Florida's algae crisis and lingering red tide hurt waterfront home sales
Water quality problems from algae and red tide not only cause some buyers to back out of Southwest Florida home purchases; they also appear to dampen sales values, local real estate agents say.
Earlier this year, Brett Ellis looked at median sales prices for a half-dozen leading areas for home sales across the state.
While prices in Fort Myers-Cape Coral area were “static,” prices in the other areas rose from 4.8 percent to more than 10 percent higher year-over-year.
“People started asking me why,” said Ellis, a sales agent with Keller Williams Realty of Fort Myers & The Islands.
He can’t prove cause-and-effect, but recalled: “We’re battling this water quality problem. We’ve been dealing with this for several years.
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“And, the rest of the state is not.”
Well, perhaps most of the state isn’t as burdened with the polluted water stigma.
However, a 2015 report by the Florida Realtors Trade association analyzed property values in Lee and Martin counties, which receive algae-laden discharges from Lake Okeechobee.
That report said poor water quality suppressed property values in Lee County by an estimated $541 million a year and those in Martin County by an estimated $428 million annually. The St. Lucie River and its estuary ends at Martin County and the Atlantic Ocean.
“What is happening is that, while one algal bloom is not alarming in isolation, the recurrence of the algal blooms on a regular basis is showing up in the one-year models,” the report said.
“This regular recurrence is what is concerning home buyers and sellers. … A one-time event may not have a detrimental effect, but multiple times is a big problem.”
Joe Kendall, broker at the same Keller Williams office, said people backed away from buying two canal homes he was showing last week in Cape Coral.
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“It doesn’t matter what you say. We don’t know when (the algae outbreak) will stop."
One buyer is “going to look in North Port; the other in the Sarasota area.
“They’re a little scared of that lake,” Kendall said of Lake Okeechobee, the source of the water discharges carrying algae along the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers.
Trae Zipperer specializes in selling waterfront properties through the Fort Myers-based agency bearing his name.
Bad water holding down property values isn’t something new, he noted.
“The water is keeping more buyers out of the market,” which lowers competition and prices.
But Zipperer prefers to consider what will happen when leaders “get around to resolving these issues.”
He predicts a “waterfront property boom in Southwest Florida,” with a minimum 50 percent increase in values.
And, Zipperer said he's "glad to see that Gov. Scott is taking action, getting involved."
Meanwhile, “we had a record year last year and are off to another record year,” Zipperer said, adding:
“People want to live on the water. They want to live in Southwest Florida.”