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TOP 5 IN REAL ESTATE, January 2010—Maureen Horn
Michael Saunders and Company
Years in real estate: 5
Region Served: Sarasota and Manatee Counties specializing in Sarasota and Longboat Key, Florida

How is the second home and luxury market faring today?
The second home market, which makes up about 60% of the market, is alive and well in Sarasota. It is the perfect storm with lower interest rates, lots of inventory and low prices. So if people can swing it, they are buying a second home.

The luxury market is getting better. People are buying now to hedge their bets. I have one buyer who is 50, lives in New Jersey and knows it’s the perfect time to buy, even though he may not live in the house year-round right away. As he says, “I might pay too soon but, I won’t pay too much.”

Florida has a great tax base because we do not have income tax. So eventually people turn their homes from six-month to full-time residences. Barbara Corcoran just named the top 10 places to buy where real estate has the best value and named Sarasota number one. Two years ago people would come to Sarasota and look but they wouldn’t pull the trigger. That is not the case today.

What are you doing to drive business?
I am selling lifestyle. Real estate goes on. Life goes on. Selling Sarasota is easy because it is a secret gem. Sarasota has opera, symphony and the arts and is a great place to live. I formed a networking group, “Tea to Tequila” (, because so many people come to Florida and are only here for six months. Women who are not golfers like my networking group because it lets them meet other people and do things other than golf and tennis.

I also put out a newsletter and we remain very Internet connected. There is a new construction project that is very reasonable right now as they have dropped their prices to $150,000. There are nine units left. It’s a steal. I let people know about things like that in my newsletter.

How is the Sarasota market faring?
Sarasota sees signs of recovery already. We were the first city to see the turn. We are in our eighth month of recovery—that’s really good news for us. I am very optimistic about 2010.

Are short sales and/or foreclosures prevalent?
There are many short sales but people sometimes lose money because it takes four or five months, if ever, to close. So some people who are trying to buy a short sale are missing the market. One woman put her offer in in September and she is no closer to closing on that short sale house today.

Why did you become a Member of Top 5?
Top 5 helps me differentiate myself and the information that comes from Top 5 is excellent; I use it in my newsletter. This is the only thing out there that says you are among the top people. I am more about quality and knowledge and not leaving anything unturned, and Top 5 associates me with other quality real estate professionals. I like the materials, especially the brochure that tells people what to look for in a real estate agent.