Pristine beaches, lush vegetation beckon Sanibel residents-Life on this island is the stuff travel brochures are made of.
: April 11, 2009
Last week was a memorable one for Dan and Darlene Harris.
They signed on the dotted line Wednesday and turned what had been a hope — owning a home on Sanibel — into a reality. In the process, they also became part of an area known to the U.S. Census Bureau as tract number 802.02.
Opportunity arose and the Chicago-area residents didn't let it pass them by.
"It's been a dream of ours and the market went down, and it's a little bit more affordable here," Dan Harris said. "I think Sanibel is absolutely beautiful. It's laid back. It's just perfect."
Venture from the mainland, across the Sanibel Causeway, and you're in the tract, one of the 117 sections of Lee County so designated by the Census Bureau. It's boundaries are roughly defined by San Carlos Bay and Periwinkle Way on the north, the Gulf of Mexico on the south and east, and Tarpon Bay Road on the west.
Within 802.02's borders exists the type of living that is the stuff of travel brochures: pristine beaches, luxurious homes and vacation rentals, quaint restaurants, entertainment and the arts - all set amid lush vegetation.
The Harris have been vacationing on Sanibel for about 12 years and the drop in real estate prices spurred them to begin shopping in earnest. Their quest netted them a three-bedroom, two-bathroom, furnished home on Par View Drive, with 2,101-square-feet of living area and views of the Beachview Golf Course. The asking price was $839,000, but the Harrises were able to seal the deal for $780,000.
"We picked this one because it was ready to move in," said Dan Harris, 49. "I really didn't want to spend a whole lot of time fixing up a house. It came furnished and the furniture is beautiful. It looks like a model home."
Their Realtor, Barry Waddell of John R. Wood Island Real Estate, said the Harris typify one segment of a three-part demographic that is driving an upswing in prospective buyers perusing available homes. Foreign investors, especially Canadians and Germans, are also helping fuel the trend, but it's Sanibel residents interested in upgrading who predominate, he added.
Conversations with other Sanibel Realtors show that they, like he, all have clients who are planning to make a purchase within the next two or three months, Waddell said.
"In my career, I have never seen the amount of activity that is currently on the island looking for property," said Waddell, who has been a Realtor on Sanibel for 11 years.
"A lot more interest, a lot more calls coming in," he said. "I think we'll see some good activity during the summer because the prices on these things have adjusted to where they need to be and the available inventory will still be there."
At the midpoint of last week, that inventory included 347 homes, according to the Multiple Listing Service, the Realtor database of available houses. The least expensive was a two-bedroom, one-bathroom home in the Los Colony subdivision with a list price of $279,000. At the top end of the spectrum was a Gulf front home on W. Gulf Drive, with 10,444 square feet under air and an asking price of $13,875,000. It has six bedrooms, seven full bathrooms and two half bathroom, a guest house, four fireplaces, a large pool and a three-acre lot.
Gordon and Diane Garrett have added some significant inducements to entice shoppers considering their seven-bedroom, five-bathroom home in The Sanctuary development. The home sits off the third hole of the community's golf course and for the roughly $1.9 million asking price, the Garretts will kick in their golf club membership and a $75,000 move-in rebate to the buyer.
The Garretts are selling this house, as they complete renovations to a home they purchased that's close to the beach and located off San-Cap Road that offers beach access. Sanibel has been the Connecticut residents' part-time home since 1977.
"We've been around the world and if someone were to ask us where we choose to live, it would be Sanibel," Gordon Garrett said.
Andrew and Jenny Edgar found an escape from the chilly climate of their native Britain, when they settled on Sanibel last year, buying a three-bedroom, two-bathroom home in Heron's Landing.
They also became business owners there, purchasing a Periwinkle bistro that they've transformed into the Mermaid Restaurant and Bar.
They decided to become full-time residents after years of vacationing on the island.
Jenny Edgar is a beach lover and lifelong seashell collector who can be found exploring Sanibel's bounteous supply of the mollusk's discarded protection.
But the subtropical climate, beaches and shells aren't all that have captured her affections.
"Generally speaking, Sanibel people are delightful," she said. "They've been very supportive of me."