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Life In Bonita Springs Florida - Local Info & Real Estate


April 15, 2015

Powell Creek Preserve Fort Myers Florida

Powell Creek Preserve

Powell Creek Preserve Fort Myers Florida

Have you ever heard of a filter marsh? Over the winter of 2015 I picked up on the Conservation 2020 guided walk series and caught a guided walk at Powell Creek Preserve one early Saturday morning. Powell Creek Preserve is a filter marsh located in North Fort Myers. Like many of the Conservation 2020 parks it’s fairly incognito but once you get on site there is plenty to see and experience.

BPowell Creek Preserveesides providing a great wildlife habitat, this filter marsh was created to improve water quality in the creek and downstream bodies of water. As water collects in the filter marsh it slowly travels through a series of wetland ponds which filter the sediment and excess nutrients, toxins and heavy metals along the way. In short, the water is scrubbed in a man-made natural filter built into Powell Creek before it goes downstream into the Caloosahatchee river and out to the gulf.

The filter marsh is only a few years old and already thriving and bustling with nature. The small lakes at Powell are circled by a berm of soil with a sturdy shell base on top. It makes for a wide trail with a firm base so this preserve is suitable for wheels, be it stroller or a mobility scooter. It’s also not more than a mile in circumference so if you take kids they won’t get bored. I’d say that it’s a great beginner hike for the littles.

My first thought after I walked the route was that it would also be a great place to visit to walk or run for measured exercise. It’s almost like a fitness track but with more nature. It’s lined with a variety of trees and wildflowers plus the water plays host to a variety of ducks, wading birds and, one of my favorite little water birds, the coot.

Along the trail you’ll stand a shot at spotting a gopher tortoise or two toward the back. There are several tortoise dens sprinkled through the patches of netted pawpaw.

Parks in North Fort Myers usually offer up different plants and insects than the parks in South Lee County. Two great sightings on this trip there were red winged black birds and a magnificent zebra swallowtail butterfly. Both were not only photogenic but cooperated for a moment or two so I could get a shot with the camera.

If you go, remember that you’ll be driving down Bayshore Road so that means you’ll also be in the area of Ozzie and Harriet stars of the Southwest Florida eagle cam. You can also stop by there and watch the eagles soar, up close and personal. You can even park and join the gallery of photographers on the fence line.

Powell Creek Preserve is located off of Hart Road but I will warn you the Google maps wasn’t exactly accurate so you’ll want to keep your eyes peeled for the park sign and parking lot on your left. The street address is 15601 Hart Rd, North Fort Myers, Florida 33917. You can learn more about Powell Creek Preserve and other Conservation 2020 parks at

Happy Trails and Boardwalks!


Special to Southwest Spotlight Magazine

Find other Things To Do in Bonita Springs 

Posted in Things To Do
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April 10, 2015

Griffith Becomes Member of The Institute For Luxury Home Marketing


Bonita Springs, Florida, April 11 2015 --  Chris Griffith with Downing Frye Realty recently completed a luxury home marketing training course offered by Realtor Association of Sarasota and Manatee.

The course - which covered such topics as demographics of the affluent, lifestyle segmentation, trends and amenities in today’s luxury home product, and creating a marketing plan for the multimillion dollar property – was taught by Laurie Moore-Moore, President of the Dallas-based Institute for Luxury Home Marketing and author of the book, Rich Buyer, Rich Seller! The Real Estate Agents’ Guide to Marketing Luxury Homes.

“The course is a step towards earning the prestigious Certified Luxury Home Marketing Specialist® (CLHMS) designation which The Institute awards internationally to sales professionals who meet performance standards in the upper-tier residential market,” said Moore-Moore. Chris Griffith is an example of a sales associate who works to hone the special skills and competencies necessary to provide exceptional service in the fine homes and estates marketplace.”

