Sarasota’s catchphrase, “Where urban amenities meet small-town living”, sums it up nicely – this city provides access to exciting shops, restaurants, and museums in a relaxed setting. With prime real estate and proximity to the beach, Sarasota is Florida’s best-kept secret.
A short introduction to Sarasota, FL
Sarasota’s laid-back vibe offers a good change of pace from Florida’s bustling coastal cities. Its unassuming nature and scenic oceanside setting makes it ideal for buyers who want to get away from the hustle and bustle of major cities. With a vibrant food scene and a thriving community of artists, Sarasota offers life off the beaten path.
An overview of Sarasota, FL
Situated on the southwestern shores of Florida, the City of Sarasota is bordered by the bountiful waters of Sarasota Bay, the Gulf of Mexico, and a few barrier islands. The city is located north of Fort Myers and south of Tampa Bay, straddling Manatee and Sarasota counties. The nearest major airports are St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport, Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport, and Tampa International Airport.
The city is a few hours’ drive away from famed attractions like Walt Disney World and SeaWorld Theme Park. Not that residents have to go far from home to have a good time – they have easy access to Siesta Beach and other local attractions. Downtown Sarasota is jam-packed with cafes, restaurants, boutiques, and nightclubs.
Sarasota residents have a strong sense of community. Philanthropy is a way of life in this city with dozens of charities and fundraisers bringing people together:
- Children of Fallen Soldiers Relief Fund (CFSRF) provides financial and educational assistance to the children of veterans as well as wounded and disabled veterans. The organization also provides emotional support to families who have lost their loved ones or are coping with a returning veteran’s disabilities.
- Habitat for Humanity Sarasota builds affordable quality homes and provides critical home repairs to families in the area. The organization offers mortgage terms that make it possible for low-income households to own their homes.
- Community Foundation of Sarasota County offers grants and scholarships to non-profits and students to help families “break the cycle of poverty” through education and social capital.
- Josh Provides Epilepsy Assistance Foundation is dedicated to improving the quality of life of individuals with epilepsy as well as provide support to families affected by it. The foundation was founded by the Chapnicks after the passing of their son, Joshua, in 2008.
- Beyond the Spectrum provides support and educational and therapeutic services to individuals and families affected by autism and related abilities in the Sarasota area. It offers several programs and events to help enrich the lives of those living with autism.
- Vintage Paws Sanctuary is a sanctuary for senior and terminally ill dogs. The organization provides a home and specialized care for these dogs so that they may live out their remaining months or years in a safe environment. It also helps some of these dogs find their forever homes in Sarasota. It takes in dogs that have been abandoned, are unadoptable due to age or illness, or whose owners have passed away.
- Sarasota Bay Watch is concerned with the cleanliness and overall health of Sarasota Bay. The organization is known for its clean-up efforts and the introduction of more than 750,000 live clams to the bay to help restore the ecosystem.
Many locally-owned businesses also participate in charitable efforts in and around the city. For example, Anna Maria Oyster Bar holds an annual fundraiser that benefits the Tidewell Foundation, a not-for-profit hospice that serves communities in and around Sarasota.
Sarasota is home to a year-round population of 455,981. Those figures swell in the summer, when tourists flock to Siesta Beach, as well as the winter, with more than a few snowbirds coming to Sarasota to escape the brutal winters of the North and Northeast regions as well as neighboring Canada. Many keep seasonal homes in Sarasota while others drive the demand for short-term rentals in the city.
Sarasota attracts buyers of all backgrounds. It has a diverse population that reflects the city’s rich heritage and storied past. From artists to entrepreneurs, educators to blue collar workers, there’s something for everyone in the real estate market. But what buyers do have in common is the desire for a slower pace of living within close proximity to the beach.
The local economy is largely driven by tourism, healthcare, and professional and business services:
- The tourism sector employs roughly a fifth of the labor force with more than a million domestic and international travelers visiting the City of Sarasota and Sarasota County each year.
- The education and health services sectors employ about 15 % of the local workforce, or roughly 52,000 people.
- Health innovation is also a main driver of the economy with over 100 companies and 2,000 employees developing health products and systems in Southwest Florida.
- The professional and business services industry employs over 47,000 accountants, lawyers, engineers, administrators, and managers.
