Fall House Repairs

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How is your Local Knowledge? Do you know where this building is? email mike@teamshevlin.com

September. This is the time of year that Southwest Florida starts marking the transition between our hot and humid summers and our comparatively cool and dry winters.

Historically, it’s also been a time of year when homeowners who were thinking about selling start considering what they need to do to get their homes ready for the snowbirds’ arrival. Typically, snowbirds would arrive around Jan. 15 and stay through Easter.

On Pine Island, one typical buyer was a Midwest farmer who came here to enjoy a piece of paradise after their growing season up north ended. They were looking for a small, inexpensive place on the water where they could enjoy mild winters and all the fishing they could handle. Cherry Estates and Flamingo Bay were popular places for them to settle.

Another type of buyer would come for a visit, decide they liked Pine Island and then start looking around for a vacation home or condo to purchase before they left in the spring — that way, they would be assured of having a place to land when they came back next year.

The recession turned that on its head, of course, and buyers became somewhat scarce. Now, however, with the economy turning around and our up-north neighbors having slogged through two brutal winters, the market is once again heating up here. If you’re planning to put your home on the market, now really is a good time to do it. Home sales are up 10 percent over this same period last year, while inventory on the Island is low. With many of our snowbirds likely looking to purchase homes, it really is a seller’s market.

But there’s more to selling your house than just putting a “For Sale” sign in front of it. There are a few simple, relatively inexpensive things you can do to maximize the return on your investment.



Every smart homebuyer has a home inspection done before they purchase a new home. But you don’t have to wait for a potential buyer to have your own comprehensive home inspection done. In fact, hiring your own home inspector — the cost is usually around $300 — can help you find potential problems and give you the opportunity to make repairs before a potential buyer brings their own inspector in. You’ll be heading off any problems and won’t have to negotiate a lower sales price.

It’s also a good idea to have a termite inspection done — usually for around $75. As Floridians, we know termites are pervasive, so it’s important to take care of any small infestations before they become major problems eating away at your investment.


Make Minor Repairs

I’m not suggesting that you spend thousands of dollars upgrading your kitchen to the latest trends in design. Instead, you should make sure the basics are all in working order: the plumbing, the electrical wiring, the hot water heater and the heating and cooling system.



If it’s been a while since your house had a new coat of paint, now is the time to remedy that — both outside and in.


Take a Good Look at Your Yard

The first thing a potential buyer sees is the outside of the house. Make sure your vegetation is trimmed and neat, your yard is mowed and everything is spic and span.


If you’re unsure where to start, consider having a conversation with a licensed Realtor. We have decades of experience in helping our clients get the maximum return on their home investment. We can help you put your best foot forward, so to speak, and help you make sure that your house is ready to sell.



School Days

Well, it looks like it’s that time of year again. The summer is quickly winding down and Island parents are gearing up to send their kids back to school.

Seeing all the backpacks, pens, pencils, notebooks and folders in the store always reminds me of sending my own children — all now grown — to Pine Island Elementary School.

Island kids were bused all the way over to North Fort Myers until Pine Island Elementary was built in 1960. Because we are on an island, all the kids who live here attend school here. When my kids were young, I thought that was one of the greatest advantages of living on Pine Island.

Before my kids went to school, I knew some of my neighbors and fellow Islanders, but after my kids started attending school, I had the great opportunity to meet so many more Island families. There are usually between 200 and 250 kids attending the school each year — making it small enough to get to know everyone.

In fact, this school really is an important part of the community — for residents with and without kids.

All of the local service clubs rally around the school, hosting fundraisers to help provide everything from additional books and classroom materials to playground equipment. The Beacon of Hope even offers after-school mentoring program for the kids that helps to strengthen social bonds and build academic skills.

This support really makes a difference in the classroom, too. We can all be proud of the school’s record: It’s been rated an “A” school for more than 15 years and the teachers are all highly regarded and well qualified.

While I’m not prone to missing the old days, I do wonder where the time has gone sometimes — especially when I see my children’s childhood friends dropping their own kids off at Pine Island Elementary!

Summer on the Island

When many Northerners think of Florida, they think of a place with a pretty consistent climate and weather pattern — we are the Sunshine State, after all.

2015-07-10 20.23.24But we do have a dry season in the winter and a wet season in the summer. And if you’ve gotten caught in one of our daily thunderstorms this year, you know that we’re well into our rainy season. And, of course, it’s hot.

When I first moved to Fort Myers Beach as a teenager, we had no air conditioning. You just dealt with the heat until the rains started around 4 p.m. Then after a brief shower, you watched the steam coming off the roads and could breathe a little easier. Eventually, we got a wall unit and I remember that being a really big deal.