Chris Griffith is a platinum, award-winning sales associate who has been in real estate since 1999 and specializes in the Bonita Springs, Florida luxury residential market.  Griffith has also earned and maintains the designations of Certified Residential Specialist, Accredited Buyer’s Representative, Graduate Realtor Institute, Seniors Real Estate Specialists, Certified New Home Specialist and ePro.

“The training provided reinforcement for the marketing plans I currently implement in the upper tier real estate market plus it helped me polish my skills, and provided valuable networking contacts with other agents across the country who specialize in luxury properties,” said Griffith “In addition, I discovered new and creative tools for promoting expensive homes and estates and new resources for finding buyer prospects.  Home buyers and sellers in Bonita Springs will certainly benefit from my new knowledge.”

For insights into the current state of the luxury real estate market, contact Chris Griffith at Downing Frye Realty, Inc. at 239-273-7430 or email 

Contact: Chris Griffith


Downing Frye Realty, Inc.

23421 Walden Center Drive

Bonita Springs, Florida 34134



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April 9, 2015

Bonita Springs Real Estate Market Report March 2015

The 2015 winter tourism and buying season is winding down slowly. Believe it our not we’re still pending record numbers of sales in the Bonita Springs and Estero Florida area.  Savvy home buyers have come to town and have firmly grasped our market. If they are not the Bonita Springs area when their opportunity arrives in this low inventory market.  Read also: Buying a Bonita Springs Home Long Distance.

Speaking of record real estate sales, we’re still on fire, cash leads the market and our distressed real estate is running low. Here are some of the statistics and market reports for Bonita Springs and Estero Florida home sales.

Bonita Springs Real Estate


Home Sales in Bonita Springs Florida

For those curious about what price homes are selling in Bonita Springs and Estero,  the graph above shows that nearly 73% of homes sold were priced under $400,000. That means if you’re a home buyer in that price range you might have to battle to land a property. Inventory is low and we watch homes come in go in a day, sometimes hours.

Bonita Springs Home Sales


Home Financing in Bonita Springs Florida

If you find you’re battling to get a property and you’ve had a few of them slip through your fingers, here is a graph that shows why.  About 62% of our home sales in Bonita Springs are paid for with cash.  Cash is king and many home sellers and Bonita Springs listing agents guide their sellers to take the cash thereby eliminating the financing contingency and reducing their risk of not closing sale.

graph (3)

Bonita Springs Historical Homes Sales

Even though our numbers are slightly down from last year, it’s still a healthy market and I’ve included sales in 2005 just so that you can compare the recent few years of the market to “the boom year”.  We’re basically level and selling consistently.  Sales continue and our distressed inventory is evaporating.

graph (2)

Distressed Homes Bonita Springs FL

Closed home sales in the Bonita Springs, Estero Florida area last month show that distressed sales were just under 6% of our real estate market.   We’ve had as little as 4% of our market distressed.  Since the bottom is coming up there are fewer short sales because home owners are able to sell and cash flow.

graph (1)

Distressed Homes in Bonita Springs

Our active real estate market indicates less than 3.5% of all real estate listings are “distressed” meaning they are a short sale or a foreclosure.  This is a very healthy real estate market. Not totally healed but it’s in great shape.  Feel free to download this free copy of the graphs above in .pdf form.  

Bonita Springs Real Estate Market Report March 2015

If you have questions about buying or selling real estate in the Bonita Springs or Estero Florida market, give Chris a call or send a text message to 239-273-7430.

Posted in Market Reports
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March 15, 2015

Collier Seminole State Park Naples Florida

Collier Seminole Honey Bee

Collier Seminole State Park Naples Florida

Driving east on US 41 is favorite pass time for me just because of the visual quietness of it all. It is not unlike me to load up the Dill, the fearless Min Pin, to see where the road will take us. A few weeks back I headed out with that very mission in mind and rediscovered the fun little escape of Collier Seminole State Park.

