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Property valuation booms in Lehigh

By CHUCK BALLARO - | Jun 9, 2021

news@breezenewspapers.com

Predictions that the COVID pandemic would impact Southwest Florida’s property values have been proven wrong — and then some.

In the last year, Lehigh Acres saw the kind of boost in overall property valuation that the community hasn’t seen since before the economic downturn in 2008.

Lee County, which saw an overall increase in taxable valuation of 6.3 percent, and Lehigh, which saw a boost of 9.71 percent within the Lehigh Acres Fire District, produced record valuation numbers.

Total taxable valuation of Lehigh properties within the district rose to $5,53,360,000, according to the Lee County preliminary tax roll values produced by the Property Appraiser’s Office and released Tuesday.

It’s the first preliminary estimate done under the direction of the new property appraiser, Matt Caldwell, after Ken Wilkinson retired from that role after 40 years.

Lee County saw a total taxable increase of 6.30 percent with an estimated $94.93 billion in property valuation, up from $89.30 billion.

School District taxable valuation is looking at a 6.72 percent jump.

Residential growth is boosting numbers countywide with the city of Cape Coral leading the way.

Total taxable valuation of Cape Coral properties rose to $18,180,505,000, with $611,298,077 of that from new construction, according to preliminary tax roll valuations.

Caldwell said residential was the catalyst of the boom, with Cape Coral, being 92 percent residential, being one of the biggest benefactors.

“It was an open question last spring as the world went into lockdown and working from home impacted commercial property, but the demand for residential skyrocketed,” Caldwell said. “We’re capturing that strength in these numbers and expect the numbers to be higher next year as we continue to see strong appreciation.”

Only San Carlos had a higher preliminary estimated taxable valuation percentage increase, at 10.96 percent.

In terms of taxable valuation, the city of Fort Myers is looking at a 9.03 percent increase; the city of Sanibel at a 2.57 percent increase; the town of Fort Myers Beach at a 3.62 percent increase, the city of Bonita Springs at a 4.65 percent increase and the Village of Estero at a 2.93 percent increase.

Within the Bayshore Fire District in North Fort Myers, overall taxable valuation increased an estimated 6.29 percent, while overall property valuation within the North Fort Myers Fire & Rescue District increased an estimated 4.66 percent.

Caldwell said at some point, Lee County will experience a correction in the market, but nothing like was seen in 2008.

“Nothing goes on forever, but this run is different because the last one was driven by speculation, people building homes without buyers,” Caldwell said. “This time, we appear to have real demand from people coming to Southwest Florida from other states.”

The Property Appraiser’s Office will continue to hone the evaluations with final numbers expected to be out on or before July 1. Those numbers traditionally have been slightly higher than the June 1 preliminary estimates.