Oct 13, 2022 - News

Premier Sotheby's CEO: Hurricane Ian won't hurt housing demand

Budge Huskey's home on Barefoot Beach in Bonita Springs after Hurricane Ian. Photo: Courtesy of Budge Huskey

Here's a tip from a resident of Barefoot Beach at Bonita Springs, a barrier island community slammed by Hurricane Ian's 8-foot storm surge and 145mph winds: Look closer at the pictures of storm destruction.

  • "One looks at it and thinks, 'Oh my god, this place is completely devastated,'" Budge Huskey tells Axios over the phone.

Yes, but: That's not true, says the president and CEO of Premier Sotheby's International Realty, with nine offices across Southwest Florida. He was on business in Colorado when Ian made landfall.

State of play: As folks on the barrier islands north of Naples assess the damage, they're learning, Huskey says, that the modern homes — like Huskey's, built in 1999, and his neighbors' — actually stood pretty well against one of the worst hurricanes on record.

  • Huskey says the homes on his street — representative of newer construction on the coasts — are all elevated, with the living space built well above sea level to comply with modern codes, strengthened after Hurricane Andrew in 1992.

The intrigue: The first floors washed out by floodwaters were nonconforming, uninsured garage and storage spaces. In other words, a lot of people lost framing and drywall and the contents of their first-story garages, but their actual homes are fine.

  • "It's not living area," Huskey says. "And when you look at the second floor, there's no harm."

Zoom out: There are other places in Ian's path where preventative planning appears to have paid off — like Punta Gorda, which embraced modern building codes and escaped relatively unscathed, and Babcock Ranch, a solar-powered town where native landscaping helped control stormwater, Axios' Jennifer A. Kingson reports.

What he's saying: Huskey says he doesn't want to minimize the impact of the storm on his neighbors, and he realizes he’s in the business of selling real estate in Florida.

  • But he doesn’t think this hurricane will have a big impact on the area’s high housing demand.
  • This shows modern houses can withstand the worst hurricanes. People will return. People will rebuild, putting new homes in places where old homes were destroyed.

The bottom line: "There's some risk of living in paradise and people recognize that," Huskey says. "My house withstood an 8-foot storm surge and 145 mph winds. It did what it was built to do."


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