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'We have very little inventory': How to navigate the rental market after Ian

Hurricane rental homes
Posted at 4:34 PM, Nov 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-15 18:23:31-05

CAPE CORAL, Fla. — Rental houses are flying off the market after Hurricane Ian, which is putting a big strain on our already tight housing market. With displaced families and contractors coming to rebuild southwest Florida, a local property manager says there are not enough homes for everyone.

"There’s definitely more demand than rentals for sure," said Genelle Bennett with All American Property Management.

The demand is something she knows about as she lost her home to Hurricane Ian.

"I feel their pain when they call because I went through it," she said.

Since Hurricane Ian, Bennett has rented out 68 homes in a matter of a month. Normally, this number is at eight.

"We had some houses on the market and now, we have very little inventory that is currently for rent because of so many displaced families due to the hurricane," she explained. "We're just renting houses left and right."

According to our area's real estate database, known as the MLS, Cape Coral has 61 homes available for rent as of Tuesday. 80 are vacant in Fort Myers and 21 are open in Lehigh Acres. Bennett says Cape Coral usually has between 100-150.

"I call it 'this will have to do' market," she said. "They’re just getting into something that’ll work for them now."

If you're not careful, this could have some consequences. One of the biggest reasons you should not go sight unseen is because you do not know if a home was damaged by the hurricane this way, Bennett said.

"When you walk in, you may smell mold or water intrusion in the house That’s obviously a big red flag," she said.

One home we found online showed pictures of an untouched home. When you go to see it in person, the fence is broken and several lanai screens are popped out.

"You definitely want to do your homework before jumping into anything," Bennett said.

The best place to look is Zillow because majority of all the legitimate listings feed to that website, she said. You can search for a home and save your requirements. If something pops up on the market then you'll be notified right away.

"Because of the hurricane, it’s just a completely different market," Bennett said.

It's a market she believes will take time to bounce back.

"It’s going to be a while. I don’t see on the horizon anything changing anytime soon," Bennett said.