Collier Seminole Photo AlbumThe main portion of the park offers a great exhibit of one of the original Bay City Walking Dredge machines used to build US 41, which connected Tampa to Miami back in 1920’s.  In case you were not aware, the word Tamiami is a combination of the two city names.You will find Collier Seminole State Park about nine miles east of Collier Blvd. (951) on US 41 where it meets San Marco Road. There are a few locations to access the 7,200-acre park so it would be a good idea to Google before you go. The main entrance with the ranger station is just south of San Marco Road and that is where you pay to enter to use the boat ramp as well as pay the trail use and campsites fees located in other locations.

The focus of the trip was to hike the trail that’s located about seven-hundred feet north of the main entrance. A few years back, I gave it a whirl near the end of rainy season and was nearly drained by mosquitos. It was misery. It made me wonder how tough that dredging crew must have been to put up with mosquitos because I was a quitter, with no regret, in record time.

The Old Marco Road trail is nice and fairly flat hike but it’s not exactly a breeze. It’s about four miles in length so eat your Wheaties before you go and bring enough water. Since we have had a few rain showers, the prairies had greened up and there were fields chock full of thistle, coreopsis, tassel flower and Spanish needle wildflowers. Naturally, the flowers attracted the pollinators so there were plenty of honeybees and butterflies to be seen. I was thrilled to have been able to capture photos of a both a Checkered Skipper and the spastic, Julia butterfly.

This trail is fun because of the varying types of vegetation and great scenery at every turn. The sheer windiness of the path made it a fun walk and kept us on our toes. We did see more people than expected. There were mountain bikers, runners and walkers, a hand full of them had dogs in tow. There were a few gators in a marshy area along the trail so keep that in mind if you bring your dog.

In all, it was a great place to hike and it tuckered out Dill, which is hard to do. He was asleep as soon as we were in the car. On the drive home, I realized that we had had a full circle sort of day on that trail. After the loss of my last dog of eighteen years, I applied with a rescue hoping to get a recycled dog. I was actually moping at Collier Seminole State Park when the rescue called to let me know that I had finally been approved to adopt and that they had a black and tan troublemaker set aside for me in Port Charlotte. The rest, as they say, is history.

If you would like to blaze trails at Collier Seminole State Park you can learn more at

Happy trails and boardwalks!

This article is special to the Southwest Spotlight. Find all park reviews at 

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March 8, 2015

Fish Crazy Seafood Restaurant Naples, Florida

Fish Crazy Bar

Fish Crazy Restaurant N. Naples, Florida

If you’ve been around SWFL long enough you probably are familiar with Randy Essig formerly of Randy’s Seafood and Rodes Market, fame.  He’s now partnered with Tony Valego and opened Fish Crazy in North Naples, in the location that was the home of Naples Tomato.

Fish Crazy Restaurant Photo AlbumLet me just say that the restaurant is beautiful, cozy, comfortable.  They nailed the atmosphere. Fish Crazy is just a pleasant place to spend time.  The food, as anticipated, was outstanding.

From the lunch menu, I enjoyed the firecracker shrimp appetizer plus the fried shrimp platter with fries (from the dinner menu) and slaw, as my entree.  My lunch company had the fish tacos with a side of fries and slaw.  Both dishes were decidedly perfect and worthy of the highest praise.  I can’t wait to go back and try the hush puppies and grouper sandwich.

Imagine my surprise walking into a restaurant, a new restaurant that just recently opened, in the middle of tourist season, and getting a seat!  Fish Crazy had been open only a few weeks when I decided to brave the crowds and treat myself to a great lunch. Fortunately, I chose an early lunch on the weekend of the Blues Festival and the Susan G Komen event … the crowds were otherwise preoccupied.

Fish Crazy offers a seafood counter that you’ll see when you walk in the door.  Other stand out features are the huge, full bar with tons of seating plus an indoor bocce court.  The only restaurant I know with a bocce court! 

