Florida RE/MAX broker: ‘Our businesses are up and going again’
A southwest Florida real estate broker and business owner reflects on losses from Hurricane Ian and the work ahead, but remains optimistic.
- Even for a longtime resident, the magnitude of this storm was hard to fathom.
- Some homes with storm damage were taken off the market until repairs can be made, but many listings remain active.
- RE/MAX is among the real estate companies raising funds and deploying volunteers to help with cleanup.
Bryan Guentner, co-owner of RE/MAX Platinum Realty, has weathered several hurricanes and tropical storms in the nearly 30 years he has lived and worked as a real estate agent in Sarasota County, Florida.
But Hurricane Ian was different. "This was a much larger storm. I had never seen anything like it," said Guentner, who evacuated his family from their waterfront Osprey home before the storm.
The Category 4 hurricane made landfall in southwest Florida on Sept. 28, knocking down trees, flooding roads and causing widespread power loss for days. The beachfront communities of Fort Myers, Sanibel and Captiva Island had storm surges of 10 and 20 feet. "There was a wall of water," Guentner said. "They really got hit hard."
Bryan Guentner and his wife and business partner, Cheryl Guentner, shuttered their real estate offices before the storm hit. They packed their bags and stayed with relatives in an inland community. Everyone was safe.
When they returned home after the storm, "the first thing we did was to call all our agents to see how they were doing. One needed extra help, but we were fortunate overall and I feel very grateful for that," he said.
"Our businesses are up and going again. And RE/MAX [the parent company] helps out fellow RE/MAX agents after natural disasters like this," Guentner added.
RE/MAX has established a GoFundMe page that is collecting donations for real estate professionals who suffered losses. RE/MAX also encourages people to support Golisano Children's Hospital of Southwest Florida.
In an email to Real Estate News, a RE/MAX spokeswoman said the company "has been in contact with RE/MAX affiliates affected by Hurricane Ian. No deaths or serious injuries have been reported, but damage in the area is severe."
The road to recovery
Rebuilding homes and lives may take months, if not years, say observers on the ground.
In the storm's immediate aftermath, some prospective buyers have reconsidered purchases. "After carefully reviewing our pending sales and speaking to my staff, we have lost more business than I originally thought," Guentner said.
But the Guentners are confident the local real estate market will rebound soon. "Even with homes damaged from the storm, the buyers and sellers are working through it," Guentner said.
"We had a few listings in Port Charlotte and Northport that were flooded or had the roof blown off. These homes were taken off the market. Most of our other sellers are still on the market or marked 'temporarily off the market' for a few days until their yards are cleaned up," Guentner said.
How the industry is responding
A major contributor to Florida real estate professionals in need after a hurricane or other natural disaster is the Florida Realtors Disaster Relief Fund. The fund is a trust organized by Florida Realtors, the state's largest real estate trade organization, and was formed in 1992 after Hurricane Andrew struck southeast Florida. It assists individuals and families in the real estate industry whose homes, offices, vehicles and other property were damaged and/or destroyed in natural disasters.
Anyone can make a donation, of any amount, through their website.
For those in need of assistance, applicants have two options for online forms to complete: one for individual assistance and one for office damage assistance. Applications may be accepted up to six months after a natural disaster.