If space has always been important in real estate, in the last year since the onset of COVID-19, it has become everything and more. Nowhere is this truer than in Collier County, where access to downtown Naples competes with elbow room—private elbow room, meaning that there has been a turning away from gated communities, where things can get a little close.
Jose Cintron, president of Cintron Custom Builders, has seen the shift firsthand. “For my tastes, there are three places: Pine Ridge, Livingston Woods and the Oakes Estates,” he says. This trio of non-gated luxury communities—which Cintron notes in descending order of location desirability—are hotter than ever due to their high acreage and lack of shared space. At the highest level—Pine Ridge—one acre of land sells for $1 million, maybe $1.2 million; at Livingston Woods, 2.5 acres for $500,000 to $800,000. Oakes Estates brings up the rear: under $500,000 for 2.5 acres.
Cintron is happy to break it down further: A Pine Ridge home can command nearly $900 per square foot; Livingston Woods, $666 per square foot; and Oakes Estates, $550 per square foot. These communities represent the new Collier paradise. Cintron’s wife Flower, who is involved in the business, says that vacant land is growing scarce in these high-acreage communities. “A lot of people are leaving the gated communities because of all the restrictions,” adds Cintron, who has completed homes in Livingston Woods and Oakes Estates. He notes that Oakes Estates is close to everything—“10 minutes from Vanderbilt Beach, malls, shopping areas. And here you can build a nice massive home with a workshop, or a guest house. There’s so much you can do on this acreage. People are getting tired of the HOA fees.”
What he doesn’t say are what those association fees help to fund: amenities—in many cases, quite nice amenities—that are shared. To many, that’s not appealing during the COVID-19 pandemic, when features like pools and gyms have been shuttered at times anyway. In the last several months, discussions about South Florida real estate have been inseparable from discussions about COVID-19.