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The Wall Street Journal: ‘It’s pretty much business as usual’: Florida towns in Hurricane Ian’s path targeted by opportunistic real-estate hunters

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Less than a month after Hurricane Ian caused widespread devastation to southwestern Florida, investors and other buyers are scouring for housing deals in a region where home prices have soared in recent years.

Demand remains strong from both locals and out-of-staters, according to residential real-estate agents in Naples, Fla., and other areas near the path of the Category 4 storm. They say they have received numerous inquiries from people still interested in relocating to the Sunshine State, or hoping to pick up distressed properties.

“It’s pretty much business as usual,” said Kelly Baldwin, an agent for Coldwell Banker in Longboat Key, Fla. “I haven’t had anyone reach out who wants to stop their home search.”

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The costs associated with fortifying a home against wind and flooding, along with rising premiums for homeowner and flood insurance, are enough to cause some longtime Florida residents to leave.

But some investors with plenty of cash are expressing interest. Friley Saucier, a global real-estate adviser at Premier Sotheby’s International Realty in Naples, is working with a wealthy individual planning to spend as much as $50 million on distressed real estate in areas that suffered damage from Ian.

Read: Hurricane Ian will continue doing damage to the southwest Florida economy for months to come

“He called me after the storm,” she said. “I’ve spent a week calling agents and others trying to find properties that are off-market because these homes are still being dried out and remediated, so they’re not yet listed.”

An expanded version of this report appears at WSJ.com.

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