THIS SEASONED REALTOR’S DESCRIPTION OF LIFE IN SW FLORIDA

After growing up in Cedar Rapids, IA and graduating from the University of Iowa, I spent 35 years in medical sales, 16 of which were invested in my own small medical supply company. I learned the IMPORTANCE of concentrated personalized service. I strongly believe that the customer may not always be right but I do my best to make sure that the customer makes the right decision from their vantage point.

My Dad died too early, way too early, to enjoy the comforts of a Florida lifestyle. He died in the early 60s. My Mom remarried about 7 years later. Almost immediately Mom and Henry started spending the majority of their time in Naples. Wow, that was in the early 70s … 40 years ago from when I am writing this Blog. Compared to today’s environment, Naples practically didn’t exist back then. I would come down for a 5 day visit which was all the time I could spend away from a small one-man company.

I have seen Naples grow from a quiet out-of-the-way fabulous location on the Florida Gulf to the (relatively speaking) quiet FABULOUS cosmopolitan center that it is today. The city fathers have endeavored to protect and maintain the green spaces / small town environment that existed then and still exists today compared to the East Coast of Florida. In my opinion, it is just a different world over there.

The metropolitan Naples area in today’s mindset really consists of Naples / Bonita Springs and Estero. North of Estero, you start to get in to Ft. Myers. The ‘Naples market’ and the Ft. Myers market while they are kissing cousins in geographical proximity, are very different in their composition. The same can be said when one compares the Naples market with the Sarasota area. While the fine residents who live in Sarasota won’t tell you, it is a known fact that during the winter months, there is a moving weather line as one moves north of Ft. Myers toward Sarasota that above that line, there can be noticeable differences in winter temperatures. There is a quiet joke that people who purchased in Sarasota, purchased before they took the time to venture further South. We thank those (not-so) wise Sarasotians!!

I personally made one major mistake when I moved full time to Naples in 1993. It is the same mistake which many have made before me as well as the same mistake that many more will make in the future. I sure wish I had moved here sooner!! One might surmise that I admit to this mistake due to significant increase in property values over the years and I would admit to this being true. However, the real reason is that the quality of life in general in SW Florida is so superior to other areas where I have lived. A couple of years ago, I took my step father to see his neurologist. We got in to this type of conversation and he said that when he sees patients who have lived here for some time compared to patients who live in … that climate up north (!!), the typical resident who lives in SW Florida is just in far better condition and has a younger outlook. They are more active … so saith the MD!

To what does he contribute this feeling? One would be the weather. I could tell you how great the weather is but you probably wouldn’t believe me. I can’t tell you how often I hear the objection from someone who lives in those other places up North (!!), … ‘how can you live in SW Florida during the Summer; it must be terribly hot and humid. Bull roar!! It almost never gets above 94 in the summer and when it gets in to the August – September months, which is our rainy season, it will typically rain like hell in the afternoon for about 20 minutes, after which the Sun comes out and the rain water soaks through the sandy soil and it is back to business as usual. I can tell you that Summer temperatures in Cedar Rapids, St. Louis, Chicago, Indianapolis, Columbus … Pgh, Philly, NY, Boston, Baltimore, DC, etc. all have average temperatures higher than the Naples’ average and that includes humidity. I should also include the Plainfield / Westfield area of NJ where I lived for some 35 years. Don’t believe me? Come on down!!

The weather is so fabulous that almost all activity is OUTDOORS unless one plays bridge or MahJongg, neither of which I play!! Over the years, most, but not all, of my Buyers are looking for a community where they can play golf and / or tennis. All are friendly games at all levels of activity. My wife is a really competitive bridge player and she wished I would play. Before we met, she played tennis and no golf. Now, she plays a lot of golf and little tennis. She really gets excited when she breaks 100. It wasn’t but a couple weeks ago she had a ‘career round’ scoring a 90. She was excited for 3 days. The next time she went out and it was business as usual!! What I really enjoy is watching someone who is a beginner at either golf or tennis … who will start to take lessons and really work to improve. They may not ever get to be ‘good’ but they can feel the improvement they make and they want to play every day.

So in general, PEOPLE, LIVING IN SW FLORIDA ARE REALLY ACTIVE and this keeps people young and certainly not sedentary!!

And what are other area activity options? Let me input here that I have had so many conversations with ‘Type A’ executives considering a move to the Naples area in which they express their concern … I have always been so busy that I am worried how I will handle ‘retirement’. My retort is … ‘see you in a year’. A year later, when I encounter the same person … I ask the obvious question to which they always reply … I am so busy I don’t know where the time goes!! Hooray !! And it is so true!!

What are other activities??

The Naples Philharmonic Center for the Arts offers world class culture (entertainment) (www.thephil.org) almost year around. You can attend the Symphony, The Pops, Miami Ballet, … you can go to concerts of unlimited genre from country & western to Johnny Mathis or Broadway Theater.

There is a significant artist colony which has grown very quickly. There are at least 5 nationally ranked juried art shows particularly in season (Christmas through Easter). The number of art galleries is significant. Both Collier County and Bonita Springs have art associations with all sorts of classes for every artistic level. I can personally attest to this fact.

