Six Critical Questions Part 1: Is Southwest Florida Headed for a “ Doom Loop?

The Urban Land Institute’s inaugural Southwest Florida Focus Real Estate Forum recently shone a spotlight on responsible land use and sustainable community development in our region. I was honored to be a featured speaker at this event, which brought together industry leaders, professionals and stakeholders to discuss development trends in Southwest Florida.

This article is part one of a six-part series discussing some of the most important points from that presentation, which focused on the six most critical questions about development and commercial property in Southwest Florida for the remainder of 2024 and beyond.

As property values, interest rates, and inflation have all spiked over the past few years, skeptics have worried about a seemingly inevitable downturn like the one we experienced during the Great Recession. This brings us to our first critical question:

Is Southwest Florida headed for a “doom loop?”

The term “doom loop” might be new to some, but its implications are clear: it describes a cycle of events that spirals downward into an economic slump. While some national economic indicators may offer reason for concern on the surface, the prospect of a doom loop is not likely on the horizon for our region because of our regional strengths.

Regional Economic Indicators

Southwest Florida continues to show robust job growth with the addition of more than 11,000 jobs in 2023, keeping our unemployment rate below the national trend. In Lee County alone, there has been a four percent surge in new businesses, and projections show every sector growing by one to three percent annually over the next five years.

Tourist tax revenues are climbing as well, thanks to our successful and ongoing rebound from Hurricane Ian. As consumer confidence improves, residents appear willing to increase their spending levels, with consumer sentiment numbers also on the rise from 2023.

Regional Commercial Development Trends

Although other parts of the country are plagued with commercial vacancies, Southwest Florida’s rapid residential and business growth have kept vacancy numbers very low. Nationally, nearly one in five (19.7%) offices sit vacant, but our region’s office vacancy rate stands at a paltry 4.1 percent. Local industrial and retail vacancy rates are also well below the national level. Although FGCU’s Southwest Florida Real Estate Report indicates that commercial property sales may have plateaued, our limited supply and robust demand suggest that the cost of renting commercial space will likely continue to grow in Southwest Florida.

This differs greatly from what our region experienced in the early 2000s. At that time, speculative investments overwhelmed the real estate and construction markets, producing excess inventory and paving the way for economic collapse.

Southwest Florida’s Resiliency

Although our region has certainly faced challenges over the past two years, current economic indicators show that Southwest Florida should continue to be resilient, even as other parts of the country may begin faltering. However, economic cycles are natural and what goes up must inevitably go down. When our region does eventually face a downturn, we anticipate a soft landing, not a recession, in Southwest Florida.

Do you have questions about Southwest Florida, its economy, or our commercial development landscape? Cushman & Wakefield | Commercial Property Southwest Florida (CPSWFL) has the data, analytics, and local experience to help you understand the dynamics of our region’s economic potential.  If you’re a business owner, developer, or investor looking for an opportunity in our current market, reach out to the Commercial Property Experts at CPSWFL are ready to answer your questions. Complete our online contact form or call us at 239-489-3600 to speak with an expert.


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