clean. Nothing turns off buyers faster than opening the door to the laundry room and being greeted by a full or stinky cat box. And...please do not put a litter box in your bedroom closet!
  • Carpet & Floor Pet Stains and odors-Hire professionals to remove the stains. Buyers will spot them and form unfavorable opinions about the rest of the house. If the stains can't be removed, then remove the floor covering and replace it.
  • Pet Odors and Smells-Cat urine is the worst. Bring in a neighbor to do a sniff test. Dog odor gets into carpeting and pet beds, too. Do not use air fresheners. People with allergies will react. Try enzyme cleaners or call a professional ozone company.
  • If you have a dog, decide whether Fido will be okay to stay in a crate while your home is being shown, and attach a note warning buyers not to disturb them. If possible, remove your pet – take him for a walk or to the dog park. Do not leave your pets running free when you know your home has a showing. Did you know that you could be held liable for your pet biting someone while on your property? If you own a pet and are leaving them in your home during showings this should be a real wake up call! I know you are probably thinking Fido would never hurt a flea. Is it really worth taking a chance?
  • Clean your yard - Pick up any messes in the backyard, fill holes and have any sod replaced and other damage repaired as necessary. You may be the kind of person who picks up after your pet regularly, or you may have a cat that causes very little impact to your yard. However, a large number of dog owners give their pets free reign of the backyard. This is a great life for dogs and cats, but it can be hard on the look of your lawn. One of the best tips, when selling a home with pets, is to make sure you don’t neglect the yard as this is just important to some buyers as the inside of the home.
If you have any questions at all, please call Ron Beahm at RE/MAX Alliance Group in Sarasota, Florida!

Sources and Credits: Realtor.com, The Washington Post

Monday, January 22, 2018

Gone to the Dogs!

My wife Liz and I are dog lovers and we recently got a new puppy after the loss of our 18 year old Yorkie. Our new furbaby, Tiki, is a Yorkie-poo and is the center of our life (or so she would like us to think!) Did you know that about 68% of American households have pets, 60% of which are dogs?. There are nearly 90 million pet dogs in the United States. 

Home buyers with dogs, whether they are looking for a condo or a house with a yard, often place a high priority on their pets’ happiness. Some communities have become more pet-friendly than they had been by developing dog parks where canines can run free. Condominiums and apartments are also catering to the needs of pet owners.

If you’re looking for a single-family house, your focus is most likely to be on finding a place with a fenced yard. Don’t assume you can add a fence. You may need to get the approval of an architectural review board and get permits. It’s important to get that information before you sign a contract.  

Most homeowner associations and condo associations, even if they are pet-friendly, have pet regulations, some to do with the number of dogs and some have restrictions on the size or breed of the dog. It’s essential to ask your agent to get that information for you ahead of time or be sure or your Realtor put language in the contract to address questions regarding your pet and leave you an 'out' if there's not a good solution for you. But it’s better to know about it before you get that far into the contract. Sometimes you’ll need to pay a special fee for having a pet or need to make a special request for your pet to be approved. That, too, is something it’s best to know about before you make an offer on a home or condo.

Tips for dog owners who are buying a home:

  • Know the policies in the jurisdiction and homeowners or condo association to be sure you can comply.
  • Look for a neighborhood where many residents have dogs — they’ll be more accepting of your pet.
  • Look for a neighborhood with pet-friendly retailers and restaurants.
  • Look for the closest dog parks.
  • Check out doggy day-care options in the area if you’ll need them.
  • If you opt for a high-rise, know where you can walk your dog and whether your dog is comfortable in elevators.
  • If you can’t find a yard with a fence, find out how much it will cost and whether you are allowed to build one.
  • Be careful to check out the stairs if your dog has trouble climbing them.

In a future Blog, I will discuss selling your home if you have pets because there’s a lot to be aware of there too! I have to sign off now because there are two little doggie eyes begging to go to the dog park! If you are looking to buy a home in Sarasota, Florida and you have a dog, call me and we can find a dream home for you...and your furbaby!

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Sarasota Snowflakes…Wait...WHAT?

