Friday, September 25, 2009

Guest Blogger: Tips on Buying on Sanibel Island

Though Sanibel Holiday is a vacation rental agency with no affiliation or ties to a real estate office, the agency enjoys the unique position of helping future home buyers on a temporary basis.

As an owner with a property managed by Sanibel Holiday, I am happy to share my own style and strategy in real estate acquisition with their blog readers.

In fact, I already do share my strategies regularly as many vacation rental guests who have stayed at my condo or at my home have rented with the purpose of "looking around" at what is available on the Island. To date, two families who rented the condo for a number of years have purchased their own places on Sanibel. And two others who rented the house have purchased as well.

One strong piece of advice I would offer to anyone looking to combine their vacation with a house hunt is to allow enough time. A few days on island, even a week, will limit your ability to combine business with pleasure. So stay two weeks, or three, and if you can swing it, come for the month.

Another suggestion strongly made is to do your house hunting off season. Like tourism in general, the house hunting crowd is largest in winter, and it's in your best interest to not be part of the crowd if you have a choice in the matter. You may find greater flexibility on the seller's part when you are looking in November or December and May or June then in the heart of high season. You will most definitely find your real estate agent's calendar not so crowded off season as well.

Which brings me to the most important advice I can offer to a prospective buyer. Choose your realtor carefully. You may want to talk to a couple of Realtors first before committing. Get to know his or her style and evaluate the compatibility with your own. Ask questions about their backgrounds and years in the business. Get a sense of how well they have done in not only getting listings, but making actual sales. Although we have found great integrity in all the agents we have talked to and worked with on and off island, the agent we will work with now is not only an honest and hard working guy, but someone who has proven himself to us by going beyond the expected to make us comfortable and show us that he cares.

Although all Realtors work off the MLS list, the differentiating factor can be just how much effort the agent you choose is willing to put in on your behalf. It can make the critical difference as we have discovered.

But you need to "know thyself" for any agent to be successful on your behalf. If your budget really can't reach for that luxury home you are smitten with, it's best not to waste your time or your agent's time on pipe dreams, as nice as they are. If a condo that you can more easily rent out makes most sense in the scheme of things, it's adviseable to concentrate your efforts on those kind of properties. That cute, little cottage is sure adorable, but how will it accommodate your large family and their friends?

And one thing is for sure, if you purchase on Sanibel, you will discover family and friends you barely knew you had!

I have enjoyed house hunting on the Island immensely. It is much akin to a treasure hunt with the best of Sanibel revealed with every turn and nuance in the search. But I have taken my time, paced myself, and blended my investment adventures with vacation explorations so that my stay on Island has always been a pleasure...even when the perfect property was not always discovered on that particular trip.

Sylvia Guarino, Guest Blogger

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Calusa Were First Known Names on Sanibel Island

The rich and famous have frequented Sanibel and though we would not drop any names they would be recognized if we did. All have left their footprints, gently, on the sands of Sanibel, but none have left their footprints as deeply as the Calusa.

About 5,000 years ago, rushing rivers deposited an enormous amount of silt in the Gulf of Mexico forming the tropical barrier islands along the Southwest Florida coast. Its newly formed islands and bays were awash with a bountiful supply of fish and shellfish that attracted archaic peoples from across southern Florida who established a permanent settlement. These people were the early predecessors of the Calusa Indians.

The Calusa set up villages near their life source – the water. There was not enough land to grow the amount of crops needed to feed all the tribe members, so the Calusa looked to the bays, streams, rivers and Gulf and turned up a smorgasbord of shrimp, crab, trout, snook, and just about every possible delectable seafood.

Without the worry of where the next meal would come from, the Calusa were free to develop a complex society, which they did at an astonishing rate. There was a two-tier caste system, a well-armed, highly structured military and an extended noble family. Common people provided food, dug canals and labored at the construction of immense, complex shell works and water systems.

An archaeological site is certainly not the first thought that one has of this secluded tropical resort, yet it is fundamental to the understanding of an island that has become a world renowned vacation destination.

From these roots sprang the Sanibel Island that we know and love.

In 1963, a 3 mile causeway was constructed from the mainland to the eastern end of Sanibel. Soon after the bridge was completed, Sanibel incorporated, and the municipal government passed strong zoning laws, with much of the island set aside for protection. As a result, half of the land in Sanibel is designated as natural areas, with two preserves protecting the island ecology and wildlife. This preservation and conservation of land and wildlife make Sanibel a unique resort island, unlike any other in Florida and with few rivals within the continental USA.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Sailing by the Light of the Silvery Moon

For many, South West Florida means boating, whether that be a sailboat, a canoe or a cruise ship.

