A word of warning to those in the north Cape Coral considering an offer from a local businessman to buy your property for $500 to avoid $20,000 in assessments: Officials are calling it a scam, and the land you're selling could be worth 20-fold or more.
Those same officials stress vigilance.
North Cape residents have been receiving postcard solicitations from a local land buyer who warns of a $20,000 assessment that must be paid or property owners will lose their land in four months.
The would-be buyer then offers to purchase the property for $500 with no closing costs. But hurry, the offer is only good through Oct. 10.
The land is worth much more than $500, according to various sources. But just how much depends on where the property is.
According to real estate analyst Colleen O'Shea of the Lee County Appraiser's Office, a building lot in North 1 & 2 is worth between $3,500 and $3,800 on dry land, and between $9,500 and $10,000 on a canal.
Lee County Property Appraiser Ken Wilkinson said these low-ball purchase offers are commonplace.
"I'd buy the land for $500 if someone offered it. This happens all over," Wilkinson said. "We get people mass-mailing property owners offering to check the appraisal value for you. You can go on the Internet for that."
Cape Coral Chamber of Commerce President Mike Quaintance said it's simply a case of someone using what he says are unethical tactics to get something for less.
"You need to understand these are scare tactics trying to create unnecessary fear," Quaintance said. "It's sad because it devalues the property for those who fall for the scheme."
Mayor John Sullivan is appalled someone would take advantage of those in financial straits.
"It's a shame anyone would take advantage of people because they're in economic straits," Sullivan said. "It'll be interesting to see if anything legally can be done about it."
Calls to the state's attorney's office were not returned.
"It is clearly a scam. For $500 is lowballing even the lowest price and they're trying to scare people out of their homes," Councilmember Kevin McGrail said.
In a press release, Cape officials deny North 1 & 2 residents will have to pay assessments in four months because assessments for the upcoming Southwest 6 & 7 haven't been determined and won't be for some time.
North 1 and North 2 are on deck for utilities. However, these projects will not begin until 2015 for North 2 and 2017 for North 1.
The number provided on the solicitation is associated with a local land buyer who has registered various names for his limited liability corporations over the years.
The postcard also lists the city's main phone number as a sewer hotline.
"This is an attempt to acquire property from Cape Coral landowners using deceitful tactics, and we will not sit by and allow our property owners to be unwittingly duped into giving up their properties based on false information," said Connie Barron, public information director, in a prepared statement.
Barron said that anyone who receives a solicitation like this to call the Citizen's Action Center at 574-0425.