MANATEE -- For Jason Sato, 2015 was a great year to be in his hometown.
Sato, a Realtor and co-owner of Sato Real Estate on Anna Maria Island, was the year's top-selling residential real estate agent based in Manatee County, racking up $49.77 million in total sales volume.
Sato, 36, who grew up on the island, said he likes being a local boy in the real estate business. It's precisely that quality that helps him win the business of the buyers and sellers he brings together in the county's highest-priced submarket.
"I've just been blessed, I've been lucky," he said.
Year-end sales statistics from the Multiple Listing Service show that about 50 real estate professionals in Manatee and Sarasota counties cracked $20 million in sales in 2015. Barbara Ackerman, a Coldwell Banker real estate agent working out of Longboat Key, led the pack as the top group or individual on the list. Her Ackerman Group, which consists of Ackerman and her son, Ryan, ranked number No. 1 in the two-county area, handling 58 sides of residential transactions totaling $77.7 million.
Close behind was the top individual agent and 2014's top overall producer, Roger Pettingell. Also a Coldwell Banker Realtor on Longboat Key, Pettingell upped his $66 million take from the previous year to $74 million on 62 transaction sides.
Sato, who moved up the producers list from a $30 million sales total in 2014 to rank seventh last year on the overall two-county list, credited the appeal of Anna Maria with his success. He made about 90 percent of his 58 selling sides on the island. That's roughly the same number of transactions he did in 2014, but higher home prices drove his money total well past his previous best.
"I think what helped get it there was some of the more expensive new construction," he said.
Sato's top sale in 2015 was a new five-bedroom beach house at 807 North Shore Drive he listed for $3.995 million. It sold in December for $3.75 million.
A graduate of the economics program at Florida State University, Sato didn't start in real estate right away. He pursued a career with a plumbing supply company in his first few working years out of school.
But when his father, Ryuichi "Sam" Sato, passed away in 2002 Jason Sato decided it was time to move home. The oldest of five boys in the family, he jumped into vacation rental leasing and property sales with another local real estate company before founding Sato Real Estate in 2006 with his mother, Barbara.
Entering 2016, Sato said he's "just trying to keep up" with the pace he set last year. For the new year, he expects to see buyers from a wide variety of locales, including Germany, the United Kingdom and the U.S.
If 2015 is any indication, a lot of what he sells this year will be for cash. Fifty percent of his sales last year were cash deals.
A number of other real estate professionals based in Manatee County made the top money rankings for 2015. The second-best performing individual or group of agents based was Christy Travis, a Realtor with the Bradenton office of ReMax Alliance Group, who ended the year with $32.5 million in sales. Gregg Bayer of Anna Maria Island Beaches Real Estate was third at $32.1 million in sales.
Matt M. Johnson, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7027, or on Twitter@MattAtBradenton.