While the weather might be frightful in many parts of the country this time of the year, it is truly delightful here in Sarasota, Florida! If you are looking to leave the snow and the cold behind, you can’t beat the weather here. Usually the words “snow” and “Florida” don’t go together. As you may know, it’s quite rare for it to snow in Florida, especially in South Florida and Sarasota…until it really did! It’s so rare that it’s one of those memories that you know exactly where you were and what you were doing on that day. The news that dominated The Tampa Tribune on Jan. 19, 1977, was the snowfall in Tampa — that rare occurrence when a blast of Arctic air and our high humidity came together to make for an unforgettable experience. Real snow fell across almost all of Florida — even as far south as Miami.

It was the only time in South Florida history that snow fell from the skies, swirling over palm trees, dazzling school children and surprising the region’s normally sun-baked residents. That was 40 years ago. Officially, the National Weather Service recorded it as only a trace of snow. The moment it hit the ground, it quickly dissipated. Yet many people vividly remember that day. To them, it was akin to a raging blizzard. Some motorists pulled to the side of the road in wonderment. Teachers allowed school children to break out of classes to let flakes fall on their faces.

But for most, it was as awesome as watching a space shuttle launch up close and personal. The bold headlines in the Sarasota Herald Tribune the next day: "RECORDS TUMBLE, CITRUS IN PERIL AS SNOW, ICY WEATHER HIT FLORIDA"!  My wife remembers that she was at 7-11 buying milk, walked out and there was snow falling!  It was so exciting! But by the time it hit her hand it melted. She said she put her face to the sky, held out her arms, and whirled around in something completely foreign to her, a light snow. Other people got out of their cars in amazement, and looked at one another as if they were experiencing some kind of miracle.

Today's forecast, which calls for highs in the high 70s and low 80s across South Florida, doesn't include snow. Come on in, the water is fine! (It really is a matter of perspective but many of our Northern visitors repeatedly tell us the water here is warmer in the winter than it is back home in the summer). Our visitors find it hard to believe that our average water temperature from December to March is 65 degrees. Sure, there are days of “sweater weather” and there are days with a slight breeze coming off the Gulf. Either way, it is almost always sunnier here than it is back at home. However, when we drive by that 7-11, we still remember day it snowed in South Florida!

Liz and I hope you have a wonderful Holiday Season and that you stay warm and cozy! And...If you are looking to buy a home in sunny Sarasota, Florida, call me and we will enjoy the warm winter weather and find your dream home in paradise...and we will tell you about the day it snowed in Home Town Sarasota!

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The Turkey Bowl

Thanksgiving has rolled around once more and like most folks, we are looking forward to pigging out and watching football. My wife and I have been reminiscing about our Thanksgiving Day memories and she fondly remembers The Turkey Bowl games. Everyone who lived here in the 1960s or ’70s remembers that the BIG game, the Turkey Bowl, was played at 11 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day from 1962-1974. For many years, the Riverview Rams and their arch-rivals, the Sarasota Sailors, both called Ihrig Field home (although two games were played at the Ram Bowl). Despite the late-morning kickoffs, the annual “Turkey Bowl” contests drew crowds as large as 10,000 and served as an epicenter of Sarasota society. 

My wife Liz was a big part of those games – she was in the Sailor marching band as a flutist and a majorette at Sarasota High School from 1967 – to 1970. She remembers that her mom was very annoyed that turkey dinner cooking was interrupted by football but in reality, she was a big fan too. And Liz looked forward to coming home to her mom’s huge turkey dinner…hopefully after a big win by SHS! 

In those days, a general admission ticket to the Turkey Bowl game was $1.25 and Sarasota outscored Riverview by a total of 266-142 in the Thanksgiving Day games and won eight of the 13 games, including seven of the first nine. Unfortunately, this game is no longer played on Thanksgiving Day. The Turkey Bowl tradition wasn’t abandoned by either side. It was ended when the Florida High School Activities Association changed its playoff structure and put a halt to all regular-season games played on Thanksgiving across the state. 

To this day, Liz loves football and we regularly go to watch the Tampa Bay Bucs as well as the SHS vs Riverview games. But the Sarasota-Riverview games are just not the same as it was when it was the Turkey Bowl on Thanksgiving Day!

We wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving…and if you know of someone looking to spend next Thanksgiving in a new home in the Sarasota area, I am never too busy for your referrals!

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

FSBO means: Forget Selling by Owner!

I recently advised a resident in my neighborhood of the reasons he should not try to sell a home on his own, in other words, without a Realtor. If he does decide to do it by himself, I wish him luck and I really mean that. But…it is a bad choice and I hope to hear back from him in a few months and of course I will be happy to list his home when he is ready. But here are the facts I discussed with him regarding For Sale by Owner, commonly know as FSBO.

