By Craig Handel
Buying homes sight unseen.
Buying with cash.
In the past year, the Estero real estate market hasn’t just heated up, it’s “en fuego.”
With the combination of low inventory, people working remotely and this area’s growing reputation, home values are rising – in some cases, by the hour.
In late May, Estero Realtor Jack Mancini listed a home in Bella Terra at 9 a.m. on a Wednesday. A total of 18 showings were scheduled, and by 3 p.m., there were four offers. All offers came over the list price, Mancini said. One was $15,000 over with an escalation clause that the buyer would pay up to $20,000 over if needed.
“Unbelievable,” Mancini said. “I’ve never seen it like this. It’s never been busier.
“Real estate usually is slow in the summer, hot in the winter. But I think a year ago, people started getting out of the big cities and retiring early or working from home. When they worked remotely, they said, ‘Hey, I can work from anywhere, let’s move.’”
Based on the types of homes and other buildings being constructed, there’s an indication Estero’s demographics will change in the next decade. Right now, the median age is 65, and most of these retirees live in Estero’s approximately 35 gated communities, according to the Village of Estero website.
However, commercial real estate is seeing businesses either relocating here or expanding their facilities, bringing more industry.
On the residential side, more families are moving here — and not just from the Tri-state area and the Midwest but from places like California and Massachusetts. As a result, there are plans for approximately 13,000 single-family homes to be constructed on the Corkscrew corridor east of Estero.
One new community, Verdana Village, has started building model homes in a joint venture between Cameratta Companies, Lennar and Pulte Homes. The community is planned for 2,400 single-family homes on a variety of homesites with lake and preserve views, bigger backyards and 40-foot front yard setbacks from the street, which creates enhanced visual appeal. Prices will start in the low $300,000s.
Responding to the demand from families wanting to live here year-round, Verdana Village will have a 50,000-square-foot, indoor, air-conditioned sports complex, which will include tennis, pickleball and basketball courts, a movement studio and fitness center, as well as a café, restaurant, private party room and craft lounge.
Verdana Village also will be home to a shopping center approved for about 100,000 square feet of commercial space. The Shoppes at Verdana Village will have a two-story Publix along with restaurants and shops.
Verdana Village is the fourth residential community developed by Cameratta along Corkscrew Road. The others are The Place at Corkscrew, Corkscrew Shores and The Preserve at Corkscrew.
“We are finding in our communities that the residents are becoming more full-time residents,” said Nick Cameratta, who manages the design, construction and sales for each project. “If they’re not full time, they’re staying longer and using the facilities in the summer months.
“We also found people wanted a marketplace so they don’t have to leave the community. We wanted to stay ahead of the curve on amenities.”
Spanning more than 3,000 acres in Estero, two-thirds of it preserve land and lakes, Wild Blue will have more than 1,000 homes available. These homes include open floor plans, gourmet kitchens and integrated outdoor living spaces.
The British West Indies-styled community is a collaboration between four builders: Pulte Homes, Lennar, WCI and Stock Development.
Lennar will offer homes ranging from 1,800 to 3,800 square feet with prices from the $400,000s to $700,000s.
Pulte will offer homes ranging from 1,600 to more than 4,000 square feet with prices from the $400,000s to more than $1 million.
Stock Development will offer custom homes ranging from 2,500 to more than 4,000 square feet with prices ranging from the $600,000s to more than $4 million.
WCI will offer homes ranging from 2,800 to 3,800 square feet with prices from the $500,000s to more than $1 million.
Seagate Development Group, which opened its world headquarters just north of Estero in 2020, is adding to a portfolio that includes more than $700 million in commercial real estate in Southwest Florida, as well as $500 million in luxury custom home sales and construction.
Some of Seagate’s biggest projects include:
Scotlynn USA Division Inc.’s North American headquarters (summer 2021 completion) — a 60,000-square-foot, class-A multinational transportation and logistics facility, plus management of more than 1.5 million square feet of office space. Scotlynn has been on the Inc. 5000 list of America’s fastest-growing private companies four times since opening in 2010. Three-year revenue growth was 167 percent. Name many of the nation’s big-name grocery chains – Publix, Kroger, Stop & Shop, Wegman, Meijer, Whole Foods – and Scotlynn delivers its produce. Sales hit about $220 million in 2019. Between Canada and the U.S., there were about 250 trucks on the road doing approximately 8,000 shipments per month.
NeoGenomics global headquarters (fall 2021 completion) — a 150,000-square-foot, $60-million facility just north of Alico Road and Three Oaks Parkway. The state-of-the-art facility is part of Seagate’s ongoing work with construction management firm DeAngelis Diamond.
Alico Trade Center — a 40-acre business park coming to Alico Road and I-75. Seagate is working with Lee & Associates on this project.
Esplanade Lake Club — a residential community that sits on Lake Como, a nearly 700-acre recreational lake just outside of Estero that also accommodates Miromar Lakes. The new community includes $3 million furnished model homes, called Genova and Santorini; a luxurious swimming pool; an open-air, covered Bahama Bar & Grille; Koquina Sand Spa; pickleball and bocce courts; a waterfront walking trail; kayak launch; and clubhouse for meetings, socials and more.
Brett Backus, Seagate’s vice president of sales and marketing, said he first noticed an uptick in the local residential market in June 2020 that led him to think it was a fluke.
“But it just kept happening,” he said.
By August and September, Backus said the residential market “really started escalating,” and by October and November 2020, “it was full scale.”
Backus believes individuals and companies are moving to Florida because it’s less expensive and more tax advantageous than California, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Jersey.
“I think it’s the whole remote thing,” Backus said. “People coming here found they can work remotely. They can do Zoom calls from their homes. And when you’re done up north in the winter, you go home at 5:00 and read a book.
Down here, it’s just getting started. You can have a cocktail on your boat.”
Mancini said with Estero becoming “a grander name than Fort Myers” and less expensive than built-out Naples, people are gravitating to this area.
“Estero still has opportunities for new construction,” he said. “It could be five-plus years before it’s built out.”