Awards and recognitions
The City of Sarasota has received numerous awards and recognitions over the years, including:
- 2020 Commission Excellence Award in Best Practices in Identification/Registration category – National Alliance of Preservation Commissions (NAPC)
- Top Buyer’s Markets in the U.S. in 2019 – The Wallstreet Journal
- 7 Great Places to Retire in Florida in 2019 – Kiplinger
Living in Sarasota, FL
Sarasota is synonymous with effortless elegance with gorgeous homes, great restaurants, and upscale retail. It is known for beach activities like swimming, sunbathing, and paddle boarding on Siesta Key Beach. The city is also closely associated with the Barnum & Bailey Circus, which was founded in 1871 and is set to reopen in 2023. The Ringling Circus Museum continues to attract many visitors each year.
But there’s more to Sarasota than the beach and the circus. If you plan on becoming a seasonal or permanent resident, here’s what you need to know about living in Sarasota, FL:
Cost of living
The cost of living in Sarasota is slightly higher than comparable cities like Tampa and St. Petersburg but lower than major cities like Miami. But buyers are willing to pay a premium for the Sarasota lifestyle. It is an affluent city where a relatively higher median income and an abundance of career and business opportunities help offset the living costs.
Living in Sarasota also comes with some tax advantages. For one, Florida has no state income tax, which makes it ideal for high income earners who want to maximize their resources. There is also a homestead exemption for property owners who can prove that their Florida property serves as their primary residence. Those eligible for the homestead exemption will only see the assessed value of their home go up by 3% maximum each year.
Restaurants and shops
Sarasota has a vibrant dining scene with a fine selection of restaurants serving exquisite dishes. The food culture reflects the city’s diversity, with restaurants serving French, Spanish, Japanese, Italian, and New American cuisine. Residents have ready access to fresh produce and seafood.
Notable restaurants in and around the city include:
- Bijou Garden Cafe is a fine dining restaurant known for using farm-fresh ingredients and locally caught seafood. It also has an impressive wine selection for those who want to pair their gourmet meal with a glass of French, American, or South African wine.
- Café L’Europe draws inspiration from the famed De L’Europe Hotel in the Netherlands and serves sumptuous continental cuisine in an elegant setting with live music. The restaurant has been serving Sarasota diners for over 45 years and is known for impeccable service.
- Michael’s on East serves sophisticated New American fare and fine wine from around the world. The restaurant has an elegant supper club atmosphere that harks back to the 1940s and has received many AAA Four-Diamond awards.
- Roessler’s Restaurant is a family-owned restaurant serving continental cuisine. It is known for fantastic food, exceptional service, and its beautifully landscaped grounds, which span three acres and feature a stunning lake.
- Ophelia’s on the Bay offers a rotating selection of international cuisine. The restaurant also offers red and white wines from France, Greece, Italy, and California.
- Hyde Park has three private dining rooms and an outdoor terrace where guests can enjoy small plates, fine wine, and handcrafted cocktails.
Sarasota is also a shopping destination with the following malls and commercial centers:
- St. Armand’s Circle is an upscale retail development with tenants like Lilly Pulitzer, Ivory Coast, and Le Colonne. There are also several restaurants that serve fresh seafood.
- The Crossings at Siesta Key has a wide selection of major retailers like Macy’s and Talbots. Cinebistro screens the latest box office hits.
- The Shoppes at Sarasota Row is a mixed-use complex with boutiques and restaurants on ground level and luxury condos on the upper floors.
- Downtown Sarasota is home to locally-owned shops and specialty stores like Carlisle Gifts, Swim City, Pixie Dust, and The Exchange. Shop for souvenirs, beach gear, energy crystals, and everything under the sun.
- Siesta Key Village is a small collection of shops and snack vendors located near the beach. It hosts the Siesta Fiesta as well as a variety of festivals and art shows throughout the year.
- Sarasota Farmers Market is a food hub for farmers, artisans, and vendors. From organically grown produce and potted plants, to homemade breads and sauces, the market is an excellent place to discover artisanal food products and locally sourced cooking ingredients. The market also organizes live performances to support local musicians.
- The Mall at University Town Center is the place to go for major retailers like Crate & Barrel and Dillard’s. The mall also has a selection of specialty food stores like Läderach, and Zarzis Olive Oil.
