Blowin' in the wind: The American Naples

On Florida's Gulf Coast there are two types of weather: hot and hurricane. Robert Liebman reports on a town where Britain's ex-pats brave the elements

Sailing, fishing, golf and sunbathing are the main attractions on Florida's Gulf Coast, and in Naples, shopping comes high on the list too. The main retail spot - with its pricey fashion boutiques, jewellers, art galleries and antique shops - has the iconic name of Fifth Avenue. There's also Third Street South, with still more boutiques and art galleries, and Tin City, for nautical antiques, maps and sporting goods.

A city of extreme wealth, Naples also boasts first-class restaurants and its Philharmonic Center for the Arts offers music, dance and plays. The surrounding countryside contains cypress swamps and salt marshes, and the local fauna include the occasional oversized reptile (the Everglades are 30 miles south) as well as turtles and tortoises, fish-eating eagles, dolphins and manatees. Local beaches reward seashell hunters, and local waters satisfy anglers and sailors. For second-home owners, Naples attracts a steady supply of seasonal visitors, mostly between January and April.

House prices at the very top are stratospheric even by elite American standards, but many homes are modest in price as well as size. The mix includes condominiums (apartments) and family homes, some in gated communities devoted to golf, tennis or water sports - or all three. And it is a buyer's market.

There are bargains to be had now, and prices may drop further. Moorings are everywhere, and the most exclusive communities have private beaches. In addition to properties on the Gulf itself, waterside homes are available in inland developments near lakes or other waterways. Some one-third of Naples' 21,000 inhabitants claim English or Irish ancestry. Nowadays, however, this area is too far away for the many British visitors who don't stray far from Orlando or Miami.

The Goulds from Bromsgrove, Worcestershire, strayed: "Eight years ago, we came on a typical Disney trip and chose Naples for our week of escape from Orlando," says Robert Gould. "It is a subtropical environment, like being in the Caribbean but with first-class food, shopping and health care." After numerous trips on holiday, they bought a detached 3,500-square-foot house with pool and central air conditioning two years ago. Robert, his wife Anne and children Connie, 12, and Andrew, 10, are getting their money's worth. "We come on the first day of every school holiday and leave on the last. The kids love it - the pool, the beach, we play golf and go fishing."

A chartered surveyor, Gould notes that "houses in Britain are built to keep the elements out. Florida houses are built to keep the heat out. We were here during Wilma, a category 3-4 hurricane. It was the first direct hit of a hurricane on Naples in 45 years. There is a saying around here, 'God has a condo in Naples.'" That long-ago hurricane was the still-remembered Donna, a mini-Katrina of her day. In the ruinous aftermath, Naples got a good clean up and plenty of reconstruction, and building codes were toughened. Subsequent hurricanes led to further toughening.

The Goulds bought their house from realtor Derek Chorlton, whom they met by chance when his accent caught their attention. A Manchester native and a keen sailor, Chorlton originally settled in California and moved to Naples when he was enticed by the Gulf of Mexico: "Naples has fabulous boating. The gulf has 10,000 islands, and you can go to the Florida Keys and the Bahamas by boat. The Gulf is always 85F. The Pacific is freezing." Chorlton notes that Naples is not marred by the pitfalls that plague some popular Florida holiday destinations: "The city prohibits shops like bars and T-shirt outlets from operating along the beach, so there are no lager louts. It is pristine."

A sailing paradise, Naples also amply caters for golfers. "We have more than 100 golf and country clubs with homes in all price ranges, from about £150,000 to £500,000. British buyers tend to buy a condominium. They can leave it, lock up and go, come back, and there is zero risk of break-in."

Originally a health spa, Bonita Springs has waterside properties in abundance, thanks to a location alongside Estero Bay as well as the Gulf of Mexico. Surrounded on three sides by water, it also has a river flowing right through the town centre. Two-bed new lakeside condo apartments start at about £140,000, whereas second-hand flats in gated communities start at £180,000.

In addition to providing protection against intruders, gated communities have rules and regulations, some pertaining to lettings and subleases. Local and state ordinances may also have a say in what you can and cannot do with your own property. Before you buy, familiarise yourself with the small print. In Florida, reality checks tend to be harsh. As realtor Chorlton notes, "We have guaranteed good weather. Unless we get a hurricane."

John R Wood Realtor (Naples), 00-1-239-434-0101; (Bonita Springs), 001 239 498 2888.

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Administrative Assistant / Order Fulfilment

£14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join a thrivi...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

Recruitment Genius: Production Operative

£13000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to a period of sustained an...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent