Inside Sea Ranch Lakes, the gated community drawing South Florida soccer stars 

“We were the best kept secret for a long, long time,” said Coldwell Banker agent Veroushka Maclean Volkert

Why Soccer Stars Love Sea Ranch Lakes
From left: Lionel Messi, Sergio Busquets along with the village of Sea Ranch Lakes (Getty, One Sotheby's International Realty)

Earlier this summer, a photo of Lionel Messi shopping at a South Florida Publix practically broke the internet.

La Pulga’s errand revealed both his family’s penchant for Lucky Charms and his whereabouts –– the soccer star was in Sea Ranch Lakes, fueling rumors that he was living in the tiny village. Then, Messi’s longtime teammate and friend, Sergio Busquets, bought a waterfront home there last month for a record $8.7 million.

While Messi has yet to purchase a house while he plays for Inter Miami (he may be buying this $29.7 million Fort Lauderdale manse), he and Busquets brought the spotlight to Sea Ranch Lakes, an understated gated community in Broward County. 

“We were the best kept secret for a long, long time,” said Coldwell Banker agent Veroushka Maclean Volkert. 

It raises the question: What’s so great about Sea Ranch Lakes? 

“Sea Ranch was really under the radar for a long time. Now it’s popped up on top of [buyers’] lists,” said Chad Carroll, an agent with Compass. 

Real estate watchers and fútbol fans alike knew the new top players would be looking for homes in Broward, near Inter Miami’s Drive Pink Stadium and training facilities in Fort Lauderdale. Luxury communities in Fort Lauderdale, as well as in Palm Beach County’s Delray Beach and Boca Raton could all be on the table. Security and privacy would be of the utmost importance.

That’s something Sea Ranch Lakes can provide, agents said. Spanning a mere 122 acres, or 0.2 square miles, the majority of the village is fully walled, with its own police force and a guardhouse at the entrance, manned by an officer at all hours of the day. Similar communities have to hire private security teams, which don’t have the same powers that a police department does, agents added.

“It’s the safest community in the tri-county [area],” said Zorka Dobreva, an agent with One Sotheby’s International Realty. 

The village has a little more than 200 homes and a private oceanfront beach club. It has its own mayor, real estate attorney Jeffrey Nelson. Houses in the village are either on dry lots, lakefront lots or lots along the Intracoastal Waterway. Current listings for single-family homes range in price from $3 million to $13 million for a waterfront spec house, Redfin shows. 

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While the enclave’s small size and dedicated police force appeal to the safety-oriented buyer, agents say Sea Ranch Lakes residents are accustomed to A-lister neighbors and aren’t the type to pry. 

“It’s very chill. We’ve had NFL players, NBA players, race car drivers, executives,” Volkert said. “People are respectful, and it’s private, and they respect their privacy.” 

Sea Ranch Lakes is also close to some of the top private schools in South Florida, an added appeal for parents who don’t want long commutes, agents said. 

Decades ago, Sea Ranch Lakes was farmland owned by Robert Hayes Gore, the former governor of Puerto Rico and publishing magnate who owned the Sun Sentinel and Fort Lauderdale News until he sold them for $18 million in 1963, according to published reports. The Gore family established the Village of Sea Ranch Lakes in 1959, naming it after the nearby Sea Ranch Hotel, according to published reports. 

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Agents say it’s a quintessentially “old Florida” kind of community, with traditions that have stood the test of time. The annual Fourth of July parade, Halloween party, and Easter egg hunt are kids’ favorites. The adults-only Christmas party is a major event. Residents ride around in golf carts, wearing shorts and flip flops most days, agents said. 

“It’s not a pretentious neighborhood. It’s really low key,” Carroll said. 

Yet, he doesn’t see the village’s real estate market staying that way, thanks in part to Messi and Busquets. 

“I see the prices in Sea Ranch going through the roof, especially for the prime waterfront Intracoastal homes,” he said. “I think the price increases are going to be dramatic.”