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Overall market value of Lee homes and properties soar despite Ian; Not all municipalities are winners

Lee County Property Appraiser GeoView map
Special to WGCU

In spite of a catastrophic hurricane in 2022, the value of Lee County’s properties increased more than 11 percent over last year.

According to official data just from the Property Appraiser’s Office, overall market value of Lee County properties are worth more than $200 billion — that’s a $20.3 billion increase over the previous year.

Because Florida does not have a state income tax, property taxes fuel municipal and county governments. That means residents in municipalities with significant increases in taxable values, could see lower tax bills in the coming year. The opposite holds true for those in cities that took significant losses.

Helping drive the county’s overall increase was close to $3 billion in new development in fast-growing Lee County, said Lee Property Appraiser Matt Caldwell.

“Most of this (is) pure growth,” Caldwell said. “… So homes and commercial development are really rocking and rolling.”

The city of Bonita Springs and the Village of Estero saw the highest gains in market values, shooting up 21 percent each. The cities of Fort Myers and Cape Coral each saw market values increase by nearly 13 percent.

Market values are not the same as taxable value. In Lee County, the taxable value of a home may not increase more than 3 percent a year for properties with a homestead exemption. Non-homesteaded homes may not increase in taxable value by more than 10 percent a year, said Caldwell.

Lee County has some 550,000 taxable real estate parcels. This is does not include land owned by railroads or utilities, which make up more than 100,000 tangible units, that are taxable.

Of the 550,000 real estate parcels, about 40 percent have homestead exemptions, meaning they are declared a person’s primary residence. Homesteaded properties get larger tax breaks among other benefits.

Not surprising were the losses on barrier islands which bore the brunt of Hurricane Ian’s wrath.

“Most of this (is) pure growth. … So homes and commercial development are really rocking and rolling.”
Matt Caldwell, Lee County Property Appraiser

Fort Myers Beach’s taxable value of properties dropped more than 42 percent. That represents a $2 billion loss, said Matt Caldwell, the Lee County Property Appraiser.

The city of Sanibel taxable values dropped more than 33 percent – also a loss of more than $2 billion, Caldwell said.

“They will have to find a way to balance – to strike a balance,” Caldwell said. “…They they're going to have to evaluate what their capital project needs are, and which ones of those can be put off in order to keep the budget where they think they need to be and in terms of what the taxpayers can handle in the aftermath of the storm.”

Every property on Sanibel and Fort Myers Beach is believed to have been impacted in some way or another from the hurricane. While many homes were completely destroyed, the high taxable values means the value of the land is holding its own or increasing, Caldwell said.

Caldwell said that as the islanders rebuild homes and businesses, the taxable values of properties on the barrier islands is expected to explode in the future.

“One should expect huge increases in taxable values far exceeding the losses,” Caldwell predicted. “You're going to see particularly on Fort Myers Beach, a totally new beach essentially, in terms of the development profile. You're going from 1950s frame cottages to 2024-25 built… mansions essentially. That that will have a huge impact on the tax bill out there.”

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