ARE YOU A NATURE LOVER? Do you want to walk out your front door to good shops and restaurants? Will you absolutely move back to Buffalo if you can’t find that perfect bayfront home?
Venice draws people with widely varied interests, but local realtors tell us nearly all are looking for a true community, where neighbors meet at the Saturday-morning farmers market, on the golf course and in the bleachers at Venice High School’s Friday night football games. And while the area has traditionally attracted Northerners longing for sunshine and beaches, people are moving here from closer by as well. The Venice-Nokomis waterfront is more affordable and accessible than in much of the nearby region, and that’s started to bring transplants from Sarasota. And more families are moving here, drawn by Venice’s excellent public schools. If you’re looking for that ideal Venice-area neighborhood to suit your lifestyle, here are some choices designed just for you.
Best Neighborhood For Gulf-Front Luxury: Casey Key
The lushly tropical nine-mile-long island has long been one of the region’s most exclusive enclaves, with wealthy homeowners who fly in and out of Venice Airport on their private jets. If you want to be Stephen King’s neighbor, this is the place. Property values range from $1 million to $10 million, and properties that stretch from Gulf-to-bay command the highest prices, says Melissa Caldwell, of Premier Sotheby’s International Realty.
“Obviously, there’s a mix of construction type and age on the key,” she says. “The new homes built to the highest hurricane code and to current design trends will warrant a high dollar value.”
Best Neighborhood for Nature Lovers: Myakka River Trails
This very private, gated neighborhood off North River Road, set smack-dab on the wild and scenic Myakka River, boasts more than 45 five- to 15-acre homesites filled with shade trees, natural vegetation and all sorts of wildlife—birds, deer, pigs, alligators, and fresh and saltwater fish.
“It’s like living in a state park,” says Michelle Hupp of Michael Saunders and Company, who lives with her family in a home directly across the Myakka River from the 10,000-acre public Deer Prairie Creek Preserve. “From the third story of my home I can see for miles without seeing another structure.”
People who want lots of space and privacy are the demographic here, and there’s a good mix of families and empty nesters. Youngsters scoot around the neighborhood on golf carts. “There’s a little more freedom” for them, says Hupp.
Myakka River Trails is deed restricted. A handsome stone entryway leads into the neighborhood, and homes must be a minimum of 3,000 square feet. Community-shared amenities include a clubhouse, pool, tennis courts, horse trails and a boat ramp on the river. Several new homes are under construction. Recent list prices for resales ranged between $665,000 for a property off the water, but with water access to $1,895,000 for a 5,000-plus-square-foot home built in 2003 on just over 13 acres.
As Venice booms with new construction to the east and the Atlanta Braves build their spring training stadium two miles to the south in the West Villages, Hupp says Myakka River Trails’ popularity is on the upswing. “Living here is a unique experience,” she says with pride.
Best Neighborhood for Equestrians: Venice Farms
Venice Farms is a huge swath of land in east Venice west of River Road and south of I-75. (The interstate takes an east-west jog here.) East Venice Avenue cuts directly through it. Lots start at a minimum of five acres and reach as much as 100-plus acres, and there are no deed restrictions, which is a big selling point to homeowners.
“It’s really rural; there are lots of tractors and greenhouses. All my neighbors have horses,” says Caldwell, who lives there with her family. “Girls in the neighborhood have come to my house on horseback selling Girl Scout cookies.”
Property values are all over the place, with single-family homes starting in the upper $200,000s. A 2,200-square-foot home on five acres off Border Road, with two ponds stocked with bass and bluegills, was recently on the market for $699,900; and a fenced, “horse-friendly” 5.3-acre plot of land was listed at $927,500.
The most show-stopping current Venice Farms listing is a North Jackson Road equestrian ranch set on more than 100 acres. The main house, built in 2003, has 19,000-plus square feet of living space; there are caretakers’ quarters, tennis courts, a 22-stall barn and a five-furlong oval horse track. It’s on the market for $9.45 million.
Best Neighborhood for History Buffs: The Island of Venice
The heart and soul of Venice is the original small town that master planner John Nolen designed in the 1920s with wide, landscaped boulevards and neighborhoods built around parks and playgrounds—all within strolling distance of the Venice Avenue shopping district and a bike ride to the beach. It was one of the nation’s first master-planned cities, and thanks to the city’s strict building codes, in 90 years it hasn’t lost its charm.
The Island of Venice is the epicenter of special events: the lighted holiday parade, the Sharks Tooth Festival, the Saturday morning farmers market, concerts in the gazebo and on and on. Residents can even tool around on street-legal golf carts as their primary mode of transportation.
Many of the original 1920s Spanish homes have been lovingly restored, and owners of the midcentury ranch homes that predominate are investing in remodeling. (Prices here are too expensive to justify tear-downs.) They’re adding garages, raising roofs, remodeling kitchens and baths, and installing swimming pools. A small flurry of new construction has taken place in the last few years, too. Island Court, for example, has 26 maintenance-free townhomes that were snapped up when the project was completed in 2014. The development had its first resale last summer at $495,000.
Being east or west of Harbor Drive, the main spine that divides the Island, is a harbinger of your home’s value. Consider two recent sales of homes built in the late 1960s. East of Harbor Drive, a home on Alba Street with an updated interior sold for $330,000; to the west, a similarly sized home on Golden Beach Boulevard sold for $450,000. The tippy-top of the market is also telling: east of Harbor Drive, the highest list price was $1.1 million for a new single-family home, and west, the highest was a beachfront residence at $3.25 million.