There is more retail square footage per capita in Collier County than any other area in the country. At least that is what the Chamber of Commerce says!! I use to be a little worried when my wife would tell me she is going shopping. However, I have learned that my wife, while being a very serious ‘shopper’, is always looking for a very good bargain! It is a real challenge for the local retail businesses because they have to make their living within a 4 month span and the sales volume really slows down the remaining 8 months.

There is a thriving sport fishing market. I went fishing in late April (2012) with 15 other hard-nosed fisherman. I hadn’t been fishing in years due to a bad inner ear! Real fishermen would not take me fishing unless they were having trouble finding ‘bait’!! But it was fun! There were 6 of us on our boat with the final score for the day being Fish 6 – Fisherman 0!! We caught nada! Nothing!! But it was fun anyway. It was just one of those days when the fish took a vacation.

FGCU’s official name is Florida Gulf Coast University. It didn’t exist 14 years ago. Now, there are some 14,000 students!! Judy and I spend a lot of time on campus. No we don’t go to class. But in 14 short years, FGCU is a major NCAA Division I participant in men’s and women’s basketball with the 2011-2012 women’s team actually making it in to the Big Dance. The same applies to both respective soccer teams. The women’s softball team is ranked nationally as well and did qualify for the NCAA tourney. Both tennis teams have shown remarkable improvement with new coaches. We attend several concerts each year at the FGCU Bower School of Music. FGCU is certainly a happening place for the students AND the locals. And as a local wanting to go to the various events, the price is certainly very reasonable.

The beach … aaaah !! THE BEACH !! How could I forget the beach? It is one of the primary reasons people move to the Naples area. The beach is made up of soft, fine, white sand contrary to what you would find on the East Coast. The Gulf of Mexico is far quieter than the Atlantic. What more can I say other than … THE NAPLES AREA BEACH IS ONE OF THE MAJOR REASONS PEOPLE LOVE TO COME TO NAPLES!!

Frequently, questions come up as to the frequency of hurricanes. This is an easy question to discuss. Certainly there is the possibility of a hurricane blowing through town. Does it happen? Yes. Does it happen with regularity? NO, not to the Naples area!! Most of the big storms come off the coast of Africa. As they reach the Caribbean Islands, the storm pathways will either veer north and swing up the eastern seaboard targeting the GA, SC, NC and DE coastlines. Or, the storms will head out in to the Gulf of Mexico and zero in on Central America or swing north and hit land somewhere between Galveston and the FL panhandle. Rarely do they come across the FL peninsula to the Naples area. When they do, the real damage is to vegetation such has the enormous banyan trees which have a small root base compared to beautiful but enormously heavy top foliage. What about damage to residential structures? You have to keep in mind that 50 years ago, for all general purposes, Naples almost did not exist. As a result, the major structures are far more stable than structures built ‘years ago’. Almost without exception, structures built in SW Florida in the last 40 years were built with cement block and tile roofs which meet ‘code’. The only damage, most times, to any structure will be to manufactured homes.

Let’s not forget one of the major past times … eating. NAPLES (which includes Bonita Springs and Estero) IS A HUGE EAT-OUT ENVIRONMENT. Yes, you can attend dozens of cooking classes at any number of retail establishments and cook at home. But ‘what’s for dinner, honey’ will likely have you eating out. You can spend a fortune or you can be as economical as you want to be. Particularly after the end of Season, the food emporiums suddenly start offering really good 2 for 1 bargains and include a bottle of wine. You almost can’t afford to stay home.

I have a couple of final parting inputs based on my experiences of living in this fabulous environment for almost 20 years.

Yes, this is a destination Rest & Retirement location. You would think this is a salt & pepper (color of one’s hair!) environment. That it is an older more staid personality make-up. WRONG !! Contrary to thinking that SW Florida would be made up of older folks, the average age in Collier County is roughly 42 for men and 44 for women. When you go to the beach or golf course … or tennis courts during the day, you don’t find 42 or 44; you are more likely to find 60 – 70 or 80+ and then think … hey! that Halpin Realtor was off his mark. But if you think about this for a moment, you would quickly realize that the younger set during the day IS WORKING!! Oh, that’s right … there has to be a work force to provide the many services required to support the ‘environment’! When you should go out for dinner, you would quickly realize that the population make up is evenly split along amongst all chronological ages.

And think about this for a moment: Anyone older than you are … IS STILL REALLY YOUNG!! That thought generally makes people stop and think.

The population in the Naples area is typically Midwestern / Indiana / Ohio / Upper NY State / New England. And let’s not forget the many Canadians, Europeans and friends from South America. Because, as the saying goes, no one is from ‘here’, you find yourself wearing a name tag when you go to Happy Hour as an example. Why? Because you may not remember the name of the couple you met last year or more currently, the name of the guy / gal you played golf with earlier in the day. Name tags make it far more comfortable to intermingle and not have to worry about having to remember the other names! This is an extraordinary friendly … look you in the eye … environment. Believe me when I say that it is really easy to make new friends in my town!! The general consensus could care less whether you are here as a snow bird or as a full time resident … whether you own one house … or more! If someone asks you where you live or what part of the community you live in, they are asking just to be friendly as opposed to being ‘uppity’. I have rarely encountered a situation where people were status conscious. This is the West coast of Florida after all!!

And that makes up my couple of thoughts on the subject!!! It comes from the heart.