Now, air conditioning is a necessity for us all. So we’re certainly a lot cooler than we used to be, but we still have the afternoon rains to look forward to every day.

Fortunately for us, we’ve gotten better at mosquito control and water management. I remember standing outside when the DC-3 mosquito planes would fly over and standing in a cloud of malathion. Fortunately, they’ve developed better and more environmentally friendly ways to help us deal with summer’s mosquito population and we’re no longer left standing in chemical clouds.

I also remember driving from the beach to Fort Myers when I was a kid — A Friday night date often meant navigating the flooded road left behind from the summer rains. U.S. 41 was often un-drivable because of the sheet flow.

But I still think summer is the best time of year in Southwest Florida. It really showcases the tropical-ness of the region we live in. Everything has turned a lush green and the growing season is under way — in fact, I think we all have a bumper crop of mangoes this year.

The rains also bring us a daily symphony of frog calls and croaks. The trilling and the tinkling and all the different calls they make as they search for mates is a wonderful thing to listen to — and you certainly don’t hear that up north in the summer. (Learn more about our local frogs and their calls at FrogWatch.net. This group monitors our amphibian friends.)

But as much as I love the summer here — it really is my favorite time of the year — it’s also storm season, which means that there are a few things that homeowners need to think about. If you’re new to our summers or thinking of buying a home here, you should keep summer rainy seasons in mind and consider:

  • The age of your roof. If you’re buying or living in a home with a roof that is more than 20 years old, you definitely want to have it inspected and might want to consider replacing it. After Hurricane Charley — which caused considerable damage to houses here on Pine Island even though it passed over us pretty quickly — we had two solid weeks of rain. So even if a roof survived the initial storm, many started leaking during the subsequent storms.
  • Surge protection for your home. Back in the day, we all had one TV with one channel. Today, let’s face it, we have a lot of electronics with a lot of computer chips — not to mention our computers themselves — and if you get an electrical surge and don’t have a surge protector on your house or hooked to your electronics, it can be an expensive problem. (Visit LCEC.net to learn more about getting surge protectors for your home.)
  • Storm shutters. We usually have ample warning about tropical storms and hurricanes that are predicted to come our way. But you have to make sure that you’re prepared for storms in advance. Do you have hurricane shutters or appropriately sized plywood to cover your windows? Now is the time to think about it — well before a storm is bearing down on us.

And, if you’re heading out of town for the rest of the summer, it’s a good idea to make sure that you’ve closed your house up properly. That means:

  • Making sure your windows are protected
  • Keeping your air conditioning turned on to keep the humidity out of your house
  • Having someone taking care of your lawn — otherwise, you’ll need a machete to get to your front door when you come back!

So sure, Florida is the Sunshine State. But Southwest Florida is also the place where you can visit the tropics without leaving the country.

Is it hot here in the summer? Yeah. Is it humid here in the summer? Yeah. Do we have a lot of rain here? Yeah.

But to me, summer will always be the coolest time of the year to live on Pine Island.

Mango Mania

DSCN0110I grew up on Fort Myers Beach, with no clue what a mango tree looked like. But when I bought my first property on Pine Island, I learned. That property, next to the Adams mound, had 40 mango trees on it of all different varieties.

Mangos have a long history here on the Island, which is why we celebrate them every summer during Mango Mania. The event, which takes place July 18 and 19 this year, is probably the best place for our new residents and visitors to learn about mangos — and, of course, to eat them. (In fact, Mango Mania has gotten so popular that the Greater Pine Island Chamber of Commerce had to move it to a bigger location just off the Island to the German-American Club.)

According to the Lee County Extension Service some 426 acres of land in Lee County are dedicated to commercial tropical fruit farming — and 99.3 percent of those acres are located on Pine Island. Mangos account for nearly half of those acres.

The history of mangos on the Island goes back to the early 1900s, when some of the early residents started their own groves. I can’t imagine how they did it because starting a grove back in those days must have been no easy feat. The Island also hosted a thriving citrus industry, with growers shipping fruit to Fort Myers in the 1920s to the 1940s or so. There was Honc in Bokeelia, Adams in Pineland and Master’s Landing in St. James City

When I moved here back in the 1970s, organic farming was just starting to take off — it was kind of the hippie thing to do back then. Mother Earth News even did a feature on a local banana grower. Murray’s Nursery in Bokeelia was also becoming a big name throughout the south for their ability to graft different varieties of fruit. Small farms were growing a great variety of tropicals — from lychees to longans and carambola to avocados.