And, to be sure, if cruising is your style, there are no end of cruises to be found on and around Sanibel Island.

There are cruises in the morning, cruises in the evening, cruises all year round, including gambling cruises.

Every day of the year, two ships based out of Ft. Myers Beach offer evening cruises for passengers 21 and older, who want to wine, dine, and gamble.

The 167-foot Europa Sea Kruz holds 350 people and leaves from Snug Harbor Resort. The ship, which journeys in a big circle, is scheduled to depart at 6:30 p.m. and return at 12:30 a.m., Sundays through Thursdays. It lasts a half-hour longer on Fridays and Saturdays for the party animals. The cruise includes a sit-down dinner.

A relative newcomer on the Ft. Myers Beach gambling boat scene is the Big M Casino, a 2-year-old, 162-foot ship that can carry 400 passengers. All year long, Sundays through Thursdays, its evening cruise departs Moss Marine at 6 p.m. and returns at 11:30 p.m. On Fridays and Saturdays, the ship leaves at 6:45 p.m. and returns at 12:45 a.m. The ship must go out nine miles, where international waters begin, before the gambling can begin. Floating up the coast from Naples to Fort Myers; the ship doesn't anchor. The trip includes live entertainment and a 110-seat restaurant. Once in awhile, some passengers go along just for the trip, but most, of course, are aboard to play blackjack, roulette, and slot machines.

And certainly you will find some romance and charm on the moon lit waters whether you gamble or not.

But if you are truly a moon-light sailor, you might want to consider something a little more adventurous and explore an extended cruise.

Extended cruising means sailing overnight, a weekend or even a week. Sail out beyond reach of the phone, fax, e-mails and enjoy the "quiet time" and learn why and how things are done on board while away from the reach of civilization.

The beautiful, sleek and "silvery" sailing sloop, the New Moon, can sail North or South from Captiva. You can choose to sail south to the Keys or the Dry Tortugas. Or sail north up the West coast of Florida and explore the Intercoastal Waterway or Florida Bay. Little Shark River and Tampa Bay are just a few of the Florida spots to see and enjoy. There are beaches, islands, rivers and bays to enjoy all around, and you can see them on the New Moon from such different perspectives that you will never forget the beauty and majesty of Southwest Florida's Gulf of Mexico coastline.

And maybe you can even make that midnight stop, a glass of wine and your beloved, on the warm sands under a moonlit sky. You can make the words of the darling poem, The Owl and Pussycat, come to life!

"And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
They danced by the light of the moon,
The moon,
The moon,
They danced by the light of the moon."

Thursday, September 3, 2009

October On and Around Sanibel Offers Great Weather and Great Fun

Want to s t r e t c h out your summer? Then think about spending some part of October on Sanibel.

The Island is really ready for you in October. The weather is cooling down a bit, summer vacationers are gone and winter vacationers not yet arrived. No crowds, yet loads of things to do.

Topping off a very long list of activities are the incredibly interesting Ding Darling Days, truly something for everyone. The event runs from October 18 to October 24, in the National Wildlife Refuge, of course. And the menu is most tantalizing.

The 6 day spectacular, morning til night, concentrates on wildlife in many ways: talks, tours, workshops and exhibits to name just a few.

Among the free events, there will be talks about wildlife, a reptile show, naturalist narrated tram tours, face painting....even free hot dogs and drinks.

And for a nominal fee nature cruises, kayaking and bird watching caravans will be offered.

We think it's motivation sufficient to come to Sanibel Island just for the Ding Darling Days.

But there's more!

An exciting and beautiful regatta will take place right off the Island in Fort Myers Beach on October 3 and 4, and you don't need to own a boat to enjoy it.

Fifty boats carrying 250 sailors will compete in the 44th annual Summerset Regatta. Sailors from up and down the Southwest Florida coast participate in this first sailing event of the season. Buoy races will take place on October 3rd, and a distance race will happen on the 4th.

For spectators, the sight of billowy sails and sleek yachts racing with the wind stirs romantic notions of a sport that requires skill, strategy, and muscle.

Shore activities will be based at the Pink Shell Resort on Fort Myers Beach, so both days will be good for watching the activities kick off from the shore.

Crowds gather on the Fort Myers Beach Fishing Pier and the beach around it for a staggered send-off of the different divisions of boats beginning at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, October 3rd.

And if ships brings to mind visions of pirates, you're in luck. The 4th Annual Pirate Festival takes place from October 9th to October 11th. Again, the Festival is right off Sanibel at Fort Myers Beach. Join the merry making as (friendly) pirates invade the island in ship to shore battles, food, period entertainment and period vendors.

Now, really, with dozens of things to do and weather that is beckoning, is there any reason you should not put Sanibel on your October calendar?