Understanding Waterfront Values Based on Access & Depth

Robert Blog ProfileBy Robert Milligan, Realtor:  When I’m on the water, I truly feel at home.  I feel completely present in my surroundings, all the cares of life are soon forgotten and I’m able to get lost in the subtle rhythms of nature – tide movement, bait fish swarming, & birds swooping.  Before adulthood, I was fortunate to spend countless hours on  Sarasota Bay and my amusement and curiosity extended into my professional career as to how water frontage influences and affects real estate valuation.  There are many factors to consider when choosing waterfront real estate in Sarasota, but this writing will deal specifically with access to the Gulf of Mexico, and water depth.

As you shop for waterfront real estate, you may often see “sailboat water” touted as a spectacular pedigree and you may have 1 of 2 thoughts; that’s nice but I don’t care to ever own a sailboat or you may think to yourself water is water, what difference does it make?  “Sailboat water” simply means that it is the most accessible of all water, not inhibited by fixed bridges or a shallow depth – usually not less than 5 feet deep at median tide.  The gulf coast of Florida is very shallow outside of the marked channels and most sailboats need at least 4-5 feet to operate without hitting bottom.  Surprisingly, many waterfront houses in Sarasota have less than 4 feet of water at the dock during low tide.

3927 Roberts Point Road, Siesta Key
3927 Roberts Point Road, Siesta Key

To illustrate how fixed bridges, access and depth affect real estate valuations I will use a new bank owned foreclosure property that we currently have listed as an example.  Roberts Point Road is a highly desirable “sailboat water” street in a great neighborhood on the North end of Siesta Key.  We currently have listed 3927 Roberts Point Road for $488,800 – an excellent value, but one of the few homes on Roberts Point that are not technically on “sailboat water.”  The reason this property is not sailboat water is that this property is located on a small canal, off the main canal with a median depth at the entrance of approximately 3 feet.  Additionally, there are trees hanging over the entrance of this small canal that the “mast” of the sailboat would hit.  As you can see, it really is imperative that you visit the homes you are interested in by boat, to really see what factors could prevent you from accessing your property by water.

To further expand your perspective, I created this simple illustration below, demonstrating the variables of waterfront areas all within a very close proximity to one another.  I marked 3927 Roberts Point Road with a red star, and a red arrow showing that this portion of water is NOT sailboat water.  The yellow arrows are designating the areas that are sailboat water, but must go South of the fixed bridge and pass through a drawbridge that only opens every 20 minutes during peak hours.  Finally, on the North side of the fixed bridge, there are green arrows indicating deep water, uninhibited by fixed or draw bridges with very fast & easy access to the Gulf of Mexico.  The waterfront properties surrounding the fixed bridge are all within less than a 1/10th of a mile of each other, but have very different accessibility from the water.

Waterfront Access ExampleAs you can see, the homes located on the water with yellow arrows may require an additional 15 – 30 minutes depending on the drawbridge timing to reach the Gulf of Mexico and Siesta Beach compared to the homes located on water with green arrows & direct access.  It might not seem like 30 minutes is a big deal, but there have been many times I’ve been racing back from the Gulf to beat a summer thunderstorm, and 30 minutes can seem like an eternity!  Still, you may say that you have no interest in boating or access but do know that the difference in water will affect value and desirability when you resell.

How much of a difference in value does the accessibility make you ask.  It can easily double or even triple the value of the land.  In waterfront real estate, we primarily deal with the value of the land first, and then calculate the worth of the structure aka “improvements” that have been added to the land.  Presently I am seeing some properties with limited access and fixed bridges on Siesta Key for less than $20 per square foot and other prime sailboat canal properties for more than $100 per square foot of land.  After determining the value of the land, we then add the value of the home to come up with a market price.

There are other factors that also must be considered when evaluating waterfront properties that will be discussed further in following posts.  I hope this simple illustration has been helpful in your pursuit of waterfront real estate in Sarasota, and of course, always consult your Realtor for advice about specific properties.  If you are needing to be connected to a great Realtor, we can be reached at 941-999-1179 and would be happy for the opportunity to work with you!

About:  Robert Milligan is the FL President of Allison James Estates & Homes & Co-Founder of Preferred Shore Real Estate Group.  He has sold $1 Billion+ on more than 5,000 transactions in his 13 year career.

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