Archive for January, 2011

Cape Coral Real Estate Investment Advice

Friday, January 28th, 2011

I had an interesting email yesterday. An Australian fellow was looking at investing in property in Cape Coral and wanted a “lay of the land”. He had somehow found my site and asked for my thoughts. I was updating the old site today, and figured it might help others, so here is what I sent him:

I moved here from SE Florida (Miami/Ft. Lauderdale area)…which was a big switch. While the area is no small town (Cape Coral has a population of ~150,000 and Lee County has a population of ~600,000), it is definitely a lot more spread out than SE Florida. People here are much nicer than in SE Florida (people actually stop at 4-way stops and follow the traffic rules! People at restaurants and stores have actual personalities–they chat and will joke around with you.) You definitely notice what we call “Snow Birds”…people, often older folks, who come down during the cold winter months (Nov – Mar). The population of the city grows then, and the driving gets busier and slower (because the population is suddenly older). Snow birds tend to have more of an “attitude” (less patience, more rude).

The city is divided into 4 quadrants. You can divide the North and South sides by Pine Island Road. The south side is older, so there is less land per lot, the streets are smaller, and the houses are less uniform (which I personally like) and older. There are fewer houses on the North side, but for the most part it is newer construction (<10 years old). The North side is also kind of eerie…the city platted out most of the lots, but the real estate bust happened about half-way through development. The result is you end up with blocks looking like: empty lot, empty lot, house, empty lot, empty lot, empty lot, house, empty lot…it just looks weird. At the same time, the city instituted a mowing crew that mows all the empty lots. So unlike other rural parts of America where empty, undeveloped land usually looks like forest, woods, or at least farm land, here it’s mowed empty lots of land. It does keep pests down, though. There’s also much fewer trees than I’m used to especially in people’s yards.

The East and West sides of the city are divided by Santa Barbara Blvd. The east side is generally more ethnically diverse (more Hispanics and Blacks, specifically). NE Cape has a lot more duplexes (lower income). SE Cape is older and more “downtown” with streets like Del Prado Blvd…one of the main business locations in town. Crime is a little higher in SE Cape (though not by any means a place that makes me nervous going at night or with the family.) SW Cape Coral is the “fancier” part of town…more expensive homes, more manicured lawns, more expensive real estate. If you like living in “the scene” (the nicest, most expensive neighborhoods), then SW Cape is where you want to concentrate. There are yacht clubs on the very South of the city with dock access, and some nice homes overlooking the water.

My family and I live in NW Cape Coral. It is the newer part of town. The homes are nice, cheap, but there are those empty lots everywhere. We have a couple of big dogs, including one who is very protective, so for us, the space is great. If you love wildlife, the NW side is amazing…bald eagles, egrets, storks, coyotoes, wild pigs, armadillos, alligators, skunks, turtles, opossums, stick bugs, snakes…I’m sure you can tell from my website that I dig wildlife big time. So for us its great. If you’re more of a “city guy” (not real big into animals), then you might not like NW Cape.

The North side of town, being newer and more rural, does not have city water or sewers….we all use wells and septic tanks. Most of the wells here are known for their sulfurous water (which stinks). Most houses install aerators to remove the sulfurous smell, but they’re easy to overrun (The water has to sit in the aerator tank for an hour or so to get rid of the smell. Do too much laundry and the water doesn’t have a chance to sit so you end up with smelly water.) Because we rent, we use Chlorine tabs, but they dry out the skin. If you buy in NW cape, I would strongly urge you to invest in a “reverse osmosis” system which eliminates the sulphur / smell (we were quoted about $1800 for one). The South side has city water, so it does not have this problem.

Throughout Cape Coral, many houses are newer, nicer, and cheaper, but do beware of “Chinese Drywall”. Apparently during the housing boom…especially between 2004-2006, some building supplies, particularly drywall, became short in supply. So drywall started getting imported, including some from China. Some of the Chinese drywall was made with some industrial waste which contained sulfates. It has a strong smell of rotten eggs and mixes with water vapor to create a sulpheric acid solution that “eats” copper….especially electrical wiring, A/C units, and copper piping. Replace the drywall and the problem ends (though you will have to replace anything already damaged). You can get a really good deal on a house with Chinese Drywall, just know you may have to spend some additional money to get it up to speed. I looked at buying a house here a year ago and seriously considered fixing up a chinese drywall house (At the time it was $40k for the house plus I figured $10,000 to $15,000 to replace the drywall, A/C air handler, and electrical–but that was me doing all the work.)

Finally, the bugs. There are little, voracious mosquitos here called “No See Ums” (also known as biting midges, sand flies and punkies). We’ve come to call them “Ninja Nits”. They are small enough to crawl through the standard screening people put around their porches, patios, and pools; the little buggers swarm, are hard to see, and leave pretty good welts where they bite. I searched far and wide for a repellant and have been told over and over “just don’t go out at dusk and dawn.” (Sunset and sunrise is when they’re most active.) I’ve tried several repeallants. The Product “Off!” works okay, but the best advice IS to stay in at dusk and dawn. They’re only out during the warmer months of the year. They spray the city for them, and I’ve heard from friends in the South side that they don’t have the problem with them that we do. (They are, after all, part of the wildlife!) You can also purchase a finer-meshed screening for pools, decks, and patios that they cannot crawl through.

That gives you a pretty good layout of the city, and some problems to look out for. Hope that helps!