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Date of Issue: March 17, 2005

Do your Island holiday real estate shopping now

Winter visitors to Anna Maria Island thinking of buying Island real estate should do their holiday shopping today. By tomorrow, the price could go up, particularly for condominiums.

"Condominiums have seen quite an appreciation in value" the past six months, said Mike Norman of Mike Norman Real Estate in Holmes Beach. "And they are still a great value to purchase."

In fact, the average price of an off-water condominium on the Island has climbed 25 percent in just the past six months.

The average off-water Island condo sold for $265,000 the first six months of 2003 with 18 units sold.

Then in June, the Florida Association of Realtors announced that the Bradenton-Sarasota area had the highest increase in home value the past year of any FAR reporting area. Area homes jumped 24 percent in value between April 2002 and the same month in 2003, the FAR said.

That didn't stop Island condominium buyers from spotting a bargain.

For the past six months, 29 condo units have been sold on the Island at an average price of $333,000.

"It looks like the interest in condominiums is quite high," observed Norman, "and we've been getting a lot of inquiries for both waterfront and off-water units. I expect the value to continue to increase this coming year.

Waterfront homes are still a good value, he said, but many buyers are finding good prices in single-family homes off the water. The average price of those type houses increased 12 percent the first six months of 2003.

"Island real estate is still a great value investment," predicted Norman. "Where else can you get a 25 to 30 percent annual return on your investment?"

The "future looks good" for the winter real estate market, said Norman, adding that advance reservations for winter rental units are well ahead of last year at this time.

Gail Tutwelier of Wedebrock Real Estate in Holmes Beach agreed that "prices aren't going to be lower," and "the appreciation rate of Island real estate is still quite good. People looking to get into the market should buy now."

Indeed, condominiums that sold for just under $300,000 in June 2003 are now listed at $350,000, with no shortage of buyers, she said.

Last June, some condominiums were still available for just under $200,000. "Now, there's not much under $250,000," she observed.

In one location, a waterfront condo that sold for $650,000 just two years ago sold recently for $950,000, a 45 percent climb in just two years.

While Gulffront condos are "always a good value" for the investor, said Tutweiller, there are still excellent values in non-waterfront condominiums. The smart shopper can find those condo units in the $250,000 to $300,000 range, she pointed out.

People who bought single-family homes last June have already seen nearly a 20-percent increase in their property's value in just the past six months.

"There's no longer anything under $300,000 and houses under $400,000 are considered bargains and usually sell quickly," Tutweiller added.

For those interested in Island real estate who don't know what a bargain is, consider that the FAR reported in April 2003 that the average price of a single-family home on Sanibel Island exceeded $900,000 while the average condo unit selling price was more than $600,000.

"Anna Maria Island real estate is still priced well below a number of similar Florida barrier islands," such as Marco Island, Sanibel, Captiva and Longboat Key, said Tutweiler

While there's always a little lull of interested buyers on the Island before Christmas, the holiday real estate shopping season should be a good one, she indicated.

"Nobody wants to be the last person who pays too much," said Doug Dowling of Doug Dowling Real Estate in Anna Maria, "but nobody wants to be the person who didn't buy and saw the price go up the next week.

"Serious buyers should buy now because the top of the market hasn't been reached yet," he said.

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