Keeping it Real: February

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From a hoosier, to peachy, to all things beachy

By Natalie Gutwein

My love of real estate started waaaay back in 1995. You remember that year … Seinfeld and ER were our favorite TV shows, Hillary Clinton was our First Lady, Coolio had the song of the year (“Gangsta’s Paradise”), O.J. was all over the TV, and Amazon sold its first book.

I was in college at Indiana University and working as a server at Malibu Grill, but was still broke so I took a second job with Pegasus Property Management. We managed rental properties and homeowners associations.
Initially, I just answered the phones, but I begged the owner until she let me start working with our clients and showing them properties. I LOVED it. It was like figuring out a puzzle. I would show the renters the book (yes, an actual three-ring binder with our listings) and help them find the property that worked best for them. Where were their classes? Did they want to be able to walk to campus, or would they take the bus? Were they an athlete that needed to be close to the stadiums or were they more concerned about proximity to popular establishments like Kilroy’s and Nick’s English Hut?
Fast forward a couple years (OK, decades) and here I am working my dream job. I sell luxury real estate on a tropical island with near perfect weather, with a company I love, and a person with whom I love to work.
Florida is the third state in which I’ve sold real estate. After starting in Indiana, life moved me to Alpharetta, Georgia. After taking a few years off to get my baby boy started in life, I reached out to the real estate agent we worked with when we purchased our home, Carolyn Hassel. I loved the way she did business. She was an engineer for Texas Instruments that took early retirement and ended up selling real estate. She dove deep into the comps before we made an offer, really understood all the details of a transaction and how to help her clients navigate through that process, yet also had an eye for seeing the potential a property might have. That was exactly the type of agent I wanted to be and have since become.
Once I was able to move to Siesta Key full time, I wanted to find someone else to work with like I did with Carolyn. I wanted to work with someone that knew the area, that had deep roots here and vast local knowledge. Not someone that wanted to sell all over anywhere, but someone that concentrated on Siesta Key. That’s how I found Judie Berger, and the rest is history from there.
She and I have worked together for almost four years. The last two have been absolutely record- breaking. Drum roll, please … In 2021 Judie and I closed $121 million in real estate sales and had 63 transactions. In 2022 we closed $88 million and had 47 transactions. It’s been a busy couple of years, to say the least!
That’s enough about me. I know what you really want to know — what’s going on with the market these days? The last two years have been quite the ride here in Florida and especially in Sarasota County. According to Redfin, six of the hottest neighborhoods in the country are in Sarasota County with the 34238 ZIP code (Palmer Ranch) being ranked No. 1. In August 2020, the average sales price for a single-family home in the Sarasota/Manatee region was $439,569. That price peaked in May 2022 at $629,999 and has leveled out to $566,296 in December 2022. Prices seem to be leveling out and are currently down 10% from our peak.
Supply is starting to creep back up both nationally and locally. Year by year, supply was up slightly in October, up again in November, and steady in December. However, we are still nowhere near pre-COVID-19 active listing levels. According to, active listings nationally are only 65% of those years. Nationally, in November of 2022 there were 751,544 active listings. The pre-COVID-19 norm was 1,150,000.
Overall, we will remain under-supplied for the foreseeable future. We are getting closer to a balanced market for both buyers and sellers, but the low inventory will keep us from becoming a buyer’s market.
Despite all the worldwide factors that effect real estate, the economy as a whole, inflation, Putin and his antics, and interest rates, real estate is extremely local. We are selling sunshine here on Siesta Key and that alone will keep people coming here to buy property despite the turmoil. That, coupled with no income tax and a post-COVID-19 migration from people that can now work from home, have contributed to Florida being the No. 1 state for inward migration.
The real estate outlook for us on Siesta Key is good. Our property values are going to remain pretty close to the levels they are right now, give or take a little.
We have sand. We are warm. Life is good.
So, you stay sunny Siesta.

(Natalie Gutwein is a licensed Realtor with Sotheby’s International Realty’s Judie Berger Team on Siesta Key and is a member of the board of directors of the Siesta Key Association civic group.)

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