The next wave of farming on the Island is something we still have a lot of today — palm trees. Ed Dean at Palm Co. was probably the first to really focus on palms and eventually he was shipping them all over the world to places like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the Caribbean. Through the 1990s, more palm farms started popping up on the Island until the recession happened and the economy came to a screeching halt.

At the height of the market, folks were picking up lots for $50,000 to $60,000 an acre for their farms. Today, lots are back down to $15,000 to $20,000 an acre and we’re seeing new farms coming on board. Now that the economy is improving, tropicals seem to be picking up again and I’ve met quite a few clients who are moving to the Island so they can plant some of the trees that were native to their own tropical countries.

The Island’s climate makes it the perfect place to try your own hand at growing your favorite fruit trees — I experimented with things like sapote, atemoya and other fruits. It’s truly a remarkable area — I mean, you just can’t grow a banana tree in Kansas!

Learn More About Mangos During Mango Mania

  • When: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, July 18 and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, July 19
  • Where: German-American Social Club, 2101 Pine Island Road, Cape Coral
  • Cost: $6 per person at the gate or $5 in advance through July 1 (purchase online at www.mangomania.net or stop in at the Chamber’s Welcome Center, 4120 Pine Island Road, Matlacha). Children younger than 10 get in free.

Paddling around Pine Island Sound

Pine Island Sound
Pine Island Sound

It’s certainly true that we live on an island but not every property is on the water. So one of the questions we get asked a lot is how people can take full advantage of our island without buying canal-front or waterfront property.

Getting a boat, of course, is the best way to explore Pine Island Sound and Matlacha Pass. And it doesn’t have to be a big power boat that you keep at a marina or trailer to your favorite ramp (though that’s certainly a great option).

One of my favorite ways to get out on the water is in a kayak or canoe. I had a recent opportunity to do just that during my daughter’s baby shower. It’s her first baby, and so it drew family from all over, including my cousins who — thanks to their dad — have paddling in their blood.

Their dad, Henry “Mac” McCarthy Jr., was a Coast Guardsman who moved to Fort Myers Beach in the 1950s. After getting married, he worked in the construction industry and eventually moved to Sarasota where, in the 1970s, he started building small wooden canoes under the “Feather Canoe” brand he famously developed. One boat style he built was called the Wee Lassie. (He even wrote a book called “Feather Weight Boat Building” with step-by-step instructions that even a novice can follow.)

Uncle Mac passed away in 2011, but his sons still carry on the wooden canoe tradition, and I’m fortunate to have one of the Wee Lassies that Uncle Mac built himself. I don’t know about you, but my cousins and I aren’t big on baby shower games, so we decided to paddle around Pine Island instead.

We put in around 9 a.m. at Pineland, near the Randell Research Center, which is dedicated to learning and teaching the archaeological history of Southwest Florida — especially the Calusa Indians, who were the most powerful society in the region until wars with the Seminoles and the Spanish, being sold into slavery in Cuba and diseases brought by the Spanish eventually wiped them out between 1500 and 1750. (Read more about the Calusa in Charles Blanchard’s book, “New Words, Old Songs” or visit Randell’s Calusa Heritage Trail near the Tarpon Lodge.)

The Calusa were a complex society and built the mound complexes that dot our region, including the mound at Pineland and many others on keys in the Sound that are only accessible by boat (Josslyn Island is a good example).

Our small band of paddlers putting in near the Pineland mound was essentially following in the Calusa’s paddle strokes in our own exploration. From Pineland, we paddled north and headed up Big Jim Creek, part of the Big Jim Creek Preserve at the north end of the Island that was purchased by the Calusa Land Trust and Nature Preserve of Pine Island in 1990. This 325-acre property is a wonderful mangrove forest perfect, for exploring in a canoe or kayak, and the Land Trust should be lauded for protecting and preserving it for future generations.

We also passed by Burgess Island and Patricio Island and then paddled west to have a burger in paradise at Cabbage Key. Along the way we saw plenty of dolphins and fish. We could just look down in the water and see horse conchs, little sharks and horseshoe crabs. A big loggerhead sea turtle even popped its head up out of the water for air right next to me.

Paddling around Pine Island is one of the easiest trips you’ll ever make with plenty of islands to stop at and explore and plenty of wildlife to get close to. Lee County Parks & Recreation has made it even easier to explore by developing the Great Calusa Blueway Paddling Trail. This 190-mile trail goes from Estero Bay to Matlacha and has three main sections, including one focused in Pine Island Sound. They’ve put together maps that include trail highlights and access points (you can download their map app and take it with you on your phone).

