Rentals on island flourish in face of pandemic

July 17, 2020
By Olivia Cameron

BY OLIVIA CAMERON AND MARCY SHORTUSE- Local real estate and rentals have flourished after getting back on the market in the past few months, despite previous travel restrictions and social distancing recommendations.  
Don Lutz of Boca Grande Real Estate compared their rental bookings this summer to those of mid-May to July in 2019, reporting a 24.9 percent increase. Lutz has seen an increase in rental interest since the reopening of their business after the community’s brief shutdown. “From May to the present, our rentals have been strong,” Lutz said.
Brian Corcoran, owner of The BRC Group and Boca Grande Vacations, stated the influx of renters has come just in time for the hottest months of the year. After their business was put on hold in mid-March, there were only minimal exceptions to renters, and Corcoran was unsure of what their recovery would look like. They had opened shortly after in regard to health and safety guidelines and revived their clientele. 
“There has been a strong demand mostly for Florida residents who are looking to fish and utilize the beach. I believe it will continue to be strong through July and die down as it typically does around September,” said Corcoran.
Realtors like Carol Stewart at Michael Saunders & Company have found a loophole in protecting their clients while being of service to them and their comfortability. “I contracted a condo the other day over FaceTime,” said Stewart. “I’ve been selling for many years and the business is as steady as usual. Since it’s been so active, in fact, I’m encouraging my listings to stay on the market. We’re finding the sales will continue into the fall before they slow down for hurricane season. I will continue to use FaceTime with clients, I just have to remember to keep my battery charged!” Stewart discovered rentals spiked when travel restrictions let up and people were itching to seek a tropical getaway.
“Real estate sales did have a slight blip in the beginning,” said Stewart. She recalled business being slow when visitors who normally vacation annually weren’t flying South. “The protection of our residents, however, has remained our top priority.”
Claire Brophy, newer to Parsley-Baldwin Realty, stated she was unfamiliar with previous rates but confirmed this summer’s business is going as planned. “Rentals have been doing well. We were completely booked during the Fourth of July and Memorial Day. Our realty has been on par and business will remain steady through August.”
According to the Lee County Tourism Development Council, the preliminary resort tax collected for May 2020 was $811,403, a 69 percent decrease over May 2019 preliminary collections of $2,616,051. Fiscal year-to-date preliminary tourist tax collections are $29,181,253, a decrease of 12.5 percent year-over-year. 
During May, 2020, 143,004 passengers traveled through Southwest Florida International Airport, a decrease of 80.3 percent compared to May 2019. Year-to-date, passenger traffic is down 37.5 percent compared to period last year. 
With the right mix of cabin fever and an open beach, visitors have their pick of rentals and realty on Gasparilla Island.
Graphics above provided by the Lee County Tourism Development