New Buildings in a New Economy

Interior of Sarasota Waterfront Luxury Home Built By Murray Home Inc.As a builder of luxury waterfront houses – $1 million and up – I have pretty savvy clients. They’re not only interested maximizing their living pleasure, they also think of their home as an investment. Many of them come to me saying, “We want it for us, but we also want it to make commercial sense, so where is the market going to be in three year’s time?”
Whilst I don’t have all the answers, I do think that houses are becoming smaller; The 6,000 square foot home is now 4,500 square foot.

Many Realtors and builders have commented on this change in perspective, but what does this 20% reduction in living area actually mean? How does it affect livability? Does it really mean making do with less?

Modern Florida Kitcchen Design Built By Murray HomesIn certain ways, it means actual downsizing. The big homes used to have two dining rooms, a formal one which gets used only at Thanksgiving and Christmas, and a smaller table perched in the corner of the kitchen where people eat the rest of the year.
Instead, I recommend, and a number of my clients have agreed, to have one dining area only, but in the best location possible. That way, every time they eat breakfast, lunch or dinner, they have the best view and can enjoy it.

The same thing holds true for the living room areas. Why have a large living room – usually near the entry – filled with furniture that you only pass to and from the way to the bedroom? It takes up space, has to be air conditioned, and serves as little more than a showroom at a car dealership – no one drives those models; no one sits on that furniture. Why not get rid of it and add the space you’ve saved to your main living area where you and your guests really spend time?

That way, you reduce cost and size by making the house more livable on an everyday basis. As empty nesters, you can have the whole ground floor to yourselves and save the upstairs for guests.

Another great thing to do is to put more emphasis on exterior decks and outdoor kitchens. Here’s how.

On the waterfront, land is at a premium. Often with, say, a 100 by 150 foot property (15,000 square feet), you have a 30 foot setback in the front and at the rear. That pushes the house as far back from the water and the views.

 Bermuda Style Waterfront Home Built By Murray Homes IncThe current “must-have” is a 3-car garage. But do you really need it? If it’s your second or third home, perhaps two and half spaces, for 2 cars and a motorbike/golf cart/kayak, is plenty. Now you can pull the house back even farther and expand the deck.

The result is a bigger deck in back, which is what people in Florida really use and enjoy. Open up the sliders to your living room and it doubles your usable footage for 4 to 5 months out of the year. Chances are, for much of the humid summer, you’ll be gone anyway.

If you follow these simple ideas and principles, you’re going to make the house livable for you and your spouse 90% of the time, instead of building to suit the needs of occasional visits from kids, grandkids and friends.

Let’s face it, your guests will sleep where you put them. They’ll be flexible for a week or two. They’re just happy to be in the sun! But under no circumstances should you compromise your needs and living pleasure.

The reason we have had poorly designed homes in the past is that when the housing market was booming and investors ruled the land, they were buying raw property, developing it and putting up homes they then inflicted on the market. Buyers had no other option than to buy what there was. Needless to say, these investors weren’t always employing the best architects in order to save money.
Now that the market is coming back, it is an opportunity for individuals who are building custom homes for themselves to say what they really want.

That’s why I strongly encourage my clients to use top notch architects. They may be more expensive, but they’re also better. They’ll have the skills and vision to offer clients what they want with proper integrity of design. And that will benefit the resale value down the road.

Steve Murray of Murray Homes Inc.

Steve Murray

Clients may be spending the same amount of money on a smaller house than they would have on a larger house in the past, but they’re giving themselves what they want – a beautifully designed, livable space that will hold or even increase its value over time.

The Future of Luxury Home Design Courtesy of

People often ask me what the trends in exterior and interior home design might be three to five years from now. They are looking to maximize the salability of the home they’re building or renovating – a wise decision. I always encourage my clients to think about the resale value of their home even if they plan to live there for five to 10 years.

Architectural styles come and go  – who is to say exactly what will be the new Spanish Mediterranean? In the past, I used to assure them that if a house is well built according to sound design principles, it should stand the test of time and maintain its residual value.
That’s still accurate up to a point, but I can do better now!

While I don’t have a crystal ball, I do know that future tastes are being greatly influenced by a free new innovative website:

Murray Homes - Sarasota's Luxury Home Builder Profile On Houzz.comMost of my savvy clients know about it and they often arrive at initial design meetings armed with bookmarks and favorite folders gathered from the site.

Essentially, Houzz is a website comprising more than 700,000 photos covering all aspects of interior and exterior design.

You can browse by architectural style or by living areas. The latter includes not only typical areas such as living rooms, bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchens, home offices, patios and landscape, but also more specific parts of a house like entry ways, closets and staircases, home gyms and wine cellars.

You can also search by metropolitan areas – not just the major North American and European cities but also far-flung places like Australia, Rio De Janeiro, Hong Kong and Tel Aviv even the latest trends in Sarasota Luxury Homes are widely available .