The 2016 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers by the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) found that for sale by owner (FSBO) sales are at an all-time low, at only eight percent, versus the all-time high set back in 1981 at 21 percent. So why do you think this is the case? Here are some of the reasons:

  • There are many people to negotiate with - here is a list of some of the people with whom you must be prepared to negotiate if you decide to For Sale By Owner:
    • The buyer who wants the best deal possible
    • The buyer’s agent who solely represents the best interest of the buyer
    • Possibly the buyer’s attorney 
    • The home inspection companies which work for the buyer and will almost always find some problems with the house.
    • The appraiser if there is a question of value
  • Exposure to prospective buyers - Recent studies have shown that 88% of buyers search online for a home. That is in comparison to only 21% looking at print newspaper ads. Most real estate agents have an internet strategy to promote the sale of your home and Re/Max Alliance Group has an aggressive marketing program.  Where do buyers find the home they actually purchased? Most results come from the Internet –about 43% on the internet, 9% from a yard sign, 1% from newspaper. The days of selling your house by just putting up a sign and putting it in the paper are long gone. Having a strong internet strategy is crucial.
  • Slower Sale - Sellers who tackle the prospect on their own often don't have the marketing expertise to do it right. This means that the home may sit on the market longer, because fewer buyers see it. Since almost 90% of buyers search online for a home, an online presence is critical, and many FSBO sellers don't know how to generate a good one or don't have the tools to keep it up to date and in the sight of potential buyers. One of the reasons successful real estate agents are successful is because they have a large reach to find prospective buyers for their homes. This starts on the internet, where the majority of buyers start their search. An agent is able to post in all online venues, including those linked to the MLS. In addition, agents know the most effective offline advertisement venues, so sellers don't waste their time posting in newspapers that no one reads.
  • Owner selling has become more difficult. The paperwork involved in selling and buying a home has increased dramatically as industry disclosures and regulations have become mandatory. This is one of the reasons that the percentage of people FSBOing has dropped from 19% to 9% over the last 20+ years.
  • You will have to pay for your own advertising and marketing. Because you don’t have as many venues to market your properties as I do, you’d get a lot less traffic. Less traffic = fewer offers = less money. Nationwide TV, Print, Radio and Online Advertising generates 8 billion impressions. RE/MAX has a dominant share of voice in the United States – meaning consumers view RE/MAX advertising on national TV almost as much as all competitors combined.
  • The seller nets MORE money when using an real estate agent. Many homeowners believe that they will save the real estate commission by selling on their own. Realize that the main reason buyers look at FSBOs is because they also believe they can save the real estate agent’s commission. The seller and buyer can’t both save the commission. Studies have shown that the typical house sold by the homeowner sells for $208,000 while the typical house sold by an agent sells for $235,000. This doesn’t mean that an agent can get $27,000 more for your home as studies have shown that people are more likely to FSBO in markets with lower price points. However, it does show that selling on your own might not make sense.
If you are still thinking of trying to sell your home without an agent, ask yourself these questions:
  • Do you understand the contracts process well enough to not get into any legal problems or to explain to a buyers’ agent how you want things drawn up?
  • Do you have the time to field all the calls, faxes, and inquiries that will come with multiple offers? One missed phone call or fax could kill a deal.
  • Will you be able to let anyone in during the week to see the property? (if not, fewer offers = less money).
  • Will you know what to say and what not to say to those who call? (if not, less interest = fewer offers = less money).
  • Do you have the proper forms and disclosures necessary to do this on your own? (legal problems, no protection between you and a buyer).
  • Do you have the ability to make sure that the financing that your buyer has is good and won’t cause the offer to fall through?
  • Will you be able to meet the appraiser and/or inspectors to let them into the house? 
So here’s the bottom line. Before you decide to take on the challenges of selling your house on your own, sit with a real estate professional  (hopefully me!) in your marketplace and see what they have to offer. Sellers considering selling on their own have an uphill battle to face. It's always better to partner with an experienced Realtor such as myself, as doing so makes the process ahead much smoother and less stressful. Remember - Sarasota is my hometown and I know it well!

Sources and Credits: National Association of Realtor, Forbes, FloridaRealtorsTube, American Mortgage