Better in the country?

Part of the DeSoto County deal on Oct. 17 included some 50 acres of Valencia citrus groves and a small cabin.

A sizable chunk of a much larger DeSoto County ranch has sold for $3.5 million, said Mac Martin, broker with United Country-Gulfland Real Estate in Arcadia, the listing agency.

It’s the second sale of a mega-property in DeSoto County since August. Another 850-acre property in Nocatee sold then for about $4,500 per acre, Martin said.

The 750-acre parcel that closed on Oct. 17 is in northwest DeSoto, part of the E&D Ranch, which is owned by the family of Ed Lowe, whose fortune was derived from Kitty Litter, the catbox filler that he invented in the 1940s. Henry Edward Lowe joined his father’s sawdust business following World War II. His father also sold absorbent clay, used on factory floors. Ed Lowe sold 5-pound bags of the stuff, replacing sand as cat litter, creating a $100 million-a-year empire. He eventually built one of his many homes in Arcadia. Mr. Lowe died in 1995.

The $3.5-million parcel five miles from downtown Arcadia has riverfront, improved pasture, woods, hammocks and other natural settings, Martin said. Part of the sale included some 50 acres of Valencia citrus groves and a small cabin.

Land sales in DeSoto County have gained steam in the last year, much of it commercial. A large car auction firm, Copart USA, and a pectin processing company, Nuco Citrus, have purchased tracts in DeSoto. Nuco’s land of about 200 acres and its processing plant would be valued at about $140 million when the deal closes and the plant is running.

Martin is also brokering that land sale along State Road 72. Another proposed residential tract that could someday have 1,000 or so homes on south U.S. 17 is pending.

And a medical marijuana grower, Columbia Care Florida, will also expand along U.S. 17 closer to downtown Arcadia, which has a population of about 10,000.

All are big investments in one of Florida’s poorest counties. Which means larger tracts may be slightly under-valued in comparison to counties such as Collier or Sarasota, for instance.

The real-estate market for wealthy land buyers has been steady, Martin said, noting that many purchase expensive tracts as long-term investments for family holdings, not to flip. Upper-tier land sales in DeSoto and around Florida are “pretty stable,” Martin said. “They’re confident in the economy. It just so happens DeSoto has large parcels on the market.”

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