Majority rules at condos

Residents can be forced out of their homes if other owners agree to sell.

Article Courtesy of the Herald Tribune
Posted August 22, 2005 


At the Pier 550 waterfront condominium, in the shadow of downtown Sarasota high-rises, a developer provided renewed proof of two real estate axioms: "Money talks" and "Read the fine print."


A developer is buying the Pier 550 condos at Golden Gate Point for a proposed $50 million, a record for downtown Sarasota property. The deal works out to $20 million per acre for the 2.5-acre waterfront site.

Even though some residents of the old-timey, low-rise complex did not want to sell, the developer gained control, and the right to tear down the buildings, simply by making acceptable offers to the owners of at least 41 of the 51 units.
The document that allowed that to happen was the condo's own "declaration of condominium," which specifies that the condo can be terminated if 80 percent of the owners agree.

The $50 million proposed purchase price, to be paid next summer, would set a record for downtown Sarasota property. The deal works out to $20 million per acre for the 2.5-acre waterfront site, where the developer plans to build 62 high-end condos.

If completed, the deal will leave residents wealthier but uprooted.

"Everyone is throwing all these deals at me, and I'm like, leave me alone," said Beverly Rayfield, one of Pier 550's few holdouts.

The moral: If you live in an older condo -- and especially if it is on the water -- you should dust off your "declaration of condominium" and get familiar with the rules.

As developers run out of choice development sites, they are likely to emulate the pioneering effort by the Atlanta-based Peachtree Group to buy Pier 550. Peachtree, working through a hired gun property finder, employed a Sarasota Realtor who rented at Pier 550 to make the blind offers.

Another Realtor, Tom Hedge of Michael Saunders & Co., was president of the condo association and owned two units, and a third Realtor, Marni Hayden of My Realty Company, bought a unit in March.

The action started in January and involved six months of competing bids.

British-based Taylor Woodrow Homes came in with a $40 million-plus offer. Then the same Realtor, Vicki Mann, started floating the higher, successful set of offers being fronted by Atlanta-based deal-maker Mark Kercher.

At first Kercher told residents he represented an Atlanta architectural firm. Then he switched gears and said he represented Peachtree. It may turn out that others, even Taylor Woodrow, are still involved.

As the offers and counteroffers flew through the air, residents found their peaceful days of gazing at manatees had ended.

"I'm so worn out," said Realtor Hayden back in June, before she and the other sellers signed nondisclosure agreements. "I've never seen anything handled like this in my life ... We have nothing here except that there is a developer, possibly two, both offering different terms, but nothing really firm firm."

How to case a condo

Want to know who owns all the units in a condominium?

This may sound tough in Florida, where so many owners live elsewhere during part of the year. But you can do it without leaving your home, if you have access to the Internet.

Whether your purpose is to inquire whether a condo might be for sale, or to form your own e-mail list of owners to keep them from selling, the place to start is with an up-to-date list of owners' names and addresses.

Here is how the Herald-Tribune tracked down the owners of Pier 550 condominiums, using the Internet to get current addresses and then phone numbers.

First, go to the county property appraiser site.

For Sarasota, it is:
Click on "Property Record Search."
Scroll down to "Subdivision/condominium name."

Type in the name, such as "BEAU CIEL," and then hit "SUBMIT."

On the next page, you should see a result saying "1 record found" and then below that, the name BEAU CIEL. To the left of the condo name on this results page is the county's subdivision number for that condo, "8281."

If you click on that number you will see the list of owners. To the left of each owner's name is the parcel number. Clicking on those parcel numbers will give you more complete information on each property, often including the price paid and usually including the mailing address.

For Manatee County, start at

For Charlotte, start at

You may have to use a street address if your county tax form doesn't include the handy subdivision/condo search function.

After that, for out-of-town phone numbers, try Try typing in the last name only and the city and state. On the left side of the Anywho search page, you can click on "International" if your addresses are in other countries.