If there are two words that sum up Marco Island’s residential rental market they are “tight,” and “expensive.”
That’s the consensus of several of the community’s realtors from agencies that specialize in annual rentals. They say the pool of available single-family homes, condominiums and apartments is limited, but demand is high, especially for moderately priced housing.
“The annuals, there aren’t enough of them and the ones that are available are very expensive for the average working person,” said Maria Schilke, the broker for Marco Island Rental Properties. “The people who work on this island, who need to live here, can’t afford to buy and most of them can’t afford to rent at today’s prices. We need affordable housing on this island.”
Affordable housing is an issue elsewhere in Collier County, where an affordable housing advisory committee has presented the county commissioners with a slate of recommendations for alleviating the problem. It’s also a problem that Lee County is wrestling with.
Schilke said a three-bedroom, two-bathroom, single-family home is fetching monthly rents of $2,500 or more on the island, something many people, especially those who work in the service industry, can’t afford.
“It’s hard,” she said. “We have people, every day, come into my office and when I tell them what the rates are, they can’t afford it.”
Colleen DeFranco, rental manager at RE/MAX Affinity Plus Realty, said more units for annual rental are always welcome on Marco. This is her fourth year in real estate here.
“The thing that’s really lacking is the more modestly priced unit,” she added. “We have many, many inquires a week in the $1,000 to $1,500 range, which is very hard to find. If I get a rental at Anglers Cove, which is a one bedroom, which is what a lot of working people are looking for, we’re renting it out for $1,000 to $1,200 a month. We don’t even have to advertise. Just word of mouth and it goes right away.”
Paul Tateo, manager at Horizons Marco Island Rentals, is seeing one-bedroom units there going for up to $1,400 a month, as compared to $800 to $900 in 2011. He said two-bedroom units in older buildings are renting for $1,500 to $1,600 now.
“These are the types of places that people who live and work in this community are often renting, if it’s one or two people,” he said.
For people seeking something larger, like the standard “three-two,” single-family home, $1,800 can land someone “an old tired house, if you can find one,” he added. “They’re tough to find. When you start getting up into the $2,200 to $2,500-range you can start getting some choices and even there, there’s not a lot to choose from.”
Tateo began to notice rents rising on the island and nearby about five years ago, but overall he regards the market as being fairly balanced, one where tenants and landlords all have options, with neither side having an advantage.
He cited a couple reasons for the uptick, aside from an overall increase in prices for everything.
“In the downturn era, 2010, 2011, when we started to come out of that, there wasn’t as much construction and things weren’t quite as busy,” said Tateo. “You didn’t have quite as many people traveling. But now tourism is picking up again and people are hiring, so there’s more need for housing in the community and more demand.”
Another factor that affects supply, people who have owned a rental home here for years and have decided to move in themselves, he said.
“Like a lot of resort communities throughout the United States, Marco Island has a lack of more affordably priced housing for our service sector workers simply because much of it is geared toward the vacation-home and second-home market,” added Tateo. “This is a fairly affluent area. It’s a really, really nice place to be in Florida and it draws in a lot of money.”
Schilke is concerned about the impact the situation has on the people who work in Marco restaurants and hotels, for lawn-care services, in shops and other service industry jobs.
“I’ve been a rental agent on this island since the ‘80s, so I’ve seen it all,” she said. “I’ve been yelling about affordable housing since then. I know that people don’t want it in their backyard, but it wouldn’t be in their backyard. There’s a lot of land here or even close by where people can build affordable housing. I just don’t know what to do or what’s going to happen.”