Best Neighborhoods for Golfers: Venice Golf & Country Club, Venetian Golf & River Club
Again, many contenders, from the venerable 30-something-year-old Plantation Golf & Country Club (affordable to join, with a very active social scene, say Hupp and Caldwell) to the brand-new Sarasota National being developed by WCI Communities. We narrowed down our experts’ favorites to two.
The private, gated Venice Golf & Country Club in east Venice is “very social,” says Caldwell. “If you move in here, you have instant friends.” The 500-home community started developing in the 1990s and has mature landscaping and winding roads. It prides itself on its environmental friendliness (it’s a certified Audubon cooperative sanctuary) and on its TLC of residents—the clubhouse will deliver food to your door, for example. Mainly retirees live here, with a sprinkling of families, and you have to be a club member. The initiation fee for golf memberships is $10,000; $7,500 for non-golf memberships. Homes range from $257,000 to $650,000.
The much larger Venetian Golf & River Club in North Venice offers some 2,000 new homes along the Myakka River with access to the river. The Chip Powell-designed 18-hole, par 72 course is suited for players of all abilities. There are two clubhouses, one exclusively for golf, the other social, and a very active tennis program (USTA league). A good number of families live here, and home prices range from the $200,000s to $700,000.
Best Neighborhood for Socializing: IslandWalk at the West Villages
Lots of competition here, because so many newer communities have extravagant resort-style amenities with regularly scheduled activities. IslandWalk at the West Villages, being developed by DiVosta Homes, is a standout, says Hupp, because of its elegant clubhouse, tropical resort and lap pools, Har-Tru tennis courts and pickleball courts, bocce ball, fitness center and fire pits. Art and fitness classes are offered, and occasional concerts by the pool take place. “IslandWalk is known for socializing,” says Hupp, “and it’s experiencing a ‘Braves bump’ because it’s one of the closest communities to the new spring training facility.” Current listings range from $259,900 to $499,000.
Best Neighborhoods for Boaters: Enchanted Isles and Southbay Yacht & Racquet Club
The Venice area’s outstanding waterfront neighborhoods make it tough to narrow the “best” to two. But first, a short geography lesson: There are three bays in Venice and nearby Nokomis connected by the Intracoastal Waterway—Roberts, Dona, Lyons—and each has its own personality. Roberts Bay is home to all kinds of active watersports. Lyons Bay is shallower, better for kayaks and flat boats. Dona Bay is deep water, no wake is allowed and it’s quieter. A big mangrove island divides it and helps protect backyard privacy, and it’s got the priciest home values. (Hupp has the listing for a $3.59 million Bayview Parkway custom residence, for example.)
Enchanted Isles may be the best neighborhood for boaters who want their boat docks behind their homes. And Southbay Yacht & Racquet Club, with its community marina, is notable because you don’t have to live on the water there to own a boat and enjoy the water.
Enchanted Isles, a peninsula west of Tamiami Trail between Roberts and Dona bays, has a mix of grand waterfront executive residences and older, aging homes, many being marketed as tear-downs because of their lower elevations and land value versus structure value. “Tear-down prices are between $650,000 and $1 million,” says Caldwell, “depending on the amount of water frontage and whether the water is in the front yard—with Sunset Drive in between the house and the water—or directly in the back yard.” No surprise—water in the back yard commands higher values.
Southbay Yacht & Racquet in Osprey has that afore-mentioned deep-water community marina that can accommodate up to a 55-foot boat. Developed in the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s in a convenient mid-county spot that originally was a tourist attraction called Floridaland, it’s home to families and retirees who like to embrace the Venice community but also like the access to Sarasota. Sale prices in the first half of 2017 ranged from $370,000 to $1.1 million.
But don’t rule out Sorrento Shores in Osprey and Sorrento South in Nokomis, which have a mix of community marinas and homes with backyard boat docks, says Jessika Arman of Re/Max Platinum Realty. “They’re where the better deals are,” she says. Homes here are smaller and older than in Southbay; Arman sold one on a deepwater canal in Sorrento South for $465,000 last spring, although prices in the $500,000s and $600,000s are more the norm. And HOA fees are minuscule. “A lot of Pine View [School] families are buying in these two neighborhoods,” she says.
Best Neighborhood for Families: Grand Palm
Unlike many long-established Venice communities that are geared toward seniors, says Steven LaFountain of Pointe of Palms Real Estate (and president-elect of the Venice Area Board of Realtors), the mammoth master-planned community of Grand Palm is a great family neighborhood. “It’s all about the amenities,” he says. “I showed a home to a woman with twin 9-year-old boys. They looked around at the basketball court, the doggie park, the water slide and the hiking trails, and one of them said, ‘Mommy, this is all a boy could ask for.’”
Grand Palm, being developed by Neal Communities in east Venice, will eventually have nearly 2,000 homes and a wide range of appealing amenities for people of all ages. There’s also an adventure playground, fitness center, biking and walking paths, tennis, bocce ball and volleyball. There’s even an on-site activities director.Attached villas and single-family homes in many models are offered, and prices range from $229,500 to $459,900. A-rated Taylor Ranch Elementary is nearby, and Grand Palm is zoned for Venice Middle School. The community has sold about 750 homes to date.