Schools and education
The City of Sarasota falls under Sarasota County Public Schools, a reputable public school district with more than 43,000 students, 2,760 teachers, and 5,000 staff. There are 62 schools within the larger district, including:
Residents can also access online course offerings at the following institutions:
- Sarasota Virtual Academy
- Sarasota Virtual Instruction Program
Arts and culture
- The Ringling Museum hosts a rotating exhibit of archeological artifacts from Southwest Florida as well as modern and contemporary artworks from celebrated American artists. It also screens documentaries on dance, choreography, and other performing arts.
Other highlights include The David F. Bolger Playspace, John M. McKay Visitors Pavilion, The Ringling Museum Store, The Ringling Grillroom, The Wandering Chef Food Truck, and Mable’s Coffee & Tea.
- Art Center Sarasota is a contemporary art gallery that organizes rotating exhibits, artist workshops, gallery tours, book club events, and salon discussions. An on-site shop sells artworks and gallery merchandise.
- Towles Court Art Association is a vibrant art community that hosts monthly Open Studio Nights in which guests can visit working artists’ studios to learn about their process as well as listen to live music.
- Downtown Sarasota Festival of the Arts is an annual two-day event that takes place on Main Street and features vendors and artists offering paintings, sculptures, jewelry, ceramics, and photography.
- Sarasota Fair is traditionally held in the The Sarasota Fairgrounds and Robarts Arena and showcases farmers, vendors, and food producers to promote Sarasota’s agricultural heritage.
Golf enthusiasts will find world-class golf courses and practice facilities in and around Sarasota, including:
- Sara Bay Country Club is a private golf club with a Donald Ross-designed golf course and an elegant clubhouse for on-site dining and socials.
- TPC Prestancia Golf & Social Club Sarasota has two 18-hole championship golf courses situated across 565 scenic acres of land. It also has practice facilities and a golf shop.
- The Esplanade Golf & Country Club at Lakewood Ranch has an 18-hole championship course as well as practice areas and a golf shop.
- The Meadows Country Club has three golf courses for players of all skill levels. The club also has tennis, swimming, and fitness facilities.
- Serenoa Golf Club provides exclusive access to a Mark Alden-designed golf course that is considered among the best in Florida. The club also hosts tournaments and golf outings.
- Palms Golf Club at Forest Lakes features a Gordy Lewis-designed golf course with stunning water features and a challenging layout.
- Village Green Golf Club of Sarasota has an 18-hole golf course and on-site bar and restaurant built on an orange grove.
Sarasota residents have access to more than 35 miles of pristine coastline with white sand beaches, parks, and campgrounds, including:
- Siesta Beach
- Crescent Beach
- Lido Beach
- North Lido Beach
- Ted Sperling Park at South Lido Beach
- Palmer Point Beach Park
- Turtle Beach Park & Campground
Other nearby attractions
- Myakka River State Park encompasses 37,000 acres of open spaces, nature trails, and camp sites. As one of the largest and oldest parks in Florida, it offers countless opportunities for hiking, camping, canoeing, kayaking, and fishing. The mighty Myakka River flows through the park, which is populated by live oaks and palm trees. Highlights include the Canopy Walkway, The Birdwalk, and Myakka Outpost & Cafe.
Real estate market overview
Property types, architectural styles, and home features
The Sarasota real estate market is remarkably diverse. It offers a wide selection of condos, townhomes, and single-family homes. There is also a large market for rental properties since the city is a popular destination for snowbirds. Prevalent architectural styles include Ranch, Contemporary, Mediterranean, and Spanish Revival.
The most coveted homes are situated on large lots with grassy lawns, tropical landscaping, and spacious driveways. The most sought after condo buildings have high-end amenities like pools, gyms, and gardens.
Some of the most coveted neighborhoods and residential areas in Sarasota include:
- Laurel Park
- Gillespie Park
- Siesta Key
- Indian Beach Sapphire Shores
- Lakewood Ranch
- Downtown Sarasota
Lakewood Ranch offers a fine selection of new construction homes in a variety of models and layouts across several villages. It is a gated community with first-rate amenities like a country club, tennis courts, parks, and three town centers with shops and restaurants.
Work with an experienced Realtor in Sarasota, FL
Enjoy the Sarasota lifestyle. You can reach me, Laura Stavola, at 194.144.74875 or Laura(dotted)Stavola(at)PremierSir(dotted)com. As a Realtor with 17 years of experience, I will help you find the right home in the area. My company was named the top team at Premier Sotheby’s for the entire region in 2020. We specialize in luxury homes, waterfront properties, and golf course communities. Get concierge service when you contact us today.