Waterfront home buyers pay for it in Sarasota, Bradenton

MANATEE -- Waterfront homes in Bradenton and Sarasota have long sold at a higher premium than those inland, but a nationwide trend in the waterfront market shows the gap widening.

A recent price analysis done by web-based home marketplace Zillow ranks Bradenton as one of the top 25 large urban markets in the nation when it comes to the comparative median sale prices of seaside and land-locked homes. It also shows Sarasota to have one of the widest price differences between waterfront haves and have-nots, with ocean-view homes selling for 1,131 percent more than those inland.

The study, which ranked areas with properties on bodies of water larger than 10 square kilometers, considered only single family homes built within 150 feet of the water. It ranks 250 communities in all. Zillow examined sales data going back to 1996 and found waterfront premiums have increased steadily through that time, except for some narrowing of the gap with non-waterfront between 2007 and 2011.

Bradenton home pricing showed the 17th-widest median price gap in the nation for urban areas with more than 100,000 residents. The median price for a waterfront home in Bradenton in 2014 is $413,400, according to Zillow. That's 103 percent more than the area's $203,700 median for non-waterfront homes.

The Zillow analysis excluded riverfront homes and condominiums.

In Sarasota, the median price paid for a home on the water this year is $1,761,700. The non-waterfront median is $143,000. The only U.S. city analyzed with a wider gap was Riviera Beach, where the $906,700 waterfront median is 1,154 percent higher than the non-

waterfront median.

Over time, the price gap between homes on the water and those inland has grown. Nationwide, the waterfront median in 2014 is at $370,900, a 116-percent premium over non-waterfront. Twenty years ago, the differential was at 64 percent, according to Zillow.

Statistics kept by Michael Saunders & Co., a Sarasota real estate brokerage that specializes in high-end residential properties, differ somewhat from the national numbers because waterfront properties tracked locally includes homes on canals, small lakes ponds and rivers.

Tom Heatherman, a spokesman for the company, said historical data provided by real estate statistics company Trendgraphix shows the waterfront premium in Sarasota County growing from 83 percent in 2001 to 147 percent now.

In Manatee County, the differential has decreased from 68 percent to 59 percent.

Kathy Valente, a Michael Saunders agent who has been selling waterfront property out of Bradenton since 1987, said higher premiums for waterfront isn't affecting homebuyers searches for their spots on the beach.

"I don't think our desire for waterfront is any more now that when I started in real estate," she said.

Is property available?

Valente's main concern is having enough inventory. She said she can see the number of available waterfront properties shrinking to a point by next year where she may not be able to find just the right home in every case for her waterfront buyers. If she can, those buyers will have to pay much more than they are now.

Waterfront homes do cost more in some U.S. cities than in Sarasota and Bradenton, including Laguna Beach, Calif., at median price of $10.1 million and Kailua, Hawaii, at $4.5 million.

The study also drew several general conclusions about Florida waterfront homes. While the most expensive waterfront homes were in California, Hawaii and Long Island Sound in the Northeast, Florida waterfront was found to be the "least expensive" in the United States.

However, the price differential between waterfront and non-waterfront property ranked Florida and the Great Lakes region as having the highest waterfront price premiums.

Matt M. Johnson, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7027, or on Twitter @MattAtBradenton.