By 4 p.m., when we returned to our launch point, we were a little tired out, but ready to go again. There’s a whole other world out there you can paddle out to. I like to stop every once in a while to take in the scenery and imagine what this place must have been like when the Calusa were kings.

Impact Fees

Impact fees for new construction have been in the news a lot this year, with Lee County commissioners deciding whether to restore fees to pre-recession rates.

This is a topic I get asked about regularly, so I thought I’d offer some basic information on those fees this month, especially for visitors from outside the state who might not be familiar with the concept.

Impact fees are fees charged to new construction — both residential and commercial. The money raised is then used to pay for capital improvements needed to support a growing population.

The fees support several key things that are important to any community — especially communities in fast-growing Southwest Florida: Emergency services and fire stations, new schools, roads and sidewalks and parks. The impact fee on new construction varies, depending on the location you are building in and the type of structure you are building.

On unincorporated Pine Island, our fees are generally less than other areas because of our rural nature and limited commercial development, which means that we don’t need a lot of infrastructure out here. But impact fees still apply and a portion of our fees is used to deal with growth and development here and the remainder supports capital improvements to deal with growth countywide. A good example of something supported by impact fees is the bike path that runs the length of our 17-mile Island. While impact fees did not pay the entire cost for the path, they were essential in making it a reality.

In 2013, Lee commissioners had reduced impact fees by 80 percent to help spur growth in light of the recession; now, with development once again speeding up in and the overall economy improving, commissioners voted in February to raise fees.

Currently, the impact fee to build a new single family home on Pine Island and Matlacha is $6,029. On June 2, the fees will increase to $6,315. Impact fees for commercial construction have already increased and are running $2,700 per thousand square feet for office space and $4,180 per thousand square feet for retail space.

As the economy improves in the coming years, it’s likely that fees will only increase. That means if you’ve been considering building a new home on the Island, there’s no time like the present.

First, you’ll need to purchase your lot. Island properties are very reasonable right now and prices haven’t yet returned to pre-recession amounts, but we are seeing increases. Right now, 75-by-135-foot lots are going for $7,000 to $12,000; 80-by-180-foot lots are in the neighborhood of $10,000 to $20,000. Larger lots an acre or so are going for $20,000 to $40,000 and 2.5 acres are selling for $50,000 to $100,000. Waterfront lots can be priced considerably higher.

By filing your building plans and paying your fees before June 2, you’ll be able to lock in your impact fees at the current rates — even if you don’t actually start building until months later. If you plan to build a new Island home, it should definitely be more cost effective to build now than a year or two from now.


Baseball on the island

With springtime here, it’s nice to see the Pine Island kids taking the field in Phillips Community Park again. As a baseball fan and former college player myself, I’m always grateful that the community worked together to provide such a great place for the local kids — including my own — to play ball.

It really was a community effort that helped bring the ball fields about. Interestingly, it started with a conversation between local dentist Dr. Markus Sherry and a Lee County Sheriffs Deputy back in 1980. The two got to talking, and Dr. Sherry asked the deputy what the kids on the island were doing. The deputy made an off-hand remark, noting that there were few activities on the island and some of the kids were getting into trouble by age 12.

Well, Dr. Sherry didn’t think that was very cool, so he and a few other residents, including Bob Vogenberger and Mike Frank, sought to change that by bringing Little League to the island.

First, though, they needed a place for a ball field. That’s where Tom Phillips came in. Tom actually developed many areas of the island, including digging the canals in St. James City and developing Cherry Estates, Pine Island Center, the alphabet streets (also known as Tom’s Town) and many other areas.

Tom donated the land for the Park, which was dedicated in his memory, and the group worked with the county to get the ball fields up and running. Just three or four months later, Pine Island had its Little League — one of the first Little League charters to include girls. That first season, in the spring of 1981, there were about 60 kids — enough for five teams — and they played day games. There was one field, no electricity and no buildings.

By wintertime, the organizers realized that the teams needed to play later in the day — it was just too hot to have the kids out there in the blazing mid-afternoon sun. So we petitioned the county for lights on the field. They would put the lights in — if we could come up with the money to pay for it.

Once again, the community stepped up to the plate. We sold sponsorships on the fences, and then one generous resident donor pitched in with a $15,000 donation. By the winter season, we had our lights and a real community event that island families could participate in. The Pine Island Eagle covered the games and island veterinarian Dr. Warren Compton even modified a CB radio so that he could call games from behind the plate.

I started coaching in 1982 — glad to participate in the only organized sport for the island kids. For my kids and so many other families, Little League offered an opportunity to have fun and get to know each other. And, of course, it kept us all out of trouble! In 1998, we added a second field, and today, I think it’s one of the nicest ballparks in the county.

