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Steelbridge Realty handles all kinds of property

January 8, 2020
By CHUCK BALLARO ( , North Fort Myers Neighbor

When Jeff Tumbarello had the opportunity to work in a rent-free office on Del Prado Boulevard in Cape Coral, he decided instead to find a small office close to his home in North Fort Myers.

Tumbarello, who has worked in the real estate business for years, has seen his investment in the area pay off. He's been at the office on North Key Drive for more than a decade, during which he has seen a tremendous rebound in the real estate market in the region, from residential to commercial.

There isn't much Tumbarello doesn't know about the industry. He has seen and done everything, and after playing a part in the recovery and the ups and downs afterward, he sees the market continuing its upward trend, in the short term.

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Jeff Tumbarello, owner of Steelbridge Realty.


Steelbridge Realty is a "boutique" firm founded in 2008 in connection with a private equity firm that bought a lot of bad debt in Southwest Florida, from commercial buildings to tracts of land.

This, of course, was the same time as the real estate market collapsed.

"A lot of private equity money came into the market and that made the distressed debt market unsustainable because we couldn't compete with their margins," Tumbarello said. "We bought our partner out and we morphed into what we are today."

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While it may have seemed like a terrible time to invest, it was actually the perfect time because the market became a "blank slate" which allowed them to buy the distressed paper the banks were scared to touch.

"You want to be bold when people are fearful and you want to be fearful when people are bold," Tumbarello said. "We called the top of the market and bottom of the market and that the Boomers were going to buy up the cheap stuff. We went from there."

Those investors have made huge gains, since the bottom of the market was August 2009. The market slowly recovered to where it is now, with some bumps along the way. The baby boomers led the way.

What does boutique mean? Tumbarello said he and his 14 agents try to figure that out every day. Tumbarello, who also founded and runs the Real Estate Investment Association, said he and his wife, Christine, specialize in North Fort Myers.

"This gives us a very large investment footprint. Our agents specialize in certain areas such as retail sales and we guide our agents into areas they have a passion for," Tumbarello said. "If you focus on your passion, you'll be good at it."

About half of Steelbridge's clients are investors and the other half are just ordinary people looking to buy and sell homes. They also deal in commercial, but that represents just 10 percent of its business.

After a rough end to 2018 attributed to the political season, the market recovered strong, with volume and sales counts strong from the spring on, Tumbarello said, with a new generation of buyers stepping in.

"The boomer market is peaking, and we're getting a lot of millennials and Gen Z buyers. We have a lot of 22- and 23-year-olds, kids I used to watch playing Pop Warner football, now we're walking them through buying a house."

Tumbarello said by 2025, the 55-and-up market is expected to be soft, which could lead to better deals since boomers are retiring, giving the opportunity for Gen Xers to pick up deals.

He also sees in the immediate future that the median house price (representing the lower-priced homes) will go up faster than the average, mostly in new construction, since young buyers are more likely to buy lower-priced homes.

"The industry has been selling for years that it's cheaper to buy then rent. But in 2005, it was cheaper to rent because it was a negative mortgage investment the moment they bought it." Tumbarello said.

Steelbridge Realty can be reached at 694-3300 or visit

Its offices are at 3323 North Key Drive, Ste. 9E.



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