Living the dream, selling the dream
Q: Share with us your history with Siesta Key.
A: No matter where I go in the world, the pull of Siesta Key always calls me home. My history on the Key has been a long one. I’ve lived in Northern California, Siesta Key, Santa Monica, Siesta Key, New York City, back to Santa Monica, Siesta Key, Arizona and now back to Siesta Key. This little island has magical powers that, once found, cannot be easily forgotten.
My grandparents purchased a full-time residence on the Key in 1968. When they bought in the tower at Horizons West it was at a time when everyone else wanted the drive-up villas – no one could fathom why my grandparents would want to go up 8 stories in an elevator. Back then, it wasn’t about “seeing” the gulf, it was about the convenience of pulling the station wagon into the carport and unloading the kids and the groceries. The gulf-view condos didn’t sell nearly as well as the villas and my grandparents got a “deal.” How times have changed!
I started coming to Siesta Key when I had just turned 15. I spent my summers on the Key and loved everything about my life here. This was before the condo complexes put up fences and everything was open. I’ve been swimming in just about every pool on the Key. When I made my first permanent move here, I had a little yellow Karmen Gia that I drove everywhere, and everyone knew who I was. There was never much to do on Siesta Key in September as all the stores and restaurants were closed for a month vacation. To find some fun, I had to go into downtown Sarasota – which wasn’t much better that time of year. I remember my grandmother saying that Mrs. Markiewicz saw me driving my car at 1 a.m. in downtown Sarasota. I was shocked to think that a 60-something-year-old would be up after midnight and I still wonder to this day what she was doing out so late.
I’ve always been a foodie and fondly remember all the restaurants on our little Key that have given way to condos. My first date was at the Magic Moment when it opened in 1977 and is now the site of the beautiful Dolphin Bay condo complex. Merlin’s crystal ball had to be touched to enter the restaurant and magic tricks were performed at the table. As a family we would dine at the Inn Between on Beach Road from the mid-1970s through the 1990s. And I always felt so sophisticated going to Chez Med to hear the piano player when I was in my twenties. This site is now home to Somerset Cay condos.
But nothing can compare to the (original) Summerhouse Restaurant. After dating my boyfriend, Vince, for 8½ years (but who’s counting) we were married in the garden of the Summerhouse property overlooking the intracoastal waterway. Our reception was held in the restaurant where Paul Mattison was the executive chef at the time. I walked across Midnight Pass Road from my grandparent’s condo at Horizons West in my wedding dress with my young nieces as bridesmaids lifting my skirt so it wouldn’t hit the ground. Of course, we had to wait in the median to get across the street as the cars didn’t stop for us – at least some things have stayed the same. When the Summerhouse gave way to the Summer Cove condos I was heartbroken, as I felt I had lost a friend. I had so many wonderful memories in that restaurant.
But I’ve made new memories at other venues and Summer Cove is an amazing complex and on my short list of where I would live on the Key if I ever decided to move. I recently sold a condo in there and the views of the intracoastal are amazing.
In 2003, Vince and I bought a villa on Horizons West Bayside to be close to my grandparents. We were so lucky we took the plunge as I got to spend quality time with my grandparents before they passed. In 2011, we moved to the high rise that my grandparents had purchased so many years ago. The same kids I have grown up with at Horizons West are now adults with adult children. And most of them have kept their units in the family. And those who didn’t have chosen to retire close by. I’m so lucky that I get to live my memories on a daily basis.
Q: You go by the name of Suki. What’s the story there?
A: I wish I could give you an amazing story about that name – maybe that my mother had met the love of her life in Japan, but they were forbidden to marry, and she returned to the United States heart broken. That she named her first child in his honor. (Suki means “to love” in Japanese.) But the story isn’t that exciting.
My grandmother would read to me from the Tall Book of Mother Goose when I was a newborn. There was a nursery rhyme that went “Polly put the kettle on, Sukey take it off again.” As the story has been told to me, whenever she said the word “Sukey” I would smile and laugh. My family wanted a happy baby and the name Suki just stuck. How I got the name Celinda is much more interesting…
Q: Why is the real estate market here a good fit for you?
A: Having created and run a successful business for years prior to my real estate career, I’m not good at the mundane. The Siesta Key real estate market is multi-dimensional and perfect for me. There is no one-size-fits-all when selling properties here. Does a buyer want a primary waterfront home or an investor condo? The Key is so diverse – Turtle Beach is different from Crescent Beach. And then there are the waterfront homes.
Buyers need help understanding the income and expenses on an investment property. Purchasing a single-family home requires that I’m knowledgeable in flood insurance, base flood elevation, the 50% rule of remodeling. If a customer wants a home on the water I need to know if they need sailboat water, understand the mean high tide, and make sure the existing dock and lift can accommodate their boat. I’m always learning and that keeps me sharp and excited about what I do.
Q: Can you share with us your most memorable transaction?
A: That transaction happened last year just before COVID-19 shut down the Sarasota area. I was selling a condo for a good friend and his mom who I knew from childhood. His family had owned a home in Horizons West. His mother could no longer stay in her condo on Longboat Key due to illness and she got on a plane with only two suitcases never to return. The son couldn’t leave to come down to get the condo ready to sell and it needed a lot of work. I had to take the contents of an entire condo and determine what to ship to them, what to donate, and what to toss. The condo was on lock-down and I couldn’t have people in to help me – it was a monumental task.
When the condo was finally emptied, deep-cleaned and ready to list, I had another surprise. My friend said there was a car that had to be removed. It had expired plates, no insurance, and wouldn’t start. All I could do was laugh. If not, I was going to cry. My husband and I got the car registered, started and shipped off to Maryland. I had never been so tired in my life as this is when our market started taking off and I was extremely busy. The silver lining was that I sold it to a great couple and the agent on the other side of the sale was extremely easy to work with.
Q: What is the most important thing a buyer on the Key should know?
A: Don’t feel pressured to buy something on the Key, due to lack of inventory and rising prices. Unless you have a child who has to get into school or you have a new job in the area, take a deep breath and find what you want. Make a list of what’s most important to you. Then understand that there may have to be some give and take. Do you want at three-bedroom condo? So does everyone else and they are a rarity here on the Key. So, look at two-bedroom condos with some creative space for an office or another sleeping area.
Q: Same question from the perspective of a seller.
A: Don’t leave money on the table. I’ve seen million-dollar listings that don’t have professional photos, the home isn’t staged, and no marketing takes place. Even in a seller’s market, don’t cheat yourself. Selling your home should be conducted like a successful business. I’m a stickler about photos as they will be seen by buyers around the world. Internet marketing is also a must – we must get those photos seen by as many buyers as we can.
Q: You mentioned that prices are high and inventory is low. Have you ever seen the Siesta Key market like this before?
A: I’ve seen past markets like this, but this time is different from the last frenzied market of the early 2000s. Then we had investor flips, 100% mortgages, and buyers who really couldn’t afford the property if their renters didn’t pay on time.
This feels more like a great migration is taking place in the United States. Instead of being dictated on where we must live, the work-from-home movement has allowed people to choose the area best suited for their family. Quality of life has become one of the most important factors in the home-buying decision. Will we have adjustments in pricing in the future? Sure we will – it’s inevitable. But there is only so much waterfront property.