When you go remember that Fish Crazy doesn’t offer reservations or call ahead seating.  Be sure to “like” their Facebook page and keep up with current events, here:

Fish Crazy Restaurant

14700 Tamiami Trail North, Naples, Florida


Posted in Local Dining
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Feb. 12, 2015

Wild Turkey Strand Preserve | Fort Myers, Florida

Aiden at Wetlands Sign

Touring Wild Turkey Strand Things to Do in SWFL

Recently, I attended a Conservation 2020 guided walk event at Wild Turkey Strand Preserve in Fort Myers, Florida. I’ve driven by it dozens of time and like many others I paid no attention to the classic brown park signs on the side of the road. I also had no idea how historically significant artifacts at the preserve were to the World War II war effort.

Wild Turkey Strand Preserve PhotosWild Turkey Strand Preserve consists of just over three-thousand acres and has a really interesting historical twist that many other preserves don’t have; it includes part of the former Buckingham Army Airfield, a World War II-era training base from 1942-1945. I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I didn't realize just how much of Lee County Florida, about 65,000 acres, was once a part of the Buckingham Army Airfield and the Flexible Gunnery School.

Wild Turkey Strand Preserve offers plenty of recreation activities which include hiking on boardwalks and marked trails, bird watching, nature photography and picnicking in addition learning a little bit about WWII history. One of the main trails, Gunners Trail, offers a well-manicured walk around restored preserve lands and a segment of the old gunnery ranges. The concrete munitions buildings and bases for gun turrets remain near the trail. They can easily been seen without leaving the pavement and have plaques which detail their use and training purpose for the nearly 50,000 gunner trainees who attended the school.

The paved portions of trail are made of rubberized asphalt which is easy to walk on, or push a stroller. I had the grand kids in tow on this tour so Wild Turkey Strand Preserve is officially field tested, and passed, for being kid-friendly. That means we easily spotted a few little critters, flowering plants and birds and it wasn't too long for them. In a nutshell, it means that they didn't get bored and turn on me.

Along the trail there are elevated boardwalks and wetland lookout areas. At one of the prairie marsh lookouts we ran into a gentleman who had just hiked the unpaved, marked trail and stumbled upon a sow and a litter of baby wild hogs. Much to his surprise he had interrupted a panther about to feed on them! He was nearly breathless as he shared his once in a lifetime sighting with us. It was fun to hear about as our only drama was a close encounter with a decent sized, non-venomous, yellow rat snake.

We did venture down the unpaved trail but we turned back when we ran into some areas too wet for little feet. There is no doubt that the unpaved portion trail will have a few wet sections if you go after a rain or in the summer months, so keep that in mind when you plan your visit.

For the record, we didn’t see any wild turkey on this trip but there’s always next time …

Wild Turkey Strand Preserve offers free entry plus parking is free and plentiful. The trail is partly ADA compliant with picnic tables and restroom facilities on site. Leave your pooch at home, pets are not permitted.

Wild Turkey Strand Preserve is located at 11901 Rod & Gun Club Road, Fort Myers, Florida located just off of State Route 82. Visit for more information.

Happy Trails and Boardwalks!

Find the entire list of parks and preserves located on a navigable Google map, with links to photos and commentary at


This article is special to Southwest Spotlight.

Posted in Things To Do
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Feb. 11, 2015

Bonita Springs Real Estate Market Report January 2015

1 A Decade of Historical Jan 2015 Sales

Bonita Springs Real Estate Market Statistics Jan 2015

It’s been a heck of a winter real estate buying season in Bonita Springs Florida, this year.  The month of January 2015 was a little lower than previous year partly due to lack of inventory.  The bottom is coming up by selling off in mass which means homes in Bonita Springs are costing more.  Condo sales have also taken off.  There are shortages of entry level priced condos in Bonita Springs especially ground floor condominiums.

1 How Bonita springs Real Estate is financed jan 2015

How Bonita Springs Homes Are Financed

Cash real estate sales remain king with almost sixty-three percent of the real estate sales paid for with cash, thirty-two percent were financed with a conventional mortgage and the rest were fractional amounts financed with FHA, VA or Owner Financing.

2 Condition of Bonita Springs Home Sales Jan 2015

No More Short Sales in Bonita Springs? Could it Be?

