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Post Hurricane Ian: Wealthy Buyers Snapping up Florida Gulf Coast Property Owners

Category: Real Estate Listings

January 3, 2022 — As if the death and destruction that Hurricane Ian brought to Florida’s Gulf Coast wasn’t bad enough, it has created another looming problem for beleaguered property owners. Greedy developers and wealthy buyers are headed to the region, hoping to snap up coastal real estate to turn into expensive projects. By assembling bigger parcels in Fort Myers and Lee County from owners who are fed up or don’t have the cash to rebuild, they can build huge single family homes and towering condos. Local residents are concerned that these will block access and views across these barrier islands.

Out of state investors and hedge funds with no local ties are hoping to cash in on the blank canvas and misery created by Hurricane Ian, according to a story by NPR. Locals are worried that its flip flop lifestyle of beach walking and casual beach restaurants will disappear, replaced by a sterile environment with wealthy owners who rarely visit their properties. Or, they turn land into short term rentals that squeeze out locals and bring in noisy partiers.

Flooded areas from Hurricane Ian

Homeowners face many problems

We know of a New England couple that faces a typical problem from Hurricane Ian storm damage. Their condo is still standing, but is unlivable. Like many others, their Association did not have enough flood insurance or reserves to make necessary repairs. For anything to happen, there will have to be a hefty assessment on the owners, who will then have to decide if it makes more sense to pay the assessment and wait for construction to finish, or get out by selling. Compounding the problem, this couple was counting on a healthy rental market to make their part time snowbirding economically possible. Now they have no rental income or a place to be a snowbird. They feel like their retirement dream has been shattered by just one storm.

Federal disaster money could help many homeowners rebuild, but it could be a long time before those dollars are available. In the meantime, deep-pocketed individuals and companies can offer an instant way to turn a flooded property into cash. They have the resources to rebuild home and condos that meet expensive new code requirements, which many current owners do not.

Efforts to slow development aren’t working

Local residents have tried to limit development in Fort Myers Beach and Lee County before. Joanne Semmer is the president of the Ostego Bay Marine Science Center, an environmental nonprofit organization in the area. She sued to stop a large development in Fort Myers beach, and an administrative law judge agreed with her. Then Gov. DeSantis and his cabinet overruled that decision, so now the project can go ahead. Like its decision to overrule a Key West referendum on cruise ship limits, it is yet another example that in Florida money talks, whatever wealthy contributors can get whatever they want .

Bottom line

Interviewed by NPR, Semmer said: “The developers want to come in and take over our working waterfront and build condominiums. So many of our areas are being sold out.”

Comments? Have you been in a situation like this before, following a natural disaster that threatened to change the character of your neighborhood? Please share your thoughts and experiences below.

Posted by Admin on January 4th, 2023

6 Comments »

  1. Bottom line: Gov. DeSantis stop Florida from becoming another California.

    by Eric — January 5, 2023

  2. Rhetorical question: How many ways can one spell naïveté?

    by Monni — January 5, 2023

  3. This sounds as American as apple pie. Backs are being slapped all over the state for the smart business move that enriches the few over the misery of the many. (…a political comment deleted) I bet all the old money in gated communities on the east coast are packing their bags for brand new oceanfront digs soon to be built on the gulf.

    by Daryl — January 6, 2023

  4. (Sorry, my point was that the governor was re-elected, so people already know his priorities and loyalties. And would a governor survive for long putting the economy second, especially in a state dependent on tourism? Isn’t that the story of Florida?)

    Editor comment:
    No problem, and a good point. We just try very hard not to point fingers at specific parties or officials because the second we do the other side has to rebut, and then the first person has to rebut that, and then……

    by Daryl — January 6, 2023

  5. The current political climate in Florida, where we live the majority of the year, is such that developers, high rollers and political contributors to any controlling party are going to remain in significant power. That doesn’t mean it’s not going to be a good place to live, but it’s simply a fact to be reckoned with. For someone contemplating a move to Florida, there are some important considerations. Don’t live in an area subject to coastal surge, especially during tropical storms or hurricanes. You can still live near a beach, but you’ll generally want to be away from it by a couple of miles or more. Live out of an area that is in any level of flood zone (and there’s much more land in the state out of a flood zone than in); if looking at a condo, go for a unit above the ground floor. Make sure any place you’re considering has an excellent roof and window/door openings that are fairly well-protected against wind (impact windows or shutters). If a view is important, realize that future changes out of your control may impede the view that currently exists. Consider that a worst case scenario IS possible, such as what happened in the Fort Myers beach area, but generally not likely – then proceed accordingly. These considerations also hold true for most any coastal state on the Atlantic seaboard or Gulf of Mexico.

    by Clyde — January 7, 2023

  6. Clyde-
    And now apparently California as well.

    by Staci — January 8, 2023

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