FORT MYERS, Fla. — Oddly enough, the COVID-19 Pandemic is bringing more people to Southwest Florida. U.S. News and World Report ranks Fort Myers as the #1 fastest growing city in the U.S.
Local realtors say they’re not migrating because the virus itself, but those looking to buy a home say feeling less restricted in public is a driving factor for their big move.
Eileen Coyle and her husband Barry recently closed on their Cape Coral home. They may be even more excited to get away from Connecticut. A state they called home for decades.
“Seeing stores open, and not out of business. That told us that there was still life here. That there was hope. That people were looking to when this pandemic is over,” said Mrs. Coyle. “Up there it’s very restricted.”
Governor Ned Lamont announced business restrictions Friday as the state reached 100,000 coronavirus cases. Mr. Coyle says people in Southwest Florida are still using precautions but not overdoing it.
“But they weren’t - I didn’t feel as restricted. I didn’t feel like my rights were being violated,” he said.
Their realtor Marcus Larrea with Palm Paradise Real Estate says they aren’t the only ones who feel that way.
“I think the pandemic has actually pushed a lot of people over the fence, who were maybe thinking about moving to Florida prior,” he said.
He says the proof is in the pudding. His agency reported a 43 percent increase in Lee County single-family home sales last month compared to October of 2019. They saw nearly a 60 percent jump for the same time frame in Collier County.
Larrea says most people are coming from places where there are lockdowns because of rising COVID-19 numbers.
“We were seeing a lot of people coming from New York, Massachusetts, Illinois, California, which all coincidentally have higher state income taxes. We have no state income tax,” he said.
Mrs. Coyle says Connecticut’s state taxes definitely influenced their decision.
“The taxes were just not making it a place that we really wanted to stay,” she said.
The Coyles say they were paying $8,000 a year in property taxes in Connecticut. Now, they say they’re paying less than half.