What’s most fun for me now is to see that the kids we coached back then have grown up and are bringing their own kids to Little League — like Shane Dooley (of Dooley Charters) who brings his son Dalton, and Billy Gay, who now serves as the League President and whose kids Joey and Robby now play. Our newest Realtor in the office, Erin Lambert, is also carrying on the tradition with her husband, John, coaching T-ball and their son, JP — though he’s a little too young to play this year — looking forward to his own at-bats.

Pine Island Little League is always in need of community support and volunteers to do everything from coaching and umpiring to handling concessions. (I’m sure sponsorships and donations are also welcome!) If you’re interested in helping out, please contact President Billy Gay at 478-6251.

The Museum of the Islands

Growing up on Fort Myers Beach back in the 1960s and 70s, I fell in love with the island lifestyle. There’s just something special about being surrounded by water and knowing your neighbors. After college, I came back to Southwest Florida and opened and operated a health food store. I later found my way into real estate, working with a broker in Bonita Springs. The more I learned about the region, the more I was drawn to Pine Island. In fact, the first piece of property I bought on the island in 1977 was my own first home.

The house was a tiny cabin — my wife, Joan, called it a shack — next to a Calusa mound. The cabin — complete with burlap ceilings — had been part of a 20-acre commune (yes, there was a commune here!) in Pineland and had been built by the commune’s members. As my real estate career got started, I did a little bit of everything — including totally remodeling the buildings that we know today as the Tarpon Lodge. The Lodge was originally built in the 1920s by the Wilson family and then became the Pine-Aire Lodge. In the 1980s, I helped remodel it before it became a rehabilitation center called The Cloisters. Today, thanks to the dedication of the Wells family, the Tarpon is one of the jewels that showcases our island’s rich fishing heritage.

This month, we’re also celebrating the 25th anniversary of another island jewel — The Museum of the Islands.

As one of the few full-time Realtors on the Island back in the 1980s, I had a front-row seat to all the changes taking place here back then. Some of our oldest homes and buildings were being replaced by newer structures and many artifacts documenting our community’s rich history and its oldest families were being lost — just thrown in the garbage. I collected what I could, as did my good friends Elaine Jordan and Jim Bone, but there was only so much we could store — our own homes were bursting at the seams.

At about the same time, the Lee County Commission had decided to replace our library with a new and bigger building — the one you still see today at Pine Island Center. The plan was to tear the old building down and use that space for parking.

Instead, Elaine, Jim and I got to thinking that the old library building would be the perfect place to house all of the island history we had been collecting. So we petitioned County Commissioner Porter Goss (this was after his first retirement from the CIA and before he became a Congressman) and Bill Hammond with Parks & Rec and asked whether we might convert the old library building into an Island museum.

It took a little lobbying on our part and I think it probably helped that we reminded them that Island residents had pitched in pennies to build the original library back in the 1960s (yes, school children really did donate their pennies) and that I was president of the Greater Pine Island Civic Association at the time. Eventually the county agreed to turn the building into a museum — the Museum of the Islands.

We’re fortunate that some very wonderful people then stepped forward to take over the effort — donating time and money to update the building, gathering additional artifacts, organizing and curating the collections and even getting other museums to donate display cases for the items collected. The Randell family, Betty Katz, Gladys and Dale Schneider and Naomi Brewer are just a few who were instrumental in those early days — it would be impossible to name everyone who played a role in getting the Museum off the ground.

Naomi herself has remained with the Museum for 23 years now as the driving force that helps keep it going and we have a wonderful corps of volunteers who help, too. If you haven’t yet visited our little gem, please consider doing so this season — Naomi and her volunteers would love to tell you more about the island and its residents — from the earliest Calusa to some of our most well-known families. Please also consider becoming a Museum member or making a donation to help support its collections.

—Mike Shevlin has been a Pine Island Realtor since 1981. In 1985, he established Islands Realty, which he later sold to Century 21 Sunbelt Realty. In 2001, he established Team Shevlin under the Sunbelt banner and today works with Carlyn Herring and Erin Lambert. To talk to Mike about Pine Island real estate or to suggest a topic for his monthly “Local Knowledge” column about life and living on Pine Island, please email mike@teamshevlin.com.

Visit The Museum of the Islands

  • Hours: The Museum of the Islands is open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays from Nov. 1 through April 30 and from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Sundays. (Summer hours are 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from May 1 to Oct. 31.)
  • Admission: Just $2 for adults and $1 for children; memberships start at just $10.
  • Address: 5728 Sesame, Pine Island Center
  • Information: 239-283-1525