You learn a lot about yourself when you’re in the eye of a hurricane. On a boat. Off the coast of Cuba.
It was 1995 when Mark J. Baron and his wife Susan got caught in the storm during a sailing trip. They were off the south coast of Cuba, and the only safe haven was the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay. Baron says the Coast Guard could have picked them up by helicopter, but he was determined to make it to shore himself. After 19 hours at the helm of the boat, they made it. “I held that lesson close to my heart,” Baron says. “Tenacity is really one of the driving forces to success, especially at the level I’m at. I think that tenaciousness is somewhat inherent in my psyche.”
Baron has since applied that fighting spirit to his career — real estate — representing ultra-luxury clients. First he did that in the Hamptons, New York, where he says he surpassed $1 billion in luxury sales and rentals. Now he’s bringing his acumen with luxury listings and buyers to Sarasota, as a broker associate with Michael Saunders & Co. He plans to use that tenacity to help build his name, and book of business, in the region's crazy-hot area real estate market.
Working with ultra-luxury buyers is just one interesting stop on Baron’s career path. He’s worked on a glass-bottom boat and was a project manager in South Africa, where he grew up, involved in building shopping centers. Baron and his wife, who has a degree in fine arts, also owned art galleries, first in Delray Beach and then in the Hamptons. But Baron kept feeling a yearning to get into real estate, so he joined a top luxury brokerage in the Hamptons. “Most of my clients are very high-profile individuals,” he says. “My clients are celebrities and titans of industry.”
Working in real estate in the Hamptons has provided several lessons in sales and customer service Baron intends to utilize in Sarasota. “The most important lesson I learned is never judge a book by its cover and always treat everybody at the highest level of service possible, regardless of the price of the property, because reputation is everything,” Baron says.
‘You create the right emotion and that leads to a phone call or an email. Always keep that in mind — how do you evoke an emotion in your marketing?’ — Mark J. Baron, Michael Saunders & Co.
From a marketing perspective, Baron has learned first impressions are crucial. “While most brokers would be happy with a set of photographs given to them, I’m extremely meticulous,” he says, adding he often gets involved in selecting the right angles and lighting. “It’s having an appreciation for how things are juxtaposed, whether artwork in a room or lighting on a porch. That impression has to evoke an emotion. You create the right emotion and that leads to a phone call or an email. Always keep that in mind — how do you evoke an emotion in your marketing?”
After learning those lessons and others over 17 years in real estate, Baron joined Michael Saunders & Co. at the beginning of 2021. He’s based out of the firm’s Longboat Key South office but works throughout Sarasota, including Longboat Key, Siesta Key and mainland Sarasota. “I like to focus on A+++ locations, and obviously that includes waterfront properties,” he says. “That and new construction have become my specialties.”
Baron expects his track record with multimillion-dollar listings will help in Sarasota, along with another differentiator: he knows boats. As a yachtsman, he understands boating in a way other agents may not, from specifics about dock limitations to bridges that restrict mast height. And although there’s competition for listings, Baron says there are enough luxury properties in Sarasota to go around. “There are more than I ever would have expected,” he says.
That’s one of Sarasota’s similarities with the Hamptons, he says. They both have trophy listings. Baron says a lot of his clients have homes in both places, making his involvement in Sarasota real estate a logical progression. He is continuing to serve the New York market as well, recently landing a $25 million listing there. He plans to travel between Sarasota and the Hamptons as needed by clients.
In Sarasota, Baron thinks the luxury real estate market will keep skyrocketing, partially because baby boomers continue to retire and move to Florida. Others, in an oft-repeated story, are moving to the area for the lifestyle, climate and no state income tax. “That’s not going to stop any time soon,” he says. “This will continue to drive the prices higher on all real estate here.”