Where do we grow from here: Southwest Florida’s rising rent

Reporter: Amanda Hall Writer: Matthew Seaver
Published: Updated:

The cost of living skyrocketed this year as Southwest Florida continued to grow and as it works to rebuild after Hurricane Ian. As we prepare to close out 2022, WINK News decided to take a look back at the past year’s crazy rent prices and revisit a series we did seven years ago called: “Where do we grow from here.”

Flags were flying, and signs were lined up everywhere telling people that luxury was available for rent in Southwest Florida, but for what price?

Rental advertisement in Southwest Florida. (Credit: WINK News)

“The prices were going up,” said Jessica Powell. She lives in Denver after moving there from Fort Myers, partly because of growing costs. “Everything is so seasonal in Southwest Florida as far as when tourists are down, and snowbirds are down. So I kind of needed to be in an economy where there was more opportunity year-round.”

WINK News first met Powell in 2015 when she worked in a local salon as a hairdresser. Her salary was based on commission, and when her marital status changed, she had to cut corners. She and a friend moved in together with three sons between the two of them.

Fast forward to 2022, and the signs are still there, but the supply isn’t as great, and rental costs continue to soar.

Commercial real estate broker Gary Tasman helped us crunch numbers in 2015. “As the demand went up, and the supply stayed constant, rents went up.”

WINK News caught up with him again, and he feels it’s a similar story but with an Ian twist.

“It’s just supply and demand. Everybody wants to be here, and we can’t build them fast enough. It’s not like 2008, where we were just building them, and we didn’t know who was going to live in them. It was an investor-driven market today is an owner-user-driven market. And because of that, until we get supply and demand in balance, unfortunately, we’re gonna still see increases,” said Tasman. “What the hurricane did was just take some of the older products offline and create more demand for what was there. That’s why we’re seeing the increases.”

(Data provided by Cushman & Wakefield)

This chart tells a story. The red line is a two-bedroom, two-bath apartment in Naples. The average price in 2015 was nearly $1,400. In 2021, it was nearly $2,000. In December 2022, more than $2,400.

It is the same situation in Fort Myers, which is represented in green. In 2015, rent for a two-bedroom, two-bath apartment was around $1,200. It has grown to nearly $2,000 a month.

In Punta Gorda, represented in yellow, prices have just about doubled from seven years ago to today. Tasman doesn’t expect any immediate relief.

“Our workforce in Southwest Florida has 18,000 more people than it did at the beginning of the year. So, you know, we’re continuing to grow. And we’re going to see that growth. I mean, look at the massive construction projects that we’re seeing at the airport, for example, that creates jobs and creates ripple effect demand. Look at the expansion that’s happening at FGCU. Look at the big company expansions that we’re seeing, like Uline and Amazon, and other companies that are looking at our area and committing to this area,” Tasman said.

Powell’s advice to people trying to find a place to rent is, “I usually stay with private landlords because I find them to be more fair and you just have to kind of accept that you don’t have all the bells and whistles.”

As for whether she’d ever come back, “I would at least snowbird for sure.”

Tasman expects, down the road, many of those snowbirds will turn into year-round transplants. “Rents will stabilize. Rents cannot keep increasing at the rate that they are. So I predict that rents will definitely stabilize over the next 12 months,” said Tasman. “I think Southwest Florida is on solid footing with a very sound foundation from which to grow from where we are.”

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