Close this search box.

Log in

Top Stories

Sometimes, you’ve got to forget about the past to forge ahead into the future—except for when you shouldn’t. 

“Ignorance is bliss, until it isn’t,” emerged as the theme of 2024 Market Trends, a Southwest Florida real estate event in which resale home expert Denny Grimes dressed the part of Men in Black. Grimes showed a clip from the movie when actor Tommy Lee Jones flashes a bright light using a neuralyzer to make someone forget about what they had just seen. 

Market Trends took place March 12 at Caloosa Sound Convention Center in downtown Fort Myers with a crowd of more than 1,000 real estate aficionados. 

“Moving forward, to understand the significance of 2023-24, we have to forget three things,” Grimes said, wearing a black coat and tie. “We have to forget the last three years. We have to forget about 3% [interest rates]. And we have to quit using three words: No freaking way.” 

The last three years included some of the highest volume of sales and highest prices of existing homes the region ever had seen, Grimes said, and at interest rates that were at or near record lows. Homes were sitting on the market for days and sometimes mere minutes–until those rates began to rise and then double from the 3% range. 

“The market’s slowing,” Grimes said, because interest rates and insurance rates are rising. “Prices are softening. Affordability is an issue. The buyers, they will cry uncle. They’re crying uncle. It’s showing up already.” 

In 2023, home sales slowed by about 18% across the three-county region of Lee, Collier and Charlotte counties, Grimes said. 

“The scary thing is you have to go back to 2008 to find a year that slow,” Grimes said. “That’s 15 years. You have to go back to 1995, 28 years ago, to have a year slower than the one last year. I think there’s no doubt our market is correcting itself.” 

Grimes used the words “no freaking way” to describe real estate ideas that at the time seemed outlandish, only to be proven solid as time marched onward. 

As a child growing up in Fort Myers, his grandmother once told him Edison Mall wouldn’t work—“no freaking way”—because it was too far from the edge of town. 

Property appraiser Matt Simmons touched on that theme at the end of Market Trends when discussing the “retail-tainment” sector, a growing trend of bars and restaurants combining with entertainment sectors to offer an enhanced experience for consumers, who want social interaction amid a changing online retail world. 

Simmons noted Bay Street Yard in downtown Fort Myers will open soon and provide that type of “retail-tainment.” 

“That’s the way all the asset classes tie together,” Simmons said. “We’re working from home, which impacts office. We’re buying more online, which means we need more industrial distribution space. But it also means that when we need retail, we’re often times looking for a retail outing to give us some social interaction.” 

Businesses that were online first, including Warby Parker glasses and Netflix, already have launched or are planning to launch brick-and-mortar stores, Simmons said. 

Industrial continues to thrive across the region, a reaction to online retail trends, he said. 

And changing office environments, including working-from-home, mean some places, such as the former Alta Resources in Gateway location, built on 10 acres with almost 63,000 square feet, are on track to be demolished to make way for a 256-unit apartment complex. 

“That’s what office conversions are likely to look like here,” Simmons said. 

Just as Grimes wants people to forget, so did Justin Thibaut, CEO of LSI Companies. 

Thibaut led off the three Market Trends speakers. At one point he showed a photograph of a now-obsolete computer with a floppy disk drive. 

“Picture yourself,” he said. “This was your family’s computer.Y2K. Turn of the century.” 

The computer was sold at about the same time Fort Myers Beach wrote its comprehensive land-use plan, Jan. 1, 1999. That plan has been slowing down the process of rebuilding on the beach he said, after a slew of high-priced land deals that have happened since Sept. 28, 2022, the day Hurricane Ian arrived. 

“Everyone thought there would be blood in the water,” Thibaut said. “And opportunity for investors and developers to snatch up properties and have a heyday. That blood in the water was not there. Quite the opposite, in fact.” 

Red Coconut RV Park, Outrigger Beach Resort, Sandpiper Gulf Resort and Silver Sands Resort all traded for a combined $116.5 million—more than they would have prior to Hurricane Ian, Thibaut said. 

“There’s been a lot of exciting news about this deal, that deal,” Thibaut said. “Proposed developments. The interesting thing is none of them have been approved. A lot of it has to do with the existing restrictions that exist under the existing comp plan on Fort Myers Beach. 

“It’s been a slow bounce back, because the way that things are codified now don’t conform to new building techniques, new flood elevations and things like that. That’s a proactive move that should be made to foster growth and redevelopment on Fort Myers Beach.” 

 The new projects are being looked at individually by the town’s council. 

 “These will come with a lot of deviations,” Thibaut said. “It just slows the entire process down. What we really need now is to amplify that process and speed it up. Obviously, there’s still a lot that needs to be considered there. I’m not advocating for hasty moves there. But I am advocating for change, because without it, a lot of these rebuilds won’t occur.” 

Copyright 2024 Gulfshore Life Media, LLC All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without prior written consent.

Don't Miss

Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.

Please note that article corrections should be submitted for grammar or syntax issues.

If you have other concerns about the content of this article, please submit a news tip.