- Kermit Brown
Naples, Florida Offers Abundant Golfing Along the Gulf of Mexico
The small southwest Florida town is popular among billionaires for its almost 100 golf courses, high-end shopping and philanthropic events
Mansion Global | Rebecca Bratburd
Bearing similarities to Montecito, the Hamptons and Nantucket, the sunny town of Naples, Florida, charms its residents and visitors with its pleasing architecture and manicured landscape.
Golf attracts many to the town of about 21,000, said Ardel McKenna, a real estate broker with Coldwell Banker and the Dawn McKenna Group. The only problem is getting in.
“Even though Naples is the preeminent golf destination in the United States, if not the world, with hundreds of courses, there’s a serious limit to being able to play,” Mr. McKenna said. “Most of the golf clubs out here have a two- to three-, sometimes even five-year waiting list to get in.”
While most of South Florida’s red-hot real estate market activity has been on the East Coast, especially around Miami, the Gulf Coast’s luxury real estate market is experiencing new highs, too. Home prices increased by 41.9% from 2020 to 2021 in Naples, according to Realtor.com.
Port Royal, for example, is a highly coveted area with equal access to golf and the beach. “The average starting point is $15 million,” said Dennis Bowers, an agent at Compass and the principal of the Bowers Group. “Tear downs are about $10 million just for the dirt.”
Naples sits far south on Florida’s Gulf Coast, about 40 miles south of Fort Myers and 30 miles north of the Everglades. Spanning eight miles from Outer Clam Bay to Port Royal, the 16.46 square-mile city stretches inland only 2 miles.
Current luxury listings for single-family homes and condos in Naples range from $6 million to $35 million. On the lower end, buyers can expect to find outdated condo units and bayside single-family homes. Homes in exclusive enclaves and beachfront homes, though rare, command prices in the tens of millions of dollars.
Of the current offerings available, about half were built in the last five years, while the rest were built a decade or longer ago according to Realtor. Most homes are along the area’s extensive bay channels. Single-family homes tend to stick to two levels with West Indies, Bahamian or British Colonial inspired architecture.
Developers have a handful of new condos planned, including the redevelopment of the former Naples Beach Hotel and Golf Club. Under its new banner, the Naples Beach Club, the 125-acre Four Seasons resort and residential development will be surrounded by 1,000 feet of beach and a golf course. Developers plan to bring in 216 hotel rooms, up to 185 residences, restaurants and upscale retail stores. Pricing ranges from $2,500 to $4,500 per square foot for golfside and beachside condos, Mr. Bowers said.
WHAT MAKES IT UNIQUE
“We have a small-town vibe but we have the amenities of a much larger metropolis,” said Victoria Clarke-Payton, an agent with Coldwell Banker and the Dawn McKenna Group. “You have the environmental factor, you have the arts and culture here and over 7,500 restaurants, from the regular diner to not-quite Michelin starred restaurants. We have fabulous shopping. We have so much compounded into a small space. Families love coming here now.”
Experiencing a tropical savanna climate, Ms. Clarke-Payton said Naples enjoys milder, frost-free winters compared to other parts of Florida. This makes the growing season last year round.
Other than the miles of beaches, abundant golf courses and luxury shopping, residents can watch theater. The Naples Players offers community theater productions on the relatively smaller side. Artis-Naples brings in bigger shows like “Hamilton,” along with concerts from the Naples Philharmonic. Residents of Naples can also see professional theater at Gulfshore Playhouse in South Naples.
People gather for car shows and the Paradise Coast Wine and Food Experience on Fifth Avenue South, said Mr. Bowers. In the Old Naples area, the Naples Winter Wine Festival raised $22 million in two days for 50 of the area’s nonprofit organizations.
Third Street District is a favorite stop for fine dining a few blocks away from the shoreline and the Naples Yacht Club. Mercato is a shopping area that caters to a younger crowd with live music and dancing, Mr. Bowers said.
WHO LIVES THERE
While historically, East Coasters tended to flock to the east coast f Florida and Midwesterners shuffled to the Gulf Coast, Mr. Bowers has noticed a shift in recent years.
“In the last two years, we’ve seen more clients from New York, New Jersey, California and Philadelphia,” he said.
Since the area is smaller and quieter than cities on Florida’s east coast, it attracts relatively low-key buyers, said Dawn McKenna, an agent with Coldwell Banker and founder of the Dawn McKenna Group.
“We have a lot of notable billionaires, and founders of major tech companies: all the usual suspects coming out of California,” Ms. McKenna said. “You come to Naples specifically so you walk around, get a bite to eat and nobody bothers you. It’s very low-key.”
Emeril Lagasse, Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban and Judge Judy Sheindlin are said to own homes in Naples, said Vicki Traci, chief operating officer of Gulf Coast International Properties.
Notable residents with vacation homes in Naples include elites from the business world including sports tycoon Shahid Khan, Reinhold Schmieding, Paychex founder Tom Golisano, Best Buy founder Richard Schulze, William Stone and Scott Kapnick, she added.
Given limited inventory and great demand, Naples’s luxury real estate market is expected to remain in the sellers’ favor for the foreseeable future.
“The luxury buyer who’s looking to spend between $3 million and $5 million has to move a little bit more out of traditional Naples,” Mr. McKenna said. He mentioned the Ritz-Carlton Residences in Estero Bay, where sales have opened starting around $2 million and delivery is expected in 2025, along with developments in Vanderbilt Beach and South Fort Myers. Gulfside Twelve is slated to open late this year or early next year in South Fort Myers with units starting in the $3 million range.
Ms. McKenna said the forthcoming Naples Beach Club development, a mixture of Four Seasons lodging and branded residences, and new commercial developments like Restoration Hardware, are hints that the market won’t cool down anytime soon.
“There’s more meat on the bone here,” Ms. McKenna said. “Places like Palm Beach already had these accouterments to the luxury lifestyle. We’re just getting these and the numbers have soared without them. Just think what will happen when they all come.”