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Longboat Key Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2012 5 years ago

Revitalization Task Force addresses age-old questions

by: Robin Hartill Managing Editor

Tom Aposporos, a Longboat Key Revitalization Task Force member and president of the Longboat Key Chamber of Commerce, hopes to never read the following advertisement:

“Cozy condo on Longboat Key! 2/2 1,200 sq ft with screened lanai. The complex is only 50 years old. Maintenance fees, insurance taxes & beach renourishment fees average ~ $3,300 monthly.
Price — Make an offer!”

But could it become a reality?

Aposporos presented a Revitalization Task Force report entitled “Real Estate Trends & Their Impacts on Longboat Key” at the Saturday, Nov. 17 Federation of Longboat Key Condominiums meeting. Much of the presentation focused on the island’s many aging structures and the challenges property owners will face if they choose to redevelop.

Of the Key’s 6,235 condominium units, 3,616, or 58%, were built in 1979 or earlier, according to data compiled by task force member Lenny Landau.

The age of the Key’s current structures, which could drive up maintenance and insurance costs is, in part, an unintended consequence of the town’s 1984 Comprehensive Plan, which prohibited any increase in allowable density on the island without voter approval.

Most existing structures on the Key were grandfathered but became nonconforming overnight. As a result, condominiums with grandfathered status could be limited to six units per acre if owners opted to rebuild.

The 2008 referenda questions that voters overwhelmingly approved allowed existing condos to rebuild at the same density in case of voluntary or involuntary destruction and created a pool of 250 additional tourism units. However, Aposporos told the Longboat Observer that more still needs to be done.

The presentation also outlined information from Florida Realtor Magazine, summarized by task force member Tom Freiwald, about real-estate buyers of the future.

Renting will become more popular, more international buyers are interested in Florida, and a desire for certain lifestyles will outweigh the real-estate adage, “Location, location, location.”

Buyers, especially “millennials” — i.e. those 30 and younger — want high-end features, more open space and the ability to walk, bike or even kayak to community amenities.

The presentation also summarized a recent interview with Cheryl Loeffler, a task force member and Realtor with Premier Sotheby’s International Realty, about what high-end buyers want, including spectacular views, a chef’s kitchen, master bath with a spa and mini-gym.

Bird Key is popular because of its proximity to Sarasota, according to Loeffler. Although buyers find Longboat Key on the Internet, they sometimes visit the north end of Longboat Key but wind up buying on Casey Key, instead.

Kim Freiwald, of ReMax Alliance Group, outlined the challenges these future buyers will face: They’ll face increased difficulty when they try to secure a mortgage.

Lenders will look especially closely at condominiums and their financial reserves, the percentage of units occupied by renters, expenses versus cash flow from monthly fees and the number of units in short sale or foreclosure.

Vulnerable barrier-island communities will face even tighter scrutiny.

The presentation ended by suggesting that owners consider several issues to avoid the scenario outlined by the advertisement, including the age and amenities of properties, how they will compare to new condominium properties in competing markets and whether the condo investment is an effective hedge against inflation.

Mayor Jim Brown suggested at the end of the meeting that condominiums should hire an inspector to evaluate the state of their buildings.

“I’m concerned as an architect and builder about the structural condition of many of these buildings,” Brown said.

Commissioner Jack Duncan praised Aposporos and the task force for the presentation.

“I think you’ve identified the 800-pound gorilla in the room,” he said.

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