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Business Observer Friday, Apr. 28, 2017 3 years ago

Fun House

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An investor with an eye for sometimes-eccentric design features hopes her seven-figure deal for waterfront properties is a winner.
by: Ted Carter Contributing Writer

Stephanee Wallace owned a few rental properties in Maryland and Southwest Florida.

But at the start of the year, the 50-year-old Baltimore transplant took a full plunge into Cape Coral real estate, when she bought the bulk of the remaining lots at a community in Cape Harbour with an unusual name: Funky Fish Houses.

Wallace acquired 13 of the original 18 lots for $1.3 million. She plans to set one aside for her own Funky Fish House — a dwelling concept that local artist and designer Steve Turner created to reflect Key West-style beach cottage ambiance. “What makes them fun is they can be as modern and comfortable inside as you want,” says Wallace, who adds that she also expects to build a second cottage on spec.

The outsides will be all islander with pastel colors, varied heights and roof styles, just as Cape Harbour real estate broker and developer Will Stout saw them when he planned a row of waterfront cottages to accommodate guests of Cape Harbour penthouse owners. Cape Harbour is one of Cape Coral's closest marinas to the Gulf of Mexico.

But last decade's real estate collapse put Stout's plans on hold. A couple of years ago, investment group CRE Cape Harbour Land LLC bought the lots but kept them off the market until January.

Of the 18, one has been sold, another is under contract and 13 are in the hands of Wallace — a self-employed utilities specialist who moved to Cape Harbour two-and-a-half years ago.

The lots situated on Cape Harbour's peninsula vary in size and can accommodate homes of two to four floors with up to 1,000 square feet on each level, says Ted Stout, son of Will Stout and managing broker of Realmark Realty Team, Cape Harbour's principal real estate firm.

Stout expects the Funky Fish Houses will range from 1,500 square feet to 4,000 square feet. “You can do your own custom thing as long as it meets design requirements,” he says. He adds each lot is permitted to have a dock.

A unique feature that Stout says is available nowhere else in Florida is the option to extend the structure up to 25 feet into the canal. “It has a very dramatic effect when it's over the water like that,” he says.

Ownership of the canal's submerged land, he says, entitles owners to build over the water.

The Funky Fish Houses location, a few minutes walk to Cape Harbour Marina and its restaurants and shops, helped draw Wallace. “To have a waterfront that is so active with so many things to do is unheard of,” says Wallace.

She also expects buyers to be attracted to her lots by the low community fees — about $135 monthly for her section of the Cape Harbour community, a gated development that has about 550 condominiums and homes.

Wallace says she considers herself fortunate to have had a friend who introduced her to Ted Stout and the Funky Fish Houses opportunity. “They had been locked up for years,” she says. “If they had been allowing sales they would all be gone by now.”

The lots will start at $215,000. “If these lots were in Naples they'd be $1 million,” she says.

Shane Wilson, broker and vice president at Fort Myers' Cypress Realty, says Wallace picked a good time to get into the market — relative to the price she paid for the lots. But Wilson, who has specialized in Lee County waterfront for 25 years, notes supply could overrule demand. Says Wilson: “There are so many of them out there.”

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