For the first month in years there were no short sales recorded in Bonita Springs or Estero Florida. None. Zip. Nada.  Great news that our market has come up and many owners are “above water” and able to sell with equity. Moving forward, we expect minimal short sales and minimal foreclosures.

3 Condition of Bonita Springs Home Listings Jan 2015

There is No Foreclosure Shadow inventory in Bonita Springs

The foreclosure dam burst up front in Bonita Springs, Florida.  We got hit first, we recovered first. There is no hidden stash of foreclosures that will sneak up and hit the market.  We are inventory bare, the market is going up and foreclosures account for less than 3% of our current listings.  Less than 1% of our listings in Bonita Springs are short sales.  We’re over 96% stable.

4 Bonita Springs home sale Price range

Which Price Range is Selling in Bonita Springs Florida

Continuing the sell-off trend $200-400K homes and condos are outselling the $200K and under because the bottom is selling off and entry level real estate prices are going up. The $600-800K price point continues to be the slowest moving segment of the Bonita Springs real estate market.

To download the Bonita Springs market graphs in printable .pdf form: Click Here

If you have questions about the current real estate market in the Bonita Springs and Estero Florida area or you’d like to work with a fact and numbers based real estate agent in Southwest Florida call or text Chris at 239-273-7430.

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Jan. 16, 2015

Natural Gas in Bonita Springs & Estero Area

Natural Gas Bonita Spring

Natural Gas Communities in Bonita Springs - Estero

For the folks who really like cooking or heating with natural gas instead of electric heat, there are only a handful of communities in the area with natural gas or access to natural gas.  Natural gas is not in every neighborhood in the Bonita Springs and Estero, Florida area because the infrastructure has not been installed in some of the established areas.

Some of the newer neighborhoods in southwest Florida offer natural gas. You can easily search for home in a community that offers natural gas below by clicking on the name.

Posted in Buyer Tips
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Jan. 15, 2015

Cullum's Bonita Trail at Bonita Nature Place

Cullum's Bonita Trail

Cullum’s Bonita Trail at Bonita Nature Place

If you haven’t been to Cullum’s Trail in Bonita Springs you’re missing out on one of the best little trails hidden in plain sight. It’s sort of like one of those “where the locals go” places. Not long ago I invited my friend, The Fraulein, to walk the trail with me and the dogs. She’d not been to Cullum’s trail nor had she heard about it, which surprised me, since she is a full-time resident of Bonita Springs and has been in the area before. I’d previously dragged her to Bonita Nature Place to watch the bats leave the bat house at dusk so she’d been in the area. I know what you’re thinking; I sure know how to show my friends a good time.

Cullum's Bonita TrailIf you’re already slacking on your new year’s resolution to exercise more this is the perfect opportunity to turn over a new leaf. The trail has a few different routes so it’s flexible in length. You can easily map out a twenty or thirty minute walk to add to you morning. The path is made of packed shell and supplemented with boardwalks over low lying areas. There are a few benches sprinkled along the way so you can take some time to enjoy the surroundings.

Cullum’s Trail is a labor of love by Cullum Hasty, a local resident who is an environmentalist and nature lover. He’s helped make this trail a reality for the residents of Bonita Springs, plus he’s still working on the expansion which is coming soon. This special trail runs along the Imperial River and offers views of old growth cypress, towering oak trees plus a huge variety of native Florida flora and fauna.

This trail features a canoe and kayak launch giving paddler’s access to the prettiest and most remote part of the Imperial River. From the launch heading east toward the back side of Nature Place the path is a fun, narrow, loosely groomed trail with a few logs to hop over and vines that swag over the path. There are also a few small valleys to cross, which hold water during the summer rainy season. The trail is marked with metal token hiking trail signs so hikers can stay the course. This is my favorite part of the trail because it is so undisturbed.