Murray Homes Luxury Home Builder For Longboat Key Project Gallery On Houzz.comWhen you sign up to Houzz you can save your favorites to your folders. That’s how many of my clients and I start conversations about the kind of home they want to have built. Want to discuss faucets or fireplace tiles, tiki bars or crown molding?  There’s bound to be at least one or two photos you can earmark and share.

It beats going through lots of home and living magazines, cutting out pictures and bringing them in to the office in a cumbersome file.

You can also recommend favorite photos of your own – many of the homes I have built are represented on the site – and here’s where Houzz, directly and indirectly, affects the design styles of the future.

It turns out that great architectural photos tend to be those with simple lines, limited clutter and refined detail. Most of the exterior architecture is clean and fresh, with much less stonework, banding and ‘gingerbread’, The interiors are displaying elegant yet uncomplicated finishes in bathrooms and kitchens, more use of LED lights and European fixtures, recessed window treatments and stylish furniture. The photos represent a definite architectural trend….and as a result will begin to drive the new styles that people look to copy.

Steve Murray of Murray Homes Inc.

Steve Murray

Since this look mirrors my own personal tastes, I’m all for it and I peruse the site regularly to keep abreast of what people like and want to see in their own homes.

As more and more people discover Houzz, and like what they see – and what’s not to like? – this will continue to act as a barometer and give insights into the future of design and the pace at which it is evolving.  You want to know what the future holds?  Ask!

Images From The Murray Homes Houzz Galleries

How to succeed in the new seller’s housing market.

Some of my clients from other parts of the country and from across the Atlantic, where the housing markets haven’t recovered yet from the recession, come to Florida expecting to go bargain hunting.

But they are in for a rude awakening. They find a house they like, want to put down an offer and find themselves fifth or sixth in line among multiple offers. As buyers, they discover out quickly that in Sarasota, they’re no longer in the power position. The reason? Not enough homes for the demand.

As Sarasota goes, so goes the nation!

Sarasota may have been the first market in the United States to tank when the housing bubble burst, leading the plunge into real estate chaos and economic recession. But it has also recovered earlier, along with other parts of the country, notably Alaska, Washington State, Arizona and other cities in Florida – Miami, Orlando and Ft. Lauderdale, which have become hot markets again.

In June, the number of homes listed for sale nationwide dropped 24% compared with the previous year. Inventory in Sarasota has been low here for months now. Good properties, priced right, get snapped up in days with multiple offers from five to fifteen buyers not at all unusual. Prices are inching up, too, and there are even occasional bidding wars. Add it all up, and it spells “seller’s market.”

The good news is that people continue to want to buy. According to the National Association of Realtors, the number of contracts signed in May was 13% higher than a year ago with every region in the country reporting increases in sales.

But with rising demand and lack of suitable inventory, buyers are no longer in the driver’s seat.

What does that mean for buyers in the Sarasota area?  

If you’re looking for a particular spot, it’s not as easy to find property, especially in the most popular neighborhoods. That’s definitely true for good houses priced under $250,000.

Until new construction catches up with demand, shopping for a home will be more like a hunt than the walk in the park it has been.

What should buyers do in the new seller’s market?

Pre-qualification vs. pre-approval. Don’t bother with the first, which is only an estimate on how much you can borrow. With sellers concerned about deals falling through, they want more certainty. Get pre-approved for a loan based on your credit, income and assets, and you’ll be in a better position to bargain.

Get with a veteran realtor who knows the market. In a competitive market, it’s crucial to have a pro on your side who’s experienced, knows the local scene inside and out, and is experienced in multiple-offer deals. That way you can be sure that a home is reasonably priced and advise you on what to offer.

Make a good, clean, straightforward offer. If you want to wait to sell your current home first, for example, you’re not likely to come out ahead in a bidding war.

Remember, if you get into the game, there are still very good buys to be had. With interest rates at historic lows, and prices considerably lower than during frenzy years, this is still a great time to get excellent value for your money. Just don’t expect bargain basement sales, and be prepared to move fast in the face of the competition.


Murray Homes Wins Telly Award For Video Production

Sarasota based Murray homes has just won a bronze award for its latest promotional video. The video was collaboratively produced by the Murray team, Be Creative Studios and Mars Vision Productions.

The three minute piece focused on Murray’s incredible new build and remodel portfolio, plus tie ins to its own in-house real estate team and broad client base in local, national and international markets.

The Telly Awards is the premier award honoring the finest film and video productions, groundbreaking web commercials, videos and films, and outstanding local, regional, and cable TV commercials and programs. The 33rd Annual Telly Awards received over 12,000 entries from all 50 states and 5 continents.

Murray Homes is an industry leading builder of luxury waterfront custom homes in Sarasota, Florida.

Sarasota Continues to Rise

Sarasota real estate has come a long way from the dark days of 2006-2010. In November 2008, the inventory level* was 24 months. In June of this year the figure has plummeted to below 5 months, ushering in a seller’s market.  *Months of inventory represents the time it would take to deplete the current inventory of homes and condos at the current sales rate.

Real estate agents are finding themselves busy keeping up with demand from buyers at a time of year that is typically much slower than the peak buying and selling months of January through April.

