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Is SWFL’s water quality impacting real estate?

As thick algae and dead fish was up along Southwest Florida’s shores by the thousands, people are staying away from the beach.

So it may come as no surprise: people aren’t coughing up the money to buy houses in Southwest Florida either.

“We’ve had people that have turned to us and said ‘not now, we’ll do it later, after we see what happens with this,'” said Cape Coral real estate agent Mike Lombardo.

Lombardo said buyer inquiries are probably a quarter of what they were this time last year.

“I mean it could be a huge impact if they don’t do something soon it’s definitely going to hurt people,” Lombardo said.

And he’s not the only realtor noticing the affects of Southwest Florida’s water emergency.

“This is one of the worst outbreaks ever on the island,” said realtor David Schuldenfrie.

Schuldenfrie has been a realtor on Sanibel for more than 40 years.

“A couple weeks ago, I lost a $7 million sale,” Schuldenfrie said. “They would not consider spending that kind of money in an environment like this.”

The real estate industry accounted for close to $200 million or more than 20 percent of Florida’s Gross National Product, according to a 2015 study by the National Study of Realtors.

So people not buying houses because of algae or red tide could leave a damaging stain on Southwest Florida.

“And if you have a negative such as red tide and dead fish or blue-green algae that’s persistent … which this is … they move on, they go look somewhere else,” Schuldenfrie said.

The water crisis is also impacting tourism.

Lee County is shifting their social media messaging to focus on more off-the-beach activities, and Charlotte County has removed beaches from their advertising until red tide has passed.

Reporter:Brooke Shafer
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