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Although long-regarded as a retiree’s playground, this Gulf Coast town south of Tampa has slowly changed over the years, leading it to be one of the most desirable places to live. Often ranked among the best places to live, Sarasota is now widely recognized for its beautiful scenery and diverse attractions along with its lower crime rates and general quality of life. With a population hovering around 60,000, Sarasota is a town full of history, art, and of course, natural beauty.
As with any city in southwestern Florida, the weather tends towards hot and humid in the summer with mild winters and the looming threat of hurricanes from June to November. However, when the weather is nice (and that’s much of the time), the white sandy beaches of Lido Key and Siesta Key are just too gorgeous to pass up. Fans of wilder settings can venture into the Myakka River State Park for boat or tram tours or forge their own way. The park is open to camping, canoeing, kayaking, and fishing. The various wild mangrove tunnels native to the Sarasota area can be explored via kayak or stand-up paddle board.
Aside from what naturally occurs in Sarasota, the city has done a fantastic job of building up a slew of attractions from fine art to fine dining and everything in between. The Ringling, an imposing and gorgeous work of architecture also known as the Ca d’Zan, is home to three museums: The Ringling Circus Museum, the Sarasota Art Museum, and the Center for Asian Art. If you’re not into art, you can pick from museums like the Sarasota Classic Car Museum, Bishop Museum of Science and Nature, Manatee Village Historical Park, and Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium, all of which offer fun and educational experiences.
Recently recognized as a hub for fine dining and shopping, Sarasota has tons of restaurants in the trendy Rosemary District. Meanwhile, Siesta Key Village and St. Armand’s Circle — small islands off the coast of mainland Sarasota — offer a wide variety of unique shopping and dining experiences. For fans of more homespun food and wares, Sarasota is also home to a small Amish and Mennonite community known as Pinecraft.
Being a beautiful and desirable beach community, it’s no shock that the majority of Sarasota’s economy is built around tourism, with many available opportunities in the service and hospitality industry. However, the area is a state leader in life science, clean tech, and info tech, as well as healthcare. Florida is an attractive state for many businesses thanks to its 0% income tax, and the largest employers in the area are the Sarasota Memorial Hospital (SMH) Health Care System, and PGT Innovations, a company that supplies the storm-troubled state of Florida with hurricane and impact-resistant windows and doors.
Although the city is well-known for its famed mid-century modern Sarasota School of Architecture (also known as Sarasota Modern), pioneered by Paul Rudolph in the 1940s, examples of pretty much any period in recent architectural history can be easily identified throughout the city. Well-preserved pioneer homes from the late 1800s, like the Bidwell-Wood House or the Tatum-Rawls House, a pine and cypress wood frame cabin, serve as examples of some of the earliest American architecture in the area.
Once the city began to grow in size and popularity from the 1900s to the 1920s, more wealth and grandeur were incorporated into the buildings, and materials like wood were given up in favor of brick, stone, or stucco. Sarasota experienced a “land boom” in the 1920s, and Mediterranean Revival was the favored fashion. It was at this time that John Ringling constructed Ca d’Zan, a massive mansion built to evoke Venetian Gothic structures. This is a very specific style dating from 14th and 15th-century Venice that includes pointed arches and the weaving of Italian, Moorish, and Byzantine influences. Today, the impressive home is open to the public for viewing and definitely worth a visit. The Sarasota Opera House and the Sarasota County Courthouse were also built during the 1920s and both use cream stucco, ornamental Italian-style plasterwork, wrought-iron detailing, terra cotta tiles, and the classic barrel Spanish tile roofs.
After the boom of the ‘20s, classic 1930s styles came into vogue for both public and private buildings. Quaint Craftsman Bungalows can be seen in the neighborhoods of Laurel Park, Towels Court, and Gillespie Park. Meanwhile, in public structures, two Works Progress Administration (WPA) projects show two very different styles. The Sarasota Municipal Auditorium is in the Art Deco style (rare to find in this part of Florida), while the Federal Building downtown was constructed in the stately Neoclassical Revival, featuring a symmetrical facade and splendid columns.
But the bulk of Sarasota’s architectural treasures are from the 1940s onward in the Sarasota Modern aesthetic. This style features lots of steel and glass, natural ventilation, a focus on lighting and landscaping, warm, clean-lined exteriors, and overall ability to pull the outside to the inside. Sarasota’s City Hall and St. Paul’s Lutheran Church are excellent examples, while residences like Hiss Studio, the Umbrella House, and the Lu Andrews House show the strengths that a Sarasota Modern-style home has to offer.
