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Hurricane Ian — One Year Later: Real Estate

Area markets are busy — and different — after Ian

By STAFF REPORTS - | Oct 27, 2023

The J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel is open, along with its Visitor & Education Center, Wildlife Drive, Bailey Tract and some trails. Courtesy of J.N. 'DING' DARLING NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE

Real estate on Fort Myers Beach has been busy since Hurricane Ian. 

The Outrigger Resort and Charley’s Boat House were purchased for $38 million by London Bay Development. London Bay is under contract to purchase the Sandpiper Gulf Resort and are completing the Grandview at Bay Beach, a new condo tower.  

Shuckers at the Gulfshore and Cottage Bar, which stood for 100 years as one of the town’s iconic properties, was washed away by Ian. The vacant lot sold for $9 million.  

Matanzas on the Bay and the Matanzas Inn, two prominent businesses off Crescent Street near the future Margaritaville Resort, were sold in June.  

“Real estate is brisk,” said Loffreno Real Estate owner Christian Loffreno. “If property is priced properly, it sells fairly quickly within 60 days. Most of our sales have been teardowns or homes that need a total remodel.  We sold about a dozen properties off island in Fort Myers, Bonita, and Naples as well to fellow local Fort Myers Beach residents that relocated due to Ian.” 

Loffreno said he has sold some condos on the island “but not as many due to limited access to the buildings and most still with electricity or elevators.” 

Lahaina Real Estate Managing Broker Paula Kiker said real estate was “extremely busy on the island between January and May” before slowing down this summer. 

“Our real estate market on Fort Myers Beach is still acting as a normal year. Typically we see a lot of activity in January through April, a slowdown for the summer months which is happening and usually a strong month for us is August. However, in 2023 it was a lot slower than in years past,” Kiker said. “Prices are too high, most of our inventory you cannot get a loan on and the interest rate is still climbing. We are in the peak of storm season, and buyers must be asking themselves, ‘Why don’t I wait a few months until the storm season is over and my risk is lower?’ We have a real crisis with insurance.” 

Kiker said the cost of the assessments condo owners will pay for hurricane repairs is affecting condo sales, which have started to rise. Some condo buildings issued assessments of more than $1 million to make up the balance of the rebuilding costs.  

Through June 27, there were 131 closings on single-family homes on Fort Myers Beach with a median selling price of $754,000. There were 78 closings of condos with a median price of $585,000.

From May 1 through Aug. 30, Kiker said “We have closed 61 single family homes in total, ranging from $425,000 (dry lot remediated home) to $3.5 million (beachfront home) with average days on the market being 108.”

Since May 1, there were 70 condo sale closings on Fort Myers Beach, including 16 units at the Grandview at Bay Beach. Prices for condos have ranged from $248,000 for a Pink Shell Beach Resort condo-hotel unit to a high of $2.17 million at the Grandview.  

“We have a long road ahead, and it is our opportunity to educate the seller and, more importantly, the incoming buyer of the risks and rewards to purchase in Paradise,” Kiker said.  

Pine Island & Matlacha: A ‘best buy’ post-Ian

Realtors covering Pine Island an Matlacha say buyers are seeing some of the best bargains around.

RE/MAX Sunshine broker and owner Chardayne Seuffert is among those optimistic about the real estate market in Matlacha, citing it as the best place to fish and own waterfront property.

“We have a lot of activity and also a lot of hesitancy because of all the unknowns, like FEMA and the historical society, because of the damage from hurricane Ian. What I see is a massive opportunity for waterfront property,” Seuffert said.

She sees a lot of activity coming up in revitalizing the entire area although sales in Matlacha are understandably a little slow due to hurricane Ian — there have been only seven recent sales. Most of the sales in Matlacha however, have been higher than they were before the hurricane. Since there are fewer than 200 houses on the island of Matlacha, buyers would do well to seize the opportunity to own property there.

“I think it’s probably the best buy out here. There are many unknowns as it all comes together. Honestly, I think it’s the best investment, because Matlacha has the charm no other town has, and it’s the pathway to the island. We always put the integrity of Matlacha before a sale. It’s slower than we want, but we are extraordinarily hopeful for the future, and it looks bright,” Seuffert said.

Carlyn Herring of C-21 Sunbelt Realty said the real estate market on Pine Island is flourishing – regardless of Hurricane Ian damaging many of the homes and properties, home inventory is pretty high.

“Prices are also high but if homes are priced appropriately, they’re still selling pretty quickly,” Herring said.

Herring, who said this is her first experience selling following a major hurricane, added it’s been extraordinary to see how many homes sold immediately following the disaster.

Due to the stressful process of rebuilding, many folks have decided to just put their homes on the market, she said.  

Jay Richter, sales manager of John R. Wood, summed up the islands’ market succinctly.

  “Southwest Florida is still popular across the globe. They are aware of hurricanes, but want what we have,” he said.

A changed market in Cape Coral

There are three local drivers impacting the market in Cape Coral: damaged homes that need to be repaired, flood elevations that changed after Hurricane Ian and homeowners insurance, which has spiked.

In the Cape, the area south of Cape Coral Parkway from Skyline Boulevard down took the brunt of the storm and values have depreciated there due to the amount of damage sustained.

A three-bedroom, two-bath waterfront home that would have sold last year in the $700,000- $800,000 range is selling as-is, with damage and the drywall cut out, for $500,000-$530,000. This is drawing the interest of investors who are fixing and flipping them, which, unfortunately, is contributing to the insurance crisis, according to industry leaders.

Price, though, continues to climb in much of the Cape with overall taxable property valuation up more than 14 percent despite the hurricane.