Linda Dickinson of Michael Saunders & Co., interviewed in the May issue of National Relocation & Real Estate magazine.

Linda Dickinson of Michael Saunders & Co., interviewed in the May issue of National Relocation & Real Estate magazine.

A Long History with Luxury

Linda Dickinson Broker/associate Michael Saunders & Co., The St. Armand's Circle office Sarasota, Florida Years in real estate: 25 Years with Michael Saunders: 25. "I started at this particular office and I've never changed. The company has grown, but I have stayed put." Sales in '04: $53 million. "I had my best year ever." Competitive edge: A master's degree in counseling. "It helps me to read people quickly and correctly." Any spare-time? "Yes, I'm not a workaholic. I pride myself on working smart. I have a fabulous husband and we enjoy exotic travel. We've been to Africa and Fiji and are headed to the Dominican Republic to swim with silver-back hump whales and their babies."

 Why have you stayed at Michael Saunders over the entire span of your career? Longevity is unusual and beneficial. Sarasota is a resort community and I specialize in luxury waterfront. I live on Siesta Key, which is one of the more beautiful barrier islands. It's situated near Lido Key, Bird Key and Longboat Key. This gives me broad representation and helps me to fully represent a wider geographical area. I have lots of ties here and I know the entire area well.

What are some of the most significant changes you've witnessed over your 25 years in the business? The most major change in 25 years involves transitioning from a seasonal market to a completely 12-month market. We've seen our population grow younger and younger with the advent of the ability of people to do their business anywhere. We've become a younger population and our properties have skyrocketed in value. In the early '80s there was a property on Casey Key that was a $700,000 sale. A comparable house today would sell for $5 million.

Why is your area such a profitable real estate market? Sarasota has received so much publicity as one of the choicest places in the country. People are coming from all over. Many of our buyers are second- and third-home buyers. They are well-heeled, sophisticated people who want a beautiful, cosmopolitan city with great restaurants and incredible cultural assets. Baby Boomers are also putting a foot in Florida by buying homes for partial use now or future use. That has improved our market. I see it continuing for a long time.

Are you concerned about a price bubble? I just don't see it. I'm not concerned about it. The attractiveness of this community plus the Baby Boomer phenomenon are huge and will protect us.

What are some of the more innovative ideas you're utilizing to market homes? One of the things I've done successfully is to market very high-end luxury homes built for speculation. I'm working with the designer Adrienne Vittadini who has broken all price barriers by appealing to the buyer who wants something exquisitely beautiful. She works with the architect and has a big hand in the design of the structure and does all of the interior design. We've sold two of these homes since November of '04. The second one sold in 83 days and that was over the Thanksgiving/ Christmas season, which is typically a slow period. That says something about the luxury end of this market and the promise for someone who does something in a refined and beautiful way.

With more and more real estate companies ramping up their luxury homes divisions, how does Michael Saunders & Co. stay competitive? We are a privately owned company and Michael has a huge hand in running the business. We have really pioneered the luxury marketplace and always focused primarily on luxury real estate. The company is now more broad-based and we have a new-homes division, but we still have the very best in vehicles and platforms for promoting luxury, which is my specialty. We absolutely control market share of the upper end. When someone lists with us they feel comfortable knowing that they'll get the finest photography and materials produced on their property, and that the sales associate will have an intimate, first-hand knowledge of their property. That benefits all of us who work in the upper end.

This article appears in the May issue of National Relocation & Real Estate magazine.