Highlights from the Sarasota Association of Realtors – Real Estate Market report for June 2012:

•        Real estate market achieved the highest level of quarterly sales in seven years.

•        June sales were the second highest total since September 2005, yet another indication of a market that is achieving sales totals not seen since the 2003-2005 real estate surge.

•        Sales prices 18.7% higher than in June 2011

•        The normal seasonal influx of buyers tends to drop shortly after the Easter holiday, but this year the higher sales appear to be continuing into the summer.

•        The median sales price for single family homes dropped slightly to $178,500 from last month’s figure of $185,000, but it remains higher than the 12-month running median of $167,000. The median sales price for condos was $195,000 – up from last month’s figure of $180,750, and still much higher than the 12-month running median prices of $165,000.

•        Single family home prices remained over 30% higher than the low of 15 months ago ($137,500), while condo prices are over 50% higher than the low point ($127,000).

Jane Ebury


Florida, the Promising Land

Whether you’re a foreign buyer looking for a vacation home, investment property or semi-permanent residence to bask in the Florida sunshine for more than six months of the year, there isn’t a better time than now.

Since the housing bubble burst, prices have dropped by more than 50% in many parts of the state. A typical Florida home that sold in 2006 for about $260,000 now sells for less than $140,000. As they say here, “You can get a lot more home for your buck!”

By comparison, houses in Europe, Canada, and Latin and South America are much more expensive.

Those in the know are taking advantage of the favorable real estate climate. At 26%, Florida accounts for more than a quarter of all international sales in the United States, more than the next three largest sunshine states – California (11%), Texas (7%) and Arizona (7%) – combined!

In 2011, international buyers accounted for $82.5 billion in U.S. property sales, up 24% from $66.4 billion the previous year.

Why not join them for your place in the sun?

Bev Murray & Jane Ebury


Sarasota is hot, hot, hot!

Sarasota sunshine is heating up and so is the local real estate market. Property sales have topped 800 for the third consecutive month, demonstrating a market that has recovered to levels not seen since the 2003-2005.

Interest rates hit record lows in May, and house prices still remain relatively low.  This has brought high sales rate and low inventory – a rare combination, which is why Sarasota is attracting buyers from across the nation, and the world.

The median sale price for both single family homes and condos remained near the highest levels of the year in May. The median sales price for single family homes was $185,000 – a 34% increase from the lows of 14 months ago. Last month’s figure was $175,000. The median sales price for condos was $180,750, a drop from April’s figure of $191,750 but a 40% increase from the low point.

The total number of distressed properties, foreclosure and short sales on the market remains around 31%, the lowest level in 3 years.  This is likely a contributing factor to the housing demand and increase in prices.

The May figures are 4.3 months of inventory for single family homes and 5.2 months’ inventory for condos. Months of inventory represents the time it would take to deplete the current inventory at the current rate of sales. Six months of inventory is classed as the market equilibrium, therefore we are now considered a seller’s market.

“I’ve been in our Association for over 15 years and inventories at this level are rare,” said SAR President Laura Benson. “The market is tightening, and when available properties are at such low levels, the result is normally greater competition for available properties. This scenario tends to escalate prices, so if you’re in the market for a home, now is the time to act.”

Jane Ebury


Prices keep climbing – Florida is heating up

Word is getting out that Florida’s bust is switching to boom, with the charge being led by the $1 million single family house market.

Across the state in Miami-Dade, a $52million house is reportedly under contract and a penthouse condo just sold for a record $25million.

On this side of Florida, our price point is not as impressive but we have continued signs of rising sales.  In February and March of this year, sales of $1million-plus houses in Sarasota county were 48% higher than last year.

For more information on luxury homes in Sarasota call Bev Murray or Jane Ebury 941-365-1837 at Murray Realty


Spring Has Definitely Sprung – strong sales for April 2012

The latest report published by the Sarasota Association of Realtors shows that real estate sales in Sarasota county are continuing their upward ascent.

Here are the highlights for April 2012:

  • 886 total sales transactions,  the highest figure since August 2005
  • Inventory is at a 10 year low: 4.7 months for single family homes and 5.1 months for condos
  • Distressed sales (foreclosures and short sales) are at a 3 year low of 31%
  • Average single family home prices are 21.4% higher than they were a year ago
  • Average condo home prices are almost 30% higher than last year
  • 1,068 pending sales which is a strong indication of future activity

So what does this mean for you as a home buyer, seller or investor?

Selling a home:

With inventory at its lowest level in years and less distressed sales to negatively impact your market value, now is a phenomenal time to put your house or condo on the market.  If it is priced right and marketed well, it is unlikely to hang around for long.

Buying a home:

Mortgage rates are at their lowest since the 1950s .  You’ll need to have all your ducks in a row when you find the house that you want, as homes are being snapped up quickly at the moment and prices are creeping up. Make sure you ask Murray Realty to help you work smart and negotiate effectively.


Buying to rent is a very attractive option in the current market. There is strong demand for long term rental properties as many tenants are still struggling with credit issues and are unable to get a mortgage.

Bev Murray