As far as accessibility, this area is not totally stroller or wheelchair friendly so keep that in mind when you plan your outing. This trail is easily doable with small kids and they’ll certainly enjoy the adventure. I’d recommend coming up with a scavenger list of items they are likely see to really engage them in the hike. A few things they’re almost guaranteed to see: Mushrooms, birds, spiders, fern, flowers, tortoise, purple berries, bees, fish/minnows and butterflies.

Cullum’s Trail is super east to get to. It’s located on Kent Road in Bonita Springs, just beyond the YMCA. When you turn on Kent Road, drive past Bonita Nature Place main entrance to the parking area for Cullum’s trail. You can’t miss it. There is no fee for parking or entry to the trail. Be sure to visit Bonita Nature Place while you’re in the area, too.

Happy Trail and Boardwalks!


This column is special to Southwest Spotlight

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Jan. 7, 2015

The Management Company Must Document Budget & Fees

Condo Budget Florida LAw

Disclosure of Budget & Fees By Management Company

Today, for the umpteenth time I went round-and-round with a property management company about fees. Some management companies put up websites with info on it thinking that they have covered their own bases and they’re good to go. this particular company only had the application for the purchase hosted online.  The brush their hands and make it easier for themselves but the problem is that they don’t understand real estate law in Florida or what is needed to protect the current condo owner and even future condo owner through the sale and purchase. 

This is important information for both condo buyer and condo sellers especially if they are buying or selling for sale by owner because this is where you will get the information.  You don’t know what you don’t know so consider this.

Florida real estate law reads that whether you’re buying an inexpensive resale in Bermuda Ridge or a resale  high rise penthouse in Tavira at Bonita Bay a condo buyer is legally entitle three days to review the condominium association budget, frequently asked questions (FAQ), rules and regulations and also they need to get a current application to join the association and the association bylaws, articles of incorporation.  If a condo buyer does not receive those items they are legally able to cancel their contract.  That is how the seller is protected through the transaction, by not losing their contract over a technicality.

So, recently I had to make over a half dozen phone calls and just as many emails before I finally got to someone at a professional management company to send me the documents.  The manager is opening the emails (I have a tracking program) but not responding.   I don’t think they understood that in addition to the law there are other items we need to disclose to buyer that actually go in the MLS up front.  I ended up finding someone higher up to get this information:

1. Transfer fees. There are often capital contributions due to the association by the buyer. At the closing time is not the place to find out that there is a couple thousand dollars due.

2.  Quarterly condo fee.  The fee is verified in the budget. Sometimes the owners are wrong and I, as an experienced real estate professional, trust but verify.  Especially at the first of the year when the budget for the year gets changed and released.

3. Master HOA fees.  Sometimes there are more than one fee due from the owner; the quarterly condo fee and the master HOA fee.

4. Special assessments and lawsuits are often disclosed in the FAQ’s.  Every buyer has a right to know if there is a lawsuit (which could effect financing a buyer) or a special assessment to make up a shortfall in the budget or for a major repair.

5.  Reserves for replacement.  An alarmingly  low amount of reserves can be a tip that a condo may not qualify for traditional financing programs.

There really is no reason for this info to not be readily available in a .PDF to email to a real estate agent or potential buyer.  I check the MLS to see how many sales occurred in the complex I have been trying to get the info for.  Forty-two properties have have closed sale in the last year.  That means forty-two times that the manager was annoyed at real estate listing agents and purposefully unavailable to produce the documentation instead of just popping it off in a .PDF. The manager probably just things that real estate agents are pesky and annoying when they could, in fact, stream line what is need and happened forty-two times within the last year.  It’s probably going to happen 42 times next year, too.

This situation isn’t limited to professional management companies. There are some condo associations managed by the residents who get weirded out by handing over the financials. Look, we don’t want bank account numbers, we need to produce the fiscal information to prospective buyers and their lenders (if the buyer is financing) by law.  If you were buyer  you would sure as heck want to know.

Special thanks to those CAM’s and management companies who get it right and know that most of this info can be handled in one interaction, in an email so that every aspect of the transaction goes smoothly from contract through close.

Posted in Buyer Tips
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