This website pertains to Lee & Collier Counties, located in Southwest Florida.
Lee County's prominent city is Fort Myers. The county (and this website) also includes: Cape Coral, North Fort Myers, Fort Myers Beach, Sanibel Island, Captiva Island, Upper Captiva, Boca Grande, Bonita Springs, Bonita Beach, Estero, Lehigh Acres, Buckingham, Alva, Tice, Fort Myers Shores, Iona, San Carlos Park, Pine Island, Saint James City, Bokeelia, Burnt Store Marina, and Matlacha. Collier county's prominent city in Naples, but also includes Marco Island to the South and Golden Gate to the East.
As I believe everyone already knows, the draw here is the weather, beaches, golf, and the water! Fort Myers has an international airport (Southwest Florida International Airport, RSW) and most everything is under 30 minutes from the beaches. As a general rule, the further South the more expensive everything gets (This is of course a bit oversimplified, but a general rule of thumb).
Fort Myers is the hub city in Lee County and contains most of the commerce. Prices are higher than Cape Coral, which is more of a sprawling bedroom community. Single family homes under $300,000 are a bit more limited actually. There are however numerous townhomes, attached villas, condos, and gated golf communities throughout the city. Note that due to having far less canals on the Fort Myers side of the river, most Gulf access options are via community marinas as opposed to homes being directly located on canals, like on the Cape Coral side.
Downtown Fort Myers, though small compared to most Northern cities is an inviting area with numerous restaurants and a lively atmosphere, especially on the weekends. It has a collection of late model high-rise condos pushed just outside of the downtown itself, along the riverfront. Prices on these high-rise units are quite reasonable, starting in the mid $200s, though the HOA fees do tend to add up quickly.
To the very South of Fort Myers is the town of Estero. It is comprised mostly of very late model construction and is quite the shopping capital of the area, thanks to it millions of square feet of retailers and shopping malls. It seems like just ever restaurant known can be found here! The overall area is very pretty and well maintained and most all find it to be a very desirable place to consider. Single family homes are typically $300k+ and usually located within gated communities, many with golf courses. Gulf access is extremely limited here though-- there is only the tiniest little section offering any such access, so for most boaters, its a matter of keeping the boat in an area marina if this is an area of interest to you.
Bonita Springs is further South and pricier. Basically the further South and closer you get to the city of Naples, the more expensive. The portion of Bonita closest to (and including) the beaches is very desirable with homes commanding some very large figures. Boating is actually fairly shallow here, so its best suited for those accommodating smaller vessels.
Cape Coral is a huge suburb to the West of Ft Myers. Its actually much larger than Fort Myers itself, having outgrown it’s host city. In fact, it’s the second largest city in all of Florida, geographically. With that said though, the population density is not that high-- as it’s designed as a large suburban type of community where pretty much everybody gets a 1/4 acre parcel of land. The city is divided into 4 quadrants of unequal size. The NW and NE have somewhat of a rural quality, especially the Northernmost sections, and are not that developed (yet). These Northern sections have a different quality to them than most cities. The majority of homes up here are quite new, but spaced sporadically in between lots of vacant, clear cut lots. It doesn't appeal to everyone, but to those who like it, you get very new homes very cheap here. Note that the NW offers Gulf access while the NE does not, so for the boaters, skip the NE.
South Cape is much more developed and has the added benefit of numerous of canal/waterfront properties increasing the overall values of the neighborhoods. Home prices will be higher because of it. The very SE corner was the first section of the city to be built. It contains the Yacht Club, a pier, public tennis courts, and a little beach too. The very SE corner (the Yacht Club) has valuable land and homes often get bulldozed rather than added on to. Alternatively, the very SW corner will be the prettiest section to drive around in-- lots of exceptionally well maintained newer homes down here. For a full review of the areas please review the section titled the Southwest Florida Real Estate Tutorial if you have not already done so..
Note that in Cape Coral nearly the whole city was initially built on private wells and septic systems. The city is going around and converting everything to city utilities. This is a huge undertaking given the size of the city--it will take many years to do. Because of this assessments for the work will apply. Some areas have already had it done and will be paid in full, others are just getting them, or slated to in the near future. It's something to consider when evaluating prices! The prices vary, but for example, think along the line of $20,000 if paid off immediately. And more like $30,000 if alternately rolled in and paid back with your annual property taxes over the coming years. That is a an option for all homeowners-- no lump sum payment is necessary. The exact pattern of the work varies, but here's the general pattern: SE is now all on city utilities. SW is just wrapping up final sections, and the lowest sections of the NW and NE are next in line.
North Fort Myers has several Gulf access neighborhoods and though certainly upriver a ways, the price points are low to make up for it. Overall it is largely rural but the waterfront contains several high rises, several nice newer neighborhoods, and again some affordable, older Gulf access options. Large more inland sections of North Fort Myers contain numerous trailerparks and large acreage rural properties. Of possible interest to those seeking equestrian property.
The islands are of course heavily sought after, and the prices reflect it. Each island has a distinct quality:
Fort Myers Beach is a well known, eight mile long barrier island with a mixture of condos and single family homes. It becomes very quiet here in the summer, but come season (Christmas to Easter) is heavily populated. High rises typically don't go over 8-12 stories or so, but there are a few exceptions and long stretches of the island will have nothing over 3-4 stories tall. Numerous canal homes are on the bay side, but because the island is so skinny nearly everything is a short walk to the beach! Beachfront properties have become increasingly sought after in the past few years and many of the older homes are being torn down and replaced with high end $3 million dollar + kind of lavish properties. The sand is exceptional throughout this area and will rival anything else found in the U.S. (The East coast of Florida has nicer bluer shades of water, but their sand isn’t equivalent). Fort Myers Beach is divided somewhat into two different areas: the Northern half and the Southern half. The North has more of the hotels, the shops and quirky little spots that you expect on an island...the fun spots to visit. The South end is the quieter, bigger condo communities that are nice, neat, and clean retreats from it all. Marinas exist on the North End (Moss Marine), the center (Snookbight Marina), and the South (Fishtale). Keeping a boat at either the North or South end of the island will place you very close to the ideal locations in the County for boating, fishing, and leisurely boating (arguably only superseded by Punta Rossa's location, where the bridge connecting Sanibel to the mainland begins). I myself am a Fort Myers Beach resident, so I am very familiar with the place! Feel free to ask questions if you are looking to buy on the island in the near future as it’s a wonderful place to live.
Sanibel and Captiva are beautiful international destinations, regularly visited by vacationers from across the world. It has a totally different character than Ft Myers Beach, as it has large tracts of unspoiled natural land. Actually about 1/2 the island is a large wildlife preserve: Ding Darling. It is recommended to visit if you are in town. These two islands are fairly exclusive and the pricing shows it with most homes exceeding the million dollar mark. There is even a $6 toll to cross the bridge, which seems to add to the exclusivity. (None on Ft Myers Beach). There is an old lighthouse at the Eastern end (arguably it could be though of as the Southern tip, though we don’t refer to it as such) as well as public beach access. There is also public boat ramps on either side of the bridge. Sand here is exceptional, just like Ft Myers Beach, especially on the Eastern end (again, arguably the South). A little mentioned secret is the further North, heading up to Captiva, or the further South, down to Naples & Marco Island the water gets nicer and nicer. Note that Captiva has extremely limited public parking though, so public access is tricky. Many of the homes here tend to be vacation properties for affluent Northerners and International visitors. Expect to pay hefty prices to be on Captiva, while on Sanibel an occasional single family home (non-waterfront) comes available under a half million.