The real estate housing market has been soaring over the last six months, and the local market both on Marco Island and across South Florida are no exception, according to many of Marco’s real estate professionals. “We are really seeing an exceptional marketplace for sales here on Marco Island,” said Jim Prange, a long-time realtor on the island who came here in 1980 when he was 23 years old. Prange had worked with his father in Crown Point, IN, where his dad introduced him to the real estate business and to the dream that Deltona Corporation was selling through his dad’s ReMax Franchise in Northwest Indiana.
“I think it was Mark Twain that said if you found something you loved to do you’d never actually work a day in your life,” commented Prange during a conversation discussing the changing marketplace on Marco Island last week. That was true of Prange, as he would find his passion in life when he drove across the Jolley Bridge late in 1980.
Prange has been busy assembling his annual “State of the Island Real Estate Report for Marco Island,” over the last several months. He will publish that report for his customer base early in January of 2021. He has been astonished by the trends that he and his daughter Nikki Prange-Carroll have been reviewing over these last two months or so.
Prange initially worked for Marco Beach Realty and Leonard Llewellyn upon arriving in Marco 40 years ago. That would begin what has been a four-decade long love affair with the Marco Island real estate business. His daughter Nikki joined with him 15 years ago and they have partnered in a remarkably successful business relationship during that time.
He learned early on that establishing strong personal relationships with his customers would be key to his success. Sitting long hours in the sales trailers that dotted the pre-construction sites along the beach would begin many of those long-term relationships. Prange would take many of those potential clients on what he called his “personal tours” of the island.
Even though those were challenging times due to a recession and high interest rates during the Carter Administration, the allure of the tropical ambiance of the island, the vision of the Mackle brothers and some creativity on Prange’s part provided a firm foundation for his future successes.
Fast forward to 2020, and we see a marketplace that has been outperforming many of the years previous to this, despite current challenges. Prange has found that “understanding” the numbers would be a big portion of his respected reputation among his peers.
According to Prange, the inventory of available homes, condos and lots for sale is at the lowest levels that he has witnessed during his 40 years here on Marco Island. It is his understanding of the marketplace that allows him to match longtime customers, their families and friends with solid investment advice regarding Marco.
When asked whether he saw a correlation in the value swing of property on the island to that of the impact of the COVID-19 issues that have swept the nation, Prange agreed that it has had a major impact. “People that have been considering a purchase are seriously looking at acquiring an escape from some of the most impacted areas. If you found you could remotely work from home, would you and your family prefer to shovel snow, pay high income and real estate taxes, or move to Southwest Florida. I think the answer is pretty obvious,” said Prange.
He also reflected back on the marketplace when “speculators” were buying up property for inflated pricing and financing 90 to 100% of those values. That helped to fuel the 2008 downturn in the real estate market. “A dozen years later, the buyers we are seeing today are not buying for speculation purposes, but instead, for use themselves, many of them utilizing cash,” said Prange.
The merging of lots to allow for larger “mega homes” is no longer out of the question. A number of them are starting to materialize around the island as 80 foot and 100 foot lots are being combined to allow for more significant homes to be built. Previously, the larger homes were a product of the “estate section” of the island, but now they can be found where the views and the lots, including “tear-downs,” are available to those whose imaginations have no boundaries.
People are retiring earlier, many with combined family units that require more square footage. That requirement is driven by the need for more at–home workspace, increases in the numbers of school aged children, the necessity for increased storage space, the desire for in-home exercise facilities, more vehicular storage and the advent of more multi-generational households.
Take a simple ride around the island and you’ll not only discover some beautifully decorated homes for the holiday season, but a significant amount of new home construction.