You have already gotten some good answers from the other pros, but I would like to add a little more. You asked about closing costs and paperwork. In Sarasota county it is customary for the buyer to pay for the title search and title insurance, For a $200,000 condo, you would pay $1075 for title insurance, plus a few hundred dollars more to cover the title search, closing agent and other associated costs. If you spend less, title insurance will cost less but the other costs will probably remain the same. It's very simple to do the paperwork via email, fax, or overnight courier, and money is moved by wire transfer. We do it every day, and there are rarely any problems. I have customers from Europe, and they can reach me on my cell phone to ask questions concerning their transaction just as easily as my local customers can. To show you how easy it is, I can tell you that I sold a condo to a couple in France who had never seen it. I took about 20 photos of the place to supplement those that were already on the internet, emailed them and got their approval, and emailed a contract. They sent their money and paperwork, and I went to the closing for them. They have now used the condo for two winter seasons, and they love it.
To answer your question about price, I'd say that it is now possible to get something very nice for $150,000 to $200,000, but you might want to spend a little more for a great location. I think that you are right to be concerned about condo conversions, but there are a few good ones. Generally the ones that I'd be concerned about are the older buildings, or the wood frame ones.
Other posters have already mentioned Parkstone, Stonehaven, and Palmer Oaks. These are all good ideas because they are new or relatively new construction, and are likely to meet the most recent building codes. They're also not too close to the water. This will lower the condo association's insurance cost, reducing the association fees. Your personal insurance cost will also be lower. My only issue with these places is that I don't think of the neighborhoods as particularly appealing. They're generally in high-traffic areas. I think that with a little more thought, we might come up with ideas in neighborhoods that offer more green space and a little less traffic.
If you are going to only use your place for 4 weeks or so, are you interested in renting it out when you're not here? If you are, I'd suggest that you consider something in a golf community or near the beach. The Meadows is a nice golf community with hundreds of acres of green space, walking paths, dozens of ponds, etc. It's older (mostly early 1980's), but the buildings are generally well-constructed. The various condo complexes are not gated, but I don't think that security is a major concern. The feel of the neighborhood is very pleasant, and it's a desirable rental area for both full-time and seasonal residents. You can certainly find something here for less than $200,000, but you might be tempted to spend more.
Another great neighborhood for inexpensive condos is Palmer Ranch. I like the condos at Bella Villino and Plaza de Flores, which are not gated but very nice. There are plenty of 2 bedroom condos available starting at just above $150,000. Nearby Pinestone is gated, and prices start at around $170,000 for a 2 bedroom condo. The monthly association fees in all of these places are reasonable, between about $270 and $400. Remember that these fees include insurance on the property, but you'll want to insure the contents.
There are many other great condos scattered around Sarasota, and I'd be happy to do a little research and email numerous listings to you. If you're planning to be here, we can take 4 hours for a tour of the area so you know exactly where you'd like to live. Send me an email or give me a call, and I get started on sending you those listings.
Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate
423 St. Armands Circle
Sarasota, FL 34236