Southwest Florida real estate expert gives outlook on market

Published: October 17, 2022 9:25 PM EDT
Updated: October 18, 2022 7:33 AM EDT

Since power, water, and cable are back on in many areas throughout Southwest Florida, you may reasonably wonder what the real estate market will look like in the future. WINK News spoke with real estate expert Denny Grimes to get some perspective on the situation.

WINK News asked Grimes what went through his mind during the storm regarding the real estate market.

“I don’t worry about the real estate business, the industry. Florida is a great state. You see what happened during COVID,” Grimes said. “We offer three things that people want: water, warmth and way of life.

“If hurricanes were going to deaden the market, who would ever live anywhere that’s tropical on a beach? I mean, look at the Bahamas; look at all over Florida. Look at every coastline. Look at Texas, they’ve all had storms, and we grow anyway,” Grimes said.

Grimes described the Southwest Florida real estate market as a snow globe that’s been shaken up. He said major events, from the pandemic to Hurricane Ian, create uncertainty, leading to fear.

“And fear is a terrible advisor,” Grimes said.

Grimes predicts Fort Myers Beach will be largely unrecognizable once it’s rebuilt.

“There’s an area in Naples on the beach called… Barefoot Beach, where you’ve got these beautiful houses, they’re all three stories or whatever… you’re going to see a sterile island develop like that. You’re going to see one of the nicest beach areas probably in all the Gulf Coast develop and come out of the ashes of Ian,” Grimes said.

“You’re not gonna be able to sit your feet on the sand while you’re having a beer, you know, on ground level, though, so that’ll be gone. But, sooner or later, that’d be gone anyway,” Grimes said.

And Grimes thinks there will be no shortage of people who want to invest in that new Fort Myers Beach.

“For every one person who wants to leave, I think there’s two that want to be here,” Grimes said.

And while some will leave Florida, others won’t go far for safer and higher ground.

“Right now we’re sitting in Gateway, which is around 17 to 18 feet above sea level, and no water damage whatsoever,” Grimes said. “The other areas of the county that were higher, people said, ‘What a difference 20 miles makes!’ I said, ‘It’s not 20 miles; it’s 20 feet.’

“Somebody thinking about rebuilding is probably going to be looking at areas that are a little bit more inland, a little bit higher. Somebody said, ‘Storm probably just put Babcock Ranch on the map,'” Grimes said.

“It might even put a push into the Lehigh Acre area because now you can go there, still relatively affordable, don’t have to worry about flood,” Grimes said. “And I think people, after they saw the water devastation, I think that will be on people’s mind more than the wind.”

If you’re considering selling, Grimes said to be patient if you can, because the first offer you get would likely not be the best one.

“The first buyer may be the opportunist. If you’re in a pickle and need the money, that buyer’s for you; if you have the patience, the second wave of buyers, once the snowglobe settles down a little bit and some of these questions get answered, will be what I call the rational investors,” Grimes explained. “Now, they’re not gonna play retail, they want it wholesale. However, their model is probably going to hold it to rent, they’re not flippers, so a little bit more favored towards the seller.

“I don’t think there’s going to be any fire sale for sellers for property values to fall. I think property values will rise,” Grimes said.

It should be understood that Grimes doesn’t know what impact the high cost and limited availability of property insurance will have on the market. The state is in crisis and Grimes thinks the government needs to step in quickly with solutions.