While a Sarasota Modern-style house is naturally an option for prospective homeowners, other styles like Spanish and Mediterranean Revival, contemporary, and ranch are also popular offerings. Other styles like Colonial, Cape Cod, and Tudor Revival are occasionally available, but harder to come by in southwest Florida.
Realm found that no matter the style of home, a couple of features tended to be the focus of local listings. According to Realm’s data analysis, pools were the most popular feature in the Sarasota housing market, with mentions in 2,728 recent real estate listings. Given the heat of a Sarasota summer, this should come as no shock. In fact, many of the most popular features in the housing market are tied to the area’s weather patterns. In a place prone to roof-damaging winds and rains and oppressive heat, roofing was the second most popular feature, with mentions in 1,625 local listings, while HVAC came in third at 1,557 listings. The final two most popular features had to do with outdoor living spaces, and thanks to Sarasota’s mild winters, these features are usable for most of the year. Realm’s data analysis revealed that fencing got 1,291 mentions and landscaping showed up in 1,173 recent listings. No doubt Sarasota homeowners are aware of their climate’s strengths and weaknesses.
Realm’s data analysis found that most homes in Sarasota were built in 1979. This means the homes will likely still be in good shape, and many of the gripes a modern homeowner might have will be aesthetic in nature. If the home still retains any of its original 1970s color schemes or design quirks, like avocado-colored walls, aluminum window treatments, popcorn ceilings, or shag carpeting, a modern homeowner will certainly be interested in at least a cosmetic renovation. Additionally, the layout may be more closed and the rooms may seem more cramped. Realm’s free dashboard will give you accurate renovation cost estimates, as well as showing you the value these renovations can add to your home.
However, there may be a few deeper structural problems prospective homeowners should keep their eyes out for. If the electrical system has not been updated, it’s possible that the home is not equipped with a ground fault circuit interrupter, which can leave the home vulnerable to electrical shocks. The piping, if it is original, will likely need attention. Older materials like galvanized steel will be nearing the end of their effectiveness and potentially rusting. An alternative material that was popular at the time, polybutylene, is equally problematic. The plastic piping is reactive with elements like chlorine, typically found in municipal water supplies, and this will cause scaling, flaking, fracturing, and eventual bursting if left untreated. Additionally, even though asbestos was banned in 1977, it could still be lurking in the home, so homeowners should exercise caution, especially when disturbing original painting, tiling, or cladding.
Even though a thorough examination of the foundation and roof should be part of any home inspection, this is paramount in a wet area like Florida. If the property has a less than ideal drainage system, there could be long-term water damage and erosion that can lead to a headache (and costly repairs) down the line. Also, because of the hurricane season and rainfall in the area, the roof can see a lot of wear and tear. Knowing when it was last replaced and what kind of a state it might be in is crucial for any would-be Sarasota homeowner. Despite the rainy climate in Sarasota, Realm’s data found that 88% of homes in the area lay outside of a flood zone. Before purchasing, it’s important to find out whether your prospective home is one of the 12% that sits in a flood zone. If it does, you’ll need to get the proper protection with flood insurance. On the other hand, 100% of Sarasota homes were outside of a designated perimeter for a wildfire that has occurred in the last five years. So while high winds and torrential rains might cloud Sarasota homeowners’ dreams, wildfires are probably the last thing on their minds.
What is the best area to live in Sarasota?
The top neighborhoods often named are historic ones like Laurel Park and Gillespie Park, which feature charming houses from the 1920s and 1930s. Beach-adjacent areas like Siesta Key and Indian Beach Sapphire Shores also rate quite high, as does the planned community of Lakewood Ranch.
Is Sarasota a good place to live?
Even though the city offers a lower value when compared to other cities of a similar size, and the real estate pricing tends to be higher than the rest of the nation, Sarasota still ranks quite high as a nice place to live. Lower crime, decent schools, beautiful scenery, attractive neighborhoods, and overall high quality of life make Sarasota an appealing — if a somewhat pricey — place to live. It all depends on what each individual values and can afford.
Which is nicer, Sarasota or Naples?
Naples tends to exude more luxury, being a small city populated by mostly wealthy people. However, Sarasota has just as much class to offer, as well as being a larger municipality, somewhat more affordable, and possessing a more defined city limit. Though both are Gulf Shores communities, it depends on individual tastes in lifestyles and amenities.
Is it expensive to live in Sarasota?
Compared to the rest of the state and the nation in general, Sarasota is more expensive than average. Pricing has risen steeply in the last year, with the median home price climbing to over $400,000. This is over 36% higher than 2020. Housing costs are higher in Sarasota than in bigger cities like Chicago or San Antonio, however, Sarasota remains less expensive than popular metro areas, like San Diego, New York, or Los Angeles.
We currently cover most standalone, single-family homes