The Lee County Property Appraiser’s office will be evaluating all the county’s 550,000 properties, getting assessments on the damage and redetermining the values during the next couple of months following Wednesday’s destruction wrought by Hurricane Ian.
Residents could help streamline this process by submitting their own information, Lee County property appraiser Matt Caldwell said.
On LeePa.org, the home page now has links to submit details about damage as well as photographs.
“We want to see: ‘What is the physical condition of the property?’” Caldwell said. “If you can upload it for us now, then we can put off coming out to see your property until the end of the process, a couple of months from now.”
There are between 150,000 and 200,000 properties that will be prioritized because of their location, Caldwell said.
“Fort Myers Beach, Iona, south Cape Coral, all the islands,” Caldwell said. “In the south Cape, you can see the water line on the houses. It was up several feet.”
Homeowners who experienced significant damage can find tax breaks by researching the tax code “Publication 547.”
“The caveat is I’m not a tax adviser,” said Matt Simmons, a property appraiser with Maxwell, Hendry & Simmons. “But I think a lot of people are going to need to speak to their financial advisers and their insurance agents. The reality is, when you are in a federally recognized disaster area, there are some mechanisms for relief. This is a big one.”
Homeowners should determine their “before storm” value as soon as possible and their “after storm” value, a number that likely won’t come into focus for a few months. The difference in those two numbers would come into play when filing taxes, Simmons said.
“Let’s say you had a property worth $2 million prior to the storm,” Simmons said. “And after it, you can sell it for $1 million. You would effectively have a $1 million property loss. That could be taken as an offset to income. People are in a world of hurt financially right now. A lot of folks. This is a way they hopefully can claw back.”