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Cape, Lee see sharp increase in land valuations

June 4, 2014
Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

Lee County municipalities and taxing districts are going to get a lot more money in their coffers this year.

According to the estimated valuations report from Lee County Property Appraiser Ken Wilkinson, property values had their sharpest increase in seven years, with Cape Coral and Fort Myers again leading the charge.

Lee County property values increased by 5.48 percent, to an estimated $57.61 billion, up almost $3 billion from last year's $54.62 billion, according to estimates.

That's the biggest jump since 2007 during the tail end of the real estate bubble. And for the first time in years, all taxing districts saw an increase.

"The taxing authorities like it, that's for sure. It's also good for the local economy," Wilkinson said. "Other counties in the state are seeing similar increases, so the economy is on an upward trend."

Cape Coral can once again claim one of the highest increases as its values went up 7.09 percent and an estimated total value of more than $10.19 billion. Only Fort Myers can boast a higher increase at 7.29 percent.

It's the third straight year of increased values, and this news makes those in the real estate business very happy, as it means homes are selling again.

"It's great for the industry that's been working hard to clean up our foreclosure crisis. These people who came in and revitalized the community are in part what we're seeing," said Gloria Tate of Raso Realty. "We need to let people know that Cape Coral is still a great value, especially on the waterfront. Hopefully, we'll have a productive summer."

Of course, the news means more money for cities to spend. In Cape Coral, that means possibly another $2.5 million to work with to possibly further repair its infrastructure after years of neglect, according to City Councilmember Jim Burch.

"We were using 3.5 percent in the Burton model, and we got 7. Because we haven't replaced our computers and handed out raises, that helps a little," Burch said. "It seems like a lot of money, but we have a lot of things we need to put the money toward."

Of all municipalities, Sanibel had the lowest percentage boost at 3.33 percent, with the fire district up 3.18 percent. Fort Myers Beach was 5.54 percent, 4.93 percent in its fire district.

In area fire districts, Bayshore, which is considering a new fire assessment, saw a 3.58 percent increase, while North Fort Myers went up 3.09 percent. Matlacha/Pine Island ticked up 2.02 percent. Boca Grande saw one of the biggest increases, at 5.84 percent.

"We see a consistent growth here in North Fort Myers and we see this as a trend of the future as we will continue to build a solid foundation on real estate and tourism," North Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Chris Jackson said.

Wilkinson said he sees the upward trend continuing, but hopefully not like it was from 2002-07.

"So much of that market wasn't real. Those sales were based on false equity, for lack of a better word," Wilkinson said. "This is a cash-driven market, so I feel better about it."

The official numbers will be released on July 1 after the state verifies them. In August after the powers that be set their millage rates for the taxing authorities, notices will be sent to the public.



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